FROM A ROCK BAND TO THE “ROCK”: THE “B.C.” YEARS
The year was 1986 when I confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead FOR ME—in a personal way (Romans 10:9). I was the lead singer, songwriter and keyboard player for an all original LI, NY-based band called, The Craze. My stage name was “Peter Christian” but I was far from being a “Christian” at this time of my life. Ironically, I just liked the way that name sounded and began using it when I turned 18!
After much publicity and notoriety stemming from 2-1/2 years of being in over a dozen Teen Magazines, things had really begun to take off for the band. It actually began in 1985 as a result of opening up for John Waite – former lead singer of “The Babys” – who, at the time, had a solo hit song called, “Missing You” (It was actually on this night, sitting backstage next to one of my industry hero’s – signing autograph’s alongside of him – that my search for spiritual truth intensified, as I shouted ultimatums at a crucifix hanging on the wall in my house after the concert! I was just not satisfied with life – even the “good life” that I was experiencing!). Not long after, however, we were approached by Bon Jovi’s then tour manager, Rich Bozzett, and I had the personal opportunity of performing on stage with guitarist, Richie Sambora & Keyboardist, David Bryan–but God had a very different plan for my life that was Sovereignly unfolding for His glory!
Who am I? Why am I here? What is truth?: DEALING WITH MY “FEAR”-THING
Like many of us in this world I struggled with the issue of “death” (my mortality) and questions about “the meaning of life” (e.g. Who am I? & Why am I here?—WHY ARE ANY OF US HERE?), knowing that death does not discriminate—no matter how “successful” we become and no matter how “good” or “evil” we are! These issues had haunted me as far back as I could remember (and I could remember very far back–as early as 3 years old….even earlier in some instances). This “fear of death” molded me into a person who was, at least, never afraid to ask questions. I would question everything until I was convinced that it was true, even though I hadn’t thought through the ultimate question of how anything can be true if there is no absolute, unchanging source of all truth. I did, however, believe that “experience” was the way to validate truth and I would come to learn the hard way that having some “experience” doesn’t make something true, right or good (“…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” 2 Corinthians 11:14).
Looking back (before I met the Jesus of the Bible) I can honestly say that I was simply pursuing an experience to validate truth for ME, without understanding the nature of truth itself. In other words, I wasn’t really seeking truth at all, the unchanging Source that establishes all truth – I was looking for a worldview that would philosophically justify my self-indulgent lifestyle (sinful lusts & pleasures); at the same time I was hoping it would set me free from the guilt that my choices produced, and the accountability that I intuitively knew had to be waiting on the other side of death! Thankfully, by God’s grace, I would eventually come to understand that this fear was just one symptom of a much deeper and profoundly radical cause: I was a sinner separated from a Just & Holy God – the Source of all Truth – “to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13) — and that’s a fearful thing indeed (whether or not we choose to believe what the Bible has to say about it). In any event, I was on a personal quest to find “truth” for me, but in spite of myself, God was using my “fear of death” to reveal the truth of Himself through the cross of Christ; “…the way the TRUTH and the life…” (John 14:6). We find ourselves when we lose ourselves for the sake of Jesus! (Matthew 10:39)
MY PERSONAL QUEST FOR “EXPERIENCE”: “RELIGION” NOT GOD: WORKS NOT GRACE!
My spiritual/religious background was Roman Catholicism, but at this point in my life I had personally reasoned (based solely on experience) that if they had the answers I would NOT be searching for something more – though I would go back at a later time to reconsider its claims. So, like many others before me, I journeyed into Occultism, Mysticism, TM (Transcendental Meditation), Eastern Religions & various schools of Philosophical thought. I have to admit that for a while I “felt” they possessed (or had the potential to possess) the answer to my fears and deliverance from my guilt—but “feelings” can be extremely deceiving, as I would soon understand.
I didn’t know it at the time but I had fallen prey to a spiritual deception that took advantage of my Biblical ignorance. I would come to find out that my experiences were demonically inspired even though it all began with ‘inspirational teachings’ about “love”, “joy”, “harmony” and “oneness”. I had essentially bought into a lie that was, along with my own inherent blindness and bent, keeping me from seeing my need for a Savior – the Jesus of the Bible and His finished sacrifice on the cross – and I eventually became obsessed with suicidal, self-destructive thoughts resulting from opening myself up as a channel for spirits – not the “Holy Spirit”!
The so called, “truth” and “meaning of life” that I thought I had uncovered was just another man-centered “religion” promoting ‘personal rehabilitation’ through ‘selfless acts of love’ as the means (not the result) of salvation. Ironically, in an effort to put away the “ego” through the practice of asceticism, their teachings ultimately boiled down to ego-centric activities designed to gain something for giving something; namely, “spiritual enlightenment and transcendence”. Ultimately, it was up to me to give life meaning through sacrificing myself and being my own savior, and essentially, this is how TRUTH is to be understood; WE CREATE OUR OWN TRUTH! At the end of the day I had plunged myself into another vain, philosophical black-hole of hopelessness that was, for all intents and purposes, a self-serving salvation. It was yet another works-based religion seeking “SELF-justification”, NOT “God-justification”, which comes only through the incarnation, crucifixion & resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and Living Savior of “all who will believe”! And so, the journey into grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone continues!
“YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN”: MY FIRST BIBLE!
I think it was August of 1986 when a co-worker of mine, Mary Marino, made a loving attempt at speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ into my life. I can still remember where we were standing in the cafeteria kitchen when I asked her the following question: “What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘You must be born again’?” (See John 3:1-8). [As an aside…If you do NOT personally know the answer to that question then chances are you are NOT born again – although – there is a possibility that you may “intellectually” know the answer, but head knowledge alone does not indicate conversion – and being born again is not water baptism]. So, as Mary tried to explain God’s salvation in Christ the best way she knew how, it was falling on deaf ears! She then went out and bought me my very first Bible—A big, black leather, King James, Open Study Bible with the name “Peter Christian” engraved on the cover (I still have that Bible, and if anyone wonders if God has a sense of humor, HE DOES!). She encouraged me to read through the Gospel of John while praying for Jesus to open my eyes, which I did – even though I was a born cynic, skeptic and definitely a practicing unbeliever at this time — “dead in (MY) trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1ff)…BUT I WAS TRULY SEEKING! I was truly hungering and thirsting for righteousness, though I honestly had no idea what that meant from God’s perspective!
GOD’s PLAN OF SAVATION: “It is finished!”
By the time I reached John 19:30 (i.e. The Gospel of “John”, Chapter 19 & Verse 30) where Jesus said with His dying breath, “It is finished”, I found myself begging the question (rather, the question was begging me): What was “finished”? Was there some plan I was not aware of? Was there some ultimate and absolute purpose and truth that Jesus was fulfilling? This would turn out to be the fisherman’s hook in my mouth (so to speak) that God would sovereignly use to call me “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). I continued to search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) for the meaning of “It is finished”, and by God’s mercy and grace He gave me eyes to see His wonderful ‘plan of redemption’ that was announced in Genesis 3:15 and ran through to the end of the Book of Revelation! A plan that graciously unfolds throughout the entire Old Testament – beautifully woven in and throughout the fabric of Israel’s history – the one and only plan of salvation that has been aptly deemed by theologians past and present, “the scarlet thread of redemption”!
This SALVATION PLAN of God, laced throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and portrayed in various types, foreshadows, & symbols that prophetically pointed to the Jewish Messiah (uniquely fulfilled in Jesus Christ), was now clear and exciting to me! I suppose, in part, this is what believers mean when they say Jesus revealed Himself to me…He does it through His WORD; God’s Spirit bearing witness of Himself to our spirit through His Word (1 Corinthians 2:9-16/ 1 Peter 1:23). Suddenly, this God-hating, arrogant young man was able to see the 300+ Messianic prophecies (i.e. Old Testament prophecies about the Jewish “Messiah”) that testified of the life, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ – His Person & Finished work – WRITTEN SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE HE WAS EVER BORN! Not only did these prophecies, which are rooted in history (NOT mythology), pre-date and announce Jesus’ virgin birth in Bethlehem (i.e. His 1st coming as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world) – BUT – they spoke of His sacrificial death on a cross (before Roman crucifixion was instituted) and of His resurrection from the dead (not “reincarnation”) — AND — THEY STILL SPEAK of His promised 2nd Coming as the triumphant “King of kings” and roaring “Lion of Judah”!
God turned on the lights in my darkened soul (2 Corinthians 4:6), and all of this new Bible-information was like a seed that was growing within me, causing me to radically change from the inside out! Or perhaps it was more like being in the cocoon of God’s Word at this particular time of my life, and a total metamorphosis was taking place. Either way, I was not only becoming aware of the fact that I was “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17), but my life was clearly evidencing this change to those around me! All of this was happening apart from any work that I (or any of us) could ever produce! This was God’s plan and God’s work for God’s glory—in spite of my undeserving self-justifying, self-serving sinful nature!
I SURRENDER ALL: THE GOSPEL LEADS TO AN END THAT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
I had been irresistibly drawn by the Father to Jesus (John 6:44; 65) like a piece of steel to a powerful magnet and I had, in essence, fallen in love with this One True & Living God like a man who falls head over heels in love with a woman, forsaking all others in order to be united with her in the covenant of matrimony! This is not an exaggeration, and I was later surprised to find out that these captivating emotions, my passionate new desires, and the sweet surrender I was experiencing is a very Biblical “experience” indeed—for believers’ are called “the bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:31-32)!
And so…The year was 1986…the month was early September…and I surrendered my life to Jesus—the Jesus of the Bible who, through His “one sacrifice” – His atoning blood shed on the cross – became my substitute and purged my sin once and for all time. He absorbed the wrath of God that was legally upon me, and declared me “justified” in His Holy Courtroom of Righteousness; reconciling me to HIMSELF! (John 3:15-18, 36/ Romans 3:24-27; 5:1-2/ 2 Corinthians 5:19-21/ Ephesians 1:7/ 1 Peter 3:18/ Hebrews 10:12-14). He is my Lord and my Savior, and if you take anything away from this personal testimony of mine, please hear these words of Jesus in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.”
God graciously granted me the gift of saving faith leading to repentance (Ephesians 2:8-10), and I have not been the same ever since – nor will I ever be! He Sovereignly brought me to an end of my self-justifying life that was attempting to reach Him by my dead and sin-polluted works, and He gave me a NEW LIFE – A NEW BIRTH – A NEW HEART – A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN ME – with NEW DESIRES that drew me to Himself and set me free from the bondage of my own will.
No matter how far we have sinned, or how messed up our lives have become as a result of being separated from the God who created us, anyone who calls upon Jesus (“the name of the LORD”) with a sincere heart will be saved (Romans 10-9-10, 13). And this God, in whom I boast, will bring forth a NEW BEGINNING THAT DEATH CANNOT DESTROY, and a sanctifying power sealed within you by the very Presence of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14/ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)!
Please remember that God did for man what He could not do for himself – “For while we were still helpless (without strength or ability in ourselves), at the appointed moment (in fulfillment of the determined plan of God), Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6; clarification mine). The Bible makes it absolutely clear – whether or not we believe it – that there is only one way to be at peace with God; BY grace alone, THROUGH faith alone IN the PERSON & “finished” work of Jesus Christ alone (not “religion”) – TO THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE! (Ephesians 2:8-9/ Romans 6:23; 11:36)
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
(October 29, 1949, Journal entry of Jim Elliot (Missionary killed in action, January 2, 1956)
MARRIED WITH CHILDREN – The 80’s are a lifetime away!
Just to tie a ribbon around my lengthy testimony that I do hope glorifies God in all things, let me acknowledge another one of God’s gifts to me that keeps on giving – my beautiful wife, Tricia! It is a Biblical fact that all who have been “born again” are being transformed daily by God’s Spirit from the inside out, so that what God has said is true of us; namely that He has declared us righteous in Christ, and this (His righteousness working in us) will truly manifest itself in/through our lives. That being said, it was just one month after my conversion that the God who saved me providentially fitted me with this godly “Proverbs 31 Woman”. He continues to use her as a conduit & instrument of His grace in my life to bring forth the transformation I just mentioned for His glory! Her unassuming wisdom and quiet strength in the Lord has personally helped me grow up in the faith. Need I say more? I could…but I think that will suffice. So, on this day that I type (January 9, 2014) I will bring this to an official end by quickly making mention of my 3 beautiful daughters:
Jessica (21) – She is closing in on her Speech Pathology degree at ASU with a 4.0 GPA and getting married this May to her fiancé, Alex Iwanski…Stephanie (almost 19) – She is my Singer/Songwriter who is part of the Worship Team at her fellowship, and is currently attending the Toni & Guy Academy for Cosmetology. She also has a deep desire to be a Disney Princess; namely Ariel…and last but not least, Christina (12), whom I call my little “Renaissance Girl”. Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you that God dumped the whole package on her — Math, Science, Art, Music, Karate, Technology and much, much more.
Thank you for your interest in this sinner saved by grace alone! My hope and prayer is that someone might find some encouragement and inspiration at a time when they need it most!
Peter A. Mūth