Brooks Reames is a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Aiken, South Carolina. He writes about how he came back to Christ through Pastor Jonathan Bourman.
I am not sure how you feel when you read those words, but the first thing that comes to my mind is EXHAUSTION and a major inability to be who I desperately want to be. We all feel the need not only to be better human beings, but also to be better Christians. We feel this because the law of God has been written on our hearts. As Romans says, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts…” This truth really began to take hold of my heart back in 2011.
Previously I had lived in Greenwood, South Carolina. I had received a baseball scholarship to Lander University in 2008 and lived there until 2011. Jesus radically opened my eyes while I was there. Late at night sometimes when drugs and alcohol were present I felt the weight of the law. I headed for church and was baptized on November 21, 2008. During the next three years in Greenwood, God did a magnificent work in my heart. He gave me a burning desire to know him more deeply and I wanted to love him more effectively, but I had one big problem. My doctrine and my mindset were all messed up. The focus of my Christian faith was all about my performance and not enough about Christ’s performance for me. I lived a very rocky Christian life. When I felt I was achieving obedience, I was happy. When I thought I was failing God, I was depressed.
After living a life of trying to achieve my salvation, I hit rock bottom in my faith. I finally came to a place where the law had completely wrecked me. I was mad at God and turned my back to him. I can recall one day when I told him I was done following him and cursed him out. It seems absurd to curse at God but I can say honestly that it was a great day in my life. I had finally given up on trying to obey the law. I had finally come to a place where I knew I could not do it. Little did I know that that was God’s intention for me. God wanted me to understand my inability to obey the law.
During the next couple of years, I rebelled. I gave up on following him. I knew that if being a Christian was about following rules, then I couldn’t be one. I still had a distorted view of the Christian life. Even though I was living in this mindset, God had a beautiful plan for me. God was leading me to the true and right doctrine. During that time, God led me to the beautiful gospel of grace, but I struggled to find assurance in it. I needed someone else to “get it” – to confirm me in it. I felt as if I was the only person in Aiken that was itching and needing the pure gospel message. I wanted and desperately needed someone to tell me the gospel was really true.
My story takes me to the end of 2013. It was during a fitness orientation at Gold’s Gym in Aiken (where I work) that a met this tall skinny guy. Little did I know that this fitness orientation would be one that would lead me to understand the true doctrine. I met Jonathan Bourman, who I now consider a great friend and my pastor. Jonathan had recently moved to Aiken to plant a church. When I heard him tell me that I remember rolling my eyes to the back of my head and thinking, “Aiken has enough law filled churches.” But then we began to talk and he said a word that struck a cord in my heart. He said “GOSPEL!” The joy that sprang to my heart after hearing that word was indescribable. I later came to understand that this guy, “gets it,” and I needed to hear more from him.
After the encounter with Jonathan we began to meet on a weekly basis. He began teaching me the Lutheran doctrine. I was blown away with the purity of this truth. Christianity became clearer to me. The gospel was the centerpiece in this doctrine. I began to see the true essence of my Savior. As time went by I gained the assurance I was looking for, not from my own feelings of salvation but from God’s Word and my baptism. What a beautiful gift God has given me in seeing his pure doctrine. Today I proudly call myself a Confessional Lutheran and will forever live to be reminded of the gospel message and in hopes of bringing this freedom to other people.
I am truly excited for Peace Lutheran church to begin. There are no other churches in the Aiken area that are bringing this message. My soon-to-be wife and I are becoming members of this church and are looking forward to hearing the gospel message preached. My prayer is that through Peace Lutheran Church many people in Aiken will come to believe and understand the true doctrine of Christianity that truly, “It is finished.”
To learn more about Peace Lutheran Church, visit www.peaceinaiken.com.