‘I was lost but now I am found’ – the testimony of Giacinto Butindaro
I was born on the 13th of October, 1964. I was brought up in a Christian family and thus I had a Christian education. I knew that Jesus Christ had died on the cross for my sins, I knew that act had been the manifestation of the great love of God toward the whole world. I prayed to God and sang Christian songs; to some believers I was a Christian, for indeed on the outside I appeared to them as a Christian. I was not ashamed to tell my friends that I was an ‘Evangelical Christian’, nor was I ashamed to attend the Church meetings for I was convinced that I was frequenting the right people though I was lost. When I was 16-18 years old, I was annoyed by the fact that sometimes the hours of the meeting of the Church coincided with the hours of some of my favourite programmes on TV or with the hours of some basketball matches at the indoor stadium, so on certain occasions I preferred not to attend the Church meetings (and I was punctually rebuked by my parents). Nevertheless, I continued to think that it was right to attend the Christian meetings.
On many occasions, I attacked the Roman Catholic priests, the statues and the images, and the incense of the Roman Catholic Church, and I did my best to refute the Roman Catholic Church’s errors. Obviously at the time I used my very little knowledge of the Bible. Actually rather than to refute the Roman Catholics I told my friends the differences I saw with my eyes between our rites and practices and theirs, defending the Evangelicals even though I was not able to show from the Scriptures many things that I said. However, in the meanwhile I behaved more or less as the Roman Catholics: I was a sinner.
As I said before, I was lost: I was fully aware that I was lost; I felt inwardly a sinner and I was sure that if I died I would go to hell. I had often some nightmares by night, and those nightmares frightened me very much; I would suddenly wake up full of fear. Eternity without God frightened me because I knew that before God I was a sinner, and God does not bring sinners to heaven. The only thought of not going to heaven would frighten me. When I was alone I would often reflect upon the meaning of life, and looking at my existence I would come to the conclusion that I was living a meaningless life because I did not know the Lord, nor did I serve Him. I often said to myself: ‘What is the good of the life I am living?’ and also: ‘What shall I gain from this meaningless life since all things pass away?’ Many times I heard about Jesus and the call to accept Him as my personal Saviour and Lord; and each time a tremendous battle broke out within me. I knew I had to accept Jesus as my Saviour in order to be saved, but there were hostile spiritual forces which caused me to resist God. I thought that since I was still a teenager, it was too soon to take such an important decision, so I always postponed that decision. God was calling me to repent and to believe in His Son, but I said to myself: ‘Later, not now’. One of the reasons why I postponed that decision was that I was sure that after my conversion to Christ I would gradually lose all my friends, I would become their enemy, so they would leave me alone, and since I was young at the time – I was attending the Secondary School – I did not want to lose my friends. I had that assurance because even though I was an hypocrite and I covered successfully my hypocrisy, I intended to stop being an hypocrite, that is, I intended to stop being an ‘Evangelical Christian’ who behaved like a believer when I was together with the believers, but who lived a sinful life when I was together with the sinners. I wanted to become a true Christian, I wanted to set an example for both unbelievers and believers: yes, also for believers because this is what I saw with my eyes: many people claimed that they had accepted Jesus but they lived a worldly life. I did not see any difference between them and the persons belonging to the world, I was disgusted by their hypocrisy; at least, as for me, I had not yet undergone water baptism to testify that I had accepted Jesus (for I had not yet accepted Jesus), but they had been baptized (for they claimed that they had accepted Jesus). I remember that one morning, while I was going to school and I was walking alone I said to myself: ‘When I turn to the Lord, they will see what it means to turn to God!’ I said those words ingenuously but also sincerely. For my desire was to stop behaving as an hypocrite and to show both believers and unbelievers that I meant business, totally unconcerned about their reaction.
During the summer of the year 1983, after I passed the school leaving exam, I went on holiday to England. I stayed for about four weeks in a Bible School near London, where many people, paying a certain amount of money, would spend their summer holidays. During my stay there a tent of evangelization was planted on the ground which belonged to the Bible Institute. Then, during the meetings under the tent, I began to feel very strongly the need of believing in Jesus Christ. And so one evening, after the preacher invited people to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord, I repented of my sins and believed in Jesus Christ. I remember very well that while all the people were singing some Christians songs, the Holy Spirit convicted me of guilt in regard to sin and I repented of all my sins and I began to weep like a child asking God to forgive me and to make me one of His children. The pride that for many years had kept me from repenting of my sins and humbling myself before God, had been defeated by God’s help. Instantly I felt a heavy burden was taken away from my shoulders and a great peace and joy filled my heart. So I tasted the goodness of God, and from that moment I had the assurance of my salvation. That’s how my life in Christ started.
When I went back to Italy everybody saw the change which had taken place in me and as I rightly had foreseen little by little all my old friends left me. But the Lord was with me, He strengthened me and confirmed me in the faith.
Now, I address you, both young and old people, you who are still lost, slaves of all kinds of lusts, living in malice, even though sometimes you manage to cover your real conduct which is a sinful conduct. Know this, that you are headed for hell, because you are not born again. Therefore I tell you the following things: repent of your sins and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and the third day He rose again for our justification. That’s the Good News of the Kingdom of God, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. You will be born again and you will never be the same. God will give you a new heart, a heart of flesh in place of the heart of stone you have now, and He will put inside you a new spirit, that is, the Spirit of His Son by whom you will cry: ‘Abba, Father!’, in place of the spirit of the world you have now, which is a spirit of bondage. You will not be afraid of hell any longer, for you will be children of God, heirs of the Kingdom which God has promised to them that love Him. Your life will have a meaning: so far you have served sin, you have lived a vain life, but once you are born again all things will change for you will begin to serve the Lord who died and rose again for us, thus you will serve the truth and righteousness. That’s the kind of life which is worth living. That’s the way of living which will be rewarded in the world to come.
Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.
God bless you