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For God So Loved a Drug Abuser

John Joseph shares his testimony of coming out of a life of drug abuse through the grace of God who gave him a new heart:

In high school, life revolved around sports and popularity. My life got further out of control with each passing year. The weekend parties of my freshman year became weeklong parties by my senior year, as casual drinking metastasized into alcoholism.

I began selling drugs and I (was) also introduced to cocaine. And cocaine stole my soul. Then I started selling cocaine. I became a monster—a liar and a thief. I used everyone and everything to serve myself. I didn’t care who I hurt.

I decided to make drastic changes, and I enlisted in the US Coast Guard. And although boot camp gave me some much-needed structure and discipline, it couldn’t change my heart. I fell back into the same way of living.

Then God put Art Thompson in my life. Art was a young kid who had just joined the Coast Guard. Art loved Jesus, and he loved me. He faithfully shared the gospel with me, always making a point to say, “Jesus loves you, bro.” He described how Jesus had changed his life. Art had a serious joy that I wanted in my own life. I just didn’t know how to get it.

In 2008, I was re-stationed (to California). And despite the change in scenery, the same problems with drinking and drugs followed me. But then I started attending church. The problem was that I still conceived of the gospel as a call to change myself through willpower. I stopped drinking and doing drugs and started exercising self-control. I had saved myself. And then the bottom fell out. While celebrating New Year’s Eve with some old friends, a round of casual drinking turned into an all-out binge. I was so drunk that I blacked out.

I drove home in a state of despair, convinced I could never truly change. Arriving back, I thought I would listen to a sermon to clear my mind. I had learned about a preacher named John Piper. Before long I found myself captivated. Piper’s preaching about God, sin, justice, and hell was unlike anything I’d ever heard. For the first time, I understood that I was guilty of more than doing “bad things”—I had sinned against God and deserved his judgment.

Two nights later, I listened to another Piper sermon, one on John 3:16. Depending on how we respond to it, he preached, we will either spend eternity with God in heaven or apart from him in hell. I distinctly remembering time slowing to a crawl as he said those words. I was replaying the last 10 years of my life: the lying, the drunkenness, the drug use—all my terrible sins against a holy God. I felt the crushing weight of it, and I knew I was going to hell. And then, I knew I wasn’t.

The burden of my sin fell off in an instant, replaced with the knowledge that Jesus was Lord and God had saved me. That moment led to an immediate and radical change, as God removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. He had set me free from my sin.

Editor’s Note: Today John Joseph is lead pastor of Cheverly Baptist Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.

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