Good evening. My name is Terry Iles. I am a part of Cornerstone, along with my wife, Sara, and our 4 year old daughter, Emma, and I am also blessed to serve as one of your elders. We live in Boxborough, and I work as a doctoral student in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies. It will be no no surprise to many of you that my faith story may seem dry and undramatic. However, in spite of this appearance, I am amazed at how extravagant is God’s grace towards me.
I came to faith in Jesus at the young age of 6. On an overnight canoe trip with my dad and brothers, I prayed to confess my sins and express faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. I have often looked back on that experience and tried to remember exactly what I understood. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s tough to remember what was going on in your mind and heart as a 6 year old. I do believe that I understood the basics of the gospel at that time and that I truly trusted in Christ that evening on the sandbar. However, I am so thankful that my confidence before God does not rest on my ability to remember the specifics of what I experienced as a 6 year old. I am so thankful that Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are an unchanging foundation and that by the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, I am still repenting of my sins and trusting in Jesus today.
Though my memory of my conversion is hazy, my recollection of God’s work in my teenage years remains sharp and crisp. Around the time of my junior and sophomore years of high school, I had three experiences with God that set the course for who I am today:
- As a 15 year old, I fell in love with a summer staffer at the Christian camp that my dad managed. She is even more beautiful today and remains my love and support. She continues to funnel so much of God’s grace into my life.
- That same summer, I made a commitment at a camp worship service to dedicate my life to serve God in Christian ministry. I had no idea of what this really meant. I didn’t know if it meant I was supposed to become a pastor or a missionary or a faithful Christian working a normal job. In my mind and heart, what I committed to that summer was handing my life and future career to Jesus as a blank check.
- About a year later, I came to know a man named Charlie Bailey, who was a volunteer in my church’s youth ministry. One Wednesday night in January, he taught about the importance of the Bible in our relationship with God. God spoke to me in an unusually powerful way through his message, and I made a commitment that night to completely rebuild my faith on the basis of scripture alone. I would no longer take my parents’ word for it or my church’s word for it. For the next year and a half, reading the Bible became something very serious and all-consuming for me. Through this process, I found something I was not looking for. I thought I was going to the Bible to untie theological knots; however, I soon realized that I was wrestling with God himself in the text of the Bible. Scripture became more than an answer book; it became a meeting place. In his great mercy, God, by his might and truth and beauty, overcame my heart in that season of my life. I discovered that God’s words are not only true but are also more precious than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps 19:10).
The grace that God showed me in those two years set the trajectory for my life. The stage was set for me to go to college, where I discovered the beauties of seeing God specifically in the Old Testament, where I was introduced to the Bible in its original languages, and where I learned that there was such a thing as biblical scholarship and that I could seek God and serve the church in that field.
My faith story is still being written and I am confident that the days of sweetest communion with God remain in my future. I would love to talk with you more about my story or hear yours. Please come see me after the service. I would like to conclude my faith story by reading what I hope is the defining Bible passage for my life:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.