Amish man burdened by rules, discovered grace

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By Alexia Hess –

When a Kentucky-born Amish leader dared to listen to a gospel preacher on the radio (in violation of Amish rules), he was astounded by the simple message of grace and forgiveness by faith that conflicted with his ideas that “God love you, but he loved you so much he would punish you.”

“I never knew that you could know that you are going to Heaven,” Vern Yoder says on a 700 Club video. “I couldn’t wrap my head around a warm, hug-type love.”

Vern was born to a well-respected deacon of the Amish, an American East Coast religious group that have strict rules for dress and behavior, which includes not using automobiles. The Amish are considered Christian, but their application of scriptures can be seen as legalistic.

Vern struggled through his teen years to maintain the standards of his church.

His constant thought: What can I do to be a better person? What can I do to have a better shot to make it into Heaven? “It would drive me down into this pit of despair.”

The overemphasis on rules and laws weighed on his soul.

“I was so miserable,” Vern says. “I didn’t know (if I would make it to Heaven), so I would work and work and work at trying to be the best Amish.”

He married and had children, but carried the pharisaical spirit into his roles as husband and father. He went overboard as a disciplinarian and his marriage was strained, he says.

Reflecting on the frustration of his brand of Christianity, Vern pleaded with God: “God, I can’t do this any longer. You’re going to have to help me with this.”

One day he got a job as a tractor driver. That day he listened to a radio preacher expound the doctrines of the simple gospel. It challenged everything he knew about God.

“He was going through a series about faith, about grace, about mercy,” Vern says. “He was telling me things I had never heard in my life. I heard that you can know now that you’re going to Heaven. You don’t have to wait until you die and live in fear.”

He prayed a sinner’s prayer at the end of the broadcast and was flooded by the grace and love of God.

With the Holy Spirit now guiding him as he read the Bible, Vern understood what had been shrouded for years by legalistic interpretations: “The Word of God just leaped out of the pages,” he says. “I would be so excited, I couldn’t contain it.”

Vern felt obliged to leave the Amish community. He shaved his Amish beard and began to dress in contemporary clothing. It was all about Jesus now, not about pleasing the religious folks who stood by and judged everything that was not right, he says.

“I knew that I would follow Jesus, come whatever,” Vern says. “I would follow Jesus (even) if it meant death.”

He’s no longer the stern disciplinarian who criticizes every slipup of his kids. He’s no longer the disapproving husband who was critical of his wife.

“The love of Jesus really softened me,” Vern says. “I don’t have to work to get to Heaven. I work because I know I’m going there and I love pleasing my Master.”

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

About the writer of this article: Alexia Hess studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy near Marina del Rey.

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