For years Johan Kemp believed he would be a social outcast if he did not act like a "real man" – one who drank, smoked and cursed – yet he desperately wanted something more in life.
"These pleasures did not last and did not fill the gap in my heart," Johan explains. "I had an emptiness inside that needed to be filled."
Although raised in a religious household, Johan says, "I chose to smoke from age 13 and began drinking while still at school because I did not feel part of the crowd."
However, matching other's smoking and drinking was not enough, as Johan admits that soon he was "swearing just as they did, or exceeding their efforts."
At work one day he noticed a sudden peace had settled over a formerly angry co-worker and immediately wanted to know more.
"This man went home red with anger and came back to work green with peace the next day," says Johan.
"I thought that it was a show or a charade, because I have never seen a man change 180 degrees in attitude. I wanted to see what caused this dramatic change overnight in a person's life."
His curiosity led him to attend the church his co-worker had started going to.
"At his church, I learned that all humans had a choice as to where they want to spend eternity. You just had to realise that you are born a sinner, repent (turn away) from your sins and accept the Lord Jesus into your life."
A few Sundays later in October 2009, Johan remembers a sermon that spoke about the same three sins that were present in his life.
As he listened, Johan says, "I realised that I had to receive Jesus' forgiveness and He would help with my drinking, smoking, and swearing.
"I had a desire to be fulfilled like the changed man that I worked with."
As he heard that sermon, Johan says, "I prayed to God that I wanted Him in my heart, but there was still the battle with alcohol abuse, smoking and swearing, which I could not stop by myself."
"I prayed that He could help me to get that out of my life, fill that emptiness in my heart. So He did. I stopped drinking immediately without any effects. I stopped smoking after 38 years of addiction without any side effects – no cravings and no remedies. I also stopped swearing and road rage dropped out of my system overnight."
"In one prayer", Johan says, "Jesus made me free of my addictions."
Although not all new Christians experience an immediate freedom from addictions in their lives, Johan is testament to the fact that anything is possible for God.
"Without looking back I laid my struggles down and believed in what He did for me on the cross. And Jesus forgave my sins and gave me the right to be called a child of God." •