On March 3rd, 2000, David Berkowitz wrote in his prison journals:
“By God’s grace I am living proof that anyone can be forgiven if they want to be. Who would have ever thought that such a wasted life like mine could be redeemed and salvaged and by absolutely no goodness within myself? Jesus Christ has redeemed me. He purchased me, David Berkowitz, murderer, criminal, monster, devil worshipper, with His own blood. Who could understand a love like this, a love God has for wicked and fallen mankind? I do know that I am not worthy. I was nothing, lost demented. He put a song of mercy in my mouth that I might tell others of His wondrous love and God’s burning desire to save sinners from their self-destructive ways.”
David Berkowitz: The mere mention of this name can still send shockwaves through the public’s imagination. From late 1975 through 1977, over a thirteen-month period, David Berkowitz went on a killing spree in the New York metropolitan area that left six people dead and seven wounded. Dubbed the “Son of Sam” killer, Berkowitz was finally captured. He confessed to his crimes and was sentenced in 1978 to 365 consecutive years in prison.
David has now been incarcerated for 35 years. His first years in prison were filled with turmoil as he went from one prison mental health ward to another, still driven by demonic spirits. But something significant happened ten years into his prison sentence. A fellow inmate began to share the love, hope and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with David. At first David mocked him, because he did not think that God would ever forgive him for the crimes that he had committed. But little by little, as the inmate persisted and shared what Christ had done for him, David began to listen:
“He kept reminding me that no matter what a person did, Christ stood ready to forgive if that individual would be willing to turn from the bad things he was doing and would put his full faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross: dying for our sins. He gave me a Gideon Pocket Testament and asked me to read the Psalms. I did. Every night I would read from them. It was at this time the Lord was quietly melting my stone-cold heart.”
Eventually, David Berkowitz accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and has been walking as a Christian for more than 16 years now. “Son of Sam” was transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ into “Son of Hope.” His prison journals offer irrefutable evidence, for all who are willing to read and examine them, that God has indeed done something miraculous in this man’s life, and it is marvelous to behold.
David’s personal testimony is used by several Christian organizations as an example of the life-transforming power of the Gospel. The Gideons, whose Pocket Testament first exposed David to the Psalms, use his testimony as a tract, as does Moments With The Bible and several other organizations. The Larry King Show has come to Sullivan Correction Facility, the upstate New York prison where Berkowitz is incarcerated, to interview him. So has Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. A pastor at New York’s Times Square Church read one of David’s letters to his congregation during a Sunday morning service. Jim Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Church had a message that he personally asked David to write, “Jesus at the Door,” read to his congregation during a special church youth service. And Darrell Scott, who lost his daughter Rachel Joy during the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, regularly corresponds with David, and has visited him in prison. A host of other Christians and non-believers from all walks of life, from every corner of the planet, regularly write to and visit David and share with him their problems, their triumphs, their aspirations and their hopes.
The list of Christians and Christian organizations that make use of David Berkowitz’s testimony and his life for the cause of Christ is longer than the list of secular news organizations that have tried, in vain, to discredit his faith. David Berkowitz is the real thing. This is well documented on the Arise and Shine website (www.ariseandshine.org), created by fellow Christians as a repository for David’s work. Videos, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews and copies of David’s most recent journal writings are all available on this site.
This is the witness that is documented in Son of Hope, the journals that David Berkowitz has kept since September 11, 1998. To read these journals is to experience the awe-inspiring power that the Gospel of Jesus Christ still has to transform a human life, and to restore, reconcile and forgive one who has committed even the most heinous of crimes.
God’s Grace and Mercy
The familiar words, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” were written by John Newton. Once an infidel, libertine and contemptible slave trader, Newton’s tombstone later testifies he was “by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
Paul, the apostle, described himself as “. . . blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man … who put many of the saints in prison and, when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them” (1 Timothy 1:13, Acts 26:10). Later, he declared, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the worst. . . I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
Obviously, each man was radically transformed. And, it was not their virtue or character that was the transforming agent, but transformation was caused supernaturally by God, His grace and mercy.
Grace would not be grace if it was limited to and bestowed upon only those who merit it. That would impose a precondition upon God’s free gift. But God is sovereign, and as he told Moses, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Romans 9:15). And Jesus said, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). It is God’s business, not ours, to do what he wants to do with his generosity.
It is precisely because God’s grace is offered to all without any preconditions that man’s sensibilities are often offended. Just as many in Jesus’s day were indignant that he healed the sick on the Sabbath, many are still offended that God’s abundant grace can go out to those who seem unworthy of his kindness. It is easy for us to believe that God should show mercy and reward “good” people but it seems unfair that he does so to those who have done real evil in their lives.
The Bible states, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So, today, God remains ready and willing to freely pour out His grace and kindness. Grace is available to the person who is virtuous, and to the person who may have been, like John Newton and Paul in the past, notoriously wicked. And so in our generation, God’s grace and mercy were available to David Berkowitz. And he received it.
God’s grace not only forgives and cleanses, it changes a man from the inside out. The power of the Holy Spirit has supernaturally transformed a man once filled with hate, violence and purposelessness into a vessel of love and hope, even made him a writer and preacher, who ministers God’s love and mercy to others. The words of John Newton and Paul were born of the Holy Spirit. Newton wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Paul wrote, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Read the Kingdom message of hope contained in David Berkowitz’s prison journals and see for yourself that the Gospel is, indeed, still alive and well in our generation; still capable of supernaturally transforming any life willing to yield itself to Jesus Christ.
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