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Saved by Grace

God’s grace is as amazing today as it has been through history.

-Andrew Zutitis-

Behind every conversion is regeneration, whereby God gives us new desires to turn from our sin and flee to Christ to be saved, to pursue holiness and to glorify Christ. For me, this includes street evangelism and proclaiming the gospel to prison inmates.

I was born in Australia in 1982. My mother was from the Philippines and my father from Latvia. My parents divorced when I was three, and my father raised me one suburb away from the former heroin capital of Australia – Cabramatta, in Sydney. I became involved in street crime, which in essence provided me with a reason to live out my innate lawless nature. I would regularly fight and steal and eventually got arrested in North Sydney, and charged with larceny and conveyance at the age of 14. A year later I began what would be considered organised crime as opposed to street crime.

The notorious Vietnamese 5T gang dominated the Cabramatta heroin trade in the 1990s and early 2000s and were known for their brutality in armed robberies, extortion and the use of hitmen. It was almost unheard of at that time for a part-Asian (particularly non-Vietnamese) criminal to operate successfully in and around the Cabramatta area. Yet after befriending key figures in the Asian underworld – and not being bound to any particular group by ethnicity – I was catapulted deep into organised crime.

My business expanded as I broke through the segregated nature of the gangs of those days by networking with different nationalities from several groups across various suburbs within Sydney and southern New South Wales. I wasn’t a drug user; I was a “gym junkie”, and seemed much older than I actually was. I saved most of the money I was making and moved up the criminal hierarchy quickly as money and violence generally equated to power.

At 18, I was convicted of possessing a loaded hand-gun in public. By this stage in my life I was known to the police, and my home had been raided twice by the drugs and firearms squad. Sometimes multiple times a day, I would be stopped and searched by detectives and or a highway patrol. I had also developed some serious enemies. At my peak I made $20,000 to $30,000 a day, profit.

“After befriending key figures in the Asian underworld, I was catapulted deep into organised crime.”

After a series of unforeseen events, I had to move to Queensland, when I was 20 years old. I stopped organized crime and began investing in real estate, and became a millionaire within two years. I owned several high-end properties and motor vehicles, including a Ferrari which I drove daily. I was full of pride and very arrogant.

Even though I was no longer an active participant in organised crime, I led the same life style of violence and lawlessness and my closest associates were known criminals. At 23, I was arrested and charged with assault causing grievous bodily harm after breaking a man’s jaw and two of his teeth outside a Gold Coast nightclub.

I owned what the world said would make me happy and led a lifestyle of excess, but on the inside I had become deeply frustrated as I found myself in a paradoxical knot in which there was no apparent escape. I was in bondage – to wanting more and at the same time knowing that more would only lead me to more discontent.

I now no longer had the drive to pursue money and the lifestyle as I once did. Not long after this shift in motivation I made several bad business decisions that led me to financial ruin. I moved back to Sydney with my father, and this commenced my struggle to transition to a regular life. At 26, after almost being gunned down outside my home by a former enemy, I moved my dad to a safe house, and the following day I moved to the Philippines for four months.

Upon my return to Sydney, a Christian friend David Grose, a businessman, introduced me to Alan Staines. Alan, a Christian minister, invited me to a meeting, at 10:30am on a Sunday morning. I was thinking that I was going to struggle to wake up that early on a Sunday, but I agreed to meet. It did not even cross my mind that this “meeting” meant a church meeting! I was exposed to a new world for the first time.

I attended the Salvation Army regularly for three years. However, I was spiritually dead, unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God. Not seeking God, but seeking what I could gain from God, I thought that my regular church attendance would cause God to look favorably upon me. But, my affections were bound to my nature; my mind was at enmity toward God. I was still a slave to sin, bound to sin, not willing to bow my knee to Christ. I would not repent from my sins and turn to Christ because I could not, and I could not because I would not, and therefore remained under God’s just wrath.

“I was spiritually dead, unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God. Not seeking God, but seeking what I could gain from God”

But God intervened, by His sovereign grace and mercy. He lovingly and graciously broke me, and revealed to me my utter helplessness apart from Him. In January 2011, God replaced my heart of stone, and caused me to feel the weight and horror of my sin in light of His goodness and holiness. I pleaded to Him for mercy and forgiveness. God enabled me to willingly turn from my sin and to flee to Christ to be saved. I was born again!

God opened my understanding that I might comprehend the Scriptures; the Bible immediately became powerfully true to me, and began to renew my mind. However, “zeal without doctrine is like a sword in the hands of a lunatic,” wrote John Calvin. I joined a Pentecostal organisation and was raised into a leadership position shortly after; I was misled and therefore misled many. I witnessed first hand the abusiveness and manipulative nature of the altar call and “sinner’s prayer”. This is often the breeding ground for false conversion and much confusion, even for the genuine convert.

I was for the first time exposed to Reformed theology after attending a series called “The Five-Point Error” held at the Pentecostal organisation I was attending (The Potters House). I was told that Calvinism was a new heresy, and that two of my friends were green-headed monsters because they were Calvinists.

I began to research Reformed theology to reach out to my poor friends but in the process found myself incredibly liberated, as though I was born-again again, as God revealed to me His sovereignty in salvation through 2 Timothy 1:8-9. I left the Pentecostal movement within three weeks and now attend a Reformed Baptist church. All Glory to God.

The Lord God saved my wife Le in March 2011 (we met in high school), and has further blessed us with two children. He has also provided me several opportunities to share the gospel with my former enemies while street-evangelising. I am studying full-time at Sydney Missionary and Bible College. After I graduate I hope to establish a small prison ministry that would be primarily focused on feeding hungry sheep with historic, biblical truth – without bells and whistles.

Andrew Zutitis attends St Johns Park Baptist Church and SMBC.

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