Jeff Nilluka Said “YES” To Jesus

Jeff Nilluka, a friend of many, died last Thursday.  I remember the first time I met him.  It was at a Westside picnic out on the front lawn and Chris Swarbrick introduced Jeff to me because he had driven into our parking lot thinking that we were having a “wheeling” event.

Little did Jeff know how that decision to pull into Westside
would change his life – Jenelle’s life – and Jamis and Jered’s lives forever.

As I shook Jeff’s hand, he stood there wide-eyed and quite a bit nervous.  You see, Jeff wasn’t the church going sort of guy.  This experience was quite a bit of a stretch for him . . . especially meeting “The Pastor”.

Well, to make a long story short:  Jeff went on the next Westside Wheeler’s trip . . . and the next one . . . and the next one.  He learned that Christians were actually very normal sort of folks that had solid values, appreciation for God’s creation, loved adventure, and Jeff also enjoyed the wholesome atmosphere for his wife and boys.  He and Jenelle made the decision to start attending Westside regularly.

After some months, Jeff realized that Jesus loved him and actually died so that he could have an authentic relationship with God.  It really was possible to have true peace with his Maker.  Jeff also learned that nothing he could ever do would earn that freedom and true life – because Jesus already paid the ultimate price for him – and for all of us.

One day, a couple of years ago I was preaching about having a relationship with God and I asked those in the audience who had never said “yes” to Jesus to consider making that decision right then.  I asked people to pray a prayer something like this in their hearts:


“Dear God, I believe in you.  I believe that Jesus came to this earth to die for my sins.  I believe He rose from the dead just like He said He would.  I ask you (with all of my heart) to forgive my sin.  I know I’m not perfect, but I trust You and I believe You have forgiven all my sin.  Please, come into my life and lead me from this moment on.  I declare that You are the Lord of my life.  I am a Christian . . . a Christ follower.  Please help me to walk this out.  Thank you for making this possible.”  –Jeff


After I said that, I asked folks to let me know if they had prayed that prayer for the first time in their life . . . and they meant it.  I said: “Come up to me at the door where I am standing and give me a big hug and let me know.”


Well, a few minutes later, as I was standing at the exit door, Jeff and Jenelle both came up to me and gave me a huge hug sandwich!  They said together:

“We said “yes” to Jesus today

for the first time and we meant it!”

WOW !!   Teri said later that day to a teary eyed Jeff: “that’s what we live for!”  To see people come to Jesus is the greatest thing ever!


Jeff followed through with that decision and truly pursued Jesus and led his family in loving and serving God as well.  He became an important part of the Westside family using his skills and gifts to make a huge impact on our church community.

Sadly, Jeff is not with us today.  We will certainly miss him.  But . . . please don’t feel sorry for Jeff.  He is right now living in unspeakable joy.  He is in the presence of Jesus. You will too – if you’ve also said “yes” to Jesus.  This is our great hope!


I urge you today – if you haven’t yet – said “yes” to Jesus.  PLEASE DO IT NOW.  Pray to God (something like the prayer above) and really mean it.  You too can have peace with God.


Love you guys,

Steve  🙂


Jesus speaking:

John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Paul speaking:

Romans 5:1  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 10:9   If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

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