Everyone has a story to tell. One that is passed down from generation to generation. One that is told numerous times by the story teller, at times to the exhaustion of his hearers. But when the story is life altering, the story teller could care less. He loves, I dare say, lives to tell his story. This is my story. My testimony of the grace of God upon my life. It is a brief account of how God called me by His Word from darkness into newness of life. And by God’s grace, it may be your story as well.
I grew up very involved in church from a very early age. From the time I was an infant, my parents were instrumental in modeling how the church should be priority in our lives. I was surrounded by people like my parents and church family who loved the Lord. And our family was usually among the first people to enter the church building and one of the last to leave.
I was morally a good kid. And when it came to the youth group, I was present every Wednesday night for Bible Study as well as in attendance for each yearly youth related camp. I memorized weekly Bible verses, was baptized at age thirteen, and professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized I wasn’t saved, and that if I had died I would have spent an eternity in Hell, separated from God. I had religion. I had morality. I had church attendance. I had walked the aisle, said the prayer, and had been baptized. But I was no more saved than if I’d been an atheist.
Truth be told, my religious check list was pristine. In fact, if you would have asked me how I knew that I was saved, I would have pointed to my morality, my baptism, and my involvement in the church. I would have told you that I knew I was saved because when I was thirteen years old I said a sinners prayer asking Jesus into my heart, and I was baptized.
In my mind I was saved. There was no love for the Word of God within my soul. I had no true repentance in my heart. And my knowledge of God was not much deeper than the watered down Bible stories we read our children. I had no understanding of divine atonement or propitiation. I had no understanding of the attributes of God such as His Sovereignty, His Holiness, His Immutability, or His providential governing.
In short, I was a modern day, living picture of the man that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 7.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23.
I heard a sermon preached on this passage of scripture in my mid thirties. And the preacher’s exposition of this text haunted me for weeks after hearing. The man in the text of Matthew 7 that Jesus spoke of was one who would have boasted of his religious checklist as his justification to why he thought he was saved. He was a man who would have emphatically professed Jesus Christ as his Lord.
In a more modern day context, this man in Matthew 7 was one who would have been seen regularly in church, he would have been know around town as a very moral person, and he would have had the date of his baptism written in the back of his Bible.
On his death bed, he would have been self assured that he would enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on how stellar track record. However, upon breathing his last breath, he enters into the presence of God. Even standing before the Lord, he confidently begins to recount the many religious things he did during his life.
But the response from Jesus was shocking. The Lord responded to this self righteous man, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Reading the description of this man was as if I was looking at my own reflection in a mirror. All of my years of church activity and attempts at morality were as the prophet Isaiah said, “Filthy rags before God.” Isaiah 64:6.
I became broken over my sins. But this time, my brokenness was heartfelt. For the first time, I was disgusted by my past self righteousness and desired more than anything to live my life chasing the knowledge of Christ, and to serve Him on mission.
Something was different. My desires had changed. I wanted to know Him. My salvation resulted in an insatiable craving for the knowledge of God. And the more that I saw of His beauty through scriptures, the more this hunger grew.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3.
This is but a glimpse of my testimony. I often look at the salvation that the Lord has given and marvel at His grace towards such an undeserving person as myself. The Lord used many factors in His great providence to lead me out of spiritual darkness and into His light.
First and foremost, it was the preaching of the Word of God that led me to the knowledge of the truth. It was the faithful exposition of Matthew chapter 7 that the Lord used to awaken my dead soul. It was not the eloquence of the preacher nor the charisma of a man, but strictly the reading of the Word of God.
I didn’t walk down an aisle nor did I repeat a canned “sinners prayer.” I didn’t sign a card and neither did I respond to an altar call. It wasn’t the emotional music played at the end of the sermon nor the passionate plea of the pastor that drew me to God. And I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart as if He needed an invitation from a former enemy of God such as myself. I followed none of these man centered tactics that are so very popular today.
It was God and God alone through the speaking of His Word that breathed new life into my soul. It was the preaching of the Word that led to salvation.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17.
Some may ask why do I share this portion of my testimony? My reason is two fold. First, as the old hymn goes, I love to tell the story. I believe that is one of the telling marks of someone who has truly encountered Christ. Once you have truly tasted the grace of God, you never get over it. You can’t stop talking about it.
You own salvation is the most amazing thing to you. Consider the disciples of Christ. They had their flaws for sure. But once they saw the risen Christ, they spent the rest of their earthly lives telling others about it.
After the conversion of the Apostle Paul, he retold his own testimony more than once throughout the scriptures. Paul pointed to his own fallacy of believing in His own religious works and morality.
“I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.” Philippians 3:5-9.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he did not hold back from sharing the most shameful of his sins with them. He considered himself to be the worst of sinners, undeserving of the grace that had been given to him.
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:9.
But Paul was not ashamed of His past, because his former weaknesses only served to magnify the power of the saving grace of God to bring the spiritually dead back to life.
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
It is the same with us today. When God turns a heart of stone to flesh, it is all the more reason for the person who is a new creation in Christ to have a deep desire to testify to the greatness of God, boasting only of their weakness and bringing full glory to God.
And secondly, the reason for sharing this testimony is so that God may use it to lead others to the knowledge of Himself. As I began to grow in sanctification and listen to many sermons, I began to notice a difference between preachers.
There were many popular preachers that I heard that were very captivating and even entertaining to listen to. But there was little to no depth. And there were other preachers who seem to have a seriousness to their message. There was an urgency in their voice. As if they were preaching fervently to men who were teetering on the edge of eternity. I was immediately drawn to such preaching.
Their message was not jovial nor did they employ cute Christian games in order to try and keep the attention of their audiences. It was apparent that the message they spoke was delivered as being life or death. It was no laughing matter. The demeanor of preachers who hold a high view of God and approached their exegesis with a serious tone exemplify the reality of the Gospel.
As one preacher rightly said, Jesus must be everything, or He is nothing. The supernatural salvation of the Lord produces in the new man an urgency and a seriousness when it comes to matters of God. It is not a Christianity molded by the opinions of men nor one that is cautious of withholding certain Biblical truths for fear of hurting someones feelings. Spurgeon once said that the person who loves you the most is the one who will tell you the truth, even if it is offensive. This is the Gospel.
Have you truly been saved? Or are you as I once was, lost in a sea of your own self professed morality and religiosity? Do you have a untamed passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a seriousness to the message that you proclaim? Are you growing in Holiness and the knowledge of Christ? Or does you quest to know Him consist only of Sunday morning in the pew?
Do you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? According to Matthew Chapter 7, that will be the question to be answered when you stand before the Lord. The lost man will passionately proclaim “Lord, Lord, I know you!” And Christ will respond to many, “But I didn’t know you.”
Seek Him, while He may be found. And know that if you sincerely do begin to seek the Lord, you did not do this in and through your own power. There is only one seeker, and that is God. Because in our flesh and sins we want nothing to do with God (Romans 3). That is until He breathes new life into us. You see even in the seeking of Christ we deserve no credit for that. Because the only reason man seeks God is because God has first regenerated His heart and given Him new desires.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:9.
Do you have a new passion for Him? If there has been no evident change wherein you begin to hate the sins you once loved and love the righteousness of Christ you once despised, then there has been no salvation. Church attendance cannot save, nor can Baptism. You must be born again, where you believe the Gospel and spend the rest of your life repenting of you sins and proclaiming the glorious Gospel.
My story began with brokenness. There was nothing in my deeds nor my past track record of religious activities that merited favor with God. I was, and still consider myself to be as Paul said, the least deserving of grace. My story begins with a resurrection. The moment my eyes did open and I couldn’t look upon myself for worth of any kind, but only to Christ. And my story is one that is only beginning, and will go on into eternity never ceasing to be amazed by the majesty of Christ our Lord.
Truth be told, this is God’s story. One of many stories about His grace and saving power. I just happen to be mentioned in this account as a means to magnify His glory through the telling of His redemption of sinners such as I. Every story is either a story of His mercy or His justice. But all stories, in some way, serve to point to Jesus. Even yours.
I pray that Jesus is that treasure in your field this day, and that like Paul, all external efforts at salvation are as garbage to you. This day, if you do know Him, take a moment to stand in awe of the miraculous work that is your own salvation. And let that reality spur you on towards living radically for Christ. Salvation is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation.