I have been asked by many friends about putting my testimony in print, and I have used several excuses for not doing it. I do believe that one must be "moved by the Holy Ghost" before there will be an unction on the preaching or the printed page. Tonight was that night (March 6th, 1996 at a little after midnight). I was reading "My Utmost for His Highest," a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers and he was dealing with a verse in Acts, the twentieth chapter, verse twenty‑four, where Paul testified and said "neither count I my life dear unto myself." The author of the devotional book then began dealing with the life call of a man of God. My, how my heart burned within me, and even so now!!!! You see, I was very religious when the Lord passed by my way and told me I was lost! After a seemingly long period of time (about two years) I struggled with my soul's salvation. "Was I truly saved, or was I just a hypocrite?" When I finally came to the end of myself and saw my true condition the Lord gloriously saved my wretched soul!!! Hallelujah!!!
The reason the devotional book stirred me so is because God called me to tell about my salvation to help others who are in the same condition I was. (John 17:20) I have been preaching the gospel of God's work of salvation in the soul of a lost man now for a little over sixteen years and have seen many who were in a lost religious condition come to know Christ as Lord and Saviour. I do not believe that all religious folk are lost, but I do believe that all religious people who have not experienced the work of repentance and faith are lost, and need to be truly born again, born from above, born supernaturally!!!
I pray that this testimony will cause others to see the great work of grace in a man's heart to bring him to "repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Acts 20:21)
MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY
I was born into this earthly life on July the third, nineteen hundred and fifty‑six. My Dad was a drunkard at that time, but my Dad was saved when I was four years old so the only thing I remember was going to church. Dad surrendered to the call to preach and by the time I was eight years old, church was a big part of my life because my Dad was very active as a youth director. He was going to a Bible Institute in Pontiac, Michigan, and filled the pulpit often at Faith Baptist Church where we were attending. During this time as a six year old boy I made a profession of faith, that is, I told my Dad during an invitation that I wanted to get saved. Now what "saved" was I couldn't tell you, but it was a word I had heard and knew I wasn't "saved!" I remember my Dad taking me to the altar, but I don't remember one thing that I did or said at that altar. I don't even remember getting baptized! Nor would I have understood what baptism meant if you had asked me. Shortly after that Dad took a church in Elba, Michigan, and later started a church in Hadley, Michigan. During all this time my Dad, my brother, and myself were beginning to sing as a trio in many churches in surrounding areas during special meetings and etc. I was very active in church work by this time and was very comfortable with singing in churches, and having a special part during worship. I can remember while Dad was pastoring in Hadley, Michigan of times when the word "eternity" would haunt me. I would lay in the bed and think of how long forever was. I remember experiencing fear!! It would grip my soul, and I would begin considering what it would be like to die and spend an eternity in hell. Now why I would think that as a "saved" boy, I do not know, except that in all actuality I was not truly "saved!" To be honest with you, my dear readers, I cou ld not have told you what true salvation was, or why one even got saved! Oh, I could have told you that if you didn't get saved you were going to a place called hell, and I knew that hell was a terrible place to go, and no one in their right mind would want to go there. I knew about "Calvary," but I had no understanding of my own condition as a sinner or that I was an enemy of God because of "my" sin. But then again, in my own little mind, I wasn't a "bad" sinner anyway!
Let me explain these last few statements. When I was fourteen years old, we had a revival meeting. The visiting preacher had preached that night on the subject of hell. I believe that what he preached was right!!! There is a place called hell and unrepentant, unbelieving sinners are cast into this burning place. The Bible surely bears that as a true record!! As a fourteen year old boy I had gotten into some things that I knew were not pleasing to my Dad and had a guilty conscience about some things. In my condition I raised my hand to the fact that I did not know where I would spend eternity if I should die that night. I went forward during the invitation and a missionary who was in our church took me into a prayer room. He then proceeded to tell me that as the preacher's son I knew what to do. So I knelt down, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and asked the Lord to save me. Save me from what? Hell, of course!! That was where I was going, and I didn't want to go there. I would never see my family again!!! I would be separated from that which I knew as life, and I surely didn't want that. But ask me if I wanted to give up my school chums!!! Or my lifestyle!!! Ask me, "Do you want to follow Christ, and have a new life? Repent?" I didn't even know that was a part of salvation!!!! Besides, what would my friends at school think of me if I got religious?
After the invitation, and my public profession, my Mother asked me, as I stood with my foot propped up against the wall, if I got it all settled. I said nonchalantly, "Yea," but my life never changed!! I was no different!!! I was ashamed to tell anyone outside the church. I kept on doing the same old things I had done before. I got worse instead of better.
Later Dad took a church in Ypsilanti, Michigan. After graduating from a Christian high school at the age of seventeen I got a job and left home only to go further, and deeper into sin. I was a rebel against all that I was taught about good, clean, wholesome living. Morals were not a part of my thoughts or life. If you had asked me during that time if I were saved I would say, "Of course." After all, I had asked the Lord to save me from hell and "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," never taking into consideration what other verses in the Bible said about the character (sheep, saints) and lifestyle of a child of God. Although I was out in the world I would never have thought of missing Sunday School, Morning Worship, Sunday night, or even Wednesday night Prayer Meeting, and Bible Study. What I was doing the rest of the time...well, the Lord has forgiven me, and doesn't remember so I want to get away from those things that I am now ashamed of! (Romans 6:21)
My Dad wrote me a letter during my iniquitous ways which I remember reading out in the field at my Grandpa and Grandma Warren's (my mother's Dad and Mom). I wept because I knew I was breaking my Daddy's heart! He was praying for me, and told me that he had not raised me to live the way I was living. That was also true! My Dad is a good Dad--clean and righteous. I looked up to his life, and knew that he was against sin, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. I remember my Dad giving his testimony often, and told how the Lord had taken away his old life of sin, and changed him. I knew I had never had that change I saw in him, but "I was blind." (II Cor. 4:3-4)
Like the Prodigal son, I ended with nothing. I lost my job, wrecked my car, lost my "friends," My life was a mess. Then we had a revival meeting at the church. An evangelist came to the church, and I rededicated my life. I called home and told my Dad and Mom that I gotten right with God. I quit doing a lot of the things I had been doing: not all of them, but those really bad things. I moved back home and enrolled in a Bible college. I WAS GOING TO DO RIGHT, PLEASE GOD, AND BE WHAT I HAD ALWAYS BEEN RUNNING FROM...I HAD SURRENDERED TO GO TO SCHOOL AND BE A PREACHER!!
Things were going good. I had a good job, was fixing to get married to a sweet girl named Carol (my sweet wife now), and getting married was helping me to settle down a lot.
Then in 1977 my Dad called Dr. Percy Ray from Myrtle, Mississippi to come to our church and hold a meeting. I was working second shift so I was unable to go to all the services. I had the church make tapes from all the services so I could at least hear them. During the day Dr. Ray would come to our house to fellowship with our family. He took a real liking to me; sort of took me under his wing. He asked me to come and preach at his camp meeting. That's a story in itself that perhaps I can tell later. The Lord worked it out for me to go, and that is where the Lord began awakening me to my true condition. I got back home, went back to work, but was troubled much about my soul. I used to stay up long hours with my mother to try to get her to tell me I was saved, but she never would. She would tell me, "that is between you and the Lord. Only He can tell you that." One night on my way home from work I put in a tape from the meeting. Brother Ray was preaching a message entitled "Well's Digged." I listened intently as he spoke about the wells that Abraham had digged, how the Philistines had filled them with garbage, and how Isaac had come behind, cleaned them all out, and drew water from them all again. He said, "there was nothing wrong with the well, it just had dirt in it. Clean out the dirt and all was fine." I thought about all the junk that had been in my life, and how it was mostly all gone. But then he changed gears, so to speak. He began preaching about some folks who have "cistern salvation." He explained how a cistern gets all of its water from another source, and has no source of its own. As long as they are around someone who has a well they have water, but as soon as they get it, it goes away. I would have peace one minute and no peace the next. I would be all right for a day, a week, maybe even a few weeks, but soon I was in a turmoil again. God used Dr. Ray to get my attention. I got home before the tape was done, but couldn't shut it off. I sat in the drive way and listened to the tape all the way through. I remember saying that night to myself, "When I get saved I'll be able to enjoy that kind of preaching." I didn't have a well. I had man-made religion!!!
I began reading, reading, reading, reading! I read the Bible through many times (about 8) before I got saved...trying to find some peace of mind. I read a pamphlet that Dr. Oliver B. Green had written called "Are You Sure?" It grew worse. I was troubled! I had never trusted Christ!!! Ephesians bothered me for it spoke of "in time past ye walked according to the course of this world." I never had a time past! I had a life of sin!! No past! All was present!!! Guilty before a Holy, Righteous God! Reformed? Yes! Peace? No!! When was I ever sorry for my wicked past, and forgiven once and for all? When had I ever trusted Christ to save me from my own selfish life and desired a new one with Christ Jesus? NEVER!!!! Oh, for peace with God! I would pray often, "Lord, if I'm lost....save me!" But I wouldn't have peace! I found out I couldn't get saved that way. Was I really lost? Turmoil, struggles, doubt, and confusion ripped through my heart!!
I saw people profess Christ and say they got saved. I saw them who said that they knew that they were saved. Could I ever have that peace? Could I ever know that I was saved? Would the Lord save me? I knew others, because of their testimonies, who had real peace with God. A man who in many circles is hated, misunderstood, and misinterpreted would come to our church every year and preach for us. He always gave his testimony and it bothered me. This man made me hunger to know Christ, and to have peace with God. His name is Brother Charles Shipman. Whatever you may think about him, I don't care. He preached a message entitled, "It's Real," and made me believe it was!!! But salvation was not real to me. Why? What was missing? I couldn't put my finger on it!
I wouldn't accept what the Holy Ghost was bearing witness to through the Word I had heard preached. I was not and had never been saved! Repentance had never been worked in my heart; therefore, I had never truly believed God to save me! I prayed a prayer, but without the understanding of Holy Ghost wrought repentance and faith. Repentance is not faith! Godly sorrow is not repentance either, but it works repentance not to be repented of. If it is true Godly sorrow (sorrow for what you are and for trusting your own good works) then it will work repentance whereby you can believe God to save you from sin, and forgive you for your sin!! Christ "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Praise God for the work of the Holy Ghost through the Word!!! "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word . ." (Eph. 1:13)
I began to be in want! I was not in the hog pen of the world now, but in the hog pen of self righteousness, and religion. I was in despair. I would go to church and no one knew what I was going through. I hid it. On the Wednesday before I got saved I called in sick to work. I was troubled. Too sick to go to work, but not too sick to go to church. So, I went. When I got there, Dad asked me why I wasn't at work. I told him I had called in sick, and wasn't feeling well, but didn't tell him why. I was the song leader at the time so Dad asked me if I was too sick to lead the songs. I wasn't so I found myself back to my regular religious works, but that night it was different. Dad put a song under my nose to lead after I got done with the one I had chosen. The song was "Come Unto Me." "Hear the Blessed Saviour calling the oppressed, `O, Ye heavy laden, come to me and rest; Come, no longer tarry, I your load will bear. Bring me every burden, bring Me every care'." My, what a dagger went into my heart! The second verse went, "Are you disappointed, wandering here and there, dragging chains of doubt and loaded down with care." Then the chorus, "Come unto me; I will give you rest; Take my yoke upon you, Hear me and be blest. I am meek and lowly, Come and trust my might. Come, My yoke is easy, and my burden's light." My soul was stirred! Then the message was preached. I forget the text, but one thing I do remember. Dad was preaching and said, "I don't care if you're the preacher's son, the song leader, a Sunday School teacher, and faithful to every service; If you've never repented, you've never been saved!" I was every one of those characters.
I don't recall much about Thursday, Friday, or Saturday morning, but I do remember my trip to work Saturday afternoon. Oliver B. Green was on the radio, and he used an illustration that went something like this. "If I desired to see you, went to your house, knowing you were there; went up and knocked on your door, but you didn't answer, I might think, `perhaps you are unable to come to the door at this time. You might be sick and in the bed, or in the basement and unable to hear the door. I will come back another time.' So I come back later, knowing your home. I go to the door, ring the doorbell, but you don't answer. I go to another door and knock, but no answer. Well, again, you may be unable to come to the door. I'll come back another time. So another day I come to your house, ring the doorbell, knock, but this time I go to the windows and holler into the house. I rattle the windows, and do everything I can to see you, but you don't answer. I may think you don't want me. You don't want to see me. You don't desire my company. Sooner or later I'm going to stop knocking, and calling." Then he went on to say, "Some of you poor, religious lost folk . . . God has called, and knocked, and called, and knocked over and over and over again. Someday He's going to quit calling you." I went into work with the thought that maybe I have gone too far, and He'll never speak to me again.
When I got home that night, my dear wife met me at the door. I was in a strait!! She kissed me and asked how my night went. I told her, "If this is all there is to life and Christianity, I don't want it anymore. No peace, no joy . . . " She kissed me and went on to bed. I showered and went to my desk to study my Sunday School lesson. It was on "repentance." Oh great!!! Well, I might as well face this thing head on. Either I'm saved or I'm lost. I was lost!!! I knew it intellectually, and had for a long time, but now I was experiencing this thing called "lostness." I went to my Unger's Bible Dictionary and looked up the word repentance. He dealt first with what it wasn't. Everything it wasn't I had. Then he dealt with what it was! I came up short!!! Well, I went to my blue couch where I prayed religiously every night. I started like always, "Dear Lord, Thank you for this day, and all your many blessings . . . " Reality came, all of a sudden I was honest with God. What I had been and what I was doing no longer meant anything. There is no doubt about the Lord's presence in my living room. He was there!!! I remember telling Him, "Lord, I've fooled many people, but I've never fooled you, and I can't go on trying to fool myself." What I said after that was with a heart that was sorry for my past, sorry for my present, and sorry for never having trusted Christ for my soul's salvation. I knew then that Christ could save me, would save, and then I knew I had trusted Him!! He had forgiven me of all my wickedness!!! I was clean, and pure! Peace was mine!! I raised up from my couch and looked around the room. I knew I was saved! Delivered! I wanted Christ that night more than life itself! He sav ed me, and it was all over! I buried my head back down in the couch thanking Him for saving my old wretched soul, for forgiving me, and giving me peace. It was just so wonderful!!! And IS SO WONDERFUL!!!! Even now I find myself reliving the wonder of it all!!! The matchless glory of His Grace!!! I feel like these words are unable to express the joy of knowing full forgiveness!! Truly "it is joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
I got up from the couch and made my way into the bedroom where my wife was sleeping. I turned on the light (it was now after 4:00 a.m. April the 29th, Sunday morning) and woke her up. I told her that I had just got saved. She looked at me and said, "Good," and went back to sleep. Well, I couldn't sleep. I was so awe struck by God's grace in salvation that I decided to stay up and read. I immediately turned to the passage that brought conviction to my soul whenever I heard it preached, read it, or thought about it; Ephesians . . . "in time past." I read Ephesians several times with tears of joy and a heart full of wonder! My past was wiped clean, and I now had a line with a past, and a present where all things were made new. I now had a past, a wonderful present, and a future that caused me to weep, and rejoice. What a great salvation!! It is still good today. It has never grown old, and I love to tell about when the Lord stopped me, came to me, and saved me!!!! Hallelujah!! Tis Done!!!!
Not many days after my salvation experience the Lord spoke to my heart about preaching. I am so thankful that He has called me to salvation, and service as a preacher of the gospel. The ministry He has called me to is great because of Him.
ALL GLORY TO GOD!!!!