It is with much joy, but prayer and concern, that I share with you my personal testimony. My greatest desire today is to honor and to glorify God. He is indeed worthy of all my praise.
On September 23, 1988, I was saved by God's marvelous grace. Nothing short of a miracle was needed to open my blinded eyes.
Since the Lord has saved me, my heart and life have been changed forever. Having been made a new creature in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
For 26 years I groped in darkness, a lost church member, blinded and deceived by Satan. But God, who is rich in mercy!
My family and I were attending our fall revival services in the Baptist Church where I grew up. As a thirteen-year old girl, I left the back pew on a Friday night, making my way to the pastor to tell him I wanted to get saved. Some of my friends had already made professions of faith earlier that week. The sad fact is that the Lord had not shown me that I was a lost sinner. I knew nothing about heartfelt repentance. Nor did I fully understand why I even needed a Savior. I was like someone who did not know they had lost their way yet was asking to be found. Just as that is not feasible, spiritual salvation is impossible until the sinner is convinced that he is truly lost and needs to be found. This is why the Holy Spirit must be allowed to do His complete work before one can be saved. I had no concept of God, no understanding of his righteousness, no faith, no repentance, and did not understand that I was a lost sinner.
On the last day of our meeting I was approached by a loved one who was concerned for me. They asked me if I did not think it was about time I considered being saved. I did not respond to them because I did not have any plans to make a decision that night.
As the invitation was given, my brother went to the pastor. I can still remember how great the pressure was on me to do the same. My brother was younger than me, and I knew others were expecting me to get saved now. I found my way to my pastor and told him that I wanted to be saved. Although he prayed, all I can remember is the relief I felt when I started down the isle. After prayer, in all sincerity, I took this to be salvation. I believed that simply acknowledging I was lost, then asking to be saved, and believing I was saved was indeed salvation. I was baptized into the church.
As the months and years passed, I cannot recall any time of real fellowship between God and me. Simply put, I had no inward change, no growth, and no knowledge of spiritual matters or of spiritual truths. I had no interest in my Bible, nor did I pray as I should have, yet I was blinded to know any different.
After four years as a member of that church, my family moved our membership to New Hope Baptist church. I began to hear preaching like I had never heard before. Much emphasis was placed on how a Christian should live and sin was made very plain. Here the members were very active in their service to God. Many of them lived by certain convictions that I had not experienced. Since I was trained to be very obedient as a child, I wanted to be that for God. Some of their convictions became mine as I tried to live up to their standards. This became the beginning of a "roller-coaster life" for me. Trying to walk a closer walk with God, I began to reform. Life became very difficult for me and a never-ending cycle of rededication, confessing sin, hitting bottom, then trying over and over again. It seemed the more I would do for the Lord, the more I must do in order to please Him and for Him to love me.
Through the years I became very faithful in my church attendance. There became such an imprisonment and a pressure on me to perform, that I did not enjoy going to church; but because I wanted to please God and to do right, I kept going. When I could overcome the obstacles, self got all the glory; yet I thought this to be real Christianity.
Although my efforts seemed to be good at the time, I now realize they were being motivated by the wrong source and for the wrong reason. Today, because I am in Christ and He is in me, I have such a desire to please Him above all else. I am now free of the bondage of legalism and of others' expectations. I am at liberty in Christ Jesus because my performance today is based completely on God's provision.
As a lost sinner, I had nothing spiritually to draw from as I worked frantically in search of peace and rest for my soul. I was yet to realize that there is no peace to be found in religion or righteous living apart from salvation. How great are the Lord's works in dealing with sinners! I am so very thankful for the day that He showed me "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling."
Soon after becoming a member of New Hope, I was voted in as a Sunday School teacher. Later I became a prayer-band member and, eventually, a visitation worker. I appeared to be a true, dedicated, set-apart, born-again believer. With all my "good works" I thought I really loved the Lord. In the end, by His work, I began to realize that I not only could not love Him, I was His very enemy! But somehow, by God's grace, in the midst of my tangled life, I wanted His will to prevail.
Not knowing the Lord in reality, I looked for solutions to all of my problems in self and others. I struggled to live a Christian life, trying to love and to serve a God whom I did not even know. So blinded and not knowing it, I became too self-righteous and religious to need a Savior. In my own eyes, I was not wicked enough to be lost. The Holy Spirit had not yet worked in my blinded heart, thus a miracle was needed in my life.
For twenty-six years God suffered long with me, ever working and patiently waiting on me. In the energy of my flesh, I struggled to live above sin. No matter how well I performed, I sensed that God was not impressed. Somehow I always felt as though I were coming up short of God's expectations.
What a blessed thought that God even strives with man! Today, I realize that He was seeking my attention long before I knew it. My religious, self-righteous nature kept me struggling with self-effort to find a way out. As I would look around, I seemed to measure up rather good next to others, thus convincing myself if anybody is saved, it is I!
If asked, I did not mind telling anyone how I went forward as a thirteen-year old girl and "gave my heart to Jesus." I could tell them about the relief I felt when I stepped out from my pew. I could tell them all about what I had done but I could not tell them for a truth one thing the Lord had done. Today I know that salvation is not based on a feeling or a relief one might experience. It is so much more than what I thought then. Salvation is not in what man does but is based entirely on what the Lord has done. I like the way Bro. Luther Price explains it: "Salvation is not man's performance but God's provision." Salvation is of the Lord!
How thankful, but oh how blessed I am, that my Lord did not leave me alone to die with an empty profession. In spite of my ignorance, God in all of His goodness and mercy and with all wisdom took all of the time that was necessary to work through my blindness.
Through the years I have been blessed with a good husband and two healthy children. When we moved into our new home, it appeared that I had all one needed to bring contentment and happiness, but I was never satisfied. I stayed in search of "things," longing for self to become satisfied. Since I had none of God's spiritual gifts, I looked for joy and peace of mind in
tangible things. I knew nothing of joy and the peace that salvation brings. The unrest in my soul continued to grow. I was yet to understand that I could never work hard enough to earn my greatest need. Salvation is a gift and is given only to those who become willing to lay down all self-effort to obtain it. Salvation is to be simply received by faith. Then, real peace becomes the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the heart of the believer.
For over twenty years I do not recall a time when I heard a message preached that caused me to question or to examine my thirteen-year old experience. Very few times would I let myself doubt. But each time I would conclude that I had gone through all of the necessary steps I had been taught to be saved. I did acknowledge that I needed to be saved and since I had asked the Lord, I believed I had received. I had heard many times that Satan causes doubts and confusion; therefore, this was just another reason to me why I must be saved.
Although I had been taught one must believe, I found myself working frantically to believe that I had believed! My not believing then, (since I felt I had done all there was for me to do) would put Christ to shame, making His Word a lie. Since I was supposed to be a "believer" I became convinced that Satan had to be in my confusion. On I went, working to keep my salvation.
After a crisis in my life I found myself in a valley that I could not handle. During this time I recall falling in the altar at church very afraid and broken over my condition. I told my pastor's wife that I felt such a burden of being lost. She was as shocked as I was. After prayer, and Satan propping me up, once again I rededicated my life. I asked the church to pray for me as I was not praying and reading my Bible as I should have been. On I went with my "roller-coaster life." Although I was afraid to share my burdens with others, God knew every heartache and tear. Little did I know that He had a plan for my life.
Since I grew up believing once saved, always saved and that Satan causes doubts and confusion in the believer's heart, those were the times I would get more (false) assurance of being saved. I had no idea that the stirring in my soul was the Holy Ghost! Now I can see what a foolish thing it was for me to have believed that Satan would even want me to doubt. Doubt causes one to go back to whatever experience he has and to look at it. I hardly believe that Satan wanted me to do that! Would he want me, a lost sinner to reflect back, to question, and to find out that I needed God?
There have been times in my life when I would experience the fear of dying. Continuing to struggle for peace of mind, I would make promise after promise to God. Although temporary peace would come, I was yet to meet Lasting Peace.
Unable to explain it, sometime during the year of 1986 I developed a heavy burden for my church. Serious efforts were made to go aside and to pray that God would do something for us. Before this experience, there was never a time in my life that I felt such an urgency to turn to God. I could not go to anyone else and share the things on my heart. No one but God could understand. As specific matters were laid on my heart, I prayed more; and the more I prayed, the more burdened I became. I was developing a great closeness and an awareness of the Lord like I had never experienced!
I did not understand it then, but I knew that those things being revealed to my heart were from God. I became very amazed at what God was doing, not only in the church but what He was doing in me. The awareness of the Lord was very great. For the first time in my life, I knew I could trust Him with my burdens. As the year was ending, I was becoming acquainted with a loving God, the one who cared for me.
My concept of God had not been justifiable. Although I had read of His unconditional love, I tried to live in such a way to merit His love and favor. By the law, I had become so blinded of His vast love. As long as I could perform, I felt I had favor with God but the minute I stumbled, I did not deserve His love anymore.
Even though I was His enemy, lost and undone, He so lovingly met all of my needs. His goodness truly leads one to repentance. (Romans 2:4) There was a divine preparation in my heart being done for a longing to meet a loving Savior. Though mysterious to man, He does teach sinners in the way. (Psalm 25:8) Although I was yet to know the Lord in salvation, I was becoming acquainted with Him through prayer. Beyond human comprehension, the Lord caused me to seek His face. What a blessed thought that Christ loved us - while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8)
Changes had taken place in my church. The pastor I had for over 20 years resigned. I am now convinced that the Lord prepared and placed Bro. Edgar Paschall at New Hope. As the weeks went by, messages about the love of God and His goodness began to saturate my heart. The scriptures revealed more to me of a God of unconditional love who is ever merciful and longsuffering toward man.
I wanted God to be real in my life, as I could see him in other dedicated and faithful Christians. Again, I felt I had no favor with God and something was separating me from Him. Then one day I learned how SIN separates! As different truths began to minister to me, I became interested in God's Word. I was seeking the Lord as He was stirring in my heart and I was not even aware of it!
Salvation is truly a miracle wrought by God. For months I absorbed truths concerning salvation. Although I had heard many sermons about salvation down through the years, my understanding was not yet opened. What most interested me now were messages concerning the narrow way; Godly sorrow; Holy Ghost Conviction; true repentance; heart belief (saving faith); the wooing and drawing of the Holy Spirit; real peace being a person (not a feeling); about believing God IS; seeking faith; REAL SALVATION!
Never before did I realize that salvation is worked by God, that Godly sorrow works repentance and that one must be willing to strive to enter that strait gate. I did not understand that a sinner is granted repentance after conviction has been fully worked so he can be given saving faith.
I have witnessed many professions of salvation that appeared contrary to these Bible truths. The "plan of salvation" had always seemed to be a simple 1-2-3 method. I was even told by a preacher's wife that salvation was not hard but easy. Today, I fully understand the teachings of Jesus in Luke 13:23-24. I believe one must strive to enter in, in order to keep the adversary (Satan) from pulling him aside as he tries to steal away the seed (Word) lest he be saved. We know he is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour as he uses his sly tactics to keep the sinner forever lost. God knows the power of Satan for He warned "many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." In the Greek, the word for strive means to struggle; fight; labor fervently (as competing for a prize, endeavoring to accomplish something and as contending with the adversary). This hardly sounds like a 1-2-3 step of just believing to be saved! I am afraid that man's plan has tried to simplify salvation to please himself. Only God's plan of salvation could meet the need of my sin-sick soul.
Jesus also has said that the gate one must enter (salvation) is "strait," which means narrow (from obstacles standing close about). This confirms to me hindrances to keep the sinner from "entering in." I found that the salvation Jesus taught was not an "easy believism." Without His working in the heart of a sinner, bringing him to repentance, and without His power, salvation is utterly impossible!
Apart from conviction, I could not understand that I was indeed a lost sinner; and until the Lord drew me, I could not even step toward God. (John 6:44) Thus, man is totally incapable of helping himself in salvation. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus said, ". . . They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Thus, a miracle was still needed in my heart. I did not know I was (sin) sick. I ever worked to clean up the outward man, but what I needed was an inward cleansing. A work that only God could do. Today, I am convinced that Satan is ever working in the midst of Baptist churches, promoting this "easy believism" that makes people religious, without Christ.
Once I had become enslaved to the law, I was too busy with my self-righteous ways to have time for God. The Holy Spirit could not work in the midst my "man-made religion." ". . . The letter (law) killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." (II Corinthians 3:6) I was still so blinded to the Gospel and as long as I could continue to attain, I could not attain righteousness. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Satan can give one a religious experience but he cannot give life in Christ!
How sad today as I hear of "decisions" for Christ taking the place of real salvation and worldly sorrow has been mistaken for Holy Ghost conviction. Although I had made a profession of Christ, I had no possession of Him; religion but not life. My mere "deciding" to get saved did not qualify me for salvation.
One must take his rightful place, agreeing with God that he is a wicked sinner, with no merit of his own for salvation and deserving of Hell! Only through a work wrought by God could I have taken that position before God.
As truths concerning the gospel of Christ had captured my heart's attention, the Holy Spirit was soon to take lodging in my soul. I would wonder if He were real or not, as I would question whether these things were really of God or just my imagination. Effortless attempts were made to shun the idea that I might not be saved. A few times I can remember praying, "Lord, if I am lost, save me," but since nothing happened, I felt I must be alright. Little did I know that I had to get lost before I could be found! A work was yet needed in my heart to convince me, a church member for twenty-six years, that I needed a Savior.
Then one Sunday night I heard a testimony of one who had taken the broad way that leads to destruction. She told of how she had been deceived by Satan, making a false profession and being a lost church member for years. She told of how the Lord brought her to the place she acknowledged she was a sinner and how He led her to repentance. This helped me to understand that although one can be very sincere about wanting to be saved, they can be blinded to the Gospel, deceived and trapped by Satan. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them." (II Corinthians 3:3-4)
Although I could not believe that I was unsaved, the Lord continued to strive with me. The more I sought after Him through His Word, the more burdened I became.
In August 1988, I felt compelled to go with my pastor and some other church members to the Mississippi Delta Camp Meeting in Arkansas. There the Lord planted me in the middle of a people that unabashedly and unashamedly testified of "miracles" God had done in their lives. Somehow I knew He was real in their hearts. Their praise and worship gave all glory and honor to the Lord. Within them, I saw a genuine faith and a love that were unshakable. Oh, how I yearned for God to be as real for me as I saw Him in them! There I was, locked in for five long days around a people I began to envy. I felt so out of place with nowhere to hide.
Many of the messages preached seemed to drive arrows into my heart as the testimonies of real salvation deepened the wounds of my sin-sick soul. Some of the preachers spoke of when God had shown them they were lost and how thankful they had been to know this. I just could not understand at all how they could be thankful for knowing they were lost! Then I would try to figure out why they did not go ahead and get saved right then, as soon as they knew they were lost. Never before had I heard with such an understanding that one has to know he is a sinner before he can be saved. The testimonies and the songs that told of salvation as being a miracle, caused me to wonder why I did not feel the same way about my profession. Their world was completely revolving around their relationship with God. Their God was real to them.
All my way back home I could not get away from the things I had learned. Although they were singing on the church van, there was no singing in my heart. As I pondered certain messages and testimonies, I knew if what they had said was true, there had to be more to salvation than what I had. I continued my search for God, still unaware of how serious my condition was. I praise Him today for how He works, though mystic to man, He does teach sinners in the way. (Psalms 25:8)
The following month became the most difficult yet the most rewarding time of my entire life. Unless the Lord had shown him something, my pastor knew nothing about what was going on in my heart. Being so confused, it seemed that only God could understand my turmoil. The urgency to pray for God to work His complete will into my life became a part of me. Bro. Paschall had made a statement once that when you do not know what else to do, to ask the Lord to do that which you cannot do for yourself. As this became my heart-cry, a verse from the song "Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior" was ever before me; "Whom have I on earth beside Thee? Whom in Heaven but Thee?"
The more my heart was stirred for God, the more Satan fought. I began to focus on all of my years of service to Him and again I wondered how I could have missed God. After all the Lord had shown me, I still could not convince myself that I was indeed a lost sinner. I thought about how God had answered prayers in my life and how I wanted to love Him and serve Him. How could I be lost?
Satan knew the outward man was very convincing, but I had been more concerned with what man thought than what God thought. As I would compare myself to others, again, I felt I must be alright. I had a time and a place of an experience that I thought was real and I just could not let go of it. How could I be lost with the kind of convictions I had of living a separated life? With Satan warring for my soul, time and time again I tried to convince myself that I was really saved.
There were times that I would go days and even weeks without any sense of the Holy Spirit's working. But each time the burden came back, it seemed to be heavier than the time before. As I would sense His Spirit leaving me, I would cry out to God for help, that He would reveal to me my need. It seemed I was taking one step forward then two steps backward.
Brother Paschall had been teaching a series of lessons titled "The Road of Light." These truths proved to be another example of how God, in all of His wisdom and goodness, taught me "in the way." He knew exactly where I was. He knew what I needed and He led me every step of the way to teach me those things I had to know. Through these lessons, it was as if the Holy Spirit was backing me up into a corner, as I was sensing an awful separation from God.
At home I was listening to the tapes over and over again as I wanted to get all of my answers correct on the correspondence test. Although I scored near‑perfect on the test, my soul could not identify with my knowledge about salvation.
The first week in September, we took our oldest daughter to Florida to enroll her in school. Being so involved with "The Road of Light" study, I could not put it down. I bought a personal tape player so I could finish it on my way to and from Florida.
Unable to get away from what my heart was feeling, wee hours of the morning were spent searching the scriptures as my husband and children slept.
I am so thankful today for the time and efforts that went into preparation for "The Road of Light." Getting alone with God and getting involved in His Word was essential in my life. I realize that without the aid of the Holy Spirit and apart from God's wisdom these lessons could not have been prepared.
Day by day it seemed that I was being stripped of everything I had, of all I thought I knew. Even a plaque that had been on my kitchen wall for some time began to minister to my heart; "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." (Psalms 127:1) Though I had read it many times, now I was understanding its meaning for me. Every time I noticed it, I would question whether my salvation experience was of man or of God.
One Sunday morning, more light was shed on my darkened heart. As I was teaching my Sunday school class about Samuel, I repeated their memory verse for them to learn; ". . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (I Samuel 16:7) I was stunned as I felt God had spoken directly to me as the Word was made sharp to my soul. As I left the classroom I was asking myself the question, did I have an outward religion but a wicked heart? God of the impossible was making a way for me. I was becoming more aware of the inevitable, that I was lost! I recall a sermon I heard on "God has been looking for a wretch like you." That is the very place you will take when the Lord has convinced you of lostness. Until He completed a work in me, I still could not take that position.
I remember very well, sermons my pastor preached on "Real Salvation." Being eager to know truth, I continued to search the scriptures. When he preached on "Sought Out" I sensed how God must love me. Then when I heard "When All Hope is Gone," I began to understand that is where I had to get. With my burden growing heavier, my faith began to build. Foremost in my thoughts was to seek the Lord. My religion and good-works were no longer important to me. Words are inadequate to express the unsurmountable hunger and the longing in my soul to know the Lord. Altough I thirsted after God, nothing could I do to quench that thirst. I was becoming helpless to help myself. Praise the Lord!
As our fall meeting approached I was anxious for it to begin but at the same time I was so afraid. With all of my doubts and confusion I did not know how much more pressure I could handle. At the time, I did not fully understand that what I was feeling was conviction, but I can remember not wanting God to leave me. Now I was praying for Him to show me if I were indeed lost. I had to know beyond any doubt where I stood before God.
I purposed in my heart to miss work that week so I could attend both the morning and the night services. I had such a need and a desire to hear from God. On two separate occasions I approached two people that week to ask them to pray for me. Confessing to them I even had a need was a hurdle for me to overcome. I had gotten to the place I felt I could no longer handle my burden alone. I am sure they sensed the urgency of my plea although I did not tell them what my burden was about.
Bro. Charles Shipman had come to preach our meeting. Again, God knew my need. Every sermon preached day and night, dealt with salvation! By the end of the week, everywhere I turned it seemed that all I could hear was, "You are lost! You are lost!" The Word taking hold on my heart caused me to listen as never before.
By Tuesday morning, I was in much distress. I went to my sister's house to share what the Lord was doing in my heart. We agreed together to pray for Him to show me something that night. Tuesday night's message was on "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit." With my whole being, I heard that Godly sorrow works repentance. I fully understood that without Godly sorrow there is no repentance and therefore, no salvation! As I sat there in my pew, I reexamined my thirteen-year old experience and I knew it was empty. I knew that the Holy Spirit had not done a work in my heart, convincing me of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. All I had was a manmade religion based on a manmade profession. My religion and my salvation experience measured up to man's standard but they could not pass God's inspection. I had been covering up a rebellious heart, full of unbelief by self-righteous living. My outward man was full of life, obeying the law, but the inward man was dead spiritually and disobedient to God. I had an image of the Lord but no reality of His presence.
Making sure I heard every word of their message, more truths were being revealed through God's Word. Without Godly sorrow to work repentance in man's heart, he will never change his mind about himself and turn toward God. There is no salvation without repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, here I was believing that I was not saved, but I could not get saved yet! Some might say that then could have been my day of salvation, but no, I did not know that I was lost. For the next three days the Holy Spirit worked, stirring in my heart, before I was to be convinced I was indeed a lost sinner! Only a hell-deserving sinner will cry out for mercy and pardon. Although I felt I was not saved I did not understand that I was really lost. ". . . They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick." (Luke 5:31) I was not sin-sick enough to need a spiritual healing. I had to become exhausted of myself before I could understand I needed a sacrifice to cleanse me. Only by the way of the cross can we enter in. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away sin!
I did not feel a need to go to the altar that night. I was in such awe of what I knew the Lord Himself had just shown me. There was no conviction of being lost at that point yet I knew I was not saved. All I remember is the relief I sensed of finally knowing where I stood before God. Some might have taken this "feeling" to be salvation but I had gone on a feeling before and found it to be the broad-way, leading to destruction. My every question was taken to God as I wanted His full leadership. As I left the services that night still in awe, my heart was filled with thanksgiving toward God. He had heard my plea that morning and I sensed His love for me as never before.
How grateful I have become that the Lord did not let me run to the altar that night, and in my own power, try to get saved. But by God's marvelous grace, I continued to seek Him, following as much as I knew how.
The next three days became the most difficult for me. Little did I know of Satan's tactics. He ever worked to hinder the Holy Spirit from completing His work of salvation in me. At times, God's presence seemed so far from me, but now I realize that those were the times He was the closest! It became very difficult for me to discern what was of God and what was of Satan. God's Word and His power became my only weapon against the devouring enemy.
Thursday night, Bro. Shipman preached a message titled, "Enter the Narrow Gate." My utmost desire by now was to know Christ in real salvation. As every message was being divinely revealed to me I understood more that salvation IS of the Lord. Of a surety I could not "enter in" apart from God's power. Jesus said that many will seek to enter in the strait gate but few there be that even find it and shall not be able. Jesus said in Matthew 22:14, "For many are called, but few are chosen." How startling is this truth today! Since this manmade, easy-believism is sweeping our nation, I fear that only a few of the few are hearing the truth about the gospel and the doctrine of salvation. I am afraid that the Lord Jesus Christ is not the author of many professions.
I made my way to the altar time and time again, yet I still was not saved. Man cannot "work up" enough conviction to cause himself to repent. Man cannot work hard enough at "believing" on the Lord Jesus to produce the faith he needs to simply trust Him. God gave us the ultimate sacrifice, His precious Son, because without trusting in His blood to cleanse us from sin man will forever be lost. If man could have done something to save himself then Jesus would not have had to die!
Refusing to become discouraged, I was given grace by God and the strength I needed to go on. I had come too far to settle for anything short of real salvation. With all that was within me I sought the Lord. "And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) I tried to center my every thought and move around the Lord.
By Friday morning, it seemed that I had come to a very crucial point. Although unexplainable, the urgency and even the desire to attend the morning services had left me. My "religious nature" was telling me I should go but somehow I did not feel I could. Hesitantly, I called to reverse my plans, deciding to go on to work.
The Lord began to deal with me in such personal circumstances and in ways I shall never forget. Having arrived at my place of work, I noticed a lost coin lying on the pavement just beside my car. As I reached to pick it up the ears of my heart heard these words, "You are just as lost as that penny." My heart was so crushed that all I could do was weep. These words were to follow me all day long as I tried to work. I lost count of how many times I tried to get saved that day, but repentance and faith were not yet granted. Just weeks earlier, I had developed a critical spirit about how I believed God could work. Someone had shared how God had used a penny to show them something and how He can use the smallest of things to accomplish His will. I had become doubtful in my spirit, but the Holy Spirit continued to teach me that His ways were not my ways.
Apparently I had forgotten all that God had shown me earlier in the week. Since I could not get saved then, I began to think about the profession I had made as a child. Again, I was tempted with the idea that just maybe God had accepted that experience. After all, I had stepped out with all the sincerity I could and in good faith I had served Him all these years. Just maybe I was okay after all! Satan helped me to put up one wall of defense after another as he was raging a battle for my soul. He knew as long as he could get my eyes on myself, I would not have them on the Lord. But since I had struggled off and on trying to stay in an attitude of prayer, asking for direction from God, I could not get any kind of peace. I tried to find it in my empty "experience." Satan was telling me if I let go of my "experience" then I would have nothing, but the Lord showed me if I did not, I would never be saved.
Only a religious, convicted sinner can understand the fear I experienced that day. I wanted to throw away my thirteen-year old profession but without the Lord's help I could not. How great the struggle was as I was learning to depend on God! Grace enabled me to go on, refusing to yield to a critical and discouraging spirit.
God was constantly at work in each detail of my life that day as He was changing my inner man. As I reflect back over the memories of that day, I still become awed as I now fully understand what God was working together. I had lived my life as an unsolved puzzle, but God was putting it together, piece by piece! Oh, how marvelous is He!
Just as I walked into another room to work, I noticed something laying on the table that had never been there before. As I walked over to it, I saw that it was an open Bible. The second chapter of Acts was visible and underlined in red ink, I read these words; "Repent, and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . ." (Acts 2:38)
How earnestly, yet fervently the Holy Spirit strove with me that day! Some might believe these events were coincidental but I know beyond any doubt that the Lord was working in my heart. Without His drawing me, I could not have gone any further. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . ." (John 6:44) I am convinced that God had a plan that day, just for me.
The word REPENT could not be erased from before me the rest of that day. "Lord help me," became my plea. I can remember asking Him to help me to turn loose of the "experience" of salvation I thought I had. It was so hard for me to get to where I could let go of it. Now I realize it was one of my greatest hindrances, but I had to forsake all so I could have all.
I found myself listening to a song as it ministered to my heart, "What have you given to the Lord?" I thought my heart would break as I listened to every word. Although Jesus had lain down on a cruel cross and shed His precious, innocent blood to die in my stead, I had rejected His love and the ultimate sacrifice. The song spoke to me of my "religious good-works" and service to God as vain and counting as nothing before Him. I was not in Christ; therefore, I could not give Him anything! Only through the Beloved could my sacrifice and worship be accepted; and I did not qualify!
Oh, how abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water! (Job 15:16) I had never before, nor have I since that day, experienced such awful grief. Realizing my sin had nailed Jesus to the cross caused such sorrow in my heart. How wretched I felt as I yearned to be forgiven. The gulf that separated me from God seemed so great. How could God love a sinner such as I? No longer was Satan trying to convince me of my goodness but the Holy Spirit was convincing me of my sin. Sin has to be dealt with, and only Grace can deal with sin. Although He was stripping me of my religious cloak, my heart was still full of unbelief. By now, I knew I needed more than a preacher. I needed a Savior! I needed more than religion. I needed regeneration! I needed more than the law. I needed life! Nothing short of the Living Water could quench the driving thirst of my soul. Although I had learned about the Word, I was longing to meet the Living Word. Satan had helped me put up one wall after another in the "house" that I had built, but the Lord was so lovingly taking each one down. I am reminded of the parable of the two houses in Luke 6. My "house" was built without a sound foundation. Only on the Solid Rock will any house stand! Except the Lord build the house!!!
Knowing I was lost and feeling completely stripped of everything, I felt so far away from the Lord. As fear and desperation swept over me, I tried again to get saved in my own power. Thinking I had to "believe," once again I was working, trying to do what only the Lord can do. Although I thought I knew exactly what to do, I had to throw out all that I knew. I needed a faith that could completely trust, a faith that could believe. I found that I had to come as a little child, with a child-like faith. But I was still full of unbelief, and faith cannot walk where unbelief walks. Only God could open the door of faith.
Although I had been brought up in church from a child, had taught Sunday School for over twenty years, had "witnessed" to sinners about Jesus (believing "the plan of salvation"), here I was a lost sinner and could not trust Christ to save me! "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
Truths from God's Word raced through my memory. I was understanding more about waiting on the Lord. After trying everything I knew to try, I realized that salvation would come for me in His time and not mine. I can remember praying for patience and wanting God to do for me whatever was needed. I did not know what was hindering me from being saved. I had to wait! Just because I could not understand what God was doing, it did not keep Him from continuing to work. His mercy and longsuffering are so great. How I love Him today, because He first loved me!
More than life itself, I yearned to know the Lord. No longer did it matter to me how long I might have to go on in my lost condition. It did not bother me about what I might have to go through. All I wanted was the Lord. His nearness was so apparent; yet the separation that sin brought was so vast.
As I left my place of work, I pondered the things that God had done that day. How great is His goodness! But by His grace I was not bitter or discouraged that He had not saved me yet. My confidence and my hope in Him were becoming my strength. With my emotions so mixed, I could have cried a river of tears.
On my way to pick my daughter up from school, with my heart so heavy I did not know how much more I could stand, I felt such a need to share my burden. I was too ashamed of being seen in my condition to go inside the school building and I was not sure with whom to talk. I prayed all the way there for God to give me direction. Just as I pulled into the driveway, my sister-in-law came out and headed toward me. She was a teacher at the school and is usually the last one to come out; but this day she came out minutes before anyone else did, even the children. Knowing God had set the stage, I wept uncontrollably. His love and concern for me was overwhelming. My sister-in-law had been gloriously saved a year earlier. I became confident she would pray for me. Between sobs I begged her to pray for me, and told her that God had shown me I was lost.
When I got to church Friday night I sensed a sweet peace and a calmness come over me. It was as if God was assuring me that He was in control. Although I knew I was lost there was no anxiety left in me. Resting in God's promises, I knew He would finish the work He had begun in me in His time. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it. . ." (Philippians 1:6) Never before was I so eager to get to church. Being eager to hear from the Lord, all I wanted was to get closer to Him. Little did I know my miracle was so nigh!
With each song sung my burden of lostness grew. Those about the cross tore at my guilt laden heart. Oh how vile, utterly depraved and wicked I felt. How could a God, like the one the Holy Spirit had shown me in the past few days, love a sinner such as I? How amazing is His grace, mercy, and love! Before the preaching began, the tears fell like rain on my face.
Bro. Shipman preached from Mark 5 concerning the woman with an issue of blood. Although he titled the message differently, the Holy Spirit titled it for my heart, "You cannot touch Jesus without His touching you." This woman needed a touch of God's power to heal her body from a disease she had for twelve years. She had suffered many things, had spent all she had and was nothing bettered but rather grew worse. (verse 26) Although she had this incurable condition (by man), the Holy Spirit had given her an inspired confidence that if she could but touch the hem of the garment of the Savior, she would be made whole. Her faith being applied, just one touch was all she needed and she fell down before Jesus.
It seemed I could relate to every word of the truth about this woman. Like her, I had gone my own way (man's way) trying to find answers to my problem. I had searched everywhere for healing for my sin-sick soul before turning to Jesus, who was the only one who can give Life. How ashamed and oh, how sorry I was for my lack of faith, my unbelief! I do not remember, but in my heart it seemed as though I ran to the altar. I fell on my knees before the Lord, longing for a touch of that same power to save my soul.
Just as I got to the altar, it was as if Satan was there waiting to devour me. I realize now that he literally went to war for my soul, trying to hinder me from salvation. Although he had fought me terribly to keep me from getting to a place of acknowledging and then knowing I was lost, now he bombarded me from every side trying to keep me that way! With the burden and guilt of sin weighing so heavy on my soul, I can remember an awful fear had crept up beside me. Having my eyes on myself once again, I tried to help myself. Trying to "believe" in my own strength became utterly impossible! Here I was still working to gain salvation. Jesus said in Luke 24:25, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe. . ." I needed faith and the power to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! I do not remember who was praying around me at the altar but I thank God for each one who did. At one point, I can remember Bro. Paschall asking me where I was spiritually. I told him I was lost and I knew it. Another time he asked, and I told him that I just could not believe! At that point, I remember crying out for God to help me. As I did, Romans 10:10 became vivid to my heart, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. . ." Once again I became assured of the fact that I could not work up the faith to believe. Salvation is of the Lord!
Longing for peace and full assurance, I then became fearful I would never have it. That was just another sign of my unbelief! I was so afraid of making another false profession that I wondered if I could really ever be able to know that I know that I know. How could I know that this time it would be REAL? My faith being invisible, once again I had taken my eyes off Jesus! Crying out for the Lord to help me again I was reminded from His Word that peace and much assurance are promised to those who accept the gospel. I found faith to believe that promise. God had supplied grace yet another time. Peace and assurance cannot come until after one receives Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Just as I thought the battle to be almost over, Satan attacked again. One must never underestimate his tactics and power. As I looked back to my first experience, it seemed as though Satan was mocking me, telling me this experience would be no different from that one. Here I was in the altar again, on a Friday night, in a Baptist meeting, wanting to be saved! Remembering that terrible battle that raged inside me causes me to think of Peter. I can imagine how he felt as he began to sink in those raging waters as his faith became weak, taking his eyes off Jesus, and looking at the circumstances around him. Faith cannot walk where unbelief walks!
Being so afraid, one more time I cried out for mercy. Remembering how the Lord had shown me that day how naked I was before Him, I knew I had nothing and I was nothing without Him. As Satan was telling me that my efforts to receive Jesus' healing touch was but "my work," these words became so precious and so real to my soul, "But you cannot touch me without my touching you." I fully understood the sufficiency of just one touch of the Savior. Jesus had called me by name! His power and love being utterly irresistible, instantly I turned from myself as in complete surrender, accepting Christ as my very own personal Lord and Savior. Nothing but the blood of Jesus could cleanse my sin‑laden soul! I know not how, but God in all His grace, imparted faith to me that moment, the faith I needed to trust Him. Faith had taken hold of the Word! No one had to me tell that Jesus had passed by. Unbelief cannot walk where faith walks! Somehow, the Lord had given me strength to cast myself completely upon Him, and at that very instant, He saved my soul, making me a new creation in Him. Oh, how great was the revelation of my Savior to my soul! Instantly, He filled me with all and even more that I had been searching for. The burden of sin and guilt rolled off my heart and the peace of God and joy flooded within. The battle was over, never to be fought again! My doubts and fears had vanished and God had supplied true rest for my soul.
Not realizing Bro. Shipman had knelt beside me to pray, I raised up in wonder and in awe of what had just happened to me. I knew I was different and oh, what a difference Christ Jesus makes. In a few seconds I was praising God for the victory. I knew what He had done for me. Oh what a sweet revelation He was to my heart. Oh, how I love Him today!
Gone from my heart the world and all its charm;
Gone are my sins and all that would alarm;
Gone evermore, and by His grace I know
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow.
Once I was lost upon the plains of sin;
Once was a slave to doubts and fears within;
Once was afraid to trust a loving God,
But now my guilt is washed away in Jesus blood.
Once I was bound, but now I am set free;
Once I was blind, but now the light I see;
Once I was dead, but now in Christ I live,
To tell the world the peace that He alone can give.
The Lord has become more to me than I ever thought I could have, and He has filled me with a joy I did not know existed. All of my doubts and confusion have been replaced with total rest and full assurance. When the truth about salvation is preached today I no longer become confused, or get a critical spirit. All I get is just more and more assurance of what Jesus has done for me as my heart fills up with joy and thankfulness. It becomes so glad and overwhelmed just to know that I know Him.
Although Satan seemed so powerful as I was at the altar, God's grace was all-powerful. Satan tried to mislead and fought to the very end, but the Holy Scriptures became my offensive weapon against him. God delivered me by His power. ( I Corinthians 2:4-5) The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes. (Romans 1:16) Only the power of God could release the strong hold Satan had on me, to make me His child. I now understand why I could not get saved prior to that Friday night. There was no power to deliver, not because of God, but because of me. Where unbelief walks there is no faith. It was impossible for me to please God. I could not receive His love until I understood His grace. I had become enslaved by the law and bound helplessly in legalism; therefore, because of my efforts, God's grace was nonexistent in my heart. I had no peace in my heart. He is our Peace. I had no joy or gladness of heart. No love . . . God is Love! Never can grace be dependant on us but on GOD!
Although we need to remain on guard against Satan's tactics, we must never give up because he cannot go beyond the limits of God. Through Christ, we can resist Satan. He is no match for the Savior's power! Although he tried to keep me in the broad way I found there was only one way to God, which is through His son, the blood way! Jesus is the way. (John 14:6)
Oh, there is such a necessity for the lost sinner to allow the Holy Spirit to work!!! Without His convicting power I could not know the depravity of my own heart. Until any sinner (religious or nonreligious) comes to the place where he can agree with God about himself, admitting in his heart that he ought to go to Hell, he can never be saved. I had to come to the place where I knew if I rejected His Son, God would let me go to Hell from the very pew I had so faithfully sat on for years. But just when it seemed I was losing it all, I found it all in Jesus. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." (Philippians 3:7) How I thank God today for His work of reproval in my soul! I cannot say I had never heard repentance and faith preached in my past; but I can tell you, that never before that week, had the Lord shown me what I was! Until the Holy Spirit made the Word sharp and pricked this sinner's heart, the scales of my eyes and my blinded heart could never have been opened. "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
Just as Peter preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost and men's hearts were pricked, even so today will the Holy Spirit work when God's power is in the preaching of the Gospel. (Acts 2:37-39) I am thankful to God today, except for His grace, I would not have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. Apart from His grace, I would not have been granted repentance and faith (God imparted gifts) so I could have "heart belief." (Romans 10:10) Salvation is of the Lord! Oh, how truly amazing is His grace when freely bestowed on all who believe. We can then know and accept what Jesus did for us on Calvary, placing our faith and trust in His finished work. Praise the Lord for full salvation! Nothing could I do to merit salvation. God had to exhaust me completely from all of my energies and take away all of my answers before I would turn to Him. My salvation is not based today on my performance, but on God's provision. Christianity is Christ living in us.
One might refuse to believe that God could work so extensively in a lost man's heart as He did in mine. But I say, who is man to put any limits on the God that I know? Even as He worked in the heart of Cornelius (Acts 10), so He had to work in mine. I found the things that men say to be impossible are possible with God. The "fear of man" is no longer in my heart, for man can only do what God allows. God says to obey Him rather than men. The Lord is my helper! Because of Him I laid down my pride, not caring what man might say, in order to follow Him. Being helpless and worthless, I had to recognize that I, a church member for twenty-six years and a Sunday School teacher for some twenty years, needed a Savior!
I can never go back to my old way of "serving God," being bound with legalistic laws. "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:12) Now that I am in His way, I am becoming more and more thankful for my Law-giver and the Holy Spirit who teaches me day by day. I want my heart to be established with grace not with meats which have not profited me who had occupied therein. (Hebrews 13:9)
My love for Christ today makes it all joy to obey Him as He leads. Living up to man's expectations and manmade laws does not bring peace to a lost soul. But the liberty and freedom one can experience once he is in Christ is so glorious. ". . . Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (II Corinthians 3:17) The law kills but the Spirit gives life. What the law could not do, Jesus did. Oh, that all men could experience the Savior and His goodness! My every need was supplied the moment He found me.
I will be forever grateful to God for the saints who, by their lives, salted me down and made me thirsty for God. There have been many songs, testimonies, prayers, and sermons that God used to "help me," and I am thankful for every obedient act.
To Brother Charles Shipman and his dear wife, I will ever be indebted. He preached salvation so plain and simple night and day during our meeting. God used him in a mighty way to break more light to my darkened soul. I praise God for his ministry and for Calvary Baptist Church.
Words are inadequate to express my love and thankfulness to my pastor, Brother Edgar Paschall and his wife, Lucy. Today, I am fully convinced it was God's holy and divine plan that he was to be our next pastor. In all of His wisdom and foreknowledge, God knew we needed a pastor and a pastor's wife who had already been through some spiritual valleys themselves. Although we did not know our need, I am glad God did. I am so grateful He has blessed us and is meeting our needs. I am privileged and blessed to have as examples, two people who have a genuine love and concern for sinners like no one else I have known. Their love for God is most evident in their love for sinners.
To God be the glory for their wisdom and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I also thank Him for their boldness to stand for the truth about salvation. Although they sacrifice daily in obeying God rather than men they continue to stand up to be counted for the Lord.
I praise God for empowering a ministry with messages like, "The Battle In The Narrow Way," "God's Plan of Salvation," and many more that helped to guide me along the way. The "Road of Light" series taught me, as a religious sinner, that Salvation is of the Lord. As a church, how blessed we are with a family such as they.
Above all else, God is worthy to be praised. Only by Him could I find that abundant life so rich and full of glory. I found everything in Jesus and He is all to me. What a joy and a blessing it is, in knowing Him. May He find me abiding in Him and ever ready to give an account for the hope that is in me. No longer do
I need a preacher to assure me that I am a child of God. Although the Bible is very dear to me today, it does not and cannot give the peace, joy, and assurance of salvation that the person of the Holy Spirit gives me. The keeping of the law could never bring satisfaction and speak peace to my soul. But today, the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am His child. How glorious He is and how sweet is His fellowship when I sit at His feet!
This, being my personal testimony, is the reason of the hope that I have within me. (I Peter 3:15) Christ within my heart is my Hope and Glory. I will ever praise Him for the miracle of salvation. I challenge you to, "Search the scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life. . ." (John 5:39) Examine your heart to see if you are in Christ and He is in you.
If you are seeking salvation may you earnestly seek Him with your whole heart asking for His leadership. God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Ask Him to make you as the importunate friend in Luke 11:5-10. In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord said, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." If you will yield to the Holy Spirit's stirring, He will humble your heart. He will work repentance and He will give you the faith you need to trust Him for salvation in His time. For, salvation is of the Lord! He that endureth to the end SHALL BE SAVED. Oh how great is the revelation of Jesus Christ to a sinner's heart!
If you have any questions concerning my testimony or if you just need someone to listen and pray for you, please feel free to write or call any time. I desire that all men come to know such a Savior as mine!
May God perform a work in hearts to bring full salvation is my prayer.
Looking unto the author and finisher of my faith,
I hope this testimony is a blessing to each one who reads it. If you are interested in the series of tapes "Road of Light" referred to by Mrs. Collins, or more copies of this booklet, please write to the church address below and we will send them to you as a ministry of our church. If you have questions and are looking for some answers, call or write Edgar Lee Paschall, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church. May God richly bless you is our prayer.
Because of Calvary,
Edgar Lee Paschall, Pastor
New Hope Baptist Church
1661 Griggstown RD
Calvert City, KY 42029
Phone: (270) 527‑3864