Please find below a guest author willing to share her testimony. I hope you will read it with as much interest and intrigue as I have. Enjoy!
I grew up in Independent Baptist Churches. I went to five different IFB churches, in two different states, during a span of 22 years. When I was a child, I was taught that in order to go to Heaven, a person had to get saved. The way to get saved was, a person had to ask Jesus to come into their heart. So, at the age of 6, I did that with my 1st grade Sunday School teacher. I was taught the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Since I had prayed that prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart, I was told that I would always be saved. I could be assured that I would go to Heaven when I die.
As I got older, I was told that to prove to others that I was an obedient Christian, I needed to wear certain clothes, fix my hair a certain way, listen to a certain type of music, etc. Basically, if I didn’t follow the rules of the denomination, then my salvation was in question. They still taught “once saved, always saved” but the true Christian would want to be obedient to God and follow all of the rules. As I was growing up, I found out very quickly that the pastor set the guidelines for what was and was not approved by God.
I did everything that I was told to do. When I became a teenager, I worked in the church nursery. I started working in the Bus Ministry, teaching Sunday School classes once in a while, going to Thursday Night Soul-winning, and being at church every time the doors were open. I am very grateful for the experience that I received in working with children. It is largely due to that experience that I continue to work with Children today. I followed all of the rules that were set down for me (spoken and unspoken). No one who knew me as a teenager would argue with the fact that I was completely committed to the church and all of it’s activities.
When I was 15, I started having some doubts about whether or not I was truly saved. When I went to some of my church leaders about it, I was asked if there had ever been a time in my life that I had prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. I had! I prayed at the age of 6. After telling the leaders that, I was told that I just needed to remember saying my prayer. In their words, “If a person can not remember ever praying the prayer for salvation, then they probably never did.” Since I remembered praying at the age of 6, I was told that it was probably just the Devil confusing me. “God is not the author of confusion.” So, I went on my way, believing that I was saved because I had prayed that prayer and could remember doing it.
When I was 22, most of my family and I left the IFB denomination. We started going to a Southern Baptist church (SBC) about 30 minutes away from my house. The teaching there was so foreign to what I had heard all of my life. My new pastor talked about God’s love. I still wore only dresses, carried a KJV, listened to only the music sanctioned by the IFB, etc. People there did not care about what kind of clothes I wore, what type of music I listened to, or what Bible version I carried. For the most part, I went into a very loving environment. It was almost too loving. The pastor did not spend a lot of time preaching about sin and it’s consequences. When he did preach about sin, it was only in vague terms. He preached about God’s mercy and love. He gave sermons with an emphasis on practical applications for life today. I went to that church for almost 7 years.
In October of this past year, I left that church and started going to an SBC church that is right down the road from my house. I noticed a difference in the preaching right away. My new pastor preaches on sin and its consequences, but also preaches on God’s love for us in sending His Son to die on the Cross, so that we don’t have to face the consequences of our sin. As I was listening to the true Gospel message being proclaimed, I started having doubts about whether or not I was truly saved. I know all the Bible stories. I know that Jesus died on the Cross, yet I was still struggling. Now, in the past, I had been told that all I needed to do was think about when I prayed the prayer as a child. Instead of doing that this time, I began to read my Bible. I had never just sat down and read the Bible before. I started in the Old Testament. What I found there was a God who had to punish the Israelites for their sin, but who was also a God of love and mercy in taking care of His people whenever they realized their sin and called on Him. He also continued to work out world events to bring the Savior along at just the right time.
In February, a woman who I had known as a teenager and who was just a few years older than I am, suddenly got very sick. After a little over a week of being in the hospital, she died. That really shook me up. Not only was I struggling with how a relatively young wife and mother of four could just suddenly get sick and die, but I was also struggling with my own future and where I would go when I died. I still was not completely sure that I would go to Heaven. The funeral was held on a Saturday and was three hours from where I live. My mom, sister, 3 month old niece and I all made the trip for the visitation and funeral. For the trip there, I took only my Bible and study guide that I sometimes use if I read a passage of Scripture that I don’t understand. Except for talking to my family members every once in a while, I pretty much read the Bible for the whole three hours. The next morning, after we all got up and were getting ready for the funeral, we realized that we would need to go to the local Wal-mart for things that were needed. So, while my mom and sister were in the store, I sat in the backseat of the car with my niece. I was reading my Bible and crying. I prayed to the Lord in the Wal-mart parking lot and told Him I wanted to be sure that I would go to Heaven when I died. I knew the depravity of my sinful nature. I deserve to go to Hell. I knew that there was not a thing I could do on my own to get to Heaven. Jesus Christ is the only way.
I decided to not tell anyone of my salvation for a little while. I could have gone before my church the next day, but I wanted to make sure that I had truly accepted Christ as my Savior. I did not want it to turn out to be just an emotional decision because I had been to a funeral. Emotions were pretty high for all of us that weekend.
I have changed so much in the last six months. I know that I’m not the same person I once was. There are certain aspects of my life that I know only God could change. For one thing, my priorities are completely different. Now, I organize my day so that I can spend the majority of the afternoon in the Word everyday. I have started an in-depth study of the Gospels. I’m trying to find out exactly what Jesus taught. Some of the things I have learned have been mind-boggling. Things that I used to make time for and do, I just don’t have an interest in, if they take time away from studying the Scriptures.
Another way I can see definite changes is in the area of sin. I had a certain sin problem for many years. I tried and tried to get it to go away. I went through Bible studies that talked about breaking free from sin. Nothing worked. Now, I don’t even have the desire for that particular sin. Instead of figuring out the formula and doing the formula, my sins needed to be covered by the Blood. I’m not saying that I’m completely free from sin. I sin everyday. But now, I’m more aware of my sins and I know more about how much God hates it. Now, God shows me areas of sin in my life that I would not have thought were all that bad at this time last year.
I told my family members and my pastor about my salvation a few weeks ago. Now, I’m going to be getting baptized. I am so excited!!! In the last few weeks, I have told many people about the changes in my life as a result of my salvation. People have told me that I needed to tell my story more. I asked Steve about posting my testimony on this website because I feel compelled to spread the message of the Gospel through my testimony. I have never experienced anything like this before. When I used to go Soul-winning, I was never the one who did the talking. I used to always make sure I was with someone who would do all the talking. I did not feel comfortable talking to people about salvation and getting them to pray a prayer at their front door. I’m still not completely sure that that is the way to go about witnessing to people. I prefer to just live my life and share Christ with people as the opportunity comes up.
One of the many things I have learned, is that salvation is a work of God. A person cannot just decide to pray a prayer on their own. Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one’.” (NIV)
No man is righteous enough to make it to Heaven. No man even seeks God. No man understands God or spiritual matters. All men have turned away from God and become worthless. No man does any good. Only God can draw a person to Himself, because all men are spiritually dead until they are awakened by God. So, when I was struggling as a teenager and again at the beginning of this year, God was waking me up. In this case, God WAS the author of my confusion. He was using it to draw me to Himself. My salvation did not come because I prayed a prayer. It came because I finally understood why I needed a Savior. If a person does not understand their sinfulness, they won’t understand why a Savior was needed in the first place.
God is not Someone who sits in Heaven waiting on me to “prove” my commitment to Him by keeping a list of arbitrary rules. He also is not sitting in Heaven loving me and overlooking my sin. God is complex, just as humans are. We all have certain things we hate and certain things we love at the same time. God hates sin. He can’t dwell with it. Because of His love, He provided a substitutionary sacrifice to take away the penalty of sin for those who believe in what His Son did on the Cross and why He did it.
The Christianity I experience now is one that has set God free. Previously, my understanding only allowed a God that could be understood by the human mind. I no longer want to be a “God in a box” follower. I seek to learn and I know that my learning will never end. The more I grow, the more I want to study and learn.
I can remember growing up and hearing testimonies of people’s conversions. Sometimes, it seemed like the pastor would call on the worst sinners in the church to give their testimony. Because of this, often a testimony would be exploited to gain special recognition. Power and prestige would come to these people, for bringing up a background of their story of forgiveness, to push themselves (and the pastor) to the forefront. I’m not doing that. I truly want people to know and understand who God truly is. I truly want people to experience authentic freedom in Christ. I’m just a girl who grew up in church. My story really is not all that special, but it’s mine, and I want to share it.