Having received several emails and messages asking, I thought it might be helpful for some to have my testimony here on the website. That in addition to it being a great opportunity to praise the Lord for His amazing grace and mercy toward this wretch.
I was always a “believer” in God. By that I mean I never doubted God’s existence, and although many in my family and region were Catholic, I had a very “Protestant” understanding of Jesus and I was always repulsed by Catholicism. Any time I was forced to attend a Mass, it felt like a cold, dead funeral. Thank God for that repulsion even then; it has only grown with knowledge. As I said, I was always a “believer” But then again, “even the demons believe, and tremble”. I knew God existed and, in fact, was positive of it, yet I was dead in trespasses and sins; a slave to the flesh and a slave to my sin.
I had dated a girl in high-school for a few years and she was my ” first love” so to speak. We eventually broke up, and needless to say, I was heartbroken and didn’t know how to cope. This was the first time I felt some measure of despair albeit for a relatively silly reason, but many can relate to the pain that comes with any relationship loss.
In the midst of my grasping for something to fill this new void I came in contact with a minister on the University campus. He and I began a regular correspondence in which he shared the gospel with me and told me much about my sin and need for Jesus. I will forever be grateful to Kirk for that. I learned many things from those interactions.
One day after (I suppose) a few weeks, Kirk asked me if I wanted to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I figured I might as well since my “party” in life had seemed to come crashing down. I prayed the sinners prayer and was even baptized at the local pastor’s house in a hot tub. I began regularly attending church and even reading my bible a bit. Despite all the outward signs, the unfortunate reality was that I had an ulterior motive the entire time. You can lie to everyone else, but never to God. I was playing a desperate bargaining game with God effectively saying to him, “God, if you’ll bring the girl back, I’ll do all the ‘church stuff’ you want me to do.” Sadly, it wasn’t God that I wanted, it was the girl. In what appeared to me to be a blessing at the time, the girl came back. There we were together again and my void filled. I was “grateful” to God….. So grateful in fact, that I almost immediately ditched all of the “church stuff” I had been doing and went back to my old life; the life I knew and loved. After all I had heard about my sin and Jesus, I was still the “god” of my own life and could not very well continue with church and God if I was going to have this lifestyle. So went God, and so went I.
We eventually broke up again, only this time I just went deeper down the path of debauchery instead of trying to bargain with God again. I was angry and poised to show the world (and God) just how much I didn’t care. The “conversion” I described before was a false one. Sadly, many go through these motions. I was baptized, going to church and had a Bible with my name on it, BUT I wasn’t born again.
I ended up in jail several times over the next few years for mostly stupid things. My life was a complete and utter mess even by the world’s standards. Being an Eagle Scout and having done well in school, I had once considered going to West Point, and now here I was doing drugs and drinking with a wake of nonsense behind me everywhere I went. There was a growing sense of dread as I knew the judgment of God was abiding on me. I would frequently wake up in a panic, sweating, having dreamed I was dying and going to hell. What a horrible feeling.
I was eventually on probation for one of those arrests and was visited by the probation officer just before Christmas-time for a routine house check. During his search he discovered alcohol and a large quantity of Marijuana which was not merely a violation of the terms but a new charge all in itself.
There I went again, off to jail in my early twenties. All I was worried about was my ruined Christmas. I was angry and felt quite justified. Miserable and angry as I was, a couple of Gideons came in to hold a Bible study. For those unfamiliar, these are the people that put Bibles in hotel rooms. Knowing I had nothing else to do and having reflected some on my current circumstance, I figured I might as well go. They gave a message about something I can’t remember, but afterward were talking about sin and the Gospel.
I became very aware that the physical jail I was in was merely a reflection of the spiritual prison I had been in my whole life. I knew I had been living a life of sin and rebellion against God. The conviction I had been experiencing for several years was now culminating and I was desperate to be rid of my burden of sin and guilt. I knew that only Jesus could help me; I knew He was my only Savior; I knew I could look to Him alone. I fell down and wept before God, begging for mercy. As I said, I had always “believed” in God, but that day I became a believer, and Jesus became my Savior.
I pleaded for Jesus to forgive me and heal me; to take away my sin, and He answered that prayer. Repentance unto salvation came to me that day.
There was no tidy sinners prayer, but a tearing of my clothes as it were, and begging for mercy. Having had the false conversion I spoke of earlier, I knew immediately something was different. In fact, everything was different. I couldn’t make any sense of it. Literally within the hour there were differences that frankly surprised me. I felt a liberation I had never felt before; an understanding of who Jesus was, who I was and that I had been forgiven. I suddenly had a conviction about vulgar language that I had never had before. This was a monumental change for me that happened almost immediately. I suddenly had an insatiable urge to read the Bible. Again, this was very odd for me. I couldn’t stop.
For the next two months in that jail all I did was read the Bible and talk to others about Jesus. They started calling me “Jesus”. My parents came to visit me in jail and I tried to contain myself, telling them I was a Christian. They must have thought I was crazy. Neither of them believed me, but figured this was just another phase or the typical “find God in jail” line that is often short lived. I tried to assure them that something was different, but I couldn’t articulate it that well. What I knew was that my sins had been forgiven and I was blessing the name of Jesus all throughout that jail. I organized a small bible study group there having no clue what I was doing but only being eager to share with others what happened to me.
I finally knew what John 3:3 meant and that you must be born again. Other verses soon became a reality such as 1 Peter 4:4 concerning old friends:
“they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.”
I immediately began attending a large church in my town as this was the man I heard on the radio and I seemed to learn from him. I became heavily involved and was there as much as possible. I soon joined and later began leading an apologetics ministry with their college group. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have been leading anything that new in the Lord, but I was willing and available. So began my walk with Christ. He marvelously saved me in a jail cell and made me a new creature. Subsequent to my conversion my mother and step-father were also converted and baptized. What a glorious thing when the Lord saves a household! Thank you, Jesus… for eternity, thank you! This was the beginning of my journey.
We typically think of a testimony as a particular point or season ending at our conversion but I believe our testimonies are ongoing and God is constantly working in and through us.
Because there are some that may benefit from it, it is good for me to share a most unfortunate thing that happened to me as it has happened to so many others.
A few years after becoming a believer and being diligent in my walk with Christ, I fell into a most unfortunate season of backsliding. As a young believer I recall even boasting that I would never backside. Oh! Take heed you who think you stand, lest you fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The “reasons” are many and varied, but nothing can justify it; not anger, not betrayal, not loss; nothing. While I can empathize with it, may it never be! Spare yourself from the chastening of the Lord… yet how blessed is that chastening when needed and it comes. Thank God for the rod and the staff. I found myself again in a mire of sin wondering what had happened. Simply put, I did not “submit to God and resist the Devil” as I was told (James 4:7).
Thank God for His long-suffering and abundant mercy. Luke 15 became a welcome passage. (There is an interesting story concerning this)
Immediately after getting saved in the jail I was talking to everyone about Jesus. A man whose name I forget came up to me and asked me, “Brother, Josh what’s your favorite passage in the Bible?” I told him whatever I had read that morning; I forget. But I’ll never forget what he said to me. I asked him likewise what his favorite passage was and he told me, “Luke 15. It’s the best chapter in the Bible.” I asked him what it said and he just smiled and said, “Read it when you have time.”
Excited and thirsty for more knowledge, I immediately went to read it. I’m sad to say, at the time, I was somewhat disappointed when I read it. I was expecting something exciting or perhaps miraculous but a story about a son deserting his home and later returning seemed almost boring. Sure, I saw the redemption in it, but it didn’t seem to pertain to me. After all, I fancied myself like the other son in the parable who would never leave his father’s home.
Fast-forward a few years later and I found myself eating among the swine and confounded at my own state. I (like the prodigal son) said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19) I remembered that man in the jail telling me about that passage and instantly knew why it was his favorite.
There is perhaps no despair greater than one who has cried out to God and been forgiven by Him than to later betray Him by returning to Egypt so to speak. After Peter denied Jesus, he wept bitterly. Our great Savior restored him and comforted him not long after. Paul writes to the Corinthians to restore a brother who had committed a grievous sin lest he, “be swallowed up with too much sorrow.” (2 Corinthians 2:7)
God’s mercy should never be presumed upon. Even Jesus told a man, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14). Walk and grow in holiness and never trample the Lord Jesus underfoot, but for that saint that may be swallowed up with too much sorrow, repent while there is still breath in your lungs. If you have sinned and think you are beyond the reach of the Lord, having backslid and having presumed upon his mercy and grace, make haste to run to the foot of the cross. Fall on that stone which is Christ and let him break you (Matthew 21:44). He is able to save to the uttermost. By all means, keep yourself from sin and mortify it daily, yet if you have sinned as a believer, cling to Jesus. Wrestle with Him all day and night. Never let Him go. REPENT, by all means, repent. Satan would love for you to believe that there is no point in returning to the Lord now, but even when Israel was steeped in idolatry, having forsaken their God, he implored them to return to Him.
Our testimonies will continue and may they be constantly showcasing the amazing grace of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, let us not sin that grace may abound.
Jesus rescued me from the pit of hell and when I forsook Him as a stupid animal might wander from a good master into the street for some stinking carcass, He was waiting for me when I ran home. Praise His Glorious Name!