Were It Not for Grace: My Testimony
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
I wrote this shortly after I became a Christian in February of 2005. If you want to know what's important to me, the best answer I can give is Jesus! So, it's appropriate that my first blog post is my testimony. There are probably a few things I'd word differently were I to write it afresh, but I wanted to present it as written to capture what I was thinking at that moment in my life.
It was a long and arduous process for me to become a genuinely converted believer. I thought I was saved as a child at the age of seven. I said a prayer, but I cannot remember what was said. In fact, I don’t really remember why I said it. I was a pretty self-righteous kid. I very rarely got into trouble, and I was pretty obedient to my parents. In fact, I tried very hard to please them, and I always wanted them to be proud of me. Praying to receive Christ at the age of seven was just a normal step for a kid like me, but it wasn’t genuine. It took me several years to realize that.
As I grew up, I became more and more involved in church and theological studies. I sensed God calling me into the ministry, specifically the music ministry. Of course, it wasn’t until my conversion that the ministry became an ultimate reality in the truest sense.
During my lostness, especially during high school, I was always very uncomfortable with my salvation testimony. I remember hearing Erwin Lutzer speak of those that had been genuinely converted as a child, but they may not be able to remember the details. I hung onto that, but it didn’t give me much assurance.
I discovered God had gifted me musically, and I wanted to use those talents to serve Him. Music ministry simply became another crop that I offered to God. Like Cain, it was what I had to offer, but it was not offered with a true heart of faith. I went off to college, and began working on a church music degree. I finally made the decision to change colleges and actually began attending a Bible college (Boyce College in Louisville, KY; the school is part of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).
However, the doubts never went away, and with good reason. I thought if I entered a Christianized atmosphere that the sinfulness of my heart and the doubt of my soul’s eternal state would slowly dissipate. That never came. In fact, I actually became more inwardly sinful and outwardly righteous. I was a Pharisee. I was like the apostle Paul. My credentials were really good, especially since I became the music minister at Parkwood Southern Baptist in Clarksville, IN. I planned and led worship and directed the choir. I was Sunday School superintendent, a Sunday School teacher, and (most recently) the FAITH evangelism director. Each role became a notch on my belt, which was choking me as I slowly kept descending into the pit of hell. I had the “form of godliness” but no power (2 Timothy 3:5).
I can’t help but think of Paul and his credentials. He wrote:
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:4-11, NKJV)
To put my situation in Paul’s format: Concerning my spiritual upbringing, I said the “sinner’s prayer” and was baptized as a young child; concerning my spiritual heritage, my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all pastors; concerning the law, I was a good citizen and a Southern Baptist—didn’t drink, smoke, or have sex; concerning zeal, I witnessed to most of my 5th grade class, led Bible studies, directed choirs, led worship, prayed, read my Bible; concerning righteousness, I was considered a faithful believer by anyone’s standards. However, ALL of that is rubbish to me now, empty deeds done out of a stony heart.
Finally, to the turning point—one of the classes I am taking this semester is Christian Theology III with Dr. Russell Moore. I remember several of his comments on the first and second days of class. I remember him saying that someone may come to Christ through his class. He talked of how we can sometimes miss our sinfulness and lostness when we’re always in a Christian environment. That kind of setting simply falsely anesthetizes us to our need. That pierced my heart, and conviction began to set in. He also spoke of how we may be reading the material in the book (which for the first few weeks covered the elements of the gospel) and realize that we are lost. I remember thinking to myself, “What if that’s ME???” As God’s sovereign plan began to flesh out, I ultimately realized that it was me!
The night of my conversion was February 1, 2005, at about 9:55 PM or so. I remember looking at my watch after praying, and it was about 10:00 PM. I was reading my homework assignments in Wayne Grudem’s excellent Systematic Theology while watching American Idol in the background. Then, I came to this sentence found on page 694: “Every non-Christian hearing these words [of Jesus in Matt. 11:28-30] should be encouraged to think of them as words that Jesus Christ is even now, at this very moment, speaking to him or to her individually.” He continues in the paragraph, “This is a genuine personal invitation that seeks a personal response from each one who hears it.” I knew I had to stop the tape that I was watching, which I almost never did. I knew something was happening within my heart.
As I read that 1st sentence, the weight of my sin came crashing down upon me. I begin to go over what Wayne Grudem had written in the previous paragraphs about what the gospel is, and I went through the list simply affirming to God that I believed all of these things: that I have sinned, that I deserve death, and that Jesus paid the penalty for me. At first, my praying was simply of the variety of “I don’t know if I’m truly a believer…Show me if I am.” Then, near the end of my praying it was “Lord, I don’t know You at all, save me!” I told Him that I give up all the righteousness that I had merited on my own, and I submitted that to Him at that moment.
I felt different…A weight had been lifted, and a new excitement and joy flooded my heart. Now I truly understand the message of one of my favorite hymns:
1. And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died he for me, who caused his pain? For me, who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be That thou, my Lord, shouldst die for me? 2. Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee. 3. No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine; Alive in him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own. Refrain: Amazing love, how can it be That thou, my Lord, shouldst die for me?
My soul is awake from the dungeon, and I willingly submit my life to Jesus Christ. Praise Him for His mercy in reviving this corpse and breathing into it new life, an abundant life that is eternal. Amen!
I leave you with the 1st verse and chorus of another one of my favorite songs, "Were It Not for Grace." This song captures my testimony and what God's done in my life: VERSE 1 Time measured out my days Life carried me along In my soul I yearned to follow God But knew I'd never be so strong I looked hard at this world To learn how heaven could be gained Just to end where I began Where human effort is all in vain CHORUS Were it not for grace I can tell you where I'd be Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere With my salvation up to me I know how that would go The battles I would face Forever running but losing the race Were it not for grace
Jesus says: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light"
MATTHEW 11:28-30 (NASB)