The next day, she called me saying that she wanted to talk. By this time, I had been able to get my own apartment because of a wonderful man who went to the church I attended so I told her to come over. She was furious. She told me that that girl wasn’t any good for me, that I had no business being with her, that, as a Christian, I should be more selective in who I hung out with and who I dated…(remember, I was in the “church” and supposedly saved). I told her, in no uncertain terms, that it was none of her business who I dated or what I did. We were no longer married, remember? That was the end of that conversation.
To the Chosen Workman
The first thing I’d like to say is thank you for the opportunity to share my testimony with you. I know that a testimony doesn’t save anybody. But, if used properly, I think it can be a good tool to use to present the gospel and to show the mighty workings of our God.
I do not want to sound like I’m glorifying my sin because that is not the case. But, as Paul Washer said, “The cross of Christ is most magnified when it is placed against the backdrop of man’s depravity”. I believe this to be true.
My wife and I were married at a very young age. I was 21 and she was 19. The reason for this was the fact that we put the cart before the horse, so to speak. She was pregnant with my son. We were married in February 1991 and my son was born in April 1991. 4 years later, in August of 1995, my daughter was born.
My mother stayed at home with me until I was old enough to get myself off the bus and into the house. I wanted my wife to be able to do the same thing so I worked every available hour I could at my job, as well as picking up side jobs at night, like delivering pizza, to make ends meet. We had very little money so it was a rough time for us. We had loving family that was always there for support if and when we needed it but that did not make it any less stressful.
During this time, we were going to and involved in a Free Methodist church. If you are not familiar with that denomination, they are a twin sister to the Nazarene church when it comes to theology. There is very little difference between the two. It is in the Wesleyan / Arminian tradition….a holiness church, if you will. At any rate, we were there every time the church doors were open, for the most part. But, I can attest to the fact that I was never saved. Oh, I went to the altar and prayed several times and placed some salve on my conscience but I was never truly saved. I will not speak for my wife because that isn’t for me to judge the heart. I can tell you for a fact that I was a false convert.
Now that I have given some background, back to the story.
Because I worked so much, when I was at home, I wasn’t at home. I was a horrible father, especially to my son who didn’t have the daddy he needed when he was growing up. I was also a very poor husband. I did not help my wife nor give her the support she needed when she needed it. Also, not being born again, there was no spiritual leadership from me whatsoever. Like I said, we were in the church all the time and if you asked me if I was saved I would say yes, but it was evident I was not. Needless to say, this would breed resentment in my wife that would build over the course of 15 years.
My son was a handful. Super intelligent, energy beyond explanation but, at the same time, a boy. Boys are a handful. As he got older, of course, he became more independent and much more mouthy. He was a very strong-willed kid. I, on the other hand, had a terrible temper which was cultivated from my home life growing up. I learned to yell about things. That’s how I communicated with my parents…we yelled. These two things did not mix well. One evening, my son and I got into an argument that became physical. He cussed at me and that sent me over the edge. ..I remember vividly my wife crying for me to settle down and stop. Thinking about this causes me great distress.
Anyway, that was the last straw. My wife asked me to move out of my house that day. I had nowhere to go so I called my mom. Talk about humbling….a grown man asking his mom if he could live with her. And that’s where I went. Now, I was with her for a little over 2 years. For the 1st year, my wife and I were just separated. But, she finally filed for a divorce. The entire time I was with my mom, I pined for my wife. I was devestated. I didn’t want a divorce. But, that was the reality of it all. I didn’t date anyone, I didn’t do much of anything but work. I was a mess.
Now, this whole time, I was still going to the same church that I had went to all those years before…as well as my ex-wife. We were in the same church…..awkward to say the least. I did my thing, prayed the prayers at the altar again, salved my concience and proceeded to throw myself into helping with the youth group and bible quizzing, which my daughter was a part of. I also was the coach of my daughter’s softball team.
One evening, after one of my girl’s games, one of the parents asked me if I was dating anyone. I told her no, I was not. She gave me the phone number of one of her friends and told me to call her. I would like her. This was about 2 years after my wife and I had split up. I sat on that phone number for a good bit. I felt guilty about calling anyone. But, after a while, I thought why not. My marriage is over, there is no hope of reconcilliation…why wait any longer. So I called this person. We began to see each other and the relationship quickly became, how shall I say it politely, inappropriate. This went off and on for a while.
As I was still in contact with my ex-wife, I would help her with our kids at her house whenever she needed my help. I was at her house one day and she came home from work. We got into an argument over something stupid and then the conversation turned to us, somehow. She told me that I needed to get on with my life and move on and get over her. That’s when I told her that I was seeing someone and had moved on. I will never forget the look on her face, She just looked at me dumbfoundedly with the expression on her face of, “I can’t believe you just said that”. She did not make a sound..
Two days later, at about 4:15 in the morning, she called me, BAWLING. I had never heard her cry like that before. She told me that she was sorry for the way she had taken me for granted throughout our marriage and that she was sorry. Would I forgive her? I told her that I had already forgiven her and that what had happened was water under the bridge. She wanted to talk that evening after she got off work so I told her to come over and we would talk. She arrived and, to make this long story a wee bit shorter, she wanted to seek counseling and reconcile. I asked her if she was sure that’s what she wanted. She said yes. I said OK, that’s what we’ll do. However, being the sinner that I am, I remained with the other girl while at the same time trying to work things out with my ex-wife. Human total depravity on display. (Jeremiah 17:19)
I was at my ex-wife’s house one Saturday and, while I was with her, was text messaging this other girl while sitting in the recliner. I got up to go to the bathroom and then told my ex-wife I was going to go home because I was tired. When I got home, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone so I thought I had lost it down in the chair. That was not the case. My ex wasn’t stupid. She saw what I was doing and took my phone. Later that night, at my apartment, my ex came storming up the stairs and flung my phone into my lap with the evidence of what I had been up to this whole time. An argument ensued and this is what I said to her. It is a quote…I will never forget this night. I said, “I don’t love you. I don’t want to be with you. I want to be with her.” I watched my ex-wife fall to pieces in front of my eyes and walk down the stairs, devastated. That was a Saturday night.
The next morning, of course, was Sunday so I went to church. Remember, the entire time I was doing what I was doing with this other girl, I was working with the youth group, teaching a high school Sunday School class and working with the bible quizzing team. My sin had been exposed so I had decided before I left to go to church that I was going to tell the youth pastor and the leader of the bible quizzing program what I had been doing and stop working with the youth. I took both of them into the youth pastor’s office and told them the whole story. I poured my heart out to them in that office. This is where God stepped onto the scene.
At that very moment, when I was telling them of my sinful behavior, God Himself held a mirror up to my face and showed me what a wicked, vile sinner I was. He broke me to pieces over my sin, how I had sinned against my ex-wife, how I had sinned with this other woman, how I had been living a horrid lie but, most importantly, how I had sinned against a holy God. I sat in that office and cried for 45 minutes over my sin. I pleaded with God for forgiveness and, in that office, the blood was applied and God graciously granted me repentance and faith. I sat and talked with the youth pastor and he said these words to me…”You have to be ready for the possibility that you may never see her (my ex-wife) again.” And I was completely ready for that possibility. I didn’t expect the fact that I had been born again to sway her in the slightest. I thought that the damage had been done. But, God hadn’t finished what He was doing.
Two days later, my ex-wife called me. She told me that she forgave me and that she still wanted to proceed with counseling and reconcilliation. So, we cried together and through the grace of God we were able to move on. That was in October of 2008. My salvation and our recocilliation was in October of 2008. In February of 2009, on our original anniversary (so it would be easy for me to remember), we were remarried. That is the story of God’s redeeming grace for my wife and I. It isn’t pleasant to remember but it is wonderful to tell because it highlights God’s grace and mercy to sinners. I truly believe that God allowed our divorce so that He could take care of the spiritual need, namely to bring repentance and faith to both of us, and then put the cherry on the sundae by bringing us back together in marriage…just to highlight who He is and what He is capable of doing in a heart that has been regenerated. This brings glory to His name!
Now to the Doctrines of Grace and how I got there.
Now, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here. But, I think it is an important tangent because it will help to lay the foundation of how I came to the Doctrines of Grace. This church, ( Free Methodist church) I believe, holds to a system of works righteousness. I do not believe there is any way around that. They will say that a person is saved by God’s grace. They will say that only God does the saving. You have no part in it. I do not believe this is true if you take what they teach to it’s logical conclusion. You see, it is up to you to “make the decision” on whether or not you “accept Christ”. God stirs your heart and then you choose whether or not to go any further. They will play “Just As I Am” about 14 times, manipulate the emotions as much as possible, beg and plead to “come to the altar and get things right with God” and on and on. I had done this, by the way, several times. I was soothing my conscience. There was no salvation. I was repenting and grieving but it was a wordly repentence that does not lead to life (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
Their view of salvation is man-centered, not Christ-cenered. It’s your choice whether or not you are saved. That’s the false view of salvation. I would ask about sin that you have commited and not even know you’ve done it or what if you commit sin and then die without having asked for forgiveness and the answer I would get is, “Well, God knows your heart. He is all loving. He would not hold you accountable for something you have done that you are ignorant of.” This is the false understanding of God. God does know your heart and says that it is wicked and deceitful above all things…who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9).
After God’s grace made me a new creature in Christ Jesus, ( 2Cor.5:17) I wanted to fill my mind with good things….preaching, Scripture. So I purchased an iPod and started to download stuff for me to listen to while at work. I didn’t know where to go or what to put on there but I knew of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort and Way of the Master. So, I went to iTunes and started to download all of their programs. I was listeneing to them daily and they would play sermon snipets every day from various pastors. I kept hearing them play a guy named Paul Washer, so I went to the internet and found some Paul Washer sermons. WOW…what a dynamic preacher of the gospel. He preached as I had never heard preaching before. He talked about assurance and security of salvation, which I did not believe at all. So, I began to study on this topic.
On the ” Way of the Master”program , I heard about, “Contemplative Spirituality” and the ” Emergent church” I heard about names like Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren and the like. I heard about “spiritual formation” and people like Richard Foster. Now, this got my antenna up becasue I had heard the name Richard Foster in my church. So I started to dig. What I learned made me sad because I could now see it for what it was…basically rehashed Roman Catholic mysticism and Eastern mysticism…and I could see it in my church. I started to pay attention to who was being used in the youth group and in bible studies. I was appalled. Rob Bell was being used in the youth group. Dallas Willard and Richard Foster were being used in bible studies. But, my information and understanding was very limited at the time so I just continued to dig and learn.
At the same time, I was listening to John MacArthur, reading J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon, listening to Steve Lawson and others and my understanding of what they were calling the “Doctrines of Grace” was growing. I was hearing about the total depravity of man, which is something I had never heard before. But, IT MADE SENSE, when taught out of the pages of Scripture. I was hearing about election and predestination, which I would have NEVER BELIEVED had it not been for the quickening of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Word. It just made sense. I heard about particular atonement, or limited atonement, which is something that I would have argued against….but it made sense when taken with the totality of Scripture. Then the effectual call, or “irresisible grace” of the Holy Spirit. Again, something I would have argued against, but it JUST MADE SENSE when measured against Scripture and the right dividing of said Scripture. Then, finally, the perseverance of the saints. Again, I was taught all along that it was unbiblical. But, taken with man’s depravity and nothing he can do to earn his salvation, that it is all a work of God…that He sovereignly chooses whom to save…that those whom He has chosen are the ones He died for and that the ones He died for WILL COME TO HIM when the Spirit calls…it just all came together that He will preserve His own and they will persevere to the end. After much study and listening to the teaching of John MacArthur on Romans 5, it just all clicked and came together for me. I understood it. I embraced it. I loved it because it placed all of the emphasis on God and not on me. It was so liberating.
But, I still was learning about all of the other stuff, too. I discovered that the seminaries and schools that were supported by our denomination were OVER RUN with this mystical, contemplative, emergent train of thought. The schools were turning out a bunch of kids to lead churches who had been brain-washed with this purpose driven, seeker sensitive, contemplative, emergent nonsense. Truly maddening. So, my wife and I took what I had learned to my lead pastor and the youth pastor and had a meeting with them. I have to confess that I was a little animated while talking with them. It went nowhere. We were basically told that we were not far enough along in our spiritual journey to understand what was going on. I asked the question if I needed to have a PH.D in astrophysics to understand what my bible said? That did not go over well and the meeting came to an abrupt halt. I sent my wife and daughter away from that church that day. I stayed there, pridefully thinking I was gonna lead some reformation in understanding. That was a mistake. I was basically shunned and so I left there, never to look back again, a few months later. We were without a church for a long time. We stayed at home and listened to MacArthur and Washer sermons on Sunday to be fed the Word. We finally found a church in our town that has a preacher who is faithful to expound the Word and that is where we landed. The rest, as they say, is history.
Thank you for letting me share this with you.
Your brother in Christ and friend,