Good morning! Jeremiah 17:9 & 10 says "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds." I’m here to tell you a story about my heart, what it means to be truly saved, and how the Lord, in His kindness, put it all together for me on June 9th, 2007.
First, Salvation. What does it mean? According to Jesus, salvation is exclusively completed through Himself and only Himself. He makes that very clear throughout the gospels and specifically in John 14:6 when He says,"I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." We cannot have a legitimate relationship with God the Father without Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf. Thankfully, He allows us to recognize proof of His Lordship which is why true believers know beyond the shadow of a doubt with whom they will be spending eternity. Let me explain how the Lord brought me to that place of ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt.’
When I was three years old I said the sinner’s prayer. Many of you may have said this prayer and possibly led your children to say this same prayer. In brief, it sounds something like this: "Lord Jesus, I have sinned against You and I need a savior. Please come into my heart." For some, this truly is a prayer from the heart and the Lord truly has accomplished His perfect work in them. That was not the case for me. I saw myself as a Christian that day and I was going to Heaven. That was it. It never really affected my life and my heart had not changed. I remained a lost sinner falsely believing I was saved until about six years ago.
It was the summer of 2001 and my sin had escalated to the point that it was beyond denial. In my rebellion, I had broken all of the "Christian rules" I had learned growing up, sometimes on purpose. I could no longer pretend that there was any good in me. That day, by God’s grace, I realized that there was substance to what I had learned through all of those years of being forced to go to church. I knew at that point, again completely by His grace, that I would never measure up to that perfect standard if I kept living like I had been. I tricked myself into believing that I finally found God and that I began my "search for Him" because I desired to achieve "His" perfect standard. The perfect standard was something that I pieced together from things that I felt were morally correct. Thankfully, the Bible ended up being my source. God, in His unfailing, immeasurable grace and mercy and according to His purposes decided to call me. However, I still remained absorbed in sin and rebellious against Him because the Lord had not yet completed His work in me.
On October 2nd, 2005, some of you will remember that I gave a testimony and was baptized. Webster’s defines religion as a system of belief and worship. When I was baptized I was only a wet sinner and the perfect standard I had made for myself was my religion. It was based on the truth of the Bible, which is why I believed myself to be genuinely saved, but my belief was still based on my perfect standard and not the Perfect Savior. I continued to pursue the truth of the Bible in my own strength, mentally checking off each deed I completed in regard to the related command I had learned. Again this included my testimony and baptism. Please don’t get me wrong, the truth that was accurately expressed is wonderful. In other words, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. However, it only promoted my self-righteousness and ultimately was a false testimony. The best proof I have of this is that my previous testimony was filled with statements such as "I did this" or "If I do this, God will do this." I was not maliciously trying to deceive anyone. I was self-deceived. Prior to June 9th of this year, I was a child of the devil just like every other unbeliever as is illustrated in 1 John 3:4-10.
Between October 2005 and June 9th 2007, my religious pursuits were becoming greater along with my self-righteousness, but I never experienced true joy or peace, only greater pressure to perform. I was doing the motions, but in my heart I was getting very tired of trying to reach this impossible standard. As I was mentally going through my list, my attitude was getting worse as I was confronted with commands that I just could not accomplish. The Lord was continually showing me that it is not possible to reach His standard on my own. He ultimately proved this to me through evangelism.
A big part of the Christian life should be faithfulness in sharing the Gospel. The outreach committee was established last year to promote just that. I became aware that sharing Christ was indeed a weak spot in my pursuit of perfection. I joined the committee with the hope that I would be forced to improve on this weak area by way of the other members keeping me accountable. At the time I was aware that my motives were all wrong, but I had deceived myself into believing the myriad of excuses I had been feeding myself for years. I had no idea that my heart was as rotten as it was and I never knew why I hated doing the very things I claimed to love.
As many of you know, the Outreach Committee implemented the use of The Way of the Master Basic Training Course to replace the evangelism training previously taught by Pastor Carrero. When I heard about it, part of me said ,"Here we go again." I knew there would be more standards to meet, but the bigger part of me, otherwise known as my sinful pride thought, "Oh how wonderful! An upstanding, holy and righteous Christian such as myself would love to partake in such training and respond to the call." I also thought about the awesome example I would be to the rest of you lazy, caught up in the world Christians who ignore the Great Commission given to us by Jesus Himself, which I lived out so well by example in how I lived my daily life. I’m so sorry that I perceived all of you this way. My heart attitude really was this disgusting and sometimes worse. I’m sharing this in detail because it is so extremely necessary for all of you to see the difference between my self-righteous heart attitude and my seemingly Christian appearance. All the while this was going on, I still believed that I was a genuine believer bound for Heaven. I hope all of you can plainly see the many reasons that I was not. There are many scriptures that describe people like me and that they have no part in the things of Christ. Actually, the Scripture I was most afraid of at the time was Matthew 7:21-23, where Jesus says,"Not everyone who says to Me,’Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day,’Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them,’I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.’" I could only appease myself in my self-righteousness by pointing my finger at certain family members and friends.
Although I was still extremely proud, the Lord was gradually exposing me to the truth of my wicked heart. As I was taking the Way of the Master course, I was constantly confronted with the fact that I did not want to share the Gospel or reach the lost. In fact, I didn’t even care about them, which greatly concerned me. Ultimately, God was taking away the blindness and I was beginning to see that I was ashamed of Jesus and what I thought He had done in me. As I was becoming aware of this I was also recalling certain Scriptures and how they applied to me and how I was falling short. Mark 8:38 is such a verse where Jesus says,"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My wo
rds in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
On June 9th, 2007, the Lord completed His work of salvation in me. I finally broke down under the weight of my self-righteous hypocrisy and I did not know what to do. No matter how hard I tried, I could not explain the inconsistency and I could not figure out what to do to fix it. My deepest desire was to run. I didn’t want to go back to church or have anything to do with God. I did not want to see anymore and I knew that if I continued to go to church that eventually I would be exposed for what I was, and I could not handle that. But the Lord in His infinite wisdom, grace and mercy, according to His perfect plan and purpose to His ultimate praise and glory, opened my eyes. He showed me that if I ran, my questions would never be answered. I couldn’t bear the thought of this either. He graciously began to answer my questions. God revealed to me my sin using the Scriptures utilized in the Way of the Master workbook. I read Proverbs 16:5, "Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord . . ." As I was confronted with the fact that I was an abomination to the one and only true and living God, my heart broke. I died to myself that day as the weight of my sin crushed me. I saw myself utterly depraved and helpless in dire need of rescue. As I was laying it all out before Christ begging His forgiveness, He proved His faithfulness in forgiving me immediately. I am no longer believing in myself, there is nothing to believe on, I have no strength on my own. I have nothing but complete and total gratitude to Jesus Christ who revealed to me these things and took my punishment on Himself even though I am the one who deserves it. Paul says it best in Galatians 2:20 & 21, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly." He has raised me above my perfect standard and I am finally free from it forever. He exceeded perfection, but even so He laid down His life to free mine. How can I not praise Him? How can I be anything but continually grateful? He has saved my life!
I am being baptized again today because these things were not true for me when I was baptized the first time. I long to be identified with my Savior in His death, burial, and resurrection because I am so deeply grateful that He chose to save me from my transgressions against a just and holy God. I long to live a life according to His will, which He has clearly defined in His Holy Word, because He sacrificed His life so that I could live. I owe Him everything.
I spent the last six years of my life trying to save myself. God makes it very clear that this is impossible in many verses and in Ephesians 2:8 &9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." If any of you are unsure that you know Christ or if you think you might be trusting in something else, please speak with Pastor Harris or another believer who can show you the one and only true God of the Bible, before it is too late. Please don’t waste anymore time on a pointless existence headed straight for damnation. That’s where I was going until Christ pulled me out. He has the power to save everyone, why not trust Him today? He’s the only hope we have. Thank you for listening. I sincerely hope that this testimony of one of the countless works of the Lord has blessed you.