God preserving His saints is not some abstract and ancient doctrine that is irrelevant to the modern Christian’s walk. God powerfully displays this function of His in the here and now for His children. The scripture teaches that none who belong to the Father can be snatched from His hand. These words of Christ bring me great comfort in the context of my salvation, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (ESV, John.10.27). Considering the truth I’ll be sharing in this paper, my testimony of becoming a Christian has a few crises moments within it that should make any honest person’s hair stand up. It is my joy to share this testimony in hopes that those who may struggle with doubt can see the great hope that is ours in the Lord; assurance of salvation is something we can and should rest in.
The memory of my radical conversion takes me back to a setting of an aged apartment complex in Winter Park, Florida. It was the year 2001, and I was nearing the end of a long year in school working toward my Associates degree. I had been living like most college students who lack discipline, without the fear of God, and for anything and everything that felt right in the moment. I was not un-churched at this point in my life, in fact, I had spent many years in Christian youth groups and had made a profession of faith in Christ many times. I was determined to live a wild life style because there were no boundaries imposed upon me by God fearing people. Winter Park, Florida is a long way away from Hyde Park, NY. Living loosely without being held accountable to anyone was certainly what I perceived everyone else was doing and it is what my heart desired.
On a particular night in the fall of 2001, the level of my rebellion against all that is good and holy had peaked. All alone in my room, high and perverting my heart away on the internet, I sensed a quickening of conviction within the uttermost parts of my being. The brevity of this conviction was so real and tangible that I dared to speak audibly into the silent air of my bedroom room and ask, “God is that You, do You see me?” I can’t say that I heard an audible “Yes” but everything in me knew that I was in the presence of Holiness and that my behavior was completely unacceptable before Him! I fell to my knees and sobbed out tears of shame and remorse, for my atrocious and sinful behavior was exposed. I was broken hearted to think of how displeasing I was before my Holy God who was confronting me! In this moment of sorrow I remembered a name, a name that I’ve heard others claim can save, the name of Jesus! I cried out for Jesus to save me from these horrible sins and burdens of sorrow. What happened next was remarkable. I sensed all my shame, all my guilt, and all my sorrow taken off from me and my heart was instantly infused with uncontrollable joy and laughter. I laughed for what must have been twenty or thirty minutes reveling in the reality of salvation that had come to me. I remember as the laughter died down as if I had walked through a spiritual door, as one born into a new realm of existence. This was surely new birth, I was born again!
Needles to say, I was sober and in my right mind instantly. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew about my conversion experience. I remember being in a relationship with a girl at the time this happened; however, she didn’t want anything to do with my Jesus. Where I was unable to end the wrong relationship in my own strength, God through the Holy Spirit within me ended it very fast; for my heart now desired purity where before it was bent primarily toward the lusts of the flesh. The Word of God became my best friend, and I grew in the knowledge of the Lord for several years without slipping into sinful habits that very much plagued me beforehand.
As I grew older in the Lord I found myself searching for like minded brothers and sisters who had come to know Christ in a similar way that I had. I began to assume that everyone who is a professing Christian must have experienced such a radical conversion as me. Subconsciously I was gradually becoming more and more disappointed that no one I knew seemed to be able to relate to my experience. What I didn’t realize then, in my searching for some formula conversion experience others could relate to, was that I had lost sight of the finest point of my conversion: the Holiness of God meeting me in my depravity, yet showing me grace solely based upon the merits of Christ. (Justification by faith alone is so much more than a reformed doctrine to me, it is extremely personal!)
This distraction away from the Holiness of God led me into a mindset of doubt. I gradually became more liberal in my thinking toward the scriptures, forgetting my first love. I cowered in fear at the many popular post-modern arguments posited against the scriptures, and I had no capacity to defend the faith against all its opponents. When the enemy can get a believer to doubt the Word of God, he has effectively rendered him or her sidelined and off the playing field. That was me, I fizzled out and became about as passionate for Christ as a kite is without wind. I fell for the ancient trap of the serpent, “did God actually say” was the poisonous question being posed; my root in the scriptures wasn’t sufficient to survive my enemy’s attack (Gen 3.1).
Sin began to creep back into my life, for I lowered my guard down and found myself getting ensnared again to things Christ had once already defeated in me. Thank God that He is for His children and not against them! “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3.9). In retrospect, it becomes clear that it is truly God’s kindness that leads to repentance. There was a sense that I knew I couldn’t keep going on in my sin. I would fall seven times a day but there always remained a sense of conviction in me. No matter how hard I may have tried to suppress those convictions, they relentlessly pursued me.
I began to cry out to God for help. I remember praying prayers persistently pleading to have my passion restored for the scriptures. In these prayers I remember telling God how I hated my sin and needed help. I was honest with Him, and I told Him I couldn’t break the habits without His power working in me. Hunger for truth and righteousness were growing desires that He restored to me. He answered my prayers in the form of reformed preacher’s podcasts! I started listening to countless hours of sermons and lectures on topics like: the Holiness of God, Regeneration, Preservation of the saints, a High View of Scripture, Apologetics, Church History, and all sorts of deep theological topics. My confidence in the scriptures was being restored through the exposition of sound doctrine. Soon after, the authority of the scriptures began to become my delight.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111.10). God has caused me to delight in Him in all His ways. I believe that all knowledge is of the Lord, and when we practice excellence unto the glory of His name, we get to enjoy Him as we do it! This hunger for truth started about two years ago and has led me to Lee University. My desires are to show myself tested and approved to rightly handle the Word of God, grow in my knowledge of my Christian heritage, and further develop the skills I’ll need to advance in whatever area God wills me to go next. Being able to trust His Word is being able to see His promises. Great assurance of salvation is available to all who fully trust in the scriptures. My prayer is that I become an efficient expositor of the Scriptures for His excellence, unto the glory of His great name. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3. 16-17).