Romans 10:5-11 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (ESV)
Now that my blog has a few followers, I would like to introduce myself a little and share my testimony. I am from New England, and I have only been a Christian for a few years, even though I grew up in a Christian home and attended church nearly my whole life. I got saved toward the end of my time in college. It cost me a lot, from a broken engagement, to some family estrangement for a while, but God has been gracious to me and has healed even the holes those unfortunate things made in my life.
My whole life I had thought I was a Christian, and while I generally followed the Bible and knew a good deal of Scripture, and was fairly close to God when I was a child, I had gone off on my own, especially towards the end of high school. I would call myself a Christian during those “wandering” years, but I really was not. I did what I wanted to do. I slept with any girl I wanted to and I had no shame, guilt was only a chain holding back a true playa (I am being a little funny here of course, but I am also trying to illustrate my immature mindset back then). I drank all I wanted, and I talked and acted very worldly. Sometimes I’d feel guilty and pray, thinking that the prayers were like magic potions that one just had to simply “pop” and make everything better (yeah, I used an RPG reference in a testimony… I can be a nerd).
In fact, I thought the Gospel was just praying a prayer and giving your heart to Jesus and then you were all set. Once saved always saved, (and I still believe that, because I am a Calvinist, albeit in a more theologically sensible manner) so after saying the prayer I figured it didn’t matter what you did. One winter/spring towards the end of my college years I went down to Washington D.C. for an internship. During my time there, for some reason, I couldn’t get the idea of hell out of my mind. God was warning me about where I was headed, although I had no idea at the time. I was horrified by the idea of hell. Eternal torment – what a ghastly fate. Anything would be worth avoiding such an insidious end! The most lowly life and the most extreme torture on earth would be preferable than winding up in that place. I decided that morality comes from God, therefore God exists. I also decided that the Christian God was the true God, I cannot explain why but I was positive of it. So, if the Christian God was the true God, then, ipso facto, hell must be a real place, an unfathomably terrible eternal nightmare where one drop of water, or one second of relief from the torment, would mean everything. I was determined to avoid that place.
Unfortunately, I immediately set about avoiding hell the wrong way. I tried to clean up my life. The initial clean up actually made me feel good, but I was becoming aware that my sin went way deeper than I thought it did. Over the course of about three months, I was so wrapped up in obeying God that I became a legalist, pure and simple. It was exhausting, and deep down I knew that despite my greatest efforts I was just not good enough. I got involved in all sorts of weird legalist behavior, spurred on by a group of legalists I had met through a good friend. I started thinking almost everything was evil, from celebrating birthdays to Christmas trees, for various reasons my new legalist friends convinced me of. This strained my relationships a bit, but not too much because I was in Washington, and therefore my family couldn’t really see what I had gotten myself in to.
Eventually, I went back home, far more in shape than when I had went to D.C. because I had been hitting the gym hard there. I wanted to continue working out hard when I got home, and I got the P90X, but most days I could not bring myself to workout during the time I set aside to do so because I was utterly wracked with guilt and overburdened by the sense of impending doom that hell had in store for me on the horizon. I had no idea what to do to avoid hell, and the fact that my relationship with my fiancé was heavily strained because I refused to have sex with her until we married made me feel even worse. I was in the depths of depression, spiritual depression.
My legalist friends only spurred the depression onwards through their self-righteous attitudes and condescending remarks whenever I interacted with them in pursuit of Godly knowledge. The last straw with my legalist “friends” were when I noticed many of them, sinful, claimed to be literally sinless. Some even claimed to have not sinned for years, but I could spot “minor” sins they committed just in Facebook conversations! I knew my own sinfulness was great despite my hardest efforts, and seeing as these people, these hypocrites, were clearly sinful, I kicked them to the curb and wanted nothing to do with them again.
Going back a few months, in D.C., one night I begged Jesus to save me. I told Him that if He did not do it for me, I couldn’t be saved, because I did not know what the Gospel was or what I needed to do, and I could not do what needed to be done on my own. I asked Him to show me the Gospel. He didn’t open up the skies and beam down the Gospel to me right away; He let me continue in my error for a season. However, as God promises in the Bible, if anyone would call out to Christ He will not turn them away, and if anyone asks for knowledge, he will receive it from the Lord. One hot summer afternoon I lay in my bed, not working out, feeling terrible and on the verge of tears over the fact that I could not save myself, I could not be good enough. I had been studying the Gospel on the Internet and reading the Bible constantly, when the Truth finally dawned on me: Trust Christ. All of a sudden, the burden of guilt and shame and hopelessness was lifted. I realized that faith in Christ meant just that – trusting in Christ to do the work for you. I didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer, God simply revealed to me the truth as I lay there in my humid bedroom after months of searching. In that moment I trusted Jesus to save me – I trusted in His finished work, and I trusted Him to take me to heaven and save me from whatever I needed saving from!
And the Lord did. I am not perfect, I have even backslidden badly at times and committed some serious transgressions since that day, but I have always come back to Christ and have experienced His sanctification over time. My fiancé couldn’t stand how religious I had become and didn’t want to get married anymore, but wanted to cohabitate. She gave me a really strange ultimatum you would not expect from a woman: move in with me and have sex with me again, or we’re breaking up. It was a no-brainer – I broke up with her. I didn’t even feel all that bad about “losing” her, even though she was gorgeous and I was really close with her for a long time, because I knew I made the right decision and that God was setting me from a relationship that wasn’t good for me to be in. I wish she could have become a Christian too, but in the very least, it was not her time, and Satan, the destroyer and liar, was influencing her to do evil things, there’s no doubt in my mind. Evil new friends had come into her life that started pressuring her to go out to clubs and bars really late, and getting drunk a lot. Those unchristian girlfriends of hers were not fond of me, and basically sabotaged my relationship and convinced her of some untrue things about me. But I had counted the cost when I decided to trust in Christ and follow Him, so I didn’t care what I lost on earth as long as I was right by the Lord.
Since that summer day back in 2010, my life has changed a lot. I am no legalist, and I have become an avid student of theology. In fact, God taught me a lot theologically through the manner in which He bought me to Christ. One of the things the whole ordeal which began in D.C. taught me was that only God can save you. You will not comprehend the Gospel until He wills it; you cannot know it until He declares that you can, even though you may have a surface understanding of the basic message. Despite my greatest efforts I could not find something seemingly so simple – trust Christ! – on my own. This is why I am a Calvinist, knowing God saved me entirely and I played no role in my salvation. He caused me to seek after Him and made me beg Him to find salvation and peace. I didn’t really know what the Gospel was, I just knew that only God could save me, and I clung to Him.
While I share the Gospel of putting one’s faith in Christ and what He did on the cross for our sins, I urge nonchristians to consider their sinfulness and beg God for salvation. Hell and sin have their places in the Gospel message, but the central theme must be Christ and how He is the way of escape from eternal doom. People need to turn to Jesus. A true turning to Jesus goes along with repentance from living a sinful lifestyle because to turn to Jesus one must be going the opposite direction from sin. So, while repentance is important, it’s never something I consciously tried to commit to, aside from my short stint as a legalist, because it came naturally as I turned to Jesus. The sins I once loved became abhorrent. I couldn’t have premarital sex anymore, I couldn’t watch evil things on my computer or on TV, and I couldn’t listen to clearly evil music such as most black metal bands. Those things were grotesque, and Christ was glorious.
God saved me, and it began with a fear of hell. This is why I tell people about hell and what a horrible place it is. Jesus did too, just read the Gospels. I knew that I belonged there, and technically still do but for the astounding, unearned grace of God Almighty. He has given me much, and I hope that I can be a faithful servant here on earth, because we only have one earthly life, and after this we cannot serve God as we can as a human in this world of sin, because it will all pass away. We have one shot to store up our treasure in heaven. I hope that my testimony might inspire some Christians to a greater love for God, and that God may use it to helped some of the unsaved to see the true Gospel, that they might not wander in confusion and misery as long as I did. If you are unsure of the Gospel, my friend, just trust in Jesus. He can save you, and He will. He has promised it, and you can have total faith in His promises.