Monday, April 02, 2007

My Testimony

God blessed me with a special gift from the moment I was born – believing parents. I can never fully know what life would have looked like without them, but I can imagine, and when I do, I am instantly humbled and grateful for that gift.

It was in the context of our believing household that I was introduced to Christ. And as most parent-pleasing children will do, I acknowledged Christ early in life, although to what extent my heart really understood, only God knew. But I comprehended that I was sinful and that Christ had died to forgive sins, and that His gift of eternity in Heaven was mine for the taking. I took . . . on many occasions.

It seems to be the consistent testimony of adolescents in my fundamental upbringing: Praying a prayer of repentance and belief in Christ, enjoying freedom of conscience for a span of time, lapsing back into sin and old patterns, questioning salvation and then either walking an aisle to “surrender” to Christ, or even praying again to get saved. It became my pattern. Summers of church camp, where I heard 3 to 4 messages a day about godly living were instrumental in reinforcing the pattern and sent me into a spiral of questioning my faith based on my ability to keep a list of requirements.

Now please understand me – I do not suppose that my own experience was the intended outcome by those who spent hours devoting their lives to see myself or my friends in our youth group honor Christ, nor do I propose that they are to blame. Although I do fear that my experience was common among even the leaders who sought to fortify my faith. Because our religion was so often based on stoic perseverance by works, I witnessed many Christians who appeared so only in name. I saw believers who kept a list of rules, but lacked joy and obvious fruit. Like the Pharisees Christ reprimanded in Matthew 23, I witnessed many who “tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”

By high school, I was an expert at double-living. I knew all the right answers and had all the head knowledge, but I desired to experience all the world had to offer, and I quietly rebelled against the authority of my parents. My rebellion looked pretty tame as compared to others, so I was never really called on the carpet for it. And my natural fear for the worst case scenario to occur kept me from many sinful actions. However, my heart did not actively desire God or His control in my life.

Sometime around my senior year in high school, that began to change. I was introduced to some friends that attended a college Bible study that our church offered and they were genuine believers. Their attitudes reflected true Christianity, yet they were not concerned about that “list of rules” that seemed so dominant in the Christianity I had witnessed. Their love for Christ was a rebuke to me, and though they were not perfect, I saw an example of what a Christian should be.

I will never know when the process of God drawing me to Him ceased and my faith became genuine and the process of sanctification began, but I know that I desired to know God more over the next 4 years of college than I ever had before. I participated in mission trips and street evangelism out of a desire to share Christ, not because it looked good or was a requirement on a list. And since college, God has been good to keep me in churches where true Christianity was practiced, and I have continued to grow.

All those doubts about my salvation from my adolescence vanished at some point as I began to see the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. It hasn’t been easy, as I have learned to search for signs of grace in my life, instead of putting my trust in a date on the flyleaf of my Bible or in keeping a list of rules, but I have trusted God more than ever before. I know that the Christian life is a battle, and by God’s grace I will keep seeking His glory instead of my own. I rest assured in the promise of Philippians 1:6 – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I would love to hear your conversion story. Feel free to post it in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your testimony! I posted mine on my blog too. :)

Growing up in a non-Christian home, I always thought it would be great to grow up in a Christian home, which we have the opportunity to provide for our boys. Since I was saved at age 18, I don't recall having doubts about my salvation. I pray my kids will be saved at a young age (I believe my older son is), rather than waiting until later in life as I did.

Like you, I want my children's faith to be theirs, something they understand and know for themselves. It's hard to discern at what age they reach that level of understanding, but I feel we need to do our job as parents in drawing them to Christ and teaching them the truth of his Word.

Gretchen said...

Nett -- that was brilliantly done. Your wording was so accurate and real. I completely understand you, and my testimony is very similar, but I do believe that I was converted as a young child. This is something Josh and I have really been thinking through because the church that we are trying to join will baptize you if you don't think you were really saved when you were baptized (like as a child). We really had to think through it, and I was not interested in trying to pinpoint a date and time, but it seemed that was what we needed to do. I have since come to the conclusion that I do believe I had child-like faith in Christ when I was baptized.

Thanks for sharing!

Donette said...

It's funny that you mention the 2nd baptizing topic, Gret, because Dan and I had the exact same conversation. And we came to the exact same answer. I can never say that I wasn't truly saved as a child, only God knows, and when I chose to get baptized I really was assured of my salvation. The consequent doubts could have been from the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sinful lifestyle, or it could have been God drawing me. Since I will never know (at least here on earth) both Dan and I decided that our baptism was done in good faith.
After hearing so many similar stories, though, I do wonder about baptism before an individual is an adult. I know that brings up a whole host of questions that I'm not prepared to answer, but it does cause me to wonder how we will handle it when the time comes.