I grew up in the “Bible belt”, in a small town in North Mississippi. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church. We always went to church growing up and I remember it being fun with a lot of activities. When I was nine years old, I was at home and had a gospel tract designed for children. I vaguely remember that it had cartoon drawings of hell and it said I was a sinner. I can’t even remember what all it said about Jesus, but it basically had the sinner’s prayer at the end of it so that you could be saved. I remember praying with my mom the sinner’s prayer, but I can’t even remember what I said. At the time I thought that was how to be saved. That’s all I knew and that was the way all kids were saved as far as I knew. The next Sunday, during the invitation, I walked the isle to tell the pastor what had happened and that was followed by baptism. I had no understanding of sin and what godly sorrow, repentance, and saving faith was at the time. Growing up after that, I thought a sinner’s prayer was my insurance to make it to heaven. I never had peace, so every night I would pray this prayer just to make sure I was safe. It is sad that I thought that way but that’s the way I thought, and I never knew anything different growing up. I did this all the way into my teenage years. I continued going to church as a teenager. I never went to hear from God though. I went to see my friends and do the activities. I was a very well-behaved kid, so everyone thought I was a good Christian boy. When I got into high school, I did things that a saved person shouldn’t be doing. I played basketball and baseball in high school, so that took up most of my extra time and that keep me from a lot of things that I could’ve got into. When I got the chance though, I would do things I knew were wrong. I would get convicted over things easy, but there were other people that were saved that were doing the same thing. We would be in church on Sunday though, so that would make me feel better. I believe I was always looked at by the adults at school and church as some sort of role model, but they didn’t know what sin was really in my heart and the things I would do behind the scenes. I would always act according to the crowd I was around. I was a hypocrite and a people pleaser.
When I graduated high school, I couldn’t wait to go to college and move out on my own and have independence. I had scholarships and they were quickly wasted by my lifestyle. I was now out on my own living in a sinful lifestyle and having my fun. During my 3rd year of college, I was living in a house that became the place that everybody came over to hang out. It was then that I began to get disgusted with the way I was living and what I was living in. I wasted several years of my life in college with nothing to show for it. I began to even question if God was real. If this salvation was so good, then why am I the way that I am. I thought salvation was a deliverance from sin and that you would be different, but I was worse. I would also think about who I would marry. I remember seeing how we, who were supposedly saved as children, were all hypocrites. I never will forget laying in my bed crying out to God to bring me a wife that was real. One that was sold out for God. All I can say is that the Spirit of God was working on me to even pray this. To make a long story short I meet Brittany, my now wife. She was different, she would not let me do the things that I was doing and stay with her. Looking back now God was really showing me his love through her. He brought me some genuine and not fake. Thank God for the testimony of my wife and what I saw in her.
While in college, I started to go to church some with Brittany. What was different about Brittany was that she didn’t want to come with me to my church because she might miss something at her church. I had never heard anything like this. It was not a big deal to miss church where I grew up. She said it was like they were on a journey, and she couldn’t miss. She was a great example of faithfulness to the body of Christ. In the end I started to go faithfully to her church, which would become my church. The name of the church is Faith Baptist Church in Myrtle, MS. The pastor is Claude Mills. When I started coming, they were meeting in gym. They had a church building but they were learning a spiritual principle through a physical example. It was “out with the old and in with the new”. While they were physically remodeling the church, out with the old, God was also doing a spiritual change in our hearts and minds. This came out of Isaiah 43:18-19. Through this preaching, the Lord was telling me to get rid of the sin in my life. I started to throw out everything, even the music that I was listening to. The services were different from what I was used to. There wasn’t a set program. They just tried to follow the Spirit of God. People were moved in the heart by the preaching and the worship service. I would also see people thanking God out loud. It was like God was real to them and church wasn’t just a game. I saw praise in the church, not just singing music, but praise.
I heard Pastor Claude say many times through his preaching this verse:
2 Cor.5:17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
This is the main verse in which God showed me that I was lost. I never was made a new creature in Christ. I still had my old ways and followed my own sinful heart instead of God. I knew what my problem was. I had never been made a new creature. I was finally not confused any longer and it made sense. Brittany and I were talking on the phone one night and she told me she was lost. She was afraid to tell me because she didn’t know how I would take it. It was almost a relief to me because God was already showing me, I was lost. This gave me the opportunity to tell her that I believed I was lost too. One night while we were still meeting in the gym, I confessed to the church what they probably already knew, that I was lost. This was actually a good thing for me because this cleared up a lot of my confusion over the years and now, I actually had some light and knew what my problem was.
I started to read a lot. I read many pamphlets, books, and testimonies that shed light on the truth that I was learning. I had grown up hearing about the love of God but the preaching I was hearing now, really shed light on the depravity of man also. Even though I had given up some of the outward things, like my sinful college life, music, etc.…., it was the heart that defiles a man. I thank God that someone preached the truth to me and let me see my true lost condition. I looked better on the outside, but I was still lost. This began a long battle with my pride. Not wanting to be weak and humble myself I would set there through message after message and not move towards God. Brittany and I were now married, and we had a little baby girl named Madison. When Madison was almost a year-old Pastor Claude preached a sermon, and in it, he said that now I had more reason to get saved. I had a little girl that was looking up to me, and she would need her father to be saved. This really started to weigh heavily on me. I really started to look at my life and see that I had wasted these years and been playing around with God. God had dealt with me and talked to me so much over the years, and I would just let His Word fall by the wayside. Pastor Claude told me that it was time to get in, but I felt like I wasn’t able. I asked him how and he told me to just jump in headfirst. That sounded easy, but I saw no hope of me doing it. It was like I was paralyzed and when God moved on me, I could do nothing. I was getting so sick of myself. The Lord was telling me through the preaching that I was stiff-necked and hardhearted, just like the people of Israel, who rebelled against God. I was just not obeying God and believing His gospel. I was not seeking Him like I should and was just setting back being lazy with His words. I would go to work struggling inside. I spent a lot of time thinking about what was being preached and how prideful I was. Sometimes I felt that there was no hope. I knew that what was in me would never trust God. It was so hard.
Pastor Claude would sometimes ask me if I believed God wanted to save me. I would say yes, but in my heart, I really did not believe it. I believed in my head that Christ died for me, but I could not believe it in my heart. He preached a message on choosing this day whom you will serve. He told us that we needed to get in or get out. God was dealing heavy with me; I knew I wanted to get in. I had been there all this time, been faithful to church, tithed, was always at workday and prayer meeting, but I was still on the outside looking in., I could not enjoy what the Saints of God enjoyed, because I had not yet been saved. A lot of us lost went up and stood at the altar signifying that we wanted to go with God. I knew that I must quit playing around with God or I would linger here forever.
Not long after this a preacher from Grace Baptist Church in Pontotoc, MS, Brad Hill, preached at our church about feeling after God. He said that if you feel after God then you can find him. This changed how I listened to the preaching. I started to listen to what God would say to me personally. This gave me a little hope that I could find God.
Not long after this we had Camp Meeting at Camp Liberty in Pontotoc, Mississippi. I had been going to Camp meeting for several years now. We always had a young men’s prayer meeting, and it always helped me. I remember in this prayer meeting praying that I would just find some rest. I was so tired of struggling and just wanted an end to it. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be long. The night of February 4th, 2009 was my spiritual birth. I was tired of struggling and was just ready to hear from God. During the singing we sang “Just As I Am”. This is usually an end of the service song, but we sang this before the preaching even started. In the song it explained where my heart was. It read “Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fighting’s and fears within, without.” It went on to read, “I am poor, wretched, blind.” This was what was going on in my heart. My heart was so heavy, and my chest was pounding. The song went on to say, “Thou bidd’st me come to Thee”. Wow! This is what was about to happen to me. “All I need in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come!”
After all the music Pastor Mike Williams from Pioneer Baptist Church in Texas City, TX got up to preach. When he started to preach, he said that he had good news for the lost today. He read the text out of Luke14:16-24. He said, “All things were now ready.” He explained how he (Mike) had been sent as God’s servant to bid us to come to His supper. My heart and my ears perked up. This was great news to me. My heart was about ready to jump out of my chest. Could this be true for me, I asked in myself. He went on to tell how the ones who were bidden began to make excuses as to why they couldn’t come. I started to get really scared that I would be this person. That once again I would make excuse and not come and obey God. I knew that my heart would fail me again, and I was really wresting with this. I was believing that the Spirit was there but knew that I would not be able to obey God, I felt so helpless. Pastor Mike went on to say how that we had been invited so many times but would make excuse. This showed me how evil my sin was in not obeying the gospel command. He said that judgment would be worse on me than Sodom and Gomorra because they never heard the truth and I had. This put a deep fear and trembling in me. I hoped this was not how this sermon ended, but it was just God’s way of letting me know how serious it was for me to listen to Him that night. He went on to preach how the master got angry when no one would come and told his servant to go out into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, the blind, and the maimed. He went on to explain how these people were in the spiritual sense. He said that we were blind and could not see, but that God was calling us anyway. He went on to preach on how the lame man could not move because he was paralyzed. I felt I was that man. Every time God would call me, I would feel my inability to move and helpless. God said he had invited this man tonight. He also preached on how some of us thought that we hadn’t repented enough or believed enough and that we weren’t able to come. He said that this is who God was calling. He knocked out every prop that I had and every excuse that I had made for not being saved. I couldn’t find a reason not to come. He had cast any inability in me out the window. This is who he was calling, those who could not do it on their own; those who had no ability in themselves; those who had no hope; and those who were unworthy. I felt I could never live up to God’s expectations. I was unworthy, but God was calling me anyway. QUALIFIED! I will always remember that word. He said that Christ had fulfilled everything, and that I didn’t have to bring anything to merit His salvation. Wow! All my props were gone. I had nothing else to stand on but Christ. I finally got my eyes off myself and on Him and His merits. He had made all things ready for me. I was finally believing these things. I was so excited, but I still was stuck in my seat. I felt God calling me, and I left my set and went to the altar.
As soon as I hit the altar, I broke. My heart erupted with thankfulness. There was no separation between God and me anymore. He was right there with me. It was as if God and I were just hugging and loving on each other. He had made all things ready for me, and I pulled up to His table and ate of Christ. I finally knew what it felt like in Romans 10, where it says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” It was no longer in my head but in my heart.
I talked to Pastor Claude about what happened, and as I did, my heart was overflowing again with tears of joy. I remember riding home with Brittany that night and just smiling and laughing. There was so much joy there. Joy like I had never experienced before.
I do not have to struggle with my salvation anymore like I did with my nine-year-old experience. Four months later my wife got saved and God is still blessing us today.
I hope my testimony can help someone not just settle with an intellectual belief of Christ, but to understand that salvation is something real that happens in the heart and Christ will reveal Himself to you in a saving way.