Life was NOT always like it IS NOW for me. I did NOT know or follow Jesus. I had MY OWN plans for my life, and in the pursuit of those plans, I dug a pit for myself. ONLY THE GRACE, THE POWER AND THE MIGHT OF GOD COULD SAVE THE WRETCH THAT I HAD BECOME. So ALL the GLORY in the following testimony goes to THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
BEFORE I begin, I have two questions:
1. Are you a "Christian" who relies on the sacraments and rules of a Church to save you? If so, you are lost and on the way to hell.
2. Are you a person who follows the horoscope, who is guided by Tarot cards or other "mystical" practices? Do you belong to the "new age movement" or participate in Wicca? Do you seek the counsel of "spirit guides'? Is your "god" really a "goddess"? I could go on, but suffice this to say--if you are following what is considered the occult (or ANOTHER GOSPEL), you are LOST, on the way to hell, and Satan laughs in your face.
Do you truly want to find out what I'm talking about? Then please read my testimony! My prayer is that you, through the GRACE of God might be SET FREE and FIND TRUE LIFE, just like I did. NEW LIFE can ONLY come through TRUST and RELIANCE upon Jesus Christ.
Now, here's the first part of my testimony. (Don't just read this and say. "Oh, Sharon really had a powerful experience. Wow! Isn't that amazing!" Please read this and KNOW that WHAT God did for me, HE WILL ALSO DO FOR YOU.) My prayer is that you MEET JESUS through these words. My your life be changed FOREVER--and may we meet someday at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in the eternal joy and love in the perfection of heaven!
FIRST PART--"YOU HAVE A NAME, THAT YOU LIVE, BUT YOU ARE DEAD"
I selected this title from Revelation 3:1, describing a Church called Sardis, because it bears a DIRECT relationship to my testimony. It will eventually demonstrate how I was transformed from DEATH to LIFE by THE WORK of Jesus in my life (but that will come later). What’s important to see RIGHT NOW is this--I once was DEAD. I once PERFORMED DEAD WORKS. Just like the letter to Sardis warns.
I take the time to pause and draw a deep breath, seeking the words to properly convey what happened to me. My testimony is NOT a blanket statement that EVERYONE in a Sardis-type Church reacts like I did. Yet also, we must take the WORDS of Jesus seriously. It was He Who said that Sardis had a NAME, a REPUTATION, that it was ALIVE, but in fact it was truly DEAD.
Rather than totally blame a denomination for the PREDICAMENT in which I found myself, I’ll place much of the blame upon myself. But maybe--that’s NOT entirely fair either! If a child does NOT receive THE WHOLE COUNSEL of God, then HOW can that child be expected to submit his/her life to Jesus?
I was NOT taught THE WAY to be BORN AGAIN in the Church of my childhood. (I don’t remember being told that I must PERSONALLY ask Jesus into my heart by an act of repentance and faith.) By the time I was old enough to go through the PERSONAL STEPS to accept Jesus, I was in a hard state of rebellion. Liturgies and rituals bored me, and I made up my mind that I did NOT want anything more to do with the Church.
Oh, we certainly DID HEAR Bible passages read OUT LOUD in the liturgical format of the Church. We REALLY BELIEVED that because of our infant baptism, we were SAVED--and already a MEMBER of Christ’s body.
As a child, I was told Sunday school stories every week. I learned about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel in the lion’s den, and at Christmas and Easter--stories about Jesus.
At the age of 12, I BEGAN another learning process through the Lutheran Church, which would lead to my confirmation, when I'd become a bona fide member of that denomination. I hated catechism with every once of my being. Forced to memorize pages and pages of the ten commandments and their meanings, dogmas and tenets of the Lutheran Church, I rebelled. I argued every step of the process, and refused to memorize what I was told. I was SO STUBBORN that it DELAYED my up coming religious rite of passage. I should have been confirmed at age 13. Instead, that ritual did not happen for me until the age of 15. Confirmation reinforced the salvation I had obtained by my "infant baptism"--and upon parroting the catechism which I had finally memorized, I became a true Lutheran.
I really enjoyed my confirmation day. Mom sewed a yellow frilly dress for me and gave me a golden cross necklace. In front of the Church, like a young princess, I took my first communion. Afterwards, my parents threw me a party, attended by family and friends, replete with laughter--and more attention. That spring day was almost as much fun as opening packages under a Christmas tree. Once the sun set on that day, I resumed my role of a fun-loving teenager, happy the ordeal of memorizing the catechism lay behind me.
At the beginning of this testimony, I mentioned that the Church of Sardis exemplifies DEAD WORKS. In my young opinion, the Lutheran rituals WERE INDEED DEAD. I didn’t see any relation to Jesus in the liturgical acts. I did come out the experience, however, KNOWING many FACTS about Jesus. BUT! I did NOT know Him as my personal Savior and Lord!!! Oh, there is such a huge difference!
This reminds me of a common saying: Going to Church NO MORE MAKES YOU a "Christian" than going into a garage MAKES YOU a "car." We MUST be BORN AGAIN, and have a PERSONAL HEART RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. But in my young life, I DID NOT KNOW THAT. I thought that because I was "confirmed" and had become "a member" in a Church, that I was a Christian. Nothing could have been further from the truth!
Also, just because one is BORN INTO a Christian family, like I was--does NOT make one a Christian. We don't become Christians automatically, just because our parents are.
Each INDIVIDUAL must make that PERSONAL CHOICE to follow Jesus. Each INDIVIDUAL must recognize their sinful state, and KNOW that the precious blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, has TOTALLY PARDONED that sin. Then knowing that, we must ALL must make THE PERSONAL CHOICE to receive Jesus into our hearts. Inviting Jesus to come live in our hearts is to EXPERIENCE being BORN AGAIN--that's when the Holy Spirit INDWELLS us, giving us NEW LIFE, so that we, as TRUE Christians become a NEW CREATIONS--the OLD PASSING AWAY, the NEW LIFE evident by the fruits of the Spirit (which are developed by Him)--within our BORN AGAIN hearts.
I repeat, in my young life, I did NOT KNOW these things.
Three years after my confirmation into the Lutheran Church, I married Rex (now my husband of 49 years--going on 50 years this June of 2012). Once out of my parents home, Church rituals were TRULY a thing of the past. But since I was a MEMBER of that Church, on its roster because of my confirmation, I THOUGHT I was really going to heaven.
Oh, how mistaken I was!
So what does my testimony say to you?
Do you recall Church experiences that turned you off, so you've walked totally away from Jesus? OR do you BELONG to a Church and think that’s WHAT saves you?
I share my testimony to bring these two attitudes to light. They are SO WRONG--but many people get trapped into thinking in these "religious" ways. The unwelcome truth is that RELIGIOUS people GO TO HELL--just like those who are HEATHEN do! The problem is that since RELIGIOUS people THINK they're OKAY, then they are among the most hard to teach GOSPEL TRUTH.
The SECOND tough group to rescue with GOSPEL TRUTH are the LUKEWARM. These people are so COMFORTABLE in their riches, in their entertainments, in the good life they enjoy in the world, PLUS they are so complacent and apathetic (they just don't care), that an EXPLOSION could shake the ground under their feet and they wouldn't notice. The LUKEWARM are strongly warned by Jesus about being VOMITED out of His mouth.
Perhaps you harbor BAD MEMORIES from a “Church situation,” and as a result, you’ve determined in your heart that you’ll have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with a Church, ever again. “It’s full of hypocrites!" you might say. "They preach goodness and act like devils when they step outside.” “It bores me.” “The people look down their noses at me.” “The pastor puts me to sleep.” “The people act like a mob of frenzied fools.” “I don’t feel loved in there; it’s like I have the plague.” And so on and so on. It's so sad that what's often labeled "Christian" ends up sending people to hell!
IT DOESN'T NEED TO END LIKE THIS!
If these examples fit you in some way--if you turn aside because of the actions of A FEW "Church members", if Church rituals numb your mind and deaden your spirit--and much worse--IF you SHUT yourself OFF from the Gospel BECAUSE of these things, it’s NOT only a BAD REPORT upon THE CHURCH which caused this. Most alarmingly, GREAT HARM cascades back onto YOU because you’re programmed to RESIST the call of the Holy Spirit. You MISS OUT on truly knowing Jesus, Who is all goodness and light. AM I MAKING THIS CLEAR?
I describe a SAD and TRAGIC dilemma! The very “assembly” which is “called” to preach the Good News and bring converts to Jesus, actually REPELS people instead! Do you fall into the category of the REPELLED?
The ANSWER is found in the powerful words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though he were DEAD, yet shall he LIVE. And whosoever LIVES and BELIEVES in Me shall NEVER die. Do you believe this?”
A denomination known as “the Church” is NOT what SAVES a person! Furthermore, a “true Church assembly” are those who believe in Jesus Christ, and who meet to share with each other, to teach each other and to sings songs of praise and worship.
JESUS is the ONE Who SAVES! It's NOT just going to Church!!! It's NOT just doing good deeds!!! It's NOT just living a "good" life!!! Because ALL have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. And ALL of mankind needs Jesus, because ONLY JESUS is "the way, the truth and the life." NO ONE COMES TO GOD, THE FATHER, AND ENTERS HEAVEN, UNLESS THEY ARE BORN AGAIN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT--THE MOMENT THEY INVITE JESUS INTO THEIR HEARTS. All else (even if it LOOKS good, or SOUNDS good) will send a person to hell.
True Christian believers are ones who ACCEPT God's GIFT of the shed blood of Jesus Christ--poured out for them at the cross. True Christian believers are ones who have been BORN AGAIN by asking Jesus to dwell in their hearts as PERSONAL Savior and Lord.
Have you done that? Have you called upon His name? Have you received that which He died and rose again to give you--which is eternal life?
If you have NOT done this, do so now, in this acceptable time, in the day of salvation! For there is coming a time when the ACCEPTABLE DAY will be past!
Now, I'll start the next segment of my personal testimony. Sadly, it involves the occult.
SECOND PART--DOCTRINES OF DEMONS, THE PARANORMAL AND OUIJA BOARDS
Why am I now writing about the kingdom of darkness?
It’s because ALL of mankind has a raving lunatic ENEMY, one who deceives, coming to seduce people, PRETENDING to be light and goodness, but whose WHOLE DESIRE is to kill and destroy!
As I begin this section, I’ll state that this is the MOST DIFFICULT portion of my testimony. In it, I’ll describe another path that I took, a path that verged away from God and His light, leading me down a DIRECT path to hell. If it weren’t for the work of the Holy Spirit, and if it weren't for the AWESOME GRACE of God, my life’s story would reflect a far different conclusion--and a very tragic outcome. In fact, I’d NOT be writing these teachings. Because I wouldn’t care!
How did I find myself inside this dark chapter? Me? A Church-goer, dabbling in the realm of the devil?
I ended up in darkness because I found NO SPIRITUAL REALITY in my life. My Church didn’t provide it. In fact, I’d abandoned my Lutheran heritage because of the deadness I sensed there. I searched for SPIRITUAL REALITY elsewhere. And, lo and behold, I FOUND it--something quite real, extremely alluring, but ABSOLUTELY FALSE, and very, very wrong!
When I married Rex in June of 1962, I glowed, full of high hopes for my life. BOTH of us KNEW we were meant to be together, and BOTH of us held similar goals. Nothing could hold us back, we thought, NOT KNOWING we’d soon face a rude awakening!
Our first challenge--Rex’s seasonal employment, low pay, and never-ending financial shortages. We accepted it, not allowing the difficulties to faze us.
We’re patient, we told ourselves, not afraid of hard work (both of us were raised that way). Determined to rise above any problem that beset us, we laughed when the sink drain froze during our first harsh winter as a married couple. The faucet we’d allowed to trickle soon overflowed the sink and created an ice rink throughout our small camp trailer. We laughed. "Let's go skating," we said.
We envisioned better things, having already started to build our first house (all by ourselves) on the three lots we’d bought at an affordable price. Even when I got pregnant much sooner than we planned, that didn’t stop us. We tightened our belts and forged ahead. Our daughter was born in April of 1963, and in June of 1965, a son joined our family.
The house construction took MUCH LONGER than I anticipated. I grew impatient. Any set-back depressed me, and a strong desire welled up in me. I WANTED TO KNOW THE FUTURE.
When would Rex and I get the things we so diligently strived for? When would the house be finished? When would Rex find a more stable job?
I began searching for the answers in a ridiculous place, the horoscope in our daily newspaper. A few "correct" predictions excited me, whetting my curiosity. I WANTED TO KNOW MORE. I found it in books that described my “sun” sign, which then added the position of my “moon” and located my “planets.” Much to my astonishment, the prognostications fit me.
Within this time frame, early in the year of 1966, our son, Dennis suffered a bad convulsion while we were on a trip to town. Terrified, we rushed him into our doctor’s office while he was still in the throes of the convulsion. After that, we noticed that Dennis appeared different, not developing like an ordinary child. Greatly alarmed, we knew something was seriously wrong! We began taking him to various doctors and specialists, trying to discover what the problem might be.
With the added pressures, worries and uncertainties, I went over the edge in my reading habits. I devoured every book on the occult I found. I won’t tell you the doctrines I learned (because I don't want to share teachings from the devil). I will only say that I delved into precognition, psychic visions, “true” ghost stories and paranormal mysteries, séances, the “I Ching,” the ying and yang, the ability to talk with dead spirits--every form of the occult on a long list of Biblically forbidden activities (AT THAT TIME, I did NOT KNOW these things were HIGHLY forbidden by God).
The Ouija board operated splendidly for a brother-in-law and me, but when Rex and my sister used it, it refused to “talk.” They called it “bunk.” I called it “fun” and "the truth"--even when it spelled a series of vulgar words. My poor mother was appalled! Later, I found out, she and my sister began praying for me.
In those years while we tried to find out what afflicted Dennis, Rex and I began drinking. The path eventually led us into consuming 6 to 8 (and sometimes more) beers in an evening. The alcohol, which at first relaxed me, became an addiction.
Finally, in 1970, Dennis was diagnosed--moderate retardation. He’d ALWAYS be a “child” in his mind. The news rocked us! Our levels of alcohol use increased. I began reading about blatant Satanism and witches’ covens.
What futility! Rex’s job worsened. Our financial struggles increased. On top of that, we knew we must find Special Education for Dennis (in 1972, there were no classes available in our home county).
Darkness closed in upon me, a bleak tunnel of despair. Lacking hope, suicidal thoughts plagued me--I resisted those thoughts, horrified with myself. One night, caught in the black pall of alcohol consumption, plus negative, tormenting thoughts, I attempted to consume a whole bottle of Exedrin. Rex caught me, slapped the bottle out of my hand, and asked, his voice icy with disgust, "What's wrong with you. You're NOT the lady I married."
I continued to spiral downwards. Where was the release? Was there any peace? Was there any hope, any goodness at all, in this world?
In the midst of my personal agony, the GRACE of God moved. AND OH! HOW I THANK HIM!!!
In the midst of my despair and my occult oppression, God allowed me to experience THE WORST THING of all, more horrible than the most frightening horror show I'd ever seen. I truly believe WHAT I’ll soon describe was NOT a work of the devil! I believe it was a strong warning from God, something so drastic that it HAD to OPEN my BLIND eyes!
In the middle of a cold arctic-like February night (1972), I jerked awake in our bed. Troubled by a weight that threatened to crush me, I struggled to catch my breath. Then I saw something at the foot of the bed. My throat constricted and terror gripped me like a vice. I wanted to scream, but couldn’t. I was face to face with the devil.
Now, I KNOW from the Bible that the enemy comes as "an angel of light"--looking good and beneficial--for the purpose to deceive and lead astray. What I saw was traumatizing and repulsive, something the devil would never allow in his attempt to deceive. Therefore I say that this experience was from God FOR THE PURPOSE OF SAVING MY SOUL. Here's what I saw:
Basically, he appeared as a huge black hulking humanoid form. He looked like a dying ember, mostly dark, but YET glowing from within with a flickering reddish-orange light--just enough light to discern his image. His skin, rough and leathery, was covered with a sparse growth of wiry hair, similar to that on a pig’s body. Glowing orange eyes burrowed deeply into his brow, like deep throats of a volcano--filled with molten lava. His flattened nose had flaring nostrils and as he breathed, I caught whiffs of a putrid smell--the sulfuric odor of rotten eggs, the stench of something long dead. I recognized the goat-like horns--they were identical to the Baphomet figures I’d seen illustrated in the encyclopedia of witchcraft.
The devil leered at me, his eyes burning into mine. My eyes had latched onto him like a magnet, and I could NOT pull them away. I remained riveted in my bed, paralyzed by a force that I couldn’t escape. The acrid smell of sulfur dioxide (rotten eggs) nauseated me.
Then Satan pointed a bony finger at me and laughed. The harsh and hateful sound reverberated around me, slapping cruelly at my ears. Somehow, this evil personage impressed words into my mind without saying a word. “You’re mine,” he affirmed, “and you’re going to hell.” He laughed again, a cold gargling noise that I’ll never forget.
I managed to dive under my pillow, whimpering like a wounded animal. My heart had turned to ice in my chest. Squirming with misery and revulsion, I waited under that pillow until the light of morning brightened the bedroom window.
I HAD SEEN SATAN--THAT MONSTER IS REAL!!!
At breakfast, I couldn’t eat, but decided to tell Rex what had happened to me. His eyes flashed like twin chips of blue ice, and he spoke in a gruff voice, “I’ve told you over and over again to stop reading that CRAZY JUNK. You need be reading the Bible instead.” (In that instant, I believe Rex was a mouthpiece for God, even though neither of us were BORN AGAIN--not quite yet.)
You would think that after a terrible experience like that, I'd receive Jesus in an instant. But I STILL THOUGHT I was saved because of my Church membership. I also thought the terror I felt was going to ruin me. If I was a Church member, and STILL on my way to hell, then WHAT ON EARTH could I do about it? I lived in agony (on again and off again) for months. One of the first things I did was to stop reading that OCCULT JUNK, as Rex had called it. But the underlying terror rarely eased its grip on me.
I counteracted the fear by becoming really really busy. For the first time in my life, I grabbed a chain saw and helped Rex thin stands of Ponderosa pine in our local National Forest. The children played in clearings next to the area where we labored. Finances, as usual, were bad for us. We felt that by my working, too, we'd be enabled to get ahead. We almost succeeded...
While we worked, my sister and her husband came to visit us out on the job. One day, we sat by a campfire, taking a break, and I read a modern sexy novel. Carol read a New Testament, the "Good News for Modern Man." She handed me a copy and said that I needed to read it, too.
Later, I did TRY. I began with the Gospel of Matthew and soon got bored. The genealogies daunted me, and the repetition of the Christmas story caused me to lay the book aside. How can anyone read that book? I questioned. The next day, I was back in the forest with my husband, keeping so busy that I would not have time to think.
Summer segued into autumn. We had to move from our home county to get the Special Education that Dennis required. We spent some of the extra money we'd accumulated on a mobile home which we parked in a town 78 miles from our main house. The move, and settling into a strange town, kept me busy and occupied for a few more weeks. But always, in the back of my mind, the knowledge of being sent to hell tormented me.
Then, one day, everything changed...
On October 14, 1972, in a grocery store, I stopped beside a rack of books. Always the avid reader, I searched for a volume that might catch my fancy. My eyes fell upon a small paperback entitled "ANGELS OF LIGHT." The front cover asked a PROMINENT question: “What is the power behind the occult? God or Satan?” Intrigued, and STILL thinking that God was behind many of the occult experiences people had, I bought that book. Back in my living room, I read that thin volume in under two hours, and the message changed my life forever.
All the occult practices I had been studying had truly been from the dark realm of Satan, but he TEMPTS people by MAKING those things APPEAR to be good and desirable.
The book quoted Deuteronomy 18:9-12. Divination was forbidden--including Ouija boards, Tarot cards, palm reading, tea leaves. No observer of times--astrology. No enchanters--those who cast spells. No witches. No charmers. No consulter with familiar spirits--those who speak with channeled spirits. No wizards. No necromancers--those who speak with the “so-called” dead and departed spirits (who are in fact demons). “For ALL who do these things are AN ABOMINATION to the Lord.”
I wanted NO MORE of the devil! I also realized what a terrible sinner I really was.
With that book as a guide, I confessed every sin I could think of, agreeing with God that I was so wrong, and without Him, dead. I REJECTED the occult, repenting (turning away from it), and asked Jesus to come into my heart and LIVE IN ME.
Instantly, all the weight upon my shoulders rolled away. I felt as light as air! I laughed and cried at the same time, and began thanking Jesus like I'd NEVER done before!
Only two problems beset me. The book recommended I go to Church and fellowship with other Christians. I didn’t really want to return to the Lutheran Church, and except for my sister and mother, I knew no Christians.
The second concern worried me even worse--Rex. What would he say and do? He never wanted to go to Church, even when my mom insisted that we have our babies baptized. Rex tagged along, to please me, but he wasn't happy with any of the Lutheran services. Every Christmas and Easter, mom insisted on our going to Church some more, and the same tug-of-war happened all over again. Would Rex suddenly change his attitude just because I had a life-changing experience? I decided to wait a while--until I could muster the courage to tell him.
I didn’t have to wait long. God intervened.
But before that, I did follow a bit of the advice in "ANGELS OF LIGHT." The author suggested that each brand new Christian begin a regular reading of the Bible, and he added, don't start at Genesis, and don't start at Matthew. Instead, begin reading in the Gospel of John and follow that with the epistles of John, and then turn to the epistle of Romans. I did so, and it was like Jesus actually TALKED to me. I could hardly put the Bible down!
Three days after I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and BEFORE I gathered my courage to tell Rex about what had happened to me, my husband experienced HIS OWN conversion!
Alone in a travel trailer, out in the woods on a Forest Service contract (and only thirty years old), Rex suddenly suffered sharp excruciating pains in his chest. A heart attack, he thought, and fear overwhelmed him. He cried out instantly, “God save me, I don‘t want to die! Not yet.” Rex turned his life over to Jesus on the spot, promising the Lord to live the rest of his life following Him.
Although it was the middle of the night, Rex got dressed and drove himself to the hospital, his heart still giving him pain. The doctors immediately put him on an EKG and saw “strange” readings on the graph. That seemed to confirm the diagnosis--his heart had malfunctioned. However, later tests proved that WHATEVER had happened to Rex, it was NOT a heart attack! Rex now testifies that God gave him a NEW HEART that night--the ultimate heart transplant. It was NOT just accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord either--Rex was baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, too. He lay in that hospital bed and told everyone about Jesus!
In that first day Rex spent in the hospital, we compared our recent experiences, and were absolutely amazed at what God had done for us. It was like what’s recorded in the book of Acts. I was converted AFTER having a terrifying vision--which although it seemed horrific--WAS the work of God! I heard Jesus say deep in my spirit, “I had to do something alarming to wake you up.” Rex’s overwhelming "heart attack" experience, and the consuming fear he felt, which turned him to Jesus, was similar to the Damascus Road conversion of the Apostle Paul. Rex and I, in events that occurred three days apart, committed ourselves to follow Jesus forever.
Rex’s brother thought both of us were crazy. A few months later, that same brother knew Jesus, too, along with Rex’s mother and dad. God did a mighty work in our entire family. We also learned that a spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit was converting many other people, not just our family. My sister and her husband were energized, too. In fact, many of the people in the Lutheran Church in our community underwent a spiritual awakening, and dead ritual was ignited into life by the power of the Holy Spirit. That solved the problem of where Rex and I could attend Church. I returned to the Church of my childhood, and while the Holy Spirit operated among us, I felt happy there.
So what does my testimony have to do with whosoever may read this?
Where do you stand concerning occult practices? Do you dabble in them, thinking they are entertaining or enlightening? Do you read horoscopes, just for the fun of it? (Remember horoscopes were what lured me, at first, starting me on a journey deeper into the occult. Remember, also, that horoscopes are ASTROLOGY--the forbidden practice of "observing the times" which makes the dabbler an ABOMINATION unto the Lord.) Do you believe it’s okay to channel spirits, or to receive messages through those forbidden means? Do you practice divination--reading palms, playing with Ouija boards or dealing Tarot? These may seem harmless, but it’s seeking knowledge and guidance in a way which is NOT from God. The DEVIL is in it, and unless there is repentance, there WILL come a time when you'll see the devil face to face, just like I did, and it will be for ALL of eternity.
We have God’s Holy Word available to us in the Bible. There’s NO NEED for seeking occult sources.
A GROWTH OF SPIRIT
I entitle the THIRD part of my testimony "A Growth of Spirit" because after turning to Jesus, that's exactly what happened. I'll NOT share ALL that happened to me in this part of the article. But I'll list a few of the many awesome (AND THE NOT SO AWESOME), moments that followed my conversion.
On the God-side of the ledger FIRST--I began hearing the voice of Jesus, just like He says in John 10:27-30: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."
What a wonderful Lord we serve! When we're SAVED, we're FOREVER in the hands of God and His Son--and our eternal life is SECURE. But, I did NOT realize that, at first.
I was so sure that I could turn my back on Jesus, walk away from Him, and still go to hell! Seeking to overcome that fear, my response was to pray. I prayed for at least three months, and then one night, as I started drifting off to sleep, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit--and began a prayer life in the "gift of tongues." This was as much a miracle as my conversion, because I had NO IDEA that there was "a baptism in the Holy Spirit" available--and I knew absolutely nothing about the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit. (The Lutheran Church, in which I grew up, didn't teach such things.) I was directed by the Holy Spirit to the specific Bible passages concerning Him, His GIFTS, His FRUITS, and the WORK He does in conviction of sin. I was convicted of sin several times a day, which again, sent me into prayer. I was shown an awesome verse that I use when I bow before God and receive the WASHING AND CLEANSING of my soiled white garment of righteousness. Walking in the flesh, which still sins, and living in a corrupted world, we regularly become SOILED. Prayer CLEANSES away the spots and blemishes and restores those brilliant white garments to godliness.
1 John 1:9--"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness." THIS IS MY DAILY SOAP. I USE IT ALL THE TIME, AND SOMETIMES MORE THAN ONCE A DAY.
Another thing on the God-side of the ledger--is that I began having spiritual experiences: like hearing the audible voice of Jesus (Who sounds like a TRUMPET--as if a musician used a mute to make the instrument talk). I began having dreams about the end times, events of the Tribulation, and of the Rapture of the Church. (End time prophecy and the Rapture is yet another topic which was NOT taught to me in the Lutheran Church.) As a result of the many dreams, and experiences, I was DRAWN by the Holy Spirit to DEVOTE myself to the STUDY OF END TIME PROPHECIES. As I studied the book of Revelation, it pointed me back into the rest of the scripture, especially the Old Testament, which must be thoroughly understood in order to have THE ACCURATE picture of what will transpire at the end of the age. I eventually read the entire Bible several times...that will keep a person busy for DECADES!
Now, what I want to draw our attention to, is HOW we are SANCTIFIED. We don't come to Jesus--and then suddenly walk in ALL the will of God. We don't come to Jesus and suddenly know ALL there is to know about the Christian walk. It's a process, a continuous growth--which is why I label this section a "GROWTH OF SPIRIT."
All of us struggle with the "sin nature" in our flesh. Read what the Apostle Paul wrote about it in Romans 7:14-15--"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am CARNAL, sold under sin. For that which I DO, I ALLOW not: for what I would, that I do NOT; but WHAT I HATE, THAT I DO." Paul expresses frustration with his flesh nature. He goes on to say in verses 18 and 19, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells NO GOOD THING: for to WILL is PRESENT WITH me, but HOW TO PERFORM that which is good I FIND NOT. For the GOOD that I WOULD I do NOT: but the EVIL which I WOULD NOT, that I DO." In utter desperation, Paul writes in verse 24--"O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of death?"
The answer to the dilemma of obeying the sin in the flesh is answered in two places. First, I'll quote from Romans 6:3-12:
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were BAPTIZED INTO into Jesus Christ (were IMMERSED IN HIM) were baptized into his death? Therefore we ARE BURIED with Him by baptism into death: that LIKE AS Christ was RAISED UP from the dead by the glory of the Father, EVEN SO we also should WALK in NEWNESS of LIFE.
"For IF we have been PLANTED TOGETHER in the LIKENESS of His death, we shall be also IN THE LIKENESS of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man IS CRUCIFIED with Him, that the body of sin MIGHT BE DESTROYED, that henceforth we should NOT SERVE SIN. For he that is dead is FREED from sin.
"Now if we be dead WITH CHRIST, we BELIEVE (have confidence in) that we shall ALSO LIVE WITH HIM: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin ONCE: but in that He lives, He LIVES unto God.
"Likewise RECKON (think and consider) ye also yourselves TO BE DEAD INDEED unto sin, but ALIVE unto God THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord. Let NOT sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."
An even MORE VICTORIOUS statement is made in Romans 8:1-2: "There is THEREFORE NOW NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk NOT after the flesh, but AFTER THE SPIRIT. (Draw on the Holy Spirit and TRUST in Him to HELP us in our walk of obeying the Lord.) For the law of THE SPIRIT of LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS has made me FREE of the law of sin and death." HALLELUJAH!
Trust in the Holy Spirit to ENABLE you to walk in a way that PLEASES God, and to be conformed to His WORD and WILL.
Remember, this is a GROWTH process! We will stumble and fail, especially at the first. (AND SATAN WILL BE RIGHT THERE TO ATTACK AND CONDEMN, trying to DEFEAT us before we even get started.) This is why continual PRAYER is so important! Remember 1 John 1:9--the SOAP with which to keep clean!
In order to walk in the WORD and the WILL of God, we must ALSO KNOW the scriptures. Getting to KNOW the WORD also requires some time. But the more we operate in it, the stronger we get--and the easier the walk of obedience becomes. We MUST CHOOSE the Word, we MUST seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then we shall KNOW great success. To back this idea up, please turn to Psalm 1, and think upon it. We MUST store the Word of God in our hearts in order to NOT sin against Him. We must RENEW our minds and ways of thinking with God's Word, in order to be successful in LIVING FOR HIM.
This takes time. I've been walking like this for almost 40 years now, and I still LEARN so many more things about the Lord each and every day. The more we SEEK His face, the more we PRAY for His help and assistance, the faster the SANCTIFICATION process will occur. And PLEASE don't compare yourselves with OTHER CHRISTIANS. God has you on His path--keep you eyes on Him.
I share these basic SANCTIFICATION TRUTHS, because EVERY CHRISTIAN, as we follow the Lord, takes this path.
For those who have been SNARED into the occult, and rescued out of it by the Lord, the process of being sanctified will seem harder. This is because Jesus has SAVED a lost soul that the devil thought he had in his pocket. The devil will put up a terrific battle.
From my experience, I know this: the devil will send absolutely horrendous thoughts into the mind of one rescued out of the occult. Words of blasphemy. Words of filth and vulgarity. One can think they're going crazy. The devil attacks this way, hoping to discourage the new Christian and pull him astray. Again, the best recourse for this onslaught is prayer. I will add two more items.
One is the scripture, "Greater is He (Jesus) Who is IN ME, than he (the devil) who is in the world." 1 John 4:4.
The second is a statement that I've heard from a number of preachers: "Remember, THE BIRDS can fly over your head, but you don't need to let them make a nest in your hair." In other words, bad thoughts can fly in and out of your mind, but you can REBUKE them in the name of Jesus, commanding them to flee--and do NOT dwell on them or allow them to take roost and tear you to pieces.
I know as a fact that people who have escaped from the occult, or who are trying to overcome an addiction, may need ADDITIONAL help from other Christians in being set free. This is because SATAN has erected A STRONGHOLD, and a STRONGHOLD needs two or more gathered in prayer in agreement. A STRONGHOLD may even require FASTING.
There were TWO areas where I suffered with on-going torment in the first years of my walk with the Lord.
One was in the area of a deep-seated anger (and the "spirit" BEHIND anger is "murder.") I struggled with an out-of-control temper for several years before I figured that it must be an OPPRESSION from the evil one. By that time, God had led me to several Christian friends who understood prayers of DELIVERANCE. (Other Christians were APPALLED that I underwent prayers for deliverance, insisting that DELIVERANCE is NOT needed by true Christians. Their cruelty to me, and avoidance of me, almost ruined the FREEDOM I knew when the anger issue was gone.) All I could do was CHOOSE to forgive them and move forward. Since that DELIVERANCE, I still do get angry (and I call it RIGHTEOUS anger). BUT, I no longer fly-off- the-handle and get out-of-control like it was in the beginning. That DEEP form of prayer enabled me to maintain a purer Christian witness! I PRAISE JESUS IN THIS FOR FULLY SETTING ME FREE!
The other area of being set free was in my addiction to alcohol. I also struggled with this one for a number of years. Figuring that I would need to go into rehab, I thought I was trapped. As a young mother, I could not be away from my children for weeks. So I became a "closet drinker" and was miserable about it. The Holy Spirit was busy convicting me--alcohol, as added to Jesus, was wrong for me, especially in the amounts I consumed. Finally, I said to the Lord, "Okay, I want to quit drinking. I want to be free of this burden."
Jesus told me: "Just refuse to take the next drink, and I will help you." I quit cold turkey.
That evening, as I sat in my recliner, I experienced the onset of withdrawals. I shook. I felt sick to my stomach. I thought my head was going to explode. In other words, I felt terrible! I cried out to Jesus, my heart hammering in fear, "Help me!" And He did! A warmth replaced the scary sensations, and from that night on, I never desired another drop. PRAISE THE LORD!
I wish I could say that this lasted. (At the time I quit drinking, I still had that anger issue in me.) Anyhow, a circumstance arrived that made me terribly mad. I fumed, and to relax myself, I took a drink. BIG MISTAKE! I fell right back into alcoholism, and this time it was worse. The devil told me that I was free of it once, but it would NEVER happen again. I believed "the lie"--not yet recognizing the wonderful long-suffering of our Lord. The SECOND TIME of being MISERABLE about my drinking was worse than the first. Again, a number of years went by while I STRUGGLED to hide from others what I was doing. I truly believe I was one of the MOST UPSET and UNHAPPY people on earth. The GUILT was relentless!
Finally, I developed a spastic bowel. I couldn't go anywhere, for fear of not making it to a restroom in time. I went to my doctor, and he put me on a medication which i needed to take for three weeks. "Oh, by the way," the doctor said, "you MUST not drink any alcohol while on this prescription."
Oh, how was I going to do that? And the Lord said softly in My spirit, "Just trust Me."
After a day where I had ABSOLUTELY NO ADVERSE reaction from going cold turkey again on alcohol, it dawned on me. I got sick in my intestines because the Lord WANTED me FREE of the alcohol curse, and this time FOREVER. It was at that time I also realized how the enemy had LIED to me.
From about 1982, to this present time, I've not only walked free of ADDICTION, but I've been free from that unrelenting torment!
It is ABSOLUTELY true that WHOM THE LORD HAS SET FREE, IS FREE INDEED!
That's the HIGHLIGHT of my testimony. Jesus been so good to me! And the Holy Spirit continues to show me treasures from within His wonderful WORD.
To any who may be impatient, or discouraged, about the sanctification process, I counsel, NEVER GIVE UP. Pray. Read the Word. Think on that Word, and let be stored in your hearts. You WILL see a GROWTH OF SPIRIT!
To those who may be tormented, seek deeper prayer, the pulling down of strongholds. Have good Christian friends, that you can TRUST, stand with you in the prayer of agreement. Fasting may be required. Or prayers of DELIVERANCE. Seek the Lord, and don't hold back from getting help from others in the Body of Christ.
Best of all, be ASSURED that Jesus will bring the VICTORY. He has ALREADY defeated Satan (that great toothless LIAR) at the cross--AND IN HIS MIGHTY RESURRECTION, when He stripped Satan and his cohorts, making a public display of their DEFEAT!!!
Be ASSURED of that. For when God is FOR us, NOTHING can be against us!
ALL GLORY BE TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST FOREVER!