I was recently given the opportunity to share my testimony to a group of men at our church. I am posting the outline of the discussion here.
I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hear my testimony. My conversion is not a dramatic story with a tearful ending. I was not an addict. I did not beat my wife. I was just a dude trying to find satisfaction in something – anything.
I was saved during a creation seminar. I have always had an interest in how things work and how they came to be. I was also an engineer devoted to logic and science, and convinced that in order to be a Christian you had to give up on reason. This is not an uncommon view. The seminar fascinated me because of how it obliterated the conventional wisdom that separates science and Christianity. I watched some of Kent Hovind’s videos to delve more deeply into the subject, and became quite embittered at the public school education that seemed to intentionally mislead me when it came to the fallacy of evolutionary theory.
For those who have been to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, they do a great job presenting possible scenarios that show that the Biblical account of the creation of the world can be believed. However, I would have to say that the exhibit that had the biggest impact on me was the first one that dealt with how our world view shapes how we process information. For those who have not been there, the exhibit explained how when a fact is discovered, how that fact is used depends almost exclusively upon one’s world view.
Consider the Grand Canyon as an example. Someone who believes in evolution will explain how the soil and rock was laid down over millions of years. The over the next few million years the Colorado River cut the canyon out of the rock. I recently watched a show by a new earth creationist that explained that the Grand Canyon had to be created over weeks or months and not over millions of years. These people came to completely different conclusions while evaluating the same evidence.
We Christians know that the Bible is true. We also can’t deny facts that have been scientifically proven. We have to be careful not to deny a fact because it contradicts the interpretation of Biblical events that we are familiar with. Instead we must try to understand how to interpret scripture in the context of known scientific facts.
Young earth creationists are looked down upon in the scientific community. If you don’t believe me search young earth creationist on Wikipedia and see the results for yourself. Certainly some of this may be due to a natural hostility towards Christianity, but some may be due to how young earth arguments are presented. I think it is important to acknowledge both science and the Bible are true, and sometimes we don’t understand how they work together because we were not present during the events described. Creation is a powerful argument for the existence and character of God, but as Christians we should point to the greatest examples of this, such as the complexity of the human eye or a single cell organism and let God do the talking from there.
Though it played a part in my salvation, my intention here is not to discuss creationism. That discussion can go on interminably. Creationism was not even the main reason I answered Jesus’ call.
While my story does not involve addiction, I was a slave to pleasures and was completely self-serving. I didn’t do anything if I did not perceive a personal gain or pleasure. I was a textbook example of someone that would do the right thing for the wrong reason. For instance, I gave to charities because I wanted to be seen giving to charities, not because I cared about any of the people who needed my help.
America offers a rich canvas for those who want to pursue personal gain. The elevation of career as a false god is something that Americans have turned into an art form and exported throughout the world. I was a willing participant in this religion for many years before I realized the emptiness of materialism. Ecclesiastes was my first favorite book of the Bible because it hit home for me when Solomon bemoaned the futility of finding happiness apart from God. What is great about the Bible is that it is not only true when it comes to history and prophecy, it is also true when it comes to basic truths of existence, like the vanity of materialism and living in the world.
God used this crossroad in my life to orchestrate my salvation. My wife was saved before me. I am very thankful for the pastor at the Baptist church in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He came to my home at my wife’s instigation. It was a hostile environment for him. But he persisted and shared the gospel. It took 3 months at war with God before I finally admitted defeat and accepted Christ.
If my testimony ended at salvation, this would be a very short story. Our conversion is only chapter one of our testimony. What we let God do with our life after that is the rest of the story.
After salvation the emptiness that I had felt subsided. Unfortunately, my pursuit of my career had become a habit. Intellectually I realized that God wasn’t all that interested in my wealth or my career goals. God requires us to give our lives to him. Some men more obedient than I am give their all to God by entering the ministry or the mission field. Men like me are forced by God to give their lives one piece at a time. First alcohol, then rock music, etc. Eventually, God asked for my career, or, more accurately, the love of my career. In 2012 I experienced room spins at work during a particularly stressful period and in 2014 I was downsized. God had his way. Again.
The thing with us men is we need to have a purpose to our lives. God put Adam to work in the garden for a reason. Genesis 2:15 says
|“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”|
Subsequently, verse 19-20 describes Adam naming the animals in the Garden.
We are made in the image of Adam. We have the need to occupy ourselves and have a purpose. In this period before the fall, Adam’s perfect relationship with God allowed him to dedicate his life to bringing glory to God. After the fall, God punished Adam with a curse (see Genesis 3:17-19):
|cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
This curse provides us the pretense to fulfill our need of purpose without glorifying God. We occupy ourselves with fighting against creation to support ourselves and our families. However, as believers we are called to trust Him for our sustenance, like the lilies of the field in Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.“
God wants us to trust Him for our basic needs because He is calling us to think bigger than just supporting our families. The apostles were men with severe flaws, but they took their faith in Christ and changed the world. In Acts 4 as an example, the disciples are brought before the Council and told to stop preaching Jesus Christ. In response, they preached the gospel to the council. When they were told to leave and stop telling people about Jesus, they left and continued preaching Jesus Christ. The disciples had a faith that allowed them to act with a boldness, even when their lives were in the balance.
Of course, the apostles had the advantage of walking with Jesus during his life on earth and witnessed his resurrection. Things were easier then because the world was much simpler. We can’t possibly be expected to do what they did in our day and age. Right?
This may sound harsh, but low expectations of this kind are commonplace in the American church today. How did this happen? In Numbers 13 the story is told of the spies sent to Canaan to bring a report back to the Hebrews. It is a story we know well that ends with the generation of the Exodus, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, being condemned by God to live out their days in the wilderness. We look at this story as a lesson about faith and living in God’s strength (not our own), which it is. I have to ask though, what made the following generation better or more inclined to be obedient to God when it came to taking the promised land? Maybe the older generation’s experience with a slavery ethic/lifestyle/culture did not allow them to be bold in taking the promised land. Even the great miracles of God they witnessed were “dependence” miracles – deliverance from bondage through the plagues, parting of the Red Sea, manna. What was needed to take the promised land was a boldness to trust God as a General instead of a provider. Being raised in the wilderness and not in bondage may have given the next generation the boldness required to grasp the promises of God.
Perhaps our generation has faced a similar dilemma to the Exodus generation. Perhaps our culture of leisure and prosperity has not prepared us to be active defenders against attacks on Christianity and morality which seem to intensify every week. Perhaps we are doomed to our fate and need to rely on the coming generation, which doesn’t remember the Reagan or Clinton years, to turn the tide and lead the next great revival.
I prefer not to embrace such a passive and defeatist attitude. In his book Kingdom Man, Tony Evans has a whole chapter devoted to Joshua 1. Verse 3 says: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you…”
Whatever you are doing with your life, if God has called you to do it, he has already given you victory and success if you will only have the boldness to place the sole of your foot there.
I have lived my life differently since I lost my job. I try not to waste my time and treasure on enterprises that are not part of God’s plan for me. That has caused me to move my family half way across the country. It has caused me to continue working in a job I don’t enjoy. It has caused me to lead and participate in ministries I never would have considered doing on my own in the past. Like teaching Sunday School, visiting shut-ins, and sharing my testimony in front of a men’s group. I have even attempted to start a discussion group for Christian men through a blog.
Romans 8:31 says “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Another pithy saying I like says “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God will not protect you.” When God keeps his promises to us because we are obedient to Him you can feel God sharing His glory with you. Did you ever have a bad day at work and then have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone? You forget about all the troubles because being willing to serve God faithfully is its own reward.
In summary My experience during the first 12 years of following Jesus has had high points, but much of it was spent fighting God over things from that old life that He knows I am better off without. Yet, there is still the possibility of a remarkable ending, because when we realize how far God can be trusted, and we are willing to do so, He will use us in ways we can’t imagine. That will be the rest of the story.