My brother and I, not too surprisingly, share many things in common. One of those is having been saved much later in life than we originally thought.
This past Sunday my brother was re-baptized, so that he could experience baptism as a truly converted person. As part of the service he gave his testimony, and he has kindly given me his permission to share it here.
His life story, like mine, makes many people nervous because it underscores the tragic fact that false assurance really does happen to people. But it's vital for people like my brother and me to share our stories, because they can help others to examine themselves as the Scripture commands us to do.
I hope his testimony, given in its entirety below, blesses you as it blesses me.
I grew up in a home that had a thin layer of what looked for all the world like Christianity, covering a mountain of hypocrisy. My parents were founding members of our church and we children rapidly learned how to fit in. I made a profession of faith at a very early age and became the poster child, so to speak, for our church; filled with promise for a fantastic future of service to God. I could clearly describe the Gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and believed the facts. But God had not wrought the truth of it in my heart. I guess you could sum up my view of things with the phrase, “God is really blessed to have me on His team.” The problem is, it was all a sham; a sham that even fooled me. I guess you could sum up God’s view of things the way Jesus did.
Mat 23:27, 28, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Or, as He said later to the church in Sardis, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
I waited until I was in Bible College to be baptized, mainly because my father believed that baptism was not for the Church age. At the time I was being baptized at a beach in the southern part of Pinellas County, the presence of two coast guard boats and a helicopter searching for a body made for a strange ambiance. Little did they know that right near their search grid, a dead man was being baptized.
With that foundation of hypocrisy firmly in place, I entered full time ministry. After “serving God” in Miami and Tampa, I began to prepare for overseas “service.” During that time of training and preparation, God opened my eyes to the pharisaism in my heart. I went through a major transition in my theology as God allowed me to learn the truth about many of the Scripture’s great doctrines. I don’t know why God chose to do things the way He did, perhaps he will let me know some day, perhaps He won’t. But the revelation of my hypocrisy was only the beginning of a period of over 10 years where I was in ministry but was unsaved for most of it. Though He taught me many wonderful things about the Gospel, He still had not made the Gospel’s effect real in me. I guess we could sum up my view of things during that time by saying, “I am so happy that I know these things.” But I think we could sum up God’s view of things by what Jesus said, John 5:39, 40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” I understood that Jesus had died and risen again because of my sin. I understood that I had to believe in Him, and I did believe. But I really didn’t know what it meant to repent. I didn’t know just how terrible my sin was that I needed to repent of. What’s more, God had not yet given me the sweet gift of repentance unto life. Gradually, I began to see my evil more clearly. I began to see it in the light of God’s holiness. It brought me to the place where I, though I wanted to be right with God, was willing to accept His eternal condemnation if only He would be glorified by it. It brought me to the place where I was hanging for my life on the truths that I had so confidently believed all those years.
Some time later, God challenged me with 2Co 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
What God revealed to me through that examination was that there is, indeed, a new dimension to my life. Although I still struggle with the flesh, the fear of man and the desire to impress, there is now something within me that operates on the level of eternity instead of time. For instance, instead of merely refraining from outwardly doing the evil that I secretly long to do, I sincerely long for sin to be defeated in me and long for the day when I will be totally free from it. Instead of just believing a set of doctrines, I now depend on their truth in my own life and seek to understand what they reveal about the character of my God. I really can’t nail down the moment when the change occurred. I only know that I can’t trace it back all that far. And I can rejoice that it has happened. I guess you could sum up God’s view of things now by what He said through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD,” and what He said through the writer to the Hebrews, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” And I guess the best summary of my view is, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”