Well, it has been an extremely busy summer thus far, but I think I am finally getting to a point where I have a bit of time. A couple of months ago, I was humbled and honored by my Church, First Baptist Buffalo, MO ordaining me into the ministry. As part of the service, they asked me to give my testimony. I thought I would post it in order to get it out on the internet in hope that God may use it to further His glory.
I would like to express my great appreciation for all that are here today. A vast majority of you have played a significant role in my life and God has used you to shape and mold who I am today. Over the past four months I have worked hard preparing for tonight. It is honoring and humbling that you are here to play a part in this. I only have about 10 minutes to share with you a lifetime of God's providential hand intervening in my life and so graciously bringing me to a point where He saved me and has since been sanctifying me.
Recently, I read a biography of a man named Mosab Hasan Yosef. You may have heard of this guy. Mosab was born in Palestine to a Muslim family. His father was one of the primary leaders in Hamas, one of the most notorious terrorist cells today. In 1997, at the age of 18, Mosab became a double agent, working for Israel and feeding them massive amounts of information about his father and the terrorist cell he led. In 1999, Mosab had a chance encounter with a British man who invited him to a Bible study. Mosab went to this Bible study, which began a chain of events that over the course of many years that of much inner- turmoil and deep soul searching, he eventually became a Christian. This story, perhaps more than any other story that I have ever read, left me marveling at the great lengths God will go to in order to draw sinners to Himself and reconcile them through the blood of Christ.
I tell you that story for a couple of reasons. First, because Mosab's story, at the surface, is a lot more interesting than my own. The events that God used to draw Mosab to himself are not like mine. My father is an American. He certainly isn't a terrorist; He is a small business owner. And I have never been some double agent secretly feeding the inner workings of my dad's business to the other companies competing against him. So, to some my story might not be all that intriguing. In addition, and I say this hopefully without sounding prideful, I have not only never been drunk, but I haven't even tasted alcohol. By God's grace, I have a pure relationship with my girlfriend. So in the world's eyes, I would be considered, and have been considered for a while now, "a good kid."
But I know differently than the World. While Mosab's story perhaps demonstrates God's relentless pursuit of His elect much better than my own story does, I know that God, because of His satisfying, merciful love for us, went to great lengths to draw me to Himself as well. Just as I marveled at God when I read Mosab's story, I also marvel at the incredible things God has done in my life as well, especially when I think about how God has been providentially working in my life.
The Beginning Conversion
At 10 years old, I was attending an Awana service at First Baptist Church. On that night, I heard and believed I was a sinner. It was the first time I realized that Christianity was more than just going to church, I realized not everyone was automatically a Christian. I had always believed in Heaven, but that night I realized that Hell was real and sinners deserved to go there. So this was the first pivotal moment in God's pursuit of me. In fact, the date of this event was written in the Bible I used at the time, right next to a note about Pizza at Locomotion. I don't remember the pizza and locomotion, but I remember that night.
As I got older, I got involved in an incredible youth group. I did the Church camp thing and the mission trip thing. I loved church and my Youth Group. My Youth Pastor proclaimed Truth. By God's grace I stayed away from the quote-unquote "big sins" though my parents will be the first to tell you that I was disobedient, told lies, disrespected them, among other things. While I led Bible Studies, taught a Sunday school class and did many "churchy things," God was still pursuing me.
Perhaps the most significant thing happened in 9th Grade when I began to realize that God didn't just want my trust, but he wanted my life. It was during this time that I surrendered to vocational ministry.
Over the next few years as I planned my steps, God directed my path as the Proverb says and God soveriegnly brought me to SBU. It was within my first year at SBU that my life began to dramatically change. During the past few years God's relentless pursuit has been most evident. Within my first year of college, God used an organization called the Way of the Master to show me that I wasn't just a generic "sinner." I realized that I was a wretched law breaker. I began to understand the magnitude of the countless lies I had spoken, the disobedience to my parents, even the few instances where I used God's name as a cuss word. It was during this time that I realized that Jesus saw lust as adultery in the heart and hatred as murder in the heart. I began to see myself as God saw me: A wretched lying, thieving, adulterous murderer….who disobeyed his parents.
While all of this was going on, I was sitting in Bible classes everyday where I was beginning to better understand God's Word on a personal and scholarly level. The Holy Spirit brought God's Words to life.
This was also the time I became a nerd and started playing sermons in my truck instead of music. I discovered men of God such as John MacArthur, John Piper, Paul Washer, Al Mohler and others, all of whom I thank God for. As a result of these things, I began to understand the true significance of the word "repentance." I realized that out of all the "Christian" things I did in High school, I forgot a big component of the Christians life- I had forgotten to repent! I cannot remember one time that I actually turned away from a habitual sin. Through these men, I learned that God commands us to repent, to turn from our sins and to turn to Christ because God hates sin.
Also, God brought an amazing lady into my life who is now my Girlfriend. God has given her a gift I hope to develop more fully in my life and that is a sensitivity to sin. The Holy Spirit used her as a means to show me that certain movies and television shows that I watched do not please God. So this began a long, sometimes difficult process, in which the Holy Spirit began purging my life of idols and filth, something that he continues to do.
To top it all off, my father and I began to grow closer together and I began to see an example of a hard working man whom God was graciously sanctifying. I saw a man who truly desires to glorify God with His life.
So through all of these things, and many more I have not described, I began to see that God was providentially causing all of this to happen for a purpose. And that purpose was to sanctify me to further His glory. He began to grow me. God's Word showed me the disgusting nature of sin and how much God detests it. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been continually growing me. For the first time in my life I am able to look back and see a bumpy yet progressively upward line in the sanctification process. I went from believing mere facts to actually being constrained by a sense of the love of God. For that reason I began to consecrate my life to Him.
God gave me a new heart with new desires. My desire became to know His word and further His fame. My love for doctrine has grown and God has opened my eyes to amazing Truths in the bible that, at one point in my life, I would have been appalled at. The past year at Buffalo has been one of the most immensely beneficial years of my life as God has used the preaching of His Word from Tim to grow me in godliness. In addition, it is nearly impossible for me to teach those youth on Wednesday nights and Sunday morning and not learn and grow.
Now up to this point, I have mentioned a lot of names of people who have played significant roles in my life. But as a filthy wretched sinner who was previously dead in his sins, none of the people I have mentioned could have any eternal or spiritual impact on me at all, by themselves. Rather it is only be the grace of God that anybody could have any effect on my stony heart.
The only reason I stand up here tonight, the only reason I have seen any growth and sanctification at all is because 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, fully God fully man, loved mankind enough to come and live a perfect, sinless life. Yet he was hung on a cross where he bore our sins in His body. He took our sins upon Himself and took our punishment. God poured out His wrath upon Jesus even though it was us who deserved it. Jesus, to be obedient to the Father and because his love for us was great, absorbed the wrath for us. He died and paid the penalty of our sins. Three days later He rose from the dead, proving that all He said was true, defeating sin and death forever and guaranteeing the resurrection, sanctification, and glorification of all believers. Christ paid the debt that we owed to God because of our sin. And thus God demands our lives. He demands that we repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone. By God's grace, He regenerated me and I trusted in Him. He gave me a new heart, with new desires. Because of God's mercy in relentlessly pursuing me until I listened, I stand before you tonight realizing that this message should affect the entire World. And I want to play a role, however insignificant, in God's story to further His glory and share His love.