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Friday, 15 February 2008

My testimony

I thought it was about time I wrote my testimony so here goes...

I grew up "with" the church. I went to Sunday School from a young age and I have a recollection in my early childhood of my parents going to church. I can remember commenting that there weren't many cars parked in the town centre and my parents telling me it was because it was Sunday. My parents stopped going to church because they found my baby brother to be too disruptive in church and they never went back. However they still sent me and my brothers to Sunday School. Following on from Sunday School was the church youth group.

It is hard for me to comment on how good the teaching was in my home church for two reasons. Firstly, before I was saved I was spiritually blind and probably did not see the truth even when it was staring me in the face and secondly not long after I became a Christian the minister changed and the church went rapidly downhill. What I can say is that it was made up of both genuine Christians and people who weren't believers but thought Christianity was a "good thing" or who just went to church because they always had. Unfortunately the teaching whilst probably not "bad" was certainly not clear and lacked content. Sermons were more like "Thought for the Day" than real preaching and teaching. Also nobody ever told me about things like personal prayer and Bible Study. Looking back I can see that many of these people were true Christians and did spend time praying and studying the Bible but they were not well taught and they did not talk about it as they should have.

Most people in our church would get confirmed (the Anglican equivalent of church membership) when they were about thirteen at which point they would start taking communion. I guess I must have had some awareness of the meaning of this as I did not feel that I was ready for confirmation when I was thirteen and so I wasn't confirmed like most others in the church youth group. When I was seventeen we had a service to celebrate that our minister had been ordained for twenty-five years. I remember watching the huge number of people (some of whom I recognised and knew weren't regular churchgoers) who went up for communion and thinking, "How come all those people have been confirmed and yet they are not at church every week?" I made a promise to myself at that point that I would not get confirmed until I was committed enough to go to church every week. (The church youth group was on Sunday evenings and I only went to church for family services (first Sunday of the month) or other particular times such as Carol Service etc.) I somehow felt that it was wrong to make that commitment if I wasn't going to keep it.

So I grew up "with" the church but I wasn't clearly taught and I didn't truly know what Christianity was about. I believed in God and I knew that the Bible was true. I did once "decide" that God did not exist but this only lasted for an hour because I realised that I could not explain Jesus and his death if God did not exist. I used to read the Bible from time to time - sometimes reading through a book and sometimes just picking bits out. I was very unhappy both at home and at school in my early/mid teens and I would often look up the references in the front of my Gideon’s Bible. I can remember particularly disliking the Psalms because they would start off how I felt but then they would go all cheerful. At one point I even started reading the Bible from the beginning in order to work out how old the world was and got as far as Isaiah. I thought I was a Christian but really although I believed in the God of the Bible and believed the Bible to be true I did not know or understand what the Bible said so I was not truly a Christian.

When I went to university aged eighteen, because I considered myself to be a Christian I went along to the college Christian Union. This is how I first came to be a Christian. I had taken by Bible with me to university and I started praying every night when I went to bed. I did not know what to say so I used the words of the Lord's Prayer. The CU gave out details of churches and I chose to go to an evangelical Anglican church. I hadn't really thought about churches before I went and I chose the church because it was an Anglican church and I had already been to it because there was a University-wide CU meeting held there on Saturdays.

At the first Saturday meeting I picked up few leaflets. One was a small booklet titled "What is a Christian?" I remember reading in this book that we were all sinners and deserved to go to hell. It said that we needed to repent of our sins and that God could forgive us and accept Jesus' payment for our sins so that we could go to heaven. I can remember thinking, "That's not right, I'm not that bad." I decided that the booklet was incorrect about what made a Christian and still thought that I was one.

Through the preaching at church (they taught through books of the Bible which was absolutely amazing to me and really opened up God's word), the CU Bible Studies and the interaction with Christians in the CU I rapidly learned about a Christianity I had never known. This was a living faith.

I was amazed to discover that you could pray not just by yourself or as part of a church service but in small groups. It was not necessary to have a "set" prayer or to write out a prayer beforehand but you could "just pray". Not only that but people actually believed in prayer. Instead of being something you just "did" it was something real and powerful. Also you didn't have to just pray about general things (such as people in general, wars etc) but you could pray about specific things and all aspects of your life. You could turn to God about everything.

I found that people read their Bibles on a daily basis as a matter of course to learn about God. I began to do this too and in conjunction with the Bible Studies and the preaching at church I began to learn more about God and his relationship with us.

I had come from a culture where I was considered a bit weird because I said I was a Christian to one where there were many true Christians from whom I learnt a great deal.

When I went home that Christmas I went to church every Sunday morning.

Sometime during the next term I happened across the booklet I had read when I first arrived. I found that unlike the previous time I read it I actually agreed with what it said and could genuinely pray the prayer of repentance contained in it. It was only at that point that I realised that I hadn't been a Christian when I started University. I couldn't say exactly when it had happened but I knew that I was a Christian then and that I hadn't been four months earlier.

Since then I have been completely changed. I had many issues which I struggled with when I first left for university. God has helped me beyond my own strength to resolve almost all of these. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13 Those which remain are circumstances which I cannot control and whilst I still pray about them, these no longer trouble me as they did because my hope is now in God. "For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD" Psalm 71:5a

"Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.

O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.

Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.

The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.

What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.

Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.

O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles."

Psalm 25


Buffy said...

Thanks for sharing! Your story is a bit like mine. It's as if you have the desire and need for God but no one showing you the way, so you kind of stumble around for a bit. But getting down to reading the Bible seems like a good way to "get understanding". And living, as I do, in a secular country it is encouraging to be able to read blogs like yours. I look forward to more posts by you, they are interesting.

Jimena said...

Oh I finally get a chance to get online... Thank you for sharing your testimony. It's a blessing that you started to grow and get closer to the Lord when you went to University and not the opposite, which happens a lot. I also think that there are a lot of people that go to church because it is "good". For me it was like this as well for a long time until I started to grow in the Lord, and I understood that He could be involved in every aspect of my life. Thank you so much for sharing!

Buildeth Her House said...

It always amazes me to think that people reach adulthood never having heard about being a sinner and finding salvation through repentance/ trusting in Jesus. I always thought that all civilized people must have heard the gospel truth sometime in their life but just refused to believe or didn't have a complete understanding of it.

I have a friend who has gone to church her whole life but when I was telling her about being born again....she had never heard that word and had no idea what I was talking about.

It is neat to see God's love for you and how He was seeking you out from an early age. I was much like you... my brother and I went to church every Sunday without my parents.

Deeny said...

Hi Saved Sinner. I enjoyed reading your testimony. To me (and you can certainly disagree with me) I shouldn't probably be even saying anything about your own personal journey because it is just that yours. But I see a young girl who through her own writing was a Christian long before she may have thought she was one. I see the seeds of faith planted early in her life. I see a seeking and searching for the truth from an early age. Your own words >>I believed in God and I knew that the Bible was true...I realised that I could not explain Jesus and his death if God did not exist<< You believed in God, You believed his word. You believed in his son Jesus. So you lacked understanding and knowledge of certain things. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to have everything figured out or a certain amount of knowledge before you are an official "Christian". I see the Holy Spirit working in your life the whole time bringing you closer and to a better understanding, but I truly believe you were a Christian from early on. You came to him with the understanding of a child and grew. My son is mentally handicapped and will never have a certain level of understanding.
The only thing I can see is that maybe you didn't see yourself as a sinner and come to full sincere repentance until later. But seeing that you were raised in the Anglican Church they say a general confession at every mass asking Jesus' forgiveness for sins known and unknown. Maybe that didn't register fully in that Church, but I think you knew right from wrong and what sin was. I would bet when you felt sin in your life you asked God's forgiveness and wanted to be right with God long before you felt you became a Christian. Just your desire to know God and the desire to read his word leads me to believe that.
As I said, what I see is a growing in Faith, a greater commitment to God, a greater desire to live for Christ. But as I said I think you may have been a Christian long before you feel that you were. Just my very humble opinion and I probably have no right to say anything about your personal faith journey so please forgive me for intruding on something so personal.
Sincerely Deana

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment Deana, it is totally fine for you to give your opinion. I do think that often people can get too concerned with pinpointing the exact moment they became a Christian. (Of course some people can do this to the exact minute but I think the majority of people can't.) I remember hearing a quote I thought was very helpful which went along the lines of, "I don't know when I became a Christian but I know I am one now."

JTR said...

That was a real blessing to read. It shows distinctly the difference between "religion" (trying to reach up to God) and true Christianity (realizing God reached down to us, and Jesus came for a reason, and God deisres our fellowship)!

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