My Testimony (How I got saved)
I never went to church as a child. My parents didn't go, so, obviously, neither did I. The only thing I knew about religion was what I heard and saw on TV, or read in books. My basic view (as a child and young teenager) was that there was a God, and that he had a son named Jesus, and the Bible was the source for information, but no one ever seem to actually read the bible, at least not anyone that I knew. My maternal grandparents were the only people I knew who went to church, and we lived several hours away from them, so they were not a strong influence on me religion-wise, at least not at first.
Based on my TV-based religion, I assumed that most Christians were Catholic for they were the only ones ever portrayed on TV.
That was not an uncommon belief, but as I got older (12-13 years old), I began to wonder who I was praying to every night (I almost always prayed, not really knowing who God was though). I had a regular Bible (King James Version) and a children's picture bible. I read the picture bible over and over, so I knew most of the Bible stories, but I didn't really understand the ultimate point of them all, but I believed them with a child's faith.
As I got a little older, I began to find interest in the Occult, mainly due to TV and movies and my friends interest in the same subjects. This sort of thing made me wonder about what was out there. Most people told me none of that stuff was real, ESP, ghosts, etc. However, I lived just a mile from the famous Dr. Rhine. He and his wife (also a Dr.) were well known for parapsychology studies at Duke University. This made me believe the stuff was real. However, somewhere along the way I stumbled across an admonition in the bible to refrain from those very things (Astral Projections, sorcery, etc). That struck me as very interesting. God was telling us to avoid those very things. That told me two things; one, that they were real, and two, they were bad. I couldn't really understand what was bad about them at first, but this led me to more research on the subject.
I read in the gospels where Jesus and the apostles cast out demons from various people who were possessed. Yet everything I heard and read said there was no such thing as demonic possession.
I kept all of this in the back of my mind, and I read my Bible often, but still didn't really know what was what. My friend and I discussed this somewhat, and decided that we believed in God, and that the bible was probably true, but didn't really know what to do about it, so we did nothing (other than talk about it).
It wasn't long before both my friend and I got saved, though we got there in completely different ways. We started drifting apart, as he was hanging out with a rough crowd, and doing drugs and so forth, and I was starting to get involved with sports at school (Cross Country), and hanging out with different people.
After awhile he told me that he had "found religion", and was going to Church, and was born again, and filled with the Holy Ghost. All of these were foreign concepts to me. I went to church with him (United Pentecostal Church), and found a lot of enthusiasm, but a lot of it frightened me as well. I don't recall once hearing about "how" a person got saved, but I attended that church off and on for a few months. I didn't know if I was saved or not at that point, because I didn't really know what it meant to be saved, and no one there was explaining it to me. They were more interested in speaking in tongues and shouting and insulting everyone in any other Christian denomination. All of that made me wonder about their motives, and of course, my own place in the scheme of things. They were generally friendly to me, but were totally obnoxious to anyone not in their church.
During that time, I decided I believed the gospel, and confessed that I was a sinner, and needed salvation, and that I believed that Christ had died in my place, and rose again from the dead (This is the gospel), and I was baptized. I was excited, and joyful at this, but it didn't take long before the United Pentecostal Church's cult like atmosphere turned me completely away from them. What really turned me off was the continued statements of the preachers that "God spoke to them and told me ...", when in fact, it was obvious that God never spoke to them, for why would God tell someone something that contradicts scripture? Or why would he give a "prophecy" that turned out to be false? There were many of these false prophecies uttered by the UPC preachers while I was there.
I was really worried, because they were telling me I wasn't saved. Believing the gospel wasn't enough, I had to prove it by speaking in tongues, otherwise, I wasn't saved, and I never spoke in tongues, so by their standards, I was unsaved. I was deeply troubled by this, and turned away from them completely, but not from God. I decided to find out for myself what the scripture said about salvation.
It turned out I was right to begin with, you are saved by faith, when you believe the gospel, and let Christ be your savior. This means acknowledging you are a sinner, lost, with no way to save yourself. And acknowledging that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, and that he was buried and rose again. This is the gospel. We are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works, nor by keeping the commandments, nor by obeying any church rules. Though certainly, we have a lot to do once we become saved (baptism, study of scripture, etc).
It took me a long time to get over the bad start I got. I believed I was saved, yet the church I originally attended was telling me I was not. I later went to a Church of God (just once), and I didn't hear any good preaching or teaching there either, just people speaking in tongues and jumping around. (Which was way different from the Church of God my grandfather had been a member of.) When I joined the Air Force, I (at first) attended United Pentecostal Church services, but later began going to a Church of God in Christ service. This was mostly a "black" denomination, but I wasn't the only "white" person there. (There is no race distinction with God.) I found the services good and the people sincere and decent. I don't know that I agreed with everything they preached, but I don't recall what those differences were now, mostly minor stuff I guess.
When I married my wife Karla, we were married in her home church, an independent Baptist Church. She was raised in that denomination, and now I call it my own as well, though I am a Christian first. I had no knowledge of what the Baptist church preached, but I quickly found out, and found their teachings to my liking, and consistent with scriptural teachings.
So, that is how I came to be a Christian. I had no sudden "Road to Damascus" type experience where God spoke to me directly, but my salvation is real enough.
Now, that is a rough outline of my history with coming to believe the gospel. Now, I don't think I addressed the "why" I believe aspect.
Why do I believe the gospel? That is both an easy and difficult question to answer. The "easy" answer is that I believe it because it is the truth. So, how do I know it is the truth? That is a much more complicated answer, but the gist of it, is I believe it by faith. Here is how I came to this belief (this happened over many years):
As a child, I "knew" there was a God. Someone (probably my parents) told me there was a God who watched over us. So I believed it, with simple faith, as children do. As I got older, I began to question things, like why didn't God show himself to us in some fashion. I never doubted that there was a God, or at least I don't recall such doubts. We had the Bible showing the history of God's dealing with Israel, and the whole world. We had other religions with different concepts of who God was, and some religions that claimed there were many gods, or no God at all. Who was right?
First, does God exist? I say without a doubt he exists. The fact that I am able to ask the question at all, proves (to me at least) that there is a God. Animals don't think, aren't self aware (sentient), but people are. How did we get this way, and not them? Evolution explains that everything evolved to its present state over millions of years. This doesn't make sense at all. How did the complete symbiotic relationship between plants and animals "evolve"? Without one, you couldn't have the other. Did this happen by chance? If things evolved, how did "nature" decide that a certain animal needed eyes. How did an eye evolve? I can't comprehend any of this happening via evolution, or via mutations, or anything else like that. Also, the age old question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? An Egg can't just appear out of nothing, it has to be laid by something. Yet, a chicken can't just appear out of nothing, it has to hatch from an egg. Things certainly do change a bit over time, so that aspect of evolution can be proven, but not how it all got started.
There is only one logical solution to all of these problems. Someone or something intelligent had to create it all. Though evolution is taught as "fact" these days, it is still just a theory, and is far from proven. Believe it if you want to, but it takes as much a leap of faith to believe that present day species evolved from other species, as it does to believe in God. In my mind they are mutually exclusive.
This is how I came to believe in God. I love nature, and everything I could see in nature screamed out to me (not literally) that it was part of an intelligent design, and not just result of millions of years of random changes and evolution. So, I came to believe (when I was about 13) that God indeed was real. Even though I was young, I was fascinated by subjects such as history, Archaeology, Paleontology, Anthropology and Astronomy. These fields of science are over ran with evolutionary teachings, and when I was a kid (in the 70's and early 80's), these theories that were being presented in various magazines were interesting, but I notice today that almost without exception, most of them have been ruled out and replaced with newer theories about the origins of life, and the universe, and so forth. In other words, the "accepted" theories were discarded for new ones, which are now in vogue, but will probably disappear within a decade or two. The sad thing is, those theories in the 70's and 80's were being taught as "fact", yet now are dismissed by scientists. Hmm, yet these same scientists today tell us that the current theories are "fact". This very "evolution" of thought on evolution and cosmology (the origin of the universe) has convinced me even more that God is the answer.
So, my own logic, and my own study of science convinced me that there was a God (not that I could prove it to anyone). So the next questions were: if there is a God, then who is he, and how do we know how to approach him, or what does he expect from us?
There seemed to be a school of thought that "all roads lead to God", meaning Islam, Judaism, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, etc), and other religions were all the same. That it didn't matter, as it was the same God anyway, and no matter how you worshipped him it was fine. To me that sounded very fishy, especially since most of those same religions declared that their viewpoint was the truth and all others false, and many wars had been fought, and many had died for those very beliefs.
I was obviously biased towards Christianity, as it was the most common religion where I grew up (North Carolina), and in fact, I didn't know anyone of any other religion, except for in High School when one of my class mates was Jewish. We were friends, but she and I never discussed religion. There were probably people of other faiths in my school as well, but I didn't know about it.
I did a cursory study of Islam, and some other Eastern religions, and found them frightful in some ways, and did not like what I was reading at all. So I didn't delve too deeply into any of them.
I knew that Judaism and Christianity were closely linked, but I didn't know the details. I also knew that Christianity was divided into numerous denominations with different beliefs. Some were radically different, and with others it wasn't obvious to me what the differences were.
Logically, I assumed, that God would leave us some proof of who he was. The Bible gave witness to many amazing stories, including miracles and so forth, which if all true, would be solid proof that the God of the Bible was indeed the true God. However, how could I be sure they were true? You can't prove that something happened thousands of years ago (a particular miracle for example), so how would I know if it was true or not. Other religions also had scriptures of their own with stories of amazing miracles and so forth.
Finally, there were two things that convinced me the Bible must be true. One was simply Israel. They had not been a nation for two thousand years, forced to wander the earth in exile, with no country to call their own, yet somehow they managed to maintain their cultural identity in spite of the odds against it. No other group of people, dispersed from their home land has ever been able to maintain their cultural identify for that long, or even close to that long. To me this is significant, especially considering the Bible declares that Israel is God's chosen people. History shows us that must be true, how else can their very existence be explained?
The second big thing that convinced me that the God of the Bible is the true God is the fact that there are prophecies recorded in the Bible, and many of them came true, just as written, some right away (as recorded in the same books) and others within a few hundred years of being prophesied. Some would say (and have said) that the books were written after the events, to make them look like prophesy, but the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archeological finds have helped disprove that theory. There were numerous other prophecies that are still unfulfilled, and they all deal with the "end times", or the last days just before Christ returns. These prophecies, (written 2,000 years ago) are describing our current day and age in great detail. These prophets of old were obviously inspired somehow to be so accurate. There is no way this is just random chance, or educated guesses. These facts convinced me that the Bible must indeed be God's word, so therefore, the true God must be the God of Israel, God the father of Jesus Christ.
The above chain of logic led me to believe that there was a God, that there was only one God, and that he proved himself by "autographing" the Bible with prophecies that are coming true or about to come true in our day and age.
The above led me to God, but didn't explain to me what God expected of me, or what I should expect of God. It took me a long time to figure it out. I had lots of "teachers" along the way, many of whom set me back many years by their false doctrine. Finally, I determined that in order to know God, I would have to study his word for myself, and I've been doing that, and am learning much (though still I don't know nearly enough).
Studying the Bible, and listening to good teachers, has helped me to understand a great many things. A lot of this is stuff I should have learned right away, when I first believed, and was saved, but falling into the wrong church really set me back, though I must blame myself as well, as I had a Bible, I could have found out the truth myself, simply by reading. Anyone can do that.
Over the past decade (since early 2000) I have found a tremendous blessing in being able and motivated to study the scriptures in more detail, and with more patience, and open mindedness than ever before. I have learned so much that I could have learned years ago if only I had taken the time to read the scriptures. My point is that you should study the word of God to see if what you believe is what is true or not. Many church's today are so far from what the Word of God says that you have to wonder how they got there (this is one of those end time prophecies as well, that there would be a massive falling away in the last days).
May the Lord bless you. If you are saved, abide with him, and pray and study the word of God daily. If you are not saved, consider your eternal destiny. Find out what the truth is before it is too late. Go to my Gospel page for details. Or if you want to study it from the word directly, read the book of Romans, then the Gospels, then the rest of the new testament, then the Old Testament. Or read it in any order you choose, but start with Romans to understand the gospel of salvation.
Marty Grant, Kinston, NC