"He brought me out!"
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He brought me out of the miry clay
He set my feet on the Rock to stay,
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, Hallelujah.
That is what Jesus has done for me. He has taken me out of Christianity and given me life. He has given me more than I ever knew was possible. I did not know about life in the Spirit. I did not know that the Jesus I had heard and learned about my whole life would one day give me life in my soul. I "went to church" my whole life; I read the Bible; I sang in the choir; I helped with Sunday School; I played the piano; I even went to college and received a degree in Christian Education. But until Jesus touched my heart, I never knew Him.
My husband had talked with our friend, Ellen Payne, one day about speaking in tongues, and she said that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the new birth. When he asked me about it and if I believed that was true, I (in my ignorance) said, "No, there’s nothing like that in the Bible. They have just gotten mixed up in some kind of cult." There was never any question in my mind. Some years previous to this I had heard people speaking in tongues, and I wondered why they were doing that. When I asked about it, I was told that it was something extra, like a prayer language. In my own mind, I thought right then that if it wasn’t required, I didn’t want it. But Praise God!!! God knew I DID have to have that holy Ghost baptism to be clean; and He didn’t leave me to my own misunderstandings and ignorance of Him.
About a year later, I remember having a thought one day while I was riding down the road. "Maybe I don’t know everything about the holy Ghost. Maybe I should do a study on it." I never considered that what Ellen had said a year earlier was true. I just thought that I should have more information on it, that I could possibly learn something. I decided to do a study and find out more about the spirit of God.
I got my hands on every study, book, pamphlet and sermon I could get. One night when my husband was away on a business trip, I decided it was a good time to start reading. The first pamphlet I read contained only Scriptures about the holy Ghost. As I finished reading, I knew I did not have what those people in the Scriptures were talking about. I did not have "power," a power to help me live every day without sin. God put in my heart a desire to seek Him, a desire for the holy Ghost. For the first time I knew I needed something I did not have. I needed the holy Ghost.
I decided that I would read Acts next. When I started reading, the words came to life. They were no longer just words printed in a book, Jesus was giving life to every word. They seemed to be pouring from the pages into my eyes and down into my heart. I read about Jesus telling the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise, that John baptized with water, but that they would be baptized with the holy Ghost. Oh! And when I got to chapter two and read about the day of Pentecost and that mighty rushing wind coming - I knew that was what I was longing for.
Many times I had to close my Bible and examine the outside of it. I was having a hard time believing that this was the same book I had read my whole life. But it was! The difference was the spirit of God was giving life to those words on the pages and putting them down into my heart.
One night while I was alone praying in my bed, a wonderful and fearful presence came into the room. God showed me that how I had always thought of him was filth before Him. Now, I must insert here that up to this time I had been a Christian. I was not pretending, or acting one way at home and then just acting religious when I went to church. I believed what I was taught about God as I was growing up in church. So when God showed me that EVERY way that I thought of him was filth before him, do you know what that meant to me? That meant ALL my Christian ideas of how to serve God, ALL my Christian ideas of who God was, EVERY ONE of them was filth before him!!! God said it was FILTH. I believed Him, and let go of all of it. In that moment, with just God and me in my room, I released EVERY thought, EVERY way I thought of God! I let it all go! I cried and asked for God’s forgiveness.
It wasn’t long after that my friend Ellen took me to a backyard picnic where I would meet all these people they knew who had the holy Ghost. On towards the evening, they gathered together and I think they were singing and praying. I had never been around something like this. I really wanted to see what was going on. When I got closer I saw one or two people walk up to their pastor, John, and he would put his hands on their head and pray for them. I knew that whatever these people had was what I wanted. I needed the holy Ghost, so I went up and they began to pray for me.
I could hear people shouting and praising God. Inside me, as I stood there in that backyard with my hands up in the air, I was asking God to fill me with His spirit. The only thought I had was to get down on my face before God. I kept thinking, “God, these people will think I’m crazy! I can’t put my face down on the ground.” It was so strong I finally got down on my knees - maybe that was good enough. No, after a little while I got up, still praying and the only thing that voice kept telling me was to get down on my face. I tried one more time on my knees even bowing lower - but it wasn’t enough. I finally just gave up and submitted to God. I laid face down on the ground - whew! That was the only thing I could do to find relief, to completely obey. I didn’t get the holy Ghost that night, but I learned something very important. Half obedience is not obedience at all and that it is a wonderful feeling to obey the voice of God.
My friend, Ellen, suggested that I take an Old Testament Bible Class at the community college. Her pastor, John Clark, was the teacher. I had previously been through four years of religious classes and had never learned anything about the Bible, only what other people thought about the Bible. Now, as I sat in that small community college room, I began hearing about the God who created the earth, the God who saw Noah and rescued his family from His wrath on the Earth, the God of Abraham. For the first 30 years of my life I had trusted in a god who didn’t speak, a god who had no power, but I thought I was doing right. But this God I was learning about now was not that one.
For the first time in my life God was real. This teacher was not giving his opinion - or asking for mine. He was teaching (and revealing) to me a God my soul had always longed to know. Just hearing words, or opinions, or sermons of someone saying they were of God did not teach me about God. What this man, John Clark, was saying matched perfectly to what I had been feeling and learning from God the last few months at home.
I remember the night I could see the difference between Christianity and God very clearly. The Old Testament Bible Class was over for the night. John and I talked briefly as we walked out to the parking lot. I mentioned it was hard to believe that I had been in Christianity all my life and no one had ever told me about this real living God. I would have lived my whole life thinking I was pleasing God and would have died and gone to Hell - I was not even born again! That’s when John told me he was not a part of Christianity anymore. What a wonderful image I saw. On one side was what I had always trusted in and believed in before, a very religious form that had the name of God and Jesus on it. But even with all my believing and good intentions, it was still empty. On the other side was the One who had been becoming so real to me during the previous months. The One who made the Bible come to life, the One who opened my eyes, who made my ears to hear, the One who is Real! I chose the Real God, and left the other behind. The fact that God would make that so clear is amazing even to me, but it was God who did it all. He took me out of Christianity. I would never have left or been able to leave on my own. I didn't leave Christianity because I was angry or hurt - I left because I fell in love with the voice of my Savior, Jesus.
Just a few months later, I received the baptism of the holy Ghost. I used to be a good Christian, and I had been content with that. I thought that was all there was. But oh! The great mercy God has had on my life! I am not a Christian now and was not when I received the baptism of the holy Ghost! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I haven’t either, but here I am. This is what God has done for me. I have heard some people say, “We are really saying the same thing (as Christians); you are just using different words.” But that is not so. I was in Christianity! But I learned by experience that following after Jesus (loving and obeying the Spirit of God) and being a Christian are not the same, not even close. One is life and one is death.
Years earlier, I had been sitting on my couch reading Matthew 13:15: "For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." My prayer years ago, as I sat there alone on my couch was, "God, if I am like that, please change me." And He has. God has done every bit of it. And He can do that for anyone. It takes no extraordinary person -- it just takes God.