Joe, Scotland, Age 50
Being brought up in Scotland in the Sixties and Seventies meant you were either a Protestant or a Catholic. There was a great divide on that point, but none of my peers knew why, and neither did I. I was brought up a Catholic and at the least my dad brought us up to believe something he felt was important, and so I was steeped to some degree in all of the traditional Catholic beliefs from Mass to Fatima to weekend retreats to the local monastery. So during my informative years I grew up in gross superstition believing only priests and old holy men could reach God in some small measure, as my dad believed. As I grew older, into my late teens, I had an awareness of God, but I was no longer troubled that God would smite me over my wrongdoing.
Being technically minded, I went to the local college and followed a career in electrical engineering. During my time at college I met up with a churchgoer who invited me to the local charismatic church, The Gate Fellowship in Dundee, Scotland. I attended the church, and it greatly impressed me as they seemed to have what I would term a relationship with God. I started going to this church, which was such a breath of fresh air to me.
I was encouraged to “give my heart to Jesus”, which was explained to me as the way of obtaining eternal salvation. This entailed repeating “the sinners’ prayer”, which was to repent of my sins and to invite Jesus into my heart. I promptly did this and believed it was sufficient for salvation and that I was “born again” (John 3), as instructed by the church elders, but there was no spiritual or effectual change in my character and neither did I know Christ nor God. I went on with the church for the next seven years…….a Christ-less man.
However, in the first year of my attendance at the church at the age of 23, I had a dramatic healing. I was troubled with back pain for four years because my left leg was shorter than the right. I had seen many doctors, and a surgeon recommended a packed shoe or surgery to reduce the length of my longer leg. I lived with this problem every day.
Then one night the church had a healing meeting, which I had never heard of before. The speaker, Ian Andrews, invited all sick people to come forward for prayer, and so I jumped forward thinking, “Well, I’m sick!”
So I went up and he asked me what was wrong with me, and I explained that I had back trouble. Then he said, “You’ve got one leg shorter than the other.” I said, “Yes”, in surprise because I hadn’t told him that. I wasn’t prepared or expectant of the event to unfold. Ian sat me down and then asked me if I wanted to be taller or shorter. I said in puzzlement “Well, taller”. So he held my feet in his hands, which clearly showed the uneven leg length. Then he commanded my left leg to grow in the name of Jesus.
Instantly, I could feel a “growing sensation” in the middle of my left shin. This threw me back in my seat, and my body straightened out for a brief moment. My left leg immediately grew out by the full amount. My back pain was healed instantly. (In later years a physio said to me during an examination, “You have a perfect skeleton”.)
That day I had encountered the living God but still rejected Christ as Saviour because I still felt the need to endear myself to God outside Christ. In other words, I still attempted to earn eternal salvation and make reparation for my sins through good works instead of through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for me.
In the Biblical book of John in chapter 6 many people had encountered God through the miracles of Jesus but rejected Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) and were only willing to adopt Him as a prophet. In the same way, I had encountered the living God and accepted him as a healer and miracle worker but still rejected Christ as Saviour. I was later in life to say that I had been healed, but by which deity, I did not know. Even though I was prayed for in the name of Jesus, I was unable to separate Jesus as the true God from any other god……. adding to my shame.
So I continued to attend this charismatic type church for a few years. Even though I had experienced the power of God in miracle working, I had never experienced the power of God in eternal salvation. I had fooled myself into believing I was “born again” (John 3) because I had said “the sinners’ prayer”. Because I said “the words” and because I made regular attendance to the church, I was presumed to be a true believer and was tolerated as such, even though my conduct was sinful and I led many in sin. I wish the elders had been more diligent and had asked me to leave, but I believe they were as blind as me and did not recognise the false believers.
After these few years I decided to go to New Zealand for a long holiday. When I was there I met an older man (and his family) who to me had a great sense of Holiness and was quite a humble personality. I became his friend over the few months, and I enjoyed his simplicity and sense of knowing God. Then one day we were out hunting golf balls and he came up to me and said “I asked the Lord about you”. I was expecting some favourable report seeing I walked and talked as a Christian, but he simply said, “The Lord says you are still a man of the world”. This stunned me a bit, and I fell silent. But what was I to do? I did not know.
I left New Zealand for England and soon found work in Redditch. I moved into a rented accommodation and whilst I was there I spotted a bus with “Jesus Heals” written on it and a small dumpy man with only shorts on, painting the bus in the summer heat. I went over to talk with him and asked what he was doing, and he introduced himself as Pastor Adrian. He described his work and mission in Redditch, and I was greatly impressed by his ministry in healing of many sick people and deliverance (exorcism) of demons.
I started going to their small church in one of the local suburbs and saw firsthand the great power in healing and deliverance the Lord had given this man. I found for some reason this “mantle” had also fallen on other church members, including me, and before long I was ministering these gifts regularly as the Lord brought souls along.
For example, a girl had come to the house with her injured hand bandaged up. It was very tender because it had been partially crushed in a factory machine. I laid hands on it and prayed in the name of Jesus, and it was instantly healed. I also cast numerous demons out of people with addictions and emotional troubles in the name of Jesus, and they were instantly set free and restored.
The name of Jesus is powerful when used in faith by any Christian or non-Christian because he is the one, true Almighty God and the name above every name, as demonstrated in the Bible: Acts 19:13-20, Philippians 2:5-11, Revelation 19:11-21. Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, in a similar sense to me, had the power to do miracles and cast out demons using the name of Jesus even though he was an unbeliever (Luke 9:1-6, John 6:60-71).
After awhile I began to pray endless prayers and walked in my own form of holiness. Then I genuinely began to think that surely now I was bound for heaven. When all the evidence of my life was taken together, surely now God would see how serious I was about His work and that this would suffice. I knew nothing of Christ’s death and resurrection or why it even happened and had to happen. Needless to say, I was brought up a Catholic and still thought like a Catholic: to appease God through my own good works and best endeavours. In my own mind, my eternal salvation was firmly in the evidence of my new “committed” Christian lifestyle.
After three years in Redditch and having had my senses awakened to the power of God, I decided that it was time to leave and head to Australia where I wanted to live, given the long British winters. I boarded my flight to Australia on a Migrants’ Visa, and upon landing I had no plan on what to do. I stayed with my Aunt in Canberra for a few weeks until I got my sense of where to go, and I headed to Hobart, Tasmania. It seemed like my kind of town–not too big and not too small. I found some rented accommodation and quickly found some work. All was well; I was fit, healthy, had money and friends.
I met up with a local Anglican minister who had a ministry in healing and deliverance, and so I attended his church for awhile. One day, whilst there at the church I had a very unusual experience. I saw in a type of vision a person whom I perceived to be Jesus. He was not on the cross but still bleeding and whipped. I could almost feel the heat from His body. I was amazed by my reaction. Instead of love and compassion towards Jesus, I felt only embarrassment. I was uneasy at His presence near me and hoped he would leave. What a strange reaction for someone who professed to be a Christian, but nevertheless, that’s what it was. Then suddenly the image of Jesus flopped onto me and I could feel His weight clinging to me. My reaction got worse, and I was worried that He had stained my clothes and that everyone was watching me. I was very uncomfortable. This “vision” troubled me for a long while. My mind’s reaction was not what I expected. I thought I would have had love and compassion for Jesus, but instead the truth was revealed.
Fourteen years had passed since my first charismatic church encounter and healing. I was still living in Tasmania in the suburb of New Town. I felt an unusual urge in my spirit to read the Word of God (the Bible) and pray. Now I had always been a reader of the Word and a pray-er. I considered myself walking in the ways of the Lord and been, as I imagined, an “overcomer” in many sins. Even so, I was still trapped in many open and hidden sins.
So at that time I went out to pray. Half the time I didn’t even know what to pray, but I felt to keep praying (with some fasting). So morning and night I would pray and read the Word. My prayers were simple…I didn’t know why, but a strange gnawing feeling started to invade my mind. It was an uneasy feeling about my standing with God. Was I fit for Heaven? Now eternal salvation was something that truthfully I had never really considered. I had never considered the state of my soul. I had healed the sick, I had cast out demons, I had preached in church a few times, I had been an encouragement and a financial supporter in the church and felt that I was a repentant man…so I naturally assumed all was well with my soul.
However, as I was praying morning and night, I realised all was not well with my soul. In fact, as I read the Scriptures and the “big calls” of Jesus in the gospels like having faith like a child (Matthew 18:2-4) and taking up the cross (Luke 9:23-26) were huge gaps in my Christianity. I did not fear God. Fearing and trembling was far from me and so the gnawing feeling became fear of falling short on the day of Judgment. Maybe I will be exposed as a false believer!
Jesus spoke about many people having the power to do miracles and signs and wonders and, in the end, being exposed as false believers and cast into hell. Matthew 7:21-23
“Away from me you evildoer,” were frightening words I did not want to hear. So over the period of three months or so I dug even more intensely into prayer and the Word. Little did I know that this was the Lord desiring me to come to Him for salvation.
So I continued in this fear until after over this three months I felt a growing lump in my body. However, the frightening thought of dying young did not scare me as much as dying without my eternal salvation. I never talked to a soul about this time, as I knew words were not going to satisfy me…I needed Christ. So in order to endear myself further to God for eternal salvation, I gave money away and prayed harder, but the fear intensified to a point when during a moment of prayer in the street something forced its way from my soul to my mouth, and I cried out, “LORD, PLEASE SAVE ME FROM HELL!”
Now I was frightened, I no longer had faith in my own false, manmade salvation any longer. I knew that I was hell-bound. I needed Jesus not in a verbal way but in the power of God to save me. (I am able to talk about this in hindsight, but at the time I was very confused and frightened).
Now thoughts of rejection started to invade my mind: that I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and was rejected (Mark 3:28-29), that it was my destiny to blaspheme the Spirit not only in words but in actions, and that I had trampled in the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:26-31) by years of fake Christianity. But now thoughts that I was maybe simply a religious hypocrite rushed through my mind and that the unforgivable sin was on my doorstep (Mark 3:28-29). Weeks passed in this torment until having forgiveness and salvation totally dominated my mind.
I started to think of my past life and sin, and suddenly all my sin was revealed to me. I realised not only had I sinned, but I was a sinner…I had sinned against God. I had personally, time after time, wantonly sinned against the Lord. I had sinned against others wittingly and unwittingly. My sin was so deep I was speechless during the next three days that my true self was being revealed to me.
I didn’t understand what was going on, but I thought that Judgement Day had come to me, and that after a lifetime of sin the Lord had rejected me. The fear and dread of the Lord had come upon me. Dread was a new word to me. Sin revealed had condemned me. I went to the Bible for help but found only that the wonderful words had now become rules that I had violated, and every word condemned me.
I went to my knees for three days and begged the Lord’s forgiveness. I could not see Jesus. I was in torment, and I knew then that I was going to hell. I could not convince myself otherwise. Unless the Lord rescued me and forgave me there was only one destination for this poor soul. Torments from hell raged in my mind, and I shook like a leaf. There was nothing to do except come before the Lord and weep. During this time I thought my mind would explode, and when Sunday came I remained in a state of penitence.
On the evening of that Sunday I had another powerful revelation. I had a vision of pools of blood before me, which I somehow perceived to be the blood of the Lamb (Christ’s blood). In my vision I was on my knees and went over to the pools of blood and took handfuls of the blood and washed that blood over my body. A strange but uneasy peace came over me. Somehow the blood was easing my conscience. I was grateful, as you could imagine, to see the blood and feel its power. The blood could cleanse my sin. It was salvation; God had revealed His Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour to me. I clearly understood that salvation was only of the Lord.
Christ is God’s own and only sacrifice for sin. “For the wages [just penalty] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). No other sacrifice can cover or atone for sin, for, “…without the shedding of blood [death] there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). This is why in Judaism, the precursor of Christianity, the Old Covenant Law required the blood of animals on the altar as sacrifice for sin, which satisfied God’s wrath.
Now God has made a New Covenant: Christ has obeyed and fulfilled the Law in its entirety and has died as a substitute, ransom and complete sacrifice for sins. Now no blood of any animal can satisfy God in atonement for sin, for Christ’s blood has once for all paid the punishment for each believer’s sins.
“And by that [God’s] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy…And where these [sins] have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (Hebrews 10:10, 14, 18)
The sinner must appropriate redemption through faith in the blood (atoning death) of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-25). To offer righteous works or good deeds or an improved lifestyle as atonement for sin is simply a rejection of the true sacrifice, Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel: that no longer are we under the Old Covenant of the Law whereby we must make continuous sacrifices for sin, but now we are under the New Covenant whereby God himself made a sacrifice on behalf of His people. Christ is revealed to His people in time, that all His people will believe in faith and be saved.