Date of Salvation: April 2016
Location: Home in Peoria, AZ
Saved from: Unbelief, lustful habits
Age at time of salvation: 20
I was born and raised in a Baptist church (part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement) in Pasco, Washington. My home was very religious and we went to church anytime the doors were open. My parents were involved in the Bus Ministry and Sunday School, my father was a deacon and my mother worked in the Christian school that was run by the church. Because I was always around church, I heard people talk about being saved and it sounded cool. So, at the age of four, I asked my dad if I could pretend to be saved, and he responded, “You don’t have to pretend, you can be saved.” So, I prayed over the lawn mower in our garage and from then on I was “saved” in the Baptist church. Being so young, I did not know what sin was and what salvation meant, but it showed that I had an awareness of spiritual matters from a young age.
At the age of eleven, I felt the fear of going to Hell. This was caused by hearing messages about how Hell is a horrible place and you will go there unless you ask Jesus to come into your heart. I struggled with this fear for a week or two. I would have gone to the altar right away, but I thought I had already been saved when I was four, and the feeling of conviction caused me to be very confused. After grappling with this conviction for a while, I decide to raise my hand at the end of the morning devotional in my class at school. My mother was the one I talked to and I got saved then. (The Baptists call this a reassurance of salvation because they believe you cannot lose your salvation.)
A little over a year later, my family decided to move two hours north to Spokane, Washington and we started attending another Baptist church that was affiliated with the one we previously attended. I was a good kid and did what was right for the first two years after our move. But in the summer after 7th grade, I was hit by the hormones of puberty and I became aware of females. I started looking at pornography, not knowing that it was wrong at the time. It started as a small thing but very quickly became one of the only things I would think about. Later that year, I heard pornography being preached against and I asked my mother what that word meant. When she told me, I instantly knew that what I was doing was wrong and that I was sinning. But I couldn’t stop myself from turning to it. I tried and tried but always ended in failure. I would go up to the altar in chapel asking God to save me—just in case I didn’t mean it before—but I never could regain the spiritual cleanliness I wanted. Now at the school I went to in Spokane, I became the model Christian student. I received the Christian Character award, lead the student prayer meetings, gave devotionals and I also preached on youth night. But I knew on the inside that I was living a lie and was making church become a form rather than an experience.
In the summer of 2013, my family and I moved to Yorktown, Virginia because my father found a new job out there. I prayed that—no matter which church we would end up going to—that I would be more of a follower and not a leader so I could deepen my spiritual roots. After church shopping for a month, my parents decided that we would go to Maranatha Baptist Church. I was older than my counterparts in the youth group by three years, and by the time I left the class I felt like I knew more than the youth pastor because of my own personal aptitude for spiritual matters.
In the summer of 2014, I went to a big church camp, and on the last night I felt like I should go to the altar and try to get victory over my problem with pornography. When I was talking with the counselor, I withheld the magnitude of my problem and told him I just had issues with thinking of girls in the wrong way. The counselor responded by saying that all guys have problems with that and you just need to try not to think about it that much. He used I Corinthians 10:13 to explain that everyone is tempted. That did not satisfy my need, however, and this was the beginning of my separation from the Baptist church. In September, my sister and I started discussing how we weren’t being fed spiritually at this church and became very disgruntled with it. So, by December we concluded we were no longer Baptists.
From this time Sarah and I started searching for the truth. I began by looking into what other churches believe and I quickly became discouraged after finding out that there are thousands of different denominations. During this brief time of searching and a little bit prior to that, I earnestly asked for God’s help to make sense of it all but I felt as if I were just talking to myself. When my sister and I met, she brought up the question, “Does God even exist?” This took me back at first as I was against the idea of atheism. But after she brought up various things online, it was undeniable to my doubting mind. So at the beginning of 2015, I became an atheist. This decision opened the gateway to worldliness. I was no longer bound by the predetermined morals of Christianity, so I could decide for myself what was right and what was wrong. Within the first month of that decision my addiction to pornography got much worse. I eventually got into things that I never would have even thought I would, which disgusts me now today. (This reminds me of the saying “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, and keep you longer than you want to stay.”) As my addiction worsened, I thought to myself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” One side (my conscience) told me that what I was doing was wrong and that I needed to stop, while the other (Satan) told me that whatever gives you pleasure can’t be wrong no matter what it is. I began to curse like a sailor. I also started watching more vulgar, promiscuous, and violent TV and movies.
In my state of unbelief, I opened my mind to many ideas outside of Christianity such as Marxism, Islamism, Eastern Mysticism, Satanism, and many other ideologies. I eventually found the most enjoyment in watching the liberal media, which educated me on progressive and atheistic thinking. Becoming an atheist completely destroyed my entire basis for morality and I dived head first into sin.
When I decided to become an atheist, I instantly knew I would have to leave my home to truly break from this religious oppression I felt I was under. So, I instinctively turned to the military as my way out. I wanted to join the Navy and with a high ASVAB score, the Navy wanted me. There was one barrier though: I had to lose 50 pounds before I could go to boot camp. On my way home from that meeting, I signed up for a gym that was nearby my house, started working out 3 to 5 times a week and ate a healthy diet for almost 5 months straight. After all that effort, I lost 5 pounds. This was discouraging to me, and I realized in June that I need to find another way out of the house. So, I began to consider going to any college that would cover enough tuition to convince mom and dad that it was a good thing. My mother proposed the idea that I move to Phoenix and live with her father while going to college out there. When I looked up the prices for college classes in Phoenix, I found my selling point. After a week of research, I told my parents that I wanted to move to Phoenix and they were fine with it as long as my Grandparents would approve also.
A few months after deciding to become an atheist, my co-workers at Chick-fil-a noticed a change in my life and they inquired what had happened. They were shocked to hear about my unbelief and for the next few months they tried in every way they could to convince me that I was wrong and that I needed God in my life. I was surprised by the care they had, and it was nice to not have pretend to believe in God at work while I adjusted to being my new self. After I made the decision to move to Phoenix, God started working on my heart. I began to have lengthy discussions with one of my co-workers about God. We started on a philosophical level, and slowly broke down the arguments I had developed against God. By September, I began to start listening in church again to see what they would preach, and I would compare it to other denominations and religions. This is when I was first confronted with the idea that one could lose their salvation, because I was a living example. In the Wednesday night service, the pastor was going through the book of James and the things he was preaching were not lining up with the Word of God. This solidified the thought that all religious people are hypocrites and that I should avoid religion altogether, and made me all the more anxious to move to Phoenix so I could escape this prison and be free. In the months right before my move, due to the talks with my coworker and looking at the evidence, I started to believe in God again. But I was determined I was NOT going to become a Christian—or any other religion for that matter—because all religious people were hypocritical and/or fanatical.
I moved to Phoenix in early January 2016, and I purposed in my heart to enjoy life as much as I could now that I was out of the house. I did not want to be drastic though, so I still went to church with my grandparents and I decided to talk to the pastor to let him know where I was at spiritually. After a few talks with him and willingly going to church, I got saved again. (This is the Baptist version of salvation where I said a prayer stating that I believe Christ died on the cross for my sins, but it had nothing to do with repentance.) This action was not in vain though, because it reawakened my conscience to the sin in my life and the error of my ways. I realized this a few days later when I went to a big movie I had been waiting to come out. After I saw it, I was disgusted with myself. The next week I went to the single young adult get together from my church, and I discovered that they were no different than I was; We watched the same shows, used the same words, and had the same inappropriate sense of humor. I found this disconcerting, and I knew this was not the group I should be fellowshipping with if I wanted to get close to God. But what choice did I have?
When I moved to Phoenix, I did not really want to continue working for Chick-fil-a, but I knew it would be a guaranteed position if I applied since I had prior experience. So, I applied at Chick-fil-a Arrowhead. This may not seem like a significant decision, but I later realized that Arrowhead was three times the distance from my house in comparison to another store. That decision to work at Chick-fil-a Arrowhead has changed my life. The reason is that there were four young ladies from the Church of God working at this location.
For the first two months, I did not really notice the saints too much, other than the fact that they wore skirts. One day in mid-March, I was bagging drive-thru while Dawn was on window. Our conversation started out about the political election but eventually it turned to spiritual things. This conversation led to future talks about everything from the standards of the Church of God to the doctrine of Eternal Security. Taking from a conversation I had previously had with my co-worker in Virginia, I told Dawn that I would go to her Church if she went to mine. She responded that she couldn’t make herself go to my church because she knew they taught false doctrine. This was surprising to me, but it made me want to know more about her church and how she could be so confident in her beliefs. After this discussion, Dawn and Becky actively invited me to bible study and even brought Stephen (who lead the bible study) to Chick-fil-a to introduce me. I said that I would go to the study, but the first week I forgot about it. The next Friday I went to the study.
The study was on the journey of the soul after death. I don’t remember much about the study itself, but I do recall being impressed by the knowledge and understanding these young guys had. After the study, there were snacks and fellowship. This fellowship was more impressive to me than the study itself, because of how these people were interacting with one another in a clean and happy manner. I described the saints as wholesome people at first, and I knew this was something I wanted in my own life. So, I came back to the study the next week, and the week after that, and then I decided that I needed to visit their church.
The first Sunday in May, I went to the Church of God in Avondale. I was surprised by the service. In the worship service you could feel the presence of God, and you could tell that God had done something for these people. When the pastor preached, he spoke the word of God with authority and power. Most of the message was about things I had never heard before, but it rang true with my heart. I went to both services that day. Because I didn’t want to be taken in by just feelings and nothing concrete, I decided I need to test the Church of God against Maranatha Baptist Church by sitting in another service at the Maranatha church. I prayed that God would make it clear to me which church was right. God answered my prayer by making the service at Maranatha so dead spiritually, it left me wondering why I went there in the first place. After the service, I told the Pastor that I would be going to this new church I had found, and he was glad that I found a church that I fit into.
The next service I attended at the Church of God was a Wednesday evening, which means it was a prayer service and then we had a message afterwards. During May, they were going through the book of Revelation, and Stephen was surprised after the service when I asked him if the entire book of Revelation was a history of the church and it just uses different analogies to explain it. Now, I did not figure this out on my own. I was raised with the Left Behind interpretation of Revelation so for me to see the light on the true interpretation of Revelation was divinely inspired. After this service, I noticed a change in my life and I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. At the end of the month, I had my first meeting with Pastor Ward and we talked about all sorts of things, but the main subject was sanctification. Throughout the next two months, I talked to Pastor Ward about why the Church has different standards (cussing, TV, etc.) and I would submit each one after we talked about it. Sometime in July, I realized I could not stay saved without God’s help and I got sanctified. I was able to go to Mt. Tabor camp meeting in Ohio, and through the messages I was given a vision of the Church of God. Since then, God has helped me grow in the faith and I am so grateful to be part of His Church. Looking back on how God worked in my life, I see how He works in mysterious ways to get people to where they need to be.