Pastor JJ’s Testimony
I was born in the small southern city of Easley, SC to two loving parents. Some of my earliest memories of childhood surround Christ, the Church and the Bible. I made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at age 9 and was baptized shortly thereafter. As I began to grow into my teenage years it was apparent that I had no heart for Christ, His Word, and the concerns of His Church. My heart was filled with sin and my life was directed toward worldly pursuits. The thought of living everyday with an eye toward pleasing the risen Lord could not have been more distasteful to me. However, when it came to where I was headed to spend eternity, I thought I was covered because I had “my ticket to heaven”. I really believed that the action I took at age 9 had sealed my eternal destiny, and that how I lived after that point had no connection with whether I was going to heaven or to hell.
At age 14, through the influence of some young people who befriended me, I got involved in the youth group of the church. It was then that I guess you could say, I “rededicated my life” to the Lord. A few months later I surrendered to what I considered at the time to be a call to the Christian ministry. I almost immediately began to have opportunities to preach in various churches. Yet, not long afterwards, I began to have doubts about the genuineness of my conversion. Am I really saved? was essentially the question with which I began to wrestle. I cannot recount the times that in seeking for peace I said the “sinners prayer” in private.
The True Gospel
Within about a year or so, a book came across my path that would have nothing less than a transforming effect upon my life-The Gospel according to Jesus by John MacArthur, Jr. I was 16 at the time, and that was the first time in my life that I had been confronted with the pure gospel as taught by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. I saw from the scriptures with my own eyes that cross bearing commitment to Jesus Christ was not an optional second tier of Christian experience to which many true believers never attain. I was brought to realize that there is no such thing as having Christ as Savior while refusing to surrender to Him as Lord. I came to the conviction that surrendering to Him as Lord is as essential to going to heaven, as much as is trusting Him alone to save me by virtue of His death. I came to see that the concept of the Carnal Christian (the popular teaching that a person can be saved by Christ’s redemptive work while still living in sin and in conformity to the world) is patently unbiblical. Though salvation is all of grace and a person can never lose it, at the same time, once one is genuinely saved he is a new creature in Christ who lives a life of faith and holiness to the end of his earthly pilgrimage . However, all of this exposure to the Light only proved to make me more miserable.
“Lord, have Mercy on Me!”
In the fall of my senior year of high school the struggle over my soul’s salvation reached its peak. The Lord brought me into a season of deep conviction of my sin and lost condition. It reached such unbelievable intensity that it is hard to describe in just a few words. Suffice it to say, I was given eyes to see that my spiritual state was so desperate before a holy God that merely mouthing the “sinners prayer” , even sincerely, was not a sufficient remedy. I was dead in trespasses and sins and in bondage to an evil heart that hated the God who made me. All I had done up to that point every second of my life was sin against God. Even my preaching was treason since I did not do it out of love to Him and for His glory. I was a mercenary in it for myself. I was desperate and I knew He did not have to save me, and if He damned me to an eternal hell He would be just. I deserved it (I still do).I knew if He saved me it would be totally an act of mercy. I needed Him to do something for me that I could not do for myself. Praise and bless His holy name! He heard my cries, had mercy on me and saved me from my sin, misery, and hell. I cannot point to the day or the hour, but at some point between the fall of my senior year and the first part of the new year, I was brought out of death into life and found myself in the blessed state of being united to Christ by faith. I still wrestled and struggled with assurance for a time, but the more I read the scriptures and communed with Him in prayer the more His Spirit granted me the confidence that I had been born again.
Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares……Grace Will Lead Me Home
It is hard to believe, but that has been over twenty years ago. It has not been smooth sailing since the Savior sought and found this wandering sheep. I have had a lot of remaining sin that has given me clear testimony that I have not yet been perfected. There have been trials, and I have known what is to experience the loneliness of walking through the dark valley of suffering for the sake of Christ and His gospel. No complaints. It has been worth it all, and I have never regretted taking up the cross to follow the Master. Through it all, the good and bad, I have found Him to be a man of His Word-His yoke has been easy and His burden has been light (Mt 11:29) and He has never left me nor forsaken me (Heb 13:5). Having started the work of grace in me as a 17 year old boy, I know that He will not abandon the work of His hands and will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).
The Lord has been good to this sinner in so many ways that I would not have the time or space here to innumerate them. He gave me two loving parents. He has given me a godly wife who loves and supports me, and has blessed me with an amazing, sweet little boy. I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who are a tremendous encouragement to me in my journey to the celestial city. He has been gracious to me calling me into the ministry and has given me the privilege of pastoring a congregation of people whom I love dearly. As long as the Lord keeps me here it is my sincere desire to know more what of it is to say with the Apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21 NAS)
I hope to see you one day in His presence as a fellow sinner redeemed by His blood