by Ellen Ryan
For twenty years I believed I was saved. When I was two, I “asked Jesus into my heart” and was baptized shortly after that. Over the years I learned more about the Bible and Biblical principles. Prophecy was my favorite subject, and I learned so much I thought I knew when the rapture was to take place!
But about two years ago I started looking around at my life. After twenty years , I still had not developed the fruits of the spirit. Not only that, but my life looked like a neighborhood after a tornado had blown through. One disaster after another. Sin had only increased its stranglehold on my life, and I was becoming weaker and weaker in my resolve to be “good.” Then I heard a small voice. What good has your religion done you? What good has it done anybody else? Although I could see God had been working in my life, I couldn’t see any real difference in my spiritual growth. Nobody would mistake me for a Christian, and I had never shared the Gospel with anybody. I didn’t have a testimony, and I sure wasn’t a shining light to all the world of the changing power of the Cross. I assumed all those years that my sin would eventually and magically fall away. I assumed that Jesus just didn’t see all the sin. I reached a point where I was at my wits end and desperate. I asked God, “What do you want me to do with my life?’
I then began a two year journey that led me to the Mission Boulevard Baptist Church (MBBC) and Fayetteville Christian School (FCS). When I started to attend church, I loved the people but didn’t get much from the preaching. I couldn’t understand what Pastor Disney was talking about. I thought maybe he was just talking too smart for me. But Kenny Francis, associate pastor of MBBC and principal of FCS, took me under his wing and we began to go over the foundations of faith. When we finally reached the part of the study, “What exactly must you do to be saved,” I was excited! I couldn’t wait to see if I had gotten this right or not. It was a question I had been asking for two years.
I was a little disappointed when we first started though, because all Kenny was doing was going over scripture. I wanted him to explain it to me. I had heard all kinds of scripture with many interpretations, but nothing seemed to spell out exactly how this salvation worked. I knew Jesus paid for my sins, but I couldn’t figure out where we went from there. Was I saved at one point, and then from there I had to maintain my salvation? Or maybe this sin issue was just nothing to get worked up about, since Jesus had paid the price anyway. But as Brother Kenny patiently went over the Gospel scripture by scripture, something started to happen, something I had never experienced before. I started to realize exactly what was going on with this salvation thing! It was as if the Holy Spirit had entered my inward house, going room to room turning on the lights! I got it! I understood! It is God that convinces us that we are sinful. It is God that saves us! It is God that leads us to repentance and turns us inside out so that we are as grossed out by sin as He is! He saves us and that is that! We don’t and cannot do anything except receive. Why is that so hard? Why do we think we have to be involved in the process? He does it all so we can serve Him out of love and not fear. It is like being chained to a prison wall, and He comes in (if you let Him) and rips the chains off so you can be free to serve Him!
I was excited for next two days, but I was also puzzled. When exactly did I get saved? I couldn’t deny God had been working in my life. He had healed my children and me, and had rescued us from two house fires and a plane crash. But why hadn’t I had any assurance, and why did so many others who were saved have something I didn’t have? (a victorious life over sin and a boldness for Christ). I didn’t know how to witness, nor did I really want to. I was sorry for the sins I committed, and I would “repent,” but sooner or later, I would be right back into it again, never really overcoming. Two days later, I was back in brother Kenny’s office. I shared with him my dilemma, and just like brother Kenny, he pulled out his Bible and read Romans 2:4. ” the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.’ Another light went on. I had been saved for about two days. Our God has gently “worked on me” for twenty years – patiently and lovingly. I would have given up after the first week.
Now I had a new problem–Baptism. I told my cousin they would have to do some fancy foot work to convince me to be baptized into the church because it all seemed like man’s laws to me. The following day, I decided to attend the 7th‑and 8th‑grade Bible study at FCS for the first time. The topic that day happened to be, “Why should we be baptized into a church?” I had never mentioned baptism to Brother Kenny, and he was just going on a lesson plan, using his usual tactic of teaching only by scripture, not through his interpretation. The fancy foot work had me convinced before the bell rang. The next night was Wednesday, which meant church service and an opportunity to be baptized. Even though I still had a few old fears, I knew the Lord was communicating His will to me. I put my fears to the side and decided to obey right away. I could just tell in my heart that it was the Lord’s will, and I wanted the Lord to know that I was willing to obey and put my fears into His hands. I have always been afraid of cults; and a comfortable distance from any church had made me feel safe. But I knew this was the Lord! No man had convinced me! Just the words of the Lord!
That night at Church, the Lord was working again. The guest preacher told about Mary and how she had washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and hair. I love Mary because she reminds me of me. Unworthy and a disgrace to all decency, but Jesus loved her! I had kept my hair long and curly because I wanted the Lord to know that I would want to do the same thing she did if I could only see Him physically. It was our secret. It always made me a little sad to know that I would never see Jesus in that way. Just to sit at His feet, as Mary and Martha had done, and know for sure I was hearing God and not man. Wow! That night, the very last words Pastor Disney said during the service invitation was, “Now it is time to come and be at the Lord’s feet and wash His feet with your tears.” He said something after that, but I don’t remember what it was. I was already up standing next to him before he could finish. I had to pat him on the shoulder to let him know he could stop talking and come pray with me! It was Pastor Disney talking, but it was Jesus’ words, letting me know it was His invitation for me to come and join His Church. That’s all I need to know.