Topic 5. Who Is The God Who Provides Personal Salvation?
Admin says: You do not need to be aware of when you placed your faith in Jesus to be your Saviour – you are a Christian right now if you are trusting that His sacrificial death on the cross has paid for all your sins such that you are now forgiven for them. Many people know where, when and how conversion happened for them. Others do not know the day nor the hour of conversion. The differences arise because God never deals with us as job lots, but instead as individuals. He made us as individuals and likes us that way.
Rogan Taylor when in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Now Harare, Zimbabwe).
May 15th, 1972 will always stand out to me to be the most liberating and exciting days of my life. It was the day I said “yes” to Jesus, through whom I began a deeply personal relationship with my Father God. I was 14 years old at the time, and it all happened on the side of a mountain in the Vumba Highlands of Zimbabwe (previously Rhodesia), in South Central Africa.
Twelve months prior to this, my good friend Chris Taylor had told me about Jesus in real and understandable terms. At that time, he shared how he had opened his heart to Jesus Christ as Saviour, and encouraged me to do the same. Even though I was very much on the wrong track, I wasn’t ready then, but the seed had been sown.
My family was nominally “Anglican”, so I had had religious exposure occasionally at Easter and Christmas… sometimes….; but there was never talk of having a personal relationship with God, or the amazing Good News of Jesus and his incredible offer of forgiveness of sins and eternal life just by sincerely believing.
In the months that followed my conversations with Chris, the Holy Spirit of God began working on my heart, such that by the time I joined Chris and some other friends on a Scripture Union camp for young teenage boys in the Vumba mountains, I was ready to really listen.
At that camp, I heard the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ presented in the simplest and most profound way. On about the third or fourth day of camp I needed to be alone, away from everyone. I had heard what was necessary to find, know and believe in Jesus. I walked down the side of the mountain, away from the Ravenswood Camp Site (very close to Leopard Rock Hotel), and with no-one else around, sank to my knees. I was very ready, and cried out “Lord, what’s wrong with me?”
Almost immediately I heard a gentle voice saying, “You know what’s wrong with you, you need me”.
After that, I don’t remember the words I used, but it was then that I opened my heart fully to Father God, through Jesus, and placed my firm belief in Him. I had no doubt that I needed God to save me, and that, without Him, I would end up on a very wrong, destructive and rebellious track. For me it was a 180 degrees turn around, the start of a real clean-up process and the experience of God’s deep peace, empowered by nothing other than God’s grace.
Soon after my conversion experience, I discovered those words of Paul the Apostle who said “By the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor.15:10). That became a life verse for me. I will always be deeply grateful that someone cared enough, and loved enough, to tell me the good news about Jesus Christ. After deep personal conviction, I was baptised in 1976. From then until now, 1 Cor. 2:9 will always describe God’s goodness in my life “…as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’.
Rogan’s testimony shows that:
- God can use the words of caring friends to reach into the lives of the unconverted.
- God the Holy Spirit can work silently in the thinking of the unconverted, preparing them to accept Jesus Christ as their own personal saviour.
- God, on rare occasions, can even communicate directly, for example by voice, with someone genuinely seeking to become a Christian.
- God makes certain ‘anchor verses’ from the Bible personal to Christians, often throughout their lives.
Nick Bewes – Zimbabwe, Africa
I was just an ordinary bloke in my early twenties – nothing special about me – other than fulfilling my dream job as a commercial pilot. I was getting on with life, without any concern for others. But I was plagued with questions about why I was on this planet.
Having served in the armed forces, on leaving school during a bitter bush war, and having lost several friends around me, I was deeply surprised by my survival. Even as I arrived at my first posting, three men were killed in an ambush and I had to formally identify their bodies the next morning. Soon, I found myself filling the shoes of one of them, doing the same dangerous work. But, then, I didn’t think much about it. After all, with the silliness of youth, I was bulletproof, wasn’t I?
However, by the end of the war, I was troubled. I had deserved to die far more than any of those others. And more than one friend survived, only to die following demobilisation in road accidents. So, I was questioning, what was it all about? I was 21 and spiritually bankrupt!
Some difficult relationships followed. But one girl was a bit different. Her Christian mother sensed my mostly unspoken questions but knew I had plenty of reading time, between flights, so she fed me books. Each one brought thirst for more. The questions multiplied! Finally, my questions resolved into: “Who are you, God, and what do you want me here for?” I then spoke to God, asking Him to take charge of my life. I was just 24.
Nothing dramatic happened, only a great peace and a desire to know more of God. This was to lead me, via airlines and marriage, to Bible College and then part-time church work, alongside some flying. Life was good, but God wasn’t finished with me. I still had much to learn!
(Ivan comments: We all still have much to learn, and sometimes that takes us through difficult times of testing that are individualised. You will meet Nick again in Topic 22 – Who Is God That He Supports Us During Trying Times?)
Nick’s testimony shows that:
- God can meet us at our point of insecurity about life in general, and our own life in particular.
- Lending out good Christian literature can help those who are seeking to find out about God. Often seekers are too insecure to want to talk openly about God, but a book is under their control to read it or not, and many times books have facilitated conversions.
- Conversion is only the beginning of learning about God, about ourselves, and about others.
Brenda Rudolph in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe)
Brenda’s Catholic background had taught her that she was already a Christian, but she perceived that she lacked the personal relationship with God she saw in others, including close friends. She didn’t want to return to practising Catholicism since she hadn’t found that close relationship with God there. But nor was she a Protestant and certainly not an agnostic – she really believed in Jesus Christ as the saviour of mankind! She felt miserable and did not know how to overcome her problem.
She went to a meeting held by Howard Jones, a visiting Afro-American evangelist and one of the Billy Graham stable. Before the end of the meeting, he said there were some there that day with special needs that only God knew about, and if they raised their hands he would pray for them. She raised her hand. He then called the three who had raised their hands to the front, but did not pray for them and left them there. Brenda felt a bit isolated and foolish.
Howard Jones followed with a call to anyone who wanted to commit their lives to Christ to come forward, and those three at the front were swamped by a wave of seekers. Counsellors were called for to assist everyone at the front.
Brenda stood there despondently, sure that no counsellor could understand her particular Catholic dilemma.
She noticed a tall very attractive blonde woman making her way to her through the crowd. Suddenly this tall girl was standing in front of her and led her to one side. Teary by now, Brenda explained she was a Catholic, not really wanting to practise, and how could she know what God wanted her to do? Probably no-one at this evangelical meeting would understand.
Her counsellor nodded, then said she did understand because she’d been in the same situation exactly – in fact she’d been at the same Catholic Convent as Brenda
Brenda then began to recognise her, not only from school, but from her being Miss Rhodesia a few years earlier.
“When I saw you standing there, I felt prompted to make my way to you and speak to you.” She then advised Brenda not to worry about the ‘which church’ problem, but instead to pray to Christ to lead her life and trust that He would resolve her confusion.
Brenda responded, and an amazing thing began to happen over the next few weeks. Many teachings had been ingrained in her over the years, but now she could discern which were God’s truths and which were simply church traditions and man-made doctrines. No one had to teach her, she just knew. Such is the work of the now indwelling Holy Spirit as her teacher.
Brenda’s testimony shows that:
- God can use Christians very effectively who dedicate their activities to Him, as this Miss Rhodesia did in Brenda’s case.
- God knows how to reach us, whether in a moment at the right time, as He did with Brenda, or through a process, as in Ivan’s case that follows.
- God knows our hang-ups, as in the case of Brenda’s Catholicism, and can make provision by directing the right people to speak to us.
- God can teach us truth deep inside our spirits by the work of the Holy Spirit, who is our delegated Teacher, especially regarding deep spiritual matters (John 16:13 and 14:26).
Ivan Adds: “So that I do not give the wrong impression, some of the most ardent, faithful and loving Christian friends whom I respect very much are Catholics. And some of the most insightful and helpful discussions I have had about God were with Father Kennedy in Rhodesia. Ultimately, however, it is not your denomination or other label that counts, but only where you are with God.”
Ivan Rudolph, when in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
While happy in my circumstances in Rhodesia in the early 1970s, I felt restless deep inside.
One evening I asked myself, “Why am I so dissatisfied and on edge? I’m luckier than most other people; I at least know that God is real because of the way He dealt with that terrifying evil force at university (another experience). Why don’t I want to do something about my knowing beyond doubt that God is real? Perhaps it’s time to pursue God?” I promptly dismissed the thought and remained in my restlessness.
At the time I was playing squash in a team comprising three other more skilled players than myself: Ian Bond, who had national colours in three sports, Kevin Martin and Bryan Stone. Both Kevin and Bryan had played squash for national teams, so I was definitely the minnow in the team and had against form won a challenge match to become a member.
Unbeknown to any of us, Kevin had placed his love of playing squash “on the altar” that year. As a young doctor, he was frantically busy and unable to involve himself in Christian ministry to the degree he wanted, and had put this problem to God before the season started.
“Lord,” Kevin prayed, “I don’t want to play squash simply because I enjoy it so much. If there are other things you want me to do instead, I will give it up. If not, please use my playing in some way this season for your Kingdom.”
Within weeks, the Tuesday night squash team together with our wives began meeting on a Thursday as well – for Christian discussion. We were all at different stages of interest in God. Everyone benefitted, and over the months learnt more and experienced more, and came closer to Christ as a consequence. In my case, although I cannot identify a moment when it occurred, I committed my life to Christ to be my own Saviour and Leader.
Ivan’s Testimony shows that:
- God is incredibly patient with us. He loves us. Despite my procrastination and pushing Him aside for some years, He continued reaching out to me. He knocked at different times on the door of my life, but I was not listening nor responding.
- God can use Christians very effectively who dedicate their activities to him, as in the case of Kevin and his squash.
- God can reach us in a moment in time as with Brenda, or through a process, as He did in my case.
Esther Herschell – evangelist and missionary, now living in Queensland Australia. “I cannot remember a time when I did not love Jesus.”
My parents were both saved (became Christians) at a young age. My mother was 14 and in a Baptist Church. My dad was 17 and from a Methodist background. Mum was 21 when she was baptised in the Holy Spirit and was asked to leave the church where she was because of it.
Dad and Mum were both attending a Pentecostal gathering when they met. The home I was born into was Pentecostal, and both my parents were passionate about the Bible being the Word of God.
When I was six, my father had a complete breakdown and was taken into hospital. Mum was told he would never come out! She was asked by our pastor to sing a song at the Sunday morning service. She sang “Into the will of Jesus, deeper and deeper I go”. It was her surrender to a God whom she and dad had learned to trust implicitly, a God who had proved Himself faithful.
Some months into dad’s sickness, the pastor and elders had a half night of prayer for his healing, and on the Tuesday of that week our pastor took communion to dad. Dad grabbed the cover and put it on his head saying, “I’m covered by the blood of Jesus.” By the end of the week he was completely normal and back home.
We experienced the goodness of God from watching it lived out in the home. From childhood, my father would take the four younger children and read aloud the Bible written for children by Elsie Egermeir. When he’d finish, we’d start again. We grew up with the Word of God.
I loved Sunday School, and I think that our Sunday School teachers were among the best. There were a number of altar calls in our Sunday School, inviting us to give our lives to Jesus, and I responded to nearly every one.
There came a day when I was 10 when we went as a family to a meeting in the Town Hall where the evangelist John Ridley was preaching about the Cross, and I knew for sure during that meeting that Jesus had died for me.
I don’t remember a time when I wanted to leave home and go into the world. Although I wasn’t a perfect child, far from it. In fact, I was quite turbulent, but underneath, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Jesus. I was baptised in water at age 14 and shortly afterwards baptised in the Holy Spirit.
It was the teaching and living Christian lives in the home, where we had lots of fun and discipline and consistent referring to the Bible as a rule of life, that set the pattern of my life as I transitioned into adulthood, and began a journey that is still blessing me today.
Esther’s testimony shows that:
- God can reach us from childhood in in a good Christian home.
- We may not know when we became a Christian, but still know for certain that we are one.
- God can deepen our faith and knowledge of Him through some extremely difficult and challenging circumstances in the home.
- God can use parents reading the Bible to children, including simplified children’s Bibles and scripture stories, to establish its place as the standard and guidance for their lives.
- God tests each of us throughout life, in families or not, to develop our faith, hope and love.
- God can use Sunday School and its teachers, as well as platform preachers, to deepen the commitment of our children to Jesus.