My life before Christ
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience -Ephesians 2:1-2
I grew up attending a catholic school until 5th grade. My family were nominal catholics, it meant little to them, but I jumped through all the hoops as far as confirmations and first communion go. My parents divorced when I was a teenager and I turned to drugs and a lifestyle somewhere between hippy and punk and was heavily involved in the underground techno scene. I managed to graduate high school but had two children out of wedlock by the time I was twenty one. From there I flopped along into my mid twenties, ended up with a decent job, and spent weekends with my young children.
I eventually ended up working for a Christian boss at my job. He was pretty bold in sharing the Gospel with me when I gave him opportunity and eventually I started to come under conviction. At this time I met my wife, who had grown up in a hypocritical religious home, and we planned to get married in the fall of 2001. On September 11th, just four days before our wedding, the physical judgment of God began on this nation whose christendom had long since been under the spiritual judgment of God. I had a lot of questions for my boss and I started to consider the claims of Christ more seriously.
My life of compromise with Christ
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? – Luke 6:46
Within a year after getting married my wife and I began attending a small (250 on Sunday) AOG church in our area. I started to learn more about Christ and started attending Wednesday night services too. I remember one night coming under deep conviction of the horrible sins I had committed in the course of my life. I prayed silently in the pew and the Lord touched my life that night when I believed on His name, however little my faith was. I believe I was saved that night despite some terrible backsliding that would later take place; God began a good work that He has been faithful to complete to this day.
Shortly after this the interim pastor, who I remember to be a humble servant, left for California and a new pastor who had previously been a regional director for AOG took over. He was a lot different than the first pastor that had been there. For the next couple of years I was at the steeple house any times the doors were opened. I had great religious zeal but it was largely without knowledge. I had stopped smoking, drinking, and drugs but I was very worldly, watched things on television that God hates, was a professional sports addict, and given to a besetting sin that is common to many men in this internet age. I also was very greedy, I was taught to start tithing by the promise that God would give me more back in return if I did. This went on for a couple of years.
The Lord opened my eyes
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. -2Timothy 3:5-7
I can’t recount the exact order that the following sequence of events took place, but it was roughly over the course of a year or so. I still worked for the same boss who had first shared Christ with me and he went to a questionable AOG church too so we got along well. One day I told him about some struggles I was having in my Christian walk and he recommended checking out a minister named Ray Comfort. My wife and I ended up turning on an episode of “The Way Of The Master” (on TBN of all places) while flipping through the channels one Saturday afternoon. I was shocked by the things ‘Mike Seaver’ and Ray Comfort said. From WOTM I was lead to teachings from men such as Charles Spurgeon, David Wilkerson, and Leonard Ravenhill. The Lord started to open my eyes. There was something terribly wrong… both with my own heart and the local church I attended.
It was during this time that I started to learn my Christian experience was at best very weak and at worse completely fraudulent. I started to dig in God’s word to see which Christ was true and which was “another jesus”. I learned that we were using mission’s money to support an emergent church plant that took communion with U2 songs playing and called it u2charist. I learned that the church was constantly begging for money using emotional manipulation while pretending to not be begging for money. I learned that the pastor was a nicolatian who was standing between the people and Christ (though I didn’t even know what that word nicolatian meant at the time). I learned that the prosperity gospel and seeker sensitive movement were subtly at work. I also learned, from working in the music ministry, that during a service the pastor pretended to get a spontaneous song for us to sing but I had already seen that song was cued up in the computer several days before.
The pastor closed my eyes
Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. -Luke 11:52
During that same time period, every Sunday at the end of service false converts were made by using the soft piano music followed by the invitation “If you are here and do not know Jesus we are going to ask everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads and you just raise your hand if you want to know Jesus. Everyone has their eyes closed so you don’t have to be embarrassed, I saw the hand, I saw the hand”… then everyone claps (God have mercy I had even once brought some Indian coworkers and most likely made them false converts like this). Since the Lord had opened my eyes to the unbiblical and damning effects of this foolishness I was very grieved. I even started praying against anyone raising their hand every Sunday and the leadership leading people into damnation.
I also began to notice that the pastor skipped over any part of scripture that involved self denial, turning from sin and worldliness, counting the cost of forsaking everything to follow Jesus, the justice of God, the eternal damnation of hell, etc. He literally would stop reading, and skip over any ‘offensive’ words. I seriously paid attention and this was a regular trend. Once in a while he would give a general reference to Jesus dying for your sins while being to cowardly to name those sins (most likely because his job depended on not offending his false converters who cherished those sins).
It eventually became too much of a burden to bear and I went and shared with him about True and False Conversion and gave him the message on CD. He told me he would give it a listen since he had “checked the records and saw I was a faithful tither”. No I’m not kidding; I couldn’t make that up (either his statement or my own ignorance and greed in supporting that place). The next Wednesday he announced to the congregation that he had heard something that really shook him and announced that a copy of True and False Conversion by Ray Comfort had been burned to CD and was available to everyone in the congregation free of charge. I was shocked and overjoyed at this, maybe revival was coming! Over the following months he even agreed to show season one of the WOTM on Sunday nights.
Sadly that was short lived and had no visible effect on the congregation other than the senior pastor not outright declaring people to be saved and going to heaven if they responded to an alter call. In fact, afterwards it seemed a flood of other apostasy came into the church. Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer were being promoted from the pulpit, foolish comedy skits were put on and a non-offensive laodecian message was still being preached.
Please don’t send me to hell
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. -Proverbs 3:11-12
Through all this my own heart had become backslidden in a sense and I continued on with a couple secret sins in my life without the fear of the Lord. One day I received a call from one of my Indian coworkers, one that I had most likely falsely converted. He was in town on business for a few weeks and I picked him up one Sunday to take him to evening service. We made it about a block down the road from his hotel to the freeway overpass when I didn’t notice a red light. I heard a scream and a loud crash, I had rolled out into the path of two cars exiting the freeway at full speed. After getting knocked around by the air bag I was in shock. I ended up trying to get out of the car and tried to run but fell face down in the gutter next to the curb. I could hardly think and was trying to feel my numb body as I lay face down in a puddle of oil and gravel. I was gripped with fear over what had just happened and over the fact I had been playing the hypocrite, continuing on in willful sin even though I knew better. I could barely breathe, I prayed silently “Oh God, I know I deserve it but please don’t send me to hell”. At that moment I heard the Lord speak these words to me “I chasten those whom I love as [my] children”. I ended up coming home from the hospital with not much more than an arm sling and a deep, reverent fear of the Lord. I found out I was the only one with any serious injury out of all people in the three cars involved. The impact on the trailblazer I was driving was so violent that it did over 20,000 worth of damage. I feared God and I loved Him and I had an absolute hatred for sin in my life, though I was certainly still shackled by it to some degree. I still had no idea that God was preparing to remove me from Babylon and Babylon from me.
So we returned to the AOG church after the accident and I shared with a few close friends there everything the Lord had been doing and showing me, both about my own heart and the church. Not long after a scandal broke out where a member got pregnant during an adulterous relationship and filed for a divorce from her husband. No church discipline was taken and she even started to flaunt this fact at service. Then one Sunday a dear sister (there were a few sheep there amongst the majority of goats) got permission to share a word with the congregation. She started to talk vague about living holy before the Lord then broken down in tears and cried out “I’m sorry pastor, but I’m not going to keep silent on this like you told me to. Sexual sin should be dealt with in this church.” The pastor looked like a deer in the headlights, not only had he refused to take biblical discipline he also had only allowed to let this sister speak if she didn’t specifically say anything about the situation. He later told me that if he was mean to people … they would not come back to church so he could Sheppard them. He basically said he aimed to please carnal men over obeying a thrice holy God.
The living and powerful word of God
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12
It was right about then that I met a few brethren in a God ordained meeting. They were leading a group down to Detroit one Saturday to feed and preach the Gospel to the homeless. I met them at their house and the group prayed in the living room together. The presence of God came into that room so powerfully and in such an undeniable reality that it was truly awesome. It was completely different then the so called presence of God that the soulish worship at the beginning of a charismatic church service was suppose to induce. There we were praying and sharing things that the Lord had taught us one with another and it was like I had been kidnapped as a child and was just meeting my real family for the first time. We went down to Detroit and I saw the Lord do amazing things, the New Testament became my life, Jesus the object of my affections, His bride my brothers and sisters. The New Testament was not just a historical account I read, it became real in my life! It would take a book to write every wonderful thing that the Lord did during that time, and maybe sometime I will. I learned so much more in Christ in just a few months meeting in homes and ministering to the homeless and gangs then I did in all my years as a puppet in the pew. I have read about great revivals of the past, and this was a time of great revival for sure, though on a much smaller scale.
Still we attended the AOG a few more times. The youth pastor had an outreach planned to give supplies to kids in a poor neighborhood and I was invited because of my zeal for evangelism. Before we left for the park to pass out the backpacks someone had to remind the youth pastor “shouldn’t we pray”. He gave a 20 second prayer then said ok it’s time to go. We basically went, put on a show, and passed out some supplies and advertisements for the church. I was so grieved, this was so fake and powerless and now I knew it because I had experienced the real. My heart weeps for true brethren that are caught up in a cheap imitation Christian life. That life is meant for the tares – those who having itching ears, refuse the cross, and delight in religious lies. That life is not meant for true saints who love God and His every word with all of their hearts (even when it exposes things in our lives).
We went back to the AOG one more week when something happened during the worship. We were seated near the front, in a room full of people raising their hands, singing “I am a friend of God” and yelling about the presence of God. I just kept my eyes closed so grieved and weeping in heart because I knew it was fake, that Jesus said we were His friend only if we obeyed Him. I finally opened my eyes and looked ahead at the choir. I saw everything in the spiritual, almost like an x-ray of what was taking place. The choir was full of demonic spirits seducing the people. The hand raising and clapping was lewdness and flesh. I looked over at my wife and I knew this was our last day as captives in Babylon. The Lord was setting us free. We would run for our lives from this place of religious delusion and never return.
The end of our captivity in Babylon
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. – Revelation 18:4
I managed to get the pastor to meet with me one more time after this for lunch. I did not say anything negative to him about “his church”. I just told him we were meeting for home fellowship with the group we had been doing the homeless ministry with and went on to declare all the wonderful things the Lord had done in our lives. He looked at me and sarcastically said “well how does it feel to have it all figured out?” I didn’t say it at the time but it felt incredible, Jesus was alive, the New Testament was real, and I had been set free into this reality. I gently and humbly exhorted him not to be a man pleaser and coward. We said our goodbyes and departed. It was like the long term prisoner shaking hands with the warden of the jail on the day of his release. My time was up. King Jesus had signed a decree to release me from my sentence of religious bondage and unreality!
I remember the following Sunday morning, after having spent the previous day fellowshipping with saints and preaching on the mean streets of Detroit. I sat there on the front porch, drinking my coffee, and just overwhelmed with the presence and joy of Christ. Looking at the clock, I knew service was starting and I wasn’t there. I knew I couldn’t use my church attendance to gage my spiritual condition any longer as many in America do. All I had was Jesus and in Him I had everything. During this time, while praying for freedom from that certain besting sin I mentioned, the Lord spoke to me and told me I was already free in Christ. By Gods grace alone I have not fallen to it since (To my own shame I have frustrated the grace of God in various other ways since and in no way am claiming to be “sinlessly perfect”). Religion will always seek to keep us in bondage while the Spirit will always draw us into freedom.
From the time that I was saved I knew catholicism and cults were false and had nothing to do with Jesus, but I had no idea, even after leaving, that the protestant and evangelical churches were becoming just as bad. One day I was driving down the road and came to the shocking realization that it is all a lie. If the Bible is true than popular christendom is part of the strong delusion sent to damn all those who delight in unrighteousness. I already believed, as many do, that 80-90% of church members are not saved (including leadership). I just never put it all together before then. I finally understood why the apostle John in revelation marveled how such a thing could even be. The harlot imposter of the bride of Christ was deceiving the very elect if that were possible.
With that said, I do not believe that all institutional churches are Babylon (yet). There are surely still a few institutional churches and some saints scattered about in the system that have not bowed their knee to Baal. I believe a few are even called by God to stand there and be a prophetic voice in this generation. There are even still a few true elders that are not proud in heart though they pastor institutional churches (though they are hardly the typical pastors we see today). Some of them have been used mightily by God in my life and brought me closer to Christ. I do not write these things to slander any of these true brethren in any way and love them deeply in Christ. I encourage every brother and sister that has already fled Babylon to remember that we have true brethren left in there. If your heart is hardened against them you’re no better off than those still under delusion. Who made you to differ to anyway? The same Lord who wept over His city that would reject and crucify Him is who made you to differ. Guard your hearts against pride and bitterness brethren; this is one area where I fell shamefully after fleeing Babylon and that I have to watch to this day.
I will also say to those true brethren in the institutional churches, that I long to see them forsake the traditions of men. Many of these traditions such as sola pastor, a clergy laity system, pews, and a pre-programmed service lend themselves to religious unreality. Some are flat out unbiblical and are only justified by the traditions of men. These traditions keep true saints in spiritual infancy as God has ordained that His body is brought into maturity through the many member body ministering to each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is undeniable that the normal Christianity we see in the book of Acts is almost completely lost in the west. After having experienced the New Testament, even if only in a small measure, there is nothing popular christendom can offer to satisfy me.
I know I must seem like a fanatic, but I am really just a young brother that struggles with fear, unbelief, raising my family in the Lord and many other things. I only testify that despite my own failings I have seen the Lord bring the New Testament to life in this day and age. I have seen the real and I have seen the fake. We don’t have to settle for a counterfeit Christian life and make excuses for it. We don’t have to settle for mixture and empty tradition. These are not things that Christ died for. In these last hours of time how wise would it be for us to forsake every sin, love of comfort, and empty tradition that hinders. We can live a normal New Testament Christian life by the grace of God.
In Christ Jesus,