I have known this lady a long time and knew she was often ill or down about something but I never thought it was because she had no peace with God.
When I last saw her she was amazingly different so I asked her what had happened to her? After listening to her testimony, I knew our NGJ readership needed to hear her story. She wants to remain anonymous. ~Debi
For fifteen years I was a part of the charismatic church movement and I wasn’t saved. Here is my story.
After my sophomore year at a Church of Christ university, I resolved to have a fresh start by transferring to a new university. By this point I had already grown weary of all the work involved with trying to be a “good Christian” in between bouts of depression and following my fleshly passions. At the new university I immediately made friends with some girls who welcomed me into their circle. They attended a charismatic church, which was unlike any church I had ever attended before. There seemed to be a hope of freedom at this church, so I started going there and pursuing what my friends pursued.
After one semester I met and started dating the man who would later become my husband. I invited him to go with me to some of the church meetings and he didn’t care for them. I was disappointed that he didn’t have the same emotional experience I did. But I temporarily put that aside and ended up going with him to the Baptist church that he had been attending. We got married and not long into our marriage, I got tired of going to his Baptist church, which seemed to me shallow and “dead.” I started objecting to going and soon we came to an agreement to go to a different church that was less traditional. Also early in our marriage I was having some very dark times emotionally, so we began seeing a counselor from the charismatic church I had gone to. The counselor walked me through breaking “generational sins and curses” and had me read a book about finding my identity in Christ, but never did the counselor or anyone else tell me that the reason for my pain was my sin.
After graduating from college and having a baby, with another one soon on the way, we moved to another state. I found out from a college friend that there was a church plant from the charismatic church I used to attend in the same city we moved to. My husband agreed to visit and this time he liked it! I remember thinking how great God is! Finally my husband’s heart was softened! We got very involved and went to every meeting we could. One such meeting was a missions conference where we learned how speaking in tongues is a “prayer language” for every believer, so together we actively pursued it. We both could speak it within a couple of weeks of each other. I felt that because it happened to both of us around the same time, surely this was the Lord blessing us. It was the best I had ever felt! I remember driving places and using my new “prayer language” as I drove.
Looking back, this was the most selfish time of my life. Like Eve, I sought to go deeper with God independent of my husband. I had an arrogance about me that I had “arrived” and felt sorry for other people who hadn’t yet attained my level of spirituality. All the while I was quick to point out my husband’s sin while being blind to my own. I couldn’t hear anything from him because I thought I was always right. I bought into the lie that I could control my life and my husband’s life through what I believed was best and what I believed I needed. I lived in a constant state of expectation of being offended at every turn. These were all VAIN IMAGINATIONS. Like Eve, who thought God was holding back on her, I believed the lie that my husband was holding back on me. I doubted his good will toward me and sought a higher purpose other than to trust God and submit to the authority he placed over me. “. . . when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).
After a few years we moved back to our home state and to a new city. We started attending a different charismatic church. In the new members class the pastor taught us about “repenting of your sins” and “making Jesus the Lord of your life.” We thought that was what we hadn’t done before, so we repented of everything we could think of and made Jesus the Lord of our lives. Then we got baptized. If there was a call to go forward after the pastor’s message, my husband and I would go forward to get prayer. Sometimes there would be a temporary release from my pain, but most of the time it came back on the way home.
I became friends with different women in the church and learned all I could from them about homeschooling and spiritual things. I pursued becoming the best homeschool mom I could be, constantly trying to find the perfect curriculum or method, chore system, and even way of eating and celebrating holidays. I participated in women’s Bible studies, women’s gatherings, and other activities that took me away from my husband and children. One lady became a mentor to me after I told her about our marriage struggles. She encouraged my husband and I to meet with a church leader who led us through breaking “generational sins and curses” (again), but that didn’t help us. We tried other things like “crying out” in prayer for our marriage, but any improvement was only temporary.
Interestingly, it was at this church that I found in the church library an old copy of To Train Up a Child, so I checked it out. Then I subscribed to NGJ’s magazine, but it wasn’t until a few years after receiving them that we started to take interest in the Bible teaching mentioned in the magazine. My husband listened to the free Romans study online and shared with me what he was learning. Around the same time I read Created to Be His Help Meet and we switched to the King James Bible.
My charismatic lifestyle stopped working for me. It started to bother me that I could dance and raise my hands in worship one moment and then get frustrated at my children the next moment. We increasingly would drive home from church burdened by the next thing we had to do to become more Christian. The time came when my husband made the decision to leave our church because of some bad effects and influences we noticed in our children from attending Sunday school. He expected resistance from me, but I said, “Okay.” And we never went back to the charismatic church system that I had led us into.
The more our family grew, the more I faced my failure and sin. On one occasion the consequences were life threatening. When I was in labor with our sixth child, the nurse convinced me that I should get an epidural. I remember my husband saying, “I don’t think you need an epidural. I think you can do it, but you do what you want.” I chose to get the epidural. When a young nurse anesthetist started having difficulty giving it to me, I thought about saying, “STOP,” but I pushed aside this God-given warning. I ended up having an epidural injury that led to a subdural hematoma (bleeding in my head) and the worst pain I had ever been in. During my week in ICU I knew in my heart that I had trusted the nurse’s guidance over my husband’s. This was the first time I saw direct consequences of my sin. Gratefully, I survived and the numbness to my guilt began to wear off.
Less than a year later we moved from the city to the country. I felt lonely as there was a natural distance from old friends, and my husband didn’t just jump right in to fill the void. I started to trust God more, but still often looked to my husband to fix my pain. When he didn’t meet my expectations, I tried to control him through various means to make him act like the Christian that I thought he was. On the outside I looked like a good homeschool mom, but on the inside I struggled and our marriage struggled. Sometimes I would feel really good about myself and other times I felt really bad. Sometimes I made all the right submitting and reverencing actions toward my husband, while in my heart it was more about me than about him. Every time I would resolve to do better or be better, I just failed all over again. My health also suffered during this time and I had five miscarriages in a row. I was living the Romans 7 life. Throughout these years I spent a lot of time unlearning bad theology and learning all I could about the gospel and Jesus. “Sin No More” was particularly helpful. At some point I started to doubt my salvation and eventually found myself buried under a huge pile of condemnation.
I kept coming back to an article by Michael Pearl called “It’s the Book’s Fault.” I also got a little book called All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon and would read parts of it here and there. One day I got really scared that I wasn’t saved and remember thinking, “Oh no! A Christian wouldn’t feel like this.” I finally got honest with myself that I didn’t have joy that I thought a Christian should have. I gave up. There was nothing left I could do. Then I wrote in my journal, “When we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6). Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. He came and died for the ungodly. That’s when it clicked. I saw myself as UNGODLY. No longer could I hide my own condition. I didn’t clean myself up but TRUSTED him, and that’s when God pulled me out of that horrible condemnation. I didn’t realize what had happened to me until the days, weeks, and months that followed when I no longer felt condemnation but RESTED in the finished work of Christ, eight long years after leaving the charismatic church system. My husband got saved a couple of years before I did, but that’s another story . . .
In retrospect, it was my arrogance that blinded me to my need for salvation. My arrogance was a result of all of the charismatic works that I had done to try to make myself more Christian. I was doing such a good job becoming a good Christian that I couldn’t hear the gospel. I was working the gospel. I felt so holy and had such great experiences that I never dreamed that I wasn’t heaven bound. But even in my unsaved state, God never stopped reaching out to me and showing me aspects of who he is and what he values. He answered my prayers. He gave me wisdom and blessed me. He protected me and gave me grace. Praise God that I finally came to know the TRUTH that made me free! Now I don’t have to work to feel good anymore. Being born again is better than any high I ever felt before being saved.
I have seen other people following the same system I did, but because they come from good homes and have the right life skills, they are able to operate a lot longer in that system without failing. I didn’t have those life skills and the charismatic theology didn’t help me to learn them, so my repeated failure forced me to look for the truth that would work. I could have lived right up until the day I die thinking that I was saved. Thank God I now trust in his blood that covers my sins! Time is short; “. . . give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).