by Rayola Kelley
This part of my testimony represents a turning point in my Christian life. It also marks a tremendous time of spiritual growth. Perhaps you will be able to relate to my struggles and my discovery.
My greatest testimony of God is that He is faithful. He was faithful to save me from a cult that had indoctrinated me in the ways of death. He first began to draw me away from this cult to His Son when I was experiencing despair over my personal failures. My cult had taught me that I could become acceptable through works, but I was aware that sin was very much present in my life. Sin caused such hopelessness in me. I had nowhere to go. After all, I knew about God, but I did not know how He was the answer to my sin problem. After all, my idea of God was vague, making Him indifferent and cold to my plight.
However, through a series of events, God reached through my hopelessness, and showed me that He had provided a solution to my sin problem through Jesus Christ. Amazingly, it was liberating to know that I was indeed a sinner, and that my sins had actually been dealt with at the cross through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. However, I still had foolishness bound in my heart. I did not understand death to the self-life. Therefore, I brought foolishness and immaturity into my new life with Christ.
As I look back, I realize this foolishness put God to many foolish tests in my life as I took one detour after another. I took the detour of religion and found myself in idolatry. I took the detour of self-righteousness and found myself in hypocrisy and compromise. I took the detour of being zealous for God, only to realize that I was missing something. After seven years of detours, I came to the end of myself. The fruit I tasted from my despairing life had no joy. I had lost the joy of my salvation.
One day as I sat in complete misery due to my unhappy state, the faithfulness and tenderness of God began to penetrate my soul. Suddenly, I found myself on the floor crying out for mercy. It was as if all the flood dams of my wretched soul begin to burst forth in repentance. I felt myself being broken as the floodwaters begin to cleanse me. I was on that floor for over two hours, crying, repenting, and confessing my sins and failures.
But, something glorious happened. My Lord picked me up and gently took me into the Most Holy Place. The reason I know this is because all of a sudden I realized I was in His presence. I knew I was forgiven, being restored, and for some surprising reason, I knew He was still going to use me in spite of myself. It was so glorious. After all, I had never been in His presence. I had felt His presence, but I had never been in His presence. The joy of my salvation once again flooded my soul as it had when I was first saved.
It was such sweet communion. It was so wonderful. When I came out, I was ready to consecrate my whole life to tell the world about that place, the secret place, the Most Holy place of communion. But, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was my Lord’s hand. I did not understand why He was restraining me. I remember stating, “Lord, I want to tell everyone that this place with You really exists.” His voice broke through, “Rayola, what have you done for me?” The list of good deeds, even witnessing, went through my mind, but all I could do was stand with my head down in shame because they were insignificant in light of all my failures and in comparison to what He did for me on the cross.
Then, He asked another question. “Rayola, what have you done with Me? Have you walked with Me, supped with Me? What have you done with Me? It suddenly occurred to me what had been missing all along in my detours of religion, self-righteous attempts, and religious zeal. Jesus was missing. His words to me at that time did not involve a commission to go forth, but rather an invitation to sit at His table and learn of Him.
This is the problem with most religion with all of its activities. Even in its best form, Jesus is often missing. Is Jesus missing in your religious activities?
It was only when Jesus took His rightful place in my life that I began to see the error of my ways, learn the lessons of righteousness, understand consecration, and begin to grow in a relationship with God. Clearly, I had so much to learn because I wasted years of being foolish, religious, and ridiculous.
I had to learn the lessons of God’s heart. One of the lessons has to do with our commission. He wants His people to be discipled. To disciple someone means that the character and ways of God are lifted up as the standard with the intent and hope of applying such revelations to attitudes and lifestyle. It is the reality of Christ that changes hearts, minds, and lives, not religion, movements, activities, or doctrines, but the actual reality of our sweet Jesus. I have been a witness of this many times.
I had to learn about His way of doing. You see, the matters of heaven and of men’s souls are His business. I once witnessed an actual revival. God did not use the churches or any great tent meeting. God came from the outside of religion and man’s best attempts, and begin to draw and convict young people of their wayward lifestyles. These young people, who were in drugs, alcohol, and perverted lifestyles, were encountering miraculous interventions of God, while freely drinking from the wells of salvation. I was aware of this revival because for some reason God allowed me to be right in the middle of it and witness it.
These young people were coming to me, seeking something that was real. I would simply share with them about Jesus and His truths, and God would touch, draw, convict, and save them. Space does not permit me to share the miracles that surrounded this revival, but what I can tell you is that it was God’s doing. It was not my doing, some church’s doing, or any pastor’s doing, it was God’s doing. There were those who wanted to jump on the bandwagon and take credit for God’s doing. In some cases, it became a matter of competition or a platform to some pastors. And sadly, in such cases where man gets involved in the doings of God, he will always pervert and touch God’s glory. However, every bit of it was God’s doing.
I realize that if God does not do it, it will not last. Eventually, some of these young people went to the wayside and some continue to serve Him. But such details are not my concern, because it is God’s affair. What I do know is that God wants a relationship with each of us, and that in my case He was faithful to bring me forth into a living union with Him.
I am not trying to con you. The Christian life is challenging, especially when you sell out to Him. There are many times I just wanted to forget it all and walk away. However, when I peered back to my old life, all that remained had either been destroyed by the devastation of sin or purged by the sanctifying fires of God. Every time I came to this point, I came to the same conclusion that Peter did in John 6 when Jesus asked him if he would also go away like many of the other disciples who had been offended by some His teachings. Peter’s answer best explains my conclusion, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68b-69).
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