ALL THE WRONG DOCTRINES
(The Stephen Merritt Story)
By: Stephen Merritt
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
'Going to church doesn't make a man a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile.'' Billy Sunday
Greetings to you all.' It is my fervent hope that you might find this testimony of interest and that it might encourage you to seek out Jesus Christ as your personal savior.' I chose the quotes above to illustrate two important facts ' namely that salvation is only through Christ Jesus and that merely attending church or simply agreeing with the basic truths of the Gospel does not make one a Christian.'
A Christian has accepted Jesus as his personal Savior.' Okay I know that, but what does this really mean?' This question has occupied my mind and driven me from one doctrine to another in search of an answer.' I would like to share my testimony of this journey with you in the hopes that you might find an answer for yourself.
I was raised as an Episcopalian in a family that while recognizing the value of the church in our lives did not speak about it much.' As a child I was drawn to religion and church, but as time progressed I fell away.' When my parents were divorced, my mother (with whom I lived) quit attending church ' and so did I.' This was early in my teens and gradually I decided that church was okay for some but it wasn't essential.' When I was older, I would get religion, I thought to myself.
Without a relationship with God I was left to my own devices ' and brother did I put myself through a lot of hell!' I was not very outgoing and had few friends.' I became something of a chameleon ' I would change my opinions, likes and dislikes to match whomever was my best friend at the time.' I was afraid that if I believed anything differently, they wouldn't be my friend any longer.
During high school I got involved with drugs and began a lifelong battle with depression.' College made things worse.' The friends I had were actively hostile to religion (although they would admit their main problem was with organized religion).' My problems worsened: heavy drug use, too much partying, a string of carnal, broken relationships and even a growing struggle with pornography.
I also wandered in occult and new age thought and came to the conclusion that while a spiritual life was beneficial I didn't have time for it right now and that when I did what was important was to find that truth or tradition that resonated with me.' In other words, if it felt right, then it was the truth for me.
After college, I began my long struggle with Christianity.' A good friend found Jesus through the Boston Church of Christ (aka the International Church of Christ) and began witnessing to me in the only manner that would get through to me ' his life was transformed and he had such joy!
While I wanted what he had I didn't want to give up so much.' Instead of repenting, I began to search for the form of Christianity that suited me best.' Another Christian friend did some heavy witnessing to me as well, but nothing took much.' I even attended a service at the local International Church of Christ but was so put off by it that I never returned.
My struggle with depression and sexual sin deepened until my life was miserable.' I was alone, utterly and completely.
Then the Lord brought the woman into my life who would become my wife and start me truly on the road to salvation.' When we met, Cynthia was at the end of a bitter and of a terrible marriage.' He was an atheist, a heavy drug user, psychologically and physically abusive man.' She wasn't even allowed to go to church.' To make things worse, he was also an adulterer.' Cynthia had warned him years before that when their children were grown she would leave him if he hadn't changed his ways.
He never did and they were divorced.' I'll never forget that time.' It was ugly and he wanted to hurt Cynthia as much as possible while he still could.' The marriage was so obviously broken that even her own children urged her to leave their father.' I wish I could say that we waited until she was divorced but we did not.' Cynthia had long since severed any emotional ties to him and we became first fast friends and then fell in love.
What amazed me then and still does is how firm is her faith in God and her personal relationship with Jesus.' She never pushed me but simply made it clear that she wanted me to become a Christian someday.' What finally got me was watching 'the Last Temptation of Christ.'' This film IS blasphemous ' I readily grant that now.' At the time though what got through to me was that Jesus was a REAL person.' 'I wish I'd known Him,' I can remember telling Cynthia.' She told me I could, and the next day we were in church together.
Cynthia was raised amongst Mennonites and is a very committed, fundamental Christian.'' We found a local Mennonite church that was our church home for the next year or so.
That church saved our marriage.' My addiction to pornography and the like nearly broke it.' Depression and rage all but consumed me.' The pastors (a husband/wife team) gave us what they called Agape Counseling ' essentially you confess your sins to the Lord in prayer.
Great!' Now I'm free, I thought' maybe.' But they made it clear this would be an ongoing struggle with sin.' Not a cheerful thought.
Then they began urging Cynthia and I to pray for the gift of tongues ' to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.' I was put off and confused, and my wife was outraged to hear so-called Mennonites teaching this.
We left that church and haven't regularly attended until recently.' I drifted from church to church, religion to religion.' Each time, I KNEW I'd found the truth, only to drift away when I changed my mind about what I believed.' I went from Buddhism, to Hinduism, to Judaism and back again.
At one point I even became involved in an online Wiccan group.' I also had an online affair with one of the members.' What came of this is another near break to our marriage.' Cynthia stayed with me, she said, because she knew Jesus wanted her to be there for me.'
We stayed together.' It has been hard at times but I promised God that I would follow His lead from that point on no matter how painful.' Sadly, what happened instead is I drifted from denomination to denomination in search of God's church.' Nothing seemed right and yet everything sounded right!' How could this be?' Everyone cannot be right can they?' I tried to read the Bible but I seemed to find support for every position in there ' it was essentially nonsense to me.
A couple of years ago I was sure that Islam was the truth. I even went so far as to say the shahada (makes you a Muslim) but then never followed-through.' Once again I'd been betrayed by following my heart, my feelings to find the truth.' I prayed to God for forgiveness and guidance and knew the answer was in Jesus ' a personal relationship with Him.
The last few years have seen me visiting (and each time joining, never to return) countless churches: Pentecostal, Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Nazarene, Primitive Baptist and lastly Russian orthodox.
What stopped me?' One day it simply occurred to me that it couldn't be this complicated.' After all: God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1Co 14:33)
I decided to give the independent fundamental Baptist church another try and began reading online.' First I came to understand and then to accept the King James Only arguments.' Then I stumbled across a superb website that I heartily recommend you visit as soon as possible: http://www.johnnythebaptist.org/'
This man's testimony inspired me!' Another clue that I was on the right track is that the passionate love my wife and I felt when we were still a young couple has been rekindled by our decision to find a church home ' together.' We kiss again ' we snuggle again ' we touch each other more often.' Little things, maybe, but they have meant more to me than words can express.'
God put this wonderful woman into my life to be my partner, friend, wife and lover.' She means more to me than any other person on earth.' Most importantly she introduced me to Jesus, whom I love above all.
My wife and I found our church home Easter Sunday at Nolensville Road Baptist Church (Pastor Denny Patterson).' The pastor preached, among other things, on how salvation cannot be just mental ... that you cannot just agree with the Gospel but have to enter into a personal relationship with Christ.
That triggered something in me and later I realized what it was ... that my whole life I've been trying to have God and Salvation on MY terms. That I'd been unwilling to surrender my life completely.
At the invitation I went forward and a gentleman took me aside and showed me the Roman Road to Salvation.' I accepted Christ as my Savior in a very personal way and have felt a blessed peace ever since.' Gone are the doubts.' Gone is the tendency to have a complete doctrinal reversal the next morning.
I love our new church family and they welcomed us with open arms.' While I was away studying, my wife visited (she IS definitely saved) and the women showered her with love and welcomes.' When I rejoined Cynthia, she was positively beaming.' It was so good to see her so happy and as we drove to Waffle House to celebrate we both commented we felt as if we'd known these good folks for years.
As I write this, I am at peace.' My sins are forgiven and I am made anew.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Co 5:17)
Paul is telling you to forget the past.' Dwelling on the past will only poison your mind and open you to attacks of the devil.' And besides, you continue to dwell in the past, then eventually you will return there again and again.
So what does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus?' It means to surrender wholly and completely to Him and His Word.' It means to trust on Him for everything and in all facets of your life.' Does this mean you will not sin?' Of course not.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
And: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
Jesus died for you and for me.'
He is the perfect sacrifice.' Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12)
His shed blood will wash away your sins.'
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
Remember God knows the sins you have committed as well as those you have not yet committed.' Salvation is a free gift ' no strings attached.' All you have to do is ask.'
Ask friend ' please.' Repent your sins ' confess and ask Jesus to be your personal savior.' Ask TODAY!
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Thank you and God bless you for taking the time to read my testimony. If what I have shared with you has touched you in some way and you would like to contact me, I can be reached by email at this address: email@example.com.
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