First, thank you for calling us to biblical holiness. Anyone can live by traditions and standards. Loving my neighbor as myself requires God to radically change my heart. Thanks for equipping us with answers to those “who boast about outward appearance and not what is in the heart.” (2 Cor 5:12)
I grew up in a fairly strict home. I was homeschooled, first with the Advanced Training Institute (Bill Gothard) program and later with Bob Jones University curriculum. My dad became a pastor of a small IFB church, when I was about 10 years old. It was during my time in IFP, where we really started getting strict on music and those kinda standards. We didnt get dragged into the KJVO blasphemy (thank God…I literally mean that!), but we definitely were around those who did. I remember that some sundays when my Dad preached, and he preferred the NASB, some congregants would leave KJVO flyers in the pews. We also were heavily influenced by the music philosophy of Ron Hamilton (Patch the Pirate) and all that. Back beat and syncopation was evil. TV was only used to watch football (no commercials) and George Bush speeches. I remember attending an anti-Harry Potter conference, and thinking, whats the point since we didn’t watch movies!
When I was a teenager I started questioning everything I believed. We had students come from a baptist college in northern WI/MI on the weekends, and that exposed me to other ideas and concepts beyond IFP doctrine. To my Dad’s credit, he always challenged us to study the Bible. Every new topic or idea was questioned with ‘Chapter and verse?’ I wont dive into the questionable hermeneutics of that philosophy, but the spirit is certainly admirable. As I was exposed to new ideas, I got in trouble for listening to John Piper, who was deemed too emotional. I was labeled as rebellious for starting to question dispensationalism and studying covenant theology. My music philosophy was challenged when Christian Hip Hop artist Shai Linne and I started a brief conversation. He challenged me to defend why classical-styled music was holy and God-honoring on its own merit. And I obviously couldn’t. I read a music history book that discussed the early church’s struggles with flutes, because of its association with promiscuity and paganism. Then came the day my parents kicked my brother for listening to secular radio in his car. I blamed myself for bringing the topic up at a family dinner. Eventually we were forced to excommunicate him and were not allowed to talk to him. That did it for me. I promised never to attend a baptist church and left home.
For the first 7 months after I joined the Army, I went to 3 church services. The third time, I attended a large baptist church in Clarksville, TN. It was there that I met a guy who taught me what grace-based living actually looked like. He used the Scripture, not tradition, to demonstrate living for God.
After the Army and college, a job took us to OH, where my stupidity flourished. I worked overnights, while my wife worked during the day. I fell into a season of depression, while my wife’s anxiety grew worse, no thanks to me. I was at breaking point, and told my wife I didn’t want to be married, I was tired. I don’t know how my wife did it, but with grace she asked me to go talk to our pastor. I went to him expecting to get blasted with Eph 5 and how I wasn’t being the husband God called me to be. Instead, when I told him that I didn’t feel like being married, he looked at me and said, ‘Yeah man, I know. I’ve been there too.’ That broke me. Over the next few months, we met regularly to talk thru being a husband and dad. That eventually led us to move to AZ, where my wife and son and I are part of a PCA church plant.
I don’t recall ever having a ‘salvation moment.’ I can’t remember praying a prayer or walking an aisle or signing a card. I was baptized when I was 8, but that’s all I remember. While its been difficult at times to not be able to look back at a moment of change, its grounded me in the security of Christ’s work, not my actions. I look at my life and see how many times I stumbled, but God was gracious and didn’t allow me to continue in my sin. I was saved by grace alone, and I am being sanctified by alone. Its all because of God’s grace. I know that I have contributed nothing to my sanctification, except the sin that makes it necessary. Thanks for letting me share my story with you.