My Witness

A witness is someone who gives testimony of personal knowledge. On this page I’ve grouped together my posts telling how I became a Christian. This is my witness.

I commend to you the gospel of John and Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

I pray that you, too, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

A Mourning Dove

Many people think if you attend church you are a Christian. Sometimes people believe if you are basically kind and try to do the right thing you are going to go to heaven. I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. I thought I was a Christian, but as I became older I found myself longing to know God better. There was something missing despite all of my religious activity and sincerity. I wasn’t sure what it was—it was kind of an elusive feeling—but I knew whatever it took to be close to God, I just didn’t have it.

Summer of 1970 was the summer after my freshman year in college. It was a tumultuous year of national riots. The Feminine Mystique, Situation Ethics and various readings from the Theatre of the Absurd had been part of my coursework. All of these 60’s remaking of reality just kind of washed over me. I read them, disagreed with them and discarded them. But I was restless.

That summer as the weeks went on I had more and more questions. In my wanderings through the Bible I found in
Isaiah 59 words that astonished me because they described exactly how I was feeling in my search to know God:

“We grope along the wall like blind men,
We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at midday as in the twilight,
Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.
All of us growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We hope for justice, but there is none,
For salvation, but it is far from us.”

That was me! I was groping and stumbling in a search along a wall. I was a sadly moaning dove hoping for justice and salvation, but finding both far from me.

Isaiah not only described the symptoms of my unknown illness, he diagnosed it: my sin had separated me from God. I hadn’t committed a crime and I’d tried to be good, but I could think of many things I had done that were wrong. I knew I had sinned.

I still didn’t know how to get past my sin to God, but the words were a relief to read. Within Isaiah’s imagery I clearly saw myself. I had found the reason why I felt so restless.  I’d found a door in the wall I’d been groping along. That wall no longer stretched in front of me endlessly. The door was locked, but it was there.

Locked Out

If Isaiah helped me find the door, I think Mark showed me the keyhole and the lock.

That summer of 1970 I had a small New Testament I carried in my purse. It was a tiny, white King James Version I had been given by my Sunday School teachers when I was four years old and my family moved away from Lakeland, Florida. Now that’s an incongruous picture for you. Here I was an eighteen-year-old college coed with long hair taking my childhood New Testament to my summer job on a campus rife with hippies and the radical Left.

Well, in the gospel of Mark I came to his account of a father whose son was possessed by an evil spirit. It’s a tumultuous scene with crowds, arguments and a desperate father trying to find help for his son.  As I was reading I came to these words,

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears,
Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

The father’s words gave voice to the cry of my heart. We use the phrase locked in a struggle. That’s how I felt—locked in a struggle—locked in, yet locked out.  I knew I thought some things were true about Jesus—that He existed and was God’s Son—but I realized I didn’t have the whole picture, and I had no idea what else I needed to believe or what I was even capable of believing.

I was locked out from God, and I knew I’d found the keyhole where the lock was. I thought belief was the key; but what that key of belief looked like or how I could find it,
I did not know.

Glimpses

There were people I met whom I knew had been through the door and lived on the other side of the wall.

I met someone who talked vividly and dramatically about Jesus Christ. He told a friend that Jesus Christ was as real to him as she was. His confidence was shocking to me, yet I didn’t think he was psychotic or having some strange cultist experience. There was no weird other worldly quality to him.

He told me of a women’s Bible study which I eagerly joined in late June. I knew immediately that these college women were different from me. I could tell when they prayed that their prayers were going to someone. I was very conscious that my prayers seemed to be hitting the ceiling and rebounding. I also recognized their genuine love for me. I asked a lot of questions—I didn’t understand why God let His people suffer,  I didn’t understand why Jesus died on the cross—I didn’t understand a lot, but I believed I had finally found some people who knew God and had some answers.

Late one afternoon I was talking to one of the women, and after she listened to me she said, “You know, Iwana, God loves you so much that even the red hairs of your head are numbered.” I was touched by her evident care for me and the thought that God could know me in such detail, but I still felt so far from Him.

That night she dragged me over to talk with a staff member of the Christian group sponsoring the Bible study. I was reluctant to speak with him, thinking he probably had no desire to talk with me; however, we sat down together on the grass outside the dorm, and he turned in the New Testament to Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

“Let Light Ride In”

I knew my sin had separated me from God. I knew I was helpless and locked out in my stumbling search. I had met others who knew God, and I knew I didn’t.

We started to read Romans 5, and for the first time I heard with understanding that God had a purpose in the death of Jesus Christ. I heard with understanding what God’s purpose was. I heard that God Himself had taken action on my behalf.


“For while we were still

helpless, at the right time

Christ died for the

ungodly. For one will

hardly die for a righteous

man; though perhaps for

the good man someone

would dare even to die.

But God demonstrates His

own love toward us, in

that while we were yet

sinners, Christ died for us.”

As we read we discussed the disobedience of Adam to God, and the entrance of sin and condemnation and death to all mankind. I read that through the obedience of Jesus Christ to God in His death on the cross, sin and death were overcome, and I could be made right with God.

“For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

As we were reading, floodgates of comprehension opened, and I understood and believed.

I knew I was a sinner, and I needed a Savior. I understood for the first time that on the cross God was condemning my sin as His Son, Jesus Christ, took my judgment and punishment upon Himself in His death for me. I prayed that night and placed my life in God’s hands, stating my need for forgiveness and thanking Him for the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, for my sin. This gift—this one act of righteousness—meant justification of life to me. Death had come to reign through Adam, but the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus meant I would reign in life through Him.

God let the light of His truth ride into my mind and heart, handing me the keys of repentance and belief.

My sin was gone; now no longer separated from Him, I knew Jesus, the Light of the World.

Abba! Father!

After that summer night, in the following weeks, to my delight and astonishment, I realized that I had entered into a new and real relationship with God. He was there! I knew Him! Not as a result of any mystical effort on my part, but as a result of the abundance of grace given to me through Jesus! I knew my prayers were now being spoken to Him, the living God, and not to the walls or ceiling anymore. The words of the Bible became living words that told me about God and about myself. And as those who know Jesus Christ have experienced over and over to their amazed joy, I felt the very Spirit of God confirm in my heart that I was His beloved child and He was my loving Father. I knew God! It was incredible! I finally knew Him in the closeness and reality I had always desired.

In Romans 8:14-16, Paul wrote,

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”


The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…”

Years ago Michael Card and John Thompson wrote the song, El Shaddai. Some of the Hebrew names for God from the Old Testament are used in the words. In 1993 I wrote a set of lyrics to express what it means to be able to call El Shaddai, Abba, Father.

Through our lives in all Your ways,
You are cause for ceaseless praise.
You will make us like Your Son,
‘Til our race of faith is won.
El shaddai, el shaddai,
Abba, Father, now we cry.
In you our trust shall lie,
El Shaddai.

Believe

What does the key of belief look like? What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ?

In the New Testament belief in Jesus Christ is not presented as an irrational leap without content or reason—there are truths to be understood, and there is knowledge we must have. Francis Schaeffer wrote in The God Who Is There:

“True Christian faith rests on content. It is not a vague thing which takes the place of real understanding, nor is it the strength of belief which is of value. The true basis for faith is not the faith itself, but the work which Christ finished on the cross. My believing is not the basis for being savedthe basis is the work of Christ. Christian faith is turned outward to an objective person: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.” ”

In other words, I don’t have faith in my faith, I have faith in Jesus Christ.

And who is Jesus Christ? The New Testament gives us the knowledge we need about who Jesus Christ is and about His death and resurrection.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)

Having knowledge about the person and work of Jesus Christ is necessary to believe in Him, but those who have only knowledge, even if they believe those facts to be true, believe only in knowledge. They do not believe in Jesus Christ. James is clear about this when he states that even demons believe God is one.

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
 James 2:19 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that Christians don’t merely know facts, they confess Jesus as Lord. Christian belief is presented as believing into Jesus. We believe in Jesus. We believe on the Lord Jesus.

The Greek word that is translated to believe or belief is also translated as faith. Two different words are used in English, but there is only one basic word in Greek. It comes from a word that means to convince or to persuade. W. E. Vine defines to believe:

“PISTEUŌ (πιστεύω), to believe, also to be persuaded of, and hence, to place confidence in, to trust, signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.”

Christians have understood and acknowledged the reality that before God we stood guilty of sin before Him and under His judgment. We have realized our inability to ever make ourselves right before Him. In repentance we have had, as Vine writes, a “change of mind [that] involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God.” We have believed in Jesus as we acknowledged Him as Lord, having confidence that His death for our sins satisfied the judgment of God we deserved and turning to follow Him in obedience. We have placed our confidence, our trust, our reliance on Him. We have believed in Him.

Paul writes,

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
 Romans 10:9b-10 (ESV)

Confess is a rich word. To confess is not only to speak, but to agree. Acknowledge is a synonym of confess. We usually think of confess in the context of confessing when we’ve done something wrong, but here the context is confessing that Jesus is Lord. A. T. Robertson writes regarding confessing Jesus is Kurios, the Greek word for Lord:

“No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the LXX [the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament] is used of God. No Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshiping the emperor as Kurios. The word Kurios was and is the touchstone of faith.”

A Christian believes God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus

“…was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord”

Sometimes when a person hears about who Jesus is and what it means to be a Christian, belief in Jesus Christ is instantaneous. Sometimes a person has knowledge about Jesus for a time before he comes to belief. But knowledge alone does not make a person a Christian, nor does it save someone from the just wrath of a righteous God. Remember, the words of Paul to the jailer at Philippi were:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”

Two Chairs

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know my story about how I came to believe in Jesus Christ. What about you?

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Do you understand that having knowledge about the person and work of Jesus Christ is necessary to believe in Him, but those who have only knowledge, even if they believe those facts to be true, believe only in knowledge. They do not believe in Jesus Christ.

Do you understand the difference?


One of my pastors used the example of a chair. You may
see the chair and believe it exists, but until you sit on the
chair and rest there, you are not believing in it.

Notice there’s no chair in the middle. There is no middle ground regarding belief in Jesus. You either believe in Him or you do not.

I quoted John 3:16. Here is John 3:17-18:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Grace to You, the ministry of John MacArthur, has an online tract with further Bible verses and explanation. It is titled, “Who Do You Think I Am?” That’s the question each of us must answer about Jesus Christ. What is your answer?

Jesus said,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Will you believe in Him?

__________
A Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove: Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Posted in Believe, Bible, Sin

Locked Out
Keyhole: FreeFoto.com
Mark 9:24: King James Version.
Posted in Believe, Bible

Glimpses
Railing: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Posted in Believe, Bible, Love

“Let Light Ride In”
Stone Cross, St Brelade’s Parish Church, Jersey, The Channel Islands: FreeFoto.com
The title of the post, “Let Light Ride In”, is the title of a poem written by Eugene Warren from:
The Country of the Risen King: An Anthology of Christian Poetry, Merle Meeter, Compiler, 1978, 260.
Posted in Believe, Bible, Forgiveness, Sin

Abba! Father!
The word Abba is a transliteration of an Aramaic word. W. E. Vine has this definition:

ABBA (Αββα) is an Aramaic word, found in Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6. In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary on the Mishna, the traditional teaching of the Jews) it is stated that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. It approximates to a personal name, in contrast to “Father,” with which it is always joined in the NT. This is probably due to the fact that, abba having practically become a proper name, Greek-speaking Jews added the Greek word patēr, “father,” from the language they used. Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; “father” expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.

W. E. Vine, Old Testament Edited by F. F. Bruce, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1981, Vol. 1, 9.
Little girl walking into the light:
ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Posted in Believe, Bible, Life in Christ

Believe
Key: Glasgow Locksmiths
References:
Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, Inter-Varsity Press, 1968, 133.
W. E. Vine, Old Testament Edited by F. F. Bruce, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1981; Believe: Vol. 1, p. 116, Repentance: Vol. 3, 281.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, 1992, 1133.
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1931, Vol. IV, 389.
Posted in Believe, Bible, Forgiveness, Sin.

Two Chairs
Van Gogh’s Chair, Joseph Roulin: Vincent Van Gogh, Public Domain, via Wikipedia.
Posted in Believe, Bible, Forgiveness.

Original content: Copyright ©2010 Iwana Carpenter

17 Responses to My Witness

  1. Pingback: Wisdom’s Children |

  2. Pingback: Joy to the World! |

  3. Pingback: Anchor of Hope |

  4. Pingback: Romans 1–2 & Genesis 1–3: A Narrative & Its Backstory

  5. Pingback: Isaiah 1–6: Pride & Judgment

  6. Pingback: Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 2: Sunday |

  7. Pingback: Romans 5–6: Grace & Reconciliation |

  8. Pingback: Jeremiah 1–6: Broken Cisterns & Living Waters |

  9. Pingback: Mark 9–10: The Transfiguration & Ministry |

  10. Pingback: Proverbs 1: Wisdom & Children |

  11. Pingback: Luke 15–16: A Son & A Father |

  12. Pingback: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus |

  13. Pingback: John 19–21: Believe & Have Life |

  14. Pingback: Learning Love |

  15. Pingback: “Joy to the World!” |

  16. Pingback: “The Love That Will Not Let Go” |

  17. Pingback: Living Amongst the Lions « Upstream Politics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s