In my teenage years I thought of myself as being “a good Christian kid,” but underneath my outward charm and “goodness,” I felt that what I had wasn’t enough for me. There was a hunger within my soul for something more in this life than just a ticket to heaven. In my mid-teen years, I heard two sermons that drastically impacted me. The first was called, Shocking Youth Message by Paul Washer. When I look back I see that it wasn’t necessarily the message of the sermon (although that hit me hard), but the fact that I saw something in Paul Washer that I didn’t have. Paul had such a passion for Jesus Christ and a realness of Christianity far above anything I’d ever seen up to that point. I can still remember how moved I was when Paul began to tremble and cry before God in prayer.
The second sermon that greatly impacted my life was, Ten Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead. This sermon gave me a huge kick in the pants on where my allegiance lay, what I was living for, who I was serving, and what the end goal of my life was. Christianity was something more radical than I had ever realized and it drove me deeper towards Christ. Instead of seeing Christianity as just a way to get to heaven, I suddenly was beginning to understand that Christianity was gloriously all about Jesus Christ.
Even through all the things God was graciously showing me, I still felt an emptiness; because deep inside, I was getting torn apart by sin through lustful thoughts and actions. I was a slave to satisfying my sensual desires, and I knew it. I was rotting inside. This lifestyle of destructive habitual sin had ruled my life from a very early age. I tried everything – from programs to vows, cold turkey to scripture memorization, mentally beating myself up over my sin to writing fake testimonies of freedom and crying out to God, but none of it seemed to work.
I listened to two other Paul Washer sermons in these years that deepened my yearning so much more for something real. “The Presence of God and the Power of God” & “How God Views His Bride Part 1 & 2. A burning inside of me got hotter and hotter, to where I could not stand it any longer. Then in June 2010, I decided to email Paul Washer himself. Here is my letter:
“I don’t even know if this is your email address, but I will try anyway, and I will be brief and right to the point. I’m a nineteen-year-old brother, in Jackson, MI (Raised Baptist, etc.). I’m writing you an email because of one of your sermons online has been haunting me. It was on the topic of ‘a love relationship of God and His Bride,’ found in Song of Solomon. In the sermon, you shared your testimony of how you sought GOD for months, crying and throwing rocks toward heaven. And after months of nothing, ‘God finally came,’ and you have been living in a real…REAL relationship ever since with God. God finally became real to you, and you feel His presence.
IS THIS TRUE? Because I have been seeking out older men and asking them about their relationship with God, and I haven’t found anyone that has a relationship like that. Can you really feel God’s presence? Because I feel conviction, I feel a tug at my heart when I read Scripture, I see fruit in my life, but when I seek God and cry out to Him for His presence, to have a bride/groom relationship, and to begin to know Him in a relationship like we will have in heaven, I feel like I’m just talking to a wall sometimes.
Everyone I know doesn’t pray to spend time with God, they pray to get there LIST heard and get their prayers answered. IS THERE something special that I can SEEK for like you described in your sermon? And if so, how do I have it? Why is it so difficult that I can’t find anyone with it, even older saints? Why does God make it hard for His children to have it? If you could answer any of these questions, I would be very grateful!”
Paul Washer responded back:
“I am in the midst of setting up the office in Virginia, and cannot give you but a brief note on the matter in question. The fact is that many believers do not have a life of prayer. Those that do pray are often more involved with intercession than seeking God for God. We can live with a special sense of God’s presence and power in our lives. For such to become a reality, we should seek God in prayer and in His Word. We should cry out to Him in hope that we might know Him. I recommend that you read Tozer’s book “Men Who Met with God” and also Ian Murray’s book “Pentecost Today?” I think they will be helpful. I would also caution you to seek God more than a feeling. We must seek God for God’s sake. Also, the experiences of one man may not be duplicated in the life of another. Do not compare yourself or your experience to other men, but to the Scriptures themselves. I greatly appreciate your questions and your seeking after God.”
As you could imagine, this did not fully satisfy me, who was looking for the key to unlocking all my problems. If you have ever watched a movie like Rocky, then you might understand my feelings of wanting my Christianity to be in tip-top shape after a three-minute epic workout. However, when I did not experience this I continued to press in, hoping to know God and abide in His presence. Over the next few years, I tasted a little bit of real prayer and a little bit of freedom, but still knew that it wasn’t real and lasting. I tried to give up and fully embrace the world many times. I was done fighting; either God and the Bible were not real and I’d better use my time living it up while I still could, or God was real and He was worth giving up my life wholeheartedly for and being spent for His kingdom.” By God’s mercy every time I embraced the world God wouldn’t let me continue in the muck for long.
In September of 2011 my search for authenticity in my relationship with Christ came to it’s climax when I went to a reunion conference. The event was truly orchestrated by God. At this conference, Eric Ludy, who was the main guest speaker, thundered forth the gospel. He brought a huge amount of clarity, defining terms in the Bible like grace and faith. I saw something in Eric that was so powerful that it could only be explained by the life of Christ living inside of him. Eric actually believed the Word of God and walked it out with an unflinching faith. That weekend, for the first time in my life, I saw the power of the gospel to SET MEN FREE! There were so many sermons in those three days that greatly impacted me. One of them was called The Costly Gospel, and it was then and there, when God confronted me with the reality of what it meant to be a disciple of His, that I fully surrendered everything to God and threw myself to Christ as the only hope for my life. It wasn’t just a surrender of some things in my life, but a surrender of every crack and cranny of my spiritual, physical, and mental life. God birthed in me the desire that day to live out the radical truth that I saw in Scripture, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 This became the passion of my heart and the truth of Christ in me that has empowered me to live a life set free in Him! My old self has been crucified with Christ and my new life is in Him!