November 3, 2014

Personal Reformation 1: Clint’s Testimony

by Clint Archer

In sympathetic resonance with last weeks’ posts on the Reformation, the Cripplegate bloggers will this week be sharing the testimonies of our own personal reformations. I have the privilege of running the first leg of this relay race.

 

Clint Profile 2I grew up Catholic. My parents instilled in me solid, biblical behavioral standards and morals. We went to mass regularly, I attended catechism classes and wore an understated St Christopher pendant around my neck (for protection against car accidents).

Thanks to this upbringing I knew that I was a sinner, that Jesus was the Savior of the world, and that he died for my sins, and that reading the Bible was better than reading comic books.

And yet I had no personal relationship with Jesus. I found it very difficult to grasp what the New Testament was saying, and the Old Testament was little more than a rambling, opaque prequel to the Christmas story. I cheated on lent days and, like Bill Clinton, only confessed when I had to. I put all my faith in my baptism and relative goodness compared to Hitler, atheists, and the stroppy “bad apple” latch-key kids in my school. I figured “If I am going to Hell, there are a lot of people going to Hell.”

Then, in college, I crashed a campus Bible study because a girl I liked said she’d be there. (She didn’t pitch). We met in the copious University of Pretoria chapel, about six students in total. The pastor was an American missionary who draped a sheet over the statue of Mary before preaching a 45 minute expository sermon from Ephesians 2. I was hooked. He preached with such certainty and clarity that it felt like the word of God was relevant to my own life in every way.

I came back week after week for the following instalments. I agreed with Ephesians 2:1-3 that I was dead in my trespasses and the light began to break into my self-righteous understanding that my clean-cut, drug-free, cuss-free, celibate goodness was still not enough to get me into Heaven. I realized that God only lets perfect people into Heaven, and not even the canonized Saints of Catholicism made the grade.

I rejoiced when we reached verse 4, “But God…” the best but in the Bible!light in darkness

God granted me repentance and faith in Jesus alone as my only hope to be saved from my sin. I finally understood what the “for” in “died for my sins” meant—that Jesus was my substitute, taking God’s wrath I earned and replacing my sin with his righteousness.

I wrestled a for a day or two with the conundrum, “If I really believe I deserve Hell, then why would I ask for forgiveness?” That’s when the grace penny dropped. An epic ah-ha moment. Grace is a free, unearned, undeserved gift flowing from God’s love.

My peers thought I was on a temporary conversion kick because of the girl. I was attending Catholic mass on Saturday nights, and Grace Fellowship Church twice on Sundays. I still considered myself Catholic—much like Luther did, I guess—and I too thought that I could perhaps be used by God to tell other Catholics about grace.

I was still pretty wet behind the theological ears: I even asked the pastor if his alma mater, The Master’s Seminary, would accept me while I was still Catholic. He sagely replied, “Why don’t you keep coming to church and Bible study, and see what the Lord does?” I soon realized there were more and more parts of the mass I couldn’t partake in with a clear conscience (e.g. genuflecting to the communion wafer, saying Amen to the transubstantiation litmus test “This is the body of Christ,” reciting the creed, doing penance, saying the rosary, etc.) Eventually I stopped attending mass and got baptized.

From the day I was saved I had a burning passion to understand the Bible and teach it to others. And I still do.

 

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.

 

Clint Archer

Posts Twitter

Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Thank you… very clear and appropriate. One difference from my personal experience (my Catholic grade school days were in the 50’s): no Bible allowed. But even the portions read during the Mass or from the Missal were just part of the mystery. God bless your ministry.

    • 2ruthmatters

      Thank you for that Clint. Me too, Greg. You also remember then, as a child, the mass was still “performed” in Latin. It would be many years later and a disillusionment with the RCC til I heard and understood the real Gospel and put my faith in Christ, alone. Grace, so Amazing!

      • Oh, yes. We altar boys had to memorize and do the Mass in Latin. I also was at a place where my Catholicism was no longer a barrier when I was approached with the Gospel. Amazing grace indeed.!

    • Thanks Greg. My parents encouraged me to read my Bible, as did the government school I attended.

  • Thanks for sharing, Clint. I love the testimonies of how God has transformed a person from blindness to sight, death to life. Looking forward to more.

    • Post Tenebras Lux!

  • Brian Morgan

    Praise God for His mercy in your life!

    • I love talking about how God saved me. He is so good. I never get tired of remembering how our relationship started.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Part of my testimony, like yours, was due to the desire to pursue a girl in college whose evangelical faith I didn’t understand, but which I figured I could tolerate if it meant keeping our budding relationship alive.

    Bottom line: the romance didn’t survive, but I found the Lord anyhow, largely through her. And we’ve maintained a long-distance friendship now since the early 70s. She never married, although I did. I attended her Dad’s funeral and her retirement celebration several years ago. And yes, my wife knows her and has met her.

    • Missionary dating, eh? Worked for me.

  • Susan johnson

    I can relate to Greg. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools for 12 years in the 50’s and 60’s. We were told we wouldnt be able to understand the Bible. It had to be interpreted for us. My Reformation Day was April 10, 1988 when I was 38. Praise the Lord for opening my eyes to the truth.

  • Susan

    My eyes were watery by the end of your testimony. There is something indescribably beautiful in hearing about that moment when a person first comprehends the gospel.

    • I love retelling the story. And I love hearing others’ stories. I think in Heaven we’ll get to hear millions more of these.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    My husband was raised Catholic and was convinced he was going to hell because he said he had broken more than one of the commandments. When I was saved I tried to share the gospel with him, but he resisted it firmly.

    Then on a trip to Cabo San Lucas he was swimming in the ocean on a glorious sunny day and when he came out of the water he was crying. I thought he got bit by something. Instead he dropped to his knees in the sand, held my hand and said he now believed that God was real and that he loved him. I was overwhelmed with gratitude!

    We are still in awe of that day and the fact that God reached down and saved us both by his mercy and grace.

    • Wow, Jane…how beautiful..and gracious of God!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your testimony!

  • Michael Craig

    I’ve heard many testimonies that begin, “I grew up Catholic …”
    Mine starts the same way, but wasn’t saved out of the RCC until age 45.
    And like most of us, I suppose, when the truth was heard and light came on, it was like falling off a log. But it wouldn’t work that way for my large family.

    So I would be interested to know how your family (parents and sibs) reacted to your belief, conversion, baptism and testimony. My folks and 8 sibs remain in the RCC. Our conversations seem to take us to their Top 10 objections:
    1. where do I (protestants) get their authoritative interpretation of the bible?
    2.Jesus gave Peter the keys. Made him head of the church. What of the protestants, particularly when it comes to sorting out the ONE truth … in the face of different denominations, interpretations, doctrine, and practice?
    3. the Catholic Catechism and Tradition as the definitive/codified source for interpreted truth
    4. Why throw out 1300 years of what had stood as Christian faith?
    5. Are you saying Luther got “better” revelation than Peter, Paul, apostles?
    6. can’t remove jots or tittles? Isn’t that what happened when several OT books went missing?
    7. Why have you thrown the baby out with the bathwater? (i.e., the real presence)
    8. Heavy reference to James … and the reference to faith in practice (works) as a big factor in God’s “cosmic scales” that await us in his salvation decision
    9. A loving God won’t punish people who have never heard of Jesus Christ or the gospel.
    10. Any plainly-read reference to the O.T. It’s home to mostly ancient stories and tales, some of which convey a few valuable lessons and takeaways. So heavily discounted as having bearing on God’s plan for man and salvation. A default starting point … human understanding, modern science-backed evidence.

    Given this resistance over many years, I’ve fallen back onto what ought to have been my #1 weapon to begin with — prayer.
    Thanks for sharing Clint. Too many questions to take on in this little blog, but felt like posting! Frequent reader. Love the Cripplegate ministry.

    • In general I have found what worked for me was to side-step all those issues and just focus on the gospel of grace by faith alone. Once I grasped grace, everything else fell into place.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “I couldn’t partake in with a clear conscience (e.g. genuflecting to the communion wafer, saying Amen to the transubstantiation litmus test “This is the body of Christ,”

    Hi Clint, do you have a theological/biblical position on the Lord’s Supper? Just curious.

    “Eventually I stopped attending mass and got baptized.”

    Was this the first time you got baptized? Or was this a “re-baptism”? I thought that Catholic praxis was infant baptism.

    • I do have a position on the Lord’s Supper. If you scour this site you’ll find a few posts I’ve done on the topic (Start with Communion on the Moon).

      I am what the Reformers would call an Anabaptist, but just Baptist to insiders 🙂

      • Pope of Geneva

        You have something in common with John Calvin – he married a Reformed Anabaptist – Idelette de
        Bure Stordeur….
        Soli Calvin

      • Truth Unites… and Divides

        Hi Clint,
        The Early Reformers persecuted the Re-baptizers, as you know. But my guess is that you got baptized a second time without knowing that particular part of church history. Did your parents attend your second baptism?

        • I’m going to plead the 5th on this line of questioning. 😉
          Or in the words of Pilate: “What I have written stands written.”

          • Truth Unites… and Divides

            Sorry Clint, had no intention of asking a question that would motivate you to plead the 5th. Was just curious that’s all.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks Clint, I know you better.
    I was born in a british colony, arrived in the states at a young age, though I was in my cultural bubble until legal age. My brother and I were immediately put into piano lessons; my mother flipped a coin and became a catholic. I hated that place, never took to it, and stopped going “soon” after.
    We grew up in strictly Jewish neighborhoods where they embraced me like no other cultural types. Kids, go where the love is, period.
    Although I was told there were two Jews in my ancestry; that didn’t mean anything to me. However, as destiny would have it, I ended up in messianic ministries. Studied in 3 different seminaries as I went, and although I firmly believed in Jesus at four, I began to understand when I began reading the Bible — received Him again, and immediately received the assurance that it was all true. No, I was not baptized in water, and never plan to be; however there is no doubt I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, when I received the Lord. Thanks.
    Mark

    • Jas25

      Water baptism can be a great outward sign that you are committing yourself to Christian fellowship. The church, under the leadership of the apostles, practiced baptism as their outward sign of conversion.

      I’m curious why you wish to avoid it. Does it have some other meaning for you? Online I realize text can be taken multiple ways, and I assure you I’m not trying to attack your decision. I’m just curious what convictions people might have that may cause them to avoid baptism.

      • tovlogos

        Of course I’ll tell you — there’s no uptightness about the issue; just theological understanding.
        I deliberately will not do it to make the point that it is not necessary for anyone’s salvation. The reason Jesus was baptized in water is laid out unmistakably in John 1:23-34. It was a sign to Israel, period. Regenerative baptismal rites were obviously characteristic of Mosaic law, established in Leviticus. In John i:25 shows the reverence Israelites had for the ritual.
        However, John did not recognize his divine cousin (verses 31,33), since he spent his life apart from the trappings of the world. He, as well as Israel would recognize Him by the events at the lake of baptism.
        The Bible can be divided into three parts: The (Old) Law, the Transitional Period of the Messiah; the New Covenant, its intent and purposes.
        The very sharp distinction between the last OT prophet, John the Immerser in water; and Jesus the Immerser in the Holy Spirit, could not be more clear. Rituals as a necessity for salvation is dragging the Spirit back to antiquity, where, rituals were absolutely necessary. Sure the Jews continued to baptize in water at the beginning — that was their conditioning, and of no consequence to God at that time. But the bottom line is nothing will stop the Lord from coming into the heart of someone who truly gives his/her heart to Him ( and that’s what I firmly believe Matthew 28:19 is about — being immersed in the Spirit upon sincerely receiving Christ) . I have repeatedly seen fear in the hearts of people, whose minds were pounded into believing they would be in hell without that ritual. Yet I always hear the caveat that “Oh, it can’t save you; but it is necessary because it’s a command…; or it’s a testimony of your salvation.”
        I believe the very best testimony of one’s salvation is to show the transformation in his life before the people. For example, a raving alcoholic, or or whatever, stumbles down the street everyday, humiliating his family in the neighborhood. One day he is saved and becomes the model citizen, so that people are gaping through their windows at this amazing change. That’s a testimony of the power of Christ.
        I been over every passage on this issue countless times in my study; and no one can convince me that we must return to past rituals. Nicodemus in John 3, had the toughest time understanding the difference between Spirit and Flesh, and the notion of being born from above.
        That’s the difference between Jesus and John. I could sit here and write 100 pages, but it doesn’t take a lot of time to make the basic point. Nevertheless, live and let live — this subject has never been a focus of my ministry. Cheers.

        • Jas25

          I suppose I can see what you mean by it being a stumbling block for those predisposed to think the act has meaning in itself.

          It’s similar to the Lord’s Supper in my mind. It can be a great physical reminder of the reality of the church as a unified body of Christ as well as his sacrifice, but some place far too great a value on the act and it should NEVER replace the loving acts that characterize Christian fellowship.

          Is your stance on that similar?

          • tovlogos

            Actually, brother, I see the Lord’s supper as an command that can only have one meaning. I believe in that wholeheartedly.
            However, take Matthew 8:4, or Luke 5:14 — Here the Lord said to do something that He would never intend for future generations as a Body to do. After healing a leper, He told him to “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
            Jesus was still in transition; yet, Mark 1:22 — “They were amazed at His teachings; for He was teaching them as…having authority, and not as the scribes.”
            There was something going on that was New; there was no subtlety in the mind boggling miracles, and so on.
            However, regarding the issue of Baptism, there is a spiritual act and a physical act. When we look at John 3:5, I have seen the very best scholars compare that verse with Ezekiel 36:25-27, which makes “water” in verse 5 a metaphor for the Spirit; or it could be a small “s” signifying spiritual. Jesus and the New Testament writers were constantly making the New issue a spiritual one, for example, John 3:6,11,12; and 1Corinthians 2:10-14.
            The evidence — throughout the Church Age millions of people have been baptized in water; yet the church has been spiritually in shambles, as a whole. Thus in the legal case people were transformed by adhering as faithfully as possible to the Law. in the latter case people become spiritual so that they can become like the Messiah, Jesus.

          • Jason

            The issue has always been spiritual. The sacrifices were an act of obedience, but were merely a shadow of the redemption found in Christ and having no saving power in themselves (Hebrews 10:4). All the fasting and prayers in the world were meaningless when Israel’s heart wasn’t behind it (Isaiah 58). Even the Sabbath was simply a shadow of the rest we have in Jesus (Hebrews 4). The Old Testament men of faith were still ultimately only saved by faith (Romans 4) and not by following the law.

            The Old Testament wasn’t a completely distinct system. It was just a foreshadowing of the complete covenant we now know in the Messiah.

            The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, Marriage, etc… are all great opportunities for fellowship and a platform to profess a commitment in their own right. However, more importantly, they are all teaching tools for spiritual truth. Just as the Passover Festival was a reminder of what the Passover lamb meant to Israel in Egypt.

          • tovlogos

            Absolutely, however, the Law served its purpose as a school master, to lead to understanding. God made the point that it didn’t work (and of course He knew it wouldn’t); so, sure, there was a difference between the life under the legal system, and the life in (spiritual) grace. That’s exactly my point about the difference, as you have reinforced: “The Old Testament wasn’t a completely distinct system. It was just a foreshadowing of the complete covenant we now know in the Messiah.” Exactly.
            I don’t put the Lord’s Supper on the same level as Baptism. Marriage — yes; fellowship — yes, because these are specific unmistakable, mandates. However, I most certainly put the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the most important mandate, which can only take place in response to a heart sincerely repentant. Living one’s life is the image of Jesus is the greatest witness; and the very best opportunity to profess your commitment — now in this one life.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Jason, forgive me for jumping in. But your explanation above is exactly as I have understood things to be. Is this considered covenant theology? (I’m still trying to understand all the different views).

          • Jason

            From what I can tell covenant theology seems to cover more the relationship between Israel as a nation and the church as a kingdom than the old commands and their fulfillment in Christ, but that was just me Google searching and it may encompass this as well.

            These terms are new to me as well.

        • A difference with “go wash yourself” to a particular leper and baptism is that Jesus told the disciples to “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them all I commanded you.” The apostles didn’t make disicples of South Africa baptizing them. So the implication is that the new disicples just made and baptized ill make others and baptize them, etc. And also teaching them everything, inlcuding “make discples baptizing them” so the pattern has been perpetuated through history. No Christian group in history has eschewed batism, so I’m afraid you’re on your own on this brother. You could just as well say “I deliberately commit adultery to prove you don’t need to obey that command to be saved.” Jesus said baptize, so we baptize as a sign of our obedience and love for him, not in order to be saved.

          • tovlogos

            Thanks Clint — I appreciate everything you say; though I completely disagree with your analogy about “adultery.”
            However, every people read the word, “baptism,” as you know very well, means, “Immersion.”
            When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He mildly rebuked him for not understanding Him, and His spiritual message. Look in you center column and see what John 3:5 is cross referenced to — Ezekiel 36:25-27, making the water a spiritual phenomenon. Nicodemus could not grasp this, compelling Jesus to tell him (6) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (from above) is spirit. None of this has anything to do with physical phenomena. Repentance, Love, Faith, Hope, being born from above — have absolutely nothing to do with anything physical.
            As I said earlier John 1:31,33 tells us exactly why Jesus was baptized, leaving no mystery. If Jesus had baptized just one single person in water, we wouldn’t ever have a conversation about it. He came here for something else. The difference between, “Go wash yourself,” to the leper, and Go make disciples, is the difference between the Old and the New. But. Go wash yourself, was necessary because the Lord was in transition, going toward the New covenant.
            So, if something cannot affect one’s salvation, it can’t be necessary. The institution of marriage, for example, is rock solid. The best witness for Christ is the “sign” of one’s growth in conformity to Jesus — not another ritual.
            Matthew 28:19, I am convinced, has to do with the passing of the gospel. When a person receives Jesus with a contrite, humble, sincere heart, he/she is in the position to be baptized/immersed, and indwelled by the Spirit.
            That’s how I see it, brother. It hasn’t me in any way because I am riveted to the Image of Jesus (though I am, I quickly admit, a stumbling fool due to my human nature).

          • Jason

            There’s nothing mystical about any of the acts I mentioned However, all of the physical acts we use to represent spiritual truths are useful to keep our minds on God without completely ignoring the world around us. It helps us to keep from putting spiritual matters in a mental box completely separate from our life in this world. We are both physical and spiritual beings and reality is comprised of both.

            We don’t break bread together because it makes us the body of Christ but as a representation of the truth that we are the body of Christ. We don’t immerse ourselves in water to wash away sins but to signify that we have been immersed in the Holy Spirit and are cleansed of our sins (which is why non-believer baptism shouldn’t even be called baptism).

            Now, that does mean that if your physical baptism would legitimately cause a brother to stumble it is more important to sit down and discuss the significance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit than to be dipped in some water! However, physical representations shouldn’t be disregarded as useless, because they do have value as reminders and symbols (provided they are done in good conscience for both yourself and those around you).

          • tovlogos

            “…all of the physical acts we use to represent spiritual truths are useful to keep our minds on God”

            I don’t need the physical things to help me keep my mind on God; on the contrary, The Spirit is within. Believe me, I don’t see how anyone can ignore this utterly brutal world. I am not talking about the Essenes, nor the Charismatics at all — I talking about the New Covenant and it’s spiritual impact, which stands alone without any props. Yet by your zeal for this subject makes my point. Look at the importance you give this ritual.
            Paul said in 1Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel”
            For what ever reasons he said that, he would never, ever have made such a condescending statement the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
            In contrast, look at Acts 19:1-8. Verse 8 illustrates the power of the One baptism, compared to John’s baptism, verse 4.

            And, Jeff, you understand the difficulty the children of Israel had in breaking away from the legal system. It had to be done gradually. The time of transition began at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. That’s why in Matthew 8:4, Jesus still had to appear in recognizable protocol — recognizable specifically to the children of Israel, because they were the only one’s who had the Messianic expectation — the Dinner Guest. John 1:31,33, tells us exactly “why” Jesus was baptized — to be recognized. The Jews back then, for sure, needed to see concrete evidence of the Messiah.
            There were thousands of people Jesus, and many people the disciples healed where there in no mention of water baptism — the blind man in John 9:6, was not baptized in water –he believed, and walked (an act of faith) and washed the clay (made by Jesus with spit and earth…an act of creation); and he could see. Do you actually think that after the blind man was healed and forgiven, the apostles ran over, grabbed him and insisted he should now be baptized in water? By being healed, his sins were forgiven on the spot, which riled the pharisees to no end.
            Jesus’ ministry was a transition for Old to New.

          • Jeff Schlottmann

            Then why did Philip baptise the eunich? Or why did Peter baptise Cornelius and his household? If anybody knew what needed to take place and what didn’t, wouldn’t it be the apostles? Of course it isnt what saves, but why reject it when even the apostles didnt. Sorry, i just don’t understand your argument.

          • tovlogos

            Jeff, I responded to you in the post to Jason, just above. Thanks.

            Mark

  • Glen Alan Gifford

    Thanks for sharing Clint, it is great to have known you from the start of your journey and even greater seeing how God has used you for His Purpose.

    • Good to hear from you Glen.