November 4, 2014

Personal Reformation 2: Nate’s Testimony

by Nathan Busenitz

NBfb01Christian biography. It’s one of my favorite aspects of studying church history. Hearing how the gospel of God’s grace has transformed the lives of so many throughout the centuries never gets old.

One thing that strikes me is that the circumstances surrounding each conversion are always different, and yet the profound truth of the gospel is always the same. Some, like Athenagoras, came to saving faith while trying to disprove Christianity. Others, like Augustine, lived in wanton rebellion and immorality, until they were tracked down by the Hound of Heaven. Still more, like Luther, desperately sought to earn salvation through their own self-righteous works, finally discovering the gospel of grace and finding the gates of heaven flung open.

Countless stories could be told—from John Bunyan (the reprobate soldier) to John Newton (the slave-trader)—of dramatic conversions in which God’s grace suddenly and visibly arrested the sinner, like Saul on the road to Damascus. Other conversion stories are not as outwardly dramatic, but they are nonetheless equally profound. John Calvin summarized his salvation experience in a simple sentence: “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life.” Church history weaves together all of these powerful stories of divine grace (both the visibly dramatic and the seemingly subtle) to create a beautiful tapestry testifying to the glory, power, and mercy of God.

Some of my favorite testimonies are of those who grew up in the church—like Jonathan Edwards, a pastor’s son who came to saving faith as a teenager; or A. A. Hodge who followed in the footsteps of his father, Charles. Perhaps I’m drawn to those stories because they are similar to my own experience.

I grew up in the home of a church elder and seminary professor. Six months before I was born, my dad helped launch an extension of Talbot Theological Seminary on the campus of Grace Community Church. A decade later, that extension campus became The Master’s Seminary.

Growing up in a strong Christian home, and sitting under the teaching ministry of John MacArthur, I was exposed to the truth of the gospel from before I can remember. The realities of God’s perfect righteousness, my sinful unworthiness, and His gracious provision through the cross of Christ were repeatedly presented to me. Through the faithful teaching of God’s Word, I came to understand that being a Christian was more than being a “good kid.” It is about embracing the Lord Jesus in saving, repentant faith (Rom. 10:9).

Though I professed Christ from a very early age (I remember praying under a patio table in the backyard when I was four years old), I did not fully appreciate the implications of the gospel until my teenage years. The reality of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ especially hit home when I began to attend public high school, and found myself surrounded by deistic hedonists, self-professed atheists, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and members of the L.A. Church of Christ. It was there that I began to develop a growing interest in Christian apologetics. The Lord also used that experience to strengthen my faith and deepen my love for Him and His Word.

In some ways, my testimony is that of an ordinary church kid. Yet, there is never anything ordinary about the wonder of God’s amazing grace. The gospel is not just for those who are openly living in wanton rebellion. It is also for the “good kids”—the outwardly compliant pew sitters who are no less hell-bound without Christ than drug dealers, murderers, and atheists. (On that point, be sure to read this.)

This last Sunday, I had the privilege of teaching our fellowship group a message entitled, “Every Christian’s Testimony” from Titus 3:3–7. As I reminded our group, all believers share several elements of their conversion stories in common:

1. As sinners, we deserved none of God’s grace (v. 3).

2. In salvation, God accomplished everything by His grace (vv. 4–7).

3. In sanctification, we are now called to live in light of His grace (v. 8).

The glorious reality of the gospel is that it is powerful enough to save both the most profligate of sinners and the most religious of the outwardly moral.

No sinner is so wicked as to be beyond the reach of God’s grace. But, conversely, no sinner is good enough to merit God’s favor. Salvation comes only to those who rest fully in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Jas25

    Good stuff. I was also raised in the church (though the teaching was not as solid as what you were raised under), and always thought my testimony was boring. I am currently taking an evangelism class and one question changed my perspective on that.

    “What were you living for before Christ?” Up to that point, I always thought the “right” answers were drugs, sex, popularity, etc… and I never lived for any of that sort of thing.

    That’s when I realized I wasn’t really living for anything before I gave my life to Christ. My answer of “nothing” made me realize there are probably plenty of people who can relate with my story too, especially in today’s culture where we’re told nothing is inherently meaningful.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Jas25,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s never boring to hear how God has transformed a slave of sin and a lover of self into a child of God and a worshipper of Christ.

      I hope you read the article I linked to above (by Byron Yawn). I think you’ll find it encouraging.

      • Jason

        The more I think about it, the more I think these types of testimonies point out good news beyond freedom from vices that we may not focus on enough when discussing salvation.

        As the article you mentioned noted, it’s easy to look at a train wreck turned healthy life and think “that person did need Jesus”, and it is good that the supposedly “good” people can say “yeah, but so did I”. We all certainly do.

        However, the “tame” testimonies are really a great opportunity to point out that just as we can’t have two masters, we aren’t capable of having none either. Even if we’re not living a life of addiction and lust, we are in bondage to sin so long as we aren’t able to live for God.

        The church, in my personal experience, has plenty who think salvation from sin means guilt free, more socially acceptable worldly living. However, freedom from sin is opportunity to serve God and when a person already free from (at least obvious) vice comes out and says “thank you for freeing me” it might just make people think about what freedom from sin really means.

  • Samuel H Kennedy

    thank you Nate…for your testimony. Proud of your Dad & Ps John…pioneers are who they are…I pray you follow in their footsteps…The world is yearning for dedicated expositors of the Word of God. God Bless You & your Family.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Thanks Samuel!

  • Good stuff, Nate.

    By the time God shone the light of Truth in my own heart I had long since believed I was a Christian, born-again and all (walked the isles/prayed the prayers & shed the tears). Everything I’d come to believe to be true about the world, about God and men and my own standing with God, even though somewhat “biblically” informed ultimately came by my own standards. By the time I was 44 God and I were “cool”. I was living my life how I pleased and became comfortable with all that entailed. When God did reveal Himself to me it was dramatic, my world was turned right-side-up. I absolutely knew I’d been plucked from the Fire. Phew..I still shudder with thankfulness.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Thanks Suzanne. Your testimony reminds me of D. Martyn Lloyd Jones — who grew up in the church thinking he was a Christian only to later realize he was not. Praise the Lord for His kindness in your life!

  • kevin2184

    Thanks Nate…I just posted this on facebook with the hope that my unsaved friends and family will read it. I also added the following comment:

    Our “good works” are the result of our salvation; not the cause for it. Every religion, other than biblical Christianity, gets this wrong (e.g., Catholicism) and, is
    essence, considers a person to be his or her own “savior” by prescribing religious duties or sacraments as a necessary requisite for salvation. However, Scripture teaches us that God’s requirement is perfection (Matt 5:48) which, of course, no one can obtain. Fortunately for us, God, in His infinite mercy and grace, provides heaven as a free gift (Eph 2:8-10; Rom 6:23) to those humble enough to accept the fact their “good works” are nothing more than filthy rags in God’s eyes (Isa 64:6) and are willing to turn from following their sinful desires to obeying Jesus Christ(Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3,5). To be sure, someone may assent to certain facts about Christ, including the facts of His deity and gift of salvation by grace through faith. But true belief in the Lord and His atoning work on the cross necessarily results in a transformed heart and mind (1 Cor 2:16; 2 Cor 4:4) that the gift of saving faith brings about (Matt 3:8; Heb 3:18-19). One who claims to have faith in
    our God and Savior Jesus Christ but lives a life that shows otherwise proves that he or she was never saved to begin with (as Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7:21-23).

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Excellent addition. Thanks Kevin!

  • Eric R

    Great post! Amen to the fact that ALL need Christ! My wife and I have very different testimonies. She grew up in the church w/ very solid parents and I grew up in the world. She has said before that she wished she had as dramatic a life change as I so she could see the difference. My response has always been “Well Sweetie if we had both died we would’ve both went to hell no matter how “clean” your life was.” From my perspective I am thankful for her upbringing. Not all realize the residue that remains in the mind from a terribly sinful past. It still makes me weep to this day. Our Savior is so Great!

  • David Alves

    Hi Nathan,

    I’ve always enjoyed your articles and sermons (I saw you in the livestream two weeks ago — the glasses were cool). I’m going to be at Shepherds this year and am a prospective TMS student, so I would simply love to meet you and talk theology! 🙂

    I checked the Grace Church website because I wanted to listen to your message from Titus but didn’t see it posted yet. I guess it takes a few days? Blessings on your faithfulness to the gospel and Word, and your good heart.