For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:
walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them.
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons;
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love,
for His wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I didn’t expect this to be so long-winded; but it has been on my heart for some time now to lay out my whole testimony in some degree of detail here to glorify Christ and give hope to others.
My earliest memory is at the age of three, when I earnestly prayed to God that I would know Him and belong to Him. The few short years at my life’s beginning from then until the age of around 10 are marked in my memory by a few vivid instances of truly knowing God’s voice and having a compassionate understanding of others which could only be from the heart of God Himself. Even in the substantially Christian environment by which I was surrounded, I was still often the odd one out; but I was content to be, as I saw that there was very little genuinness to be found. Though I loved the scriptures and I had begun with some true desire to know God and even make Him known, my measure of humility was quickly and effectively snuffed out by a growing pride in what I thought I knew, and how strong I supposed myself to be spiritually.
To some degree or another, I have always, as far back as I can remember, been aware of the spiritual conflict underway upon this earth – and specifically how it affects individuals. This came from the biblical knowledge that I grew up with – and took pride in. A good intellectual understanding however did not deter the spirit of this present world from being at work in me rather than the Spirit of God.
Having some knowledge of the scriptures and hearing the plausible arguments of modern Christian apologists became a replacement for a true connection with God Himself by His Spirit. I became zealous to win biblical arguments – which was (I had come to think) an indicator of my spirituality, as I seemed to have better knowledge than most people around me. In many cases, this was indeed true; but what I confessed to believe was not continuing to be backed up by the fruit of the Spirit – quite to the contrary.
One day when I was 12, my mother came into my room and gave me a fire-and-brimstone lecture on the lack of the Holy Spirit’s fruit in my life, that she wasn’t about to let me think I could hide behind my parents’ faith while lacking my own. She said that she would not have my blood on her hands if I went to hell. As she spoke, my eyes clouded over; and when she left, I still couldn’t see, but I heard God almost audibly in my head – telling me that this was a crossroad and I had a choice to make: either repent and find His power to overcome, or continue in sin and destroy myself. My answer was, “I’ll make it work. You know I’m fine, and we’re good. So let me see again.” And He did. And I stopped listening to Him, and I sensed His hand lift away. His near presence became distant.
Having no wholesome relationships that I desired to pursue any longer, I began entrusting myself to friendships with those who saw me as useful to make themselves look good, trapping myself in an environment of self-seeking and treachery. Here, my pride fostered bitterness and visceral anger for all that stood against my own selfish will, and I soon developed a rage that I now can only describe as demonic, as it eventually turned out to be just that. I was constantly in a sort of torment unless I could periodically take out my anger to temporarily feel vindicated.
Yet still the voice of God would occasionally break through my misery and growing inner turmoil, His hand offering deliverance and rest in the care of His shelter, something I was now running from – and the running continued. I continued to trade humility, where He upholds in safety, for pride, where I upheld myself and failed to see my fall. For there is another voice in this world, and it has the attention of every ear not obeying the voice of the Good Shepherd. This foul voice seduces the whole world to continue going astray. The sinful nature is the perfect puppet for Satan and his underlings: the more we become as he is, the more we manifest his works, and the more we become their vessels (however unwitting). That Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil was conveniently absent from my gospel; therefore I remained absent from HIS, and so remained walking in darkness, constantly arguing with Him to justify myself.
When I reached my mid teens, I was already consuming my mind with pornography and began to give place to homosexual desires. To this day, I am amazed that I never acted out on any of it. In retrospect, it seems as though God still preserved me from what He knew I might not have been willing to turn back from. I was no longer hearing His voice (though now I see how He was still constantly trying to get through to me), and the growing shame over my sin with no true remedy was turned into an excuse for wallowing in self-pity. I would complain that He wasn’t helping me; yet I was refusing His help.
At the age of 14, someone about my age who I peripherally knew died suddenly. He had always been a convicting example to me of Christ’s likeness. I would say the radiance of Jesus’ face shined through his. I just knew that this kid KNEW GOD – which is largely why I never tried getting to know him to closely, he convicted me. When he died, I sensed that I’d lost something; but that didn’t make any sense to me, since I had hardly known him. Truly, what had been lost was a light in the darkness; and my heart was hardened further, and I argued with God all the more. I became self-deceived enough to convince those around me that I still knew God, and I eventually got baptized just to keep others from questioning it, which unfortunately worked. The reaction of others when I later came to the Lord in truth was initially a great deal of confusion and even denial that this could all be so.
Soon after, the denominational congregation which my family had been heavily involved in spat my parents out, and I mostly stopped going to any gathering. I had no real friends left in my life and liked to think that I was quite content to carry on in the growing darkness.
Then I began to be extremely convicted. All I can say is that God was drawing me back. I didn’t understand why, but I was compelled to pick up my bible and actually begin to study it. I also began to see just how decieved the whole world is, and that surely Satan truly did rule over it. I discovered through the knowledge of others and my own observation that just as Psalm 2 says, the people of the world and their rulers plot together against the Lord and against His Anointed. I saw the evidence of the mystery of iniquity at work on an earthly level; but I still failed to see how deeply it had come to be at work in myself also.
But having my earthly paradigms shattered by the age of 17, I also began diving into the scriptures with the simple prayer that He would make sense of it all, finally admitting that perhaps I also knew nothing spiritually. My powerlessness over sin in my life was now disturbing me, and I felt a very personal spiritual oppression that was driving me into fear and some measure of depression. As I started to plead with the Lord to reveal His Truth, I was quickly confronted with the fact that I had been missing everything. The truth that God had made known within me and revealed to me, I had been holding in unrighteousness. Professing myself to be wise, I had become a fool, I had been worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. Now I read Jesus saying, “You search the scriptures, for you think in them you have everlasting life. And they are the ones witnessing concerning ME. And you are not willing to come to ME that you may have Life.” (John 5:39-40)
The Holy Spirit opened up my eyes to the fact that the word “Life” here meant something of true substance which I undeniably lacked. Everlasting Life is to KNOW HIM (John 17:3) – and this knowing must be through HIM dwelling in us by faith! Now I was confronted with the cross having to actually APPLY to me as an instrument of death that I might find His Life. For so long I had lived with the cross behind me. But now the small tastes I had once experienced of His Life when I was younger were being remembered, and I was filled with His grief over how I had been forsaking Him. Now I was believing His Word, not merely intellectually because it was carefully explained to me; but rather from the heart by the Holy Spirit’s witness, and beginning to see its fruition as I actually stepped out into where He was beckoning.
During the initial time of this heavy conviction, He lead me to the book of Lamentations, where Jerusalem is described as a city broken down and overrun by the enemy. “This is a picture of you,” is what He was saying through it at the time. Then He began to show me that it is a picture of His church also.
It describes in chapter 3 the discipline of a man under the chastening of the Lord:
I am the man that has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and caused me to walk in darkness, and not in light. Surely against me He turns His hand again and again all the day. My flesh and my skin has He made old; He has broken my bones. He has built against me, and surrounded me with gall and travail. He has made me to dwell in dark places, as those that have been long dead. He has walled me about, that I can’t go out; He has made my chain heavy. Yes, when I cry, and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has walled up my ways with cut stone; He has made my paths crooked. He is to me as a bear lying in wait, as a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces; He has made me desolate. He has bent His bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
But then it goes one to describe His mercy:
“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
This revelation of His mercy and longsuffering, enduring my rebellion for so long – this put the fear of the Lord in me.
For a period of some months, every night was spent crying out to Him for deliverance and repenting. I had previously been making plans in my mind to head straight into a very debaucherous life after completing high school; but this had suddenly changed. My eyes were opened to th fact that although I had been about to dive into a life of such darkness that I would likely not be willing to turn from it, yet He had still held out His mighty hand, waiting for me to humble myself so that He might lift me from the mire before it consumed me. The powers of darkness in my own life began to be exposed to me, as well as my absolute powerlessness to overcome them or resist their will by my own will. I had once openly invited demonic power into my life to help me get away with more in secret; but it had slowly begun taking over my own will beneath the surface of my facade. As as I began turning to Christ, the enemy began very directly attacking me. A spirit once came to kill me in a hotel room on a school band trip, after I had resisted a number of temptations the previous day. I awoke levitating inches from the ceiling, sensing absolute hatred in the air. The voice of the Lord spoke to me as though from within me, “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world…” I spoke the only word I could get out of my mouth, “STOP” – and it ended. Many other times, I was paralyzed, choked, and physically beaten by demons at night; spirits would come to seduce me and try to pull me out of my body. I began to rebuke them in Jesus name, and they always stopped. But I knew I wasn’t being fully delivered of their influence yet; and once while reading James chapter 4, it was as though God was asking, “WHY do you want deliverance?” The words, “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order that you may spend on your lusts” – these words shocked me in the context of this question. I had taken David’s words in Psalm 51, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,” and I had made it about how good I would look before others, being the ‘spiritual’ one whom others would look up to. But that was not the purpose of David’s prayer! The Lord does not deliver men with the intent of making them whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones! The ultimate lusts that I would spend my freedom upon in my mind were the praises of men. This idolatry had to go. True repentance is not self-seeking. My lack of true and full deliverance was a symptom of my double-mindedness in the purposes of God. He requires truth in the innermost parts (Ps 51:6).
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” But he giveth more grace.
Wherefore He saith, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and HE shall lift you up.
We stand or fall before HIM alone, whose eyes are like a flame of fire. Where I had puffed myself up, He began to flatten me. Where I took pride in my self-supposed righteousness, He told me to humble myself and look into HIS mirror. I began to behold HIM rather than myself and be transformed, desiring HIS will to become my own, and HIS desires to replace my own. Where I had once viewed others as useful to my own purposes, I began to see them as precious souls for whom Christ died to set free. Where I had once sought after fulfilling my own lusts, I began to seek after fulfilling the pleasure of being a servant of the Lord. The more I was humbled, the more He was able to deliver me. At times I would be praying and praising Him at night, and the very presence of Jesus would come into my room, and demons would leave me, and HIS Spirit would fill me up to a greater measure! The the deep-seated anger and unnatural rage I had once harbored was traded for a peace beyond my own understanding; the need to be proven right in the sight of all men was dropped for being right with God no matter how it looked to others; the sexual perverse desires were subsiding as I turned my heart to the Word of Christ. He began using me to intercede in prayer and in deed for certain people, and against the forces of darkness at work in their lives. He began to fill me with HIS love for those whom I had once despised, and occasianally give words of wisdom and knowledge for them in His time. I was beginning to observe HIM work through me rather than myself. The Spirit He has given is not of fear, but “of power, of love, and of a sound mind”.
Time and again He has shown that His deliverance is most simply a matter of throwing myself upon His mercies and standing on His authority as His child. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – After receiving a lot of deliverance from the Lord as already described, months went by, and then this incident happened: I once walked into my room late at night, and something knocked me to the floor. An evil spirit was standing before me, telling me that I still belonged to him, and that he would give me the ability to get away with whatever I desired as long as I gave him space again… I now saw the potential life that God had rescued me from. He had forced this enemy out of hiding to be exposed and finally driven away. But I reacted to this demon angrily in the flesh, actually trying to physically wrestle it away – immediately I was being crushed, I could not keep it from overcoming me by my own will and power. But then a light shone from behind me and I heard the Lord say, “I am here, you are Mine.” Now I feared more Who stood right behind me than what was in front of me… He put His hand on my shoulder and stood beside me, but at the time I could not bring myself to look at Him. I told the enemy that the King of kings is now my Lord and that HE will have His way in this temple; and then it vanished. Vengeance is HIS. The power that had formerly been at work in me to do the Devil’s will could not be overcome in my own strength; it had to be submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has overcome all things, who lives in me by His Holy Spirit! (I happen to remember that this incident occurred in January of 2012, for what it’s worth).
I now seek to be setting my heart after God’s. There is nothing we have in this world that we shouldn’t have already counted as loss for the excellency of knowing Christ Jesus. Our deepest fellowship with Him is in His sufferings. The voice of my accuser has always been there, but the Lord upholds me as I walk by the faith of Christ which also is my shield. “You preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” He is always beckoning to boldly step out by faith upon the unknown waters of knowing HIM more deeply in His humiliation. I have all too often made this far more difficult than it needs to be; and His loving discipline is always there to remind me that I must keep in step with His Spirit at all times, walking in His love especially toward the brethren. One of the first things God began showing me when I began walking with Him is the difference between the church of man, which He has no part in; and HIS church, where we partake of HIM. This has been an ongoing journey. He has given me a heart for those of my generation and those coming after, as HIS appearing awaits our being made ready. “…when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is…”
…But that is enough for here. May the rest of my testimony be evident by the fruit that I bear and the path that I walk.
And may God bless you, my reader.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion:
in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy;
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice:
have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When thou saidst, “Seek ye my face;”
my heart said unto Thee, “Thy face, LORD, will I seek.”
Hide not Thy face far from me; put not Thy servant away in anger:
Thou hast been my help; leave me not,
neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Teach me Thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies:
for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see
the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the LORD.