A Testimony

by Mike Ratliff

In January 1986 on a cold Sunday morning I drove my family to church. I took our son to his Sunday school class. He was four. My wife took our daughter who was seven to her class. The Church was a Southern Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Pastor was a friend from High School. We attended that church because my wife and I felt that our children needed it. I had turned 34 the previous October and had lived those 34+ years the way I wanted. I grew up going to church, but as soon as I was old enough to do so, I quit. Neither my wife nor I were attending church when we met then later married. We chose that church because my friend was the Pastor. I had been baptized when I was in the 4th grade because all my friends did. I was as Christian as this Apple Computer I’m typing on right now.

Our Sunday School class met in the choir room. My wife and I met after we had delivered our children to their classes then we went in and found our seats. The teacher stood at the base of three levels of seats that were set up like the choir loft in the auditorium. That meant that we looked down on him as he taught. We always sat on the top row as far from the teacher as I could get. I expected the same old thing that happened every Sunday. I would zone out in class then later zone out in church until we could get home. However, that Sunday was different. Just as the seat of my pants hit the seat I suddenly came under very intense conviction about my lost condition. There was no way I could turn it off. There was no way I could silence that condemnation pouring into my mind about me being bound for Hell. Needless to say, I had no idea what went on in class.

After class we went to church after picking up our children from their classes. I was under such severe conviction that I am surprised that I remembered to go get my son. I have no idea what the sermon was about or what songs we sang. All I know is that I felt as if I was about to die and I was at an eternal crossroads. How did I know that? I have no idea. We left church after bundling up against the cold then went home for lunch and NFL playoff football. Well, I have no idea who played that day or anything else. I simply sat there in spiritual agony. As evening approached and we prepared to return to church for evening services something miraculous happened. As I turned right onto the main road out of our neighborhood I remember vividly telling God that I believed that Jesus died for my sins, was my Saviour, and that I surrendered and I was his to do with as he pleased. As we drove to church I was filled with a level of joy that I cannot describe. I knew that my sins were forgiven and Jesus was my Lord.

Was that a decision for Christ or was it something else? When we arrived at Church I was both ashamed and full of joy at the same time. I was ashamed of all of those wasted years, but I was full of joy because I now had a relationship with God through the Son. Our Pastor ended his sermon and I was down there at the front before the “invitation” even started. I told my friend, my Pastor that I was now a believer, but I wasn’t when we joined that church. He had me pray with my Sunday School teacher. I simply thanked God for saving me and I prayed that He would use me for His glory. I was Baptized the following Sunday evening to the shock of my son. I was a Southern Baptist from that point until about a year ago. During all that time I did grow and mature in Christ. However, I was taught in those churches that I was saved because I decided for Christ. I was convinced that I made that decision and was awarded with Salvation for that step of faith. However, the problem for me was that it also meant that I tried to maintain my walk by will power alone.

At the end of 2003 I was taking a Sabbatical from teaching Sunday School. Our Pastor asked me to start a new class for young adults. For some reason that terrified me. I had been a Bible teacher for many years. I had been a Certified Precept Leader as well. I was driven to my knees. I had become severely convicted over the last few months that I was serving God perfunctorily. I was on cruise control. However, this new task required some effort on my part that I was not used to. As I prayed I knew that I had to do something about my relationship with my Lord because I was not really relying on Him at all.

I began to have a quiet time in the mornings before work. Over time I added godly books to my reading list and stopped reading worldly books. I stopped listening to secular music and replaced that with praise and worship music or preaching. After about six months of that I began having a devotional at work as well then I added another one in the evening. Instead of watching Television, I read my Bible and worshipped God until it was time to go to bed. After a couple of weeks of this I found that there was no time in the day in which I was not in some form of worship or Bible study or theological research.

It was the second week of August 2004. I was sitting in my living room listening to a Jeremy Camp CD and writing in my prayer journal. I began to weep and weep and could not stop. It felt as if someone was doing heavy construction in my heart. I really have a hard time describing this. I woke up the next morning to get ready to go to work and as my feet hit the floor I began praising God and suddenly I realized that God had changed my entire value system. He had replaced my old values that I had built up for over 50 years with His. I was floored. I saw things from His viewpoint. I no longer saw as important what I used to value highly. I now valued highly things I avoided thinking about most of the time.

At first I attributed this to the time I spent with Him over those many weeks and months. However, I soon realized that it was something God had done. He had drawn me to Himself and as I obeyed Him I was drawn even closer. It was from this that my first two books were born. This revival or restoration or whatever it was changed me forever. I began to wonder whether that was my real point of salvation. All I knew was that God did it all. My part was to seek Him and obey Him. I am convinced that He drew me to do it just as He drew me to Himself that cold January day in 1986.

God’s ways are mysterious. They are not our ways. I was convinced that the closer I drew to God and the more I proclaimed what He was doing in me and through me that my fellow Christians all around me would be just as excited as I was about it. Nope! In fact, I received discouraging and disparaging remarks from all but a few of them. It was through that that God spoke to my heart about the spiritual darkness in most professing Christians hearts. They are enslaved to their flesh and they serve God on Sunday mornings and always perfunctorily. They believe their religion is what God wants from them. This became a huge burden for me. I began writing about it and that became my first book. I was attempting to describe what I was seeing. I thought that God wanted me to write that book to help others find the way from darkness to light.

What actually happened though was that when I became published, my pastor began to look at me suspiciously. I was cut out of most things going on in Church and then He began to bring in the Purpose Driven Church stuff. That drove my wife and I out of there. So, what’s the point? God changed me. He gave me a different way of looking at things and from that I became separate from most of the Christians I knew. We have been looking for a new church ever since.

I wrote this short testimony in preparation for my post on Irresistible Grace. However, as you saw as you read this, it turned into something else. This is normal for this is how God works in my heart as I write. I have learned to follow His lead and forget my ideas and plans. He is Lord.

It was from this work of God in my heart that Possessing Treasure was born. Its mission is to shine the light of God’s truth into the hearts of His people so that they will repent of their sins, turn their hearts back to Him, learn to be Sprit-led and live for His glory alone. That mission has never changed. I still ache for all those professing Christians out there who are all wrapped up in religiosity, but whose hearts are far from God. I was there once and I know the powerlessness of that. My prayer is that all reading this will seek the Lord and dedicate themselves to denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Him. Spending more time with Him than you are used to doing is where it must start.

SDG

46 thoughts on “A Testimony

  1. God bless you, brother, and thanks for sharing your testimony. God’s ways are indeed mysterious and wonderful. Your writings are a source of education, inspiration and edification to me for which I am most grateful. I pray you’ll find a solid church home that welcomes you as my new church welcomed me when I came to understand and believe the doctrines of grace.

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your heart. What you relate is close to my journey. God has molded and shaped me and brought me to a sovereign grace church in Athens, GA. I encourage you to seek one in your area. God is sovereign and His grace is unlimited. Peace. Soli deo gloria.

    Michael Wetzel

  3. Thank you for posting your testimony. It is amazing to me to see how God draws men to Himself…in different ways, at different times. But it is always HIS work. I trust that this post will be read by many who may also need to see how far their hearts are from God. May He work even through this blog to soften hearts, remove scales from eyes, and reveal Himself to many. I join you in prayer for them.

  4. Differences are inconsequential when God moves in a life. I am blessed by His work in your life and took encouragement from your testimony. Keep listening to His voice, He is really the only One worth listening to.

    Rick

  5. Michael, we are attending a church, but are not members, that I like very much because of the great preaching and teaching. SOLID! My wife does not like the traditional music though. I love it. Please pray for God’s will to be done here.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. You mentioned that you had wondered if you were even saved in the first place after God did a wonderful work in your life. I believe so. We are growing to maturity and can expect growing pains as well as growth spurts. What is sad are those Christians who stop growing. And they are usually the ones that come against us when we do. Some will even kick us when we are down. But though we fall seven times, the Lord always picks us up and we find ourselves at least a tad more mature. Thanks for the testimony, Mike. Very encouraging.

  7. Sherry C.,

    Yes, God is good! This walk is process of sanctification. I am very grateful for the work God has done in me. I pray that I He will be glorified in me. You are very welcome my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. It seems that God is preparing a core of Sold Out, Committed, and Enlightened Christians for a Major Work to be done. Your voice is something like John’s in his crying out in the Darkness when he declared ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’!

    I have felt and heard many of the same things including the scope/extent of the Family of God. We are, all of us, His children, a part of His Family. Your writing/thoughts/testimony are reaching those that need to hear! I have been spiritually uplifted by the truths you declare!

    My prayers lift you before the Throne of Grace daily, my friend, and your message is ringing out clearly!

  9. Doug,

    Yes, God is preparing us for something huge. Those whom He has touched this way must cry out as John cried. I sense that you have heard that truth in your heart as well. Thank you for your prayers. Yes, let us pull the plow shoulder to shoulder yoked up together with our Lord. Whatever God is going to do, time is short and the message is urgent. We must cry out, “Turn your hearts back to God!” When we repent this way, He does a great work in our hearts. His will be done!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. Thank you for sharing your testimony Mike. It sometimes take God to close one door to open other doors in our path.
    It’s all in His plan.

    Cristina

  11. Mike this is a great testimony! I saw the very same things when God saved me. Intense conviction..a crossroads….I knew it was this night to surrender for Christ with my all, or forever be in satan’s grasp. Suddenly, IMMEDIATELY things of the world began to fall off….the Holy SPirit would bring to light something I thought was harmless and conviction would be deep….brush off the prompting of the SPirit…or obey and walk deeper with Jesus….I HAD to obey…even now, the Lord is dealing with certain heart issues and I am still a work in progess. But my heart is grieved because the Lord is showing me that 95% of the people in church are not truly WALKING with Him…that is frightening to me….I weep and pray that the Holy SPirit calls those out who truly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

  12. T.J.,

    Your heart has been touched by God since you know this. Most professing Christians are sleep walking or are on cruise control. It is shocking and it is heart-rending. God has shown us this for some reason according to His will. That means that we must cry out to all that they must turn their hearts back to God and time is short.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. My prayer is that all reading this will seek the Lord and dedicate themselves to denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Him. Spending more time with Him than you are used to doing is great place to start.

    I’ve always had a problem with the idea of denying myself. The main problem was I couldn’t do it; the more I tried, the more I failed.

    Then I saw this definition of self denial:
    “to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.”

    When I was trying to change myself, my focus was on me. Real self-denial can occur only when my focus changes from myself to Christ. Indeed, “Spending more time with Him” is the only place to start. Your testimony is proof of this!

  14. That’s very perceptive of you Dale. That is exactly what happened to me. I remember those days fondly. It was amazing. My entire focus was on my Lord and it was awesome. I still try to do all that I do in that context as well. I’m not always successful at that and I have some areas that really need some grace though. You are right. The only way we can deny ourselves is to be oriented in all we do towards God. May He be glorified in us as we learn to deny ourseleves by His grace.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Your testimony is so encouraging to me because I see some of your experience as very similar to mine.

    I attended Saddleback for nearly 6 years, was very involved in fellowship, children’s ministry, small group etc. I was very pro-Saddleback; inviting friends, believing this church was the most dynamic, life-changing church in the county. Then God, in his mercy and grace toward me, began to give me a feeling in my gut that something was not right. He began to draw me to Himself and reveal Himself in a way that for a time shook my faith. I questioned my own faith as He showed me the truth of His word in the light of everything I thought was true. He has since led our family out of Saddleback and into a gospel proclaiming, Christ-centerd reformed church. Praise God!

    But, I understand when you speak of the burden you have for the proclaiming Christians around you. I too have this burden and have thought like you “that the closer I drew to God and the more I proclaimed what He was doing in me and through me that my fellow Christians all around me would be just as excited as I was about it.” I have been realizing more and more lately (God has been showing me) that it is His work alone that will change someone’s heart like He changed mine. That He alone is the one who will reveal truth to a persons heart. I can pray for them and give biblical Christ-centered insight when asked, but I cannot make them want more of God.

    It is so troubling to see how far from their hearts God really is in the lives of the many Christians around me ( when you live in a community close to Saddleback nearly 2 out of every 3 Christians you know attend there). It reminds me of the verse in Romans “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge”. There is little love for His word or humility toward it. Even though I see them frequently, I often feel alone and disconnected from the Christians I fellowshipped with for so many years. I am finding less and less in common with them as God draw me more and more to Himself. It’s like we speak two different languages.

    Thank you for sharing your testimony.

  16. Mike, It is the most amazing thing to not be able to ‘see’ what changes us from the inside out, yet to know that you know how real He is. People that aren’t there look at us like we are just plain nuts. Because for the most part we live, breathe, dream, talk, and all else nothing but our Lord, they beleive you are just goofy. We know different don’t we :) Thank you for sharing a very personal part of your life with us and being open and honest.

  17. Junosmom,

    Well said! I don’t think you would be very surprised at the number of “contacts” I receive from people who have gone through the PDC stuff and now are on the outside looking in. Yes, this has become all too common. However, as you said, God is good. He prepared your heart for the truth even while you were at Saddleback. Yes, only He can reveal these things to us. We must not stop proclaiming the truth, but we also must not become discouraged by the resistance to the message. That is natural and we must learn that those in darkness like it there. Discontent with the darkness is a sign that God is drawing a person to the truth. Those are the ones God directs to hear the truth and then He does His wonderful work of enlightenment. Those of us who are in the light are truely blessed, but we also have that burden for those still locked in empty religiosity. Use us for your glory Lord as you draw them to the truth!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  18. Mike I can relate to your experiences:
    First with church. For some reason I gradually began to be restless in church. The pastor seemed to be putting on a slick show, or giving a motivational speech. He never mentioned Jesus, unless the scripture passage he read had the name there. Otherwise he only said “God”. The pastor told alot of stories about himself, not the Lord Jesus Christ. some of the stories were kinda funny in a sick way. People laughed and laughed. They thought it was great to have a funny preacher! But I was grieved. I wondered: where is Jesus? Why isn’t He being exalted? What about His death, burial and resurrection? Why don’t they give the gospel? I was a Christian, but Christians need to hear the gospel too. They need to be reminded, taught and encouraged about the truths of Jesus’s Person and work. Isn’t the work of the Holy Spirit to point people to Jesus? So, where is the Holy Spirit in all of this, I wondered. I was so hungry spiritually.

    Secondly, I can relate about your experience with other Christians. When I tentatively asked a few people at church what they thought of these things, they looked at me as though I were from Mars or something. Some thoughtful, godly people even said they never noticed the “funny” stories. They thought the pastor was preaching the word because he would read a passage before he started speaking to us. In some cases, the reason they didn’t see these things is because “man” has become so elevated in people’s minds that they don’t notice when Jesus Christ is left out. People’s needs, feelings, thoughts, experiences, wisdom, wants, etc. have become the most important thing to many Christians. Not the Lord’s glory, not Christ’s person and work, not the Holy Spirit’s ministry, not the Word of God…. but people. They think this is Christianity – caring for people. The absolute highest thing to them is being good and helping people.

    The third thing that I can relate to is the Lord working in our lives to teach us and to conform us to Christ. It is both painful and joyous. I have recently suffered a very great loss. Yet I can say that because of the Lord’s working in my life this loss has been spiritually speaking the best thing for me. The Lord has come alongside me in so many ways. He has kept me, comforted me, taught me, convicted me. He has taught me preeminently that He is glorious and all that He does is for His glory and our good. In the process of all of this, I have learned an important lesson: don’t try to get between people and the Lord. You never know what He will use to bring them along. It may or may not be what you would use. Lean upon His timing, wisdom and sovereignty. Know this: If they belong to Him – He will finish the work He began, and His sheep will listen to His voice. Philippians 1:6; John 10:27

    May the Lord richly bless each of you.

  19. Mike,

    My comments seem to end up in your junk mail box, but I’ll try anyway…

    Your testimony is powerful and (to me) convincing. My problem is that many people who have very different doctrinal beliefs and views of God from me also have powerful testimonies. I am unsure what to make of this.

    In Christ,
    David Ozsvatrh

  20. David,

    My own comments end up there sometimes too. :-) AKSIMET is quite cruel.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about that David. I would suggest that you simply place yourself in the right position before God. That means that you learn to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. If you do that then He will guide you to the truth. How do you start? It starts here: “I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is my all in all.” If this is the cry of your heart then God will draw near unto you as you draw near unto Him. We cannot approach Him in our pride. It must be in humility.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. Thanks Mike – that’s good advice. I noticed that I didn’t even spell my own last name correctly in my post, so I certainly can’t boast!

    David

  22. David, don’t look at others, look at Christ. Seek His face. Study the Bible to learn who He is. If you like, keep a journal, write down what you learn about Jesus. Spend time in His presence. Think deeply about what you are learning about Him. Share it with others, if you can. it is Jesus with whom you and I have to do. He is our life, He has the words of life. No one else can help you as He can. He must and will be your all. Others may encourage you, or they may discourage you. Therefore look to Jesus and Him alone. Hebrews says fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Speaking of Hebrews, that is a good book of the Bible to find out more about Jesus. Though, if you are a new Christian, the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are your best bet. As you learn about Him, He will draw you to Himself. He will become more and more precious to you. Others may see Him as you do or they might not. They may *go with* you, or they may not. Doesn’t matter. You follow Him.

  23. i’m commentless, but feel compeled to leave a comment and let you know i read your story and it has spoken to me

  24. Mike,
    Thought I would just drop in and say just how very very blessed that we all are. Praise God for waking us up in such a way that we know he did it. Just right, as he gets all the glory that way. I too had the same feeling that Doug had after I was enlightened. What’s up! Thank you Mike for sharing. He is using you for his glory. I agree time does seem to be running out. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

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  26. Julie,

    I appreciate your comments – thanks. I wish it was more evident to me. People who spend time alone with Jesus and His Word end up drawing very different conclusions about the nature of God. I guess that it’s His Church, so He can do as He likes, but the end result is not a unified Body, only body parts.

    David

  27. David,

    I believe that many of those conclusions are tainted by the Church environment people are in or the teachers they are listening to. That is why we are suggesting that you don’t listen to anyone except God.

    Here is link to a post that, I believe, also answers the question of why there is so much variance in people’s understanding.

    I also would suggest that you approach God with this. Ask Him to show you where His Sovereignty ends and man’s begins. You see, this is the real issue. I believe God is totally Sovereign and does everything for His glory. Others, are not convinced of that and see man as having autonomy over his will. I reject that, but that isn’t the point. You must line up with what God shows you not with me or anyone else.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  28. David

    I would be careful if I were you about finding fault with Jesus Christ’s handling of His own church. The church is His body, His bride. He loves His bride and gave Himself for her. NOt only that, but He continues to care for her, lead her, purify her, build her, etc. He has not forsaken her, for she is His own body.

    Some of what you are saying about differences is actually scriptural. read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

    For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1Co 11:18-19)

    Does that make sense? In other words, one of the reasons that there are differences and disunity is because there are false teachers out there. True christians do not want unity with them, we don’t unite with the false. And we are warned in scripture that one of the things that false teachers want to do is purposefully divide the church in order to destroy it. So both true Christians and false Christians will divide…one in order to preserve the integrity of the church, the other in order to destroy the church.

  29. Julie,

    Thanks for responding. Actually, your first paragraph is exactly why I am cautious about saying that my conclusions about Truth are correct simply because I spend time in God’s Word and have peace about what He shows me. Perhaps you’ve never met folks who hold who fast, pray, and have powerful testimonies about God working in their lives, and yet who hold opposite views to your own about crucial matters (e.g., how God defines worldliness in the Church). This is hard for me to reconcile with the concept that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all Truth.

    A non-seeker friendly seeker,
    David

  30. Dear David,
    I understand where you’re coming from. It is with much frustration that I see the seeker friendly teachings entering into the churches. It is hard when, through the Holy Spirit, I am able to discern false teachers/teaching (because they don’t line up with the Word) and others believers do not always see it the same way. BUT, only a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have known any better either, it is ONLY because of God’s grace and timing that the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to these things. Again, it was all in His timing and not mine. I was a very, very immature Christian if I was at all.

    The verse Julie gave was excellent because as Paul says ” for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” When someone points out a false teaching to me and I see it, we are bonded because we are drawing closer to our shepard and distancing ourselves from wolves in sheeps clothing. When someone brings false teaching over and over into the church I have to wonder if they are really a brother an immature Christian, or a wolf. I am wary of them. Only God can see the heart but He told us to look for these very things.

    From what you are saying about studying the Word, and drawing close to the Lord, it sounds like you are experiencing what alot of us have on this board. The time of Christ’s return is approaching, and with it all of the signs He promised.

    Love in Christ,
    Rachel

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