A Grace Story

Summer landscape in mountains with the sunDavid and Stephanie Heimann are valued friends to my wife and me, they are colaborers in ministry, and they are both objects of God’s amazing grace. They were recently baptized after coming to understand over time that their initial professions of faith were not genuine.

This is tricky. You don’t want inveterate doubters to get rebaptized, and you don’t want to comfort unregenerated people by appealing to doubtful professions. I trust David and Stephanie (and my church’s pastoral staff) to evaluate situations like this very carefully.

Right after David and Stephanie gave their testimonies and were baptized I went out into the hallway to bring my son to his class (he was very interested in the baptisms), and I used the opportunity to get first dibs on their testimonies for my blog. Here’s Stephanie’s (stay tuned for David’s):

“Give thanks to the Lord . . . for He satisfies the thirsty soul . . .” ~Psalm 107

I spent years of my life looking for something to satisfy my soul . . . and I never would have found the One who can (on my own) . . . so He came and found me.

When I was a child, I believed that Jesus died and rose again. So I thought I was a Christian. I was baptized. There were times when I wanted to read my Bible and pray, but those seasons of devotion did not last. I had a long season of rebellion. But God granted me repentance—and after He did, I wondered, “Was I really a Christian when I was a child, or did God save me when I was an adult?”

The latter seemed true, but I could not understand how I could have had affection for God when I was a child if I was not a child of God. I have been trying to understand this for many years, and recently, the Lord used the testimony of Jonathan Edwards to help me to understand my own.

When Edwards was a child there were times when he spent a lot of time praying and reading his Bible, but those seasons of devotion did not last. After he became a true Christian he looked back at his childhood affections for God and said,

I am ready to think that many are deceived by such affections . . . and mistake it for grace.

That one sentence explained my experience. I had mistaken my childhood affection for God, for grace. And for a time it may have seemed like I was a Christian.

But difficulty was coming. And that difficulty would reveal the true condition of my heart. When I was in 7th grade, my church and Christian school fell apart. One of the pastors was even sent to prison. After this my faith was tested and I failed the test. The testing revealed that my faith was superficial. I claimed to be a Christian, but I didn’t want to be like Christ. I wanted to be like the world (I John 2:15-16, James 4:4). I rebelled against my parents. I was a fool (Prov. 15:5). My life would have been so much better if I would have obeyed them, but I didn’t. I wanted to live the way I wanted to live, and I thought that I would be able to go to heaven no matter what I did (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Rev. 22:15) as long as I believed that Jesus died and rose again (James 2:19).

But I didn’t know that Christianity is a commitment of submission to the King, and becoming a Christian is a supernatural act whereby God changes a person’s heart and gives them a desire to know God and obey Him. I didn’t want to know God and obey Him. I just wanted to be able to go to heaven. I missed the whole point of the gospel (2 Cor. 5:17-19). I didn’t want to be reconciled to God because I didn’t want Him to tell me how to live. I thought I would be happy if I went my own way (Isaiah 53:6). But I was wrong. I pursed emptiness and became empty (Jer. 2:5).

I started drinking and going to parties . . . I was searching for something to satisfy my restless soul. But nothing in this world could. I felt like something was missing in my life . . . I didn’t know that the thing that was missing was God.

One night I went to the bar with my friends. The next morning I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. I was sitting in darkness (Psalm 107:10-11, Is. 9:2). I wasn’t seeking God . . . but He was seeking me.

And suddenly, I became aware of His presence. He opened my eyes and made me see reality. And I thought, “what am I doing here?” Then I had a horrible experience. I realized, “I am here because this is who I am. I am a sinner.” I could see that I was throwing my life away and I knew I was going to die if I kept going my own way . . . and I could see that the pleasures of sin could not satisfy my soul. I thought, “What is the point of life? There has to be more to life than this.”

Then it was like God said, “There is . . . there is so much more to life than this . . . if you will follow Me.” Then God gave me a glimpse of hope that the soul-satisfying happiness I was looking for would be found in Him (Psalm 16:11). It was like Jesus was saying, “Come to me . . . and I will satisfy your soul” (John 7:37; 6:35; 4:14).

And I did. I believed Him because He gave me grace—He delighted in me and gave me a heart that was capable of delighting in Him. I didn’t want my sin anymore. I wanted God. I started to read the Bible and I started to know the One who satisfies restless souls—and nothing compares to the joy of knowing Him. He has completely changed my life. He answered the prayers of my parents. And tonight I can say, “Jesus has done everything for me, and I want to follow Him.”

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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