You may also be interested in An Open Letter to Roman Catholics.
The Testimony of an Ex-Roman Catholic
The Testimony of a Wretch
by Lucien J. LeSage, Jr.
This is my testimony of how the Lord saved me.
I walked an aisle, came up to the front, or whatever you want to call it, in a Baptist Church over 32 years ago in June of 1979, but let me say this; there was an amazing experience that went on in my soul before I ever walked that isle. Walking an isle and coming to the front was only the results of something else that was so personal between my lost soul and God that it is hard to explain.
I had lived a sinful life before I was ever saved. In fact I was not even really sure that God existed. I was raised Roman Catholic and was taught the 10 commandments and about Jesus Christ and the Trinity, etc. The Catholic Church does teach some truth about God and Christ. They certainly believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he was God manifest in the flesh. At least that was what I was taught through 12 years of Catholic Schools. But the way of salvation was through the sacraments and by not committing mortal sins and if you did going to confession to absolve you of those sins. And also doing what the Catholic Church obligated you to do. I was taught that there was NO salvation outside the Catholic Church. They taught that you could only receive Christ through the Catholic Church. So anyway, I did have some foundation about God's laws which does mold a person's conscience. But just having a conscience and being religious and going to church is not what salvation is all about. That alone will never save a person and it never saved me. I was very religious in my early years but just as lost as I could be and didn't know it.
As time went on my life changed somewhat and I got completely out of the Catholic Church and only attended a few meetings in a Baptist Church because I was dating my future wife at the time. I remember one time that the preacher gave a sermon that did bring conviction and I could not wait to get out of there. BUT when I left the church service it was OK. I know now, that was the general work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit evidently was in that message but not in me because when I got away from there I was at peace again (but not the peace of God, that's for sure). I can even remember a few years later on a camping trip that I mocked Christians that were singing Gospel hymns in the camp ground. I still remember that because I realized for some reason I was so eager to mock them, but if they would have been signing some other song I would have never thought a thing. Why? That did stick in my mind. Why was I so eager to mock them?
It was years later in 1979 that something happened to me. I was not in a church at the time and had not been attending church. It was probably at a time in my life that I was about as far away from God as a person could get. I certainly was not seeking after God at that time. I am not sure I can really explain what happened other than, to keep it very simple, I became "God aware." For the first time I REALLY and I mean REALLY knew that God existed. The more this progressed in my soul I began to search for answers. I went back to the Catholic Church but found no rest for my troubled soul. Just attending some religious service did nothing to bring relief. In fact I left more troubled and empty than when I got there. I kept looking for answers. At first I could not even figure out what was going on. When I thought maybe I was a good person that would just get shot down quickly. NO WAY! When I looked back at my life I wasn't a righteous man. I figured the answers I was looking for were in the Bible. This went on for some time with me, but not an excessive amount of time, looking back on it. The more I found out the more empty and troubled I became. I would here someone say this or that about the Bible and I only became more troubled. I was beginning to see how HOLY God was and how UNHOLY I was. I tried to forget about it all and just go back to the way it was before all this started but IT WOULD NOT go away. I couldn't figure my way out of it. The more I tried to figure my way out of it the more trapped and cornered I became. I eventually went and spoke with a co-worker that was in the hospital from a car wreck. The reason I went to him was because I knew that he knew more about the Bible than anyone I had talked to or who had tried to help me. I figured if anyone could help me it would be him. Well, when I left his presence I was under more conviction than I had ever been. I was still troubled with no fix. I was more cornered than ever. God's holy law and my sins had me cornered and it looked like God's righteous wrath was going to be my lot. I remember riding home that night and I broke out in a cold sweat from fear. It was the fear of God. I had never been so lost. I was as lost as a bug in a hurricane. But later I read in the scripture that the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of spiritual understanding (Ps 111:10 and Pr 9:10). That's why John Newton wrote in the song "Amazing Grace" that it was "grace that taught my heart to fear." Notice he said heart to fear. The Bible says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). The fear of the Lord may be reverence to a saved sinner but to a lost depraved sinner who sees his sins and condition it is just fear of a holy, all powerful and all knowing God.
In this experience I never heard a voice other than scripture being quoted by men, or saw any vision that some people claim to see, or anything like that, but there was something wrong in my spirit. I don't understand how God conveys that to a person's spirit but He does. Well, I found myself to be a lost sinner and deserving of God's punishment. This was not something that I sought. Why would I seek to shut myself up in a corner with no seemingly way out? Things were just fine before this all started, so I thought. Why would I want to make myself a miserable lost sinner? Why would I want to make myself undone? When Isaiah saw God in his glory, he said, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." Man was I unclean and undone. I remember after I was saved that a preacher told me that all that fear that I had was not of God but was from the devil. I wondered why would the devil want to make me fear God's judgment and flee to Christ. I knew God had His hand in it all in some way. It didn't take me long from reading the Bible to see that was a bunch of nonsense. If the fear of the Lord in the beginning of conviction is only reverence then why would Newton write in his song "Amazing Grace" that grace taught his heart to fear and grace relieved that fear. We should always reverence the Lord with reverential fear.
Anyway going back to when I left my co-worker in fear, I found myself cornered with no way out. The next Sunday after my conversation with my co-worker and finding myself just lost, we went to a local Baptist Church. The pastor preached a simple sermon on Jesus Christ being the saviour. Man was I ready to receive Christ. I needed relief and Christ was the way out. He was the door that was the way out of this misery and mess that I found myself in. For the first time I really knew in my HEART what it was all about. He had taken care of all my sins at the cross and I bare them no more. What a relief! And believe me they were a heavy load on me at that time. Those sins were always against me but they never were this kind of load until the Holy Spirit dealt with my heart. I believed ON Christ for the first time. I had believed ABOUT him in the past as a young Catholic with a head knowledge, but now I had believed ON Him from the HEART. Guess what, the Bible says that a saved person believes from the heart (Rom 10:9). It is a heart thing not just a mental decision. No one had to beg me. They didn't need to sing another stanza of some song. It was as easy as falling off a log. There was nothing to work up. It had already been worked up for me. Does anyone need to be worked up to flee a burning building? That kind of comes natural doesn't it. It was as natural as a baby taking that first breath of air because he or she NOW has life. I was amazed afterwards and asked myself, "Is this the way it is? Is this how a person is saved?" I knew that I had nothing to do with it. I read in the Bible how Paul was saved and for some reason I could relate to what happened to him so much. I wasn't blinded and did not hear Christ speak as he did but there were some similarities and a pattern that were the same. Paul was not seeking Christ. In fact he was on the road to Damascus to put Christians in prison. It was on that road that Christ, who is God, stopped him. I was not seeking Christ while on my road of rebellion. I was on the road to destruction and Christ stopped me. You see it was not I did this or I did that, but it was God that stopped me. I was apprehended by the high sheriff of Glory. Paul said in Philippians 3:12 that he had been apprehended of Jesus Christ. It was not an apprehension where I was dragged against my will kicking and screaming but I was very willing to seek Christ NOW. But why now and not before? From my testimony, you can clearly see why. The book of Psalm has the answer: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power..." (Ps 110:3).
I remember at a choir practice in that same church some of us gave our testimony. After I gave mine the choir director said that he did not have the Damascus Road experience that I had and then he went on to say a few things about his relationship with Christ. But that stuck in my mind because I could relate to Paul's experience in so many ways as I already mentioned above. Well then I read what Paul said about his experience. He said, "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1Tim 1:16). It is not that we all have this same exact experience but it is a pattern. It is how God deals with sinners and I believe backslidden Christians may be brought back in a similar way sometimes. It is also a pattern to how God will save unbelieving Israel in the end. They will be turned to Christ.
Dear reader, a heart change had taken place in me. The treasure chest of my heart had something new in it whereas before it was just old corrupt stuff in there. Remember Jesus said that out of the "treasure of the heart" a man does this or that. It is out of the treasure chest of a man's heart that works come. The fruit of a tree is the evidence of life and not the cause. It shows what kind of tree it is. You could hang all kind of fruit on a dead tree and it would still just be a dead tree. That's religion without regeneration. No wonder Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Paul explained it when he told the believers at Ephesus, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins..." Lost sinners are dead in their sins and can do nothing to raise themselves from the spiritual dead. For a sinner to be saved and believe on Christ a quickening by the Holy Spirit must take place in order for faith to be exercised.
Well, now I had peace, but it was the peace of God. It was real peace. And that not as the world gives but the peace that "passeth all understanding" (Php 4:7). This peace brings joy. I said JOY not FUN. There is a big difference. When Christians were being burned at the stake I don't think they were having fun. They may not have been very happy but they had great joy. Now that is something that I want in my life. A joy that if I was about to be killed for my faith that I would just have a joy unspeakable. Man that would be something! I have heard it said that "God gives dying grace on dying days."
I have one last thought and I put it to you as a question. Do you think that what happened to me God had planned it? Or was it an accident? And if He planned it how long ago did He plan it? The answer is in 2nd Thessalonians 2:13. "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:"
Eph 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Paul said this after he first mentioned that they were dead in sins but were quickened.
Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. I was definitely lost and Jesus who is the Christ found me. I was blind but now I could see what it was all about. Yes, it was grace that taught my heart to fear the wrath of a holy God and that same grace eased my fears into reverence when He gave me faith to trust the completed work of His Son, Jesus Christ, as my substitute. Oh yea, I sweated from fear, but He sweated as it were great drops of blood in my place. I will never fear the wrath of God in a lake of fire because He took my place and bore all that I should have. God by His grace started a work in me and I am confident that He will bring it to fruition in the day of Jesus Christ (Php 1:6).
I wonder how many people sing "Amazing Grace" and have never had the experience John Newton was writing about.
The call goes out to those who are heavy laden under their sins. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).
Jesus said again, "for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mt 9:13).
Please read "I Am Looking for Sinners" by Curtis Pugh.
May I also suggest reading: "Why Did You Come to Christ" by Curtis Pugh.
By His Grace ALONE,
Lucien LeSage, Jr.
You may also be interested in An Open Letter to Roman Catholics.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726