Grace in Action – Johnny’s Testimony

I am happy to say that my friend, Johnny, is sharing his testimony today. I met Johnny when I was living in South Korea and just loved his passion for Christ and his desire to share the gospel with any and every one he encountered. His Facebook posts are inspiring and poetic and encouraged me to be more open in sharing my faith.

Johnny shared his testimony at our church and was delighted to share his testimony here, so without further adieu here is Johnny’s testimony. Since this was what he wrote when he shared it at church some of it is geared towards a live audience but I didn’t want to change anything as it would take away from the impact of his story.

The Testimony of John-Samuel Etheridge Williams

I seem like a pretty confident guy. I have no illusions about who I am and especially my emotions which are not only on my sleeve but also on Facebook.

I haven’t figured out if it’s yet a curse or a good thing that I feel no qualms about not hiding anything about who I am or how I feel. Within 5 minutes of meeting a homeless person he will probably know my life story and there is a 90% chance I will be crying and embracing him and all the while he is wondering how this lunatic is NOT homeless.

So let me open up once more and tell you as much as my confidence pervades I was terrified to stand before you. I mean feeling like I wanted to vomit nervous.  I felt so small like who am I to stand before you this born sinner? What will they think of me after I testify? Will they think less of me? Will they silently judge me?

But it’s a funny thing this turmoil rolling inside of me; It points to the indisputable fact that God is good. It is truly a hallmark of His infinite wisdom and power that he can turn the most vile of emotions like fear for his glory and as these were coursing through me I watched a sermon by John Piper and he was trying to explain how to retort when an unbeliever questions the belief in God as sovereign creator over all the universe he said something to this effect: “Ever notice how the best moments of your life make you feel insignificant?”

Standing in the shadow of a great mountain, standing in awe of the galaxies scintillating against the night sky, looking at the ocean ebb and flow and crash against the shores.

Its like our bodies are hard wired down to our very cells to recall and remind us and point us to the majesty of our creator no matter what we believe or how far we wander…even in my anxious thoughts he who makes all things new was molding the ground I stand on now before you. And solid ground it is.

Many of you know me as Johnny but the name God intended my parents to give me is John-Samuel Etheridge Williams. For most of my 29 years of life I believed in God out of fear. I was scared not to believe for that I would be condemned or left behind when Jesus returned. My sister used to read and watch those left behind books and I remember crying sometimes thinking and knowing how much of a sinner I was and that I was going to get left. While at the time I was right to fear God that I justly stood underneath the wrath of God to be condemned for I had not yet received Christ. However that would all change and as Romans 14:11 says one day for all, it will be because “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess” that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God. The shepherd will come back with his staff and his rod.

Most of you know how much I love to socialize, talk ,make people laugh and tell stories. I love people and I love the power of words but in my existence until He calls me home there will be no greater three words that will hit my ears and would set me free, and BREAK THE CHAINS I was shackled with since birth. In my life there would be none other that would care such immeasurable weight. But like most of our journey’s with God this was by no means a direct path and it was never intended to be. I will get to those words later.

When I was a kid I had 3 images of God and what it meant to believe. My Grandma, who took me to her Baptist church which she still attends today Linda Vista Second Baptist Church. Most of you maybe know what a traditional Baptist church is like. If you don’t, as my friend when I was younger affectionally called it a “hallelujah” church because you could hear the bass rumbling and the hallelujahs from down the street.  I would watch as people would shake and convulse or shout and scream with tears rolling down their face. I thought it was funny that they were being silly and would imitate them before she quickly swatted and scolded me. I could not comprehend the concept of the Holy Spirit and at that moment he didn’t intend for me to but maybe to plant a seed.

The second image was my father who was the rock of faith for our family. He was the one to always pray at the rare dinner we had together or on holidays when we were all gathered. I remember him always not for talking about God though he did but more I felt Him trying to SHOW me God. Along with my grandmother he always took me to church but to a different one where I would see kids my age weeping and my dad and other members being moved by His love. I thought something was wrong with me that I didn’t feel that same thing. I felt afraid that I was so not moved  but God said “my child, wait a bit more.”

My third image was of my Mom who had a faith and passion similar to Peter in that she could and would move mountains in His name but that emotion would sometimes lead her astray of His will instead of into his arms. Praise be to God that today she is still walking closer to Him than ever and is forever encouraging me to do the same.

In my sinful nature out of this I treated God like a vending machine. I went to him as I needed, which was mainly the occasional Sunday, gave what I wanted and received what would only be temporary not even lasting sometimes the day. So as the years saw me grow older I sought to fill this void with everything but Him – the wrong women, the wrong friends, the wrong decisions, alcohol, machismo, etc.

I traded his plans for me for being accepted and liked by the same world that couldn’t even provide me with what I was seeking. The same world that said you are not good enough, you are weird and you need to be like us but you cannot be us…

My life flew by like this for some time, but like any plane without a destination and the proper fuel I ran out of gas and I tumbled out of the sky. For years, I was in darkness that it raises the hair on my skin to even recall. Mornings in a bottle, nights in a bar, days looking for love, compassion and acceptance in all the wrong places and in all the wrong people. I was like a sheep wandering forgetting that it had a shepherd to guide me back at any point but no, I went my own way.

I was envious of people receiving gifts from Him. Things I declared I wanted for myself but had no right to and was not in any way prepared to receive. For that is one thing we sometimes miss in Gods plans and it’s that we are not always ready to receive what he has planned and promised to give us. The road is paved with sanctification sometimes by struggle and wrought with strife…Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” Take up your cross and follow me….So understand when I say God delivers surely as I stand here today our strength is in him and him alone.

So what happens after we get to the Promised Land? What did they do when they got there? They complained, they griped, they built false idols and worshiped them.

God delivered me from the depths of my futile and filthy mess and I find myself, today in these moments, after he has rescued me from myself looking at my brother, who just had a monumentally beautiful wedding, and just bought a house. My friend from high school who just got nominated for a Grammy is taking off in her singing career. Just about all my ex’s (the same ones who said they didn’t want to get married) getting married and having babies. I look at my kids, my beautiful students and sometimes my favorite ones I pretend for a second they are mine. What would I say to them at that moment if I were to strengthen them? I look at the beautiful babies we are blessed with at Redeemer International Community Church, Ivy, Castor, Chloe. Then there’s Colby and Eunjeong’s love, Martha and Caleb, Traylor and Hannah and find myself saying why not me??! Father! After all you have brought me through, the desires of my heart you have gently planted are blooming so why not me? Have I not done enough? Have I not gone through enough?? Why do you put these desires in my heart only for them to be paraded in front of me, just out of grasp.

Do you see this? This sinful nature, he brought me out of the muck and mire of my sin and here I am with the audacity to demand of him more! You see when I came up out of the waters after I was baptized I felt immense joy but I felt something greater. At the moment I could not even understand it fully but now I know it was a sense of responsibility I had. That I would now walk with him so closely that my life would reflect him in all his glory. Like a sunrise paints the trees of a forest or a child reaches back as he is walking smiles and holds out there hand for their father everything I did would reflect and point to Him.

I knew what I had to do. You see salvation is not a magic portal we walk through despite what most unbelievers or people think, we don’t become the perfect version of ourselves when we rise out of that living water. You see because before we went beneath the waves, we failed, I failed. I was born so imperfect. I carried my sin until My Jesus found me and said “you can put it down now, I will be perfect for you.”

The only difference before and after my salvation is now I have an advocate in the father and I cannot fail. I am unbeatable in Him. So when those thoughts arise when my refuge is put it to the test and the evil one beckons me to seek it in jealousy, guilt, in lust, in anything but Him. Those three words I told you at the beginning. Those three words I told you were the most important words I will ever hear. THOSE THREE WORDS STRIKE DOWN ALL OF IT AND SATAN COWERS AND CRUMBLES. Everything I’ve battled, through every pit of despair God has pulled me from. Every lie I told myself, every person who tried to and did bring me down. Everything that attempted to come between me and the only one who was all I ever needed to find my way back home are silenced and defeated

IT IS FINISHED.

IT IS FINISHED.

These words should hit you like a slug to your chest. I’m a big imagery person so let me paint this for you. We are shackled as prisoners, left to our own devices and Jesus comes in triumphantly breaking the chains on our hands and feet with a cry of IT IS FINISHED.

The last words spoken by our Savoir, our Great Redeemer, our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago as our sin drove the nails through his hands. The same ones that he threw open to embrace us, his little wandering children saying “come home”.

Every time something doesn’t go your way. When you put yourself before God or you don’t know God. If you aren’t right with God, When you find your worldly beliefs in contrast to His word. When we catch ourselves not loving His people as he said we should. When we find ourselves not honoring him with the very lives he has blessed us with. When you struggle and when you’re having what we call a bad day. When it seems like everything is falling apart. When we don’t know what to do when the world turns it back to us then we must remember His words. Remember these words uttered by the Saviour and RUN TO HIM…

Run to Him.

My brothers and sisters in Christ…

The war is won and the battle is living like it.

 

I hope y’all enjoyed Johnny’s testimony. You can read more from Johnny at https://shepherdofthelight.wordpress.com.

If you’re interested in sharing your testimony, please comment or email me at ah.taylor413@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from y’all!

 

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