Andy Johnson

           

           

I’M FREE:  NO MORE CHAINS

The Testimony of Andy Johnson

          My life started out like most other people.  I grew up in a family where church was a top priority.  My parents taught me the importance of the church my whole life.  I loved our church, and I enjoyed all the activities and friendships that came with it.

          When I was ten years old, my great grandmother passed away.  It hit me hard, because she was a big part of my life.  I missed her always being there.  We had a revival at our church a few weeks later.  The preacher made a comment that if you ever want to see your family and friends again, who have died and gone to heaven you had to be saved.   I knew that I wanted to see my grandmother again, so I went and talked to the preacher after the service.  He took me back in a Sunday School room and led me through a prayer to receive Christ as my Savior.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  I just knew what the preacher said, so I did it.  I told my parents, and they were so happy and proud of me.  I thought everything was okay then.

          I started my teen years resting on the prayer I said when I was 10 years old, but I always had doubts.  I always wondered if it was real.  I never really had rest in it.  Sometimes when I doubted, I would just repeat the prayer again just to make sure.  I went through my teen years doing things I was not proud of.  I still thought I was okay though, because I was at church every Sunday, every Wednesday, and all the other church functions.  I felt as long as I was there, I was okay.  This whole time I was still banking on the prayer I said. 

          I was nearing graduation from high school when the church called a new preacher.  For the first time in my life I started hearing strong preaching on sin and repentance.  It blew me away, but I still figured I was okay, because I had asked Christ into my heart.  I still had my doubts, so I had to figure out why.  Bro Lou preached a sermon on if you are truly saved, you will serve God.  He talked about doing things for other people and telling other people about Christ.  I thought that was my problem.  I had those doubts, because I wasn’t serving God like I was supposed to.  I thought if I would do those things, the doubts and fears would go away.   I jumped into serving God.  I started driving a handicapped man to church.  I started leading devotions in Sunday school and at Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) functions at school.  I would also talk to people about Jesus whether on my own or during visitation at church.  I started impressing a lot of people, including myself.  When I was busy doing all these things, I wasn’t worried about if I was saved or not.  But all these things still did not change this one thing:  At night when I went to bed, and there was nobody there but me and God, the fears were still there.  I went to sleep each night with the same doubts,  the same unrest, and the same emptiness.  I would wake up the next morning determined to serve God better.  I would make it through the day okay, but each night I still felt like it wasn’t enough.  My mind was set on the fact that I could serve God even more, so I would try even harder.  But, no matter how hard I tried it, was never enough.  I was doing all I knew and all I had been taught.  Every night was the same.  At night when I couldn’t prop myself up by my service or hear someone else brag on all I was doing, I was miserable.  This was the common theme of my life.  Work, work, work during the day, and go home with no rest.  I was tired.  I just wanted to go to bed and not have all the doubts and unrest.

          Our church started having some division because of what was being preached and some other things that were going on in the church.  To make a really long story short, some of the big shots of the church got people together and voted out the Pastor.  In the middle of doing this, they also did some ungodly things to our Pastor and his family.  The men of the church that I grew up respecting were the ones right in the middle of all this.  This put a nasty taste in my mouth toward the church and only made the doubts I had greater.  For the first time in my life, I did not like church.  I remember telling God that if this was what church was about I wanted no part of it anymore.  I meant that.  I asked God if He was real to somehow show me. 

          All this was going on around the time I met Crystal (my future wife).  We talked on the phone a good bit.  All she ever wanted to talk about was God and the church.  The manner in which she spoke showed me that she truly loved the church and the people of God.  It made me very interested in what she had.  She finally talked me into coming one night to Faith Baptist Church in Myrtle, Mississippi, where her father, Bro. Claude Mills, was the Pastor.  The church was having a revival.   I didn’t expect much to be honest.  The same nasty taste of my old church still lingered.  The service started and some things immediately caught me off guard.  I saw people thanking God and weeping for what He had done for them, and it pricked my heart.  The worship of the people blindsided me.  I quickly realized these people were not like me…..at all.  Then Bro Greg Moffitt got up to preach.  He started preaching on the God of hope.  He mentioned how God was not a God to leave you with no hope and that He was the source of our hope.  In the sermon, he got to screaming, “God is real! God is real!”  For the first time in my life, I felt the presence of God in a way that I could not describe.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I am not kidding.  That is how strong God was.  God had made it known to me that He was real. 

          A couple weeks later Bro. Claude sat me down at his kitchen table for a talk.  It was about my relationship with his daughter, Crystal.  I was 20, and she was just 15.  He told me he did would not let me date her for a long time.  He said I could come to church and talk to her on the phone, but dating wasn’t going to be an option for a long while.  I didn’t take that too well.  I thought that since I was 20 years old I should be able to do what I wanted to do.  I left that night with the intentions of never coming back.  Even though I had felt God in that service, I was going to walk away.  I was angry on the way home.  I was even getting angry at God.  I was questioning everything when God pierced my heart and said, “Don’t walk away from this.”  It was so strong I had to pull over.  At the time I did not understand, but now I know it was the wonderful grace of God working in my life to not let me run away from Him.  I decided I would give it a try.  I knew God had dealt with me, and there was a curiosity and wondering in me if there was something more.

          I started going to church with Crystal some, as well as attending the church that split off from my old church.  I continued seeing a lot of praise from the people at Faith, as well as hearing some very powerful preaching.  The presence of God in the services almost scared me away.  I always wondered why I couldn’t thank God like they did or why I wasn’t grateful for what He had done for me. 

          One Sunday night Bro. Claude was preaching out of Genesis 3 on the fall of man.  He talked about Adam and Eve eating the fruit that God told them not to eat.  He dealt with how they covered themselves up, because they were ashamed of what they had done.  Even though God knew, He still asked them, “Where art thou?”  That phrase started ringing in my heart strongly.  I was starting to see myself in that scripture.  Bro. Claude talked about how we try to cover up who we are.  He would hide behind a plant, acting like Adam hiding, while screaming “Where art thou?  Where art thou?”  Those screams tore me up inside.  God’s word and His Spirit started revealing to me who I was.  I had spent years of my life covering up who I was by my religious acts and good deeds.  I thought I was covered, but God could see the depths of my heart.  Yet, God still asked me “Where art thou?”  I was revealed for who I was - a lost man.  My cover was blown.  From that point, there was no denying that I was not saved.  I was scared to death, but somehow relieved.  I finally understood why all those nights I went to bed doubting.  It was because I had nothing but my works. 

The next few months God really raked me over the coals about who I was and how prideful I was. All the religious acts I had performed were all done in pride to make me look better than I was.  Bro. Claude started preaching through Romans. He preached about being a slave to sin. I never thought of myself like that until God revealed it to me. Not only was I a slave to sin, but I loved it. I lived for it.  It was my master, and it had complete control of my body and soul. It was not in just what I had done.   It was who I was.  I had never heard such hard things preached to me, and God had never talked to me so specifically before as to who I was.  It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through.  I spent days and nights with the constant reminder of who I was. There were no props for me anymore. God persuaded me of who I was.

From this point I had no hope that a Holy God would save me. I was too busy seeing myself and not God’s grace. Bro. Claude preached one morning out of Luke on loosening the colt.   He talked about God waiting for the right time to loosen the colt to be used. When they asked the Lord why he wanted the colt, He told them, “The Lord hath need of him.”   Through that God told me he wanted me.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around why God would want someone who was a slave to sin.  I couldn’t argue with what He said either. He wanted me.  I finally had some hope.

Bro. Claude continued preaching through Romans. I was reminded again how I was enslaved to sin. The hope I had somewhat diminished.  I knew who I was, and I would never merit salvation.  It was like the harder I tried, the farther I was from being saved.  I felt like I was chained down by sin and couldn’t break loose. The more I tried on my own, the tighter the chains got. What I saw as an impossible situation was just God getting me to the end of myself. He wanted me to see how I could not do it on my own.  How, no matter how hard I tried, I was still shackled.  I couldn’t move.  I had no strength to make the effort anymore.  Then Bro Claude started preaching on being free from sin.  He wasn’t dealing with who I was, but who Christ was. I had spent all this time shackled by chains, because I only saw me.  I wasn’t seeing my substitute.  I was not seeing my sacrifice.  He spent the next few sermons preaching on Christ, and how we receive Him not by our merits but by His.   God was just revealing to me over and over why I was chained.  He kept on mentioning being free.  The thought rung strongly in me, but I just didn’t believe it.  I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t forget it either.  The thought of “Could I possibly be free?” went over and over in my head.

The next Sunday he started preaching the same thing: Free from sin.  Free from sin were the words, But I still felt like I hadn’t done enough. I realized that a slave is a slave until someone greater than him grants him freedom.  The slave had no control over it. God was talking and working in me.

I went to my parents’ church that night. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen.  As the songs were sung, I felt the weight of my chains dragging me down again.  I felt like I was at the Mercy of God and, if he didn’t do something, I would die.  In the midst of all this, God reminded me of all that He had been saying to me about being free.  Out of nowhere I heard this sweet voice saying “You are free!”  Three simple words changed my life forever!  I believed God when He told me I was free.   All of the sudden I didn’t feel the chains anymore.   All I felt was liberty.  I was no longer worried if I had done enough.   I finally believed Christ for who He was.  I rested in His sacrifice.  All I could do was fall down and weep.  My heart was overwhelmed by the liberty I finally had.  I no longer had to try to prove myself.  Christ proved Himself for me. Sin was no longer my master.   I was blown away by how such an Almighty God could simplify His salvation for me.  God had made me free.  I was saved.  I had no more chains.  Thank you God!!!