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How Dare You Ask!?

A Personal Testimony and Confession of Faith

By Cheryl Gillespie

How dare you ask me, a preacher’s wife, "Are you saved?" In nearly twenty-five years of ministry I had never been asked a question so personally and spiritually direct. I assumed that everyone operated by my assumptions - preacher’s wives were saved. It was a sincere question yet I found myself a little stunned, offended, and speechless. It’s amazing what can race through your mind in a matter of seconds and my mind was at the Indy 500.

"What do you mean, Am I saved? I’ve given my whole life - twenty-five years to the ministry and been a willing partner in my husband’s ministry. I’ve left family, friends, and several homes at great sacrifice and with no guarantees. I’ve taught hours of Sunday School classes, cleaned, painted, and sweated in service for the Lord. I’ve worked for no pay, taken sick children and myself to church, and smiled when I felt like crying as "well-meaning" people talked out of turn. Can’t you tell? Look at me! Don’t I look saved?"

I was just beginning to mentally formulate my list when I realized that I needed to break the silence and answer the question. As I opened my mouth to speak my thoughts were swallowed and all that came out was, "Well, I’ve obeyed the Scriptures concerning salvation and I try to live a Godly and Holy life. I‘m trying to do everything I know to do but until Jesus returns none of us will really know." My conversation with this individual continued for a few minutes but as we parted I realized that they had an assurance about their salvation that I did not have. It puzzled me and bothered me but life goes on and I suppressed my misgivings.

Several months passed and I ran into another question. One of my own choosing this time, "What is the purpose of the Holy habits and Spiritual disciplines in our lives?" This was a question that I was to answer for our ladies discussion group. It seemed simple and I felt like I knew quite a bit about the answer already.

As I pondered the answer and began to write down my response I realized that it was neither a simple question nor would an answer come easily. This question had stirred something very deep in my heart of which I was not fully aware and was yet having an even harder time admitting .

On the surface, my response to this question, I reasoned, flowed out of a deep love and devotion for God. Yet, to be honest with myself I had to admit that I understood the keeping of these disciplines and habits as a very vital part of my salvation. I had to admit,

"Yes, I do love God with all of my heart but that love is rooted in a deep sense of duty, obligation, and guilt." The guilt resulting from my lack of ability to always perform up to my own expectations and the expectations of others. This realization caused me to conclude that God does not want my love out of obligation or duty just as a husband or wife does not delight in a spousal love of duty and obligation. How, when, and where had my relationship with God deteriorated to this level?

I read my response to our ladies discussion group but the conclusion was far from over. Several sermons and Bible studies on the righteousness and holiness of God sounded out this question even deeper into my soul. Only God is truly holy. Only God is righteous. My own righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight. Yet I had been living as if the more I did the more righteous I would become. I had been taught to draw a direct connection between my keeping of holy habits and disciplines and my salvation. I viewed my salvation as contingent upon these things.

It was March, 1996, and the Easter season was upon us. Our pastor encouraged the church to look into the Scriptures and prepare our hearts for this time of year. My interest in the subject of God’s righteousness led me to the book of Romans. I wanted to know how the righteousness of God worked together with mine.

I combined this personal study of Scriptures with an exercise we were doing in our discipleship class in applying the Scriptures to our lives. I decided to begin with Romans 1 and work my way back to the Scriptures I was really interested in. There was no pre-determined course to follow. I didn’t know for what I was looking, but I knew I needed some answers in my own heart.

As I read Romans 1 the phrase, "...The just shall live by faith.", captured my attention. Fulfilling my exercise for discipleship class I began to apply the Scriptures. I asked, "Who are the just?, "How does one become a just person?", and "Am I a just person?" I wasn’t sure what the word "just" meant so I grabbed a dictionary, some study helps, and began to immerse myself in the Word of God to find the answers.

Nothing could have prepared me for the conclusions that I found in the Scriptures. My best description is that of a SPIRITUAL EXPLOSION!!!

Yes, I knew that Jesus loved me. Yes, I had been taught that Jesus died for my sins. But I never understood that I had been "...justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remissions of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Rom. 3:24-26. My sins weren’t just forgiven at Calvary, but Jesus Christ, by his resurrection has now ascended and has become my righteousness before God. Because Jesus lived a holy and righteous life I am declared just by God. And by faith, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is accounted to me.

I repeat, it was a SPIRITUAL EXPLOSION!!! My mind realized immediately the implications of this understanding. My religious foundations, my spiritual securities, and the props of my salvation had just been blown to bits and pieces by the Scriptures. I was in absolute denial that this could be true and no one had ever told me this before.

I spent and hour and a half reading, studying, and cross-referencing the Scriptures only to end with the same conclusion. I was one of the just! How? On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, ALONE. And by faith, I am reckoned and counted as righteous by God. I, for the first time, had truly understood the gospel.

That’s when the wonder, the amazement, and the awe of what Jesus Christ had done for me began to fill my soul. I felt like a brand new Christian. My hunger for the word of God could not be quenched. I could not get enough. The days were long waiting for the evening to come so that I could close my bedroom door, take my Bible and revel in my new found love in Jesus. The awe of the gospel of Jesus Christ consumed by thinking - all day and in to the night. The Bible, when illuminated by the light of the gospel was like a book I had never read before.

My religious theologies, ideas, and securities had been blown away. When the dust settled I found myself standing on Jesus Christ, the rock of my salvation!

He suddenly became the very heart and center of my spiritual life. (I thought He was before) I realized that I had been at the center. Every worship song has taken on a richer meaning. My own personal worship flows from a new perspective. I’m fully devoted to and head-over-heals in love with Jesus. Not to gain his favor or forgiveness but because of his favor, his grace, and his forgiveness!! Now, I truly belong to Jesus and Jesus truly belongs to me.

Over the next few weeks God brought to my memory the summer before my 13th birthday. The love of the world was in my heart. I wanted the social life, popularity, and everything that went along with it. At an altar one night the overwhelming love of Jesus flooded my soul. I realized what He had done for me and I gave my heart to him. God placed his call upon my life that night. I was radically changed. I did an about face. With the love of the world washed from my heart by the love of Jesus I went back to junior-high school a changed young woman. It was almost one year later that I received the baptism of the Spirit and others would recognize and rejoice in the work of God in my life.

That summer has always been one of the spiritual monuments hidden in my heart. That summer God changed my life completely, called me to His work, and filled me with His love. Because of particular beliefs of my church that momentous experience was never affirmed by anyone in my life. God has let me know that He affirmed it thirty years ago and has added a missing picture to my spiritual portfolio. It is no longer hidden in my heart. He has taken me back to the place where I first believed, to the place where I first received Him. My first love that I had lost has now been found - it is Jesus Christ. I dare you, ask me, "Are you saved?" It is a resounding, "YES, YES, YES!!!" Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine! I IN my Savior am happy and blest!!!

Conclusion

It was with some trepidation that I turned in my application on Romans 1 for our discipleship class to our pastor and my husband, Bernie. Little did I realize that God had already opened his heart to the gospel truth some months previous. In the past five months we have spent more time than in twenty-one years of marriage sharing and talking about the Scriptures. What hours of sheer joy the Scriptures have brought us as we have talked late into the night about the wonder and awe of Jesus Christ!

Please, I beg you, don’t assume as I did that you understand the gospel. Dare to ask the questions, and dig into the Scriptures. Keep looking even when your beliefs and traditions are being challenged. If what you believe is true it will still be there when you are finished. Be honest, don’t close the door of truth because of social, economic, or political pressures. I have always thought that I was a person of strong conviction about what I believed. My conviction today is stronger than it has ever been before. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it, and only it, is the power of God unto salvation. On this I stand and am willing to risk everything to maintain it.

Up Bernie L. Gillespie Cheryl Gillespie Hudson Taylor Martin Luther