Grace Abounding: The Transformative Power of Christ’s Love

Category: Testimonies

Hi there, my name is Jake, and I want to share with you my testimony, and how Jesus Christ has had mercy on me, and given me new life in Himself.

The psalmist says in chapter 71, ‘My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.’ Jesus told the demoniac in Luke 8, ‘to return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And that is what I want to do right now, here in the home of the I’ll Be Honest studio, in sharing my story.

So it really starts when I was 6-years-old, my family and I moved from Texas, to a small town in Indiana. I started going to Batesville Primary School, and life continued on as any would expect it for a kid. Life was good, I was making friends at school, very active in sports, and got to experience snow days and getting to stay home from school for the first time.

But once I started middle school, life changed. I ended up being severely bullied by some classmates for a season, and this set me on a completely different course of life than the one I was on. During and after, Ientered a dark season of depression, stopped hanging out with my group of friends, gave up most of the sports I was involved in, and began to have this interest in drugs and alcohol.

I desired the fast-paced life I saw in the movies I watched, and in the lives of rock-n-roll singers that I idolized. It was as if I was driven to it. By age 13 I was experimenting with marijuana, 14 – alcohol, and freshmen year in high school was the first time I snorted Oxy Contin.

I was just this broken, rebellious kid, going to school, and hanging out with my new group of friends trying to party as much as we could.

Now I don’t want anyone to view me wrongly in thinking of this innocent child that was dealt a bad hand in life because I was bullied, and that’s the only reason I started experimenting with drugs. Sure, I wish a lot of things didn’t happen to me as a kid, and I do think that experience did have devasting effects on my life. But the rebellion I was living out was an expression of my sinful heart. Those experiences simply revealed my depravity more quickly and aggressively. It just exposed more fully what was already there, a wicked heart. I did enjoy my sin. If I didn’t take the path that I took, sin would’ve just manifested itself differently in me – whether it was more extreme versions of people-pleasing, seeking the praise of men, pride, covetousness, idolatry – and I even had all of these within my heart! Before those experiences, I was still ‘following the course of this world,’ my sins were just more ‘socially acceptable.’ Before, I was a jerk, I lied to my parents, without even thinking twice would worship video games in my heart more than the Creator of the universe, just living my life in unbelief!

Now, I also want to mention as a side note that the way I acted as a child is by no means an accurate reflection of how my parents raised me. God gave me great parents, who put so much energy into raising me and my sister. They loved me and gave me the best life they could possibly give. If it weren’t for my parents, best case scenario I would be alive, living on the streets, wallowing in addiction. Worst case scenario, I would be dead and in hell.

As far as religious upbringing goes, my parents would take my sister and I to a church in Batesville, but this church had no impact on me whatsoever. I needed my heart to be changed, not religion just tacked upon it. And, so life goes on.

Fast-forward a bit, it’s my junior year at Purdue University, and my roommate Cesar and I are sitting in his bedroom coming out of a mushroom trip, and God saves my roommate right in front of me! I didn’t know what was happening, but just remember him saying how he had sinned against God and his parents, and how he had despised a friend in high school who was a Christian and had been witnessing to him throughout. Here was my friend, tough as nails, super popular, had everything the world had to offer in so many ways, and he was weeping like a baby under conviction of sin. I had never seen anything like this!

I had never witnessed true Christianity in my entire life until now. I always thought of Christianity as a religion for old people, or people that weren’t good at making friends, so they’d congregate together and sing songs, or do whatever they did. But here was this guy my age, who had plenty of friends, and now is professing to be a follower of Christ and leaving his sinful pleasures behind him. And I knew it was genuine, that whatever it was, something real had happened to him. ‘A good tree will bear good fruit.’ He stopped partying altogether, started going to worship meetings on Friday night and Sundays, and studied constantly for school. As Paul put it, ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’

So all this got me interested in religion. But at this point, even though I witnessed this change in my friend, Christianity didn’t appeal to me. I started studying Tibetan Buddhism of all things. Even bought prayer beads and a meditation pillow and would sit on that thing and attempt to empty my mind and become one with myself, and adhere to the Dalai Lama’s teachings. But it never gave me any peace whatsoever, I was still enslaved to anxiety, I hated yoga, and I didn’t want to risk being reincarnated into a cockroach or a worm – I wasn’t the most devoted follower of Buddha, and probably would not be coming back in the next life as something impressive, like an eagle or lion. So I dropped my Buddhist profession. No regrets there.

Then, about 11 months later from Cesar’s conversion, I had my own experience of some deliverance of sin. Long story short, I was basically overdosing in my bedroom, I really thought I was going to die that night, but I cried out to God for mercy, and the Lord spared my life. I was wondrously delivered from death, alcohol, and drugs.

From this point on, an interest in Christianity entered my life and I began reading the bible. Somehow, I just knew that whatever had just happened to me, it was Christ. It wasn’t me, and it sure was not Buddha!

Looking back on this experience, I personally believe it was a genuine encounter with Christ, but not the point of my conversion. Like the 10 lepers in Luke 17 that were healed by the Lord, and 9 of them walked away and did not ‘return and give praise to God,’ I was one of the 9. My experience from then on out was more of Romans 7, and not of Romans 8. I was like the seed falling on rocky ground in Matthew 13. I would receive the word with joy, yet had no root in myself, would endure for a little while, but when trials came, I would fall away.

Even today, when brethren and I go downtown Friday nights for evangelism, we consistently run into people that have been graciously delivered from addictions, but are not following Jesus. As glorious as being delivered from addictions, or being healed physically is, it doesn’t equate to being spiritually reborn.

But nonetheless, at that time, I believed I was genuinely born-again.

I started going with Cesar to the Friday night worship services on campus, held by Chi Alpha Ministries. With this, came a lot of questions for me. I was consistently reading the bible, very curious about this book, but would see many disconnects between the word of God and what was happening in these charismatic meetings. For example, I was under the authority and was baptized by Pastor Linda, but I would then go back to my apartment and read 1st Timothy chapter 2 – ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.’

So, after no one in that group would give me an answer I was satisfied with, I went to trusty old YouTube. Typed in, ‘women’s roles in ministry,’ and this guy named Paul Washer popped up on my screen. You can imagine what he had to say about this. And while listening to that, I glanced over to the sidebar of related videos, and saw the words, “Has the Gift of Speaking in Tongues Ceased,” by Tim Conway, uploaded from a channel called I’ll Be Honest. And that is ultimately how I first found out about GCC, while still in school up in West Lafayette, back in 2012.

Continued watching bible studies online, graduated school, moved in with my parents in Tyler, TX for a few months – they had actually moved back down south while I was in school. And after a visit to San Antonio one weekend, decided to make the move permanently and seek to join the church. During this time leading up to the move, I had my struggles with sin, but viewed this as simply a believer struggling, not a false convert.

So I joined the church here, moved into the Grace House, living with brothers from the church, started working at a pizza restaurant for brother John, and eventually was working alongside Matthew, a believer here at GCC, after he and his wife Liyah moved here from Missouri. I became very close with them specifically. And through their example, the example of the elders and brethren in the church, I saw a stability, a steadfastness that I simply did not have. I began falling apart spiritually. Matt and Liyah, Kevin, the elders, and the church were so patient with me and ministered to me faithfully, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep a clear conscience because of disobedience in my life. Eventually, I ended up dropping my profession altogether, and like ‘Demas, in love with this present world,’ deserted GCC and forsook Christ.

I moved back in with my parents 5 ½ hours away in Tyler. I stopped going to any church. I didn’t say a word about God. Didn’t say much of anything about the situation to my parents. I was bitter about the whole situation. I thought, what was the point of all that? Four years of humiliation. Four years of failure. Four years of my conscience accusing me continually! 2nd Peter chapter 2 would ring in my ears from time to time, ‘For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.’ And the pizza restaurant wasn’t even successful! All for what? I could’ve just never moved to San Antonio, and at least enjoyed life a little more. I was full of so much self-pity, so much worldly sorrow, still focused on myself and not that I’ve sinned against Christ and His church.

But throughout all this time that I was away from the church, Matt would check up on me every so often, send me a What’s App voice message, and just touch base. That was a lifeline for me, and a thank God for him. He was wise in how he handled things, he knew I knew the truth, so he often didn’t preach to me. It was simple conversations, updating me about himself and the family, asking how I was doing, and it just confirmed more and more his care and love for me.‘The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,’ and people need to hear this glorious gospel, but don’t think that every interaction with an unbeliever that you didn’t specifically share bible with is automatically wasted effort, presuming they’ve heard truth or are aware you’re a Christian. May God make us wise to win souls, and use the right means, at the right time, to be fishers of men.

And so, after the restaurant endeavor didn’t work out, I became obsessed with the idea of becoming a successful businessman and began house painting with goals to that end. I wanted the challenge and wanted to experience a lot of success in this life. Foolishly ignoring the words of Christ, ‘for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?’

That was basically my life, learning how to paint houses, trying to learn about business principles, accounting, and marketing. I’d watch the TV show Shark Tank and The Profit whenever it was on. Profit, like financial profit.I would clock in hours and hours of watching painting videos online, trying to get better at the trade. Anything that would help me reach that goal.

Even though there was loads of selfish ambition in these efforts of mine, it was nonetheless a mercy of God for me to have something productive to do during that time.

I eventually attempted to repaint my parent’s kitchen cabinets, and it did not go well. So I moved to Austin in 2019, started working for Paper Moon Painting, to learn more about kitchen cabinet refinishing. But more importantly, looking back, I was being brought closer to San Antonio and the church here. But in my mind, I was there to work for this painting company, and get paid while basically stealing their secret recipe. Which I did, I learned their process for cabinet painting, quit 9 months later, and was planning to start my own business in Austin, ultimately, in a way, competing with the business I just worked for.

But after this, came yet another turning point in the providence of God. Matthew asked me to visit San Antonio to bid out a potential painting job with him. I had just quit my job, so I needed the work. I went, and after checking the house out, he asked if I’d like to come over for a fellowship at the Jenning’s house. Everything within me didn’t want to go. I thought, “why go? It’ll be awkward. Why trouble myself and others. I hadn’t seen many of those faces for 2 ½ years. What’s the point?” But Matthew was a good friend of mine, so in order to save face, I agreed to go. I had also swung by his house that day to see Liyah and the kids, and while there they sought to persuade me to move back. I acted like I would think about it but was resisting inwardly, because I had just spent lots of money on marketing materials to start up my own business in Austin, and just wasn’t interested in going back.

So I went to the Jennings that night against my will. I am convinced that multiple Christians prayed for me that evening, because shortly after, my mind was completely changed about considering moving back to San Antonio.I convinced myself that I would move there, because I had more friends and connections in the trades and would probably have a greater chance of success if I knew people in the area. Word of mouth can be very effective marketing.

I got an apartment across from Brackenridge Park. And did one painting job with Matt, the Peterson’s exterior, and then work dried up. I began losing motivation to canvas and market, and eventually I ended up needing to apply for work elsewhere and found myself at the grocery store Central Market in the produce department for the next 9 months during COVID, which was yet another kind thing for the Lord to do. He gave me work during the pandemic, gave me socialization, which although an introvert, I definitely needed at the time, and most importantly, I would occasionally see brethren from GCC shopping there. People I once knew.

I remember Kat talking with me as I was restocking apples, seeing Joy, Grace, and Demi pass through on occasion. I saw Evan grabbing, I think a big bundle of beets at one point, I don’t know, maybe making himself a smoothie. As I was adding more grapes to a display stand, Miguel’s dad, Miguel senior stopped behind me and said hi. I remember running into Amy by the vegetable wall and would consistently see Charlene stocking up on bananas, and Roel grabbing lunch there.

I was still resisting the Holy Spirit, but seeing Christians from time to time, was not only a reminder to me that it was not well with my soul, but, on the positive, there was a sense of hope that began to grow within my heart, that maybe there’s still a chance for me.

I would think, ‘though I’ve resisted Christ more than many, maybe He would have mercy on me still.’ ‘Could God be having me cross paths with believers that He would save me?’ ‘I applied for work at other places, but all the doors were shut except for this job, where all of these things are happening, maybe the Lord will pity me yet.’ But with all these encouraging thoughts, came discouraging ones as well. ‘Jake, you’ve out sinned grace!’ ‘You’ve gone too far.’ If anyone has committed the unpardonable sin, you have!’

This went on for a season, this mingling of me still resisting God and being stiff-necked, but also my heart being softened by grace. Eventually, I had come to a point where no amount of my own efforts could silence my conscience, not even blasting my Air Pods until my ear drums burst would’ve worked. I came to see myself as the vilest creature ever to be created, but remembered Paul’s words to Timothy, ‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ I realized how spiritually sick I was from head to toe, but thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 5, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ I thought of Peter’s words in John 6 – “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Sometime towards the end of 2020, in my apartment bedroom, I believed upon Christ, and began following Him. It was that simple. I just knew God wanted me to take Him at His word and trust Him. I finally gave up this idea that I had to have some extravagant experience to become a Christian. Now, it is an absolute miracle from God when someone is born-again, and is completely out-of-this-world. But as far as my own perception of the experience, I had to finally accept that the believer walks by faith, not by experience or feelings. Soon after I believed, sins fell off, and God delivered me from my bondage to alcohol and drugs yet again.

It is incredible how difficult I made it for myself to come to Christ. I was my own worst enemy. He was always willing to have me come, but my heart wanted sin. I just wasn’t willing to forsake self. But praise be to God, He showed this wretch of a sinner mercy, and made me a Christian.

During all this, Matthew had been texting me, seeking to minister to me. He invited me to Grace Group, a small group prayer meeting, and I went over to Tony and Nelly’s house with him on a Wednesday night. That Sunday, God wondrously restored me to GCC, and I showed up to the church building at Hedges for the first time in 3 ½ years. Praise the Lord!

When I look back on my life, and the first time I was at the church, I was quite religious, and even zealous in the things of God to an extent. But the focus was on me. I would daily read chapters in the bible, but it was more as penance, because the rest of the day I was not faithful to Christ. I listened to probably thousands of sermons during those years but didn’t heed the solid preaching I was listening to, ‘always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.’ For short, sporadic seasons, ‘I had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.’ I wrongly trusted in good work ethic, but looking back much of that seemed to be stemming from a guilty conscience, trying to “work” my way to heaven by working hard for employers. I was nice to people, a friendly guy, but I neglected the weightiest matter of the law, to love your Lord God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul.

There are so many things that can prop someone up, and carry them along in their religion, but what it really boils down to, is your faith in Christ, and in Christ alone? Can you say, ‘nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.’

May it be so.

And well, that’s my story.

I’d like to end with a few thoughts, if you could bear with me just a little longer.

If you’re a Christian, and you are feeling tempted to go back to the world, I would plead with you to not go down that path. ‘But as for you, O man or woman of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith.’ ‘Resist the devil, or that temptation you feel, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.’

Sin is never worth it. ‘The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.’ The momentary light afflictions you’re experiencing now are nothing to be compared to the eternal weight of glory awaiting. This life is simply a vapor, and soon you’ll be in glory with Jesus, if you endure to the end, where every tear will be wiped away, death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, or crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

Press on, Jesus is worthy.

And if you’re not a believer, I would ask, why wait any longer to bow the knee to the Lord? His ways are good, He is worthy of following with all of your heart. Do you not see how utterly insane it is to continue on rebelling, or being indifferent to your Maker? 2 Peter 3 says, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.’ 2 Timothy 2 says, ‘God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ God would have you to turn to Him, forsake self and all known sin, and follow His Son. Why not make today the day of your salvation? Call upon the Lord. If you genuinely do that, He will save you. Forgive you of all your sins, past present, and future, change you from the inside out so that you love Christ and hate your sin, and lead you on to heaven. This is absolutely the greatest news to ever fall upon the ears of sinful man.

Jesus says, ‘Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’

Unbeliever, Satan’s yoke is a heavy yoke. Sin’s yoke does not give you rest. Any supposed peace you may get from your idols is a false peace, a deceitful peace, and will lead you to hell. Don’t be foolish, and procrastinate, while God has graciously given you another day, so that you might, by faith, trust in Christ, throw the devil’s yoke off your shoulders, and take Jesus’ yoke upon you.

I bless God for saving me, and that my sins are forgiven, but oh I wish I could go back, and surrender to this wonderful Savior sooner than I did. Don’t make the same mistake I made and continue neglecting your own soul. Don’t make the same mistake as me and overcomplicate things. Jesus said, ‘For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’

He also says in John 12, ‘The Light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you may become sons of light.’

Well, thank you for listening to me, I hope that this testimony, to some degree, rightly exalted Christ, and ‘His perfect patience’ towards me.

It’s like at the end of the gospel of John, ‘Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’If I were to say all the good things God has done for me, this testimony would turn into a documentary series, and it would bottleneck I’ll Be Honest and slow James down from putting out new content.

And so, I’ll end here. The Lord bless you.