FROM CHASM TO CHRIST - THE TESTIMONY OF BILL BENNETT
I was born in 1956 in a Roman Catholic hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. My mother was a devout Roman Catholic, who was constantly involved in activities in her church. Whatever organization she was in, she always seemed to become an officer and a leader.
There were crucifixes all around our home, and I can clearly remember the altar on the top of the stairs, with all of the children devoutly kneeling to say our Rosary and prayers. Naturally, I was in was a good student in catechism class. I took my Catholicism so seriously I would make a list of my sins and bring them into the confession box lest I omitted one.
When I was in the eighth grade, we visited a pre-seminary in Madison. I seriously thought of the priesthood, and was accepted at the seminary even though I was far below the necessary academic standards. There was a shortage of priests in the church, so not only did they accept me, they often bent the rules to keep me in. Many times myself and fellow seminarians broke rules, were repremanded, given work details or restricted for some time, and then reinstated.
I was introduced to many things in seminary. Even before I entered Holy Name Seminary, I can remember the priest bringing all the candidates out for a movie with bratwurst and beer afterward. (I was 14 years old!). We seminary students regularly went to X-rated movies, at the local drive in, and our use of beer and cigars didn't bother us. It was at Holy Name that I began smoking marijuanna & Hash. I had an elaborate pipe collection and ocassionally we smoked in the building if we could find a window that 'sucked' air outside. There was no example to show us these things were bad for us, the loose morals of the seminarians were encouraged by the attiutudes of the priests, who openly displayed their sexual looseness, smoking and drinking habits.
I had never known anything of homosexuality until those seminary days, and I can still remember a priest running from the swimming pool with two bathing shorts in his hands, being pursued down the hall by two naked students.
We didn't have any Bible studies, but only religion classes that taught us the number one position of the Catholic Church in a world of religious confusion that was all heading toward Romanism. It was as if everyone else was trying to play "catch-up" to the Catholic Church, in building sizes, money, sacraments & numbers of adherents. I Only recall 2 of the 33 students in my freshman year had Bibles; both were ridiculed by their classmates, and one had to leave seminary after his room was torched by another student.
Though I was raised to be proud of my Roman Catholic heritage, the Seminary experience cast a dark cloud over the faith I once had in the institution, I once regarded as God's only true Church. After having my eyes opened at Holy Name, there was little that would restrain me from degenerating morally & intellectionally. Coming from a sheltered home into the world such as this, troubled me and soon I began to question much of what I was taught - both by the Catholic Church and my parents.
During my second year, only 20 of the original 33 returned (I found out later that only 13 or so actually graduated). I was accused of something I didn't do (I had previously done this many times), and was grounded to campus for weeks. I ran away, but was returned, and finally, at 16 years of age, I left the seminary for good.
Back in secular high school, I was known as the ex-seminary student, and the other boys had a hard time understanding my drug abuse and loose living. Things got worse and worse, even though, while I was home, I still attended church to please my parents, with much resentment.
I lived 12 years of drug abuse. I smoked marijuanna 12 years, and before I even learned to smoke cigarettes I smoked dope. It has destroyed much of my ability to remember things. I also smoked cigarettes all this time. I drank so heavily while working in Maine that I can hardly remember what I did most of the summer. Even my girlfriend told me she thought I was becoming an alcholic in just 5 weeks of camp. Later after moving to Milwaukee I built a beer tapper for half barrels, I had a constant, steady supply for after work, weekends, and all my "friends" who frequently visited. I did L.S.D. out here too. All of these things destroyed some of my body that God has given me, and the only thing they added was the guilt of sin and emptiness.
I don't know how many women I hurt while working at the Ranch, but I used my position as "Head Riding Instructor" to get what ever I wanted. Sometimes it required laying some ground work like getting to know them, but sometimes I knew them only a few days. Even after I got married little changed in my heart and mind.
Much of my life had been trying to get what ever I could from whomever I could. Nobody will deny I was a frequent freeloader. I lived off the Ranch out of sheer laziness and lack of ambition. Whatever I was into, all of my efforts and money consumed all my time.
There was a time driving home from Colorado in my Volkswagen I'll never forget. The temperature had fallen all afternoon, and it was nearly 18 below as I was driving through Nebraska. The fuel line was frozen between two of my injectors, and the car was running on 2 of its 4 cylinders. The car moved very slowly down the interstate, and the wind and cold was much more than half of my heating system could handle. I exited at Kearney, Nebraska, after seeing all the frozen trucks, since I could barely get the car over 10 mph. It was also snowing to make things worse. After the gas station south of the interstate refused to let me in to thaw the car out, I prepared to wait out the weather in my tent and sleeping bag. The car with all its holes was too cold. I put on all the clothes I packed and climbed into my fiber filled bag. Since I had only enough money to get back home, a hotel was out of the question. As I lay there, I realized that the possibility of my never waking up again was very real. So I prayed. I prayed every prayer I could remember and told God if I made it through that night, I would live for Him from there on. I awoke wet, in a puddle of water from the snow that had melted from below the tent.
God allowed me to live, but I didn't even try to keep my promise to Him.
In 1980, I married Sherie, who had been brought up in a Christian home, saved at an early age, but was not now walking with the Lord. In spite of her backslidden state, God used her to challenge my way of living, In her there was a genuine love for me I had never sensed in anyone else before. This frustrated me the most, and she manifested a strong Christian love to me.
I can't say I patterned my habits after anyone in peticular, because my strong will lead me to turn against even those whom I envied. Sort of a love and hate conflict (to abuse the real meaning of love). One moment I would be sincere, but the next, I'd go for the juggler vein. All that mattered was myself esteem. As long as I felt good everyone else was OK. Who ever was avaviable after a humbleing experience was as good a target as any, my youngest brother knows this better than anyone else, but later it became my own wife. It seemed like I could easily reduce her to tears and frustration but when it came to restoring her I was at a loss. In her there was a genuine love for me I had never sensed in anyone else before. This frustrated me the most, probably because it was this devoted love that made her so attractive. Guilt overwelmed me, and the pain of knowing I had hurt her deeply, crushed my pride and has brought me back to her beaten over and over again. This was the woman that I had dreamed of marrying - the type of person I'd "given up" trying to find in the world. This was the same woman that upon the FIRST DATE, I KNEW if I was ever to marry, Sherie was the woman I was determined to marry.
How could I treat my wife like this? I knew I was not worthy to be her husband, so I tried to destroy her inocence and when that failed, I was determined to shape her into my own degenerate mold. Thank God I failed.
Although our marriage bed has remained undefiled, my eyes continually sought other women. I occasionally visited the strip bars with my "friends" but I really liked the porn magazines left lying around in peoples apartments, and I spent many hours I should have been working as a Maintence Man, pouring over them. I had little respect for the woman I had agreed to love, cherish and never leave until death. My heart was far from her and the oath I made before God. All this caused mistrust, more guilt, and at one point I even asked my wife to leave me so I would be free to do as I wished.
It grieves me to repeat these things, and I don't wish glory in my sin, but I want you to understand how I was.
Once she spoke to me about the abuse of my body with drugs, and her statement that I was abusing her as we were one flesh made a real impression on me. I tried to reform, and even started reading the Bible, but I had no power to live differently.
There came a time in my life in October of 1983 or there about, of reflection and looking back on all those years. 27 years old seems to stick in my mind as an ideal age. Young and strong, educated and free from the hassels of living. I was suppose to be happy, and now that I was married three years, also fullfilled and satisified. I had a good job, best pay I've ever made, nice large apartment, lots of nice things, but still missing something which I knew was important. Once again guilt dominated my life but this guilt was deep in my heart. All that time I've wasted, nothing to show for my efforts, no rest or peace. I felt challenged by one of my brothers and his beliefs about "tongues" and the Charismatics, and decided to look into the Bible for myself to prove him wrong.
At first I liked what I found. This Jesus was indeed a good teacher. He had a genuine love and desire to do things that I knew were good but as I read on I discovered He also hated that which was evil and corrupt. I agreed with everything He said and would have whole heartily endorsed the Bible, until I read Matthew chapter 5. Starting with verse 27 Jesus says,"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." this bothered me. The more I read around this verse the worse I felt. Verse 21 & 22 says,"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, 'shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool, 'shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
I could feel the guilt grow greater than ever before. It almost felt like a ball and chain following me everywhere I went. What I had set out to prove hardly concerned me now, I didn't like what I was reading but I knew it was all true; Jesus was right, and I was guilty. Therefore sought to turn over a new leaf. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and change your bad habits. So I got on my knees and asked God to forgive me and said I'd never do these things again, and furthermore make every effort to live like a married man should. I smiled, was cheerful to people, and avoided looking at women at all costs. Trying to look in one direction and walk in another sooner or later pays its dividens in bumped heads and bruised knees. The pain served as a reminder of my sin. I was being held captive by my own past, and any effort to say I wasn't as bad as the next guy was a lie. I tuned into a new TV station and watched a science movie. I was captivated by the knowledge of the commentator and his factual approach. But the blow came at the end. He talked about God and how God made all of us and how we are all sinners. Despite this I continued to watch this channel more and more and I realized it was a Christian station. This was good for I thought I was a Christian too. I agreed with everything they said and nothing was said that I hadn't heard before in catechism or the seminary or church.
All those good things were nice but the guilt remained. A later movie told some of God's attributes, how He is everywhere at once and continually sees the past, present, and future at the same time. No matter how many things I did, I couldn't cover my past and I knew God was continually seeing every sin I ever committed. I came to the realization that my situation was hopeless and it didn't matter how good I was because God kept reminding me how bad I had been. I also realized there is no bargaining with a God Who demands perfection. Everything I called mistakes, He called sin, and the Bible bore this out.
To the outsider, my crisis didn't exist. I kept working diligently at my job, had plenty of money and was generally happy. Deep inside the knowledge that some day I'd stand before God ate away any faith I had in myself. Even though I continued to read the Bible not much of it made much sense, only the part about adultery and murder.
One night I was alone watching Dr. Stanley on T.V. He gave an illustration I'll never forget. He said we all try to get to heaven one way or another. We pile up everything we have that's good and hope it's good enough to make it. He went on to say, "If you and I were to pick up a rock and throw it with all our might towards the North Pole, we may throw it a hundred yards or so, even further than anyone else. But no matter how hard we tried to throw that rock to the North Pole, our best effort would fall far short of the mark we had intended to hit. No matter how many times we tried, the rock would still fall short, even though we might throw it further than anyone else." Then he said, "Here you are trying to get to heaven. No matter how hard you try, your best effort has fallen short of the mark. You already know that no one can work their way to heaven, for the Bible says that, 'For we are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.'" He went on to Rom. 3:23, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It was like this preacher knew all about my problem and all my efforts. "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." I couldn't believe God could see me as being sinless before Him after all I'd done. I knew there was an eternal price to pay for my sin - hell.
I realized why Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father, but by Me." I had to personally ask Jesus Christ to come into my heart to be my Lord and Saviour. I had to give up any trust or hope in myself or things I had done and place all my trust in what He did on the cross for me. My efforts had all fallen short, but Jesus Christ was willing to give me eternal life.
For the first time everything made sense to me - why Jesus had to die on the Cross, Who He really is and who I am in His presense. In the middle of my living room, I slid off my rocking chair onto my knees. This time with all of my heart I said to God, "Lord I've blown it. I've tried to run my life my own way and I've blown it. Forgive me for even thinking I could run my own life and come into my heart and change me. Lord I can't change myself You'll have to do it. All of my life, what's left, it's Yours. You can do * anything with me You want. Make me into the person I'm supposed to be."
I don't remember the prayer the preacher prayed. There was no singing nor flash of light, just me... alone....alone asking God to forgive me.
I really didn't think God wanted anything to do with me at all. I knew His judgment was true and just and I stood a condemned man before Him. But I soon discovered He did keep His Word. Jesus Christ took away my desire to sin and replaced it with a desire for His Word, the Bible. I had never bought a Bible before, but now I wanted to know everything about the Lord I could. I had seldom read at all before, maybe 5 or 6 books in my life but now I even started getting up early to read my Bible. I was consumed with reading the Word of God! I couldn't seem to read enough & fast enough to satisify this desire. I discovered something else - the Bible made sense, it wasn't a difficult book to understand anymore.
As I studied, I understood clearly God's love for me and why Jesus was sent into the world. For the first time in my life I knew everything was going to be all right, because Jesus paid the full price for my sins with His own Blood, and He was now my only hope...my personal Saviour.
I realized I couldn't earn my way to heaven, or trust the church or sacraments anymore. For the first time in my life I had peace, I didn't need to guess or hope I had been good enough (I knew I hadn't), or try to earn God's favor. Jesus had already done everything for me. I can talk to God and He would answer. I can pray and ask Him for help and He responds clearly.
God has now blessed Sherie and me with a beautiful baby daughter, a Bible teaching local church and an opportunity to serve Him as author and programmer for the SALVATION ONLINE NETWORK. In this way I can put all the experiences He has given me to good use, with the result of being active in reaching the many lost Catholics in the world with the only Gospel that saves. Please, Pray for us.
We are no more 'qualified' than the next guy for the ministry - in fact, there are MANY people much more qualified than we are. God isn't looking for qualifications, degrees, diplomas or dogmatic believers - He's looking for WILLING believers, ready and willing to just try to do the work. You may be one of those folks sitting there, wondering, "What can I possibly do for the Lord? I'm just a housewife, or a laborer, or a fisherman or a tax collector, or unemployed..." God wants willing servants, just like you folks. It is the transforming power of Jesus Christ that is able to make us into useful instruments for His service. (2 Cor. 5:17)
How do you get started?
Jesus was all that He claimed He was...God in the flesh. He said He would suffer and die for the sins of the world, and then three days later bodily rise from the dead. Just think a cold still body comes back to life exactly the way He said He would. Truly Jesus is just who He said He is...God. You too will meet the same Jesus Christ, either HERE as your Judge willing to pardon, and give you eternal live, or before a Great White Throne when there is no more Grace or pardon for sin. Then it will be too late. There will be no appeals for mercy, Every mouth will be stopped the Bible says. You will know who it is, that will cast you into the lake of fire, from which there is no return, just eternal torment. You see Death will also be there, eternally dieing in the flames of torment (Revelation 20:15 & 21:8). You will bow your knee everytime the name of Jesus Christ is said throughout all eternity.
God controls your every breath, your health, all your wealth, your life. The very fact you are reading this today is a gift from God. He knows you don't deserve to live another moment. He looks and sees all of your past life rittled with sin and unbelief. You may have sought to achieve God's standard of righteousness, keep the Law of God, love your neighbor, etc. all for no gain. The Bible says in James 2:10 "For ever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death....", Romans 8:7&8 says, "because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
Jesus said to Nicodemus (a man sincerely trying to live to please God), "Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Jesus clarified it when He said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, 'You must be born again'" as found in the Gospel of John 3:3,6&7. This isn't anything we can do but only God can do-as found in John 1:13, "who were not born of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God."
Knowing God's way of salvation according to His Word, the Bible, will not save anyone from hell. But receiving God's gift (can't be earned), His Son, Jesus Christ, gives you the AUTHORITY, the POWER and the RIGHT, to become a child of God; as John 1:12 proclaims. There is no other way. Today you can know, your saved from hell, a child of God, on your way to heaven...all on the authority of God's word. I may not have seen you sin, But God has seen sin commited and continues to see them all the time. Do you really think you can hide from God? In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but through Me.
The Bible way says you can be free of sin and guilt, and KNOW your going to heaven the moment you die. 1 John 5:13
1 John 4:10 says, "In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
ADMIT - Admit that you are a sinner, God already has you marked down as one, no sense in denying it. You are a sinner because you have not perfectly kept ALL God's commandments as Jesus Christ did. It is your personal sin that has separated you from God. Admit you are unable to meet God's standards of perfection and you need a Saviour. (Romans 3:10,6:23; James 1:15,2:10; Romans 2:1-3; John 8:24; 1 John 1:8-9)
BELIEVE - Believe that Jesus Christ was punished in your place. Though you deserved to be punished for all eternity for sinning against God, Jesus Christ was willingly punished and crucified in YOUR place. It is what Jesus Christ did that satisfies the wrath of God for your sin. Knowing 'about' Jesus won't save you - Knowing Him personally will. (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:10-14;)
CALL - Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to save you from the eternity in punishment that awaits every sinner. Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He alone is capable of paying the infinite price for you sins - past, present & future. By an act of your will, you must personally ASK Jesus Christ to save you and surrender your life to Him. God KEEPS His promises, unrepentant sinners are turned in hell, the saved are turned into new creatures that inherit eternity! (Romans 10:13,4:7-8,5:1,8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-9)
"He is no fool, that gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose!"
"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account" (Rom. 4:7-8)
My Love is nothing, compared to Christ's
Copyright 1989 by Bill Bennett. You are allowed to reproduce this article only in its entirety and without additions or deletions. This article originated on The Salvation Online Network.
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