The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

Day 26 – My Testimony

I’m working on getting my personal testimony made into a tract in Romanian, so I can hand it out to people who ask us why we came.  I’ve already written a few in English for use in Milwaukee and Oconomowoc, but the language I used won’t translate quite the same, and I want to gear my message specifically for the Romanian people.

Anyway, today, I worked on it for much of the day, because I’m itching to be able to get it produced and handed out to people.  Rather than do a regular blog post, because all we did today was practice Romanian, meet with God, get groceries, clean the apartment, and work on my tract, I want to put up what I’ve got so far, so you can all give me your feedback.

I’ve got to make it quite a bit shorter, but here it is, my testimony of how I came to find Jesus…

Hi.  I’m Jake Stimpson.  You’ve probably never heard of me before and don’t know anything about me (other than my name, of course), but that’s OK because hopefully you’ll read this pamphlet and by the end of it you’ll know at least a little bit more about me.

I moved here to Bucharest, Romania, recently, with my wife and children, but I’m originally from the United States.  I was raised in a different world than you, speaking a different language, eating different food, but chances are, we’re pretty similar on the inside, and our stories are probably more alike than different.

I was born in a medium-sized town in Wisconsin, Green Bay, where football is king, dads work hard in factories, and everyone goes to church on Sunday.  Some are Catholics, some Lutherans, some Baptists, but whatever type of family you were born into, that’s the church you go to.  You don’t ask questions about it or really try to deviate too much from the norm – you just go.  Because that’s what “good” Americans do.

And that’s what we did.

Whenever anyone asked me what religion I belonged to or what I thought about God, I would think, “Well, duh, I’m a Christian.  I live in America.  We’re all Christians here.”

The reality, though, was that, like most people in America, I wore the Christian mask on the outside, but inside, my life was messed up, and honestly, I knew more about church than real Christianity.  I attended church almost every week most of my life, but I didn’t really believe there was a God.  Every week, I’d hear sermons about how God was real, but evolution and science made more sense to me.

If God was real, it didn’t seem to me like He had any real power to do anything or help anyone.  My life was a mess (more on that later), and everyone I knew who said they loved God was at least as messed up.  I remember sitting in church and looking out across the chairs, seeing one person after another stuck in sin.  That guy was addicted to drugs, that one got drunk at parties every weekend, that girl was having sex with her boyfriend, that one was gossiping and spreading lies around the school…  People who went to church and claimed to believe in God weren’t any more holy or happy or loving than those who didn’t.

And my life?  On the outside, it looked really good.  I was a straight-A student, at the top of my class, had good friends and a good job, and I went to church a couple times a month.  Inside, I was trapped in sin.

I had a lot of hatred and anger in my heart.  I was picked on as a kid, so I secretly hated my classmates.  I used to get into a lot of fights, but then I got too scared I’d get into serious trouble and just plotted revenge in my head instead.  My parents went through a divorce when I was 13, and so I hated them for tearing our family apart.  My bosses seemed to ignore me at work and pass me by for promotions and pay raises, so I hated them too.  On the outside, I could joke, smile, and laugh, but inside, I was mad at a lot of people most of the time.  I never murdered anyone, but the Bible says hatred is just about the same thing (Matthew 5:22), so I wasn’t in a good place with God.

Besides the anger in my heart, I was completely addicted to pornography and lust.  Most guys are nowadays, all over the world, though few will admit it.  I was pretty smug and self-righteous about the fact that I had never done drugs or had sex before marriage, but my mind was filled with anger and criticism, and my heart was consumed with lust.  I got into online pornography when I was about 12, and it began to control my life.  The Bible says anger is the same as murder, and it also says that lust is the same as adultery (Matthew 5:28), and since I couldn’t go a day without looking at porn, in God’s eyes, I had committed adultery with a lot of women.

I tried to ignore the guilt I felt for living so selfishly, but deep down inside, I knew the hatred and the lust were wrong, and there was nothing I could do about it.  I tried going to church, I tried memorizing Scripture, I tried punishing myself and giving up movies or video games every time I looked at porn, I tried listing all my sins before God and telling Him I was sorry, but nothing seemed to help.

But I had it all backwards.  It’s not about trying to do all the right things or say all the right words, so you feel better and look good to others.  Christianity is about recognizing what Jesus already did for you, and then living for Him out of the power He provides.

When I got to college, I wandered into a church that met in a former bar.  It didn’t look like any church I’d ever seen before, and it was filled with people unlike any Christians I had known before.  These people really loved God, they talked about Him like He really existed, they were living holy lives, and they were honest and real with each other, even open about their failings.

It was enough to pique my curiosity and honestly come to God again, complete with all my faults.

Within a period of months, I had turned from my sin and decided to trust Jesus for my salvation, not trying to earn His favor or work my way into Heaven anymore, but trusting in what He had already done for me years ago on the cross.  And I started to change.  The bitterness and anger left.  I could forgive my parents, old bosses, classmates, anyone who had hurt me, and I really loved people now.  And God was setting me free from my addiction to pornography.  I didn’t instantly become perfect, but I didn’t NEED it like I used to.  I was free, really free.  And I knew I was forgiven.

What I couldn’t earn or work my way toward, Jesus gave me.  The Bible says, “Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  It’s not by your works that you can be forgiven and made clean but only through the power of Jesus, who died on the cross and rose again, being glorified high above every power and authority.

If you’ve never trusted in Jesus for your salvation, you can have that peace of mind right now.  You don’t have to be tormented by guilt any longer.  Just agree with God that you’ve been living selfishly and in rebellion toward him, turn away from everything He calls sin, trust in His death on the cross for your forgiveness, and then receive Him into your life by praying and asking Him to come.

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4 responses

  1. Cristiana

    I can translate it in Romanian for you if you want!

    May 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  2. Nola

    Thank you, for sharing your story. It touches my heart, especially because it is so close to my heart’s conversion.

    Hope the rain stops soon…

    May 27, 2012 at 12:42 am

  3. The only thing I can offer is that your testimony is outstanding but you don’t say much about WHY Jesus died on the cross and rose again…just that He did it for our sins. It doesn’t really break down the how to’s either…I’d hate to think that someone would be inspired by your testimony but to shy to call or seek further guidance, although new believers tend to be most extraordinary at having the unabashed desire for the word of God. Just a thought

    May 28, 2012 at 11:28 pm

  4. Pingback: more dialogue on the language of identity (and confusion and sin) « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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