As I stated in the last Langstaff Letter, I want to share the five foundation stones God has shown me that have been critical to my life and ministry. Since they are personal, it is only to be expected that I will share the testimonies that surround them. Let’s start with foundation stone #1: Jesus.
JESUS AND THE GIFT OF SALVATION
Let me tell you what led up to it. I was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1935, in the middle of the depression. A highly decorated soldier in the First World War, my father carried the scars of war in his physical body all his life. My mother was originally from Scotland and I inherited her maiden name “McGregor” as my middle name. I had two older brothers, both of whom were Christians.
We lived in a time when few people had cars. Only one family on our street owned a vehicle: a 27′ Chev. So, we walked everywhere or rode a bus or train. The nearest church, Moorfields Methodist Church, was about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile away. It was almost 100 years old. I attended church from the time, as I like to say, “I was knee-high to a grasshopper.” Later, as a teenager, I taught Sunday School, even though I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Intellectually, I was a believer; I believed Jesus was the Son of God, who came to die for us, and that he rose from the dead, etc, etc, etc. I knew all about Him, but I did not know Him. I had him in my head but not in my heart.
After graduating from high school, I went on to study to become an architect. Eventually, I graduated from the University of N.S.W and was registered as an architect. During the first couple of years of University, a young man was in my class named Bruce. He belonged to the Salvation Army. In the “bull sessions” with other students, he realized that although I thought I was Christian, I wasn’t. I talked the talk, but I didn’t walk the walk. I became a project for him, and he ended up inviting me to some evangelistic meetings in downtown Sydney. I went to the Thursday night but did not respond to the evangelist’s appeal. He then asked me to go on a Saturday night to a meeting in the Assembly Hall (Presbyterian Church). The preacher was a Scottish Evangelist, and if I remember correctly, his name was Gavin Hamilton. That night Gavin preached the hottest hellfire sermon I have ever heard in my life. Some people don’t think you should preach hellfire sermons, but Jesus had a lot to say about hell. That night I realized for the first time in my life, I would rather have Jesus. At the end of the service, I found my way down from the gallery (getting lost on the way), stood at the front of the church. I repented of my sins and, by faith, received Christ into my heart and life as my Savior.
Incidentally, Bruce dropped out of the University, and I never saw him again. He was, however, used by God to see me come to Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the most important night of my life. From that time on, I decided to follow Jesus.
SALVATION: A JOURNEY, NOT JUST AN EVENT
I would love to say I made steady upward progress from that time on, but there were ups and downs along the way. I realize, looking back, I didn’t have anyone to help disciple me. My eldest brother died of cancer just as he finished his studies to be a civil engineer. My other brother, who had trained to be a school teacher, was miles away in the country. On top of that, I was in a predominantly liberal denomination. It was only later that I was influenced by an on-fire minister, who, by the way, later married Dorothy and me.
I did get help from some books, including one titled “Victorious Christian Living.” A basic evangelical study book, it addressed some basic fundamental lessons that I needed to learn that enabled me to grow in my life in Christ. The lessons included how to handle temptation, what to do when you sin, forgiveness and prayer. Added to this was the need for a quiet time each day, the assurance of salvation, praise and worship, evangelism, Holy Spirit, tithing, spiritual warfare, and much more. I felt like I was in a school that never ended, as there was always more to learn.
THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN BIRTH
Years later, through the teaching of people like David Pawson of England, I realized that the normal Christian birth involves four dimensions:
- Water Baptism
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit
By the way, that is why teaching is so vital in the church. You rarely experience something you weren’t first taught about. I had taken the first two steps, which I believe is where salvation takes place, but I had not entered into the third and fourth steps.
Brought up in a Methodist Church that practiced infant baptism, I was baptized as an infant. It was only later that I realized the significance of water baptism. When I was in theological seminary, we studied baptism. Reading Karl Baith’s little book on the subject, even though convinced intellectually that the baptism of believers was the New Testament norm, I still did not pursue it.
It was my wife Dorothy who changed all that. She said I was not only her husband, but I was her pastor, and she wanted to be baptized in water. Agreeing to do so, I took her down to Bronte Beach and baptized her in the Pacific Ocean. About that time, we held regular Monday night charismatic meetings, and many people wanted to be baptized. One man couldn’t wait, so he filled up the bathtub and baptized himself. I don’t think that is the way to do it. Another elderly man, who wanted to be baptized, belonged to a large prestigious Presbyterian church downtown. I told him, “If your pastor approves it, I will do it.” He did. On a cold winters night, I baptized him in the freezing Pacific Ocean, praying, “God don’t let him die in this frigid water.”
How did I handle it at the time as a Methodist minister? I discovered in the Methodist Book of Offices a service entitled ‘Baptism for those that of Riper Years.’ I used it and wrote the baptisms up in the church’s reports, thus not breaking any church laws.
But what about me? It wasn’t until I traveled to New York, USA, to spend time at Teen Challenge that it happened. Before I left, the Lord spoke to me about being baptized while over there. When I got to Teen Challenge, I discovered that, at that time, they did not baptize people in the program but waited until they went to their farm in Pennsylvania. However, some converts from the outreach coffee shop called the Lost Coin were to be baptized, and I was allowed to join in. I was baptized by David Wilkerson’s brother Don Wilkerson, with a group of ex-drug addicts from Greenwich Village. It was indeed a special occasion.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
Even if I didn’t get everything right, such as waiting twenty years after I was saved to be baptized in water, I realized that God had a plan for my life and that He was working it out no matter what. Coming from a Methodist church heritage with the teachings of John Wesley and the Arminian view of free will, I still believed in free will. However, looking back, I could also see the sovereign hand of God working in my life.
JESUS IS FOUNDATION #1
Jesus is the foundation for everything. He is #1. He is the rock upon which all else is built. No wonder Paul put it this way in Galatians 6:14, ‘But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Peter also declared, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone elect, precious. And he who believes in Him will by no means be put to shame (I Peter 2:6).”
There it is – Foundation #1 is Jesus Christ. The one who came, lived, died, and rose again to bring us salvation and eternal life. He is my Savior and my Lord. He is the ultimate foundation for my life and ministry. He is the rock on which I have chosen to build my life.
If you have never repented of your sins and in faith received Jesus into your heart as Savior and Lord, don’t leave it another day. Today is the day of your salvation. Make Jesus #1 in your life!