Monday, November 19, 2012

Saved By Grace: The Testimony of Jonathan Perreault

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were both active Christians. My dad was in charge of a short-term missionary training program at Elmbrook Church called Man-to-Missions, and both my dad and my mom led several home Bible studies. I can remember my sister and I playing in the basement with some other kids as my dad was upstairs leading a weekly Bible study in our home. I also remember coming home from school and my mom would be finishing up a ladies Bible study around our dining room table. 

My family's Christian heritage goes back to my great-grandpa on my dad’s side of the family. We all called him grandpa Storz – that was his last name, but his first name was Bill. He grew up in a Lutheran home, and when he was about seventeen years old he became a Christian and as a result his family kicked him out of the house. He lived a godly life and went to be with the Lord at the age of 93, in December of 1986. I still have a pocket sized Gideon’s New Testament that he and great-grandma Storz gave me for my birthday one year. 

My parents dedicated me to the Lord on May 31, 1981. I still have a small New Testament that my grandma and grandpa Perreault gave me for the occasion. Just to be clear: my dedication isn’t when I got saved, it’s just when my parents took me up in front of the church and prayed to bring me up “in the training and admonition of the Lord,” like the Bible says in Ephesians 6:4. I’m sure they prayed that I would get saved at an early age and grow up to be a godly man. I’m just guessing about those details since I haven’t actually asked my parents about the specifics, but that’s pretty much what happens at children’s dedications in evangelical churches. 

Like I said, when I was young my parents were pretty involved at Elmbrook Church, and I remember sometimes they would take me with them into the grown-up service to hear Stuart Briscoe preach. I liked it when they did that. He was a good preacher and I would sit next to my dad and squirm around. He would tell me to sit still. Sometimes I would go to the children’s Sunday school instead of the grown-up service, and there were some nice teachers in there too. 

My mom says that when I was about four years old she explained John 3:16 to me as we were driving somewhere in the car. She says that I was sitting in the back seat and after she explained John 3:16 to me, she looked in the rear view mirror and saw me praying. For a while I thought that’s when I got saved, even though I don’t really remember the incident. I think I might remember it, but I wonder if it’s just because she told it to me since I was young. Anyway, I always used to tell people that’s when I got saved, except I had my doubts. I was kind of embarrassed not to really know for sure. 

At the time we lived out in Delafield, and my best friend lived next door. His name was Brian Gott. He came from a broken home - his parents were divorced, and he was a rambunctious little kid. When my parents would take me and my sister to church on Wednesday nights to go to AWANAS, they would bring Brian along too. I believe that my parents’ ministry to Brian yielded a great harvest of spiritual fruit. Brian got saved and grew up to be a mighty witness for Christ before he died in a car accident after his senior year of high school. Over one thousand people came to his funeral service and testified to his spiritual impact on their lives. That rambunctious little kid grew up to be a firecracker for Christ – his short life burned brightly for His Savior. I hope by God’s grace to be like him. I admire Brian so much and I want to be on fire for Christ like he was. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” 

My family eventually moved away from Delafield in 1987 so that my sister and I could be closer to a Christian elementary school. The school was in West Allis, and my parents rented a house only a couple blocks away so that my sister and I could walk to school every day. I always enjoyed the Bible classes, especially in high school because my Bible teacher was a Baptist pastor who had moved down from Alaska and he always used to read us grizzly bear stories on test day after everyone had completed their tests. He gave us a good foundation in the Bible too. 

During my growing up years I had the opportunity to go on several short-term mission projects. Actually, when I was only about two years old my parents took me on a couple summer mission trips to Alaska, but I don’t really remember them except for a few incidents like when I threw my sister’s pail of freshly picked blueberries out the window of my dad’s pickup truck! When I was in second grade in 1987 my family had the opportunity to go to Brazil on a two week missions trip to help some New Tribes missionaries with a building project. That was a great experience and I remember a lot of things from that trip. Like when I shook up a can of soda and sprayed it all over the wall. My dad wasn’t too happy but everyone else laughed. I remember other stuff too, like the prime rib dinner that only cost two dollars! And the missionary’s pet bird that went on his shoulder. And the Brazilian woman who I helped to learn English. And going to Rio de Janeiro and seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. And riding in the back of an old Volkswagen van as we went down the bumpy Brazilian roads. And the flowering trees. And flying to Annapolis in a small Cessna aircraft to visit the missionary school. And buying cool stuff at the local markets.

I was able to go on other mission trips too. My grandpa Perreault had a cabin in Canada, and often our family would go up there in the summer for vacation. My older brother would take me and my sister fishing, and he knew all the best places to catch fish, even better than grandpa! There was a Baptist missionary up there who we always used to help. We would go to his church on Sunday, and give him stuff. We would volunteer at his summer youth camps too. 

It was during these growing up years that I had nagging doubts about my salvation. I never really had assurance about it. I always wondered if I was really saved or not. I can remember hearing preachers on the radio give invitations for salvation, and they would say things like: “If you want to be saved, pray this prayer after me.” I would always pray the prayer but it never really seemed to do anything. It never really seemed to settle the issue. I lacked peace about my eternal destiny. 

Then in 1989 my dad started taking us to a small church called Good News Messengers that met in the basement of a bank in Waukesha. At first we would go there after the service at Elmbrook. Then we stopped going to Elmbrook and just went to Good News Messengers. My experience at Good News Messengers was really cool; everybody treated each other like family. We spent practically the whole Sunday morning together from 8 a.m. to noon. We would sing, share prayer requests, pray, eat a meal together, and study God’s Word verse-by-verse. And during the week we would go out onto the street corners of downtown Milwaukee and share the gospel with people and hand out gospel tracts. And on Wednesday nights we would meet in what we called “the ministry house” to study the Bible and pray. Later I would come to find out that this church was an offshoot of Waukesha Bible Church, and it was deeply influenced by graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary in the grace teachings of Lewis Sperry Chafer, the Seminary’s founder and first president. I also remember that during the Sunday morning service at Good News Messengers, the pastor would often read quotes from Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) newsletter. That was before the GES started promoting the crossless gospel heresy. Another thing I remember is that everybody at Good News Messengers used the Ryrie Study Bible in the New American Standard Version. Today I would call Good News Messengers a "Free Grace" church, but when I was young I didn't know about that label or what it meant. One thing I remember about Good News Messengers is that they explained the gospel more clearly than I had ever heard before. It seemed like every Sunday the pastor would turn to the dry erase board behind him and sketch out the cross and the empty tomb. He explained how Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay for all our sins (past, present, and future), was buried, rose again on the third day, and appeared many witnesses (see Acts 2:22-32). This is the message that the apostle Paul explains in First Corinthians chapter 15, when he writes: “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand…For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-5, NET Bible). This message of the gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). 

I remember one Sunday as the pastor was explaining this to us, it was like a light went on in my mind. It was like I realized something for the first time. I turned to my mom who was sitting next to me in church and I said, “So it’s the blood. It’s the blood that saves us?” I felt kind of stupid for asking her this because I felt like I should have known it before. (I’m guessing I was about 10 years old at the time.) But my mom just smiled and nodded her head in agreement. Looking back on this incident it reminds me of the Bible verse that says: “For it is…God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). What I realized is that Jesus died for me - for my sins. He shed His blood to save me (Ephesians 1:7). He “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). As the saying goes: “Believing Christ died – that’s history. Believing He died for me – that’s salvation!” 

After that time I can honestly say that I never doubted my salvation as before. I had come to realize that salvation is not based on what I do; salvation is based on what Jesus has done (see for example: Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). I’d like to quote Ephesians 2:8-9. It says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

If you have never trusted in Christ alone for salvation, I urge you to do it today. The Bible says: “behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).