Cupbearer To The King

The Personal Testimony of Brother Terry Owen

"And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things

and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest

thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not

knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance"

 

In searching to find a description of my life before I got saved, the verse, "not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance," would be an accurate one. For God had been very good to me and yet because of this goodness I assumed I had to be saved.

I was born into a Christian home of great parents, faithful to the church, third and fourth generation Baptists. My great grandfather was a Baptist preacher and his zeal for the Baptist faith still exists today in my heart. However, even with all the tradition and zeal, the truths handed to me by my parents were not real and alive in me. It being no fault of my parents that I did not get saved at an early age, for they could not produce in me what God alone wanted to do. I was raised in an age where salvation had become a decision a person makes to give his heart to Jesus, which at the age of six years old I did sincerely, I guess. I say, "I guess," because I don't remember anything about that decision, which plagued me years later and caused so many doubts and frustrations. But I had concluded that since I was so young, that was why I didn't remember and thus I was just as saved as anyone else.

If it had not been for God, who loved a blind and ignorant Baptist preacher, I would have continued to be deceived and died and been cast into hell. It is for this reason, I want to tell how God reached down and opened my eyes to the truth of Salvation. Growing up in the Baptist Church was good for me and I don't regret one part of my life. However, there were distressing parts of my life that caused me often times to ask why, like the roller cloaster ride as a youth, a series of dedications and rededications were in order at least two or three times a year. Some young people rededicated even more but never seemed to find what they were looking for. Another thing that bothered me was the lack of commitment to the House of God. Sunday mornings were great;four to five hundred in attendance but by Wednesday night, only fifty to seventy-five were there. That was very discouraging as a teenager.

As I approached the altar, God began to deal with me about preaching. God had dealt with me in the sixth grade but my Dad told me to be patient and that God wouldn't stop dealing with me if it was true. He was right. When God has something on His mind, he does not let up. Giving in to God's will was hard. But, finally one night, beside my bed, God told me that He had something special for me. He told me to come after Him and get it. I told God I would if He would show me what was wrong with the churches. Little did I know, at that time, He would show me the problem was salvation. After that night, my zeal for God increased and I began to search for what God had promised.

I went away to college at Blue Mountain, Mississippi as a ministerial student. I was licensed to preach and later preached my first sermon at a mission in Baldwin, Mississippi. I worked as a music and youth director at several churches dtlring those days. It was during my sophomore year that I met my wife, Connie. In 1983, I began to Pastor my first church. It was one of the toughest times of our lives. But God worked good out of it all. I was a young, and as some members would say, a "fireball of a preacher." My biggest problem was I had no love for people who did not love me or those who were not as committed to God as me. One day after church, my chairman of deacons asked me why I never preached on the love of God. I told him to mind his own business and I would mind the preaching. However, God took that and began to slay me. Not long after that a pastor friend asked me to go with him to Camp Zion. I had heard of that crazy place, but he said there were some great preachers preaching there, like Dr. Grey Allison, of Mid-America Seminary and Dr. Jerry Vines, so I went.

When we arrived, I knew immediately I had never been to a place like this before. There was shouting and praising God going on, but I didn't seem to notice that because of what God was doing in me. Dr. E.J. Daniels began to preach and in his introduction he said that his sermon was for one young preacher who thinks he's saved but is lost. There were 2000 people in that place but it was like God was preaching to me. He took the very book of the Bible I had used to prop myself up on time after time: I John. Through these Scriptures, God showed me that I did not love people, and loud and clear told me that I was lost. Before I knew it, I turned to my friend and it came out of my mouth. I said, "I think I'm lost." When I heard myself, I immediately tried to swallow those words. It was right then I began to fight God. I started by trying to say that it was just the bothering me and that I was just discouraged. By the time I left that place, my friend and I were convinced that I was allright. However, God had saving me on His mind, and from that point on, He never let up with the conviction.

It wasn't long before I was voted out of my first church. We moved to Meridian, Mississippi to do some youth work for the summer. It was the hotest summer of my life. Not only was it 105 degrees, but the Spirit of God was using so much conviction and fear of hell that it seemed 205 degrees. God sent preacher after preacher telling me in their sermons that I was lost, but I would not listen. I could not sleep at night for the fear of dying and not knowing where I would go.

Soon, I had to have some help. I thought that if I could just remember what happened at six years old I would be okay. So, I called my parents and asked them to come down. For years I thought I had gotten saved on Sunday morning because it seemed like I could remember going down the aisle. But, my mother told me it was on a Saturday night beside my bed. I could not remember anything that happened on Saturday night, but thank God my mother was there. Now, I thought that since I had all of that straight, I would be okay. That night, they were back again - doubts and fears. This continued and intensified for several months. Finally, I began to ask God to send someone to help me. I remember that night like it was yesterday. We had moved back to Blue Mountain, and one night, beside my bed, I pleaded with God to send someone who could help me. The next day, I was asked to lead the music in a revival with Brother Charles Shipman. At that time, I had never heard of him. Upon asking a few questions, I learned that he had gotten saved after preaching 15 years. I began to not want to do this meeting for fear of finding out the truth. Even begging God for help, I did not want to be lost. Out of obligation to the pastor of that church, I went. The first night, he preached on discouragement. I thought I had found my troubles. Confessing to the church that night seemed to give me some relief until I got home. There they were again; doubts and fears.

The next night at the meeting was different. Brother Charles preached his testimony and compared salvation to being married. As he preached, he gave my life story of doubts of being saved yet the goodness of God drawing me like a man courting his bride-to-be. There was one question still left in my mind that was unanswered; "Could I be saved and just not remember it?" God answered that question that night by showing me that salvation, like a marriage, is the greatest day of your life. If my wife would never let me forget the day we got married would the Holy Spirit ever let me forget the day I got saved? I remember it clear and plain. God said, "You asked me what was wrong and this is it: You're Lost!" All the faces of the people I would have to tell flashed before my eyes. But God was good at getting me to the place I did not care what anyone thought. But still, I was not satisfied. So, after the service was over, I quietly went over to Brother Charles and asked him if I could not remember getting saved, could I be saved. He looked me right in the eyes and said, "I'll tell you like I would tell anybody, no matter who they are; if you can't remember it, you are not saved."

So just as easily as I asked the question, I said I was lost. Brother Charles did not even seem surprised. It was like God had sent him just for me. He looked at me and asked me what I was going to do about it. My response was, "I am going to get saved." I got down on my knees and was going to do what I had been taught all my life. I was going to say the "sinners prayer." Brother Charles stopped me and asked me one of the greatest questions I had ever been asked, "Do you believe that God will save you right now beyond any doubt?" It was then that I saw my unbelief for the first time. I did not believe that he would do anything to me at that moment. What was I to do? I was calm, not broken, not repentant, not sorrowful. I was just lost and I knew it. I spent hours talking to Brother Charles that night. The conclusion of the whole matter was that salvation is not what you do, but what God does to you. He makes you a new creature in Christ. I had come too far to get a false profession. I wanted it settled and I wanted something real.

It seemed like such good news to hear that God would actually do something to me and for me. So good, in fact, that nothing was going to stop me from getting real salvation. Some may ask why I didn't get saved immediately after I got lost. At the time my answer was, "I just don't know, I just can't." But looking back now I was still so full of pride and religion that to come to God as a poor begging sinner would take a work of God. "...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." - James 4:6. An unusual thing happened when I agreed with God that I was lost. The fear of hell left and I was able to sleep at night. I wondered how I could be so restful and still know I was lost. God gave me Scripture to explain this. Leviticus 26:27 says, "And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury and I, even I will chastise you seven times for your sin."

Up until the time I said I was lost, I was walking contrary to where God wanted to take me and what He wanted to work in me. Up until this point, he was working to get me to agree with Him. Now it was time to deal with why I waslost; to deal with Terry's sinfulness. The next sixteen months were long, but, oh, what a work of God as he led me to repentance. Immediately, I tried everything to get God to save me. I stayed at home for three days and would not go to school. I was still in college at this time, a senior in Biblical Studies. I hardly ate anything, thinking I could get God to save me. For you see, I wanted to tell people I was saved, not that I was lost. After three days of praying every prayer that I had ever heard prayed, trying to cry or feel sorry, I came to this conclusion: No man can come except it be given him of the Father. That was hard for a religious man who always thought God owed him salvation because of how committed he was all his life. It became evident that I was going to have to go back and face my friends and professors. It turned out different than I expected. Many did not understand, others did not want to understand.  But one teacher, who I thought would not understand, did. She reminded me of history which records many great men of God who searched for months before being saved. Martin Luther, for one, and Augustine, and John Bunyan of Pilgrims Progress. That book helped me to think I was not crazy, just in need of a work of God.

I stopped preaching at that time and turned in my ordination papers. I set up a time with myfamily and told them I was lost. Those days were hard on my family but to God be the glory who gave them grace to endure. God was teaching me by letting me live the truth that it is impossible for man to save himself or stir himself up to take hold of God. I probably learned more about salvation in the next sixteen months than ever before. All I needed was the reality and experience of it which God was working even when I did not know it.

Not long after I got lost, my wife got saved during a service at Camp Zion in Myrtle, Mississippi. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. Here I was, 24 years old, grew up in the Baptist Church, and had never seen anybody really get saved. I don't know how I could have missed it. Just seeing it in my wife, helped me to want to get saved even more. I could tell my wife was different from that moment. I remember she had to tell everybody at Camp Zion that she had gotten saved. She marched up there before 2000 people and told them about getting saved. You would have to know my wife, she's not one to do something like that, but she had something to tell. If it had not have been for my wife's salvation, I might not have made it through the next long months. Thanks be unto God for giving me what I needed.

By the time I had gotten saved, I had lost about everything. I had lost my friends, my family, my reputation as a preacher, and my desire to go on this way without God. All this was bringing me to the end of myself. I had never needed God as much as this at any other time in my life. The day I got saved, I had come to the place where I did not want to leave church again without being saved. It was not as before when I was prideful in saying, "I will not leave until you save me." But, the attitude was, "I don't want to live another day without God." The devil had such a hold on my life blinding me with a belief that God would never save a sinner such as I was. I needed help to overcome the hold on me which was causing such unbelief. God gave me a verse, "and they overcame him by the of the Lamb," which helped me the day I got saved.

The Sunday morning of July 27, 1986, sixteen months of searching, finally came to an end. God was waiting on me that day to get to the church, but I could not see Him. As far as I knew, He was a million miles away. The pastor of the church was Greg Moffit, my closest friend. That morning he preached on "Don't Say Goodbye to God." He preached about ten minutes and then began to weep. I felt he was weeping for me, but I did not know what to do. I was reduced to a little child who could do nothing for himself. An invitation was given and I went forward, only to ask Brother Greg to Pray for me. I had no idea I was going to get saved, for I was without hope, lost, and without God. When I fell on my knees, God broke me like I had never been broken before. It seemed as if everything in me was coming out, sick unto and sorrowful over my unbelief. The impossibility of salvation for me became so great, I cried, "I can't, I can't!"

It was at the most impossible moment that God came to me. Before my eyes was the of the Lamb of God producing the reality of the verse that God had given me: "And they overcame him by the of the Lamb." That which was impossible to me moments before was so easy. I believed before I had time to think. He was such a welcome sight. He wanted me! He loved me! died for me! In an instant, there came a calm and quietness that I had not experienced in my life. With such a thankfulness, I cried, "Thank you Lord Jesus." The quietness and peace is still past understanding. I called for a Bible and read a verse that I had always wanted to understand. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith and that not of yourselves." Finally, I knew what grace was. Oh, to know the grace of God. Truly this is what changes the life, the thoughts, and the attitudes. It was this great salvation that God wanted to give me and it is also the answer to our problems today. If I, who was so faithful and zealous toward God, was lost, where do others stand? This is why I cannot stop preaching lest another generation grow up without God.

'Ere since by faith I saw the streams thy flowing wounds supply,

redeeming grace has been my theme and shall be till I die.