SWEPT AND GARNISHED - BUT EMPTY

The Personal Testimony Of Mark Tutor

I was raised in a Baptist Church. We went every time the doors were opened. For this, I'm very thankful, because it was here that I was taught that God was real and the Bible was the infallible word of God. Second Timothy 3:15 says that the Scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation.

As I grew older, I became more and more zealous toward God. While in high school, I became a leader of the youth and even surrendered to preach. Everyone, especially the pastor, thought I was a great Christian and would be 'successful in life.' But you never know what's inside a person because it was in those days I was a very confused young man. I knew something was wrong but no one I talked with could help me. I decided I would just have to live with all my doubts. Besides, I had what everyone else did and I was a 'good'person. You see, I thought, like so many other people do, that salvation had something to do with how good I was.

After surrendering to preach, I was given some opportunities to do so. It was good at first, but then, while in the pulpit right in the middle of preaching, I would be reminded of my sins, and completely lose my train of thought. Needless to say, I became very discouraged, very quickly. It wasn't long before I completely quit.

It wasn't long after that, this discouraged and confused young man began to be drawn to the world. My older brother had begun to smoke marijuana, and I was dying to try it. So, one Friday night, after our football game, which we lost, I was really down. My girlfriend and I had just broken up and I just decided that I was going to do what I'd wanted to do. I saw my brother's van and I set out to take the plunge and see what the drug world had to offer me.

I hate to admit this, but I enjoyed it. You know, the Bible says that sin is fun and that is true, but like so many other scriptures, we don't read the whole verse. Hebrews 11:25 says that sin is fun for a season. This young man would have to learn this the hard way.

As time went on, I completely dropped out of church. While in Junior College I quit going to church at all, much to my parent's disapproval. First John 2:19 says "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." I just wasn't of the Church. I was a child of the devil and it was beginning to break out all over.

From age 17 to 28 I lived a very, very hard life. All the partying and good times began to be necessary. As my health dwindled, the drugs I had taken for fun at first began to be necessary. I was now hooked on them and could not quit. My home life was so bad, only the Grace of God, operating even then, kept my wife and I together.

Having seen my oldest brother destroyed by alcohol I began to fear I would lose everything as well. God began to show me that I didn't love my wife and daughter because I didn't have them in church. All I cared about was my good time. I decided I would straighten up and get in church. That didn't last very long. I would straighten up for awhile, but I just couldn't stay with it. I went back to my old lifestyle but this time was worse than before. This was truly like the Bible says in Luke 11:25-27, "swept and garnished...then he goeth and taketh to himself other spirits more wicked than himself, they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

The devil was using drugs to destroy my life and eventually kill me. But God had different plans.

My brother, who I'd followed into drugs, began to straighten up and got back into church. All of his friends said, "He'll be back, just give him time. “He didn't though, and I had to deal with that. How could he do this? Remember, I had already tried and failed many times. Then, one blessed day, by God's Grace, I was arrested and put in jail on a drunk driving charge. This was my first and last time to be in jail. While there, I was forced to stop and take a long, hard look at my life. I told God that day I wanted to change. So, once again, I set out to straighten up. My parents were still going to a Baptist church so I decided to go there. The pastor had visited me twice and I knew he loved me. His name was Brother Mike Morrow. My wife had been going there and the church had been praying for me.

The next week my parents were going to a revival meeting in Water Valley. I went along and it was there I met Brother Rob Pelkey, the visiting preacher. The first night, I stood up and told the church that I was saved and I just needed to start living for God. Everything was fine until I woke up the next morning. Something was wrong, I just didn't know what it was. I was afraid I'd go back to drugs and die before I knew for sure I was saved. The devil told me I was on a fast train to hell and it was too late for me to ever get off. It was then that I cried out to God. I told Him that I knew He had straightened men out before and even let them preach. I asked God to please show me what was wrong with me. I went back to Water Valley that night. Brother Rob Pelkey preached on 'Divine Distress, Divine Discovery, and Divine Dismissal.' When he got to Divine Distress, he said that God would reach down and prick a man's heart in conviction. At that moment, God pricked my heart and said, "Mark, you asked me to show you what was wrong - you're lost." I thought he'd never quit preaching as I struggled with being lost. Finally, he did as I continued to struggle. Brother Rob then said, "Maybe you just aren't sure if you're saved." I could do that so I went to the front and told the pastor of the church that I wasn't sure. He pointed me to the study where I waited for Brother Rob. He soon came in and asked me to tell him about my salvation experience. After having told him, I knew nothing had ever happened to me. Brother Rob then began to read some scripture to me. I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying, much less comprehend it. I told Brother Rob that I guessed I'd just done one too many drugs and my mind was 'goofed up. ‘He told me that he knew what was wrong. As we knelt beside a sofa, he got over me and began to ask God, by the blood of Jesus, to bind the demons of Hell so my mind would be clear. God heard his prayer and I then heard what he said; it was good. Jesus had paid the price for my salvation. Nothing I could do was good enough. Only Jesus' work could satisfy the Father. I needed to trust in that. I understood this and I liked it a lot.

I was working the third shift, so I left Church that night and went straight to work. When I got there, the pot and booze were there, right under my nose. The guys at work brought it right in to me. I told them to get out, I didn't want any or to be around it. As I went back to work I could hear them outside drinking, smoking and partying. There I was with no desire to join them. I realized that God had done something real. I was changed, or was I?

It was good to be out of the world I'd been in and in the church now. It was in the church that I began to hear the word of God. My pastor, Brother Mike Morrow, would invite other preachers in to preach to us. Brother Mike Williams and Brother Rob Pelkey are the most memorable, because they preached on assurance. They said you could know that you know you're saved. This bothered me because I had no assurance. But surely I had to be saved. Surely I was a new creation like the Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17. I had completely changed but I had no assurance.

A year and a half later Brother Mike told us that God was leading him to leave and would send us another pastor. He surely did. Brother Terry Owen was now my pastor. He began to preach on what was on the inside of man. He preached on things like, "If you can't love your brother whom you see, how can you love God whom you don't see?"I began to have to look inside of me and that was scary. I was afraid to look but wanting assurance so badly, I had to look.

Brother Terry also showed us from the Bible that there were certain ingredients in salvation; Godly sorrow, repentance, and faith. I began to look for these ingredients in my experience. Brother Terry and I looked, looked, looked, and then we looked some more. I just couldn't be satisfied that I had the right ingredients.

Finally, one day at my place of business, while Brother Terry and I were again talking, he simply asked me, "It boils down to this question - are you willing to die with what you have?" I was so tired of trying to go on. Somehow I just got honest and I said, "NO."Immediately, God showed me my heart. Up to this point I had looked on my own, but this time God opened it up and let me see what He could already see. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? God showed me that I was like Saul, a Pharisee of Pharisees. I didn't love people, therefore. According to the Bible, I was the same as a murderer. The conviction of lostness was on me heavy. I gripped the desk in front of me with all I had and resisted with all I had. Then, God seemed to just leave and so did the heavy conviction. I was scared stiff, because I suddenly realized that I had resisted God. I had preached many times before this day that if God ever convicts you, you'd better not resist or turn God away because He may never convict you again. I believed my own preaching but at that time I knew nothing about the longsuffering of God. This all came to an end I was just lost. In a way I was relieved. I could just be me and finally rest from trying to be something I wasn't.

Brother Terry said he was going to a meeting at Moss Hill Baptist Mission and asked if I wanted to go. Of course I said, "Yes."

I took a nap that afternoon and when I woke up the thought hit me, 'You're alright, you don't want to be lost.' But, something, else said, 'No, I'm getting this settled. ‘I didn't want to go on the way I was any more.

Finally we arrived at the church in Union County where Brother Greg Moffitt was pastor at that time. The evangelist for the week was Brother Jimmy Talley. He got up, read his text and prayed. I thought he was ready to preach, but all of a sudden he said he couldn't preach. Brother Larry Logan would have to give his testimony first. (Brother Larry later would tell me that he didn't know why he came he just felt he was supposed to be there.) He began to give his testimony. It was so much like my life and I wanted to get saved like he did. At the end of his testimony he began to walk around and ask in his loud voice, "Are you LOST?" I nodded my head, "Yes." On the inside I was thinking, 'I'm lost, but what do I do?' As I was trying to figure out what to do, Brother Larry walked past me and said, "If I were lost I would get down here and ask God to save me," as he pointed to the empty front pew. It just so happened that my pastor was sitting right next to this spot. I thought, "Well, of course, there's my pastor!" I felt like the Ethiopian eunuch who asked, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" I needed a guide. As soon as I hit my knees beside that first pew where my pastor sat, my insides began to come up. I cried in anguish because of who I was. Conviction had come back and I didn't want to resist it so I just let go and wailed. As the pressure began to let up a bit Brother Terry asked me what was going on, as if he didn't know. I told him I was lost and I just didn't know what to do. I felt like the Jews on the Day of Pentecost when they cried, "What must we do to be saved?" Brother Terry said, "It seems to me like this is a good time to ask for mercy." That word had never meant more to me than at that moment. That was exactly what I needed. You see, this was different from my wanting salvation because I had never had a real experience where God did something to me. This time I needed salvation because of who I was, not where I was going. I was a Pharisee, a murderer, because I couldn't love people who didn't love me, an unbeliever because even though I understood salvation was what Jesus had done on the Cross, I had never trusted in Him. I didn't believe that God would perform salvation in me; for salvation is what God does to you.

Like Blind Bartemaeus I began to cry out for mercy. During this time Brother Larry changed from asking, "Are you lost?" to "Thank you Jesus!" Then, all of a sudden, Brother Larry walked by me and shouted, "Thank you Jesus!" I thought it had come through a megaphone and right into my ear. Then, all of a sudden, the Lord Jesus arrived in a triumphant and victorious way. I knew He was there. Finally my faith had an object. It was easy to believe on Him for He was there and He said by his presence that everything was O.K. I love you. In my heart, like Brother Larry said, I said, "Yes, thank you Jesus," agreeing with Brother Larry. It was right there I thought, "Man I really want to thank Him!" My heart wanted to go but my mind said, 'Hold on now.' Because of all the experiences I'd had I wanted to be very careful and make sure I was saved. Brother Terry leaned over at that time and asked, "Why don't you just thank Him? “I realized that I'd already done that in my heart. I told Brother Terry that I had. I began to thank Him again, over and over. The conviction was gone but it was O.K. this time because instead of fear, God had given me peace and everything was O.K.

My hope is this: that others like me can find out what it means to be a new creature or a new creation. Not just one cleaned up on the outside but one cleaned up on the inside with a new heart. Just like the 10 lepers found in Luke 17:12, all 10 were healed of leprosy, cleaned up on the outside; but only one came back to Jesus and was made whole, cleaned up on the inside.

And also like me, that others will come out of the world and into the church so that they, too, may find salvation for themselves.