Testimony ~ Jen O’Sullivan

jenosullivan_20130629_0005_webI was brought up in the church, taught to love God, love Jesus, obey his commands, and to be involved in church. I knew the bible (or thought I did) inside and out however I was holding God hostage with my own belief system. I was picking and choosing what worked best for me at any given moment rather than trusting that his Word, ALL of his Word, was 100% right regardless of what I thought. Even so, I was forgiven. I was His. Once saved, always saved, right? Or was I?

Regarding the confusion surrounding my salvation Dr. Mike Fabarez put it this way:

“Part of the mystery of our conversion has to be understood in light of John 1:13 (children of God… “who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”). Often the head-scratcher of why when we “followed the formula” or “took the steps” or “chose to give my life to him” we didn’t seem to actually become a genuine Christian is found in the fact that our conversion is a act, work, and decision of God, not ourselves. Often we see people in the Gospels come to Christ and seemingly say “all the right things” but then Christ reveals the fact (in one way or another) that they are not there. We tend to see Christ as a slave to our “answer” to him as though he were on bended knee proposing to us and if we “say the right things” (i.e., “I do” / “I will” / “I’m yours”), then he HAS TO respond by saying, “Great, we’re getting married!” But the conversion of a individual is not so simplistic, though admittedly certainly passages give that impression. The overall picture in Scripture is different. Conversion to Christ is a sovereign work of God that takes place when he chooses, not when we “decide” to follow him. Though, granted, when we are converted we do respond with a genuine, whole-hearted “I will follow you.” I know there is some mystery in this, but the reductionists who want to make conversion formulaic, don’t take into account all that God has said about salvation when they do so.”

At the time, I knew I loved Jesus, loved the church, and loved everything it taught but that was just it. I didn’t actually have the Spirit of God in me. I was not truly saved as I had thought I was. I made a decision to be a Christian the summer before my ninth grade year. I “did the walk” to the front and “prayed the prayer” during one of the calls for salvation. I felt emotional. Overjoyed. I felt I had weighed the facts and knew what I was doing. I was caught up in the moment and loved everything I was hearing. For the following 25 years of my life I did everything you would expect from a Christian living in the United States. I went on 3 overseas missions trips, I was an integral part of the church’s youth group ministry as a leader and teacher of young women, I lead the worship team for the High School ministry and played the piano for the main church, I was actively involved in the Women’s Ministry along with many, many other church retreats, local outreaches, outings and fellowships and to top it off I gave tons of money to both my church and local charities. To put it mildly I was the one considered by my friends a true believer, someone they would come to for advice on Christian topics.

There was a problem with my faith, however. When I moved to my new hometown, my bible study group discussed what it meant to take a good look at our faith and to try to prove it based on our “fruits.” I decided to take the challenge. As what my husband would call a “Bible Thumper” for many years I thought I knew what fruits were. Ok, so as I started to think about it, maybe I didn’t. Sure I knew what the Fruits of the Spirit were. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I felt like I had a pretty good handle on it. But for some reason that didn’t really satisfy what I felt my pastor was asking me to look for. So, into some deeper study I went. My sister often says to people who are researching things to just ask her sister, aka me. She calls me the hound dog of the family. If anyone wants to know if something is true or reliable they ask me to find out. So, I kept digging. You will see what I found in the Fruit Audit articles on this site. To varying degrees all of these things combined helped me see the bigger picture. Fruit is my walk with God. It is my thirst after His Word. It is the daily conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is my disdain for things of this world. It is my insatiable desire to be with God but at the same time please him. It is my boldness for Christ and my unworldly compassion for the people I used to hate and who actively hate me. It is my strong desire to do God’s will and not my own.

It all began to click when I considered that the following two passages could be about me! I have read them so many times and glossed over them thinking they were talking about the people of Jesus’ day or another city, but NOT ME! Take a good look and reconsider your life.

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord,’’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’’ And then will I declare to them, ‘‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’’ (Emphasis added.)

These are the people who think they are saved! This is to everyone, not just the people he was talking to. He is talking about the Day of Judgment. The part about prophecy and casting out demons was what threw me off. Even though our works are different today than they were in the New Testament times, the application is the same. We have to remember context. If it were written today it might say, “Lord, Lord, did we not go to church, invite our friends, tell others when they were in the wrong, and give tons of money to charities in your name?” The sentiment is exactly the same, just in the context of our day. I don’t know about you, but I just cringe at this. This is quite possibly the scariest passage in all of scripture. Think about how many millions of people are deceived into thinking they are saved and are not. Jesus says on that day MANY will question why they are cast into Hell. This is no light matter. THIS IS HUGE!

Did you also know that Hebrew tradition states that when you say a persons name twice when talking to them it is not just a point of importance but is a form of intimacy? By stating a person’s name twice the person talking is stating they have an intimate relationship with that person. These people said “Lord, Lord”… they thought they had an intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus simply says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Talk about a slap in the face. More like an eternal mark of doom.

Revelation 3:15-17 (ESV)

‘‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

This is a letter to the church in Laodicea. This is the current church we live in. He is talking about us… now!

I mistook the various ministries I was involved in as fruits when all my efforts were really just self-promotion. I have lived a selfish and self-serving kind of faith in Jesus, only trusting in him when I needed Him. I was the epitome of a “Lukewarm American Christian” living out a clinical sort of faith. With all of this understanding and by God’s mercy in opening my eyes, on May 20, 2013 I came to the harsh realization that I have been only “dating Christ” and not actually committed to him in every way he commands us to be. It was then that I got on my knees and fully repented of my arrogance, foolishness and sin and gratefully and fully handed my life over to Him.

Since that day there have been three significant changes that I have experienced in my self-indulgence of worldly things, my lack of love for others, and my lack of true love for God.

Outwardly, my life was characterized by my selfishness and desire for things of this world. It is astounding to see this supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my life to placate the desires almost over night. God says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (John 2:15)

Inwardly, my life was characterized by a disdain of humanity as a whole. Even though my friends didn’t see this, I felt I was somehow better than everyone else; more entitled than others. I can honestly say that my heart of stone has been turned to a heart of flesh with compassion and love for everyone! God is clear, “By this all people will know, that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

And thirdly, and most importantly, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS ANYMORE! Other’s boldness for Christ is something I always marveled at and just thought, that is for them but not for me. No! The bible says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:16)

Since that day, people often ask me if I am sure that I was actually saved then and not back in 1987 with the following years just being part of my sanctification process. A sort of renewal of faith, a prodigal child scenario. It saddens my heart because I see in them what I now see in myself before I was truly saved. There is this justification that happens in us. We try to tell ourselves we are OK. God loves us. Of course we are saved. We assume our own faith to the potential life ending detriment of our souls. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” – 2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV

When you were born your parents were very aware of your growth. They had 100% proof that you were growing. If you were not, you would be taken immediately to the doctor. I remember having my baby and freaking out because his weight was in the 10th percentile. I was searching for any cause of lack of weight gain. Even to this date I obsess over the fact that his feet seem to not be growing at all while the other kids in his class have shoe sizes that are 3 sizes bigger. Moms search for evidence and proof of growth and life, constantly. How is it then that we never, or hardly ever, search for proof of growth and life in our faith? To have assurance in your own salvation is a huge thing. The word “hope” in biblical terms does not just mean you hope it might come true one day, but that it actually means “confident assurance.” That is a very different meaning and I think you would love to have confident assurance in the fact that you are going to Heaven.

Philippians 2:12 says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Fear and trembling! Those are not easy words. They are intense. Don’t let another moment go by without checking yourself. On October 8th 1871 DL Moody gave a sermon to his massive congregation where he ended by asking them to go home and consider their salvation and perhaps come back next week with a decision for Christ. On that night the Great Chicago Fire swept the city burning his church to the ground killing almost 300 people and leaving over 100,000 people homeless. He vowed to never ask people to sit on their decision.

Looking back on the past two and a half years of being a Christian I can tell you with 1,000 percent assurance that I am saved and I was NOT saved as of May 19th 2013. It is something that I have spent lots of time tracking and being in tune with the Holy Spirit. Now I can count so many fruits that are solid evidence that I am actually saved. I have kept track of all the fruits I have found in the Bible that are not just the Fruits of the Spirit. An interesting one that I feel people who are not saved would never really appreciate until they are saved is the discipline of God. Would you ever feel comfortable harshly and firmly disciplining your neighbor’s child? Would they get the same punishment as your own child? No! Certainly not! It is the same thing here. In the brief time I have been a Christian, I have had the privilege of getting disciplined on a few occasions from my Father. While not fun, I see the beauty in His discipline. What a picture of correction and love.

I encourage you all my sisters to check and make sure you are in the faith. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Do a fruit’s audit. Have that blessed assurance that Jesus is, in fact yours!


9 thoughts on “Testimony ~ Jen O’Sullivan

  1. Pingback: Holding God Hostage | Holy. Just. Love.

  2. This is an awesome website Jen. This is amazing. I love all the pictures, you are a really great photographer and a great writer too!

      • I just read your testimony here was blessed reading it! Thank you for sharing. I was raised Baptist and got saved right before I turned 18. At the age of 12 I too walked the isle, was prayed for and ask Jesus to forgive my sins. I was even baptized. But my life never changed. I went deep into sin as a teenager, all the while being convicted. On occasion, I would attend church and without fail at every invitation time (as was called the altar service) I wanted so bad to go to the front of the church and get saved, but I would hear a voice tell me , no, you’re already saved! Later after my conversion by Holy Spirit and awakening to righteousness, I realized that voice had been the devil all along. I have had my share of life’s trials and experienced many many blessings, but the Word of God has always been my anchor and hope. I agree with what you said about Matthew 7: 21-23 possibly being the most scary of all passages of Scripture. I too pondered those verses. I’m reminded of the 10 virgins. They were all virgins, but only 5 were ready for the Bridegroom because they made sure to have oil (type of Holy Spirit) in their lamps, whereas the other 5 were foolish. Very sobering. I’m a firm believer in praying scripture. I know I can’t go wrong praying using the Word of God. So one of the verses that I’ve prayed throughout my Christian life is Luke 21:36. Ive been watching your periscopes and I thoroughly enjoy them! Thank you & Blessings over you!! ~Theresa (redkjungirl)

  3. Thank you for sharing your testimony, Jen. As a pastor I see so many people sitting in the pews who think they are Christians because they show up on Sunday, give generously, or participate on committees. Unfortunately, many pastors are in the same boat because the people in the pews are the ones who raised them! We have turned church into an agenda item rather than Church as the Body of Christ going where Jesus goes, speaking truth with holy love, caring for those who cannot care for themselves, living as citizens of the kingdom of God rather than as citizens of the world, listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and submitting to the refining fire of our Sovereign God. May you continue to be blessed to be a blessing, dear sister.

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