Updated: Nov 19
(Note: I discuss Bible translations in part of this testimony. Please understand that I am in no way trying to bash anyone over this issue; not in the least. I am simply sharing my experience, and part of that experience was looking at the passage in question in the King James Version; something that has blessed me more than I can adequately express.)
I believe that listening to/reading testimonies as well as giving testimonies is a good thing. I will give one here and be blessed. Hopefully you will be blessed as you receive it.
In February of 2015, my wife and children had gone out of town for roughly 2 weeks, to visit my in-laws, who wintered near Phoenix, AZ at the time. Unfortunately, I had to stay behind in order to keep a roof over our heads, which otherwise would have been snow-covered. :-)
I do deal with a wee bit of the seasonal affective disorder thing…it is better than it used to be (thank you Jesus), and it had been rather cold, dark, snowy, and dreary, as is commonplace in Michigan in February.
On a Sunday afternoon, toward the end of that time, I decided to read 1 John. I was in chapter 3, where it reads in the ESV, the translation I was using that day:
1Jn 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
1Jn 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
1Jn 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
I found it a little bit troubling as I read it, but I found it much more troubling later that night; actually more so very early that next morning.
Around 11:00 pm or shortly thereafter, I felt very strange and uneasy. I think I have blocked (compartmentalized) much of that memory, as it was so unpleasant. I will say that I [thought I] was experiencing 4 tell-tale signs of a heart attack. I called 911, the 1st responders came and took me to the hospital. They took me into the ER, processed me, and then started evaluating and trying to determine what may or may not have happened to me. As I laid there on the hospital bed, I started thinking about the passage that I mentioned earlier. I was realizing that I may die that very night, were my heart indeed failing, and that I would then have to face God. I knew that I still made a practice of sinning; every day! I knew that there were sins that I still committed consistently; made a practice of, that I could not guarantee that I would never do again, “even if I lived,” at that point in time. I was genuinely fearing that I may indeed go to hell that very night. I now believe that I wouldn’t have gone there, even had I died, but I will get to that later.
Please understand that I am someone who has called myself a Christian (and have been one) for most of my life. I am someone who has always regularly attended and been actively involved in a church, for most of my life. I had read the Bible fairly regularly (not correctly; I’ll get to that as well). I spent fairly large amounts of time studying apologetics of 7 day creationism (what the Bible teaches). I gave to the church and other Christian organizations regularly. I could go on. I had however over time, lost the knowledge of my assurance of salvation (that is not a grammatical error); my faith had been shipwrecked. It happened because I had let it happen. I don’t recall ever being nearly as frightened as I was at that time lying there in the hospital, before or since. But as Scripture tells us plainly that God can work through suffering to bring about very good things. This is indeed one of those cases.
To make a long story short, they ran a series of thorough tests on me to see if I indeed had suffered a heart attack. The findings were negative, and showed that my heart was in fact functioning quite well. Their conclusion was that I had suffered an anxiety attack, likely brought on by seasonal affective disorder, probably exacerbated by other contributing factors.
When I got home from the hospital, it was very much on my heart to study and understand the passage I mentioned earlier. Of course in the age of google, that’s where I went. I of course found a great deal of material, but the best thing I found was a sermon by a preacher by the name of Dr. Ralph Yankee Arnold. To very briefly summarize, Dr. Arnold pointed out how many of the Bible translations vary on this passage, as well as numerous other passages. The above translation says “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.” The King James (his preferred translation, and mine now…it didn’t use to be) says “Whosoever is born of God doeth not commit sin.” He pointed out how this is even a “worse problem” than in the modern translation, as it says no sin AT ALL, if you don’t take the fact into account that John IS talking about the reborn sinless nature that we receive the moment we put our trust in Christ and believe the Gospel! We all sin (make a practice of it) even after we are saved. The KJV does not leave any grey area about sin, where the term making “a practice of sinning,” could even be thought of and interpreted as perhaps varying degrees of sinfulness, and could easily be confused with will-power, something that can be of the flesh; somehow implying that there are varying degrees of sinfulness that separate the saved and the unsaved, which are ultimately the responsibility of the individual, that separate the saved from the condemned. The distinction between the flesh and the Spirit is not insisted upon in the modern translation as it clearly is in KJV.
Again, KJV clearly states “doeth not commit sin,” that means ANY SIN. The original language supports this. Other Scripture does too; James 2:10 clearly states that if you break one law, you break them all. Nonetheless, it became clear to me that John was indeed talking about the sinless nature; the new man that is in us TO STAY (John 6:47) when we are born again; when we put our trust in the finished work of Christ alone, not our flesh. Our sinless reborn nature; that which enables us to one day go to Heaven, is completely a gift; completely accomplished by Jesus; nothing of our selves (Romans 3:23, 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9). I realized once again; as I did when I was a child, that salvation was all about what Jesus had accomplished (Hebrews 1:3) and not at all about anything I could ever possibly do. Yes as believers, born again people we are indeed to serve Love and serve God with all that we have, but we have nothing to serve Him with without the sinless and sealed (Ephesians 1:13) reborn man. Isiah 64:6 clearly tells us what God thinks of our “efforts to serve Him” in from our flesh.
As a result of this experience, God got my attention. I was again assured of my salvation, and freed from the pseudointellectual view about the supposed necessity of and partial dependence upon my own righteousness that Satan would have us to believe and get bogged down in. I found myself wanting to serve God more and sin less. I found myself wanting more to tell people about Jesus and the Gospel. I found myself wanting to study the Bible more, and study it more deeply. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me…one that I had never had to carry in the first place.
I am very thankful to God for allowing that suffering. I don’t know if my walk with God would be anywhere close to where it is now if that had not have happened. I believe that God has used my suffering in this case as an instrument to bring many people to Christ (Romans 8:28).
I do not blame my church or anyone else for the mindset I had just prior to this experience, It was my own fault; I had failed to obey the command in 2 Timothy 2:15, where we are admonished to study and rightly divide the Word of Truth (Scripture). I would however gently admonish preachers to PLEASE preach the CLEAR GOSPEL message regularly; like every Sunday, as there may always be people in your congregation who need to hear it and comprehend it for the first time, and who need an assuring and encouraging reminder of it. I would admonish everyone to obey the command in 2 Timothy 2:15.
Please read Angles and Aspects of Salvation which can be accessed from numerous points on this website for further discussion of this and other topics related to salvation. I will put a link below to what I believe is the very sermon that I referred to above. Please also have a look around the rest of the site. All materials are free to be copied and distributed for the purpose of reaching the lost and otherwise ministering to others.
Link to Sermon