Our Christian faith and John's testimony

When we met each other in late 1992, Deborah was a Chrsitian and I (John) certainly wasn't. I used to joke about Christianity by saying things like "Thank God I'm an atheist", mainly because of the belief principles (or lack of them) upon which I'd been raised. March 2000 signified a really big change in my life after a near-death experience. I've tried not to make my story too long to avoid boring you to tears but I hope that you'll find it not only interesting, but an honest account of a man who was lost in the wilderness.

Most of my life had been relatively traumatic. This had been a follow-on from an abusive and violent childhood. I was continually trying to survive one conflict after another. My dad violently beat not only my mother but also myself and my three younger brothers. These beatings continued from as far back as I can remember as a child through to my 14th year when at that age, I witnessed my father throw a hot iron at my mother because she hadn't yet ironed his shirts for the week. Only a year earlier, he'd kicked me in the mouth after punching me to the ground upon hearing the news that my school rugby team had lost 60-0 on a Saturday morning. This caused the loss of the top four front teeth in my mouth, necessitating me wearing a denture with 4 false teeth on it to this very day. The beatings eventually stopped when my brothers and I saw him hit our mother for what must have been the 500th time. The four of us set on him and punched him and punched him and punched him for what seemed like an eternity. When we'd finished with him he was bleeding from the mouth and the side of his head quite profusely. Suffice it to say, he suddenly realised that he no longer lived with a family that were too small or weak to hit back.

 

From being told by him that I was a failure from a very early age and that I'd never amount to anything and always be useless, my attitude became one of a feeling that the only one who cared about me was me. I often lied, was intolerant and generally lost with little sense of well-being or self-confidence. I mistrusted everyone, was opinionated and impatient. I always saw the worst in others. I contributed greatly to the break-up of my first two marriages and went through the most incredible guilt over the welfare of all of my children from both of my marriages. I ended up losing a relationship with one of my daughters through my own hard-headedness, stupidity and neglect of her by not being there for her. My attitude and intentions became so bad that my friends used to say "Watson... You're as crooked as a car dealer

At this stage of my testimony I need to tell you what happened back in 1990. At that time I was very heavily committed to left-wing politics and was selected to stand as a candidate in Auckland's East Coast Bays electorate for the NewLabour Party. I very clearly remember a visit to a Church during that campaign as I'd been invited, not as a congregational member, but to speak as a candidate to the congregation as to why I wanted them to vote for me. At this stage of my life my beliefs were pretty radical. As examples of this, I and the party I represented stood for a "woman's right to choose" when it came to having an abortion, the right to legalise and smoke marijuana, the accessibility for the public to purchase pornography if they wanted it and the liberalisation of our laws on homosexuality. I now find it incredible that I stood on the altar at Bays Christian Fellowship in Browns Bay that November Sunday night and told the congregation of those policies and beliefs. Suffice it to say, my comments weren't very well received at all. What I do remember though, is a woman who approached me at the end of that service who handed me a small brochure which had a picture of an aborted foetus on the front cover. From my perspective, seeing that image planted a very small seed of thought in my mind. I didn't get elected by the way! 

In April 2000, I was at the bottom of what I thought was a never-ending pit of despair. I saw only the negative and was unable to even envisage the positive. I came very close to death in 1997 when a man armed with a sawn-off shotgun held me and my daughter up in a robbery and told me that he was going to kill me. We were both tied up with our arms behind our backs and gagged. I found out what it's like to have the barrel of a gun at the back of your head and have someone tell you that you're about to die. Just surviving this trauma and the on-going two week Court case affected not only me but my immediate family and friends. The purpetrator of this crime pleaded not guilty and put my daughter and I through a two week trial in the High Court but was eventually sentenced to 9 years in prison. After previously living a childhood in Otara and having great relationships with people from all races and socio-economic backgrounds, I suddenly found myself racist and guarded. I was a mess. Counselling helped a bit but not much. 

 

In April 2000, I was at the bottom of what I thought was a never-ending pit of despair. I saw only the negative and was unable to even envisage the positive. I came very close to death in 1997 when a man armed with a sawn-off shotgun held me and my daughter up in a robbery and told me that he was going to kill me. We were both tied up with our arms behind our backs and gagged. I found out what it's like to have the barrel of a gun at the back of your head and have someone tell you that you're about to die. Just surviving this trauma and the on-going two week Court case affected not only me but my immediate family and friends. The perpetrator of this crime pleaded not guilty and put my daughter and I through a two week trial in the High Court but was eventually sentenced to 9 years in prison. After previously living a childhood in Otara and having great relationships with people from all races and socio-economic backgrounds, I suddenly found myself racist and guarded. I was a mess. Counselling helped a bit but not much. 

My wife Deborah was a Christian but I certainly wasn’t. I was hard core atheist and I used to joke by saying “Thank God I’m an atheist.” She often told me that she prayed for me. I sometimes went to Church with her but mainly did this just to please her. I didn't believe in all that religious claptrap, God, Jesus or anything like that. Believe it or not, I even held the view that the human race was descendant from aliens from another planet. When I did get dragged along to Church by Deborah though, I often wondered why my heartbeat used to rise when the pastor made an altar call at the end of the services I went to. I knew that he was talking about me but it was as if superglue held me to where I was. 

In August 1999 my mother suffered a massive stroke – a situation which left her totally paralysed down her entire right side and took away her ability to walk properly, read or talk. Then in March 2000 my father suddenly dropped dead from a heart attack. I had to hurriedly organise a funeral and make arrangements for the care of my mother. The day before the funeral had a marked effect on me. I saw my mother weeping over my father’s open casket and I thought “There just has to be more to life than this! You die and then there’s nothing???” My father died without knowing the Lord. I will always remember him insistently telling me as a very young child and through my teenage years that there was just blackness and no awareness when you die. 

I was questioning the meaning of not only my life but life in general. My now third marriage was suffering greatly. In the various Churches I went with my wife to however, I saw people singing and prancing around with their hands in the air. “What nutters” I’d say to myself but there was one thing that struck me – “Why are these people so happy, contented and full of love and kindness?” I wanted the peace and joy that they had. 

My pit by this time had become deeper with the sides getting narrower toward the top making escape nigh impossible. My marriage was suffering even more badly and I was mixed up in all sorts of deception. I was also dreadfully depressed. By this time, our marriage (my third) was deep in trouble. 

In late March 2000 I was driving along the road feeling very depressed indeed. I looked at the many power poles that I was passing and figured just how easy it would be to just speed the car up and plough it (and me) straight into it. The end would be so quick. I was seriously considering doing away with myself. I was fumbling around with the tuning dial on my car radio when on came a voice that told me that I was loved followed by the most beautiful female singing voice I had ever heard. It was then that I realised that I'd accidentally tuned into that "God" station, Radio Rhema. "Oh no" I thought, "Not THAT, please!" The song continued and as it did, it reduced me to so many tears that I had to pull back on to the straight of the road ahead. A few minutes later I pulled the car over and wept all through the rest of that song and for another 10 or 15 minutes. The song was "Jesus" from an album called "Gloryland". 

Sunday 2 April 2000 was the date that my life changed forever. My wife suggested we go to a Church that day and found Bays Christian Fellowship’s (now City Impact Church) advert in the North Shore Times Advertiser. Ironically, this was the very same Church at which I'd spoken some ten years previously. That day, Pastor Paul Adams started to deliver his sermon but after only ten minutes he said that God had told him to speak about something else. He put down his pre-prepared notes and turned them over. It was just uncanny. The remainder of that sermon was made for me personally. It addressed all the issues that were affecting my life at that time. My hand very nervously went up when at the end of the service he made a heart-wrenching plea for someone in the congregation to raise his hand. He called for a man who knew that he wasn’t right with God and that if he died today, knew that he wouldn’t be going to heaven. 

As you read this friend, I need you to understand something. I was the most hardened, anti-Christian around. I didn’t even believe that God existed in that Church service. I was a pure evolutionist, pro-abortionist and I’m ashamed to admit, an ardent and well practised liar. Up until that time I suppose I was like most other men and their view of "Christians". I viewed them as "mamby-pamby" and freaky do-gooders who kept knocking on people's front doors and annoying the living heck out of them. Why on earth would a tough bloke like me want to go to a Church, let alone become one of those wacky Christians? 

I wondered to myself as I stood in that Church that day "Is there a God? If there is, oh do I need Him SO much!" I was called to the front of the church and was prayed over. It was all so simple. I can still clearly remember the Pastor saying "Oh Lord, there's been a long battle for this soul." Oh How right he was! I spoke what I now know is called the sinner’s prayer (sometimes called “The Believer’s Prayer) and I immediately felt like I’d been hit with a lightning bolt. I started shaking uncontrollably and was instantly filled with the most amazing and incredible peace, love and purpose – all in the space of a micro-second. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was instantly filled with the Holy Spirit. I just can't describe to you in words the incredible joy I felt that that moment. I immediately knew that I had been forgiven of all my horrible and burdensome sins and that God’s love for me was unconditional, forgiving and unchanging. I instantly knew that I need not worry any longer and that God was with me forever. Now while this too might sound pretty airy-fairy too, I know that it happened to me and that nothing in this world will ever let me forget that day. 

You may remember reading above my comment about being described as "Crooked as a car dealer". Well, I was to discover the real irony of that comment and it happened a couple of weeks later. I discovered that Pastor Paul Adams, the very man who delivered God's word to me, was in fact a car dealer. 

I then started attending our Church's Gateway courses and at one stage I was asked if I'd like to be water baptised and this took place on Sunday 7 May 2000. That night for me was a double blessing because my adopted (then 17 years old) daughter Emily was so moved by the service that she gave her life to the Lord that night. A few days later I rang Radio Rhema and a very kind woman there told me the name of the song that I'd heard on the radio and told me where I could buy it. 

The most incredible changes have taken place within my life. God has guided me to the right path every time I come across that “Y” intersection. In an instant, he tells me if I’m taking the right path. As a new Christian, I can’t profess to being perfect. I still transgress occasionally but I’m aware of what I’ve done wrong as soon as I do it. I’ve become more understanding, kind, patient and willing to listen. I’ve realised that I DO have a purpose in life. My relationship with my wife is now at an all-time high. I’m really thankful to Jesus that my sins were nailed to the cross with him. I now have a relationship with God and I know that I have eternal life. I have a REAL father! 

One of the hardest things for me since becoming a Christian has been telling friends and family about what's happened to me. Now the average person would think that such a thing would be relatively easy to do but unfortunately, it's not the case. I'm certainly not the world's best person to explain what Christianity's all about as I'm pretty new to all of this. I've been told by friends that I'm looney or that I'm a hypocrite in that I'm now going to Church - opinion that is of course, based quite rightly, on my past. The comment about being a hypocrite is one that I can agree with to a certain extent but what I have discovered is this. I've found out that EVERYONE who attends that Church has also got a past of sin but more importantly, I've learnt that one of God's wishes is to deliver people from that sin, to accept that Jesus died for us all, to help us all live better lives and have something to live for, and to give us faith. I think that's pretty great. 

My new faith has cost me some friends but hey, I don't think that I've done anything bad to lose them. I am who I am. I know that I'm a way better person compared to what I was before. 

I had sinned some really terrible sins. I believed that my sins were shameful and totally unforgivable. I couldn’t even forgive myself. I remember thinking that the heavy burdens I had on my shoulders and in my mind were solely mine to bear forever. I was wrong. I found out that Jesus died for me and that all I had to do was believe in Him, ask for forgiveness from those sins privately to Him and receive Him into my heart as my personal Saviour. It really was that simple. As I attended those courses at our Church I found out for myself why we were all put on this earth. You see, it's sin (our daily wrongdoings) that keeps us apart from God. I discovered that believing that Jesus died on the cross in order that my sins would be forgiven would change me permanently and guarantee me eternal life. It's a pretty good deal for you and me. I'm sure you'll agree. Now I know that all of what you've read so far sounds pretty wacky. Well, that's what I thought too - until I opened my heart. 

What I’d like to say to you as you read this friend, is that in your heart, you may believe that God doesn’t exist. If that's the case I have no doubt that you're either basing that opinion on a lot of bad things that have happened in your past (or present) or what bad things you've seen happen in the world. What I want to tell you is that God doesn't do these things, Satan does. I’d just like you to do one thing. Trust that what I’ve said here is the truth. Jesus DOES exist. He is alive. He died horribly on a cross in order that both you and I could be forgiven for all of our sins. He also rose again. He lives in my soul and in my heart now. You know, I liken what has happened to me as the joke that someone tells you third hand but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get the punch line. Sound familiar? As the old saying goes “Oh well, you just had to be there”. Well, that’s how I view my situation. I was told the "joke" (Jesus and Christianity in general) but I just didn’t “get it”. It’s not until I actually opened up my heart and believed in Him that I “got it”. Nowadays I suppose people come in to Church and see me singing with my arms outstretched and think of me as one of those “nutters”. If that’s the case, so be it but let me tell you this friend. I now have a relationship with God. I can feel His presence and warmth in me every second of my day. I can speak to Him and yes, He speaks to me through my heart. People that I speak to or touch in some way ask me what the electricity is that they feel. It's very simple. It's the Holy Spirit moving through me. Sound Spooky? It's not really, not when you open your heart. My only regret is that it took me all of 44 years of life to realise it. 

God has done the most incredible things for my family since April 2000. My three teenage daughters (Diana, Emily and Lisa) have been saved and they in turn have brought a number of their friends to Christ. Over a dozen people have given their lives to Christ and probably wouldn't have done so had God not given a songster the gift of a beautiful voice and then reached into the darkness and pulled me into the light. To top it all off, my teenage son Jeremy (pictured) who'd been mixed up in all sorts of dreadful messes which landed him up in hospital with a mental illness, also became a Christian on Sunday 20th January 2002. Jeremy started attending the Church's gateway courses and his path has turned toward God also. Jeremy was water baptised on Sunday 26 May 2002. I thank God so much for that. I'd been praying constantly for him since becoming a Christian myself. God has really blessed Deborah and I since I became a Christian. 

The one thing that gives me the greatest pleasure now is to bring others to God and just by reading a small piece of text out loud, it can change your life for good, and I MEAN good! Just imagine that there’s a Court where you’re on trial for all the terrible things you’ve done in your life and the penalty for what you’ve done is death. On this day however, there’s a different Judge hearing your case. You’re lucky enough to have an understanding and forgiving Judge. He hears you confess to all your crimes in private. No-one else is even allowed to hear the charges against you or even what you confess. The most incredible part of this is that he forgives you of all your crimes. Isn’t that amazing? It gets even better. In most cases, people feel the most wonderful love, peace and understanding as well and it lasts a lifetime. The best part is that God gives us eternal life in heaven with him. 

My question to you friend is this. Would you like God in your life? It’s very simple. All you have to do is read out loud in the privacy of what could even be your own bedroom, the Believers Prayer. A more open way of committing yourself to Him is to attend Church one day and answer the altar call that sometimes comes at the end of a service and do it there. Oh heck, if you live in the Waikato area of New Zealand I’d even come to you and pray with you. I’d go to Church with you as it’s sometimes a little nerve-wracking to commit yourself to the Lord alone. 

Thus far, since putting my testimony on this page, 17 souls have emailed me after reading the prayer below, been forgiven for their sins and had their names written in the Book of Life with a guaranteed ticket to heaven. I'd just LOVE you to be my 18th. If by any chance, you’d like to receive Jesus as your personal saviour and you do read out loud the prayer below, PLEASE tell me. The Bible tells us that there’s great rejoicing in heaven when this prayer is said but I’d like to know about it too. Please click here and let me know if I can help you in any way, shape or form. If you've been touched in any way by what I've written here, I haven't made you feel that way, God has. It's called conviction. Believe me, I'm not the best writer in the world. One day I just sat down and wrote down what I wanted to write for this page. God helped me to do that too. If you'd like to talk someone about how you're feeling at the moment, please give me a call or email me. I'd love to hear from you. 

THE BELIEVER’S PRAYER 
 

Dear Lord Jesus, 
I confess that I am a sinner and that I need Your forgiveness. I will repent of my sin by changing the way I think and live. I ask that You forgive me and cleanse me from my sin. I believe that You are God and that You died for my sins and then rose again. I now give my life to You and ask that You would lead me to live in a way that pleases You. Thank you for saving me and giving me a relationship with You, and I now accept these gifts. Amen. 

Friend, if you’ve just said this prayer out loud and truly opened your heart to Him, you’re now a Christian. I urge you to read the Bible, starting with the New Testament and then going back and reading the First Testament. I also urge you to go to and get involved in a local Church too. You know, being a Christian can be very hard. We’re presented with difficult challenges and decisions to make every day and yes, occasionally we as Christians do slip up. The odd swear word even slips out from me now and again and I’d be telling you fibs if I told you my life is squeaky clean now. God recognises this and knows that we all have to live in the world but if you continually look to Him for guidance, it’s not difficult to figure out which way you should go when YOU get to those “Y” intersections in life. Goodness knows, I’m still trying and it’s not an easy task. My biggest armoury though, is my faith in God. 


God Bless 
John Watson