God's School Of Grace

The Personal Testimony Of Dixie Tutor

As a little girl growing up in a Baptist Church, I was taught that Jesus had died on the cross for our sins. I somehow got the idea that this was something He really didn't want to do but was simply too helpless to do anything about.

When I was 8 years old I joined the church. Even at that young age I knew that hell was a place I didn't want to go. I was sure that walking down the aisle, shaking the pastor's hand, filling out the card, and being baptized would protect me from ever having to. You see, as a child hell was more real to me than Jesus ever was. I remember having a picture of a pitiful, weak, good man in my mind whenever we studied about Him in Sunday School. Little did I know then, but this picture would stay in the back of my mind for all my teenage years and many of my adult years.

As I grew older God began to draw me through hymns we sang in church. 'The Old Rugged Cross' was one in particular that I wondered about. There was something about the way the writer described the cross that would melt my young heart each time I heard it. I wondered what could possibly have driven Jesus to do what He did there? Why would the writer 'Cherish and cling to it,' I wondered?

I also remember a picture in my great-grandmother's house. There was a shepherd leaning way out over the edge of a rocky cliff. He was pulling a stray lamb in with his staff. I wondered if this picture of a shepherd had any relation to the way Jesus was? The thought that this shepherd would put himself in such a dangerous position for a little, frightened sheep struck me.

As a teenager, I was very involved in youth choir and all the other activities of the church. We went on a lot of choir tours and youth retreats where I would become bothered about things I was doing that weren't right. I would rededicate my life and get some relief for a while. My life was dedicated to only one thing, however, and it wasn't God. My husband, Mark, and I had met in church as teenagers and he was all I cared about. Mark surrendered to preach at a youth revival during this time and became zealous toward God - for a while. As I had usually done, I became zealous too. I would try to read my Bible daily and pray but I felt so empty while doing so that I soon quit trying. 'Jesus is #1,' was a popular phrase in those days that we all used. That's all it was to me, a phrase.

I graduated high school and went on to Jr. College. I'd pretty much stopped going to church by this time. Mark had already stopped going, and, as I said, I just did what he did. I had no desire for God. He wasn't real to me. It never occurred to me to ask "Why?"

After one semester at MSU, Mark and I were married. We never went to church or even attempted to live for God, only ourselves. I know now that God alone kept our marriage together. Things were very hard and although it would have been very easy for me to leave him, I only actually tried once. My in-laws somehow found out about my plans and met me on my way back to Pontotoc. I had great respect for them and so I decided to go back home and try to make it work.

Four years went by and our first child was born. When she was 3 years old, I began to get concerned about getting her in church. I guess I thought that as long as she was in church on Sunday, it wouldn't matter what she was being brought up in during the week at home.

Mark's parents had been attending Friendship Baptist Church. They had already been inviting me, so I decided to go.

I thank God that He helped me swallow my enormous pride and go without Mark. Here, for the first time, God was able to get me alone, without Mark, and begin to show me how wicked my heart was. I know that God led me to Friendship. It was at this point in my life that I entered the doors of 'God's School of Grace.' You see, I was about to live the words of Paul in Galatians 3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

I knew I wasn't right with God that very first Sunday I attended. Once again, all these years later, the same fear of hell drove me down the aisle. I had done what I thought was necessary to be right with God. After this, I began attending faithfully and even went to prayer meetings where the members had begun praying for Mark. When I told Mark about this, he resented their doing it. God had begun dealing with him and in a few weeks he too started coming and straightened himself up.

We were both in church now and were living for God as well as we could. I did everything in my power to make myself look, act and talk like a Christian. Mark, however, carried things a little too far when he decided to get rid of our T.V. I was mad enough at him over that to have left him. I would have, too, if it hadn't been for other people finding out. This first little peek at my insides was pretty shocking.

Months later, Mark and I followed our pastor, Brother Mike Morrow from Friendship to form a new church. I was still trying so hard to do everything that I thought I was supposed to do. I was working myself to death. I was completely blind to it.

It was during this time that Brother Mike told the church of a young man he'd met in Houston, Mississippi. This young man told him that he was lost and hadn't been saved yet. I still remember the cold chills on my neck when I thought about being in that condition. The idea of having to wait for God to save you was completely terrifying to me. This same young man was saved, months later.

Brother Mike left our church soon after that. I felt so deserted. It was very scary. The thought that God might actually be involved in any of this never crossed my mind. God was so unreal to me.

The church began to seek God about a pastor. I still remember how we'd look at each other and wonder how we'd manage until the next service. Preacher after preacher came with encouraging words to "stay together until God sent us the man He had prepared for us." Little did I know then who the man was to be and how God had indeed prepared him.

During these days all the 'good works' I had been performing for God began to sour. I was mad at God for letting Brother Mike leave. After all, I had done all these things for God; didn't he owe me something? Once again, I was living the scriptures. Proverbs 21:2 says that "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the heart." I was vaguely aware of God searching my soul and I didn't like it.

Brother Terry Owen came to be our pastor in 1987. I took it for granted that things would continue as they always had. I had become so self-righteous and full of myself. It soon became clear that Brother Terry wasn't at all impressed with good works. He had preached lost for 5 years before getting saved and knew firsthand that God wasn't even interested in what I took so much pride in. This made me mad at the time but I thank God for it now. It was because he had lived it first that he could give me the same hope God would later save me. You see, he was the young man who had to wait for God to save him.

Up until now I'd been living with my own ideas of what God was like. He just decided, by His Grace, to show me how wrong I had always been. I wasn't working this up. I was out of control and couldn't figure things out.

One Sunday God spoke in my heart the reality of Matthew 23:27. Jesus was talking to the scribes and pharisees; a group I'd never related to, "Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness!" For the first time, I found which group I really belonged in.

It was beginning to dawn on me that I was in the middle of a war. I'd always assumed I was on the same side as God but He showed me I was instead His enemy. He told me that I didn't even really believe that He existed, much less know anything about Him.

When I began to wonder about all the experiences I'd had I found myself again in John 10:1, "Anyone that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." There I was, a thief and a robber. I couldn't deny it.

I finally decided that I was just going to find a verse in the Bible to prop me up. Instead, the Lord settled it in my heart once and for all. The verse was Ephesians. 2:14. I didn't get past the first 5 words; "For He is our Peace." I was lost.

I couldn't deny the truth. I was tired of trying to be saved on my works.

As I said earlier, if Brother Terry hadn't lived all of this before coming to be our pastor, I don't think I could have survived the next few months. It was by the grace of God that I didn't believe God was showing me I was lost just to torture me. Brother Terry told me of a loving, long-suffering Saviour who would finish the work He had begun in me. I began to cling to each and every promise in the Bible. For the first time I was a sinner and I needed a Saviour.

I had already signed a contract to teach the following year, so I was going to miss the August session of the Mississippi Delta Camp Meeting. Almost all of our church would be going, even Mark. I would have to be in school that week. I didn't understand this but I was willing to stay behind. One day Mark came home to call the principal and tell him that Iwas supposed to be at the camp meeting. I thank God for a husband who wanted to follow God more than he wanted another paycheck in the family.

Looking back on it now, I can see how God fashioned that whole week just for me. The members of Calvary Baptist Church were so kind to me at a time when I was so unlovable. Every testimony given during that week was so much like what I was living. They made me so thirsty for something real.

Every service I would wonder if this was the sermon. I still had an idea of what kind of sermon it would take for me to finally figure everything out and just get saved.

The first 3 days came and went and I still hadn't gotten saved. It was now Thursday morning. I remember that I wasn't in a hurry to get to church that morning. I felt pretty sure I wasn't going to get saved while I was there since there was only one day left. I took my time getting ready, and by the time I arrived Brother Rob Pelkey had already been preaching for 15 minutes or so. I sat down feeling pretty sure I wouldn't get saved today, since I'd been so late.

His sermon was entitled 'God's School of Grace.' As I sat there, God began to open my eyes and my ears to the blessed truth of the gospel story for the very first time.

His text was John 6:45-46. Here Jesus says, "No man can come to me except the Father draw him." He also goes on to say, "They shall all be taught of God." Every person, Brother Rob said, has to go through God's School of Grace to learn this. Here, he said, you'll learn that you are sin sick and in need of the Great Physician. You'll learn that you are completely helpless to do anything about this. You have to go to this school to learn that you don't know anything. This school, he said, was the only one where you'd ever learn this.

You register for this school by being lost. To qualify for this school there are some things you had to have. The first was the right amount of good works. Zero! The hardest thing to do would be to get your hands empty so you could qualify for grace. No matter how much you heard that "it wasn't works, it wasn't works," until you'd been educated about it, it would still cling to you. Grace would only come at the end of all my good works. The only work good enough, he said, was to believe on Jesus. This would make no sense to a person until they went through God's School of Grace and learned it firsthand.

You'd also have to bring the right amount of money to qualify. Isaiah 55:1 says that your money is no good here. God's salvation is without price.

He told a story here of an Indian named Rambau whom a missionary had been trying to explain salvation to. The Indian couldn't understand what grace was. One day, Rambau brought a beautiful pearl to the missionary as a gift. He told the missionary that his only son had dived too deep and stayed too long under the water for the pearl. When he floated to the top of the water this pearl was still in his grip. The Indian loved this missionary and wanted him to have this pearl. As Rambau offered it to him the missionary said, "Oh, well here, Rambau you must let me pay you for this pearl." As he was pulling money out of his wallet to offer Rambau, the poor Indian was horrified. He cried "No, Sahib! No, Sahib! You cannot pay me for this pearl! I give you this pearl! I give you this pearl! You cannot buy this pearl! My son gave his life for this pearl!" He began to weep at what the missionary had done. The missionary said "Rambau, I only did this to show you what you have done with the Pearl of Great Price. The God of the universe is offended that you think you must pay for His salvation."

Brother Rob went on to say that you must have the right feelings. Thirsty, heavy-laden, hungry, longing. You have to feel your need for Him.

You must be in the proper state of spiritual health. Halt, lame and maimed, unable to do for yourself. Meek, yielded, and ready for Him to take over. Broken-hearted, bound and captive. In mourning over your sinful condition.

He read I Corinthians 1:29, "That no flesh should glory in His presence." God had made Him, Jesus, to be everything I needed. He, truly, had made me accepted in the beloved.

Brother Rob closed by asking if God had made us qualified for His grace. I didn't even know that anyone else was in that building but me. It was as if God had sent that sermon to be preached to only me. Truly, God does love sinners!

As the congregation began to sing 'Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,' I knew that it was time for something to happen. No doubt about it, God had made me qualified for grace.

By this time Brother Rob had come and sat down at the end of the row where we were setting. I remember thinking that I ought to stop at his chair since he had preached the sermon. As I started up the aisle I looked up and saw my pastor on the front row. It was as if I'd never really seen him before. God spoke to my heart and told me He was the one who'd been sent to guide me.

I went to him and we knelt by his chair. He began to ask me what was going on. I was trying so hard to figure it out but I just kept saying "I don't know." So many things were going around in my mind at that point. I knew I couldn't do anything now and I felt so helpless. I remember now that I just wanted to go ahead and die right by that chair and go onto hell. I deserved it anyway and I couldn't stand the thought of getting up unless God saved me.

I still had that picture of a weak, pitiful Jesus dying on the cross. I was trying to focus in on this picture when Brother Terry said, "Why don't you just thank Him for what He did for you?" There was a battle going on inside me and I was trying to understand why he was telling me to do this before I got saved. Nevertheless, I obeyed the command and as I did, all of a sudden, that picture I'd had of a weak, pitiful Jesus in my mind since childhood faded away to black. As it did Brother Terry said, "You know one thing Dixie, He's here!"

In that split second, all I can tell you is that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one I'd been so wrong about, was standing still, right behind me. He was very much alive and seemed to say, by His very presence, "This is really who I am." He had died on that Old Rugged Cross over 2,000 years ago but He was here now, alive and ready to save my wretched soul.

It was so easy to believe on Him. Once I saw through the eyes of faith that He really was all I'd heard about and much, much more.

The rest and peace He gave me are unexplainable.

It was all over. The great transaction was done. I am my Lord's and He is mine. Truly, He is our peace!