I have hesitated in writing my testimony because of the events surrounding my conversion. To some, my experience is not believable and to others, well, they say "nice things" as they change the subject. But, there are those Christians who rejoice with me when I tell them. To lay this testimony out for all to see makes the most important and significant event(s) of my life a target for examination and mockery. Nevertheless, here it is.
My parents were never religious people. Church was something we did on Easter or when there was a funeral. We had moved 27 times before I was twelve because my dad was in the service. So, attending church regularly was not something we did. The Lord was not a part of our home and I became an agnostic.
When I was 17 some high-school friends of mine invited me to a local church to see a film about the rapture. I went. The film scared me with the idea of being left behind. So, when the pastor asked if people would be interested in learning more about Jesus, I raised my hand.
The last thing I wanted to do was go up in front of the church. But to my dismay, he called all of us forward who had raised our hands. Church members had spotted me, so I could not really get out of going forward. Up I went not knowing what to expect.
So, there I was, on my knees along with a bunch of others who had raised their hands. I didn't know about them, but I was stuck, embarrassed, and eagerly waiting for it all to be over.
A man from the congregation, with a huge Bible that had gold pages, was somehow designated to speak to me specifically and to teach me about Jesus so I could receive Him as savior. At this point, we were all kneeling at the front of the church, beneath the pulpit, and each potential convert had been matched to a congregation member. I scoffed under my breath as mine began to recite scripture and blab some religious mumbo-jumbo that I seriously tried to ignore. I wanted desperately to leave.
Then, unexpectedly, a woman about ten feet from me who had also come forward, started to cry. She cried with such depth and feeling that I was shocked. It was weird. This fanatical display was not what I wanted to be a part of, so I just focused on getting through it so I could leave.
Then someone else began to cry the same way and another. I wanted out!
By now, I was nervous. I wasn't sure what to do or to expect, so I looked at the man I had been ignoring and decided to listen to him for just a second and then I'd continue to ignore him. All the while I was wondering how to get out of there. But, in that moment where I paid attention, he asked, "So, do you want to receive Jesus as your Savior?"
Now, I am not the "jump on the band-wagon" kind of a guy, not at all. I wasn't going to fall into this emotional hype sweeping through the church. So, I decided to focus and think logically. I examined this man. I remember very clearly looking at him. He seemed normal enough. Then a thought occurred to me. I realized that this situation might be important and I didn't want to simply scoff at it and ignore it. Maybe there was something to this God stuff. After all, I don't know everything. So, I thought about the options: If I choose God and He is there, I win. If He is not there, it doesn't matter. If He is there and I don't choose Him, I lose. Logically, I should give God a try. It made sense.
I knew that if God was real that I should, at least, manifest some form of sincerity even if it wasn't much. I figured that being flippant with God, if He were real, wouldn't be a good idea. It wouldn't hurt to try and be sincere and these people in the church seemed to have some common purpose and identity. It was, to say the least, interesting. So, I quickly addressed a prayer to God (not knowing if He was there) and said, "God, if you're there, then I'll try and be sincere and accept you. If you're not there, it won't cost me anything."
I looked at the man and said, "Yes."
"Good," he said. "Let's pray," and he led me in the sinner's prayer.
As I started to pray, I tried to manifest a sincere and honest heart. I was "giving God a chance." I followed the man's lead and I began to confess my "sins" to God and to ask Jesus to forgive me... everything was fine until something completely unexpected happened.
(I want to interject something here. I make no claims to being "spiritual" or "special" in any way. But, what follows is what really happened. And please remember that I have never been able to adequately convey the "experience" side of what happened in my soul that night. It is difficult to adequately describe. So, please bear with me.)
As I concluded my prayer, I became aware that someone "other" was there. Someone else was in the room with us and His attention was focused on me. This someone was not a member of that congregation. But I felt His presence dawning like a sunrise. This person was making Himself known to me in my heart. I somehow knew it was God. It was the Holy Spirit. He came to me slowly, gently, and then in a sudden movement, His Holiness overshadowed me with greatness and I became incapacitated. It was indescribable. He permeated my heart, mind, and soul. He washed over me in a burst of holiness and I was utterly undone. His incredibly deep purity shone upon my soul and I was instantaneously made aware of my utter sinfulness before a Holy and Righteous God. It was a supernatural experience of profound and utter depth. It wasn't emotionalism. It wasn't being psyched-out. It was God. I was in the presence of God Himself. I was in the presence of Perfect Holiness....and I knew it!!!
From the very deepest part of my soul, I felt a powerfully new and profound remorse for my sins, for offending God, for being unclean. I was a sinner! My body could not help but let loose a flood of tears of sorrow and guilt. I wept hard. I wept from the depths of my soul in guttural, heaving, moans of confession and brokenness. I was in the presence of incredible Purity, Holiness, and Love.. I was encountering God Himself. and I was a sinner. I could hardly stand to be in the presence of such deeply pure perfection and holiness. It was out of balance and I was profoundly aware of the disparity.
So, there I was, on the ground, sobbing like I've never wept in my life. I was a sinner and I knew it. The Holy Lord had revealed Himself to me and the natural result was to realize my own sinfulness. I kept sobbing and heaving out tears upon the floor. They came like a flood. And then.
This may seem unbelievable, but the only way I can explain it is that Jesus Himself manifested right there next to me. He had come to meet me on my knees. It wasn't as though I could see Him or touch Him. But, He was there. I was aware of His Holy awesome holy presence next to me. It was incredible. It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him. His concern for me was precious and tender. It was marvelous. He enveloped me in His love, His holiness, and His awesome greatness. I knew He was there to forgive me. I knew He loved me. I basked in His presence. I was with Jesus.
Then, while I was kneeling there, utterly absorbed and drifting in the experience of His presence, He moved. He moved toward me and gently entered my heart. Instantly, I physically felt my sin leave me. I felt the sudden and wonderful burst of forgiveness wash over my soul. I was instantly cleansed and born again and with it came the most profound and absolute sense of security of salvation I had ever known. My salvation was in Him. I was forgiven and safe for ever.
Then, He gently lifted His marvelous presence from me. He let me breathe again, think again, and regain my composure. It took a while, but I was finally able to recover and eventually able to stand up. But I was not the same. God had touched me and I was forever changed. I was so ecstatic. My heart was overflowing with excitement, love, hope, intensity, and great joy. I was smiling so hard, that my cheeks were hurting and I couldn't stop. It was great.
For weeks afterwards, I was unable to stop speaking of Jesus. I was still living at home and all I could do was talk about what had happened. My family didn't understand. I remember anxiously searching around the house looking for chores to do, anything to be a servant, anything to help my family. It was an insatiable desire. I told my friends about Jesus and eventually they stopped hanging around me. They were sick of me talking about Jesus all the time. And it was no wonder because my zeal was without wisdom. I didn't mean to, but I pushed them away.
My conversion experience was real as well as extremely personal. But, unfortunately, I was not discipled in the church I got saved in, or any church, and over the next two years, as surprising as it may sound, I slowly backslid. During that time the Lord convicted me constantly and gently. He called me again and again to repentance. But, I was confused and had begun to rebel against the conviction. It was so terribly uncomfortable in my sins, yet I wanted them, and I warred with my own desires. It was so difficult to love Him and run from Him at the same time. This went on for too long. But, again, His love won out.
One night, I was angry with God for the conviction He was sustaining upon my heart. It was difficult to endure and even though I had gotten into the habit of running from Him in order to make it go away, I still wanted Him. It was a strange mix. Anyway, on this one particular night, I looked up into the night sky and yelled out loud at God, "Leave me alone!" I still remember my defiant anger that was strangely mixed with fear and longing.. I still remember the blanket of stars behind my fist in the night sky. I'll never forget it.
The funny thing is, I don't remember anything about the month that followed my defiance. You'd think that God would have done something to me to "teach me a lesson." All I know, is that one month later I was inexplicably on fire for God. Out of nowhere had come repentance and an insatiable appetite for His Word and prayer. I began to devour the Bible, reading it four to six hours every day. I would listen to Christian radio constantly and I would attend church six nights a week. I would read Bible commentaries and devotionals at work, or at home in the bath, in bed, even while walking. I absolutely could not get enough. This went on for two years. It was great being back in fellowship with God and He had blessed me.
During this time of intense study, there was a period several weeks where I had been praying hard, begging the Lord to reveal to me what He wanted me to do with my life. I constantly asked Him to tell me and I was always giving myself to Him in every way I could imagine. I'd give Him my life, my body, my future, my abilities, failures, everything and constantly asked Him to do with me as He desired and that it didn't matter if I was rich or poor, healthy or sick, married or not, etc. I gave myself to Him in everyway I could think.
By this time, I had a girlfriend, who is now my wife. We were together a lot. One day while driving between Christian bookstores, the verse 2 Tim. 2:15 had stuck in my mind and I told her about it. When we arrived at the second bookstore, we met a man who had been saved only a few months and had just gotten out of jail. He told me how he needed to obey God and study just like it said in 2 Tim. 2:15. I was floored with the "coincidence." I was still living at home at the time and when I got home, I told my dad what had happened. He had an old dusty Bible that had been given to him many years before. He opened it and inside the cover was an inscription 2 Tim. 2:15. This is what it says.
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth."
It was right after this, that I developed a new interest in understanding Christian doctrine and theology and a new intensity developed.
Then, one night at one of the many Bible studies I was attending, someone read something to me that would have a profound impact on my life.
"God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil--all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet..." (Joseph Smith from the Mormon book, History of the Church Vol. 6, pp. 408-409)
This quote angered me terribly. I couldn't believe that anyone would be so arrogant as to boast he had done more to keep a church together than even Jesus had. To me, this was unfathomable and blasphemous. When I found out that the founder of Mormonism had uttered that boast, I had to find out who this person was and what he stood for. After all, I erringly thought, Mormons were Christians and that quote from its founder just didn't make sense. That is when I began attending a Bible study taught by Jerry and Marian Bodine who were then working with Walter Martin, the original Bible Answerman on the Radio. The Bodines and I became friends and I studied with them for years and my interest in cults, apologetics, and doctrine exploded.
Later, a friend of mine and I began a swap-meet ministry. Every Saturday, for 2 1/2 years, we would set up a booth and pass out gospel literature as well as information that exposed the cults, evolution, the New Age, etc. Needless to say, we had lots of interesting discussions with people and I can honestly declare that it was there at the swap-meet that I learned the most about defending God's word.
Next came a year-long phone ministry where my new roommate and I put an ad in a local publication. It said, "Learn the truth about Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, and Unity. Call (phone number). We received a great many calls and were able to help many people find the truth in Jesus. This was followed by a year of beach evangelism and door-to-door canvassing passing out Christian tracts. Soon afterwards I began to teach Bible studies and various classes on evangelism, Christian doctrine, and the cults at local churches. I have been studying and defending the truth ever since. So far, it has been for more than 20 years now.
In 1985, the Lord called me to attend a Lutheran College (Christ College Irvine, CA) where I earned my Bachelors in Social Science. I graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, CA, with a Masters of Divinity, in 1991. Two years ago I was ordained by my church as an assistant pastor and as an Internet missionary.
My ministry on the Internet began in October of 1995 when I published a Web page on Christian doctrine and the cults. To my surprise, the information was well received and requests for more began to pour in. After five years with CARM, I have received over 30,000 emails, one million page-views on the home page, and numerous testimonies of how CARM has helped people.
CARM has opened many opportunities for me to teach God's word. In April of 1997, I received a phone call from a Christian radio host in Oregon who had found my web site. He needed a guest speaker for a show on cults. I agreed to help him and ended up being his weekly co-host for two years. CARM has been reviewed in magazines, the Internet, and on radio. I've even been on TV. So far it is a hit.
The Lord has been very merciful to me. Where before I was self-seeking and godless, now I look to Him and seek His will. I am not perfect and still make plenty of mistakes. But, He has manifested Himself in my life in countless ways. He not only saved me from my sins, but he has allowed me to be a preacher and teacher of His word.
My hope and prayer is to be able to serve Him in a full-time capacity using the gifts that He has given me.
Matthew J. Slick