Testimony of John C. Rule
The title of my testimony is ‘Receiving Jesus as Life’. I grew up in cotton country in West Tennessee. My father was raised on a farm near Sevierville. It’s a multi-generation homeplace and I live there now in retirement from a Soil Scientist position with the Federal Government in California.
My father worked his way through medical school during the Great Depression and became a Family Physician. He practiced medicine in Covington, TN, about 50 miles north of Memphis. In those days most homes had phone service, “Dr. Rule could you come right away, oh thank you so much!” But few had their own car, so most family doctors made house calls. My father was on call 24/7. I don’t remember him attending a church service, but Mom and us kids, I and my three sisters, went to church whenever the doors were open. Also, TV was still in diapers, so-to-speak, and the church claimed center ground in the social life of the community.
Our church was typical in that we sponsored a week-long revival once each year. When I was 12 years old, I responded to the visiting evangelist’s altar call. I’ve been asked, “Did you really know what you were doing at so young an age?” Actually, I understood what it meant to receive Jesus as Savior years before I made a public profession of faith. I knew that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I knew that to receive Jesus as Savior meant that His death is counted as payment for my sins. I knew that I now had the Holy Spirit in me. I knew that I had a promise of a home in heaven.
But what about receiving Jesus as Life? Well, I’ve talked it over with my sisters as well as my cousins who also were raised in Southern Baptist churches. We all agree that there is no fundamental difference between the terms Jesus as Life and Jesus as Savior. Now I realize that my understanding of the cross of Jesus was correct as far as it went. It had never occurred to me that a vitally important aspect of the cross was missing from my spiritual training. We had heard about the crucified life. In our hymns we remember singing about coming near the cross, in the cross and at the cross but never on the cross with Christ. We were assured that the difficult passages in the Bible would be made perfectly clear when we are in heaven.
Now I tend to use the term ‘receiving Jesus as Life’ in reference to that vitally important aspect of the cross missing from my previous spiritual training: my death with Christ is counted as freedom to be resurrected with Him in an experiential understanding of an entirely new way of living. Before, I was content to let Christ in me sit in the back seat minding His own business, now I’ve got to have Him in the driver’s seat thinking His thoughts in my mind, manifesting His will through me and expressing His emotions through me. When I am in charge, I am a basket case, spiritually speaking. When He is in charge, all things become possible.
Because my father was a medical doctor, when I started taking college courses, I majored in science. My father complained a lot about how the practice of medicine had been compromised over the years and I never seriously considered following in his footsteps. This was a time when scientists had become convinced that they had the keys to truth and that all questions could be resolved by the human mind. Doesn’t this sound much like the Gnostics of the early church?
As a college student I was not aware of Romans 8:28,29 by which God explains that His purpose for us is to be conformed to the image of the Son. I was busy becoming conformed to the image of my science professors with tragic results. During my second semester in college I took a course in Embryology. The pig embryo is widely used as a model for studying the human embryo. Until late in pregnancy the two appear to be identical. Now that my identity is firmly established in Christ, the strong contrasts between biblical truths and scientific hypotheses rises no higher than passing curiosities, but the partial-cross Christ was a stumbling block in my path.
The partial-cross Christ in me is a gentleman. He does not wrestle control from me. He waits patiently for me to discover key scripture, such as Romans 6:1-14 and Galatians 2:20. When I step aside, He takes over. My all consuming studies in science were leading me further and further away from the healing touch of the Holy Scriptures. High grades in Zoology, Botany, Biochemistry and Physiology fueled my addiction. Part-time jobs and the GI Bill enabled me to shift my attention to the earth sciences. I began studying Geology, Geography, Metrology and finally Soil Science.
At the age of about 44 a series of curious coincidences began to occur. My studies in soil science were winding down. I had submitted applications to federal soil survey programs in ten western states. The first coincidence was in connection with Buddhist meditation which I had been using to enhance discipline in my studies. One day I was nearing the end of a 45 minute session when, without warning, the name ‘Jesus’ popped into consciousness. The form of meditation I was using has an objective: to become capable of watching thoughts rise into consciousness, allowing them to continue moving without becoming a source of distraction. Because I was not accustomed to thoughts appearing so suddenly, I entertained it without the slightest bit of annoyance. I discovered that it was very soothing to meditate on the name of ‘Jesus’.
The second coincidence involved the older of my housemate’s two sons. When he was 12 years old, his grandmother offered to send him to a two week church camp. Because the parents were unbelievers, they were not real happy over the offer but, out of respect, reluctantly agreed. The son returned home claiming to have received Jesus as Savior. Now I was on the hot seat. I still believed myself to be a Christian in spite of the difficulty of citing evidence to that effect. What, I wondered, can I do to be accepted by him as his brother in Christ? When I performed baby-sitting chores with the boys, I would devise elaborate games for entertaining them. At regular intervals I would require that they take rest breaks. During breaks I would read to them from the Gospel of John. The boy saw through this sham immediately, but God used it for good. Now I began to think in earnest on the things of the Spirit.
Soon thereafter I received a job offer from the federal government’s soil survey program in California. There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this job was a gift from God. When I got to California, I bought a radio and started scrolling through the dial in search of Christian broadcasters. There I was on the floor of an unfurnished apartment sobbing with joy over my discovery of the life of Christ in me through messages by Chuck Smith, Adrian Rogers, Woodrow Kroll, Alistar Begg, James Montgomery Boice and others.
For the next 20 years as my agency moved me from project to project all over California, I was active in many different denominations: American Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Four Square, Presbyterian, and finally Southern Baptist. Until I retired and moved back to Tennessee, I failed miserably in the major task of discovering how to live the crucified life.
I am not able to point to a special day on which the Lord rescued me from my lengthy addiction to carnality, but I did have an epiphany four years ago concerning my knowledge of the forces of geology. With a sigh of relief, I simply acknowledged on that day that God is sovereign over the forces of geology and that He can use those forces in whatsoever manner that pleases Him. That event marked the beginning of the end of my career as a Soil Scientist. A year or so later the Lord added a temporary health issue to help me let go of a job I truly loved. He had something better for me waiting back home in Tennessee.
During my two year stint at my last duty station, I worked in the AWANA program. The struggle to make the Spirit-filled life an experiential reality continued without success. Before leaving California I conducted an online search for AWANA programs near my home in Tennessee. Two churches met that qualification. When I got home, I started attending services and classes at both churches. Right away I found myself in the Sunday School Class [of First Baptist Church, Pigeon Forge] taught by Brothers Mike Smelcer and Danny Dorminey. Mike was teaching out of Norman Harrison’s New Testament Living . On my very first visit I knew the Lord had brought me to a place where I could resolve my pressing question on how to live the Exchanged Life. The short answer is: I can’t, for only Christ in me can live it.
The Lord continued to lead me, using Brother Mike’s class, through Men’s Prayer Meeting and Grace Fellowship International (GFI). My experiential understanding of my crucifixion and resurrection with Christ was growing steadily. By the end of the first year in Mike’s class, I knew that the Lord wanted to use me to help Pastor Curtis get the message of the cross into the children’s classes at Fellowship Baptist Church in Sevierville: assisting in 2nd – 6th grade coed Sunday School class with two ladies and facilitating in 3rd – 6th grade boys AWANA class with two men.
There are several resources that have been helpful in this work. In the Spring of 2009 I attended the semi-annual Exchanged Life Conference presented in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, by the GFI staff. During the Conference I became convinced that I needed to memorize Romans 5-8 before attending the Workshop which is normally available in conjunction with the Conference. The following Fall I attended the Workshop having memorized Romans 6, 7 and most of 8. I am now working of chapter 5. My strategy during the memory work phase was to avoid exposure to the interpretations available in expository books, commentaries and study bibles trusting the Holy Spirit to do the heavy lifting.
Students tend to respond differentially to a host of strategies, so I’m experimenting with sign language, drama and dry erase boards. My skills for helping the parents get involved are primitive, but I sense that the dynamic progress [of Christ-centered discipleship] is limited without their active participation. If the Lord continues using me to introduce kids to the vitally important Scriptures He gives us to explain grace, I know He will also keep on equipping me to help facilitate what He is doing. In the process I trust that I will continue to be conformed to the image of the Son. For that pearl of utmost value, I give Him all the praise.
John went to be with the Lord on November 20, 2016 at the age of 73. We were so inspired by his devotion and miss his joyful fellowship. John’s voice is on the audio track of GFI’s free online course: The Wheel and Line: A Guide to Freedom Through the Cross.