[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Download
a zip file
containing this
entire article in
"Word" format!

How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher
L. R. Shelton, Sr.
(Part Two)
Go to Part One

"Where and when have you ever taken your place...as a lost sinner?"

    In September, 1941, the late Brother Joe Granier was invited to hold revival services for us. He was a missionary of the First Baptist Church, Algiers, and worked among the French people at Houma, Louisiana. In the 1939 revival he had been brought under Holy Spirit conviction but was not saved until the spring of 1941. The attendance at the meeting was good from the very beginning. I sat and listened and backed him with my "amens" as he preached the truth and was true to the souls of men. Although small in stature, he would lean over the side of the pulpit and point that index finger as if to say, "You are the guilty one."

He preached for four weeks, and I remember very little of what he said; but his words pierced my heart like a barbed arrow. Night after night as he stood there bringing God's message, no matter what else he might say, he would drive home this statement in his own peculiar way, "It's needer dis, it's needer dat; Christ died for sinners are you a sinner?" (He had only finished the eighth grade in public school and spoke very broken English.) The next night it would be the same thing: somewhere in his message he would clinch it with the statement, "It's needer dis, it's needer dat; Christ died for sinners are you a sinner?" Then he would continue, "Where and when have you ever taken your place before God as a lost sinner?" And again he would say, "It's needer dis, it's needer dat; Christ died for sinners are you a sinner?"

This continued for three weeks, and I began to lie awake for hours at night going over my entire religious life, trying to find the time and the place when and where I had ever realized, or had come to the knowledge of the fact that I was a lost sinner, and where I had taken my place as such before God and found pardon. Late in the night I would give up in despair and drop off to sleep, waking the next morning with the same question still before me. All day I would reason, "Maybe he is wrong; he has been saved only a few months and is just a young Christian. Here I am his pastor; I finished high school, college, and have had several years of Bible study in the seminary, and have preached for twenty-five years; surely I ought to know more about these things than he does." I argued, "He must be wrong; but if perchance he is not wrong, then surely I am an exception." By the time services came again, I would be all patched up and in my place to hear him, thinking, "Well, maybe he will use some other expression tonight."

One thing I do remember definitely, at the beginning of the fourth week of the meeting I quit saying, "Amen," making the excuse to the people that I had noticed others saying, "Amen," whom I believed were not saved, and I had stopped saying it so they would quit. Old liar! This shows how dishonest I was. I was unwilling to face the fact of my soul's true condition. So, by the time I began to think that Brother Granier would let me off for the night, there he would go again, "Brethren, it's needer dis, it's needer dat; Christ died for sinners are you a sinner?" And there I would go hunting again the place where I had become a lost sinner before God and had been pardoned. I would go round and round but I would always wind up by coming back to the place where I started.

I have found this to be a fact, when God first awakens sinners to their lost condition, and before they admit to themselves that they are lost, they find themselves going around in a circle, trying to convince themselves that they are saved, but they always come back to the same place from which they started, each time more confused than before. A sinner, before he is awakened to this fact, is going in the opposite direction from God lost, but doesn't know it and the first stage of Holy Spirit conviction finds the sinner all confused and going in circles.

One day near the close of the meeting, in desperation I said to Brother Granier in the presence of several others at a home where we were taking dinner, "Well, if I was ever saved, it was when I was eleven years of age, and that settles it." But I thank God a thousand times that this didn't settle it. After God saved me, Brother Granier said to me, "Brother Shelton, when you made that statement, it almost killed me. I was thoroughly convinced then that you had missed Christ. I had been wondering for some time if you were saved, but that statement settled it in my own mind that you had missed Christ. And you were my pastor!" He also said, "Then I began praying for God to strip you on down and bring you to the place of a lost sinner."

Tested by the Word of God

Brother Joe Granier preached his last sermon on Friday night and returned home. The associate pastor was to continue the meeting, which he did, and on the following Thursday night preached on the subject, "Salvation tested by the Word of God." As he had announced his subject on Wednesday night, I had come to the service with one thought in mind, "Now is the time for me to find out if I am saved." I stood the test until he reached his last point "LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR." The Holy Spirit through him drove the truth home to my heart that a person who has missed Christ is always fearful lest he has not been born again.

Bless his sweet memory! Never will I cease to praise God for him, because he did not compromise with my soul. This one fact I have learned if an individual cannot go back to the time when he was awakened as a lost sinner and took his place before God as a lost, guilty sinner, condemned to die and that justly, and cried for mercy, he is not saved.

It seemed that he spoke to my heart alone, because I had gone about with that fear in my heart. As I have said, I was always afraid that someone would ask me the direct, pointed question, "Have you been born again?" Service closed, and I left the auditorium immediately and went to my room without saying a word to anyone. I went to bed to roll and toss as I faced the fact that, from all evidences I had never been saved. I found myself crying unto God, "Oh God, if I'm not saved, save me." I soon learned another truth, that God does not deal in "if's". A sinner is either saved or lost. Christ came to save only lost sinners. Greater fear than ever gripped my heart, because I realized that if I had missed Christ, then I was lost and on the road to Hell. The next afternoon I walked into the kitchen, where Mrs. Shelton was preparing supper, and said, "Dear, if what these brethren are preaching is true, then I am a lost sinner and headed for Hell."

That Friday night after service I took the train to Shreveport to fill an engagement I had accepted two months before to preach in the church of which my brother was a deacon. He met me at the train Saturday morning and took me to his home. As he had to work that day, I was left alone to face the fact of my spiritual condition before God. I realized that I was facing the crisis of my life, and I knew that the matter had to be settled. For a while I walked the streets, and then went to State Baptist headquarters for a visit. No one seemed friendly; this was not their fault, but was due to my condition.

Although I had not yet admitted to myself that I was a lost sinner, I had come to see very clearly that everything out of Christ is under judgment and going to Hell. Slowly I was beginning to see that I was under judgment and going to Hell; I was beginning to feel as a prisoner before the bar of justice condemned to die. As I left Baptist headquarters, Satan said, "You cannot afford to come out openly and admit that you are lost, for you have been preaching for twenty-five years. You are to preach tomorrow. What will Baptist preachers and your Baptist brethren think of you? Why, you have preached and held meetings from San Antonio, Texas, to Cross City, Florida; you have led in mission work in southeast Louisiana. What will folks think of you? Don't you see that you will be an outcast forever? Don't you see that they will finally dissociate themselves from you and leave you standing alone?"

As I saw all of this, I knew I was fighting out the destiny of my life, and I could not afford to make a mistake now. I hurried back to my brother's home. After supper I retired to his den, as he called it, glad to be alone while he and his wife were preparing their Bible lesson for the next day. Opening my Bible I turned to I John 2:15-17 and read it over and over:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."

I knew that the word, "world," means "world orders" or "world systems," and I knew also that the Bible says that Satan is the god of these "world orders" or "world systems."

I dwelt for some time upon that 17th verse, the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOREVER." "Yes," I said to myself, "All the religious systems of the world, including the Baptist religious system, will pass away, and every unsaved preacher will go down to Hell with it under the judgment of God. If I am lost, I will go to Hell with all other unsaved preachers and church members. Then what difference will it make what preachers or others think about me?" "If I am lost..." I would keep saying. I was still afraid to admit to myself that I was lost. But the burden of guilt and of judgment rested so heavily upon me that I finally threw up my hands and cried out in my soul, "Oh God, I am lost!" I knew that this, then, put me definitely on the outside with the damned, under the judgment of a sin-avenging God, lost and without Christ. I had been there all the while, but I did not know it!

"Set About Trying to Find My Way Out"

After I admitted to myself that I was lost, I set about trying to find my way out. First, I read I John 2:17, "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." Then I asked myself the question, "What is the will of God?" and John 6:40 came to my mind. I turned and read, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which SEETH the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have EVERLASTING LIFE: and I will RAISE HIM UP at the last day." Over and again I read I John 2:17 and John 6:40. I saw that it was Christ or Hell.

There I was a lost sinner away from home and scheduled to preach the next day and I knew of no one I could go to for help! As I continued rolling these two scriptures over in my heart and mind "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" and "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" I came to this conclusion: it did not matter what anyone thought of me reputation or no reputation. That was settled. I saw that the world (satanic religious system) would pass away, and I saw that only the individual who does the will of God will abide forever and God would raise him up at the last day. I saw that everything out of Christ is under the curse and judgment of God. Let preachers say what they pleased, I was lost, and it was Christ or Hell with me. I was ready to go before the church the next morning and, instead of preaching, tell them that I was a lost sinner, let come what may.

That point being settled, and God having won the first battle with Satan, I turned again to John 6:40, "He that SEETH the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." I reasoned to myself, "Here I am a lost sinner going to Hell" "seeth the Son" "believeth on him" "may have everlasting life" "raise him up at the last day." I sat there conscious of my condition, caring not what others might say or think. I knew that I wanted to be saved. It was then that Satan pulled one of his diabolical tricks on me, just as he pulls on many lost sinners when they first admit that they are lost. He showed me a vision of Christ lifted up and said, "There is the Son believe Him; He died for you." I did believe that He died for me, and as I read again John 6:40, "He that SEETH the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life," there came a quietness and a peace over my soul, which I rejoiced in. I felt so at ease, so light as it were floating through the air. I felt so wonderful. Of course, I did not know at that time that it was a trick of Satan. Let me point out this one fact any kind of feeling, or any type of vision (whether of Christ, or a cross, or a light)is not salvation. Salvation is the revelation of Christ to the heart through the Word by the Holy Spirit (II Thess. 2:13; Gal. 1:15,16; I Pet. 1:2; John 1:11-13). If you rest the assurance of your salvation on anything else but Christ, you're on sinking sand.

I soon retired without saying a word to my brother about what had happened. That night I rested better than I had in many a night, and I arose the next morning with a joy and peace still in my heart. Believing that the Lord had saved me, I went on and preached at both services. As I returned to New Orleans on the Sunday night train, that peace and quietness began to leave, and I became shaky about being saved. By the time I arrived home everything had caved out from under me, and when I read the Word of God it would not assure me that I was saved. Therefore, I knew that I had not made it to Christ.

I cannot emphasize this fact too strongly a vision is not salvation or the assurance of salvation. Neither is salvation resting upon the Word of God, nor upon the truth of God's Word, nor upon a promise of God's Word. Salvation is not even resting upon the finished work of Christ. But salvation is Christ the Christ crucified, buried and risen as lifted up in the Word, revealed to the sinner by the Holy Spirit and received into his heart by faith. Then the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ secures the believer, and the Word of God assures the believer that the blood has been applied. If you are not saved, the Word of God cannot and will not assure you, because you do not have anything for the Word to assure you about, for the Word testifies of Christ.

When I arrived home, I called the family together and told them that I was lost and going to Hell. That night I went before the church, made the statement that I was a lost sinner, and offered my resignation. They voted not to accept it and to pay my salary right on and give God a chance to save me, saying to me, "You have been patient with us; why should we not be patient with you? As a lost sinner, you have just as much right to salvation as anyone else." What grace! what mercy of a sovereign, loving God! I walked out of the pulpit and took my place as a lost condemned sinner. After service I went to the associate pastor and, placing my hand on his shoulder, said, "I am a lost sinner going to Hell; please be true to my soul. Do not pull your punches, and do not comfort me. It is Christ or Hell, and I want to get saved."

Services continued and the Holy Spirit began to show me who I was by nature, what I was by nature and the judgment I was under by revealing my heart to myself. I began to see that I was totally depraved, utterly wicked, having no righteousness of my own, but that all my righteousness was but filthy rags in the sight of God and that I was unclean and had no natural goodness or merit of any kind.

Satan did his best to sidetrack me with visions and feelings to hinder me being brought to Christ. One of the first things I came to see was that I was utterly demon possessed (II Tim.2:26). As I was unsaved, this had come about largely by seeking a "deeper walk" with God (so-called). I have discovered this fact: when any unsaved religionist seeks a Spirit-filled life, or the baptism of the Holy Ghost, he will always receive a demon spirit instead of the Holy Spirit. This is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn. The Bible plainly teaches that when God saves an individual for Christ's sake, the Holy Spirit comes in to dwell and the body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. These demon spirits will give the individual any type of experience he may want to keep him blinded to his real spiritual condition.

I have found that the vast majority of the religious world today thinks and believes that all religious experiences come from God, but this is not so. I would be safe in saying that almost one hundred per cent of so-called religious experiences today (namely, visions, dreams, trances, etc.) come from Satan and his demon spirits, and not from the Holy Spirit. The vast majority of all the so-called "faith healing" and fleshly religious emotions is not of God, but is of Satan. When the Holy Spirit definitely revealed to me that I was demon possessed, this added to the terror of my soul (II Cor.5:11). Seeing my helplessness and totally depraved condition, without a righteousness that God will accept, demon possessed and held prisoner by the power of Satan, I knew that the only thing I could do was to cry out against it and call upon the Lord for help (Psa. 107:10-14).

There I was lost, condemned to die (and that justly) and also demon possessed. I became afraid to cross the street lest a car hit me and I wake up in Hell. I did not want to go to sleep for fear I should die in my sleep and wake up in torment. When night came, I would it were morning; and when morning came, I would it were night! (Deut. 28:67). The more I cried unto God for mercy, the more He stripped me of my self-righteous rags. The more I cried for pardon, the more he showed me that I was guilty and deserved to die. As I read the Word of God, judgment blazed forth from every verse I saw judgment written over everything. The world completely lost its beauty and charm and became just a desert lonely and desolate (Psa. 107:4-7). Slowly God stripped me of everything and left me alone as a naked sinner before Him (Rev. 3:17). He showed me that all my religious nature was no better than the nature of a drunkard or of a harlot (Isa.64:6). Alongside me a harlot looked clean and a drunkard in all his filth and vomit was a gentleman (Rom.3:9-19). I came to see myself as the chief of sinners (Luke 18:13).

I now became afraid that the Holy Spirit would leave me (Psa.51:11). I knew that if He did there was no hope. I knew that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit I could never get saved (John 6:44; John 16:7-11). I was also afraid that the Lord would come back before God saved me. My mind was made up that if He should come before God saved me, I would never bow my knee to the Antichrist during the Tribulation Period. But I did not want to go into the Tribulation Period; I wanted Christ, and I wanted Him alone.

Reading the story of Christ dying for sinners as given in God's Word, I would try my best to believe and appropriate Him as my own personal Saviour, but I found that I could not. Another fact that I learned here is that Christ is revealed to the heart of the sinner and the sinner cannot make God do it (Matt. 16:17; Gal. 1:12, 15, 16; II Cor.3:15,16). At the same time, the Holy Spirit was slowly but surely opening my heart to let me see how wicked, how vile and how corrupt I was by nature. I came to see myself more and more as the chief of sinners, until I could not see how God could love such a wretch as I. Here I was demon possessed, with a heart so stony that I could not believe that God loved me, and Satan kept saying again and again, "God doesn't love a sinner like you you are too wicked, too vile, and too corrupt for God to save you. Surely He doesn't love a sinner like you!" All hope of ever getting saved began to flee away, and for days I remained in that condition, believing that God did not love me. There it was the last of November, and still I was not saved.

About that time I began corresponding with a thirteen year old boy, whose name is Omer Ritchie, then of Mobile, Alabama. He would write me such simple, plain, childlike letters, telling me what the Lord meant to him and how real Christ was to his soul, and he showed such childlike faith in Christ. I would take those letters, spread them out upon my desk, and read and reread them, bathing them with my tears. I would say, "Now, there is a child who can trust Christ with such a simple, childlike faith, and here I am a high school, college and seminary graduate who has been preaching for twenty-five years, who knows the Bible historically and who believes the plan of salvation completely and yet, I cannot trust Christ for salvation!

In the midst of these struggles of trying to believe, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart Matthew 18:3, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." I began to cry unto Him to make me as a little child. There I was, having gone through high school, college and the seminary, and having preached for twenty-five years, with a library that would grace any preacher's study, helpless and hopeless and could not believe! I would walk the floor of my study, or lie flat on my face on the floor, with one cry in my soul, "Lord, make me as a little child." As someone said, I knew too much; I kept telling God how to do it. I knew a little child knows nothing, a little child is nothing, a little child has nothing, and a little child trusts with simple faith. Every sinner learns only two things before he gets saved; one is that he is a sinner, lost and Hell-deserving, and the other one is that Christ died for him.

Then I was led to lay hold of Phil. 1:6 and plead this promise before the throne of God's grace: "He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of redemption." I knew that He had begun a work of grace in my heart, and I also knew that God cannot lie and that His Word cannot be broken. Also by His grace I was now able to lay hold of Isa. 55:7, "I will abundantly pardon." Yes, I was guilty so guilty and I wanted a pardon. God had said, "I will." These promises I kept daily before Him. Then it dawned upon me that God loved me, and I said, "if God loves me and if Christ died for me, then He wills to save me." That was a great moment in my life when the light of God's love broke in upon my poor, wretched soul, and I saw that Christ died for such a wretched, Hell-deserving sinner as I, and that He wanted to save me (Rom. 2:4). This completely broke me at His feet crying for mercy.

It was Monday morning at the break of day, as I was riding on the train between Tallulah and Delhi, Louisiana, that the burden and guilt of sin weighed heavily upon my soul. I was lost and going to Hell, and I knew it. I walked from one end of the coach to the other end and fell down upon an empty seat, crying from the depths of my soul with all hope gone, "Lord, I am lost; save me, or I perish!" I had come to the end of my way, and God had given me strength to cast myself completely upon Him, trusting all into His hands to save me or to damn me. Here I was a wicked, condemned, lost sinner who had forsaken his way; here I was resting at the feet of a sovereign God helpless, hopeless, hapless, begging for mercy; here I was an unrighteous sinner who had given up all pretensions to any righteousness of my own, abhorring my corrupt nature, realizing I was lost and ought to go to Hell, and also realizing that God ought to send me to Hell, but I had one plea that Christ had died for me. On that basis I cried for mercy, "Lord, save me, or I perish!"

The battle was over; the Holy Spirit had at last brought me to the feet of a sovereign, eternal, merciful, pardoning God and made me to realize that He could save me or damn me. There I rested, knowing only two things first, that I was a lost sinner condemned to die, a sinner whom God ought to send to Hell, a sinner who did not deserve to be saved, a sinner who, if God chose to send me to Hell, would say, "Amen," to his own condemnation, and second, that God could pardon me because Christ died for me. A quietness came over my soul, and a peace settled down upon me. There was no more struggle. My one hope was that Christ died for such a sinner, and I believed it. God's Word could not be broken.

We reached our destination Herringville Baptist Church, six miles east of Epps, Louisiana where we were to hold a week's meeting. Friday night came with everything frozen, the temperature just ten degrees above zero. Twelve of us gathered for the last service around the old wood heater in the large one room church building. We sat there freezing on one side and burning on the other. The preacher had not been preaching very long when, to my utter surprise and gladness of heart, the Holy Spirit revealed Christ definitely to my heart as my Saviour and Lord.

What a moment when God chose to reveal His Son in me! I sat there in amazement and wonder. I would say to myself, "Is this salvation?" I had made sure that, if and when God saved me, no doubt I would shout all over God's creation; but there I sat not saying a word. It was so different from what I had expected. It was the quiet revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to my heart and life as my Saviour and Lord. The Holy Spirit had brought me to rest upon Christ and to commit everything into His hands, and now He had revealed Him to my heart as the One who had died for me my Substitute, my risen Lord.

Salvation is the revelation of Christ to the sinner's heart as his Saviour and Lord. Salvation takes place when the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to a sinner's heart as his own personal Saviour and Lord after He had brought him to realize that he is condemned, admitting in his heart that he ought to go to Hell and saying, "Amen," to his own condemnation if God should choose to send him to Hell (Matt. 16:17; Gal. 1:11,12; Gal. 1:15,16; I Cor.15:3,4; Eph.2:8,9; I Cor.1:26-29).

Salvation is not resting upon the Word of God or believing the promises of God salvation is not resting upon one's faith. Salvation is the revelation of Christ to the sinner's heart. Reader, do you know Him? Every saved person can say, "I know WHOM I have believed."

PRINTED SERMON INDEX GO TO PART ONE


[an error occurred while processing this directive]