I NEVER KNEW YOU
I was born in December 1974 to Christian parents who at that time were members of a cult called the Exclusive Brethren, also known as the Taylor Brethren after their leader Jim Taylor Jr. This cult was very controlling and their emphasis on separation from non-members resulted in the division of families which I saw firsthand in my family. My father, though he would have been only around 19 at the time, took issue with the teachings of the Brethren after simply reading his bible and after publicly voicing his objections was ‘shut up’ by the leadership. This involved being excluded from fellowship and meeting attendance for a period determined by the elders.
Thankfully my father had the strength of character to decide to leave the Brethren and my mother agreed to join him, I was 6 months old when they left. The price for their decision was high as it meant that they would not see parents, siblings or friends who remained in the Brethren ever again. Shortly after my mum's parents and her two sisters also decided to leave the cult, at the cost of never seeing their sons/brothers again.
From what I was told by my parents, marriages in the Brethren were more like arranged marriages and in their case the match was not a happy one, I remember the blazing rows they had for the few years they were together after they left the Brethren and finally divorced, I was around 3 years old when this happened.
My mum remarried when I was around 5 years old and went on to have two more children, I lived with them and saw my dad at weekends. I felt like I had two separate lives as my parents never spoke after they divorced unless it was about access arrangements or money. I found it difficult being a child of divorced parents and always seemed to be searching for a true sense of belonging which resulted in me being quite an insecure child.
One thing I am grateful for is that both parents were followers of Christ, and are to this day, and they taught me about Jesus, the bible and took me to church regularly.
Fast forward to age 17 things had got very tense at home with the relationship with my stepfather steadily deteriorating for a number of years and coming to a head one day, resulting in me leaving home. This resulted in me moving from Southport where I had been living back to my hometown of Stockport to live with my dad who lived in Romiley. I found work at a lab in Stockport and life seemed to start improving.
My dad was an elder of a newly formed charismatic fellowship which met in the upper room of Marple library for the first few years. During this time I felt like I was part of something exciting, I was fascinated by the upbeat praise and worship, people speaking in tongues, words of knowledge and prophecy and the lively atmosphere. I started to feel for the first time that being a Christian could be more than just head knowledge but could be experiential and what I thought was ‘real’. Around this time I developed an interest in keyboards and singing and after a worship team member heard me singing behind them when they were in the congregation I was asked to sing in the worship team. This made me feel very special as there seemed to be quite an emphasis on praise and worship music and the team seemed to have quite an elevated position in the church.
Very quickly my interest shifted to drums and after starting off playing the drum sounds on a keyboard I transitioned to a real drum kit and for the next 20 years or so was involved in worship music ministry. During this period I had what I would describe as a “yo-yo” experience in my Christian walk, there was no consistency in my life, I was either on the mountains or in the valleys.
I met my wife Viv at the age of 33 and we were married within a year with our daughter Iona coming along not long after. Life was amazing, within an 18 month period I had changed job, got married, moved house, had our first child and moved church.
It was then that the bubble burst and I went through the hardest time of my life. Stress can be brought on by various things and the life changes just mentioned- albeit mostly positive, combined with Iona being a very difficult baby due to undiagnosed health problems eventually became too much and I broke. My breakdown was severe and I literally became another person, a completely selfish, terrified and angry man who could only think about how I could get through the next minute of my life. Consequently, my marriage nearly ended on more than one occasion and everything that I thought I knew about myself, life and God was shaken to the core.
It was during this time that the Lord started to work in my life in the most unexpected way. Up to this time I had taken it as read that I was saved, born again and following Jesus as best as I could, but I had never really experienced any truly traumatic events which would have tried my faith until now.
I went on a course of anti-depressants and tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which for me yielded little or no improvement in my condition. The drugs reduced the physiological effects of the anxiety but I did not feel that they were getting to the root of the problem, they only masked the symptoms. I saw a counselor which helped a little in terms of being able to talk about my experiences but again the root problem remained, in retrospect, I believe that my problem was spiritual. It was at this time that I turned to the Bible and meditating upon scriptures like Philippians 4 to try and find the Lord through this darkness. When I would get the anxiety and dread I would speak out:
(Philippians 4:6-7) "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
The bible version I was reading at the time actually says “Be ANXIOUS for nothing” which made it especially relevant at the time. Over the course of around nine months I felt the Lord increasingly leading me out of the pit of depression and at the same time, I started listening to what may be described as “good old-fashioned hell-fire preaching” from the likes of David Wilkerson, Leonard Ravenhill and Zac Poonen amongst others. The way these men preached was a complete revelation to me, they preached with such conviction and passion and were so down the line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that there was no running away from it. But I knew all about being a sinner and why we needed Jesus to sacrifice his life on the cross and how we obtain justification and eternal life through him, after all, I had been brought up a Christian hadn’t I? I had been ministering in the worship team for over twenty years of my life, hadn’t I?
I was prayed for to receive the Holy Spirit at age 18 and spoke in tongues, didn’t I? The Lord used these preachers to reveal that I was living a lie, I realized that I was a carnal Christian at best, at worst I was just religious and not actually born again. When I reviewed my life I realised I was guilty of denying Christ by my lifestyle. Outwardly I might have looked like a Christian to most people as I did not do anything that I felt was overtly sinful, but I was sinning secretly and to be honest reveling in it. I had no problem with getting drunk regularly, mostly with non-Christian friends but sometimes with ‘Christian’ friends as well, I was sleeping with my girlfriend of some 7 years, I entertained dirty thoughts and fantasies, I would have regular fits of rage I would think and say malicious things about people- even my friends. And the reason I was able to do these things, and many more, was that I had been taught that all of my sin was paid for at the cross and all I needed to do was to say sorry and then God and me were just fine. I did not see my sin for the stinking, wretched abhorrent thing that it is before a Holy God and that the Lord is looking for us to bear fruit meet for repentance. That by his Holy Spirit he causes growth and instills an increasing hunger and thirst for righteousness and holiness which becomes ever more apparent in the life of a believer.
(Romans 6:1-4) "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Over the course of a couple of months I became increasingly concerned about the state of my soul and the day that changed everything arrived when I was in my office working and I had a sermon playing while I worked, I think it was David Wilkerson speaking and he read this verse:
(Matthew 7:21-23) " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Immediately I heard the Holy Spirit say to me very clearly “Brian, if you were to stand before me today I would say to you,” I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Right at that moment I fell down on my knees and for the first time in my life I truly repented with tears, I was completely undone in His presence as He revealed the sinner that I am before a Holy God. I must have been on my knees weeping for quite some time but when I got up I immediately felt very different, I felt so light, so clean! The bible started to speak so much more clearly than it ever did before, in fact so much of it seemed like I had never read it, yet I know I must have read it dozens of times throughout my life. It has now been around 4 years since I believe I was truly born again and although some struggles are inevitable as a follower of Jesus I am so aware of the Lords power to walk the narrow path, He is faithful:
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
The main difference I have noticed in my life now that I am born again is that my desires have changed, I am unrecognisable compared to how I was, my greatest desire is to please the Lord and to live holy and separate for Him, you can not fake that! The most loving that that the Lord did for me, second only to dying on the cross, was to allow me to get to the end of myself and show me that despite my religious veneer I was still a sinner who was going to go to hell if I did not truly repent and believe on Jesus Christ. (John 14:15) " If ye love me, keep my commandments." I love you Lord and by the power of your Holy Spirit alone I will respond to your unending love by keeping your commandments, what a joy and and honour