Our minister is the Rev Kenneth Elliott. He is originally from the town of Portadown, and was ordained and installed as minister of Bethany Free Presbyterian Church on 7th November, 1973.
Below is an edited version, (adapted for this website), of his testimony.
I`ll never forget the date of my conversion. It was the 29th October, 1961. It was a most significant and far reaching event that took place in my life. I became a Christian – a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Life and destiny were drastically changed.
Eph 2 v 12 – “That at that time ye were without Christ”
“Without Christ” means condemnation – and that’s how it was with me. And that’s how it is with every person who is born into this world – under the wrath and curse of God – the very moment that they are born – we are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity (see Psalm 51:5)
I was without Christ. Let me say this: there are a lot of things I was NOT WITHOUT. I was not without a loving family and a happy home. My parents at the time were not professing Christians, although, I learned later, that they had made professions of faith in their younger days. One never really went on, the other was very unsure - lacked assurance. We were brought up in a home – myself, my brother and two sisters – I, being the eldest of the children. My dad was a hard worker. My mother was a home-maker – and saw to it that my father and the children had a very happy home. They taught us respect for the things of God, and consideration for other people. I was brought to Church – but the bigger I got, I was made to go!. I had no interest in the things of God.
I was also NOT WITHOUT opportunities to hear the Gospel. I did have the privilege of being brought up in an evangelical Church – it was the 1st Presbyterian Church in Portadown, where Dr William Craig was the preacher for many years – (a faithful preacher of the Gospel, and one who had been a great influence on my life growing up and also in my early days of being a Christian). But I was without Christ!
That’s a condition, the gravity of which I came to realise in no uncertain way. A combination of faithful Gospel preaching, faithful Sunday school teachers and Bible class leaders, and Christians who witnessed to me whenever I went into work caused me to think. I had thoughts as a young teenage boy. While I didn’t want the Christian life, I knew that I was lost. I knew that I was a sinner. I knew that I was going to Hell. I would lie in bed at night and think about it , and be scared of going to sleep and maybe waking up in Hell.
I began to get interested enough to secretly read the Bible – and when I came across passages that dealt with the Judgement of God. I was concerned. I knew that I should become a Christian. I was afraid. And this was a genuine fear.
I thought that if I were to become a Christian, oh yes, my soul would be saved, but what a miserable life I would have to live. I was mistaken of course. And then I was afraid of something else. The fellas and girls that I "palled" around with – what would they say ? And all of this was working in my mind. But I knew that I was without Christ, and condemned. I didn’t need to have it preached to me. The Lord was working in my life. I knew that I was a sinner, and I knew that I was in great danger.
There used to be an old quarry which inn the middle of winter would occasionally freeze up. I and others- fools that we were would skate on top of it, and I couldn’t even swim at that time – not that being able to swim would have done me much good. Every time I think if it yet, there’s a chill comes over me when I think of what could have happened to me if that ice gave way. God in His Mercy spared me that the ice didn’t break.
SALVATION - THE EXPERIENCE
I was 17 years old. Two months off my 18th birthday. But the time was coming whenever things were going to change. Whenever conversion comes – regeneration – there will always be a change.
“….if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ( 2nd Corinthians 5:17)
Something was about to take place in my life – when I would not be condemned any longer, when I would not be out of Christ any longer – but I would be IN Christ – it was the time of my conversion.
“…now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the Blood of Christ.” ( Eph 2:13)
"THE LORD HAD BEEN WORKING WITH ME"
Let me say a word about the experience, and then the effects. It was Saturday night. In those days (and a lot of people around my age will remember that ), the only two things that the ungodly would have done apart from frequenting the Pubs, was normally either go to the dance or go to the cinema, or maybe even go to both. It was a time for dances or picture houses.
That particular night, I went to Lurgan (the Town Hall – there were dances there). But throughout the evening I wasn’t happy. I think there were a combination of factors. One of them was, the Lord had been working with me. I was feeling “flu-ish.” I was becoming unwell. And I just had lost the taste for the whole evening, and I headed home early. And I remember going up to our house and couldn’t get into bed soon enough- I felt wretched.
"THINGS ARE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT" !!
The next night, (the Sunday night),I had been lying in bed – thinking – thinking about the things of God – thinking about salvation. And I can remember it as well - getting out of bed at about 10.30 that night, in the little back room – kneeling on the floor (no carpet, just oilcloth they called it, and a rug). I cannot remember the exact words that I used, but I do remember calling upon the Lord to save me, and me yielding to Him, putting my trust in Him as Saviour.
I remember getting back into bed …. I remember saying “whenever I go back to work things are going to be different”. Little did I know just how different they would be. It was not to happen all at once. But I knew the change had taken place. I was in Christ. He had saved me.
I am thankful tonight that I was never plagued by doubts about the Bible. Probably, it was a home upbringing, an evangelical Church, there never were any doubts cast upon the Bible. I was just simple enough (thank God for it), to believe that this is God’s Word, it had to be revered, and everything in it is true. And I believe it tonight with more conviction. It was a simple matter in one sense – just to let go of everything, to put all the fears to one side, and say “Lord, I want to be saved, and I want to be sure about it, irrespective of the consequences.“
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU
It can happen to you. Could I ask you– has God been working in your heart in recent times ? You’ve maybe felt like asking questions, but you’re afraid maybe to show your ignorance. Never be afraid of that. It it’s about the Bible, if it’s about your soul, ask and ask and ask until you get satisfaction. Are there queries ? Are there problems standing in your way ? Have you thought really about becoming a Christian – but there’s this insurmountable obstacle in your path ? Listen –
“….seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. “ (Matthew 6:33)
God will make a way for you. Are you thinking that by being good, by being religious, self-righteous, you can become a Christian?. Listen, there is only ONE Saviour – the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not a minister, it’s not a sacrament, it’s not a Church (even an evangelical Church !) – there is no Saviour, but the Lord Jesus Christ only!, who died on the Cross at Calvary, and He could not be the Saviour without doing that. The very word “Saviour” indicates He came to provide salvation for His people. And in order to do that, He had to die for them and shed His precious Blood on the Cross at Calvary.
SALVATION - THE EFFECTS
I went back into bed that night, and I never slept like it –(flu and all !)- for a long, long time ! I had peace. I had joy in my heart, I had pardon, I had forgiveness, I was saved, I would never be in Hell, I was accepted with God – and all of these things, and many more, that you can have, if you will only turn from your sin and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour too.
Something else happened – regular reading of the Scriptures, meaningful praying, (prayer became something real), and a desire for Church and Christian fellowship. Church took on a new meaning. I found my way to the Christian Endeavour. I found my way to the Wednesday night prayer meeting. I then came to the early morning Wednesday prayer meeting, and then to the Friday night prayer meeting. Not all at once, of course, but over the first two to or three years.
YES ! GOD WILL TAKE YOU !
I’m glad I came to Christ when I was relatively young. I’m glad, more importantly, that He saved me, when He did. Let Him have the praise and glory for it. You might say, “Preacher, I’m not a seventeen or eighteen year old…..will He take me ? “ Yes! He will take you !
“Come, every soul by sin oppressed, there’s Mercy with the Lord.
And He will surely give you rest by trusting in His Word.
Only trust Him ! He will save you now ! ”
Would you not come to Him ? Whatever’s left of your life – use it in His service. And whether it’s forty years, or forty days, or whatever, at least you’ll be a Christian, you’ll love the Saviour, you’ll stand for Him, you’ll associate with Him, you’ll identify with Him, you’ll worship Him, and serve Him. And while the circumstances may be different from mine or anybody else’s, we’ll all have this one thing in common – we saw ourselves as guilty, Hell-deserving sinners, and that Christ was our only hope, and the Lord Jesus was willing to save us, and he saved us as we turned from our sin, and put our faith in Him.
“….whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
DON'T LEAVE IT A MINUTE LONGER
Would you come to Him? Don’t leave it a minute longer. Don’t leave it too late. Get saved tonight (now!), friend. Those misconceptions that I had, (that I would have no joy in the Christian life) - it was a lie from the devil ! I found, soon after I was converted.
“None but Christ can satisfy, none other name for me.
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
“…..I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. “ (John 10:10)
You’ll find the same, if you’ll come to Him now, and, if you’re a backslider, or a half-hearted Christian, would you not re-dedicate your life to the Saviour in this service, what a time it will be for you too !
".. always abounding in the work of the Lord..." 1Cor15:58