For the next couple of weeks I am disconnecting from the Internet as I usually do around this time of year. I have scheduled some posts for you which works through my testimony.
One of the things about a blog is that it is, by its very nature, a very personal thing. You meet not just a set of ideas, but a person. A few years ago I set about sharing the brief story of my life with you. In some ways it feels like a strange thing to do, which is probably why I never completed it!
But, I do think that knowing a bit more about my background will help you understand my blogging better and to know where I am coming from. Therefore I have decided to repost and expand that series, and this time I am determined to finish it.
I hope this whole series will be a long testimony to the grace of God.
To begin at the beginning, I was fortunate enough to be born to Christian parents. In fact, the story goes back further than that since on both sides my grandparents (and I think their parents going back several generations) were all Christians. They all went to solid Evangelical non conformist churches—in the case of my father’s parents the Open Brethren.
My grandfather, Edwin Millington Warnock, lost his father when he was relatively young, and later told my uncle he had been called into his dying father’s room to be told of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” He was encouraged to make that something of a life verse.
That passage from Proverbs has been precious to my family–it was mentioned at my Uncle’s wedding and I followed that tradition, and also had the reference inscribed on the inside of my wedding ring. It is truly something you can build your life on.
My grandfather became a tent preacher and was involved in Rutherglen giving lantern shows in the Evangelical church there. He drove around the Scottish countryside with a tent and set it up to preach. Then he felt called to come to pagan England and share the Gospel. He came to Suffolk and preached there.
In village after village Edwin Warnock was involved in helping to establish local assemblies. These groups aimed to reflect biblical doctrine and practice. They had elders, body ministry, and believer’s baptism. He spoke of going where God called him to preach. In fact he left the Counties Evangelists when they told him that he had to focus on just one County rather than be free to follow that leading from the Lord
Sadly, by the time I was old enough to remember him, he was suffering from Parkinson’s and dementia. He would rarely say anything much, but we enjoyed playing hand games with him. I only have one vivid memory of him, which I will describe later.
My father and his brothers have all preached, some more than others. So much so that there is one church that, including my cousins and I, has had seven Warnocks preaching there over the years. My other grandfather was also a preacher and served for a while as an elder in a church.
The extended family was a little concerned about my parents, however, as when I was very young, one day my Dad had been intrigued to see another tent erected for a Christian meeting near where they lived. He attended that meeting, which turned out to be the Capel Bible Week— which was an early British hotbed for the dreaded “charismatics.”
Later when we moved from Billingshurst to Haywards Heath they would meet a group of young adults who had been required to leave an Evangelical church because they spoke in tongues. Dad and Mum agreed to join this group while Nigel Ring began to form a new church with the help of visits from a young pastor called Terry Virgo. This was really the first Newfrontiers church, though we didn’t call it that at the time.
At the age of about four, one Good Friday I asked my dad, “Why is it called Good Friday?” Dad answered, “Because Jesus died.” I couldn’t understand that and asked how could it be good if someone died? I even asked him why it wasn’t bad Friday and good Sunday!
My father told me that God would one day punish everyone for all the wrong they had done. Some people say it will be as though a video screen plays back all those hidden things we have said, done, or even thought. The whole universe will see, nothing will be kept secret, and the Bible says that all will be made to pay for their wrongdoing.
The message my father explained simply to me that day is a radical one, cutting our respectability to the core. We all stand deserving punishment from a holy God. What do we and this perfect God have in common? Even if we would search the world for an answer to the problem of our guilt before God, we would find none that satisfactorily deals with the guilt we secretly all feel, other than the one my father went on to describe.
Jesus was perfect and did no wrong. He was punished in our place. Because of this you can know that God has forgiven you. The video can be wiped clean. You can be let off. There is a way out. And, because he rose from the dead, Jesus is living and active and wants to have a relationship with us today.
I immediately knew that I wanted to become a Christian that day. But, of course, the moment I decided to follow Jesus was just the beginning of my story, and although it was almost my earliest memory, there is no doubt that it changed the rest of my life. I never regretted that choice, and thanks to God’s hand of restraint on me, I never really wandered away from that faith. God allows some people a longer leash than others. I had a very short leash, for which I am eternally grateful.