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THE TRUE FACTS OF MY OWN CONVERSION
By Herbert W. Armstrong
Continuing from the April number, "Conversion: Sudden Experience or Lifelong Process?" Nearly everyone is mixed up on this matter of personal salvation. It's made plain in this article.
A age 16 I became filled with AMBITION. I was on my first summer job away from home. My employer put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Herbert, you're going to make a great success in the world. You have unusual talents and abilities-if you'll just put them to work. I have great confidence in you. It will mean continuous study all your life, hard work, diligence- but you've got it in you, and I know you'll make it."
True or not, I believed him. I was fired with ambition-and ambition is the DESIRE, plus the willpower to DRIVE oneself on to accomplishment. This also automatically generated within me great SELF-CONFIDENCE. I KNEW I could! I was DETERMINED I WOULD!
Now wasn't this a fine thing to arouse in a boy of 16? Wasn't it a fine way for a boy to start out in life? We shall see!
Choosing a Vocation
At 18 I ran across a book in the Des Moines (where I was born and brought up) Public Library. Its title was Choosing a Vocation. I took the book out on my library card. It took me through a thorough self-analysis of talents, aptitudes, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, faults to be overcome, likes and dislikes. It took me also through a thorough analysis of the differing requirements of various vocations, professions, businesses and jobs. I felt I was choosing skillfully. I chose ADVERTISING and JOURNALISM as my life profession.
And I went at it with zest and enthusiasm. I chose my own jobs. First I started in want ads on a daily newspaper. I didn't ask for a job-I just told the want-ad manager 1 was going to work for him. I used my head on the job. I worked hard, at a fast pace. Soon I was taking so much advertising away from the old Register Leader, the leading want-ad medium that they tried to hire me away from the Evening Capital at $2 per week higher salary.
Then I decided to spend three years with the Merchants' Trade Journal, largest trade journal in the U.S. Again I "hired myself a job." They didn't need any help. But with assurance, confidence, enthusiasm and some salesmanship, I got the job. With them I wrote advertising copy, studied style in writing; I toured the United States as an editorial representative. In my articles 1 pioneered the public opinion polls which led to all of today's polls, from Gallup, Harris, and on to dozens of others.
Then I opened an office in the Loop in Chicago (heart of the downtown district) as a publishers' representative for all the leading bank journals. For the next seven years in this business I had my chief contacts with the presidents and board chairmen of the largest banks of South La Salle Street, and of New York, as well as the heads of the largest industrial corporations. Goodyear Tire and Rubber, J.I. Case, John Deere & Co. and Avery Co. were among my clients. I threw myself into constant contact with the top and most successful men-as part of my own learning and preparation for future success. I was making, on the equivalent of today's dollar value, an income of about $150,000 per year, with very minor expenses.
I was married in 1917 at age 25. In a few weeks' time, my wife had a most unusual dream in which it was revealed to her by an angel that God had an important commission for me and that Christ was coming soon. I didn't take it seriously, though I suggested she tell it to the pastor of the church on the nearest corner to our flat, to see if he could make anything of it. It soon passed from mind. I was not a bit religious at that time.
After this, the flash depression of 1920 literally swept my business away.
In 1924 we drove a Model T Ford from Des Moines to the Pacific Northwest. Packed into that little car with all our luggage, tent and sleeping equipment were my wife and I and our two daughters, my wife's brother Walter Dillon, and her unmarried sister Bertha. There were no paved highways in 1924. Just dirt, mud and gravel roads. No motels-but camps and a few empty barnlike pioneer "motels." They were called "cabins." The trip took ; 18 days.
Immediately, I sold my services as a merchandising specialist to the Vancouver (Washington) Columbian for six months at one-third of the entire payroll.
Following this I started an advertising service for laundries-semi-syndicated. It was tremendously successful from the start. We were DOUBLING the volume of business of our clients within six months to a year. Just as it promised to go national into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, an advertising agency in Indianapolis talked the Laundry Owners' National Association into a large advertising campaign, cooperated in by ALL laundries throughout the nation, that completely absorbed the allowable advertising expenditure of every laundry. They were so well organized that the National Association was able to bind every laundry to it.
Again, through no fault of mine, my business was swept right out from under me-and there was nothing I could do about it.
It was precisely at this time that my wife suddenly took up "religious fanaticism." She began keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. This seemed the most terrible thing that had ever happened in my life. I was proud. Immediately the thought came, "What would my former business associates and contacts think when they heard my wife had gone into religious fanaticism?" I tried to talk her out of it. She said she got it out of the Bible.
"But the Bible says, Thou shall keep SUNDAY," I insisted.
"Wherever does it say that?" she asked.
"Well, I don't know where, but I know that's what it says because all these churches observe SUNDAY, and they get their religion out of the Bible, don't they? I don't understand the Bible myself, but I know all these churches can't be wrong."
But argument was no use.
"Prove to me, by the Bible, that Sunday is the right day, and I'll go back to it," was her firm and unshakable CHALLENGE. Like it or not, I was in for a real intensive Bible study-the deepest, most thorough research of my life.
About the same time a young sister-in-law, just out of her freshman year of college, challenged me on evolution. She had been inoculated with the theory in college.
"Herbert Armstrong, you are simply IGNORANT," she accused. Business reverses had cut deeply into my pride, confidence and ego, but her contemptuous accusation cut more deeply into what was left of it.
I want to intervene at this point to record that these business reverses-having big-income businesses suddenly literally swept right out from under my feet by circumstances entirely beyond my control and through no fault of mine-had brought me to a very low level in morale. I was like King Midas in reverse. Everything he touched turned to gold, you remember, but everything I started was snatched out from under me as if by unseen magic. It was FRUSTRATING!
Little did I realize that God was now dealing with me.
The TIME HAD COME! It was autumn 1927. We had reached the beginning Of the LAST GENERATION of this present world-the beginning of the generation during which the eternal Creator God is going to supernaturally INTERVENE in this world, take over all earth's governments, and reestablish the rule of the Kingdom of God on earth to rule all nations.
Gospel of the Kingdom
Jesus Christ had come 1900 years before and ANNOUNCED the future coming of His KINGDOM. That announcement was His gospel.
Jesus Christ did not then come on a "soul-saving crusade." He came with the message of the reestablishment on earth of that GOVERNMENT OF GOD. But even those who "believed on Him" did NOT believe WHAT HE SAID-His MESSAGE (John 8:30-45). There were only 120 believers after 3 1/2 years of Christ's preaching to countless THOUSANDS (Acts 1:15). And believe it or not, His gospel message-which was the ANNOUNCEMENT of the coming KINGDOM OF GOD- was SUPPRESSED and not allowed to be preached in public by A.D. 68. (Gal. 1:6-7; Rom. 1:18 [should read "hold back the truth"]; II Cor. 11:4).
Christ's gospel of the Kingdom of God (the family of God ruling the world) was replaced by: 1) The claim that the church (Catholic) was the Kingdom, already here.
2) The doctrine of the Trinity which did away with the HOLY SPIRIT as the Spirit of God that can by His GIFT actually come INTO us, begetting us with eternal life as His children.
3) The idea that Christ abolished the LAW of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD.
All through the centuries since around A.D. 68-70, false gospels have been preached. The WHOLE WORLD has been DECEIVED (Rev. 12:9). The true Church virtually went underground. The true gospel had to be taught secretly-not publicly to the world. But by autumn 1927, we had arrived at the time of the generation during which the KINGDOM OF GOD will be established; Christ shall come in ALMIGHTY POWER AND GLORY and rule the world.
It will mark the END of this world. It will bring in the happy, joyous, PEACEFUL WORLD TOMORROW.
The time had come when God wanted the imminent coming of His KINGDOM ANNOUNCED.
And He was calling me for that PURPOSE!
Search for Truth
I was angered by this DOUBLE challenge-my wife's and my sister-in-law's-into the most intensive study and research of my life.
But I wanted ALL THE FACTS on BOTH SIDES. I wanted the TRUTH!
I delved through Darwin, Haeckel, Huxley, Lyell, Lamarck-all the foremost advocates of evolution. I went into Genesis THOROUGHLY. I used all the commentaries, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, religious encyclopedias, concordances-all the Bible helps. I sought for and obtained all the literature I could AGAINST the Sabbath. But proof had to come from the Bible. I entered into the first real study of the Bible of my life.
I was literally STUNNED when I saw, in Romans 6:23, that the penalty for sin is DEATH! Since childhood, in Sunday school, I had been brought up to believe the penalty for sin is ETERNAL LIFE-in hellfire- a fire that continues burning FOREVER, but never burns up. Then the latter half of the same verse: "... but the GIFT of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord." That completely floored me! Always I had been taught I already had eternal life; I was an immortal soul. And did not my church get its teaching from the Bible? Surely all these churches couldn't be wrong!
But there it was in PLAIN LANGUAGE-in the Bible! I was dumbfounded to read, TWICE, in the Bible: "The SOUL that sinneth, IT SHALL DIE" (Ezek. 18:4,20).
Then I read: "The ETERNAL GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and MAN [dust of the ground] BECAME a living SOUL" (Gen. 2:7). The SOUL, then, came from the ground and is MORTAL. God said to our first parents that if they took of the forbidden fruit, they would SURELY DIE. But they did not believe WHAT GOD SAID. Satan said they would NOT die-that is, they were immortal souls-and they believed Satan as mankind has ever since.
I give you this one illustration out of many to show you that I found clear evidence with my own eyes, in the Bible, that "all these churches CAN be wrong"; that they do not get their teachings from the Bible, but in most basic truths are DECEIVED into teaching precisely the OPPOSITE of the Bible.
I PROVED evolution untrue. For a while I believed it-as long as I studied Darwin; and especially Haeckel, Huxley and such advocates, without looking at the other side of the coin. And when I did clearly examine the other side, which included an IN-DEPTH study of the Bible, I PROVED evolution to be a FALSE THEORY-an actual FABLE that has DECEIVED the whole intellectual and "educated" world!
I PROVED the existence of GOD as Creator, Designer, Giver and Source of LIFE, and the basic Source Of all RIGHT KNOWLEDGE.
Most Important Commission
Further, I PROVED to my own satisfaction that the HOLY BIBLE as originally written is the infallible REVELATION of basic KNOWLEDGE from GOD-in other words, the infallible Word of God.
And I found in it the MISSING DIMENSION IN KNOWLEDGE-undiscovered by science, never revealed by religion unknown and untaught by higher education! By the "missing dimension in knowledge," I mean the answers to questions such as, Who are we? Why are we? Where are we going? What is the way? Why can't we have world peace?
WHAT HAD HAPPENED?
I didn't realize it then, but God was now calling me to prepare me for the MOST IMPORTANT COMMISSION in more than 1900 years!
But WHY ME?
It seemed absurd-it still does now-for I did not fully realize the full force of what was happening then. I have known hundreds of men greater than I-with better minds, more capacity of mind, stronger personalities, greater ability-and YET, GOD HAS CHOSEN NONE OF THEM!
WHY? As I look back over the years at what GOD has done through me, I shake my head in bewildered disbelief. But God did prepare me. He brought me down low. He took away all that built-up false pride, self-confidence, cocksureness, vanity, desire for material rewards.
What very few realize is that GOD does not choose men as people do. God does not call to His service the GREAT, but the humble-or those He can reduce until they become humble.
God says: "For ye see your calling [to His service], brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish [those who seem so to men] things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world..."(I Cor. 1:26-27).
What about the PROUD-as I once was? "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6; I Pet. 5:5). He certainly resisted me, humbled me, brought me ready to accept HIS TRUTH as He now finally revealed it to me.
But do not suppose that I quickly and easily came to admit my wife was right. I spent a solid six months in virtual night-and-day study determined to find the TRUTH. The TRUTH which God did reveal to me is not what I then wanted or was searching for. But in the search I left no stone unturned.
This intensive six-month study was only the beginning. It still continues today in my 85th year. But it took that first six months to bring me to see the basic TRUTH - to see that I had been wrong! To find, for the first time, God's TRUTH. And, as I have said, in -the meantime God was softening me up for the final blow-humbling me, taking away that exalted SELF-confidence and vanity. He was bringing down my morale.
I found that I had to replace SELF-confidence with the NEW CONFIDENCE which is FAITH.
Now came the greatest inner battle of my life.
To accept the TRUTH meant-so I supposed-to cut me off from all former friends, business associates and acquaintances, and all ties to business. It meant GIVING UP all I had my heart set on since age 16.
It meant a TOTAL CHANGE of life. It meant a CHANGE from the "GET" way of this world to the "GIVE" way of God-to God's way of LOVE.
But then, at the same time, I had been beaten down. I had been broken in human spirit, frustrated. I had come to decide that I had entirely overrated myself all these years. I was not the superior person my employer had made me think I was at age 16. I came to acknowledge, "I'm nothing but a burned-out hunk of junk not worthy to be thrown on the junk pile."
Now came my real conversion-or the first beginning phase of it!
In desperation, I threw myself on God's mercy. My life was worth nothing more to me; and I said to God that I knew I had nothing to offer Him, but if He would forgive me, take me as HIS, give me by His grace His Holy Spirit, I would GIVE MYSELF TO HIM for the remainder of my life. If He could put to any use this worthless dreg of humanity, I would accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior, and give what was left of this worthless self to Him!
I was in dead earnest! I MEANT IT! And I still MEAN IT!
Next came an intensive study into biblical teaching about water baptism. I was brought up in a Protestant church that does not believe in water baptism. But I found that I had to be baptized and that there was no PROMISE that I would receive the Holy Spirit until water baptism.
I will cover that and the facts of my receiving the Holy Spirit in the next issue of The Plain Truth.
Questions To Be Answered
Does a sudden physical sensation accompany the, receiving of the Holy Spirit? Must one "speak with tongues" (that is, in some unknown language) to prove he has received the Holy Spirit?
What about all these questions? And once "saved"-having accepted Christ as Savior-are you ALWAYS saved, no matter how you live thereafter?
I repeat the question: Is conversion a sudden EXPERIENCE, or is it a lifelong PROCESS?
I have not yet answered those, questions. I have not yet told you of my EXPERIENCE of receiving the Holy Spirit. There is MUCH MORE TO COME in this series.