Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Ex Drug Addict Meets the Puritans

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on March 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

Recently I have been asked to reflect upon my conversion to Christ. I was a resident in a Christian drug rehab located in a homeless shelter. The date was January of 1994. The rehab director was a Baptist pastor who was between churches. We were forced to attend Bible Class for three hours a day. This particular day he was teaching on the “great exchange at Calvary.” How our sins were imputed to Christ. How he bore our shame and guilt. How He gives us His own righteousness. My eyes were opened. I believed and was saved. The change that followed was wonderful. I spent the next nine months reading my Bible and writing sermons (thankfully, most were never preached!). A controversy arose among the other residents.  They were asking, “What happened to Mike?”  We had an open discussion among the 20 or so men who professed to be Christians. I remember one man suggesting that I had accepted Jesus as Lord while the others had only accepted Him as Savior. Sadly, most of these men would return to prison, other drug rehabs, or repeat the program several more times.

After completion of the program, I was hired by the mission and given a weekly stipend of 25 dollars each week. In addition to that stipend I was given free housing, food, and clothing. I had the southeast corner of a small room shared with five other men. What a joy! My own place! I decorated it with paintings donated to the mission and I hung a small bookshelf on the southern wall. The director had introduced me to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, and MacArthur, through whom I found the puritans. Every Wednesday (my day off), I walked to Baker Bookstore to purchase a puritan reprint (they had a small ‘puritan theology’ section). These men opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. Their vocabulary, manner of expressions, and passionate style of writing intoxicated me. Their deep thinking, mingled with devotion and practice, humbled and stretched me. Men such as Charnock, Edwards, Owen, Watson, Bunyan, and Flavel, soon became my closest friends.

Soon after this, I came across an old Chapel Library Tape Catalog. I randomly chose a preacher named A.N. Martin (I liked the sound of his name). I called and ordered 11 tapes. A week later the tapes came. I was so excited. The first sermon I played was, What’s Wrong with Preaching Today? Wow! This man preached like the puritans wrote! Every week I ordered 10 more tapes, waiting every Wednesday afternoon for the mailman to come. The sight of him unsettled me. Would he have my yellow package of treasure? If so, I would rush my bundle to my corner of the room, and there pour its contents on my bed. I would handle each tape, reading and rereading its title. I have often reflected on this strange scene—an ex-drug addict, living in a corner of a room, with no possessions but a few tapes and books. How odd I must have looked. In the eyes of many (including my roommates), I had nothing. However, to me I had everything.

This was the first year of my Christian life, the puritans, and A.N. Martin! This was what I needed. Not theology with a slang. Not theology for drug addicts. Not theology for the homeless—but theology for Christians. This was 16 years ago. A lot has changed. I now have more puritan books and Pastor Martin tapes. Yet in another sense, little has changed—outside my Bible (not denying the benefit I continue to receive from many contemporary authors), I need little more. What more would you expect from an ex drug addict who met the puritans!

Mike Waters, Pastor
Heritage Reformed Baptist Church
North Canton, OH
  1. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved such wretches as we!

  2. Great testimony. It was a blessing! I often tell our people something to the effect that “Five years from now, there will be someone sitting among us worshipping our God with us that you NEVER would suspect at the moment.”

  3. Steve – Amen – kind of like Saul of Tarsus showing up at the church in Jerusalem to worship with them? Who would have ever thought it? God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think!

  4. Thanks Pastor Mike: The Chapel Library part of this puzzle of your testimony is something I was not aware of before. Believe it or not, I was drawn to A W Pink initially because I found his name interesting. I read a lot of A W Pink and then in 1984 I looked over the Trinity Pulpit Catalog and Al Martin’s sermons that I had just received in the mail. I was in New York City at the time.

    I had always thought that if there was going to be a church that taught what A W Pink was writing about, it would have the titles I found in that old catalog. There were such sermons as “hell” 10 sermons, “Searching Questions, Are you in a state of Grace?” and the parable of the sower, 14 sermons on the Sin of Achan, and a number of sermons on “he that covereth his sin will not prosper.” not to mention the 116 messages on “Here We Stand.”

    I thought that this certainly would have been the type of church that A W Pink would have attended. A few months later I was attending the church as Pastor Martin was going through the book of Mark. I well remember that the second sermon he preached when I attended was “A Divine Prohibition of the Sin of Murmuring,” he had taken a break from Mark to deal with a concern in the church.

    I got introduced real fast. But then there was the Trinity Book Store and the great prices, 49.95 for either the 6 volumes of Brooks or Flavel, 36.95 for the works of Jonathan Edwards, 59.95 for the volumes of John Newton, and even Owen’s works for 99.95. I bought two books each week minimum for over a year. The first book I purchased was called “Revival” by Jonathan Edwards and it contained three titles. I came across A Narrative of Surprising Conversions” and I ate it up.

    What is more amazing, the whole 18 months I was at T B C in Montville, I was only under awakening, I was never actually saved.
    Well Pink and the Puritans made me search to the bottom. Especially Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted and Shepard’s Parable of the 10 Virgins. I never had a settled assurance for 2 more years, helped a lot by reading the Gospel of John and the Trinity Hymnal. When I shared my testimony with Pastor Martin, he knew of my three year struggle, he was very cautious to give me a false hope. Like Jonathan Edwards the proof of my conversion would be in my perseverance. By the way, there are some of Al Martin’s sermons – this is no exaggeration – I have heard 50 times. Anyone who can drive us to Christ we feel indebted to, and he still does that 25 years later!

    Thomas – Michigan

  5. I agree Thomas. Al Martin is our modern day “Prince of Preachers” and only eternity will show the full measure of the fruit of his ministry.

  6. Amazing grace is right! If it wasn’t for His grace we would all continue in our sin! Praise His name!!

  7. And I am glad to call you friend and brother…God bless you and the family.

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