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Michael Durham's Testimony

I was born in Springfield, Mo. to Paul and Wanda Durham. At age 15 I began preaching in one of the world’s largest Pentecostal denominations, the Assemblies of God. I attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo and graduated in 1981. In the same year I was united in marriage to Karen Perry. We have been blessed with three wonderful children, Shelby, Joseph and Victoria.

At the age of 25, while pastoring my second church, the Holy Spirit convinced me to the fact I had never been converted. Even though a pastor, I was a prisoner to deep and dreadful sin. I had tried everything to find freedom, but was never successful. I was like the Pharisees of whom Jesus had said, “for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”(Matthew 23:27) One day while reading Romans 6:6-7 my deception was exposed, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”

The words pierced my heart as I realized I had never experienced freedom against the tyranny of sin. I had not experienced the saving grace and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, although I had grown up in church and had a successful ministry for over ten years, according to the world’s standards. My trust had been placed in a prayer I had prayed at the age of five, and not in the merciful substitutionary death of Christ. Even though I had an intellectual understanding of the Bible and the gospel so that I could preach to others, I was still bound by sin. My faith had been placed in my ability to perform a righteousness that God would find acceptable, thus I felt God would reward me with mercy.

Like any who go about to establish their own righteousness, sin will triumph and lead deeper into bondage. By no works will one be saved but Christ’s.1 The sinner’s attempt to keep the law of God acknowledges the law is perfect. But the very law, which he tries to keep, only exposes his or her inability to keep it.2

Therefore, as deeper into sin’s slavery I fell, a despair of never being saved terrorized my mind. Leaving the ministry and everything I had lived for, I found myself now living out the life of the prodigal son. I felt more certain of hell, than I had ever felt certain about heaven. The worthiness of judgment pursued and plagued me so that I was often puzzled by the mercy of God. What was He waiting for? Why had God not already sent me to the torments of the damned? Certainly, I deserved whatever judgment God would dispense.

Early the morning of December 1, 1986, I arose to pray. Having no hope except that God would take mercy on me, I cried out for deliverance from myself and from sin. I describe these countless prayers as arguments with God, which I could never win. I told the Lord I knew I was deserving of hell, since He was infinite in His justice. God’s justice demanded perfect satisfaction. Such satisfaction required me to suffer punishment for my rebellion. But on this particular day, the light of grace penetrated the spiritual darkness of my mind. The Lord spoke, “That is why I sent My Son to die on the cross, to take the punishment of your sin.” At that moment His loving grace was so real. Christ was presented in His substitutionary role as the one who satisfied the righteous justice of God so that mercy could be extended to the believing sinner.3

Looking back, the problem was my heart never understood the gospel before this day. I never believed Christ loved me personally and died for me. Full of pride, I thought I was too unlovable to be loved by such a holy God. In my mind, my case was far beyond the willingness of God to do anything about it. I believed that Christ had died for the world, but I never saw myself as an object of God’s love until that day. The Holy Spirit made the death of Christ personal to me.4

From that moment deliverance from sin’s bondage occurred. Habits and perversions, which had shackled my life, were gone. A new creation was created.5 With time as I began to study the Bible many questions were raised. Questions concerning some of the Pentecostal distinctives I had accepted as a youth and adult. The Holy Spirit began to challenge my soteriology and understanding of grace. Within two years I began to discover that what I now believed about many doctrines were no longer Pentecostal but Baptistic. In 1990 I was baptized at First Baptist Church, Paducah, Ky. The Lord opened up doors for preaching mainly in revivals and Bible conferences. In November of 1993 I accepted the call as pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church. In 1995 we launched a new ministry called Living Priorities. It began as a radio broadcast and has expanded to include, Internet and publishing mediums. In 2008 Living Priorities became Real Truth Matters, which currently has two full-time staff.

In January 2017 after a year of prayer and counsel, I resigned the pastorate of Oak Grove and went full-time with RTM as an evangelist, conference speaker, and author. The journey that the Lord has set me upon has been a journey of grace. The journey has a destination, and that end has been determined and secured by an omnipotent God that always keeps His promises and finishes what He begins.

1 Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

2 Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.

3 Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

4 Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

5 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

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