Jesus Christ Set Me Free!
by Carolyn Anne Venable
“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:10-12)
After ten years of trying to “attain enlightenment” in a quasi-Buddhist New Age cult, the Lord Jesus Christ dramatically delivered me one miraculous morning out of that very deep religious bondage.
People sometimes ask me how an American got involved in Buddhism in the first place. You have to understand the sixties and its spillover into the seventies. There were a lot of strange things circulating back then that are still adversely affecting our society. But the Lord is still working, too. Hallelujah!
I was born and raised in New Jersey and attended a Roman Catholic Church and school, St. Ladislaus. I believed in God and learned the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments.
One day, when I was about five or so, I stole a 25-cent toy from a department store. I was so convicted by the Holy Spirit that I went home and cried and cried for God to forgive me, which He did.
I came to love Jesus Christ and appreciated His love for me which was demonstrated by His passion and death. I wanted to be the Bride of Christ and live my life for Him. In that Roman Catholic paradigm, the only one I knew, it meant becoming a nun. So I looked into the novitiate program. But as I matured, and after a favorite nun left the convent, I began to doubt that call.
Unfortunately, what we did not learn was a lot of Scripture. No one seemed to give me good answers to some of life’s tough questions. Eventually, I rejected much of what was being taught. Actually, though I did not mentally know this, I was rejecting the religious, man-made traditions. I had experienced much that did not seem motivated by love yet I believed in my heart that God Himself was motivated by love. At one point, I penned a poem “God is Love”. I think this must have been the Holy Spirit because, at that time, I did not know it was Scripture!
When I entered public school in ninth grade, they taught evolution, not as a theory, but as fact. Well, I reasoned, if evolution was true, who needed a Creator? Perhaps God was like Santa Claus, something you tell children, but they eventually grow out of it. I was confused and didn’t know what to think. I walked away from God. I fell sway to the popular worldly thoughts. In my teens, I got involved in astrology and Tarot card-readings and lots of New Age philosophies.
You may be wondering where my parents were. My mother, a saint, died from cancer when I was eight. My father, bless his heart, worried how to provide for five children alone. He remarried. Our new family was somewhat dysfunctional. “If you don’t like it here, leave.” Maybe they didn’t think I would take them at their word, but I did. At the age of sixteen, I moved out and found a room to rent. So I really didn’t have anyone guiding me spiritually. My altruistic tendencies and giftings were channeled into working for “world peace” – a trendy thing to do in the seventies.
That’s what first attracted me to a sect of Japanese Buddhism. They claimed to be able to achieve world peace around the new millennium if one-third of the planet would chant their mantra. They offered some flimsy pseudo-scientific explanation of how chanting put one in “rhythm” with “cosmic energy”. I didn’t believe it. I actually set out to disprove their notion. However, I was unaware of the hypnotic effects of chanting that got me hooked. And I was unaware that witchcraft, which is prevalent in most New Age philosophies, can get results.
Back then, I didn’t realize that there were two spiritual forces at play on planet Earth. I had been seduced into accepting a counterfeit philosophy, but was unaware of the evil behind its supernatural power. Years earlier, I had sought spiritual answers and had gone from church to church looking to fill this need. Yet, those I visited seemed only to offer dry rituals. I knew there was more. While chanting was decidedly very ritualistic, there seemed to be something supernatural about it.
Perhaps many are attracted to New Age religions because they seem to be more “spiritual” than many churches! They provide answers to questions many churches are unwilling to address. Granted, their answers are false, but at least they were answers. Especially susceptible are people with prophetic giftings, the creative people. Until recently, people who experienced dreams and visions and heard things in the spiritual realm were relegated to kooks in the church. Many, who should have become prophets in the church, became psychics in the world. But I digress.
Back then, I didn’t know that chanting was an invitation to demonic spirits. I didn’t know that chants were names of pagan gods. The devil and his hordes were playing mind games with me, which I was interpreting as a spiritual experience. Actually, it was a psychic experience with fallen spirit beings.
In 1978, I moved to Texas where I met and married my husband who was also in this sect. The cult was very evangelistic, their goal being for one-third of the planet to chant. However, Texas also has a lot of born-again Christians. I had never met such ardent believers! A neighbor told me Jesus Christ would return. “That was two thousand years ago!” I replied. Since He hadn’t returned yet, it seemed unlikely that He ever would, I thought.
Sharon continued to pray for me and had her church pray, too. During that time, many of the people I came across turned out to be strong Scripture-reading, born-again believers! Meanwhile, the various Scriptures they quoted to me were penetrating deep inside me.
I decided it might be helpful to read their Scriptures to be better equipped to debate them, but I didn’t want to waste my money on a Bible. One day, in a swanky Dallas hotel, I pulled out the Gideon Bible. (Thank God for the Gideons!) I began reading in Matthew.
Whenever unlearned, naive Christians were lured into our cult meetings, and they asked what we thought about Jesus Christ, we told them that He was an enlightened being, one of many. So, I still gave some weight to His words. I just didn’t know them! So when I read that Jesus had said, “Do not use vain repetitions like the heathen do,” I was curious! Certainly, this mantra I was repeating over and over, sometimes for hours, fit that description. But the Buddhists claimed that chanting was paying for “karma” – their lingo for one’s debt of sin. Why would Jesus specifically denounce chanting? I wrote this Scripture down to ponder later.
Back in Houston, my friend Sharon was still witnessing to me. We discussed Jesus and Buddhism and she gave me a few books to read. One was Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and the other was Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Through the logic of these authors, Christianity now made sense to me but I still viewed it as one of many ‘ways’.
Then one day, my friend Sharon said something to me that shook me to the core: “Jesus loves you.” Three little words, what an impact they had! I remember thinking how nice it could be if I only could believe! But I couldn’t. Yet Sharon had such a peace about her. She had two energetic toddlers as did I. But I had no peace and she did!
My Buddhist leaders told me to chant more. I was already chanting about three hours a day! And then there were all the cult meetings and activities. I felt guilty about neglecting my family.
I realized that for all my efforts to attain enlightenment, I was completely frustrated! It seemed I was on a vicious cycle, getting nowhere. And I started realizing that there was more to this practice than working for world peace. This was a religion! And their scroll was an idol! I don’t know how I didn’t see this from the get-go, except that the chanting was somewhat hypnotic. On one hand they said that the scroll every member enshrined in their home was not an idol and on the other hand the scroll’s name “gohonzon” translated literally as “true object of worship”!
Still I felt compelled to work for “world peace”. One day, in a store, I told the salesman to try the chant. But this salesman knew his Scripture. He told me to try saying “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Well, since I was not happy with my life after almost ten years of chanting, I decided to try his suggestion. I went home and said “Jesus Christ is Lord” three times. “There! I said it!” I waited expectantly for a miraculous flash of lights or something, something supernatural. Nothing. I was a little disappointed.
But God is true and His Word is true!
Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I had believed as a child in my heart. (Years later, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I had actually born-again as a child!) Granted, my mind had been messed up, for sure, but somewhere deep inside, I had believed. Now, I was confessing with my mouth and desperately hoping that God would show me the truth!
A week and a half or so, early one morning, I awoke. (September 1984*) In a vision or something, I saw the face of Jesus Christ! It was not just in my mind, nor was it physical. It was as if I had met with Christ while sleeping and his impression was still lingering. I knew that I had met Jesus and that encounter changed me completely. Moreover, I knew things, even things that I had never been taught. It was as if these revelations were “downloaded” into me, to use a modern term.
In the “twinkling of an eye”, I knew I was a Christian and that Jesus Christ was God! I also knew that He was the Creator of the universe, despite what had been taught to me by evolutionist. I knew that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross atoned for all my sins and there was nothing more that I had to do to go to heaven. I knew that the Word of God was inerrant, a concept not presented to me even in parochial school. Finally, I knew the tremendous love of God. It enveloped me, in an almost tangible way and I was very aware of His Presence. For weeks, I felt like I was walking on clouds, so elated was I! I had never known such love, such joy, and such freedom! The Truth, Jesus Christ, had set me free!
Since that day, I have walked with the Lord. As the old hymn goes, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.”
The Lord has healed me, delivered me, been my song and joy, and done marvelous things in my life! It has not been easy but He has been there! All three of my children are grown now and strong believers. This is surely one of the biggest blessings a mother can know. And my husband, after over twenty years of prayers for him, is also now a believer, too! God is faithful!
I truly repented of my early days with ungodly practices. However, having seen the enemy’s wily ways, I now hope to be a watchman against his insidious infiltration into God’s sheepfold. The Lord often sends to me people who have unknowingly been ensnared by nefarious practices and/or deceptive philosophies. Hence, one of my missions is to now to teach “the difference between the holy and profane.”
To God, be the glory!
See also Seven Down-loads for Scripture on these down-loads.
Songs of Praises to the LORD Most High!
*Thu, 27 September 1984 = 1st of Tishrei, 5745. I was delivered on the Feast of Trumpets/Yom Teruah!