Testimony of Matthew Black
My Life Before Christ
The helicopter flew quickly from St. Francis Hospital near the south side of Chicago with two tiny premature twin babies. God is real. I know for a fact because He gave me life. My twin sister and I were born (May 22, 1974) two and a half months premature and weighed only 2 and a half pounds each. We should not have lived! We were flown in the helicopter at the age of one hour old to Ignatius Loyola University Medical Center where our lives were saved. By the time I was four years old I made several trips to the hospital, including open heart surgery. Certainly my life was spared in each of these events, but why? I believe it is because God had ordained a plan for my life!
I was raised in Oak Forest Illinois where I heard the Gospel from the youth pastor, Mike Harding at Oak Forest Baptist Temple (Dr. Bill Schroeder was the pastor). Pastor Schroeder and Pastor Harding evangelized my mom and my brother, and suddenly I was riding a bus to church on Sundays and hearing the gospel!
When I was 8 years old, my mom divorced my dad. I moved about 800 miles away from my dad, with my twin sister, Tammie, and my mom. My mother was working most of the time, so my sister and I had very little supervision. By the time I was 14 I had been arrested on several occasions for drinking alcohol as a minor, stealing a car, and doing drugs. I had run away from home, and was in a rock band singing and playing the guitar. I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day when I had the money to buy them.
At that time I thought I had everything. I could feel good anytime with a drink, and I had fun playing music with my band. But the real truth is that I was empty on the inside. I tried to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think about reality. I caused a lot of problems for my family by running away and living in a rebellious way.
How I Came to Know Christ
Then, on September 12, 1989, as a sophomore in high school, I was invited to a meeting. There were thousands of young people there. It was at a large college auditorium, and the place was packed!
A man (Pastor Keith Craft, keithcraft.org/) got up and spoke to us that night. “No matter what your situation in life, you need God,” he said, “– you need Jesus Christ.” He said that we all have sinned, lied, and done wrong things in our life, and that no person on earth deserves to go to heaven. That night I knew why God had spared my life so many times. The speaker said that Christ died personally for me, – that if I was the only sinner on earth He would have gladly died for me. That night, I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ for my eternal salvation. My sin was placed on Jesus and His righteousness was given to me. I turned from my sin in a radical way. I began attending an Assemblies of God church and going to Bible studies.
My Life Since I Came to Know Christ
My faith was brand new, but everyone at school saw the change in me. I would bring my Bible to school and even sing praise songs during lunch and at the end of classes (this was at Ponchatoula High School in Louisiana). My mother died in Jan 1990, just three months after my conversion. At that time, a Southern Baptist youth pastor, made contact with me because he had known my mom. His name was Keith Ivey, and he began to disciple me one on one at Immanuel Baptist Church of Hammond, Louisiana. My faith and growth began to skyrocket. I did forsake old friends who were taking me down the wrong path, and I began to find new friends who were brothers in Christ.
Shortly after that, I moved back to Chicago to live with my dad where I found a faithful Gospel church and enrolled at Oak Forest Christian Academy, graduated, and then went on to college (graduating in 1996), the mission field (serving with Baptist World Mission from October 1997 – December 2005), and then the pastorate (where I have served since January 2006).
God’s church has been central to my faith and growth in Christ. Whether in Louisiana, Chicago, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, or Spain, the local church has always been my “forever family.” They are my mothers, and my fathers and my brothers and sisters.
I continue to struggle against sin, but daily live in faith and repentance. Humility is the first fruit of walking with God. By His grace He has granted me a new heart that trembles before God. He continues to convict me of sin and to grant repentant faith, and to send His Spirit’s assurance into my heart, whereby I constantly cry, “Abba, Father.” I am convinced that Bible knowledge alone cannot help me. I must have the constant assistance and filling of the precious Holy Spirit as I abide with Christ and commune with the Father. I am stumbling forward by God’s grace alone. As John Newton, the former slave ship captain turned pastor, who wrote Amazing Grace, said: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” Praise God, I’ll never be what I once was. I’m God’s child by God’s grace! All glory and honor and blessing and praise be to Jesus.
My Confession of Christ
Jesus Christ is my God. He is my Christ and the King of the cosmos. I tremble before Him and “kiss the Son” (Psa. 2:12). Jesus is my righteousness. Jesus satisfies the righteous wrath and justice for my sin. He is my confidence on the Day of Judgment. I have full assurance that I will be accepted by the Father because of the blood of Jesus Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit. He has made me part of His new creation. I rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He is my God. Before Abraham, He said, “I AM.” He is my all and all. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
My wife is not my savior, my church is not my savior, my calling as a minister is not my savior, my theology is not my savior, my righteousness is certainly not my savior. I have one Savior and Lord and Master, and I confess that His Name is the name above all other names: that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess His Lordship as YHWH.
Matt with his family