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Foundation Truth, Number 17 (Spring 2007) | Timeless Truths Publications

The testimony given by Joel and Coquetta Erickson at their wedding, October 22, 2005.

Two Young Fools and the Grace of God

Part 1


I grew up in a family with parents who wanted to please the Lord, and who wanted their children to love and obey the Lord, too. But the devil laid out a subtle path for my life, and I took that path. According to my thinking, I was part of a Christian home, and I wanted to do what was right, so therefore I was a Christian. By God’s faithfulness, my conscience would often prick me that I had disobeyed, but I clung to the hope that I was doing the best that could be expected. I was led farther and farther down the path of self-deception through many years.

My parents had attempted the best they knew to instill good character in me, and though this was indeed a benefit to others, and in many ways to me as well, yet what virtues I had were used to convince me that I was doing pretty well. Of course, I sometimes had to admit to myself, there were those ugly places, mostly hidden from the public view, where it seemed I would always fail. But if I tried really hard, I could sometimes master myself and feel like I could claim to be saved. And also, after I had sinned, I would always tell God I was sorry, so everything would be patched up and be okay with Him.

I remember very vividly a certain Sunday school lesson about the binding habits of sin. It was an object lesson, and much to my mortification, I was the victim chosen. First a thread was wrapped around my hands, which was quite easy to break; then a yarn, which took considerable effort to snap, as I recall. But when a thin cord, and then rope, was wound around me, I knew it was hopeless to free myself. Last of all a chain was draped over me, which, in addition to being impossible to break, was also quite heavy to wear. And then, to add insult to injury, my family wanted to take a picture of me wearing all this. The reason my family has never seen that picture is because I made sure to get ahold of it as soon as it was developed, and cut it up into the garbage.

But the very real chains of sin could not be so easily disposed of. And just as surely, they were growing thicker and stronger. Oh, I could move about, but though it sometimes felt like I could be as good as I hoped, just as sure was the bondage of those awful temptations I had little power to resist.

Where was God? Didn’t He love me enough to destroy the chains that held me? But it was my deception that held me, not any short-coming on His part. Through my teenage years, when I occasionally doubted my experience, I would ask God to somehow make it clear to me whether I was saved or not. And though it took time, God was faithful.

One day when I was 18, God made it clear to me. He made it so clear that I could not doubt it. He showed me that I was a sinner being dragged toward hell, and that I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. Except for one thing. To plead that He would save me. I couldn’t even get saved by my effort. All I could do was ask. I had been made so convinced of my sinfulness that I determined I would not delude myself into thinking I was anything other than a sinner until God saved me. And soon I realized I could not stand to be a hypocrite, and so told others that I was lost.

That was a fearful time in my life. Sometimes I would try to pray; others would pray for me. I became thoroughly convinced that I could not find God’s salvation by my efforts alone. I was also thoroughly convinced that there was a life of wonderful grace available, for I saw it in the lives of those around me. I thank God for those examples. But there I was excluded from it all, and I felt very lonely.

Savior sent, still He stands, sacrifice from Heav’n,
Gift so great—do not wait, come and be forgiv’n.*

I had to do my part. I had to want the gift; I had to be willing to receive the gift. There came another day, months later, when the Lord again dealt with my heart and called me to come. I didn’t know what I could do to enable me to be saved. But I saw a fearful choice: if I put off the decision until later, that day might never come, so I willed myself to continue until I got what the Lord had for me. And so others stayed and prayed with me long into the night, until finally by faith I took the Lord at His word that He would forgive me and save me.

God made a way, He sent salvation
To make of man a new creation,
To lay, in Christ, a firm foundation;
Oh, what a wondrous transformation!*

I didn’t experience any wonderful emotions, and my insides didn’t suddenly feel as if they were brand new. In fact, the devil immediately began to suggest that there really wasn’t anything different about me anyway. But I clung to God’s promise, and in the days and weeks that follow, both I and others could see that He had indeed adopted me into His family. Praise the Lord.

But life wasn’t all a bed of roses. I soon found that I had to face and fight those same old temptations that had bound me so long. I had weapons to battle with now, but oh, how distressed I was when I came short of the grace of God and sinned because I did not stay close enough to Him. I would draw near to God and stay close to Him for a time and His saving grace kept me, but sooner or later I would let down my guard. And just as surely would I be smitten by the enemy, for there was still the natural bent within me to be attracted to the temptation. I longed for more grace, to somehow rise above in constant victory, to be free from the hidden root of wrong desires within me. And again I saw examples of such a life in those around me.

Wand’ring through the wilderness,
Oft I stumbled in distress;
Yet by cloud and fiery flame,
Led o’er shimm’ring sands I came.*

Like the children of Israel on the way to the Promised Land, the Lord was guiding me as much as I would let Him. I was on the wheel of the Master Potter, and wanting to be clay that yielded thoroughly to His working. And so gradually one thing and then another was adjusted, and like Much-Afraid on the way to the High Places, I collected memorial stones of consecration.

And then He brought me to Jordan’s bank, and I was bidden to cross over into the land He had willed me for an inheritance. He showed me what I needed to do to be a living sacrifice, and so once more by faith I stepped across the line. And no, there were no fireworks, no cheering crowds to greet me, except perhaps the great cloud of witnesses in heaven. And no, I wasn’t transported into some mystical glow; I was still myself, Joel Amos Erickson. But there was this difference: no longer did an inner voice respond to the temptations. I had entered into the land of spiritual grace and glory where the giants could be destroyed, and where God could work with the clay as it pleased Him. For as the song says, “He’s still working on me.”


I was born to parents that loved each other. They wanted to do what was right. When we were very little we were taught to never go to bed with something between you and God. This stuck with me. I determined to make sure I was always “safe” at night.

I was not exempt from temptations to be naughty and to whine. But I always felt terrible when I knew I had not been nice. I could run into my room or away outside to ask God to forgive me. And He always did.

I was twelve when God began to talk to me about a sin that I fell prey to the most often. He told me it was time to get rid of it. And it did look good to never have to be guilty again because of it. But I put it off. I said I would deal with it later. He would not leave me alone about it. When I was thirteen, He warned me that it would come between Him and me. That someday I would ask forgiveness of Him and He could not grant it. I didn’t like to hear that too much. I wanted my way, and I wanted to have the safety of forgiveness, too.

It happened just like He said. But not so dramatically as I had imagined. My love for God cooled down so much that I couldn’t really ask forgiveness. And of course if we can’t ask, then He will not grant us forgiveness, either. So there I was—unforgiven, and not caring too much.

It was not a good state to be in. And the devil had quite a bit of room to work with me. He finally convinced me that God did not love me, and that I had better find something that satisfied me. So then I turned from the One who loved me the most and severed the last tie of my salvation.

I promise you that it was not the most happy time in my life. It was the darkest. And the most hurtful.

God left me alone pretty much.

And so it was that when He did call to me, I had changed a great deal. “How dark my prison house of sin!”* a song writer said. Amazing that God wanted to visit me there. That He would look into a selfish heart barren of love, for the enemy had carted practically everything of value to his treasure house. I still didn’t really care but for one thing. It was someone I saw every week.

That someone always stirred me one way or another. Either I wanted to get away from his sight, or I wanted to live a better life.

So it was that God used Joel Erickson’s influence when He talked of His ability to help me live a better life. And since we saw each other twice a week, the message repeated itself constantly in my ears. God added to this head seizures which began to get worse and worse. They had the affect of weakening my stubbornness, of which I inherited plenty. :-\

And then at last my stubborn will yielded. I admitted I really would like to be a better person. I prayed like I hadn’t for years that He would have mercy and help me if there was any chance left. It didn’t seem possible until—until—God worked a miracle. A miracle, folks. It is incredible. He changed my heart; I don’t want to sin. He’s freed me from so many harmful habits of thought that I can sing for a thousand years when I get to see Him. He’s helped me enter the path of life, and in His presence is fullness of joy.

The Blessing Bestowed

“With a heart full of anxious request,
Which my Father in heaven bestowed,
I wandered, alone and distressed,
In search of a quiet abode;
Astray and distracted I cried,
“Lord, where would Thou have me to be?”
And the voice of the Lamb that had died
Said, ‘Come, My beloved, to Me.’

“I went—for He mightily wins
Weary souls to His peaceful retreat—
And He gave me forgiveness of sins,
And songs that I love to repeat;
And oft as my enemies came,
My views of His glory to dim,
He taught me to trust in His name—
To triumph by leaning on Him.

“Made pure by the blood that He shed,
My heart in His presence was free;
I was hungry and thirsty—He fed;
I was sick, and He comforted me;
He gave me the blessing complete—
The hope that is with me today—
And a quiet abode at His feet
That shall not be taken away.

To be continued…

See also: Part 2