‘He lifted me up and set my Feet upon the Rock’ Armand Newrick FDTL Iss 30

On the first Sunday of April 1965, at the tender age of 9 months, mother decided the time had come to trundle two older brothers, a reluctant husband, and me off to Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church in Hastings. I don’t recall this, but the vicar K.F. Button sprinkled me with holy water and pronounced me right with God (according to our family tradition). I have the ‘Certificate of Baptism’ to prove it. According to my certificate my parents vowed that I would ‘Be virtuously brought up to lead a Godly and a Christian life.’ This meant nothing to Father who had no time for religion, except to keep Mum off his back. For Mum the vow consisted of making my brother and I kneel by our bedside and repeat ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ in good ol’ King James English. It wasn’t long before my brother and I convinced Mum she was fighting a losing battle introducing religion into our lives. It was Dad and us against her.
The only other religious influence in my early years was about two years of Bible in schools. When our teacher announced that religious education was beginning next week I told Mum I didn’t want to do it. I ended up doing it and loved it. I volunteered to act out the stories we were taught. I loved drama and being the centre of attention. The confusing, turbulent teen years, however, erased the fond memories of those classes.
A Personal Crisis
Late in 1979, at the age of 16, my life reached a crisis point. I was buckling under the weight of difficult circumstances at home. The pressure of school certificate only magnified this. A mates’ girlfriend encouraged me to phone up her sister for a date. I was keen but felt entirely inadequate. I couldn’t pluck up the courage to phone her. I lay down to sleep that night deeply troubled in my spirit over all these things, which seemed so huge and permanent in my life. I remember thinking it didn’t seem to matter whether I succeeded or failed in life I would die just the same. It all seemed so hopeless. I got out of bed and rushed out of the house. A short distance up the road was a park. I headed across to there. It began to rain but I didn’t care. I just sat down on the grass. I was overwhelmed by the sound of the raindrops pelting the grass around me. I wasn’t looking for God, but God came looking for me. He touched me in a way that was relevant at that time. I recalled, as the rain fell, that my Grandmother used to say it always rained after a funeral as a sign of God’s blessing. Suddenly out of nowhere God entered into my thoughts. The rain stopped and I felt at ease in my spirit, the turmoil had subsided. I walked back home to bed wondering what it all meant.
The next 11 months were difficult for me. I left school. I ended up working in the most horrible, dirty job imaginable. I was spray coating decromastic roof tiles in a factory with three older men. One a Rarotongan, the other two Maori. I came to respect these men who treated me like one of them.
God Moves Again
After a few months Sandy Poharama, who seemed always to have a fag hanging out between two missing front teeth, asked me if I believed in God. Had he asked because I was white and comparatively innocent looking? Perhaps he thought I was one of those “churchy” sorts? I couldn’t say yes, or no, so I said ‘I don’t know.’ From then on these three men began to talk casually of stories from the Bible and their significance. Stories from my Bible in School days came flooding back to me. I found a Bible and began to read. Among all the things I wanted to do in life I wanted to read the Bible through once so that I could say I’d been there and done that. The book came alive in my hands, mind and heart. It was a revelation to me! The words of Jesus were profound. If applied, I was sure that this world would be a better place. Until now I had thought this book a cold lifeless book of religion. After all it had a black cover with no picture on it! I was noticeably moved by what I was reading, so much so that Sandy invited me to his small flat in Papakura for a Bible study with five others. We sang, prayed, and read the Bible. I loved it. As I was leaving Sandy followed me to my car and asked if I had ever asked Jesus Christ into my life. I said ‘no’, obviously, and he asked me whether I would like to do that. I just knew out of my life story so far that this was a life and death decision that I must make! If I was ever sure of anything it was that I must make this decision. So we went back into the flat and prayed. I repented of my reckless life and received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
Early Years in Christ
One month after my conversion, Oct. 4th 1981, I was baptized at Mt, Zion AOG. I began the discipline of reading the Bible and praying every day (Something I have kept up over the last 25 years). I enrolled to go to the AOG Bible School at the beginning of 1982 but became disillusioned with aspects of what I thought was AOG “sensationalism”. I withdrew my application. I left the AOG thankful for some basic teaching but resolved to be truthful in my testimony to God’s work in my life and in handling his word the Bible. In time I found myself at the Church of Christ (Life and Advent) in Takanini. I had no idea that I would be there forthe next 17 years. I also had no idea what the distinctive doctrines of the church were. Pastor Colin Warner challenged me with the notion that the Bible did not teach that human beings had an immortal soul as most people believed!
Challenged As To The Soul
I had simply come to accept that when you die you go to heaven (or hell) as some form of phantom spirit. I remember seeing a Goofy cartoon where Goofy was flattened on the road and a semi transparent Goofy-copy, complete with wings, fluttered off into the sky; that was sort of how I understood it. I began searching the scriptures. After a period of time sitting on the fence it became clear to me that if Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection were to be relevant to all human beings, despite ones inherited religious or philosophical convictions to the contrary, then death must be death, and life must be life by resurrection! There must be no confusion between the two! If the return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection from the dead, and the establishment of his Kingdom upon the earth are to be truly motivating truths which inform our efforts to share in that great mission of God, then the dead must remain dead until that great day. We must not empty the logic out of the message! This wonderful truth opened up the Bible to me. The truth which we call conditional immortality has given to me a greater sense of the universal appropriateness and application of the Gospel by which erroneous claims to disembodied life after death can be met, challenged, and dispelled by the historically witnessed truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. This message accurately presents the human condition in which we are bound up and frustrated by the consequence of sin – that is, death! Death is thunderously answered by the dependable truth of Christ Jesus breaking the power and silence of the grave!
Back To Bible College
In the year 2000 our family made the decision to attend the Manukau Central Baptist Church. At the prompting of our pastor, Grahame Craggs, I tried one distance paper through Carey Baptist College. I loved it and continued with distance study for two years until I had the privilege of another two full time years immersed in the life of the college, its people, and its learning on site. During that time I was privileged to have many opportunities to present the conditionalist position to other enquiring minds. I found others willing to listen respectfully. I enjoyed sharing a class on future hope with the late Carl Josephson. We had fun defending our conditionalist position in regards to the nature of the final punishment reserved for the unsaved. The ‘Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand’ will often commit finances to support students who share conditionalist beliefs as they pursue theological study. I am grateful to have been one such recipient of their generous support. It is 25 years since I first intended to head off to Bible School. I never thought that theological training would ever again be possible for me. But this April 2006 I graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Theology and with a firm conviction of the truths that we hold dear in this association.
Where to from here? It’s a journey of faith isn’t it? I know the God who set my feet on the rock of Christ Jesus, out of the miry clay of despairing, even of life itself, will faithfully sustain me whatever may come. To his glory I pray!

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