In spite of having been deeply blessed in Africa through meeting the leaders of the East African revival seven years earlier, it was a very dry and needy vicar and ex-missionary who arrived at the conference at Elfinsward, having told the Lord that he could not leave that place unless He did some new thing in his cold heart.
I could not foresee what He would do, but it seems now that during every session He led me to the cross.
I had always preached “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2: 2) but I knew little, if anything, of the cross in my own life. Now I began to see it in a very different way. I saw how Jesus had been crucified not only for my shameful sins, but for the everyday respectable sins which I swept under the carpet.
It was a fresh revelation to see Him for my sake becoming on the cross “a worm and no man.” It was a new thing to see Him consenting to be despised and rejected of men and put to an open shame for the sins I counted as of little importance.
There on the cross He was willing to have no rights, and all this because He loved me. I saw that, unlike Jesus, I expected as a vicar to be treated with respect. I usually claimed my rights. I did not like criticism because it endangered my reputation. I seldom admitted I was wrong or said I was sorry. Beneath the cross more and more of self came into view: hard self in the home; proud self in His service; hurt self when misjudged or misunderstood; corrupt self in the secret imaginations of my heart.
It shocked me to discover that all He was, I was not. Instead, self was prominent everywhere. I felt that nobody in that conference could need forgiveness and cleansing more than I, yet I could not confess the state of my heart and admit that I was the kind of person the Holy Spirit was showing me to be.
After a long and sleepless night, in the early hours of Thursday morning, God gave me the gift of repentance. I saw that Jesus was put to an open shame, taking upon Himself in public all the sins I shrank from admitting I had committed.
In the light of His exposure, how could I go on hiding and saying I was innocent? As I saw Him yielding to the sin-bearing and shame of the cross which I deserved, He melted my heart and with tears I told Him I was willing for that walk on the Calvary Road with Him.
He bent my proud neck there and I admitted the truth of all He had been showing me. The burden was lifted and I knew His precious blood had cleansed. With what I now know was the Holy Spirit, my heart was filled to the brim and running over.
A few hours later, after the address at the morning meeting, came the first practical step of dying. Still fearful and unwilling to be a fool for Christ’s sake, I shared in a very hesitant way what He had shown me. It was painful for me and perhaps for others present, but a great sense of relief of not having to keep up a show any more followed.
On the following Sunday at home I felt during the morning and evening services I should tell my congregation what the Lord had taught me at the conference and how at Calvary He had cleansed me afresh in His precious blood and set me free.
Now the last rag of my reputation, which I valued so highly and to which I had clung for so long, was thrown away and I was sure my congregation would leave the church that night, never to return. This I knew was part of what “dying with Christ” meant.
Very understandably, some disliked intensely what they heard. One said, “It was frightful. If you, our vicar, are like that, what hope is there for us?” Some others saw the cross and wept.
From that Sunday God’s reservoir, the channels of which had been clogged by unrecognized and unrepented sin, found new outlets. Life-giving streams, welling up from broken and contrite hearts, began to flow very quietly together, swelling the stream of new life in our district.
Testimony by Rev. John Collinson; excerpt taken from My Calvary Road, Roy Hession, Ch. 11, Kindle edition.