Short Testimony

Life before being a Christian

I think of the word Christian in two different senses. I will delineate these senses in narrative form. First, from the time I was a kid I believed in Jesus, that he was God, and God’s Son, and that he died on a cross and rose again. Until I was fourteen, other than going to church, these specific beliefs had little to no impact on my life, values, goals, etc… As far as I was concerned I was a Christian. When I was fourteen however, I watched my Dad get saved. I knew that he believed in Jesus before this event, he believed that Jesus was God’s Son, and God, and that he rose from the dead after dying on the cross for his sins; so, to see him “get saved” scared me. Me and my dad, left church, and ended up driving to the pastor’s house because I wanted to understand what I could be missing. In short, my pastor said, belief in Jesus, as you mean it, is not sufficient. You must commit your life to Christ and follow him. After committing to Christ in that moment I thought “now I am really a Christian.” For the next two and half years I studied the Bible relentlessly (on average 3-4 hours a day). I was faithful in church. I was actively sharing my faith. I was involved with prison ministry (my pastor was the chaplain.) I was fighting lust with all my might. I unplugged my x-box and replaced all of my hobbies, except lifting weights, with scripture memory, theological studies (I became a Calvinist within 6 months and was very hungry to understand all this new stuff), etc…

About three years later I started having some issues. One issue, in dealing with a friend that doubted his salvation in the most morbid introspection imaginable, he began to express doubts that I myself had felt before, but ones in which I ignored. In dealing with him and discussing his doubts and trying to disciple him, I began to open up about some of my uncertainties. I wondered how many times the “presence of God” was something that I was manufacturing. I even wondered if I had ever “felt God” ever before in my life in a way that wasn’t self-generated. I began to pursue an experience that was totally authentic, a relationship that was truly God and not a mask that I wore.

What happened next? The harder I pursued a relationship with God that was real, the more I realized that I had never really had one. So, I started fasting, and cutting out any known sin from my life. My focus began to be to stay conscious of God all day long and to live life without regrets. To do what was right, no matter what, so that nothing would put a barrier between me and God. Nothing happened. No God. No experience. No relationship.

So, I told God that reading my Bible was something that I enjoy very much, but that I think I enjoy it for the wrong reasons and not because through it I know him (since I didn’t think i had a relationship at all). So I quit reading it. I told God that if I didn’t know him that everything that I was doing was a waste of time. Why not have sex? Why not drink alcohol? If I don’t know Jesus, who cares?

Becoming a Christian

So I walked away. A couple of months later my Dad died. And soon after I went to college. I was in the party mode. Within two years I was a self-proclaimed atheist.

One night I was faced with the reality of meaningless, truly faced with it, and it scared me. But I thought, no sense in pretending everything is not meaningless, if it is. I felt I needed to just man up. But, there came a series of experiences that made me recognize that the belief that all is meaningless doesn’t really account for reality as I was experiencing it. I realized that I had many friendships that were important to me, people that I cared about, that these things were evidence that I had to account for in my view of reality. Not in a wish-fulfillment kind of way, but, as relevant realities that are a part of life. I couldn’t just ignore those facts and focus on scientific ones.

I messaged a friend of mine and he met me. I was quite a handful for most Christians, having studied so much myself, so I had him in bad way. He called up my pastor and my pastor told him about a Book by D.James Kennedy called “Skeptics.” He told me to give me that book.

The book was not anything special to be honest, but, the specific time in my life, and the years of prayer behind that book led to a cataclysmic event in my life. As I read that book, in my normal way I started deconstructing the arguments of Kennedy. Then I had this strange impulse that made me say to myself in my mind, “you need to weigh these arguments fairly, and sincerely, your destiny is in the balance. If you are not convinced after this, then put the book down and walk away, but if you are, you must surrender to God.” I said to myself, “OK.”

Within a matter of hours I went from Atheist, to Agnostic, to Theist, to believing “Jesus is God.” I told myself, “I have already vowed to surrender, I guess I have to follow through.”

The next day, I had this moment when years of guilt suddenly landed on me. I quickly went into the bathroom and I fell to my knees and I began to weep. Then, I began to feel someone in the bathroom with me. Someone that made the guilt get worse, whose presence made me cry in ways that I had never before in my life cried; and yet a presence that I had longed for all my life. I could barely breath, and the presence just got stronger and stronger until I felt I was going to die; I wanted the presence to leave, but, strangely, I hoped it wouldn’t. I knew it was Jesus Christ. He came to make good on my vow. That was his voice in my head the night before, not mine. At the point where my guilt was unbearable, the old story about the tax collector beating on his breast begging mercy went through my mind and I began doing the same. Then a voice (much like my own voice in my head) spoke to me, and said that this is what God’s presence does to sinners. This is what it did to Jesus on the cross when God forsook him. He felt what you are feeling to the full. He felt it so that you would be forgiven and counted righteous, so that you would never have to fear this presence again. The light bulb went off! And the guilt, along with the presence, left me. Now, I was truly a Christian. I had been regenerated and now Christ, in his work, truly looked precious to me.

The same day I told my girlfriend, who lived with me, about my experience. She told me she loved God. I laughed, and told her that those who love God do not ignore everything that he tells them to do. I explained that she didn’t love God and that she wasn’t following Christ and that she was lost. She had an experience the next day (she has her own story; this is mine). I told her that I was going to live for God and that that meant that we were not having sex before marriage, and that I was going to be the weirdest guy she had ever known, and that it was probably best that we split up. She told me that she had always wanted someone who truly followed God, and then I explained to her that she didn’t know what she was asking for. Strangely I saw a sincere desire to follow Christ in her, a real transformation over the next couple of days. I decided we could try out this relationship, but that I was only interested in one long term relationship in which marriage was going to happen, or nothing at all. I told her she needed to move out.

My struggle

Through much deliberation, within two weeks I decided to ask her to marry me. I told her that we could get married in three months, but that she needed to move in with her parents until then. Her parents and her brother were not on good terms with her. She couldn’t move back in (she said).

So, we went and got an apartment together, and began preparing for our wedding. I struggled to share my faith because I was living with a girl that was not my wife. I felt I was sending the wrong message. I prayed that God would get me through these miserable months. I lived under guilt and disappointment with myself for not handling this situation better.

This cloud did not leave with marriage. The effects of that decision had negative effects for years to come. I look back with immense regret. The gospel could have spread much more effectively if we had done it differently.

But: The gospel doesn’t say that God accepted me because I was going to make stellar decisions for the rest of my life. God accepts me because of Christ taking all of my guilt on himself and satisfying God’s wrath.

The thing that has changed in me the most is my treasuring the gospel. Let me finish the scene from the bathroom. After my guilt left, I began to stand up. Within seconds I asked myself, “Is this it?” I wondered if I was done, if God had truly saved me. I felt like I needed to solidify it, or do something to make sure. I began to kneel back down and suddenly I heard “I did not pardon you because of anything that you did, or said, I saved you because Jesus Christ, my Son, paid for you with his blood. It wasn’t your tears, it wasn’t your prayers, it wasn’t anything in you at all, it was all Him.” Then I said to myself “oh yea, I just trusted and embraced that!” Then I realized, the light bulb that went off earlier was God’s gift of faith to me. Three seconds, that is how long it took for me forget what my status before God rested on; to forget what my only hope is.

The gospel is not something merely for lost people. It is our only hope each day. This truth has depths that as I have unraveled them, I have been transformed. I encourage you to reflect on what your only hope in life and death is. Whatever your struggle is, whether it be anger or lust. Trust in Christ for strength and turn to him as your only hope.If you have known Christ in this way, know that as you struggle, you do so as God’s Son or Daughter, and let that reality strengthen you; and always remember that such a blessed status was bought by Christ’s blood.

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