My Testimony

Before I became a Christian, I thought I was a Christian!

I thought that being a Christian meant belonging to an established man-made religion while trying my best to adhere to a set of rules and regulations based on a combination of biblical truths and religious traditions.
Eventually I grew tired of going through the motions and rarely went to church anymore. It seemed as though almost everyone I knew shared my feelings and attitudes about religion. Boring, repetitious, unsatisfying, uneventful, and empty!
I had to ask myself, “Is this really all there is to it! Is there nothing more to the experience of God in this life than reading a bunch of moralistic stories in the bible, going to church, trying to do more good things than bad things and then someday after I die, finding out whether I passed the test!? Wouldn’t a God who is portrayed as holy, kind, merciful, and loving by most of Christianity make some kind of opportunity for me to experience the reality of his existence?”
I decided that I could never accept any teaching, any theology, or any amount of religious knowledge as a substitute for a real experience with God. But still I wondered; was it even possible to have an authentic personal experience with God?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my very willingness to investigate these matters was essentially an invitation to the Spirit of God to begin to reveal God’s earnest desire for me to come to know Him.

Letting God Out Of The Box

There came a time, through some unusual circumstances related to my job, that I stayed for a few days at the home of a Christian pastor in Wisconsin. Eventually, we began to have conversations about God. The things he almost casually told me about his personal experiences with God seemed quite unbelievable. He told me that God spoke to him in many ways and that God was involved in every aspect of his life. He spoke of miraculous physical healing and even introduced me to a woman who had experienced the healing of one of her legs the night before through the prayers of a traveling evangelist.
The pastor claimed that I could come to experience God in the same way that he was experiencing God on a daily basis. He told me that God reveals Himself to all those who truly desire to know Him and are willing to submit to His authority in their lives – to all those that truly desire to change their self-directed lives and follow Him instead.
He began to explain to me that all I needed to do was to accept Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I only had to pray and ask to receive God’s salvation through my faith in Jesus’ efforts on the cross! This seemed too good to be true. Too ridiculously simplistic! How could it be that simple?

My Own God Box

Now, I had long ago understood the basic concept of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of humanity. But I had always thought that His death was only meant to provide me with an opportunity. An opportunity to try to gain acceptance to heaven by trying very hard to be a “good” person in this life. I believed that Jesus only died to restrain God’s judgment upon people so that they could have a chance to “earn” their way to Heaven. I thought that the so called Jesus freaks and “born again” Christians were just very religious people who were trying to earn their way to heaven, just like the rest of us, only probably doing a better job of it.

No God Box At All

As we were driving together one day, the pastor suddenly asked me if I would like to meet the traveling evangelist that had prayed for the woman who was healed. I told him I would and he gave me the phone number. I called the itinerant evangelist to set up a meeting with him to discuss these new Christian “ideas” the pastor had introduced me to. We made an appointment to meet the next morning at a local restaurant in Wausau, Wisconsin.
The next morning, as the evangelist and his wife drove up to the restaurant and parked their van; I couldn’t help noticing that the van was packed from floor to ceiling with personal belongings. It looked as though everything they owned was stuffed into that van.
This man was an ex-outlaw biker who came to the profession of evangelist after having been pronounced clinically dead (and then revived) three times as a result of drug induced motorcycle accidents. His testimony was that Jesus appeared behind him one day and tapped him on the shoulder. As he turned to see who was tapping him on the shoulder he saw Jesus standing there. Jesus simply said, “Follow me” and then disappeared. That was the beginning of the evangelist’s ministry. They packed everything they could into their van and just prayed and followed what they believed was God’s direction for their lives from that day forward.
As they entered the restaurant I noticed that their clothing was old and worn, and they had a generally grubby appearance. As they sat down, I observed that the evangelist was covered with wicked looking tattoos all over his arms and neck. Their mannerisms were gruff and their words unsophisticated. They began to argue with each other over which of them should speak to me first. He started out, “The Lord has given me some scripture that I must read to him.” She replied, “No, The Holy Spirit is leading me to talk to him about something else.” I’m not sure how the argument was finally resolved, but eventually one of them began to speak to me.
They read a multitude of scriptures to me that I did not understand at all. Then they read more scriptures to me that I still did not understand. Finally, they told me that I was currently going to hell. I could tell that they were trying to curry my favor with their lavish compliments… (a joke)
I really had no clue as to whether these people actually knew what in the world they were talking about.
But when they asked me if they could pray for me, surprisingly, I said, “Yes.” Then they asked me if they could lead me through a “salvation prayer.” Surprisingly, I found myself saying “Yes” again! Somehow, I was willing to try this “salvation” thing despite the confusing presentation of Christianity they had shared with me. I prayed the “salvation prayer” with them and when we finished they said to me, “So, how do you feel?” I didn’t really know what they were looking for with that question and I replied, “Honestly, I’m just really tired and I’d like to head home now.” They seemed a bit disappointed.
But then, as I walked out to my car I began to feel a bit odd. I experienced something like a mild, but pleasantly intoxicating feeling. It felt as though I was being enveloped in a warm, flowing, loving, presence. As soon as I sat down in the car, spiritual type questions began to form within my mind and  then spiritual answers began to form in response to the questions! I sat there in my car stunned at what was taking place. At that moment, I knew with total certainty that this was God. And yet I immediately knew that I could never positively prove to anyone else that my own personal experience was actually an experience from God. I knew at that moment that this was something that could only be experienced personally. It was not something that could be proven by human persuasion or facts and figures or even multitudes of scriptures. I understood at that moment that the faith necessary to experience God was initiated simply by the sincere desire to know the truth. And that my desire to know the truth was itself initiated by the work of the Spirit of God within me. Nothing was my own. It was all God’s doing. I knew that I couldn’t even take credit for desiring to know him!

The Beginning Of The New Life

I started out on the three hour journey to return home as the presence of the Spirit of God continued to speak to my spirit. To this day, I don’t remember driving this part of the trip at all. All I know is that suddenly I was startled to discover that I had driven for about two hours and I was about to re-enter my home state. Feeling exhausted, I crossed the border and pulled over to rest for about forty-five minutes before continuing to my home.
When I arrived home, I found a bible and began to read it. I did not understand everything that I was reading but the words that I was reading were now fascinating to me. I couldn’t get enough of them! I felt like I didn’t want to ever stop reading them. The very same bible that I had spent many hours trying to figure out in the past had suddenly become a seemingly endless fountain of personally relevant understanding and satisfaction to my soul.

Looking Past The Messenger To The Author Of The Message 

It was not the persuasion of man that brought me to that place on that day, rather, it was the persuasion of the Holy Spirit that urged me to continue forward to personally apprehend the gift of God’s salvation for my soul.
Generally speaking, I believe Christians often make mistakes when trying to share about God with others. They try to push a person when God is wanting to pull them, or they try to pull when God is wanting to push. In their zeal to spread the message, individual personality often gets in the way of the message itself. I hope I haven’t done that here.
Being saved is not about being a religious fanatic or going around with a “holier than thou attitude.” Christians don’t automatically become experts at sharing the gospel just because they are Christians. And they don’t automatically become experts at godly behavior either. It takes a lifetime of God’s work within them.
And yet, the imperfections of the people that God uses to share his message really only illustrate the fact that it’s not about trusting people, it’s about trusting God. If our eyes are fixed on the messenger, then our eyes are focused on the wrong place.
The opportunity to experience the beginning of this eternal life is made available to us by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
No person and no words can ever adequately explain what this experience is like. Because it’s not like anything else. And though there are similarities, each salvation and each relationship with God is unique. Some start out slow, some start out fast. Don’t rely entirely on what other people tell you it ought to be like. It’s highly personal and thus relatively subjective.

If you want to begin experiencing the incredible actuality of a personal relationship with your Creator right now, pray this prayer. (By the way; nobody, ever, prays to receive this gift of new life from God, totally convinced that they want to entirely surrender the rule of their lives to God. That is the Spirit of God’s work in us after we get saved. So, don’t think that you lack sufficient faith and that it “won’t work for you” just because a significant part of you resists the idea of surrender to God’s authority in your life. That’s the way it always is. That’s why you need God’s salvation in the first place!)

THE PRAYER

Lord God, I am truly sorry for the sins that I have committed throughout my life. In the Bible, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Therefore, I welcome now the free gift of salvation for the forgiveness of my sins through my faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I also forgive all those who have sinned against me even as I am now forgiven of all my sins.
I know that I do not have to “earn” your love or your forgiveness because scripture says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I ask now that you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that my eyes and ears will be opened to see your truths and hear your voice and that my heart will be filled with the knowledge of your love for me. I invite your Holy Spirit to bring new birth to my spirit, that I might live forever with you in the new life that you have prepared for me. I receive this free gift of salvation and I look forward to the power of the Holy Spirit helping me daily to live my new life in freedom and thankfulness to you. Amen.