Here is a question for you, if you could see that heaven, hell, God, the Devil, and
Jesus may possibly be real is it worth finding out for sure?
Here is another question, what would be the more likely reason to follow up on any possible
belief? A relationship with God or to avoid damnation?
18 years ago I had the realization that the first 18 years of my life may have been built on beliefs that were not real. Growing up I had the normal religious experiences Brits usually have, at least
from my generation, I went to a Church of England school and apart from a few times attending Sunday school I went to church for weddings, funerals, christenings and remembrance Sundays.
My true passion was science. Being able to look deeply at a field of study and analyse it to the tiniest detail, understanding how things worked, what made the world tick. As a child I would often stay up late at night to watch a science program, I used to love the Open University programs on BBC2 if I remember it right. I loved the science program on BBC1 Tomorrows World.
I would make models, program in Basic, and generally be a science geek.
Then at a friend’s behest I went to his church, he had played me music by a band called Delirious that made me question what church actually was. For one thing, this music did not suck completely. I go to his church for an evening meeting. I am convinced before I go that it’s going to be bad, lots of middle class pious people singing dusty hymns about how morning has broken, I did not really have a clue who Jesus was, I just thought it was a story book written long before I was born so why would I care?
As I stepped into that school hall that functioned as their “church” I was struck how weird everyone was, I mean proper freaky, they were all happy, and well geeky about something. These people were shinning something through them. At the time I thought it weird, that they wanted to say hello and welcome me in. This was very worrying to me, what more was worrying was that they genuinely seemed to love each other and even seemed to love me! The music was no break away rock hit, nothing Iron Maiden would play, (one of my fav bands growing up) no run to the hills, but more like It’s all about you Jesus, hmm I thought, who is this Jesus that they seem to put above themselves? The thing that struck me was how real and genuine these people were about their God.
At that point I did not become a Christian, but I was willing to go back to that church and see if there was something behind what they were talking about. I could see myself as a sinner, I had done bad things, and I in no way felt that I had done a lot of good in the world so I was not making the excuse most people make of saying God knows I am a good person even if I get it wrong sometimes. No I knew I was not always good, I drank too much, had done since I was 13, I smoked, wasn’t a virgin, and other things I do not want to talk about in all honesty.
After going to this funky little school hall church for a while I realized I had two choices. I could accept the possibility that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and therefore the Devil and demons existed; or I could refuse to believe it. The problem was that I had seen in these people something that is not present in other people. I felt that might be God. So I researched this Jesus, found out that he was in a bunch of other religions, he was a historical figure that he was called a prophet, a rabbi by other religions, but in his own book, the bible, he called himself the son of God, and the way to forgiveness for our sins. How could someone who could say all these things be a prophet or a rabbi? Either he was God or he was a madman. I knew it was possible for large numbers of people to follow madmen but never after they died, cults die with the cult leader, yet this Jesus had a strong following 2000 years after him.
How could that be possible if he is only a man?
So sitting in my car with my friend one night, in the dark, talking I decided it was time to try this Jesus out, take him for a test drive, I said Jesus, I don’t know if you truly are God, but I think you probably are, I know I am a sinner, and I ask you to take my sins onto your cross, I repent my sins, I do not want to do bad things, I just want to follow your example, please help me do this, Thanks you God amen.
Such a simple prayer, with no fancy words but it was what was needed, now you might assume that there is a big flash of light, angels chorusing me… or at least in my mind? Well actually no, like sex for the first time you build up an event and it’s not what you expected. What I did feel was a weight taken off my shoulders and an emptiness in my soul was filled, a longing that had always been there was no longer there.
The immediate effect that people could see was I had stopped swearing, my work mates were shocked as I managed to not only get through a sentence without swearing 3 times, but I was able to get through a whole shift without swearing.
Sometime after I gave my life to Christ, a friend of mine, a sister in Christ, who was the warmest loveliest person you will ever met, died of cancer, she had a painful death, she was very young, it still brings tears to my eyes. I got angry at God, I felt that if he loved us there would be no pain, no suffering, and why take a young woman with such a beautiful soul. So I turned my back on God and walked away.
Years later I would suffer such crippling depression that living on felt impossible, I became very ill, relationships with almost everyone broke down, in all honesty I was not an enjoyable person to be around, and still kept on walking away from God, thankfully he did not walk away from me as he kept me safe and alive.
Fast forward more than 10 years, past a failed marriage, and a lot of other failed relationships, I was clean of booze and starting to sort my life out, playing computer games whenever I was not at work and I was not actually depressed, I could be negative according to my boss but I felt I was in a good place, I had a long distance relationship with a South African girl who I really cared about, lots of friends. Suddenly I realized that I had not spoken to God in a long time and I needed to speak to him.
For a long time I had gotten over my anger but I felt that I had sinned since I gave my life to Jesus as a youngster, and that Paul had made it very clear, you cannot re-crucify Jesus, so I had spent my salvation, and had lost it.
I spoke to God saying I know you are still out there, I know I have messed up big time, but if you will have me, if I can be forgiven please show me clearly what I have to do, how I can get a relationship with you again. I told no one of this prayer, which felt that it was being said into an empty room.
The next morning my girlfriend skypes me, crying, saying she has to finish it, that we cannot be together anymore, that she could not explain it but it was over now. I felt like I had been smashed down so hard, my ears were ringing, my guild in World of Warcraft exploded, and then I saw something an old college friend wrote on Facebook. It was a post talking down to Christians, I knew I was not a Christian for I was not living in Christ/ I knew he was real, but being a Christian is way more than just believing, but his post got to me, I can’t explain why it got to me so much but it did. So I argued with him. Then someone with the same surname posted something that I was not entirely sure if he was agreeing with me or with the college friend (sarcasm always makes things questionable) and then the person added me on Facebook.
I stared at the friend request for about 15 or 20 minutes trying to decide if I was just going to get abuse for my outlandish viewpoint, and then I just knew I had to accept. So I did. We got talking, I told him my history, I was very open, which is something I struggled with when sober. He (Peacemaker) said something about my time without fellowship of Christians, and with living without Christ, that hit me like a sledge hammer, way harder in a big way than my Girlfriend dumping me. He said it sounded like a desert. I realized that I had been living in the desert since I turned my back on God.
He told me that forgiveness wasn’t a onetime offer that Paul was saying that you cannot live in sin and expect to be saved, that you have to repent your sins.
So I am sitting here, in my room, as I am right now. I pray, I asked for forgiveness, I repented my sins, I knew I was forgiven, truly and fully, I asked Christ back into my life, I gave myself to him.
I met a customer who is a Christian, and I explained how I was feeling and she took my number and gave it to someone who was running a fellowship meeting at a tiny Methodist chapel. I heard nothing for a while so when he rang me it came as a surprise. He seemed friendly but I had lost my voice when he rang, so I could only croak that I would be there.
With trepidation, the following Sunday I went up to the fellowship meeting and immediately I knew I was in the right place for that time, the love I felt through everyone was very evident, and the Holy Spirit really moved me. See that’s one of the things atheists do not understand, Christians have a physical connection with God through his Holy Spirit, that’s why they seem so dogmatic and refuse to believe that their faith might be wrong
I was became friends with peacemaker, he invites me up to stay in his churches community house, which I am very weirded out by, I won’t lie, it sounded kooky to me, I kept getting this nagging voice at the back of my head saying “don’t drink the cool aide” which if you know anything about cults you would get the reference, but I said ok I would go because I did not want to let my friend down, almost immediately after that I regretted it, I mean these guys could be freaks, I am going to stay with people I did not know at all and it all sounded weird to me.
As the visit draws ever closer, I become more and more worried. Finally the day comes to drive up there and I nearly cancel, but I steel my nerve and drive up. The first people I see when I get there are my friend Peacemaker and a guy called Tim.
Tim calmed me down no end, he probably did not realize that he did this, but he was so down to earth, so grounded, and such a great guy I suddenly realized that even if everyone else was weird at least Tim was normal (anyone who knows Tim will, most likely be laughing right now) and he has a rough diamond kind of a character, the sort of person you immediately know that you are totally safe around. I get shown around the community house by the guy who seems to be the boss, a nice guy too. Almost immediately the people who lived in the community house made me part of the family.
I found the house a massive contradiction in one way, somewhere totally peaceful, yet full of noise. So many conversations, yet so fully relaxed. I will explain that I do not do crowds, so to feel relaxed, around more than a few people is very unlike me.
When I left that house to go visit my Dad in Shrewsbury, I went so full of peace, that I felt I never would get back to such calmness inside of me again. I prayed for my Dad, as he was going through a tough time. Eventually I ended up going home. Day by day, I missed that community house, filled with Jesus folk who didn’t care what people thought of them, because Jesus was all they needed in life.
I heard about an event in Sheffield, that a lot of the people from the Jesus Army would be going to, and wanted to go, so a nice guy from Oxford gave me a lift. When I got to Sheffield, I felt I had made a big mistake, I did not know anyone there and there was so much noise, so many crowds, I made a friend in the smoking area, who was like me escaping the noise and the press of people. Later when the event actually started I sat with some people from Brighton, and then the people from the community house I had stayed with turned up and I knew, and I even said to the people from Brighton, that my “Family have arrived” so I jumped up and joined them, from that moment on I had a great time.
Since that day I have found a deeper and deeper connection with my Kettering Jesus Army family, and the next step in my journey I believe is to move to Kettering, for whenever I am away from my “family” I feel a loss that is hard to explain.
If you could see that heaven, hell, God, the Devil, and Jesus may be real is it worth finding out for sure? Here is another question, what would be the more likely reason to follow up on any possible belief, a relationship with God or to avoid damnation? Personally I know Jesus is real, and is still with us today through the Holy Spirit, and I am not overly focusing on hell, for that’s not my issue, I look forward to going home to heaven and in the meanwhile I have an amazing relationship with Christ, even if my life is still not perfect.
So my experience is the following. Jesus was an historical figure, who I have a personal relationship with, through the Holy Spirit. You can see Christ through his followers, through how they show their love for not only each other but towards everyone. I have seen crazy stuff within the church and the Holy Spirit has had some amazing effects on me. God has healed me of a bunch of issues that I feel uncomfortable sharing with the world at this point.
My viewpoint of Christianity was wrong from my childhood and seeing what it actually was made me re-evaluate how people can behave towards each other. Without Christ I swear, a lot, with Christ my swearing stops. I am loved for how I am, and as long as I stay Christ focussed he helps me to become better, this change was not possible without him. Prayer relieved pain in my back and fixed a long term issue in my back. There was a word of wisdom about my back from a Christian who did not know me about my back issues.
My personality changes with Christ, this is not just me saying it but the people around me noticed the difference immediately. So after all these experiences, would it be logical for me to give up my God, my Saviour, so that I can be socially acceptable to various groups and cliques of people who have turned away from searching, because, just maybe, their view of God is as flawed as mine was all those years ago?
I did not instantly start hating someone for their sexual preference, for their faith or beliefs, instead I found a love for my fellow man I had not experienced before. Would I want to give this up? If after reading this, you are left wondering if your assumptions about Christianity and Christians is challenged I would invite you to look further into Christ and see if there is something for you in him, because I know he loves you, no matter what you have done, who you are. If you give yourself to Him and repent your sins, he will break into your life and change it for the better.