By God’s grace and mercy I am forty nine years old. I grew up in a non-Christian home in the north of the the metro area in Minnesota. I had three brothers and a sister. My sister became a Christian in the early 70's. As a young teen, I had heard the Christian message from her, but was repulsed by the Gospel and all thoughts of God. Soon, I outright rejected any notion of a God. I came to believe that the universe and all life was without purpose or design, but rather completely random and accidental. This view on ultimate reality drove me to the brink of despair, because if the universe is some sort of cosmic accident, then I am nothing but a cosmic accident, the product of a fortuitous arrangement of atoms. And when I finally died, I would cease to exist, and my atoms would scatter throughout a universe that was destined to become cold and lifeless. Yet I always wondered, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”
I can remember my intense desire to disobey and do wrong, even at a very early age. I started smoking cigarettes at seven years of age, drinking at about ten, smoking dope at twelve; speed, PCP, LSD, cocaine, and anything else soon after. Drugs soon turned me into a living vegetable, and at times I was not even able to hold a conversation with anyone. My lifestyle left me ignorant about many basics of life. I was unable to relate to people in a coherent manner and was outwardly anxious and bizarre. Even with the very few friends I had I felt alienated and alone. I always wanted to attract attention to myself, so I would act, talk, and dress in ways that would get the attention I hungered for. I lied to my mom and everyone else in authority in order to cover up my evil deeds. Growing up and into my twenties and well into my thirties I had practiced much wickedness including stealing, vandalism, drunken rages, insane behavior, unspeakable profanity and cursing, fits of rage and hostility, premarital sex, pornography, and violent fantasies, including thoughts of murder and serial killings. Dwelling in my wicked heart was a palpable, malignant potential for some great unspeakable evil. I was a powder keg ready to explode, and I thought that one day I might “go out with a bang”. In the mid-eighties I lived in Texas for two years where my life spiraled out of control even more. At one point I ended up in jail for aggravated assault on a police officer. I came home to Minnesota because I felt that if I were to stay down there much longer, I would die.
Six months after my return from Texas I entered outpatient treatment and quit doing drugs and alcohol. Even though I quit drinking and drugs, my thought life and behaviors were still filthy and depraved. I was filled with guilt and shame for all the wicked things I had done, and for all the evil thoughts and intentions that still indwelt my heart. I hated myself and life in general, yet was depressed and anxious that I was going to some day die. Some time after I got married in 1995, I had thoughts of committing adultery. I hated myself all the more because I knew there was something morally “wrong” with me. I was so miserable and so depressed I had contemplated suicide to escape the pain of everyday life. Throughout my twenties to my mid-late thirties, I was paralyzed by the meaninglessness and futility of life. Day in and day out, I would wonder if that day would be the day of my death. The only thing I anticipated, it seemed, was death. It would come. The only thing I didn’t know was when, where, and how….
After sobering up in the mid-eighties, I began to have this interest in the universe. The more I delved into the realities of the universe, the more intricate and precise I knew everything had to be for life to exist. The myriad of contingencies that must fall into place for me to be alive and contemplating philosophically was mind boggling. Hardly a day went by without pondering the amazing universe and life on a small speck of dust called Earth. Six months before I became a Christian, it got to the point that I began to wonder if there really was a God. It just seemed impossible for things to get the so advanced by sheer accident. My whole life, I hated any thought of God. I detested hearing the name “Jesus Christ” or any talk of the Bible by stupid “born-again” Christians.
But the more I thought about it, the more things didn’t make sense from my Naturalistic worldview. The Big Bang beginning of the universe was especially perplexing to me. It started as an infinitesimal point then exploded. I often pondered this infinitely small point just sitting there and then going off. Why? What caused it to explode? Inside the voice of reason kept telling me that something must have caused it to explode. "Ex nihilo nihil fit" is a Latin phrase that means, “Out of nothing, nothing comes”. It means if there was ever a “time” (even time is something), when there was nothing, absolutely nothing, there would be nothing now. You can’t get “something” out of “nothing”. Impossible! My nagging suspicion was that something must have always been.
In the fall of 1999 I remember my brother(who became a Christian in the eighties) giving me an essay he wrote titled, “Is There a God”. It was a rather lengthy essay dealing with classic ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of the Christian God. In light of the struggles I had been having lately on this very issue, I discovered the essay to be very interesting and helpful in sorting things out. It was a rational approach to the question of the existence of God that required no scientific evidence. All one had to affirm was the fact that there was something rather than nothing (I exist) and proceed with a line of reasoning from there. At the end of the argument portion of the essay was the “Concluding Exhortation”. This was a very thorough presentation of the Christian Gospel message. Needless to say, when I read through this, I was totally sickened. All the talk about Jesus made me cringe!
At the 1999 family Thanksgiving, I told my Christian I had read his essay and found it very intriguing. He could tell I was curious about Christianity. Mark responded by buying a few books for me and later gave them to me. One book that I found absolutely amazing was, “Creator and the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross. Dr. Ross is an “Old-Earth” creationist, whose view I found very credible; he believes the universe is several billion years old.
Anyway, that book deals specifically with scientific evidence that supports the God of the Bible. It has many Bible verses that support his thesis that the God who created the universe is the God described in the Bible. I found the chapters on the Big Bang theory especially fascinating. I read that book a couple times and found it more and more difficult to refute the Bible as a special revelation from God to His creatures. It was strange: up until that point in my life, Christianity was absolutely nauseating to me, but now I was inexplicably drawn to it. I had to find out more.
I became interested in the Bible. I had tried to read the Bible before, but gave up. I didn’t know much about it at all. I didn’t know anything about Jesus, except that He was the “Son Of God”, whatever that meant; how could God have a Son? And why did Jesus die on a cross? I always thought Christianity was weird, and morbid…I was confused. II grew up thinking that the Bible was full of myths and contradictions, and could not be trusted to convey any information faithfully. Soon I found myself in a Christian bookstore where I found a book titled, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Parts I & II”, by a Christian apologist named Josh McDowell. This dealt specifically with the credibility and trustworthiness of the Bible. I read through some of that, and I was further amazed at the Bible, and how it seemed there was something special and supernatural about it. After sifting through different reading materials and doing a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that the Bible must be the very Word of God. I just didn’t understand anything about Jesus. Who was this mysterious Jesus? I didn’t know, but whoever Jesus was, He was a real, historical Person.
So I went back to the bookstore again, and found another book by Hugh Ross titled, “Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God”. Using Bible verses and the latest scientific findings, this book describes God as a Being who exists outside the boundaries of the time/space manifold of the universe. According to the book God creates dimensions of space and time, and is not subject to His created order. This book attempts to explain some difficult concepts in the realm of Christian theology. For example, how can God listen to and answer millions of prayers at the same time? How can God be a Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How can God know what will happen in the future? These questions can be answered when one understands that God is “extra-dimensional”.
There was one chapter in that book titled, “The Incarnation and the Atonement”. It was after reading this chapter that I finally understood the heart of the Gospel message. Like a blind man receiving sight for the first time it finally dawned on me that Jesus was God. Jesus was the eternal, self-existent Creator of the magnificent, mind-boggling universe. Jesus was one of the three Persons who are one God. Jesus condescended from His glory and took the form of a Man. That fact alone totally blew me away. Jesus came for one purpose in obedience to His Father…to fulfill the Law and then die on the cross for sinners. I had wondered how that worked. I have always heard, “Jesus died for your sins”, but what exactly did that mean? Many people died on a cross at that time in history. How could His death on a cross take away sin?
Well, after reading that chapter I finally knew the answer to that question. Jesus death was some sort of supernatural event. Sure, Jesus was mocked, beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross, and I am sure it was horrible and painful. But on the cross Jesus became a substitute who took the punishment for sinners. In some sort of compressed time frame or amplified degree of pain and suffering, Jesus experienced what every sinner deserves-the wrath of God against sin and separation from God. In other words, what might seem like a second for us here on earth might have seemed a lot longer for Jesus on the cross. Or, what might seem like the most agonizing pain and suffering one could fathom here on earth would seem like a bad case of hiccups when compared to the full blown wrath of God against sin that Jesus experienced. On the cross the Father treated His Son as if He were a sinner, yet He was without sin. Then Jesus died on the cross and three days later Jesus rose from the dead.
Once I understood the Truth of the cross, I was completely stunned. I knew that God was perfect and righteous, that He was a God of perfect justice. He cannot let lawbreakers go unpunished otherwise he would be unjust. So in order for God to demonstrate His mercy toward sinners who deserve Hell, someone had to take the punishment. Jesus Christ. It all started to make sense now. And when I looked back over my evil and lawless life, I knew I deserved nothing but Hell forever because I had done so many horrible things against a Holy and just God. It was shocking to discover that all my life I hated and despised the most perfect Being ever. My heart was absolutely corrupt beyond measure. Why would Jesus, the Creator and sustainer of the universe suffer and die for me? I was so ugly and vile, and so undeserving of any good thing from the hand of God.
I hated the idea of becoming a Christian…I really did, yet that idea kept creeping into my thoughts no matter how hard I tried to suppress it. As a Christian I would be mocked and hated for my association with Jesus. If fact, it was unbearable right then to even utter His name. Worse, I would have to relinquish my autonomy and become a submissive sheep. Yet, I felt the omniscient eyes of a Holy God bearing down upon me, and I knew I would be consumed by His fierce wrath forever if I didn’t become a Christian. After agonizing over this for a couple days, I finally surrendered my life to God. My eyes welled up with tears and I had a lump in my throat. I prayed, confessed my sins to God, and asked for His forgiveness. This act went against the very grain of my wicked, selfish, prideful, autonomous, and self-exalting nature. God had His way with me, and that was traumatic and humbling to the extreme. When it was over, I was “born-again”. This freaked me out a bit, to say the least! I didn’t understand much about Christianity, far from it. But I knew that Christianity was true, and that Jesus was the only way I could ever be saved from the torments of Hell for all eternity.
Everything changed from that moment forward. First of all, the weight of guilt and shame that had accumulated over my life of evil thoughts and deeds had vanished. I mean gone! The chains fell off and I felt liberated. I was filled with joy and peace, because there was a God who saved me by taking the punishment for me. There was no longer any fear of death…God would preserve me beyond the grave. And as a Christian I actually cared about right and wrong. Whereas I used to love sin and wickedness with all my heart and took great pleasure in evil, now it was my nature to hate sin and love righteousness. As a new Christian it was painful to confess Christ to my unbelieving family, as I was one who formerly scorned and ridiculed Christians, yet that is what God compelled me to do. God was having His way with me and there was nothing I could do about it.
As of January 2011 I had been a Christian for 11 years. I cannot express in words what I have come to know about God’s holiness, justice, love, and mercy. Every day I must go to the cross where the great exchange takes place, because my thoughts, words, and deeds are corrupt and wayward; I have vast deposits of selfishness, hatred, anger, coveting, envy, lust, pride, idolatry, and the list goes on. But my Father in Heaven continually supplies me with His gifts of the righteousness of Christ, faith, sanctification, and perseverance, the greatest gift being God Himself. The contrast between the “old” me and the “new” is a testament of the reality of the Christian God who unilaterally rescues sinners. Undeserving as I am, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Thank you Jesus!