My aim is to provide answers to many of the questions people have about Christianity. So why would I pose a question about myself specifically? Well, primarily I want to use myself as an example of how one comes to faith. But my story is only one of millions, and God is not limited in the way in which He draws people to Himself. But typically, almost without exception, God uses His Word, the Bible; whether we hear it preached or whether we read it, it is God's Word that establishes our faith. If you want to know God, then pick up a Bible and read. This is precisely how I came to truly know God.
Actually, I was brought up in a Christian home and I had heard the gospel many times over. But, during my teenage years especially, I wasn't living anything like a Christian, because I wasn't one. When I left home at the age of 22, it was to move in with my girlfriend at the time. Immediately I stopped going to Church. Now, this is an important point... hearing the gospel isn't enough; you have to live by it. The Bible speaks of those Israelites in the desert which rebelled against God, and it says:
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:2)
Those Israelites saw God part the Red Sea, and they saw the pillar of fire... all of these very visible signs of God, and yet for even some of them, they didn't have faith. In our passage above it says that “they were not united by faith with those who listened.” Part of the problem is that we don't listen. I was writing to a man once who is an atheist, and I would often quote Scripture to him. Once he said to me, “Don't bother quoting from your Bible, I just skip over it anyway.” And I thought to myself, “What is so threatening about the Bible that you have to avoid reading any part of it altogether? What is he afraid might happen, if he supposedly believes there to be no God behind it?” How can one expect for God to reveal Himself to them when they are refusing to listen? It's really as though he's putting his fingers in his ears and shouting “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!” And then he argues that “If God is real, why is He so silent?”
But actually, I was once no different. In fact, we could argue “what's worse?” I had sat and listened to the pastor tell me about Jesus Christ... and having done that, I went off and did all sorts of things that I'm too ashamed to now speak of! It seems worse to me, to know for certain who Christ is and what kind of a life He requires of you, and then to just silence Him by going off and doing the very things that you know offend Him. It's really like telling Jesus to “Shut up and go away!” How can one say that to the Son of God!? Many would be ashamed to say that to a complete stranger!
Well, it wasn't until I was a married man, and at the age of 28 I was sorting through the various things in my home which had accumulated over time. As it turned out, I owned about four Bibles, all of which had been given to me by someone at some point. I opened one up and thought to myself, “How is it that I, being a Christian, have never read a single page of the Bible?” Well, that's what I thought. I thought I was a Christian because as a child I'd been to Church. But I was fooling myself. Nevertheless, at that moment I thought that there was something profoundly askew for someone who calls himself a Christian to have never read the Bible. And so I began to read it. For some reason, I started in Job. And I barely understood a word of what I was reading. But maybe that's what caused me to persist... I knew that God was trying to communicate with me, and I wanted desperately to understand Him. It's a bit like how we left off yesterday, where Jesus had preached a message that many did not understand and left Him because of it. Then He asked His disciples if they would leave Him. Well, doubtless they hadn't understood what Jesus had just been teaching, but Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” They persisted, knowing that Christ was who He said He was, even if they didn't yet understand everything. And so I persisted, and I read the entire Bible in six months. At some point during that time I was convicted by the passage in Matthew which reads:
Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
And so I prayed a payer along these lines... “Lord, I'm not so sure that I'm a saved man. And if not, I pray and ask this moment that you would come and save me. From now on, I only want to do Your will.”
I'm able to look back over the years now since that day. Everything changed from that day forward. The wrong things that I was doing ceased very rapidly, and there are many things that I used to do that I have never done again since that day. But one of the most significant things that really stands out for me is that my mind is always just continually on God. When I wake up in the morning, my very first thoughts are about God. In absolutely everything that happens to me, I am thinking about what God desires of me. And when I think of others coming to know God, I am filled with excitement and joy. Now, if constantly thinking about God is something that doesn't appeal to you, then you have not yet understood just who God truly is. And my prayer for you is that someday you will understand.
Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)