How do I put into words the incredible circumstances that led me to follow Jesus……I have talked to many people about it, yet always feel so inept at describing the spring of 1994.
I can start with telling you a bit about my background. I was raised in a single parent home. My parents divorced when I was 6 over my father’s violent alcohol fueled temper. I was not raised in the church and it was not until my mom remarried my step dad when I was 12 that I first went to church with my family. Mostly, I didn’t get it and rather ended up loathing religion as years of unresolved pain, anger and depression lingered in my system into my 20’s. When I was 13 or so in a very real moment I did pray with my Sunday school teacher to believe in Jesus. All I can say to describe what transpired is that something went out through the top of my head and something else came entered. It freaked me out so much I never said anything about it to anyone.
At 14 I left secretly from home to Florida to live with my dad….after five years, I went on the Altanta College of Art where I formed my philosophy of life, slowly becoming more and more convinced that there was no god. I became heavily involved with the underground punk scene. I spent alot of nights going to see bands and drinking A LOT. The magnitude of my anger and depression was oppressive. I was working as a vet tech at the time in Decatur, a suburb of Altanta, spending evenings seeing bands. I didn’t do much art at the time being so busy with a demanding full time job, but somehow in the spring of 1994, I had the idea to paint a large scale work of Jesus. To me, he was just a great teacher, a historical figure. I thought it would be really cool to paint him nude. My first order of business was to do a little research. So, I would visit the local library to check out any books I could find. I read books from many different perspectives on who Jesus really was…..and this is where it becomes challenging to articulate.
In that little house in Decatur Georgia at some moment of time I cannot place, the presence of God filled the room surrounding me in a sort of bubble. It was the purest most beautiful thing one could ever imagine. To describe what the very presence of God feels like in words……impossible. This went on for several weeks. I slept little and even had multiple experiences with demonic attack. It did not take long for me to understand that the Spirit of God was pointing me to Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. As a matter of fact, the scripture speaks of a literal “rebirth”, a moving from death into life. And that is exactly what happened to me. I noticed that colors were more vibrant, I heard sounds with a certain new clarity. It really was like being dead and then brought to life. From that day on, nothing could convince me of any truth other than that Jesus Christ is exactly who the scripture says He is: The son of God sent to take on the sins of the world and offer reconciliation with God. Thus began a 16 year journey of study, prayer and following Him.
I cannot count the times He has spoken truth to me, blessed and worked in me, changed and healed me and I owe Him my life. I challenge each of you to truly examine the Jesus.
So, my friends, this is my story. And this is the gospel:
God, out of an overflow of His being and His glory, creates. He speaks and things come into existence. He creates the universe, the planets, and at the apex of His creation, He creates man in His image. He creates out of love. And He breathes His spirit into dust, and man is created. And then he creates woman. God created this perfect, harmonious, beautiful creation, and man decided that he could do things better than God, that he was smarter than God, that he could be a better sovereign than God could. So he rebels against the word of God. God told him how to live, what life was supposed to be like, told him want to do and what not to do. He gave man a path that leads to life. He displayed the way that leads to our ultimate joy which is only found in relationship with Him.
In love He said,
“Go this way, not this way.”
And man said, “You know what? I really appreciate You giving me some heads up, but I really think I know better than You, God. So I’m going to do this.”
So man sins, rebels against God and thus separates himself from relationship with God. And death enters the word, and it infects and shatters everything. And all of us now, in Adam’s fall, all sinned. All of us became sinners by our nature and by action; we join in this fall. And we do it every single day. All we have to do is look around and be honest about our own hearts and we can see the trail of pain we leave.
How in the world is God going to deal with this problem of having sinful creatures that rebel against Him and at the same time finish what He set out to do, which is namely to have a planet full of creatures who image and glorify Him?
After the fall, the rest of the Bible is preparing for Jesus Christ to step on the scene. It is the grand Metanarrative. It is a preparing for this great news to be trumpeted. He prepares for the coming of His Son by raising up a people, the Jews, who by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and a priesthood, by kings and by prophets are taught something of what God is planning and what He expects. This is the Old Testament and then in the fullness of time, His Son comes. Jesus of Nazareth, born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem comes and takes on human nature. Jesus was fully man and fully God. Onto the stage of history in response to man’s sin and rebellion steps Jesus. Our problem is that we are separated from a holy God because we are sinners, because his wrath is deserved by us, and there is nothing we can do about. There is no amount of good works that we can do. Nothing. We can’t fix it. We can’t sacrifice it. We can’t do enough good. As a matter of fact God calls the “good” we do “filthy rags.” We will never be able to live up to God’s standard. So Jesus Christ went on the cross and died, and herein really lies the heart of the gospel. So, He lived the perfect life, performed miracles as a sign of His Godhead and then died for our sins. There is substitution that happened at the cross, a supernatural
substitution where God took on our sins. God the Son took on our sins and died for them
and gave us His righteousness. He got what we deserved, and He gave us what we don’t
deserve in dying for our sins. And then God raised him from the dead. The gospel is that Jesus Christ is Lord, He’s been raised from the dead and has come with Saving and transforming power. The great news is that God has decided not to leave this world and us in the mess that we got ourselves into. Through His Son, He’s decided to make all things new, and He’s invited us into that if we would trust Jesus Christ and submit our lives to Him as Lord and Savior.