You mentioned recently in a post that you have been a believer for only a few years. Didn’t you go to a church since you were a child and prefess your faith as an adult? How can you say that you have been a believer for only a few years? Can you explain?
I grew up in a non-denominational church. I was a good boy. I made sure I didn’t do bad things…well I didn’t do really bad things anyway. And because I was determined to be a good boy, and mostly succeded, I didn’t really understand the gospel. Jesus died for my sin, I understood that in my head, but in my heart, I didn’t really need forgiveness. My Christianity was a religious moralism, a Pharisaical law keeping. I was trained in the church, and did what was expected of me. After graduating from White Rock Christian Academy, I took a year long “spiritual development” course, where we learned the doctrines from various branches of Christianity, the history of the church, and of course I got baptised because that was expected of me. Now don’t get me wrong. I believed in God. I knew there was a higher power, but for me, “church” was really just about my friends and singing songs and having a good time. And God was a mere doctrine…something to be debated and dissected in late night conversations with my mom. I treasure those conversations, but I did not really believe.
In that spiritual development course, Pastor Takeda introduced us to Reformed theology. I had no clue what it was, or that there were even Reformed Churches. This new theology appealed to my intelligent side. I began to study it. I fell in love with it. I dove into reading books by JI Packer, CH Spurgeon, RC Sproul, and others. It was at that time I met a girl while working at Wendy’s, she was really cute. She must have thought I was cute too. Since we got married. Turns out she went to this Church called the Canadian Reformed Church (CanRC). Since she was all I could think about, all the time, I began attending her church once a week. I even skipped out on misions trip because I could not bear to be away from her. Funnily enough my first service was in the afternoon after I was baptized in the morning at my old church. As we got more serious, I joined the CanRC full time. I left my old church for a girl. I can admit that now. I began meeting with my new pastor, Rev. C. Vanspronsen, once a week for one on one catechism training. And did I take full advantage, I loved learning – I still do. After being examined by the elders, and passing the test ( I loved passing). I professed my faith in the CanRC.
We got engaged.
We got married in the Church.
Had our first child in the Church.
We baptized her in the Church.
We went to bible studies in the Church.
Want to talk doctrine? I knew doctrine: Lutheran, baptist, charismatic, cesstionist, reformed, Weslyan, I loved it and I was fascinated with it all.
I tried starting outreach groups for single parents, and homeless. I was active in bible study. I wanted to be a pastor, because I thought it would be great to get paid to study. Isn’t that a great reason?
Then my dad got sick. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I dove into the Heidelberg catechism for comfort, because that is what it is about! I wrote him a poem based on Lord’s Day one. I prayed. I did what I was supposed to do.
When my dad died, I blamed God. I became discontent with the church, and began skipping worship services. I was empty. I turned to other things to fill the void. I frequented smoky bars. Got lost in video games. Got drunk on booze. Got lost in fantasy and porn. Movies, parties, whatever I could find to fill the void I indulged in. Our marriage began to suffer – obviously. We found out we were pregnant, and being discontent with life, we thought it was good time to start fresh. Once our first child was born, we packed up and moved from Surrey to Chilliwack. I thought the grass must be greener! In Chilliwack I continued on my destructive path. I grew depressed. I isolated myself from everyone. I grew apart from my wife and my friends and family. Darkness was my only friend. I went to church only when I had to do parking lot patrol or usher. I was angry all the time. I hated life. When the elders would come to visit, I put on a show that everything was fine. But I was dead inside. My marriage was on the rocks. As I climbed down the cliff deeper into my selfishness and sin, I lost my grip, fell and hit rock bottom.
When I hit I thought that was it. God hates me.
Soon after, I picked up my Bible. I was broken. I hated myself. I remembered the words of Jesus, so I turned to the book of Matthew:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
So I prayed. I asked for something, I am not even sure what…But I wanted to know if God loved me. I told him that I was seeking Him, I asked him to let me find him. I prayed this for a number of days or weeks. Then one day, after I prayed, I read the words of Isaiah 53 and Romans 5:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
And the words of verse 8 were like a baseball bat between my eyes. While we were yet sinners…Christ Died…for us…
He died for me…
I went for walk and contemplated all that I had read. And then it was real. I fell to the ground. I was unable to stand. I felt a presence that I can only describe as pure holiness. It was so illogical that while it was happening I thought to myself, “No way is this happening…” But it was so strong, so overwhelming. I dropped my Bible. All my sins, all the selfishness, all the hatred I had committed was present in my mind, I could not turn and run even though I wanted to… I was frozen in place and I vomited. I hated everything about myself and I wanted to die in the presence of that holiness. I cried out, “I believe that Jesus died for me…please save me!”
In an instant, the presence of holiness was gone and in its place was what I can only describe as pure comfort. Peace. It was like a warm glow in my soul. All the guilt was gone. All the shame was gone. Jesus died for me. I finally understood all that doctrine. I finally understood all that theology. It was no longer just a head knowledge, but heart knowledge. I praised God for the first time in my life.
Now, to be honest, I do not know for certain what my experience was. If I test it against scripture I wonder if it was it my own emotions getting the better of me at a time of despair. I would like to believe that God met me in a special revelation, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that I really believed for the first time in that moment. And I know what is revealed in his word. God brought me low and convicted me of sin. Was it a conversion experience? I am not sure. What I do know, is that God is good. He let me go down that path. He knew what he was doing. When I hit rock bottom, I was slammed head first into Jesus Christ. In the midst of despair, in my sorrow and distress, Jesus died for me. The one through whom and for whom all things had been created died for…me….and for you if you believe!
You asked how I can say that I was not a believer?
In a small nutshell..that is how.
I have been Christian in name almost my entire life, but I have been a believer for only about 6 years. Some say it is a “Road to Damascus” style conversion, but I beg to differ…it started long before that moment. When I look back I can see God leading, shaping, and moulding me. Through experiences, through the opportunity to study about him, through the countless sermons I heard, through my mom, through my old pastors and my current one, through mentors and friends, through many of you as well. It has been a painful process, and this journey is not over! And we are all walking the road together. Thank you for reading. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for your prayers!
The story of how I came to believe is actually not about me at all. It is all about Him. Give all the glory to God.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.