Monday, May 11, 2009

What Convinced Me

A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus. Now that doesn’t seem to say much, does it? After all, what does “believe in” mean? Is it like asking if you believe in ghosts? Or, do you believe in Harry Potter? And why Jesus? Who is he anyway? Couldn’t you say that you just believe in God and be done with it? What difference does it make?

I like questions; they are the best way to get answers. If you don’t ask questions, an answer can hit you in the face and you may never even know it. Of course, just because you ask a question doesn’t mean you automatically get the answer. But at least you are looking for an answer, and that’s the first step in finding one.

To me, the best questions have to do with the word why. Why does ice float? Or, why do people have so many different languages? I especially like this why question: Why is the universe here? Some people say this is a question without a real answer. Like questioning why the jelly fish or why yellow. Few would accept the answer “Well, just because it is.” Same with the question Why is everything here? There is a reason why, and the Bible helps us understand what that reason is.

People have thought about how the universe got here for a long time, probably as long as there have been people. Many answers have been suggested. The problem with this question is that no one can prove his or her answer is better than anyone else’s. No one ever saw how it was done. For a scientist to answer this question, the scientist would have to prove that answer was correct by doing it all over again. Before that, it would just be a theory. So far, no one can make something from nothing, let alone a whole universe! Just for starters I wonder if anyone can even make a space where they can prove that nothing is in it?

You might be wondering what all this has to do with Jesus. Good question! The Christian is convinced there is one God who made everything out of nothing. The Christian is also certain this one God came into the world of humans by being born only as Jesus of Nazareth and no one else, ever. This is the same Jesus that I said Christians must believe in. Think of what this could mean! If God did come as a person, we could get to know God and find out the answers to some of our questions, such as "Why do people do so much bad stuff to each other? Do we have a purpose in life? If so, what is it? Is there any way to change myself, or others? Is there a way to have a life with real joy, or satisfaction?"

Most importantly of all, we could get to know what God thinks. We could find out what is important to God.

The Christian believes in this Jesus. This means that the Christian is convinced that God, the One-who-made-it-all, is Jesus. This is why Jesus is called the Son of God. Like Father, like son, the saying goes. If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God.

Now why would a person believe that God came to humankind as Jesus? What could convince a person that Jesus is God? When you ask this question of Christians, you get many different answers. This is because people are convinced by different things. What it took to convince a scientist, like the guy who mapped human DNA, would probably be different from what it took to convince my daughter Sarah when she was four years old. Each one became convinced in their own way.

What convinced me was something that I have never heard happen to anyone else. I was not raised as a Christian and I had never read the Bible, except for three small parts. As a teenager, I had become involved with drugs. One day, on December 28, 1970, I was smoking marijuana at my parents house in the living room with the neighbor girl who lived across the street. A fire was burning in the fireplace that we hoped would help hide the smell. We were thinking about going to a party later when the phone rang in the kitchen. I got up and answered the phone, one of those old dial types that hung on the wall. It was my sister Beth wanting to talk with me. This was unusual, and I asked if she wanted to talk instead to her friend who was in the living room. She said no, she really wanted to talk with me. I asked her why.

“Because Jesus Christ has chosen you,” she replied.

“What does he want to do with me?” I asked. “I’m about the biggest wreck there is.” I had taken drugs so many times that for the last year I had been unable to carry on a whole conversation because I would forget what I was talking about, even in the middle of a sentence. But there was something about her words and the way she spoke that it did not occur to me to doubt her.
“That’s just why He wants you, to fix you up,” she insisted.

Well, this started a conversation about Jesus. As we talked, I started to laugh at stuff that really wasn’t that funny. I explained to Beth that the reason I laughed at such times was because I had just smoked some marijuana. This made Beth upset.

“I don’t want you to smoke that stuff ever again,” she commanded in a stern voice.
As soon as she said this, I felt something snap on my chest, then I felt something like a cloak or jacket fall off my shoulders, and I knew instantly that I would never abuse drugs again. And I haven’t.

Beth went on to say that it was my sin that had closed me off from God. Now you have to understand, we didn’t use the word “sin” in our home when we were growing up, except as a joke. So I asked Beth what did she mean by sin?

“You know,” she said. “The stuff you’ve done wrong.”

I knew I must have done something wrong in my life, but at that moment I couldn’t think of anything specific. Beth then told me that I needed to ask God to forgive me.
I had no idea how to do such a thing. I stalled by asking Beth if I needed to do it right then.

“Do you know for sure that you’ll live till tomorrow?” she asked pointedly.

“Well, not for sure.” I answered, although I was planning on it.

“We had better do this right now. I’ll guide you in what to say. You can repeat after me,” she directed.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s do it right now.”

As soon as I agreed to ask God to forgive me, something weird happened. I was standing with my back leaning on the kitchen wall talking on the phone, yet it was behind me and a little to my left I seemed to hear someone say, “Go ahead and get into it. But if after a while you find out that it is not God, you can always get back out again.”

As soon as that voice was done speaking I heard another voice, deep and strong, this time coming from in front of me, a little to my right and above my head. “No, it is all or nothing!” it commanded.

I thought for just a small moment, and then I decided it would be all. So Beth led me in asking God to forgive me and be the Lord of my life. When we were done, I had this strong sense of the truth of it all. I knew that I knew I had just met God, talked with Him personally, and that God’s name was Jesus. In all this I somehow also knew the Bible was true. I was so happy and excited! I knew God!

Beth told me she had to go but for me to ask God for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (more about this later). She told me that when I received the Holy Spirit, I would get wisdom. She also told me that God liked to be talked to all the time. Some people call this prayer. She then hung up the phone, as did I.

I stood there in the kitchen, letting it all soak in. I had just met God, and His name was Jesus! Talk about something unexpected! I then walked back out to the living room where just a little while ago I had been smoking marijuana with the neighbor girl. There were now two young ladies there. They asked me if I wanted to go to a party with them. I told them no, I didn’t. They asked me why.

“I just met God.” I answered. “His name’s Jesus! I’m going to go upstairs and pray.”
You should have seen their jaws drop—they were so stunned! They looked at me as if I had finally wandered off, went around the corner, and lost my way back. They couldn’t leave fast enough! I went upstairs to ask God for this baptism in the Holy Spirit thing, whatever that was.
Nothing seemed to happen. As I lay upon my bed, I felt as if I would die if I didn’t get this baptism in the Holy Spirit. I found myself becoming more and more fearful. Then I thought about how ridiculous this fear was. I would just trust Jesus. I then fell asleep.

When I awoke the next morning I was shocked by how clear my thinking was. I could think a sentence all the way through! When I went to the bathroom, I looked into the mirror and saw this guy (me) with a beard all the way down to the middle of his chest. How outrageous! So I trimmed it conservatively to about three inches in length. My mind was clear…I could think again! I felt free! Everything looked so new! Wow!

This was the start of a long journey.
I have never found anything that could change my mind
from knowing for certain
that I have actually met and know God,
the One-who-made-it-all.
I believe in Jesus and that makes me a Christian.

No comments: