There are times when you need to abandon your plans and just go with the flow or the inspiration of the moment. This post begins with the story of one of those times in my life.
I was working an extra shift on the evening of Dec. 31, 1999 in preparation for the Y2K disaster that never happened. Fortunately, I had been encouraged to bring something of my own to do in case our emergency services were not needed. Since I was to speak at our church service the following morning I brought along my sermon notes because it needed some polishing. As that particularly boring evening progressed I came to see that it was not the message the congregation needed to hear.
Our church was changing its doctrines. In theory, the denomination was starting to see the need for Christians to be born again. Lots of articles about the theory of being born again were being published. Nothing that was being written or spoken about described a change of heart from the writer’s own personal perspective.
Perhaps it began with reflecting on the close of a century and the dawning of another one, but I began to remember how my walk with Jesus truly began. As I remembered, the floodgates of understanding opened and I realized that my church had encouraged me, by its doctrines, to suppress my own born-again new life in favour of a dry, self-powered keeping of biblical law.
What this church needed to hear was a living testimony, not another dry, technical doctrinal exposition by someone who had not lived the experience of a changed heart and mind.
My first encounter with Jesus took place when I was seventeen. I had gotten myself into a situation that I knew I could not get myself out of. There are details involved that I could share with a small church group that are not necessarily appropriate for a public web page, so I will spare you the “gory details” online here.
When the situation came to a head I was truly scared. I took advantage of having an evening alone at home to kneel and pray as I had never prayed before. I confessed my sins to Jesus Christ and asked for His forgiveness. I asked Him to save me from the fate that I feared so much: the loss of my very self. Oddly enough, it did not occur to me to bargain with God for His help in overcoming what I dreaded. I just threw myself upon His mercy and begged for help.
After what seemed like an hour of praying (pleading, actually), something very strange happened. I felt a peace descending upon me. I had never experienced anything like it before. It started at the top of my head and proceeded downward until my whole body radiated with it.
Along with that peace came a calming assurance that Jesus had heard and answered my prayer. I would never have to fear the fate I so dreaded. It wasn’t audible, or even in words as such. I just felt it as though it were deposited into my mind as a permeating awareness.
These words are a completely inadequate description of what I experienced that night. No mere words can come even close.
I knew then that Jesus was my Lord and my God, and pledged my life to His service that night. My perceptions about right and wrong changed dramatically that night. More importantly, my perceptions about people and relationships also changed dramatically. This has allowed me to become more gracious and flexible with people than my normal inclinations would make me.
About a year later I was formally baptized by immersion in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Once again that peace descended upon me, as well as a sense of being in a conversation with God in the back of my mind in which my mind was being filled with knowledge or wisdom.
The pastor and witnesses present seemed oblivious to this inner conversation, so I kept it to myself. Little did I realize at the time that I would be keeping it to myself for almost two decades.
When I spoke of this that New Year’s day in 2000, the reaction was fascinating. Mostly, my testimony was ignored. Of the almost 150 people there only a handful said anything at all. The positive comments were the normal “good sermon” comments that made no elaboration.
Two of them basically called me a liar, though not in those words. They simply could not believe that anyone could have experiences like that. Their church training forbade it, therefore it could not happen. Not even the “new” theology could convince them otherwise because no pastor or higher church official ever reported such an experience to them. Since I was neither of those, it could not be real.
In 2012, the reaction of members of Wascana Fellowship was very different. There was actually real discussion about how we know we are children of God. Some even recounted similar, though not identical, experiences in their own lives. For others, a change of heart and mind occurred more gradually, but is evident nonetheless by a change of life that is evident to family, friends and co-workers.
It is good to be confident that Jesus Christ is working in your life. How do you know?