Despite growing up in church, I did not come to know Jesus until I was in college. I prayed the "sinner's prayer" several times growing up, but my knowledge of Jesus never became anything more than head knowledge. When I went to college, my beliefs about God were challenged. The professors and many of the other students did not believe in God, and they had some arguments as to why that I had never considered before. I realized, at that time, that the only reason I believed in God was because I'd never been told anything else. I was just taking someone else's word for it. It was in this time of questioning my beliefs that my mom encouraged me to seek to know the Lord for myself. She reminded me of the following words of Jesus:
"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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8).
If my mom never did anything else for me, I am forever grateful to her for that encouragement. Through the encouragement she's given me regarding my faith over the years, she's been, to me, nothing short of an angel sent from God.
So back in 2005, I set out to figure out for myself what I really believed about God. I read a book by Lee Strobel called, "The Case for Faith," and became convinced that there must be a Creator. In addition to the points made it that book, I generally find the arguments against the existence of God to be weak at best. So after deciding that I definitely believed in God, I was faced with another important question. What do I really believe about Jesus? Lee Strobel wrote another book called, “The Case for Christ,” so I read that next. As an investigative journalist/atheist whose wife had recently become a Christian, Lee Strobel set out to prove to his wife that Christianity is a fairy tale by disproving the resurrection of Jesus. Instead, he discovered evidence that convinced him that the accounts of Jesus in the Bible were reliable and that Jesus really did rise from the dead. The book details the evidence he found so convincing.
I thought the evidence he presented in the book was strong, but it wasn't enough for me. I realized something was missing. The claim of Christianity is that you can have a personal relationship with Jesus. The Bible says that after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended into Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to bear witness of Him (John 16:13-14). Jesus said His sheep know His voice, and He calls them by name (John 10:3-4). The Apostle John said that every one can know Jesus personally through the Holy Spirit, without needing to be taught by someone else (1 John 2:27). Many other Scriptures confirm this notion as well.
So I realized that if Jesus really is alive, and really speaks through the Holy Spirit, then He is not to be found merely through evidence. The best way to find out if someone is alive is to have a personal encounter with them. So I prayed and asked Jesus to reveal Himself to me. I began to read the New Testament and spent hours in prayer, just asking God to speak to me and let me know whether Jesus was really His Son.
After a couple months of this, I was in prayer, and God spoke to me. I did not hear an audible voice, nor did I just form a sentence in my head that I assumed to be God giving me a thought. It's hard to describe, but all of the sudden, I could just sense this presence in my spirit, and I knew that it was God. Along with the presence came a message that really didn't come in the form of words. It was just a sudden knowing that came to my spirit, and even though it wasn't really given in words, I knew what the message was. I was hoping perhaps if God revealed Himself to me, He would tell me His plan for my life or something, but the message He gave me was much more profound. All He said to me was simply, "I love you."
That message hit my heart like a ton of bricks. Along with that simple message came a knowledge that God's love for me was all wrapped up in Jesus' death for me on the cross. It was like, all in an instant, everything I'd ever heard or read about the Gospel became alive to me. In that moment, Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection became much more than head knowledge. It became something that I knew, deep down in my spirit. The overwhelming magnitude of what God had chosen to say to me, and that sudden personal knowledge that Jesus was crucified for my sins, put me in tears. I wept for probably 30 minutes, just overwhelmed at the love and mercy of God given through His Son Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the sins of mankind. As I recollect on that moment, I can't help but shed a tear even now.
It took me about 11 years after that to learn how to live free from sin by depending continually on the grace of God. Even since then, it has been an ongoing process, and will be until I die. I'm ashamed at many of the things I've done while claiming the name of Christ, but I'm also thankful that the Holy Spirit never left me during any of it. He's always been there, through that same gentle voice, assuring me of God's love, mercy, and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. So my challenge for you today is this: if you really want to put Christianity to the test, seek to have a personal encounter with Jesus. If you seek Him with a humble heart, you will find Him.