Before my encounter with God
Freedom and rebellion were my primary values. Having grown up in a strictly conservative Christian home, I rebelled against all the Christian rules and regulations which were forced upon me and only wished to live free from any rules. I grew to hate God and despise Christianity which seemed intent on meddling with and conforming the lives of others. I broke free from my parents’ home when I was 18.
Due to my Christian upbringing, I had a vast intellectual knowledge about Jesus Christ, who He was and what He had done. But to me this was all just head knowledge, propaganda that I had been brain-washed with as a kid. What I did know was that Jesus called people to follow Him, to forsake the enjoyment of this life, and to obey that dreadful rule Book. I had seen and heard of many who had decided to ‘follow’ Jesus and I thought they were absurd fools to give up their freedom in exchange for a boring pious life of rule-following.
Liberating myself from this ‘Christian’ oppression I lived life as I pleased and followed my heart, gratifying every desire with great vigour and little restraint. I had no care for what society thought of my behaviour, I just wanted to be ‘me’. My lifestyle could very aptly have been described as one of sex, drugs, and rock & roll’. I had no regard for who got hurt in my pursuit of pleasure and freedom. Today when I look back at the wake of people who got hurt in my insatiable pursuit of happiness and autonomy, I am deeply ashamed and regret my actions dearly.
A Dramatic Encounter
After about seven years of careless loose living, I started to find that this life that I thought I was enjoying was now sadistically enjoying me. I found myself bound as a slave to drugs and a party lifestyle which left me broke and helpless to curb my disastrous habits. Though I tried more and more with increasing determination to stop, or at least slow down, I found myself helpless to curb my ever-increasing self-destructing habits. I frantically came to the realization that I was a slave to my own desires and ‘freedom’!
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
I found myself on a way such as this. I felt I was at the threshold of death and distressed beyond description due to my immanent fate as a consequence of the bad decisions I had made.
On the night of September 15, 2005, I tossed about relentlessly on my bed deprived of sleep due to my overwhelming distress – I knew my life was out of control, my autonomy was gone, I was a slave to a sadistic taskmaster. I was exhausted and hopeless – I saw no way out. It was at this moment that Jesus dramatically reminded me of His own words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, you who are tired and weary of carrying heavy loads, I will give you rest.”
These words were a massive encouragement to me; I was tired, I was weary, I was carrying heavy loads, I needed rest. However, these words also brought me to a state of terror. As I realized that Jesus was offering me rest, I knew very well that it was this Jesus against whom I had rebelled, the One I had rejected, the One I had sinned so heinously against. I was intimately aware that my innumerable sins against God earned me His eternal wrath in the hottest place in hell, forever. I knew that I had not given God the slightest reason to look on me with favour. On the contrary, I knew that my lifestyle of sin and rebellion had given God great reason to be eternally angry with me.
But here I was confounded by the fact that this infinitely holy God against Whom I had so grievously sinned was here in my time of greatest need offering me rest. It seemed too good to be true. How could the One I had so greatly offended be offering me rest and reconciliation?! It was then that I understood that the crimes for which Jesus was crucified 2000 years ago were my crimes, He bore my sins on the cross, He had received the punishment that was due to me, and because of this, was now lovingly offering me rest. He wasn’t presenting rules for me to follow or conditions to be met, He was simply offering me rest, forgiveness of my sins, and reconciliation with God.
That very day, I took Jesus up on His offer. Because He had conquered death, in His resurrection from the grave, I knew that He was alive and able to actualize His offer. I believed Jesus could forgive my sins and turned wholeheartedly to Him for mercy and rest.
My simple prayer to Him was this, “I surrender. I’m not running anymore; no longer my way, but Your way.” It wasn’t a fancy prayer; it was a simple prayer of surrender.
What happened next?
The change that God brought about in my life was dramatic. After I had put my faith in Jesus Christ, a profound and fascinating thing happened. I experienced a ‘newness of life’ a joy bubbling within me, a passionate desire to behave uprightly, a detest for the sin I had been wallowing in, and a hunger to know God more – though it somehow felt as though I knew Him intimately, as if He permeated my entire being.
I was a totally new man! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creation.” I experienced this explicitly! The addictions that had enslaved me were now spontaneously gone – I experienced no withdrawal symptoms at all! My filthy mind and heart were renewed, the things I used to love, I now despised. I returned money and things that I had stolen. I apologized to those whom I had hurt and trodden on. I had an insatiable desire for God’s Word which I had previously despised; I often found myself reading the Bible till past 3AM. I attended church services on every day (including weekdays). I felt such intense joy and fulfilment in being reconciled to God that I spontaneously sought to please Him and serve Him – though I knew it was my duty to obey Him as Lord, I welcomed and embraced it enthusiastically. It felt as if I was living my life for the very purpose for which I had been created. To me, the ‘rule Book’ that I had previously despised, now became the welcome means for me to know God and how to please Him who had loved me so much to rescue me from destruction and despair, forgive my sins, and reconcile me to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Obeying and pleasing God became the irresistible and reasonable reciprocation of the unconditional love shown to me. I am not perfect, though I strive to please and obey God, I still have my shortcomings. God is not finished with me yet. This is an exciting journey of being in friendship with God!