When I was 19 years old, I had a radical encounter with God that changed my life forever. This has happened to millions of people around the world. This story shares my radical encounter with God and how it happened.
I grew up with limited knowledge about God. I went to church occasionally with my Grandmother from childhood to my teen years and learned that there is a God, heaven, and hell and that God judges people according to how they live. This made me fear God and want to do what was right most of the time but I still did plenty of wrong things. My Father did a good job of teaching me that there were negative consequences for doing wrong.
At sixteen years old, I stopped going to church however I was still looking for answers to life's questions. Questions like: Could I really know God? Could he help me? What did he want from me? Could I know that I'm forgiven, and accepted and that I'm going to go to heaven when I die? What is my purpose? I watched some religious shows on TV but still did not get satisfying answers to my questions. Just taking a person's word for it didn't seem enough when it came to my eternity. I wanted to know the answers somehow from God! The fact that the world in the late 1970s was quickly approaching a nuclear war between Russia and USA, played a big part in my wanting the answers to these questions.
At nineteen years of age, I was ready to move out of my parent's house and travel to the west coast of Canada from Southern Ontario. With a motorcycle, my camping gear, and a thousand dollars saved, I left in June 1979 with a friend who also had a motorcycle. We spent six weeks traveling and camping across Canada to the West Coast. There were some dangerous close calls but we were amazingly kept safe. When we were running out of money, someone told us that we could get some quick cash by picking fruit in the Okanagan Valley in Penticton, BC so we headed there. We met a retired pastor whom I questioned about God and he steered us to a youth group at a local church. I asked the youth pastor some questions and he told me "The answers are all found in this book" as he handed me a New Testament Bible and told me to read it. He was just moving away to another country at that time. I hated reading but began to read the four Gospels in my spare time in the orchard, God began to reveal to me who he was, what he wanted of me, and what he had to offer me.
Little did I know as I read through the four Gospels during the next couple of months that I would have a radical encounter with God that would change my life forever.
I discovered that the Bible was written by God's Prophets so that we can know God and what he requires of us to have eternal life with him in paradise. The Bible is not just a book but is God's divine letter to mankind and God's Spirit reveals spiritual truths as we read it.
I discovered that God fathered a human son 2000 years ago, who was born into our world as Jesus of Nazareth to be the chosen Christ/Messiah/Savior of the world. Before Jesus was born, he already existed as a spirit with God (called the Word who was with God and who was also God) who spoke on God's behalf and participated in the creation of everything from the beginning. Jesus was born into the world, grew up and shared about God's kingdom, demonstrated God's power, and offered people forgiveness. Jesus was someone who loved people, helped people, healed people, and set them free from evil spirits (demons) which caused sickness and mental torment. Jesus never did anything wrong but lived a perfect life to please his Father God. Since Jesus was not guilty of any wrongdoing (sin), he could take the punishment for the sin of all mankind. In the past to be forgiven by God, people were required to repent (desire to stop and turn away) from everything that God calls evil (sin) and continually offer blood sacrifices of innocent animals. Jesus' final act was to die and offer his blood as a final perfect sacrifice to God for the sin of all mankind so that no further sacrifices were needed. I could see Jesus' great love for people by willingly offering himself as a sacrificed by being scourged on his back with a whip (39 times) and crucified (nailed) on a cross for the sake of all mankind. Then on the third day after he died, he rose from death and appeared to more than 500 people before ascending back to heaven to sit on the throne with his Father God. Jesus was someone who spoke the truth and could be trusted. He was God in human form. Jesus also shared that there was a judgment of fire and torment for those who continue to do evil and that he would return to the earth to be the King and judge of this world. Going by the signs of the times he will be coming soon.
Jesus still offers forgiveness, freedom from tormenting evil spirits (demons), and healing. He offers eternal life with God in paradise (heaven) and promises to be with people by giving them the Holy Spirit (God's Spirit) to be a friend, helper, comforter, guide, and teacher in this life. God desires to be with us by dwelling in us so we are never alone.
I read that in order to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit, I had to repent (desire to stop and turn away) from what God calls evil (sin), get baptized in water, and believe in and follow (become a disciple of) Jesus. Later on, in my P.S., I explain what God considers evil.
If what I was reading in the Gospels was true then I thought if I meet God's requirements then I should receive what he promises. God wanted my heart and my life - it was all or nothing so I gave him my all to see what would happen! As I was picking fruit in an orchard, I didn't pray out loud. I simply desired in my heart to stop and turn away from everything God considers evil and to live a life to please God. I was willing to give up everything, and follow (become a disciple of) his son Jesus Christ.
Within days of that decision, something incredible happened to me. I began to feel intense love, peace, and joy flooding into my soul from God which overwhelmed me for a few months. Everything around me took on a new beauty and outlook. I felt connected to God. I knew that God had forgiven me and accepted me as his child. I had a new purpose to live for him and be his forever, which was incredible. I felt renewed and alive inside and could not help but love God in return with all my heart. I was his and totally devoted to him. I knew in my spirit that I was spiritually reborn inside and had received the Holy Spirit within me as my friend, helper, comforter, guide, and teacher. As soon as I could, I got baptized in water as an act of obedience signifying death to myself and my newly resurrected life in Jesus Christ. My encounter with God inspired me to write one of my first songs for God at 19 years of age called 'I LOVE YOU LORD' which I included on my OVERCOMERS debut album.
Fortunately, my friend devoted his life to Jesus Christ and so did others with whom I shared my story and encouraged to read the Gospels in the Bible. The common experience for them all was, they encountered God and received the Holy Spirit within, which confirmed God's promises, and changed their lives inside out.
God is real! His promise to forgive us and to be with us by the Holy Spirit is real when we meet God's requirements. We all need the help of the Holy Spirit to get through the difficulties in life, especially in the near future, for the Bible states that the worst tribulation that earth has ever experienced is coming upon us. God wants to be with us and dwell in us so we are never alone and can us face whatever is coming, even death.
If you have not yet had a reborn spiritual experience with God by receiving the Holy Spirit, as I did, but would like to, then simply meet God's requirements. Desire to stop and turn away from all evil, totally surrender your life to God and follow (become a disciple of) his son Jesus, and get baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ. If you do that then God promises to give you the Holy Spirit to dwell within you for this life.
Since my encounter with God at age 19, I've married and had a family. God has faithfully continued to be with me as my best friend. God has also brought freedom and healing into my family from others praying with us, and for other people, as my wife and I have prayed with them.
God will reveal himself to anyone who will read the four Gospels in the Bible and respond to the invitation of his son Jesus Christ. I suggest a modern translation Bible like NIV or NLT but not The Message as it is not an accurate translation. God wants to bring freedom and healing into your life through the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of others that have received the Holy Spirit.
God is waiting for your response to him.
P.S. The following is what I learned as I read the New Testament in the Bible, what God considers evil, and what God required of me to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit. I also learned what could disqualify me from spending eternity with God in paradise, but instead being judged and thrown into a lake of fire, so I stay away from doing those things.
God has a higher standard for people than any other creature on earth because God made people in his own image to be like him and live for him. God is Holy and wants us to live Holy. God has given people the choice to either agree with his standard and serve him by doing what God considers right or to rebel against his standard and serve the Devil by doing what God considers evil. God desires that everyone will choose to live for him so that they will spend eternity with Him in paradise (heaven) instead of having to judge them for continuing to do evil.
TO BE FORGIVEN, the Bible states that we must repent from all evil (sin) which is the desire to stop and turn away from doing all things that God considers evil. When we do what is evil, we're serving the Devil, and when we're obeying God we're serving God. No matter what we've done wrong in the past or are still doing wrong, God is willing to forgive us. However, we are only forgiven of the evil that we stop doing so we need to stop and turn away from ALL evil, not just some of it, and desire to live a holy life to please God.
We do not have to guess what God considers evil because it is listed in the Bible. Practicing these evil things invites demons into people (1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:3-7, Romans 1:24-32, Lev 18:1-30, Deut 11; 27; 28, Matt 6:14-15).
These are the things God calls evil (sin) and we must desire to stop doing:
1) Sexual immorality (sex with anyone that we are not married to, adultery, same-sex partners, homosexual acts (anal or oral sex), pornography, acting immorally or filthy talk, etc)
2) Dishonesty (deceiving, lying, stealing, cheating, etc)
3) Witchcraft and occult practices (new age practices, consulting the dead (seances), mediums, fortune-telling, Tarot cards, spells, curses, Ouija, astrology, good luck charms, etc)
4) Idolatry (worshiping idols or other things, selfishness, arrogance, self-exalting (pride), greed)
5) Rebellion, causing trouble, drunkenness, and any other irresponsible behavior
6) Being a coward, denying God, suicide, taking a mark on the hand or forehead as allegiance/worship to a world leader who will claim to be God (those who have this mark will be thrown into a tormenting lake of fire with that false leader after a few years of reign)
7) Hatred and evil towards others, envy, jealousy, gossip, slander, malice, revenge, and murder. We must forgive those who have done wrong to us otherwise God will not forgive us for our wrongs. Give it to God and he will deal with people that have hurt us.
God knows if we truly desire to stop and turn away from all sin or are enjoying our sin and have no intention of stopping (thinking we can get away with it). However, if we do sin again we can confess it to God, desire to stop and turn away from it, and again live to please God. Then God will forgive us and cleanse us of that sin. If we need help from someone else to stop the sin then God expects us to get help.
We do not want to die while living in sin because the Bible states that people who continue to practice the things which God calls evil, will not inherit God's kingdom but instead will be judged and thrown into a tormenting lake of fire (Rev 21:8). The only way to be forgiven is to desire to stop and turn away from doing evil and live a holy life to please God which fulfills God's first commandment to love him with all our heart, soul and mind, and strength. God's second commandment is to love others by caring for and helping others in need.
TO RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT, the Bible states that if we have repented of all sin, and believe in, trust in, and desire to become a disciple of Jesus Christ by following him (including water baptism), then God will give us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us as a friend, helper, comforter, guide, and teacher in this life. This may happen with or without someone praying with us. We are not fully Christian until we have received the Holy Spirit from God who makes us reborn in our spirit into his family as his child.
After Peter, the apostle had received the Holy Spirit from God he told everyone else how they too could be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit.”