When I was 19 years old, I had a radical encounter with God that changed my life forever. This story shares what 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 many 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. I wanted to know whether I could 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 any satisfying answers to my 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 my best 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 me 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 my 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 Gospels in my spare time.
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.
As I read in my spare time at my own pace during the summer in the fruit orchard, God began to reveal to me who he really was, what he wanted of me, and what he had to offer me. I discovered that God fathered a human son about 2000 years ago, who was born into our world as Jesus of Nazareth to be the chosen Christ/Messiah/Savior. Jesus came to share about God's kingdom, demonstrate God's power, and die to offer all people forgiveness. Jesus was someone who loved people, helped people, healed people, and set them free from evil spirits (demons) which caused sickness and torment. Jesus never did anything wrong but lived a perfect life to please his Father God. Since Jesus was not guilty of any sin (wrongdoing), he could take the punishment for the sin of all mankind. I could see his great love for people by willingly offering himself to be crucified on a cross to offer them forgiveness. Jesus was someone who spoke the truth and could be trusted. He was God in human form. He offers forgiveness, freedom from tormenting evil spirits, and healing. He offers eternal life with him in paradise and promises to be with people by giving them the Holy Spirit to be a friend, helper, comforter, guide, and teacher in this life.
As I read all these things and the stories that Jesus shared about God's kingdom, I wanted what Jesus offered. I also realized what Jesus required of me to be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit from him and I was willing to do it.
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 has given people the choice to either agree with his standard and serve him 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 being judged for continuing to do evil.
To be forgiven, the Bible states that I must repent from all evil or sin - turn away from and stop doing all things that God considers evil. When I do what is evil, I am serving the Devil and when I'm obeying God, I'm serving God. I am only forgiven of the evil I stop doing so I need to stop and turn away from doing ALL evil - not just some of it. I did not have to guess what God considers evil because it is listed in the Bible (1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:3-7, Matt 6:14-15).
We must turn away from and stop doing these things that God can not accept:
1) Sexual immorality (sex with anyone that we are not married to, same-sex partners, homosexual acts (anal or oral sex), adultery, pornography, acting immorally or filthy talking, etc)
2) Dishonesty (lying, stealing, cheating, etc)
3) Witchcraft and occult practices (seances, spells, curses, Ouija, astrology, mediums, fortune-telling, good luck charms, etc)
4) Idolatry (worshiping idols or other things, self-centeredness, self-exalting, 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 claims to be God
7) Hatred and evil towards others, gossip, slander. We must forgive those who have done wrong to us otherwise God will not forgive us. Give it to God and he will judge them.
The Bible states that people who continue to do these unacceptable things will not inherit God's kingdom when they die but will be judged and thrown into a tormenting lake of fire (Rev 21:8). The only way to be forgiven is to stop and turn away from doing these things - desire to 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 I must believe in, trust in, and follow Jesus Christ. God wanted my heart and my life - it was all or nothing so I give him my all! I didn't pray out loud. I simply agreed in my heart to stop and turn away from all evil and live for Jesus Christ.
Within days of that decision, something extraordinary 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 new beauty and outlook. 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 born again (reborn inside) and the Holy Spirit was with me and in 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 my first song for God called 'I LOVE YOU LORD' which I included on my OVERCOMERS debut album.
Fortunately, my best friend also 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, that they encountered God and received the Holy Spirit which confirmed God's promises, and their lives were totally changed.
God is real! His promise to forgive us and to be with us by the Holy Spirit is real when we meet his requirements to repent of all sin and choose to live a holy life for his son Jesus. If you have not yet had a born-again encounter with God and received the Holy Spirit, then make an absolute decision to meet his requirements, surrender your life to God, and get baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ. Then God will give you the Holy Spirit to be with you in this life and take you home to heaven when you die.
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.”
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 and other people as my wife Sharon 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.