I grew up with a 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, 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 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, 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 was still not satisfied with answers to my questions.
At nineteen years of age I was ready to move out of the 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 God amazingly kept us 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 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 it in my spare time.
Little did I know as I read through the 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 through the four gospels 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 who was born into the world as Jesus of Nazareth to be the chosen Christ/Messiah/Savior to share about God's kingdom and die for mankind so they could be forgiven. 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 sinned but lived a perfect life to please his Father God. Since Jesus was not guilty of any sin, he could take the punishment for the sin of others. I could see his great love for people by willingly offering himself to be crucified on a cross to pay the price for everyone's sin so that he could offer forgiveness. Jesus was someone who spoke the truth and could be trusted. He was God in human form. He offered forgiveness, freedom from tormenting evil spirits, and healing to the body. He offered eternal life with him in paradise, and promised the Holy Spirit to be given to people as a friend, helper, comforter, guide and teacher.
As I read all these things and the stories that Jesus shared about God's kingdom, I decided that what Jesus offered was what I needed and wanted. 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 living in sin. 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 wrong.
To be forgiven, the Bible tells me that the first thing that I need to do is to repent of (stop and turn away from) all sin. God forgives those things that I stop and turn away from so I need to stop and turn away from ALL sin. I did not have to guess what God considers evil or sin 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 stop and turn away from these things that God will not accept:
1) Sexual immorality (sex with anyone that we are not married to, same sex partners, 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, selfishness, self exalting, greed)
5) Rebellion, drunkenness or partying and any other irresponsible behavior
6) Let go of all hatred and evil towards others and forgive those who have done wrong to us otherwise God will not forgive us.
The bible states that people who will not stop doing these things will not inherit God's kingdom but instead will be judged for those sins when they die. God's judgment is a second death in a tormenting lake of fire (Rev 21:8). The only way to be forgiven is to stop and turn away from all sin and desire to live a holy life for God.
To Receive the Holy Spirit, I needed to believe in, trust in, and follow Jesus Christ with all my heart. God wanted my heart and my life - it was all or nothing! So I decided to give him my all. I didn't pray out loud. I simply agreed in my heart to stop and turn away from all sin and live for Jesus Christ.
Within days of that decision, something extraordinary happened to me. I began to feel an intense love, peace, and joy flooding into my soul from God that overwhelmed me for a few months. Everything around me took on a 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 my myself and my new resurrected life in Jesus Christ. My encounter with God inspired me to write my first gospel song called 'I LOVE YOU LORD' which I included on my OVERCOMERS debut album in 2011.
Fortunately my best friend also devoted his life to Jesus Christ and so did others who I shared my story with, and encouraged to read a New Testament Bible. The common experience for them all was, 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 be with us 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 live a holy life to please God, live for his son Jesus, and get baptized in water in the name of Jesus. Then God will send to you the Holy Spirit. After the apostle Peter 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 friend, helper, guide, teacher and comforter. 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 a Bible and respond to the invitation of his son Jesus Christ. I suggest a modern translation Bible like NIV or NLT but not Message.
God wants to bring freedom and healing into your life by the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of others that know him.
God is waiting for your response to him.