This is the story of how I met the Living God.
My (second) marriage was already falling apart. I’d gone to a church because it had beautiful grounds and I thought I’d find some sort of peace there. Christianity didn’t interest me; Jesus was a pretty two-dimensional Sunday school figure who lived in children’s illustrations. The priest was talking about “The God of Love and the Love of God”. I was looking out of the window into the gardens, and thinking more about the love of women, something along the lines of “If we split up there are plenty more fish in the sea, and I could see our daughter at weekends – it won’t be the end of the world…”
Suddenly I saw something I’d never seen before: all my string of relationships (including the present one) lined up like dominoes, and all falling over. Each of them had something in common: me. I realised that the next relationship would go the same way as all the rest, and I would be without love. There may be plenty more fish in the sea, but for me the sea would always be empty. Being without love was the one thing in life that I could not face. Meanwhile this guy in a black dress was standing in front of me, talking about Jesus loving me so much he went to the cross and died for my sins.
I didn’t really understand about Jesus “dying for my sins”, but I understood about being loved. I shut my eyes and said something like this: “Jesus, if you really are there and you love my like this bloke says you do, I’ll have to have your love, because I can’t live without any at all!”
The next moment it was as if Jesus himself was standing next to me with His arm round my shoulder. It was so real that I felt like I would have seen Him if I had opened my eyes. It was as if I was being filled from head to toe with golden, liquid light. A voice came into my head, saying, “I have always loved you, and I will never leave you nor forsake you”.
I came out of that church feeling that I had hope and a future. I didn’t say anything to my wife though, in case she said “That’s fine, then – you’ve got Jesus now, so you don’t need me…” Two weeks later, though, she had a deep personal experience herself of the reality of Jesus, and, after considerable prevarication, we joined a church and started on a new life as Christians.
That was nearly forty years ago. Life has not been easy, but it has been fruitful: we have three lovely children and six grandchildren, and run a successful business that has won several awards. One of our children works in the business with us. Over the years, in our lives and in the lives of many other people that we know, we have seen this living God at work supernaturally to bring peace, healing, resources, and victory over impossible circumstances. Not always, to be sure, and sometimes not when you feel like you need the intervention the most; and we will all have a lot of questions for Him when we get to heaven. But knowing God is like listening to an Orchestra where you only might only get to hear a few of the notes, but those chords are so real and so amazing that you know they all belong to one piece of music, led by one master conductor. You want to hear more, and most of all you want to get to know the conductor.
The Kingdom of God
If you’ve already met the Conductor this next bit will be familiar territory for you: you can stop here, and I hope you enjoyed my story! But if you haven’t – please read on, because it could change your life.
I didn’t understand it at the time, other than that I knew I had met God for myself, but that first experience was the Holy Spirit flooding me with the love of Jesus. One of the fundamentals of biblical Christianity is that, while Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven until such time as He returns (and the way the world is going it looks like that could be soon!), He sent the Holy Spirit to the Church – His body on the earth today – to carry on what He started with His original disciples. When we meet to worship on a Sunday, we expect the Holy Spirit to speak and work through different people, just like in the early church, touching people’s lives and bringing change – bringing more of the Kingdom of God on earth.
This is God’s plan: sin (that “domino effect”) came into the world, bringing death to everyone; Jesus defeated it by accepting the cosmic punishment for the sin of all humanity, bringing forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept Him. What is eternal life? When Jesus prayed to God, His Father, just before He was crucified, He said this: “This is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You sent, Jesus Christ. “ (John 17:3) Eternal life is knowing God, and we find it, and Him, in Jesus. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6). At this point what you are reading becomes more than just information to store away, because you can become part of that plan right now. You can meet the Master Conductor yourself, whoever you are and whatever you’ve done. You can start a new life in relationship with God. You decide to live differently (that’s what repentance is), and He guides you and helps you. Here is a simple prayer you can pray before you do anything else. It’s called “The sinner’s prayer:”
Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.
The Real Giant Leap
Wow. If you prayed that from your heart, lights went on in Heaven for you. It was the first step of your new life, and the most important step you’ll ever make, because you’ve just stepped from darkness to light; from death to life. You have stepped into a relationship with God. Jesus came to mend the relationship between us and our Father who created all things, including you and me. You may well have prayed The Lord’s Prayer in the past, but now you’ve met the person you were talking to; because when we meet Jesus we meet the Father too. Never mind the moon landing; that was the real Giant Leap. And you’ve just joined millions of other people who have prayed those words, because that was the prayer that Billy Graham used at his crusades. Now of course you’ve got to keep walking! Where you stand is a great start, because you are now in the light of eternal life instead of the darkness of death and sin, but you don’t want to stand still for the rest of your life, do you?
There’s loads to understand of course – that won’t ever stop. But start by reading the Bible – begin with the New Testament for now, which is the story and teachings of Jesus and His first disciples (you’ve just become one). Start talking to your new-found, long lost Father about the important things in your life (that is prayer), and ask Jesus to lead you to other Christians and to show you a church to join. You can’t really be a Christian on your own: we need each other. God is a God of relationships. If you see an “Alpha Course” (an international non-denominational introduction to the Christian faith) advertised anywhere, join it. They are really good, lots of churches run them, and they are the real deal.
One last thing. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is and has always been in Heaven. The Son, Jesus, came to Earth and went back to Heaven, and the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and is now on Earth. They are all part of each other, and it’s the Holy Spirit who connects Heaven to Earth in His people, the church. Ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Spirit. There is no textbook description of what you will experience when you do, because we are all different, and it may be nothing straight away; but one thing is sure: He will start to change your life. It’s through the Holy Spirit that you will start to make sense of the Bible; your desires and appetites may well change; you will find the ability to do things you couldn’t do before, (including maybe using a heavenly language called speaking in tongues, and possibly other spiritual gifts – you can read about them in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14); and above all you will start to find that you can love others where you couldn’t before. Because now that you have the love of God inside your own heart, the most important thing for you to do is to share it. Sharing the love of God is what it is all about.
That’s it. I do hope you’ve prayed that prayer. If you have, I’ll see you in Heaven, if not before. Meanwhile, there’s nothing more exciting in Life than when the conductor points His baton at you and says: “It’s your turn!”
Footnote: If you want to use this material to help others to find God’s plan for their lives, it’s available as a pdf file in the “Free Downloads” section.
Second footnote: I go into more detail about my conversion, as well as other significant moments in my life as a disciple of Jesus, in my book “Wheat in the Winepress.”