So, I’ve finally finished my essays for grad school!! I’m applying to get my Masters of Christian Apologetics and ultimately hope to get my MA in Philosophy of Religion from Talbot! We’ll see!!! I should hear in the next few weeks if I get in or not! In the mean time I’ve been going to classes to obtain my Certificate of Apologetics and love every second of it. The teachers or the absolute best in their field. Moorland, Graig, Habermas, etc. What a great experience indeed!!! With that though I thought I would post my two essays so here they are.
Explain in your own words: 1) The Scriptural basis for you salvation; and 2) Briefly describe your conversion experience.
The first time I truly started to read the Bible I can remember how awestruck I was. Amazed that Scripture has the ability to effect our mind, heart and soul simultaneously. From that day and each since I have been on fire for the Word. It’s as though with each rising sun I am reenergized, yearning and seeking to find the answers to life’s most important questions. Questions that can only be found in God, Jesus and ultimately the Cross. It’s in the Word of God where I find the most meaningful words my eyes have ever glided over. For me, there is one piece of scripture more than any other that explains my salvation, Philippians 2:5-11.
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(NLT)
Paul’s letter shows us the true beauty of our Savior while at the same time revealing His divinity and humanity. It’s here I first found one of the answers to my many “why” questions. Why should I worship Jesus Christ and make Him the center of all I do? One of the most amazing things we must understand is that Jesus was and always will be God. He was God his entire life, from birth to death, yet He chose not to appeal to His deity while on Earth as man. The scriptures say, “He made himself nothing” meaning the creator of heaven and Earth chose to humble Himself, to the extent of dieing a criminal’s death upon a Roman cross. Jesus chose to feel heartache, temptation, hunger. He chose to do this in order that we can be sure that God knows our troubles, our trials and tribulations. He knows because he has personally felt them. He did this out of love for His most prized creation. He did this so that I, that we, can spend eternity with Him despite our deceitful hearts.
Going further Paul tells us that no matter what we think of Jesus today, whether we praise or scorn him, in the end every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ, God, our one and only Savior. At this time Christ will reveal His divine nature for all to see, believer and nonbeliever the same. What’s even more powerful is that in writing “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” we see that even the enemy and all with him will bow as well.
Now, with that I feel I must introduce myself and express to you that I haven’t always been like this. I didn’t always accept salvation through Christ. In fact I would say I’m a little bit late, but if you asked Him I think He would say that I raised my hands and called out right on time. I was an atheist until June 18th, 2006 and the light began to shine. I became aware of what that feeling was deep within me. I had been running from Him through our country and in my mind. I was trying to zig and zag, foolishly thinking I could lose Him in the streets of DC. He assuredly wouldn’t follow me to Montana, Wyoming, Vegas, Chicago, Detroit or the Dakotas. With out a doubt I’d lose Him among the steal and concrete giants of New York City. Maybe He wouldn’t see me board that plane bound for LA? I would debate against Him, claiming His son to be a thief, His Word to be false and for the simpleton. But you see, His gaze was fixed and His heart set. He knew me better than I knew myself. He still does. He was next to me on every deal. He cried with me for my friends lost to eternity. His protection is the only reason I’m here today! He came from heaven’s golden palaces to the dark, dank Hollywood bars for me. What was dismissed as “the booze” were in fact His gentle whispers of love and acceptance in my ear.
I’ve been changed, transformed. Coming from an atheistic world view I fought my way to Christ. But with every rejection He grew more persistent, not ever turning His back. With every truth learned I was propelled, not to the finish but to the beginning. June 18th, 2006 was when I realized I was walking with God.
For me I have always needed proof. I subscribe to a thought process based in evidence. I need facts before I could believe anything. Trust and faith had always been earned not given. This is one of the major reason I would defend my atheistic stance on God. I had never seen any proof of Him. Never seen any books that could argue for His existence. In college I was taught God was outdated. If you wanted to believe in something, call it nature or subscribe to an Eastern religion. Eastern religions in college were tolerated in the classroom, out of bounds for debate. I was told and have been for as long as I can remember that what ever I do spiritually, stay away from Christianity. God is okay but Jesus, well Jesus is not to be brought up. And when given the opportunity to defend their faith the Christians in my class either shied away, and I can’t blame them, or they simply said they believe because it’s true and true because the Bible says so. This argument did nothing for me. Then a pastor gave me Ravi Zacharias’ “Can man Live Without God”. It’s not so much that this book answered all my questions but, for the first time, introduced me to answers appealing to my intellect and showed me that there is a base in evidence for Christianity. I thought that if what’s been written in this book are true, it is by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever read. From there I was able to get closer to the answers of the questions I so needed. The questions of meaning and purpose. The “whys” of life!
After reading “Can Man Live Without God?” a few times over I moved to another book, and then another, and then another. You see my belief in Christ Jesus and Christian world view has provided me an intellectual lens thru which I can see culture and society in a much brighter light than ever before. The Christian world view I now hold hasn’t limited my experiences but broadened them. It hasn’t placed filters over my eyes but removed them. And there’s still more. It wasn’t until I had read maybe five books addressing the proof of God’s existence that I took a serous look at the Bible. My mind had been spoken to and now it was my heart’s turn.
The Bible has changed my life in every area. Through careful reading and then study of what I’m reading I’ve seen not only the beauty of the Bible as a text but become aware of it’s relevance and application to every day life. The Bible blows me away every time I look between the covers!
It was in the direct encounter with the Word of God where I’ve found salvation. Not in the buying and selling of drugs. Not in the bottom of a bottle. It was in the person and work of Jesus Christ where I have found forgiveness and only by His broad strokes could my shame be washed away. I have found meaning and been given purpose through the reading of the Bible along with a multitude of other works. Understand that, although all my questions haven’t been answered, there is enough evidence for Christ and Christianity that I could believe. And so on bent knees a prayed to Lord Jesus to come into my life even though I wasn’t completely sure. I prayed for Jesus to always be with me and guide me day by day. Although I’m learning more every day and by no means an expert on anything, I have to say that that was by far the greatest decision I have ever made.
You see, I saw the sin in my life. I saw God’s justice. And I saw the need for Jesus Christ. Through my childhood years, through college and continually through the early stages of adulthood the fundamental question was always one of purpose. The answers aren’t found on the pages of philosophy. They aren’t found in the halls of education, politics or in the boardroom. You see, it’s that eternal acceptance of God, that sturdy, unchangeable relationship where it is not so much that we receive Him but we trust Him and He receives us.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and natures night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
-Charles Wesley – “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”
Would you characterize yourself as displaying aspects of mature Christianity?
Many assume that once one accepts Christ as Lord and Savior their work is done. So often, as a Christian, it’s easy to let our faith-light dwindle. Maybe sit back and coast through the weeks, attending church services but simply going through the motions, receiving the Word but not doing anything with it. Acting like a sponge, remaining an infant in faith. However, we are called to do more than this (Luke 6:43-45). As a Christian one of my goals everyday is to grow in Christ. I am looking to mature in my walk through living as the Bible calls me to, being obedient to God’s callings, prayer and worship and spreading the Good News.
For me, and I assume many Christians, once committed to Christ my life didn’t get easier. My problems were not simply washed away. Through trying to live from a Biblical prospective God points out the areas of my life which need to be changed. Some of those changes are very difficult but they must come so that I can mature in my walk. Every area of my life is effected from what movies and television shows I watch to how I speak, do my job and who I choose to spend my time with. Because I’m growing in my faith I can no longer go to places I would have before I was saved. I can’t go out with some friends anymore because of the activities transpiring. Some friends had to be let go. My work is no longer secular. One of the main ways to know if I am maturing as a Christian is by how I live day to day and the fruit my life bares. I ask myself, “Am I adhering to God’s Word?” A natural byproduct of the way we live is the fruit of our actions. Jesus is abundantly clear on this in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” Jesus also distinguishes that there is good fruit and bad fruit, that fruit is determined by what is sown. See Luke 6:43-45. In everything I do I am trying to please God. As a result I am seeing the most beautiful fruit being harvested. I’m married to the most amazing women in Christ. I am being relied upon more and more in my vocation. I’m no longer fighting various addictions. These results are directly related to my maturing process.
As a maturing Christian I am trying to be obedient to God’s calling in my life. For me, this has been the most difficult growing pain, hearing God and then following through. Maybe that’s why Philippians 2:5-8 has meant so much to me. Jesus has humbled me more than I could have ever imagined. He was not only crucified for my sins but chose not to use His awesome power in the process. I am learning to relinquish control to God. More and more I am relying on God to tell me what to do in every decision. As a man of many talents and even more dreams and aspirations it’s been difficult not to follow my own wants and desires but hear God’s plan, listen to it and then realize it. One major way I have been able to hear God is through prayer. This is very important, for me prayer is becoming central to my life. It’s in prayer where I have found a lasting, sturdy relationship with Jesus. This is not to be overlooked. Prayer for me has been essential in my maturity as a Christian. To strengthen this I have also committed myself to reading Scripture everyday. I have found such power in combining prayer with Scripture. Meeting God daily I have been able to find more meaning and purpose than ever before.
We often forget that we are not on this journey simply for our own fulfillment. We are called to help Jesus make a difference in this world and not just consume. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”(1 Peter 4:10) As Jesus came with the purpose and meaning to serve, we too must realize our calling and use our gifts to glorify His name. I have found that God has given me wonderful gifts. He didn’t just give them to me for my own amusement. He didn’t give them to me so I can boast. He didn’t give them to me to be ignored either. The further I get in my walk with Christ and the more mature I become the more clear it is that these gifts have purpose. That purpose is to serve my King and help others in His name. I have become involved in numerous small groups. Including a men’s group which we entitled “King David and His Mighty Men”. Led by one of my mentors we looked at scripture differently than I ever had and applied it to every day life. My wife and I help with our church when every opportunity arises, we greet and I serve as an usher. One of my favorite opportunities I had to lend a hand was a neighborhood clean-up in Los Angeles. I, along with hundreds of others cleaned the alleyways behind residences, we mowed overgrown lawns and picked up trash one Saturday morning. In the process we had the opportunity to meet new people, pray for them and exemplify what Christ does when you trust in Him. Maybe the biggest and most exciting event I had the pleasure to participate in was “Bloktober ‘08”. This halloween past the church I attend sponsored a completely free event for anyone who wanted to come. My wife and I took the lead and headed up the food services. We fed well over 700 people that night, most of which were nonbelievers. This event provided us a chance to trust God and in His name provide a fun, safe alternative to the normal halloween events in Studio City.
Everyone is called to minister to people. Everyone is called to share their story and gifts with the world. This is where I’ve found my calling. The further I go with Christ the clearer it is becoming that I am hear to speak about God’s grace, to share the Good News and to evangelize. I have learned that we are to inherit God’s kingdom therefore we are all responsible to develop habits that prepare us. With all this it’s so important to mention although my faith has matured greatly compared to two or three years ago I still have a long way to go. This is not a sprint but a marathon and I look forward to every day. Learning God’s call for me and my family and what’s more hearing that call and acting.