My Spiritual Journey
John W. 2005
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I consider my up bringing as average and middle class. My mother grew up in a Presbyterian church and my father in an Episcopal church. My brother and I were not really raised going to any church. We probably attended less than 15 actual church services or Sunday school classes growing up. During the few times I attended a church I was taught that Jesus who was born miraculously was the Son of God, that he died on a cross for my sins and rose from the dead three days later. And that if I believed in him I would go to heaven and if I didn’t that I would go to hell. At least that’s how I understood whatever I was taught. As I got older I decided I didn’t believe that. And also that I didn’t believe in religion because there were so many religions and they all claimed they were right and the others were wrong. Because of that, they all seemed the same to me. All of them seemed to be of man and not of God.
What I did believe was that God existed, that there was only one God, and he could do anything he wanted to. I believed He knew all, saw all, and heard all. I would pray to God sometimes, and I believed he heard me because he heard everything. So I went on with life and lived with this kind of belief about God and religion.
When I was about 11 my best friend and I started getting in a lot of trouble together. We started by ditching school and getting involved with people that were into drugs. I was greatly influenced at that time by teens that were just a few years older than me. They were into skateboarding, tagging, drinking smoking, using drugs, backyard keg parties, and other crimes and ungodly things. But at the impressionable age I was, I looked up to them. To make a long story short, from the time I was about 12 to 16 years old, I smoked cigarettes and marijuana, drank, and I got arrested a number of times for vandalism. My mentality at that time was very backwards. I didn’t care about education. I didn’t want to go to school, and I really didn’t care about my life or my future.
At about 15 or 16 and after living with that mentality for a few years its no wonder I found myself empty and unhappy. And as surprising as it may sound, I didn’t understand why. For a period of about 6-months I would pray in my bed every night, asking God for help and understanding, and just seeking and meditating on God. I didn’t look to any church, self-help book, rehab or anything else. I didn’t seek help from anybody outside of praying to God. During this period God did respond to me and began working in my life. He opened up my eyes to the destruction, pain and hopelessness that drugs had brought to my life. Up until this time I thought that marijuana should be legal and that it was great. But God showed me how my friends and I were wasting our lives and destroying ourselves with drugs and the lifestyles we were living. I tried to tell my friends that God didn’t want that for them, but they didn’t see it. They weren’t interested in my preaching to them. But I was so happy and I wanted them to see and understand what God had shown me.
Before I was miserable and empty and I didn’t know why. But I prayed to God and he heard me and showed me my problem. God changed my whole outlook and mentality. He gave me an appreciation for knowledge and education. Before I had no desire to go to school and learn anything but now I wanted to learn.
I still hadn’t looked to any religion. All I knew was that I was so happy that God had answered my prayer and turned me around. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was part of Gods hand leading me to the truth.
For most of the friends I had at that time, our friendships were based on using drugs together. So naturally we stopped hanging out. I eventually met new friends that were into graffiti, break dancing and rap music and our friendships were based on that. Some of them did use drugs, but they knew I discouraged using drugs so they didn’t discuss it or do it around me.
I had one break-dancer friend who never used drugs in his life. His name was Ervin. We became good friends and I met a lot of people through him. I remember one night he told me that Ivan (a break-dancer that Ervin introduced me to) had quit break-dancing. This was quite a shock to me because I knew that break dancing was Ivan’s life. It seemed like he lived and breathed to break dance and he made a career out of it for himself. So to hear that he quit was the most unbelievable and puzzling news I had heard in a while.
One day not too long after that, I decided to go to Ervin’s house after work. I worked close to his house, but I didn’t normally go there after work. But this day, I decided to stop by.
And it so happened that Ivan was there. As soon as I walked in the door he told me he wanted to share something with me. He began to tell me about Jesus Christ and the one God – Acts 2:38 message. It was obvious that a great change had occurred in his life. And I immediately recognized that something was different about the Christianity he was telling me about. He told me many things, and from what I heard, everything was in line with the values that God had instilled in me from before. I knew that much of what he was telling me was of God. I didn’t understand everything, and I didn’t know if I believed everything but I knew that God had brought me to my friend Ervin’s house that day for a reason.
I told him I wanted to visit his church. And from the Monday this all happened to the Wednesday night when I first went to church, I felt conviction and God was dealing with me. I didn’t use drugs anymore and I was not a bad person, but I knew I was a sinner and I knew that I needed God. I began to repent and try to change things in my life that I knew where wrong. Before that day, every other word out of my mouth was a curse word, but since that day over 6 years ago, I may have said at most three.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I came to church that Wednesday night but by the time I left I knew I wanted to live this way for the rest of my life. The people there were different from anyone else I had encountered in life. I had never been anywhere and felt the love of God like I felt it here.
I began to seek God and I started coming to church. God confirmed in many ways to me that this was the right thing to do. Jesus said:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44)
I didn’t understand everything but I knew God was drawing me. Up until then I believed that the Bible was of man, but God convinced me that though man penned it, He himself was the author of it.
Pretty soon I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. I remember the night I got baptized, that the visiting evangelist (Bro. Boe I believe) said something to me like “I don’t know if you really know what just happened to you right now, but all of your sins have been washed away” Whatever he said to me, I truly didn’t know what had just happened to me. I believed that my sins had been washed away, but I didn’t fully understand that something so powerful had happened to me that night. God immediately began to confirm to me that I had truly been born of water and I had begun my life again with a clean slate. And I know now that when I was baptized I obtained one of the greatest gifts a man can receive which is the remission of sins. A few months later I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost in my room in the middle of the night. I was awoken by a dream that really scared me and I started praying. I prayed, cried, and spoke in tongues and I felt Jesus like I have never felt him. I knew that the act of redemption he fulfilled on the cross was the only reason I was feeling the presence of Jesus that I felt. And the only reason I was in right standing with God. Time flew bye and it was morning when I stopped praying and all I wanted to do was tell somebody.
Since I have been in church God has spoken to me many times through preaching and through the Bible. I have witnessed the life changing power of prayer. I have seen that those that live for God are extremely blessed above all, and there are many incredible benefits in living for God. The Bible says in Psalms 103: 2-5
(2) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
(3) Who forgives all thine iniquities; who heals all thy diseases;
(4) Who redeems thy life from destruction; who crowns thee with loving kindness and tender mercies;
(5) Who satisfies thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I’m so thankful that God turned me around from the direction I was going and lead me to the true light. At one time, I didn’t care about school or my future but now I have a college degree and I enjoy education. At one time, I believed that all religions where of man. But now I believe the Bible is God’s word, and that there is one true faith, one true God, and one way to the kingdom of heaven. I believe that following Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and the only way to true happiness, peace and joy in this life.