I know that there are folks who have been around the body of Christ for a while, but have never laid hold of the Gospel message. It's as Paul points out in Acts 28:26,27 quoting Isaiah: "GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM."
And, that was me. I was one of those people, and before God opened my eyes, His message of love for me fell on deaf ears. Although I'd been present during countless sermons describing what is required to be a child of God, I didn't have ears to hear. To me God was somebody to whom I devoted 2 hours every Sunday. I was a Sunday School Teacher, and something else the rest of the week. I was what Matthew Mead would characterize as an "almost" Christian. Psalm 51:16,17 tells us what God requires of us: "For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
You see, I was okay with giving God my service, my two hours a week, but I refused to yield my heart. Of course, there was no fruit in my life. I experienced no change, no difference. I deducted that this meant that Christianity didn't work and that it was false. I continued to go through the motions at church and my heart became hard as stone. I left my wife of 16 years in 1997.
The same year I converted to Buddhism.
My three children were devastated. We read in Proverbs 14:12 that: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death."
I was convinced that my newfound Buddhist faith was exactly what I needed to find the peace and happiness that I wanted so desperately in my life. But, the dream of enlightenment soon became a terrible nightmare. One of the foundations of the Buddhist faith is meditation, and is the means to "emptying oneself". And it works.
Gradually, I found myself becoming more and more empty.
Despair pervaded my soul as I plumbed the depths of depression and I increasingly sought comfort with thoughts of suicide. In a hotel room in Boston I disassembled a disposable razor and ran a tub full of warm water as I contemplated ending my life. I reasoned that the next life had to be better. I didn't understand at the time, but my problem was that my religion had done nothing in the way of dealing with my sin. It was just a placebo, a sugar pill. I was very far away from God, separated from Him by my sin. But, Isaiah 59:1 tells us: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear."
How is it that God opens our eyes to glimpse the ugliness of the sin in our lives, the sin that initially is so appealing?
I don't claim to understand, but in retrospect, it's easy for me to see that the Lord was at work in my life as a culmination of events was converging to drive me to my knees before God. During this time my daughter never forsook praying for me.
I knew where East Valley Bible Church was because we had attended several times "for the kids" ? at least I wasn't superficial enough to just drop them off at the curb. I recall being annoyed by Tom's comments about Buddhism and Eastern religion during some of these visits, but feeling very superior because I wasn't threatened by other religions, as these Christians seemed to be.
On a particular day in the middle of January 2001, I happened to be passing by EVBC on my way to work, fully feeling the burden of the mess I had made of my life. I was uncertain why I was pulling into the church parking lot, but I knew I didn't possess the strength to resist. I asked the receptionist if there was anybody with whom I could speak. I sat down with Jim Harper, and the tears started flowing. Jim listened and prayed with me. He gave some scriptures to read. Later that day I turned my life over to Christ. I acknowledged to Him that I had tried it my way, quite unsuccessfully. I told Him that I had wanted to call the shots in my life and was an abject failure as a result.
My life has not been a cakewalk since my acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life. The sin in my life has been covered by the Savior's precious blood, but the consequences of that sin remained. But, God in his infinite mercy has given me the wisdom to persevere. I am here in obedience to God's Word and to publicly proclaim "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself up for me". (Galatians 2:20)
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." --John 15:5