Shortly after I was born, both of my parents placed their hope in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on a cross. They previously professed to be Christians, but until then, they only had a form of godliness. As a result of their conversions, I heard the Gospel many times – the good news of the preceding prophecies, perfect life, substitutionary death, triumphant resurrection and glorious ascension of Jesus Christ for sinners.
I heard this gospel many times, and I believed it with my mind – I never doubted that it was correct – but it never entered my heart, and so, in essence, I was unbelieving. I did a good job of appearing decent on the outside, but my family knew my inner selfishness, pride, and lack of love. I knew that I was not a Christian, and I knew that I would be judged guilty on the last day because I did not value God’s glorious Gospel.
I imagined that one day I would be a Christian, since I was, from time to time, terrified of God’s judgment. I thought that by studying and praying, God would save me. But even this was wicked, because I was really presuming on God’s mercy, and my imagined self-righteousness. I was deluded into thinking that I could control the eternal God to work on my timing.
Further, I could not imagine that I was actually a God-hater. I thought I was neutral toward God, or maybe even friendly, since I grew up hearing his Gospel and attending a church. The whole concept of being at enmity with God seemed ridiculous. But my disregard of spiritual truth, and my entire focus on the present life – which is friendship with the world – confirmed that the Bible was correct when it judged me ‘at enmity with God.’
Paul knew that Timothy grew up hearing the Scriptures, even from early childhood, and he said that those Scriptures are able to make one wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. This proved to be true in my own life. My parents often recounted the Gospel to me, but to little effect, until one day, in 2004, when they again recounted the realities of man’s spiritual death, Christ’s work, and the saving reconciliation He accomplished. This time the words entered into my heart, and for a long time I pleaded alone with God for salvation. Then the light entered my eyes, and the burden fell from my back, when God – and not myself – brought me to the cross.
As I look back on my conversion, the work that God did in my life so many years ago, I am reminded of what Charles Spurgeon said, that he counted it as one of the greatest blessings given him by God, to be converted at a young age; I also view it as one of the greatest blessings he has given me. This was the beginning of God’s visible work in my life, but certainly not the end.
I spent some time locked up in Bunyan’s doubting castle, uncertain of whether I was really a Christian. Eventually, God rescued me from that terrible place. I cannot say that I was rescued from it by any striking deliverance. It was only through a long process of seeing God’s mercy applied and his work growing in my life – starting out only as a bruised reed, or smoking flax, but gradually growing stronger and stronger – that I became more convinced that he had actually heard my prayer.