12 Years Ago, I Died

I was dead; I am ALIVE

I am ALIVE !!

Though I died 12 years ago I was born again and since then have new life in Christ!

Jesus turned my dreadful life of slavery and death into a fantastic adventure of faith, freedom, and life!

Today, 15 September, is my birthday commemorating the day I was born again!

Allow me to tell you the exciting story of how God brought life to my dreadful existence of drudgery and death…

Let’s start at the beginning…

What I was like

My Most Important Value

Freedom and rebellion were my primary values. Having grown up in a strictly conservative Christian home, I rebelled against all the Christian rules and regulations which were forced upon me and only wished to live free from any rules. I grew to hate God and despise Christianity which seemed intent on meddling with and conforming the lives of others. I broke free from my parents’ home when I was 18. Liberating myself from this ‘Christian oppression’ I lived life as I pleased and followed my heart, gratifying every desire with great vigour and little restraint. I had no care for what society thought of my behaviour, I just wanted to be ‘me’. My lifestyle could very aptly have been described as one of ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’.

My View of God

Having had the Bible ‘crammed down my throat’ as a young teenager, I had a vast knowledge of truth about God. I knew and believed that God existed and that He had made the world and everything in it – including myself. However, I couldn’t see why I should have anything to do with Him, nor He with me. On the contrary, I wanted nothing to do with Him. I didn’t like His manipulating followers nor His Book of rules and regulations. I saw God as an unreasonable taskmaster and bordered on hating Him intensely. However, I must also add that I was often astounded by the beauty of the world that He had created and regularly found myself spontaneously thanking Him for this beautiful world that I had to enjoy – even thanking Him for the drugs which got me high. I knew He was powerful, but He was also distant and transcendent. I went about my life autonomously doing whatever I pleased, as I assumed He did too. I saw no reason to pursue a relationship with Him. I stayed out of His way and expected Him to stay out of mine.

However, the nagging reality of ultimate accountability to God ominously loomed in my distant consciousness. I knew that life after death was to be expected and that God would judge all mankind. I knew that some – the extremely bad ones – would go to hell, and others – those who followed Jesus – would go to heaven. I knew that Jesus’ death on the cross somehow exempted His followers from judgement and gave them a free ticket to heaven, but that came with the ghastly condition that they had to follow His oppressive rules. I despised this idea of manipulative morality – being forced to follow the rules at the threat of hell and reward of heaven. I decided that I would reject God’s rules and enjoy my life whilst I am young, and one day, just before I die, I would ‘accept’ Jesus and thus escape hell and get into heaven (as the thief on the cross next to Jesus did).

My Religious Background and Attitude About Christ

Due to my Christian upbringing, I had a vast intellectual knowledge about Jesus Christ, who He was and what He had done. I knew in theory that somehow He was God, that He had visited earth 2000 years ago – being born as a man, that he lived a blameless and righteous life, and that He was a miracle worker. I knew that He had been crucified for crimes He did not commit, had been miraculously resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But to me this was all just head knowledge, propaganda that I had been brain-washed with as a kid. It had no effect on my understanding of what this implied, nor did I have any inclination to find out a deeper meaning of this. What I did know was that Jesus Christ called people to follow Him, to forsake the enjoyment of this life, and to obey that dreadful rule Book. I had seen and heard of many who had decided to ‘follow’ Jesus and I thought they were absurd fools to give up their freedom in exchange for a boring pious life of rule-following.

I Lived in a Self-Centered Manner

I only pursued personal gratification seeking to enjoy my life. I had no regard for who got hurt in my pursuit of pleasure and freedom. Today when I look back at the wake of people who got hurt in my insatiable pursuit of happiness and autonomy, I am deeply ashamed and regret my actions dearly.

What God used to Begin to Open my Eyes

After about seven years of careless loose living, I started to find that this life that I thought I was enjoying was now sadistically enjoying me. I found myself bound as a slave to drugs and a party lifestyle which left me broke and helpless to curb my disastrous habits. Though I tried more and more with increasing determination to stop, or at least slow down, I found myself helpless to curb my ever-increasing self-destructing habits. I frantically came to the realization that I was a slave to my own desires and ‘freedom’!

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

I found myself on a way such as this. I was at the threshold of death and distressed beyond description due to my immanent fate as a consequence of the bad decisions I had made.

What I Saw and Understood

On the night of September 15, 2005, I tossed about relentlessly on my bed deprived of sleep due to my overwhelming distress – I knew my life was out of control, my autonomy was gone, I was a slave to a sadistic taskmaster. I was exhausted and hopeless – I saw no way out. It was at this moment that Jesus dramatically reminded me of His own words in Matthew 11:28,

Come to Me, you who are tired and weary of carrying heavy loads, I will give you rest.”

These words were a massive encouragement to me; I was tired, I was weary, I was carrying heavy loads, I needed rest. However, these words also brought me to a state of terror. As I realized that Jesus was offering me rest, I knew very well that it was this Jesus against whom I had rebelled, the One I had rejected, the One I had sinned so heinously against. I was intimately aware that my innumerable sins against God earned me His eternal wrath in the hottest place in hell, forever. I knew that I had not given God the slightest reason to look on me with favour. On the contrary, I knew that my lifestyle of sin and rebellion had given God great reason to be eternally angry with me.

But here I was confounded by the fact that this infinitely holy God against Whom I had so grievously sinned was here in my time of greatest need offering me rest. It seemed too good to be true. How could the One I had so greatly offended be offering me rest and reconciliation?! It was then that I understood that the crimes for which Jesus was crucified 2000 years ago were my crimes, He bore my sins on the cross, He had received the punishment that was due to me, and because of this, was now lovingly offering me rest. He wasn’t presenting rules for me to follow or conditions to be met, He was simply offering me rest, forgiveness of my sins, and reconciliation with God.

How Christ has/is Affecting My Life

That very day, I took Jesus up on His offer. Because He had conquered death, in His resurrection from the grave, I knew that He was alive and able to actualize His offer. I believed Jesus could forgive my sins and turned wholeheartedly to Him for mercy and rest.

My simple prayer to Him was this, “I surrender. I’m not running anymore; no longer my way, but Your way.”  It wasn’t a fancy prayer; it was a simple prayer of surrender.

What Was Changed

The change that God brought about in my life was dramatic. After I had put my faith in Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and give me this rest He was offering, a profound and fascinating thing happened. I experienced a ‘newness of life’ a joy bubbling within me, a passionate desire to behave uprightly, a detest for the sin I had been wallowing in, and a hunger to know God more – though it somehow felt as though I knew Him intimately, as if He permeated my entire being. I was a totally new man! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

“If any man be in Christ, He is a new creation.”

I experienced this explicitly! The addictions that had enslaved me were now spontaneously gone – I experienced no withdrawal symptoms at all! My filthy mind and heart was renewed, the things I used to love, I now despised. I returned money and things that I had stolen. I apologized to those whom I had hurt and trodden on. I had an insatiable desire for God’s Word which I had previously despised; I often found myself reading the Bible till past 3AM. I attended church services on every day (including week days).

I felt such intense joy and fulfilment in being reconciled to God that I spontaneously sought to please Him and serve Him – though I knew it was my duty to obey Him as Lord, I welcomed and embraced it enthusiastically. It felt as if I was living my life for the very purpose for which I had been created. To me, the ‘rule Book’ that I had previously despised, now became the welcome means for me to know God and how to please Him who had loved me so much to rescue me from destruction and despair, forgive my sins, and reconcile me to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It was the irresistible and reasonable reciprocation of the unconditional love shown to me.

Since that life-defining moment I have been on an exciting adventure with God as my faith has grown from strength to strength. Right from the start I was so grateful to God for what He had done in my life I wanted to serve Him in any way I could. I started serving at a local mission station as a handyman. Four years later, I joined a mission base in Cape Town under which I traveled overland all over Sub-Saharan Africa proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ Who offers rest, forgiveness, and reconciliation to those under the power of sin.

Currently, I am studying theology at George Whitefield College in order to learn to know God better and how to teach others God’s magnificent liberating Word more effectively.

I am not perfect, though I strive to please and obey God, I still have my shortcomings. God is not finished with me yet. This is an exciting journey of being in friendship with God!

Conclusion

Christianity is not about following rules and doing the right thing. There may be many religious church-goers that miss the point and try to solely insist on these rule-following demands, but they have missed the most valuable treasure of reconciliation with God and new life in Him which comes as a free gift. Yes, we must honour God and obey His moral standards that He has set for us, but not as a means to an end – not by way of earning God’s favour or getting into heaven. Rather our motivation to obey God, who has loved us with immeasurable unconditional love, who has Himself mended the barrier between us by the death and resurrection of Jesus, comes from a spontaneous desire to please Him which itself is borne from the new life He gives to us as a free gift.

Do you want to experience God’s forgiveness and love? Do you want to partake in this newness of life, which is eternal and never dies? Believe in Jesus, receive the gift of eternal life, and you too can live a life of fulfilment and honour in friendship with God.

Michael Watson

 

 

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