Touched By God

By Rachel Sanders

Recently, I was asked by some Christian friends to share my testimony about my encounter with Jesus and how He changed my life. I agreed to do it because I think everyone should have the opportunity to see how His never ending grace, abundant mercy and unconditional love has power the to change lives.

To be touched by God is a unique experience, and every person whose heart has been changed by Him has their own miraculous story. Each of our encounters is like a snowflake—there are no two exactly alike. Yet, as unique as our experiences are, they all have the same purpose, which is to transform our minds and hearts, to that of Jesus Christ—when we receive Him as our personal Lord and Savior.

My salvation experience was not as dramatic as some others; nevertheless that doesn’t make it any less meaningful or powerful.

Before Christ came into my life, I was a very different person than I am today. I confess; I used to be the poster child for both skepticism and ambiguity when it came to spiritual things. Oh, I believed in God, that’s for sure and I believed that Jesus was a real person. I also believed that heaven and hell exist, but I didn’t believe in the way it took to save me from an eternity without God.

The Bible says in James 2:19, “Thou believeth that there is one God, thou doest well: the devils also believeth and tremble.” And yet, they are not saved. As far as my spiritual life went, I used to pray before meals or when I petitioned God for something I wanted. I celebrated Christmas (for the gifts) but that was the extent of it.

Church goers always talked about sin; however I didn’t consider myself to be a sinner. In fact, felt I was a pretty good person—better than some people I knew. In my eyes, murderers, bank robbers, child molesters and such were sinners—not me. But, that was before I learned what sin really is. I didn’t know that anything we do that is against the will of God, including what we think and what we say, is sin.

These are called, sins of commission. And, anything we refuse to do that God wants us to do is sin also. These are sins of omission. You see, in God’s eyes, it’s not enough to be “good.” He wants us to be perfect. Matthew 5:48 states, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I had to admit that I had not even come close to God’s expectations. There is also a consequence for sinning—death, eternity in hell, separation from God.

This was my dilemma: My life was on a scale. On one side was my sin, and on the other was the consequence of sin, and that was the way the scale was tipping. God loves us, and He doesn’t enjoy punishing us. Nonetheless, He is also just, and that means He must punish sinners. The Bible backs that up by stating, “…will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).

 Finally, I realized that I am a sinner too. God solved my problem in the Person of Jesus Christ. I could not escape the consequences of sin, so I needed a Savior to redeem me from hell.

It wasn’t until then that I understood just how much I needed the Lord. When that finally sunk in, I was able to set aside my deep seeded doubts, and open my heart to receive this beautiful message of love, redemption and forgiveness. So, this is how my journey to salvation began.

Have you ever said, “There’s got to be a better way?” I was always searching for something in life but for what, I didn’t know. Restlessness, worry and disillusion were my constant companions. Happiness was fleeting, and long-term joy was something I could not hold on to.

 

As a child, I attended a Baptist church every Sunday. But, for me, going to church was just a ritual and I only did it because my parents insisted. When I was a teen, I strayed from church, and then later I found my way back. But, against my parents’ wishes, I decided to join the Roman Catholic Church—but of course; it was for all the wrong reasons.

Most of all my friends were Catholic and I was intrigued by the activity that went on during worship services. The rosary, the incense, making the sign of the cross and all the pomp and rituals involving the priest and his entourage of altar boys was foreign to me, but it was appealing.

After catechism, I was baptized into the faith by having “Holy Water” poured on my head. In the church where I grew up, immersion was the only way people were baptized. But, I wasn’t too concerned with their method of doing things because I thought any water could wash away all my sins—regardless of how it was done. But, I was naïve.

I went to mass for a while, but I always felt out of place there, and my heart wasn’t in it. I knew this was not the religion for me. The issue of confession bothered me. I was supposed to confess my sins to the priest, and he would tell me what sort of penance I needed to do in order for my sins to be absolved?

I couldn’t understand why I had to confess to a person instead of speaking directly to God. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with confessing our sins to another person per se, but, somehow, I knew only God could forgive our sins—not a rabbi, pastor, priest, imam or any cleric has the authority to do so. Something innate told me  that this religion was not for me. That voice inside me was the catalyst for my decision to leave the Catholic Church.

When I abandoned Catholicism, I also abandoned any hope of ever finding a place where I would truly feel I belonged. I continued with my lifelong quest, but this time, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted forgiveness, peace of mind and someone who would love me for who I am, and not for who they thought I should be.

And, I was looking for some sort of assurance, in the here-and-now, of what would happen to me once I closed my eyes for good. And, to put it bluntly, I was desperate to find the answers while I was still waking up on this side of the dirt!

I was getting older and was tired of being unsettled in my soul. Then one day, I was talking with my brother who had been a Muslim for many years. He seemed to have the happiness and contentment that I wanted for my life. During our discussion, he took the opportunity to tell me about Islam. All of my brothers and most of my cousins on my paternal side are Muslims. That includes their children and grandchildren.

Over time, I listened as he shared his faith. He was very convincing, because I believed he really thought he was living in the will of God. However, at that time, I wasn’t aware that there was God, and a god. If he wasn’t trusting in the God of the Bible, he was worshiping a false god. He professed there is only one God, and this is true. But, the god that Muhammad served was not Jehovah God of the Bible.

My brother is not the only person in my family who followed Islam; there are many, and their faith is perpetuated through every generation. One day, I heard a discussion amongst some of the family members, which made me, think twice. They were saying things concerning the faith that I totally disagreed with. It was disturbing, so I began to research this religion of theirs, to find out where these ideas and ideals were coming from.

When I discovered the source and the epitomes of their faith and lifestyle, it made me question, in my own mind, where I stood in the scheme of it all. I was at a crossroad, so I asked myself, “How could I put my trust in something that I did not, wholeheartedly believe in?” 

What they believed was not at all the understanding that I had about Islam. There were differences between what they called in this America, “The Nation of Islam” and the Islam that is practiced in other parts of the world. The Qu'ran speaks about peace, not hatred and bigotry, which I gathered was how they felt because of the things I heard them say. I could not acquiesce to their principles, so I bowed out and went my own way.

Decades passed and I still had not found solace. Over time, I had accumulated a lot of baggage in my life—mostly from years of bad decisions and regrets. If anything was going to change my future, it couldn’t be anything short of a miracle.

One evening, while visiting an evangelical church, I met a stranger who cared enough about my dying soul to share the gospel with me. I owned a Bible, but I never read it through, simply because I couldn’t understand it. I pondered the sermon that the pastor gave, expounding on the entire story of Jesus Christ. He began by explaining the true meaning of Christmas, which was why Jesus came here in the first place. He went on to say that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins.

There was no redemption without the shedding of blood, and it had to be blood that is sinless, which could only be the blood of Christ. He hung on the cross, and His death was His payment for our sins. And even though our salvation was bought with the price of His precious blood, he offers it to us as a free gift. What a concept!

Here was the only Son of God, willing to shed his blood for me, die in order to pay the penalty of sin in hell and separation from His Father—all for the sake of giving me eternal life.

But, that isn’t the end of the story. Three days after, Jesus rose from the dead, being the first to pass from death to life, so that we as believers could do the same. He is now in heaven with his Father, and he has prepared a place for me to spend eternity with Him. I asked myself, “Why would He do that?” The Bible says it’s because he loves me.

Before I asked Jesus to be my Savior, I could never imagine that God could love a sinner such as me. Only He knows the terrible sins I have committed, yet He loves me anyway. He loves you too! It’s comforting to know that there is nothing to big or too small that God can’t take care of, and believers cannot ever lose their salvation. Jesus died for my past, present and future sins as well—His blood covers it all.

Since I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, I have a new life. All of those things I was so desperately seeking, I found in Jesus, not a religion. Those things and the Savior became mine the minute I believed. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

I still have my ups and downs; God never promised a trouble free life. But, I know that I have the Lord to lean on, and I can trust Him with every issue that comes my way. He is my Provider, Protector, Healer, Lord and Savior, and what’s more, God has a plan for my life and the only thing I seek today is His will. I don’t know how I survived without Him. I just praise God that He opened my eyes to His truth before I took my last breath.

The person who witnessed to me explained that salvation is by grace through faith in that Jesus died for my, iniquities. He was raised on the third day and is now alive in heaven and will come again to receive me.

Jesus said, In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3).

She said that if I truly with all my heart, and if I desired—I could pray a prayer of confession and acceptance of His enormous sacrifice and by His grace I would be saved. If you are willing, you can pray too:

Heavenly Father I know that I am a sinner. I ask that Jesus will come into my heart. I believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. I believe he was buried and raised from the dead, that  He lives and will return to receive me unto Himself. Please, forgive me for sinning and save my soul. Help me now, to live for you from this day forward. Amen.

This caring individual who led me to the Lord didn’t force me to join her church, she just advised me to look for a church that will help me to grow in the truth and knowledge of God. And, she told me to tell people about my decision!

There is the verse of Scripture that I love so much. It describes me as I am today:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

For years, I have been praying for my unsaved family members, because they don’t know how to pray for their own salvation.

“God forbid that I should sin against you in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).

I believe God when he said that he is willing no one should perish.

“For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

There is so much more to share about what I have learned about God, but I cannot put it all into this testimony. However, the Bible—which is the Word of God, contains everything that He wants us to know about Himself, His Son and His Holy Spirit.

So this is my testimony, and I hope that someone reading it will reach out and accept the greatest gift that has ever been given. My friend, God will not beseech you to believe. He is offering this precious gift, but he has also given you free will to accept it or reject it.

Think about it. Eternity in hell is a heavy price to pay for you own sins. The time to cry out for salvation is now. Not even your next breath is promised to you, and once you die without forgiveness, the opportunity dies with you.

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:20b).