It’s the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Rewind 2000 years – and it looks like Christian hope has been shattered before it even got off the ground. Jesus, it seems was nothing more than a shooting star. Exciting and dazzling – but short lived.
Culturally, it’s a bit like that today. To all intents and purposes, it looks like Christianity is dead. Sure the church emerged as a cultural power-house, but those days are gone – or so it seems. We are told that ‘reason’ has replaced ‘religion’; facts have replaced faith; and science has replaced stupidity. As far as most people are concerned – Jesus was a myth, the idea that his death has any significance is laughable – and to believe that he came back from the dead is to declare oneself a lunatic.
Against that cultural backdrop, why should anyone believe in Jesus today? Why do I believe in Jesus today?
Well, let me first say, that Jesus can’t easily be swept away as a magical, mythical figure. The evidence, for anyone who genuinely wants to know the truth, is there to be explored. There are many scholars who have explored the historical evidence for Jesus. Lawrence Mykytiuk’s article Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible, is a good place to begin, for those who wish to explore the academic evidence.
However, as essential as the historical evidence is (and it is essential); it was not a quest for the historical Jesus that led to my own conclusion that Christ is real, and all the Bible says about him is true. No, it wasn’t academic enquiry that led me to accept Christ, it was a spiritual encounter. And that spiritual encounter was life changing. What do I mean by spiritual encounter, and how does this confirm the Bible’s truthfulness? Let me try and illustrate.
1: My pre-conversion experiences confirm key statements in the Bible
Our humanistic, and atheistic culture tells us that we are naturally good, and that we are completely self-sufficient, with no need of a deity. It tells us there is one life, and this is it. So, in a nutshell, we are good guys, with no need of forgiveness; no need for a savior; no need to worry about the after-life; and no need to think about God.
Whilst this viewpoint was convenient for me, and whilst the culture assures me of its truth – the reality is, something deep within me knew it wasn’t true.
As much as I wanted to deny there was a creator, the whole creation – my own life included – seemed to shout: “Liar!”
Later on, when I began to read the Bible for myself, I discovered, that this experience is normal. It is exactly how God has wired us – and set us up.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
As a painting points to an artist, and a building points to an architect, and a builder, so does the creation point to a creator. My heart knew it, but it also did not want to accept it. This experience too, is recorded in the Bible.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1)
The Bible again confirmed my experience. There was a battle going on in my own heart and mind. Within me, there was a deep awareness that God must be real, yet at the same time there was a powerful force within that did not want to accept it. A world without God was far more convenient – no God, no accountability.
Yet, no matter how much I tried to eradicate God from my thinking, He just wouldn’t go away. As much as I wanted to tell myself, there is no God, something within testified to my need of him. My conscience also testified of my need of him. The reality is, I could not shake off thoughts of a coming day of Judgement. This too, is an experience that the Bible speaks of.
The Bible speaks of the Spirit of God. It compares His work to that of the wind. We don’t see the wind, but we see its effects. Like-wise, we don’t see the Spirit, but we can observe, and feel His effects.
And He (The Holy Spirit) , when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me… (John 16)
This makes perfect sense. God is active, in our world, by His Spirit, impressing upon people their need to get right with God. That nagging sense that you are not right with God; that there is a day of reckoning; and that there is a need for forgiveness is not just a result of not enough sleep – it is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s like the warning lights on the dashboard of your car. Sure you can ignore them, but they are there to warn you of the consequences.
2: My conversion experience confirms key statements in the Bible
Upon hearing the gospel faithfully communicated for the first time – I knew what I had to do. I needed to respond to Christ. Having heard that I was a sinner who would one day face judgement and that without Christ I would be condemned for eternity – I was left with no uncertainty in regards to what I must do. I must either accept Christ as my Saviour, or reject Him.
So, I did what the Bible commands us all to do, I repented, and placed my trust in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for my sins, and rose from the grave to save me.
This is what Jesus taught when he was physically present on the earth: “repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1)
What followed my repentance and profession of faith, was life changing. I didn’t have the words to describe it at the time. I didn’t have the theological language. But, in a nutshell, the presence of God poured over me like a flood. The love of God filled my heart. I didn’t hear the voice of God, but I felt the breath of God. Like a warm breeze on a sunny day, the Spirit of God, enveloped me in warmth and love.
I hadn’t been pre-programmed to expect this, no one had mentioned it – it just happened. It was only afterwards, as I read the Bible, that I discovered that this experience was Biblical.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5)
our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. (1 Thess 1)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8)
Further, this experience was not a passing phase. It was not a temporary emotional reaction, that lost its effect over time. It has radically altered the course of my life. The power of God that that entered my life, like a seed, has continued to grow and change me.
I know that the death and resurrection of Christ are real events, because the Spirit of God has impacted my life and confirmed the reality of the cross and the empty tomb.
I know that Christ is risen, because the spirit of the risen Christ has come into my life. I know that the cross of Jesus brings life, because life has flowed from the cross and brought light and life into my own life.
This is what Easter is all about. The death and resurrection of Christ is the doorway to God. All who enter through that door will be saved. All who enter through will know the reality of God. The door is open, and it’s open to all who will come to Christ in faith.
Why not come to Him today? The words of the old Hymn are still true –
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.