In 89/90 can’t quite remember, I was working as an upholsterer in Wilmslow, getting on with life as everybody has to, doing all the things most people call normal life. I wasn’t getting in trouble with the law or committing crimes like murder or anything like that so I thought I was ok when it came for my turn to die and face God and I was very sceptical if He even did exist at that time. I wasn’t that thrilled at Him either because so many situations in my life hadn’t gone as I planned and also I thought it’s perfectly reasonable to assume the world and all the complexity of life just sort of exploded out of nothing, isn’t it???
In the place where I was working we had a new guy start. He was a big tough looking guy from Manchester called Paul
After talking to him I found out he had been a gangster leader in Manchester for years and been in prison for armed robbery and other gun crime. Me being me wanted to know all about this exciting stuff and I found out that he was now a Christian and despite his appearance and background was now a very friendly, gentle, honest, clean mouthed and most patient person and his manner and life just stood out against mine and everyone else’s as so much better. He would never accept the cups of coffee I’d figured out how to steal from the vending machine and he would never lie or swear and it’s surprising how these small things stand out and bug you. His whole life and behaviour seemed to revolve around God but not in a religious practices way but like a personal knowing and influential and trusting way.
I actually knew nothing much about God or Jesus at that time except when a lot younger my mum had told me that Jesus was known to be perfect and that He died to save his people—what from? I had no idea and I asked Paul this. He explained how Jesus Christ was the son of God and came into the world to save sinners (I know it’s an old fashioned word and I laughed when I heard it…) and to save people from God’s punishment for all the wrong things we have done and be forgiven and be able to be saved which is basically to be made right with God and even loved by Him and meet His holy standard, gain eternal life and heaven. But this saved thing was more than that it was being saved from what we actually are in our nature which are enemies of God, Paul said he believed and trusted in Jesus Christ and had been forgiven for his wicked life and God had changed his nature, or his heart as he put it, and that’s why he was so different from what he used to be.
The things he said from the bible about God really annoyed me
I got on with Paul at first and even used to kind of toy fight with him to see how tough he was and yes he was and could quite easily hold me above his head. But the things he said from the bible about God really annoyed me, things like everybody, including me, will one day be judged by God and cast out of His presence into the outer darkness. Or that only those who come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith will be saved. When I said I would tell God what I thought of Him when my time came, Paul explained what being in the presence of God would be like from the bible from the accounts of Daniel and Isaiah which were terrifying experiences and they were left traumatised because they experienced His glory and holiness which revealed how sinful they were and these were men who knew God. My issue then was concern about all the people who I knew had died without forgiveness, but I got told that God is fair and will be a completely fair judge and that my real concern is what is between me and God because when my time comes I won’t be thinking of others it will be where I’m going. And he told me many things that the bible reveals about God that most don’t know about. He showed me from the bible that God is not the Santa Claus in the sky that so many think He is but is the infinite, eternal, almighty, absolutely holy God whose character will not allow any sin done in mind or in action to go unpunished.
At the time I found this completely ridiculous and only mocked him and was very hostile towards him
And I became a real mouthy little brat. Back then I hated God because He didn’t give me what I wanted in life and I saw religion as boring, but what a change in Paul that he could be a ruthless gangster who would have happily shot me at one time to this patient guy who put up with all my questions and arguing. Obviously he wasn’t perfect as he threatened to slap me one day after pushing him too far. I said I was a bit religious because I prayed a bit but was told that it doesn’t matter how religious you are religion won’t save people. Jesus came to the most religious people in the world, the Jews, and told them their religious ceremonies and life of following rules wouldn’t make them right with God. He told them to simply repent and believe in Him and be saved because Jesus is presented in the bible as the true King and saviour who gave himself as a sacrifice for payment for his people’s sin and guilt. In other words he took all the punishment that we who believe in Him deserve – but you have to come to Him in repentance and ask for Him to be your lord and saviour.
Eventually Paul got me a bible and got me to read the life of Jesus which I did to some extent and found that Jesus was the most perfect, patient, all knowing, loving, powerful, decisive, courageous, forgiving person I knew about, but also He wanted all of me including my time and desires and life, all had to be surrendered and used according to His will. I remember being infuriated by this and storming about my bedroom throwing things about in a temper thinking this is my life to do what I want. I liked beer and girlfriends and doing my own thing but realised life would end one day and then what? At this point people just usually forget the whole thing and get on with their life but I couldn’t, it was like God had got hold of me making me think about judgement and eternity. Later reading the bible I found this is sometimes how God calls His people by making them aware of Him and where they stand before Him and that this is the fear of God.
I told Paul about how I felt and said “I wish you’d never told me”
He simply said “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”, which is from the bible. Not what I wanted to hear. Does this sound like God is wrathful and frightening? well he can be, but also he can be an eternally loving Father who sometimes terrifies his children until they come to Him and then He has promised to pour out his love overflowing and never ending for all eternity. Just understand that God made this universe and world and life on it all in just six days and started giving amazing things to Adam and Eve straight away, but they still rejected Him, and it’s a disposable world which He knocked together in just six days and these are just the small things He can do, how great will the things be when He goes deep into Himself and shows His people what He really is capable of over eternity.
Eventually after some months and even struggling to believe that He existed I did pray to God asking Him that this would be made “right somehow”, at first I wasn’t confessing sins but it was like He was just getting me into a place where I knew I needed to talk to Him over how upset and angry I was feeling and somewhere along the way I began confessing I was a sinner and had done many wrong things deserving God’s judgement and I asked for His forgiveness through His son Jesus who had taken the punishment for His people by dying on the cross and defeating death by His resurrection. He has turned my desires and wants into a desire just to see Him glorified.
I’ve been a Christian for many years now
Even joined a small church where the bible is believed and preached and Paul actually became my best man when I got married. There has been many doubts, fears, sins, falls, crisis of faith, teachings that have been hard to accept and repentings in my life as a Christian but I’ve always got to the point where I just take time to talk to God about them all and have always found the peace of His forgiveness and learned to simply trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty. Paul did once tell me when he got home sometimes he would pray for me and also plead for wisdom on how to answer my questions in a way that didn’t cause me to flip out.
A word to any Christians who are reading this. We often meet people who have completely no interest or concern about the truth of God in the bible and they often just mock or reject what we say and they seem such hopeless cases but when God wants one of His people to come to Him He will break into their life somehow and yank them from darkness into light and change them. So if there is somebody your trying to speak to about Jesus to who seems a hard and hopeless case and brings you nothing but grief and stress just continue, and pray for them because if God can come into a place where I was and overcome me to make me His, He can them – and, sorry but yes, you’re probably the means He’s using.