"An Unspectacular Conversion" by Phil
I was brought up in a good home by kind loving parents. I always went to church and I always believed God existed, but until I was 18 I did not understand anything about sin or my need for a saviour. I was never into drugs or alcohol abuse or petty crime, but I did many things of which I am now ashamed. I frequently stayed up late on Saturday nights (after my parents hade gone to bed) to watch sex movies on TV, and I also went to the cinema to see horror and sex movies when I was under-age. Because I felt insecure inside I lied to people that I had a girlfriend. I actually claimed I had 2 girlfriends who did not know about each other, and I invented names for them – Sharon and Elaine!
When I was 18 I was bored with the church I had been attending and I switched to a different church which had a lively youth group. The minister at that church noticed that I was spiritually lost and ignorant, and he befriended me and spent much time reading the Bible with me and talking with me. I gradually came to understand that my heart is selfish, proud, dishonest, and unloving, and that I had spent all my life being sinful and rebelling against God. I came to see that I rightly deserve to go to hell but that God still loves me and he has given me the opportunity to return to him through his Son Jesus Christ. Previously I had thought that Jesus' death on the cross was a regrettable accident and a shameful defeat but now I understood that Jesus died to deal with the problem of man's sin and that through his death God won a glorious victory over the devil. I came to know that Jesus is the only Saviour for sinners and that trusting in him is the only way for us to receive God's forgiveness and be reconciled with God.
My understanding of spiritual matters gradually grew during this time, until eventually I had assurance that I was saved. But I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I was born again. There was no sudden crisis experience. It was a silent unconscious transformation. Sometime when I was 18 my sins were forgiven and I obtained peace with God. For the next 12 months I had a honeymoon experience. I often literally wept with joy. In one particular communion service I was sniffling as I tried to hold back my tears and the person next to me sympathised with me for having a cold! But throughout this period I was so thrilled to be utterly loved by someone who knew all the worst about me but still loved me anyway. That gave me a sense of security and so I stopped lying about my 2 girlfriends! And it was like I could now see God's beautiful creation in colour whereas before I had seen it only in black and white. I also experienced a new power in my life. On one occasion I found some pornographic pictures lying on the ground. No one else was around, so I could easily have looked at them without anyone seeing me. I was strongly tempted to look at them, but I felt an even stronger desire not to look at them because I knew it would have displeased my Saviour Jesus who was watching me. Because of all the wonderful things God had done for me and was still doing for me, I wanted to obey him and please him more than anything else. So I successfully resisted the temptation.
This 'champagne experience' did not continue. Shortly afterwards I developed an illness called OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I spent many years feeling depressed, fearful, and anxious. This robbed me of my bubbly joy in God but throughout this time I always felt the presence and strength of God with me, and that was a deeper richer type of joy than I had experienced before. There were some very precious times when I experienced God's love in such an overwhelming way that words simply cannot describe it. The sweetness of his love for me when I was feeling so low mentally has more than compensated for going through this illness.
During this time I continued to grow as a Christian and I learned not to trust my feelings (which are fickle and often inaccurate) but to trust the truth of God's promises in the Bible, such as "I will never leave you nor forsake you." My illness is much better these days, thanks to my heavenly Father. Looking back I am glad I have had my illness because I believe God has brought so much good out of it and used it to make me more dependent on him and sympathetic towards others.