Millions of Christians worldwide can relate how they found the way of Salvation. Here is one of them. Dean Montgomery tells his story.
How I found a relationship with God.
Maybe you don’t feel like you are a child of God, or know what that means. Maybe the words are confusing to you. Or maybe you have been saved, but have drifted away from God. Because of all the different backgrounds, I chose to help explain to everyone, even those that have never heard the name “Jesus,” how I personally came to find God in my own life in a living and dynamic way.
First of all, I was raised and grew up in what could be considered a “Christian home.” I went to church every Sunday, and did all of the things that church-going involves. It seemed that I knew about God, but I did not know God. Maybe you are the same way: you have been to church, you have learned about God, yet have never found Him as a saviour, or a friend. Or maybe you have never stepped into a church in your life. No matter, because there are only a few simple things that you need to know. It is only a matter of letting these things sink deep down into your heart, and believing them.
As I was growing up, and going to church, I began to notice something in certain people. There were certain people that seemed to love God. There were certain people that I could see, who loved something that I could not see. Who did they love? Where was this person? Why did they love Him?
Eventually, I heard the “gospel message.” Simply stated, it said that everyone was a sinner, and that Jesus was the only way to get to heaven. I heard people talking about repentance, and forgiveness, and asking Jesus into your heart. And to tell you the truth, I really didn’t understand everything they were talking about. But slowly I began thinking more and more about life, and death, and what it all might mean.
One of the primary thoughts that I focused on was the notion of hell. I just turned this thought over and over in my brain. I thought of how painful it must be, and mostly, how it was eternal: never-ending. I thought of spending millions of years in the flames of hell, and looking back on it as only a tiny drop in an ocean of torment.
I also thought of a Bible verse I had heard, (though back then I didn’t really know that it was from the Bible), which was this verse:
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” -Mark 8:36
Everyone kept talking about Jesus. They kept saying how He died for all of our sins, and all you had to do was ask Him to forgive you, and you would go to heaven. I thought it was perhaps too simple, or maybe it was just my pride, because I never tried asking Jesus to do this for the longest time. I kept trying to go around these things. I kept trying to talk my way into heaven.
I rarely prayed, but I guess I didn’t have a problem praying to God - I just didn’t know who Jesus was, so I never prayed to Him - I only prayed to “God.” I asked God, “why does it have to be through Jesus? I want to go to heaven, and I want to know more about you, but I just don’t know why I can’t talk directly to you. Can’t we just leave Jesus out of this?”
After this, I kept thinking, and I kept hearing the plan of salvation, over and over. Eventually, I began to see that: yes, Jesus is the only way, and I would need Him if I wanted to go to heaven. The reason for this is due to the fact that we have sin, that is, that we have done something wrong. It sounds strict, and in reality, it is impossibly strict - had it not been for God’s mercy, everyone would have to go to hell.
It says in the Bible that God created Adam and Eve perfect, and without any faults or anything against them. Yet the only rule God gave to them, they broke. They ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they sinned. For God said to them: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16b, 17).
I know that some people might already be lost in this message, but what I am trying to say is: through whatever circumstances that have come in our life, we all have done something wrong. And not only that, we are separated from God by these sins. Heaven is a great place, and as a matter of fact, its perfect. With these faults, we cannot get there from where we are now. It is as if we have smashed a clay pot - a cord between God and man has been cut - and we cannot bring it back or restore it, no matter how hard we try. If we stop sinning, we still will never make it back to God.
The way I see it, it is as if we have ruined and destroyed something that is completely priceless and irreplaceable. It would be as if a child would have smashed an old antique vase or other heirloom. No matter how much they could try, they could never undo the damage they caused. It is broken, and there is nothing that they could do in their own power to ever restore such an item. Now imagine if that vase was your own soul, and to sin, to have even the slighest hint of impurity, is to taint, mar, and destroy your own soul. This smashing of a vase is a lot like the fall of man. We are as simple children before God, and we have no way of reproducing this clay pot. We look at the broken pieces, and tearfully hold them in our hands, and... what can we do?
Well, what if we knew the one that had created that clay pot? What if we called upon the one that could make us another one? In life, this potter, the One who has made us, is Jesus. This is in a way what is meant by the term "born-again."
I don’t want to lose you in a long statement about religion, but I will say briefly that the Bible says that God is a trinity, there is:
(1) God the Father,
(2) God the Son, and
(3)God the Holy Spirit.
These three are one, and so there can be three parts, each fully God, and yet they are three in one, so there is still only one God. That second part, God the Son, is Jesus. He is sometimes called “the Word” in the Bible. It says in the Bible that “the Word,” that is, Jesus made everything, including you and me.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” -John 1:1-3
So this part of God, the Word, is the One who has made us, and He is also the one that can redeem us. We have broken our lives, and we fall short of heaven, and there is no way to pick up the pieces by ourselves. Our precious hearts have been shattered, and we, not knowing how to fix them, have no way of restoring what we have done. But God’s plan was, through the Word, that is to say, through God the Son, the Creator, to come and “fix” us.
God’s plan was to come down to His creation, down to our level, and accept responsibility for our broken pieces. So God the Son became a man. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That man’s name was Jesus. That is what I mean when I say that Jesus created the world. It was not just that man, but it was actually God, from the beginning of time, who made us. It is just that He later came to earth, and became a human, and His name was Jesus.
I know, some of you are thinking that this sounds like mythology or something, but it is real, and in the rest of my testimony, you will hear how this became very real to me. This is exactly what the Bible says. I’m not making this up! Really. Talking about the Word of God again, it says:
“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” -John 1:10-13
So when God came to earth, it says that to them that believe on His name, He gave them power to become the sons of God. That name is: Jesus. There’s only one. He’s the only one that made you, and He’s the only one that can save you. He’s the only one that can truly pick up the pieces, and give you a new life.
You see, it says in the Bible that Jesus came to earth in order to die in our place. He came to undo the damage that had been done. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
As you may or may not know, on Easter we celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. God chose to place all of mankind’s guilt on Jesus. Basically, He carried our sins for us. He loaded up on all of the world’s sin, and then died on the cross as payment for it all.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” -Isaiah 53:4-6
I don’t know exactly why God chose to do it this way - having Him die on the cross - but that is simply the way it happened. It is part of history. God works in mysterious ways.
Anyway, back to my story: I kept thinking about hell, and I kept thinking about why I needed Jesus to save me. (It was necessary to explain all of the things about “the gospel” that I had already learned, otherwise the next part would not have made any sense.) Each night I wanted to come to God, and surrender my pride to Him. I wanted to accept what Jesus had done for me, yet I didn’t let that happen for what seemed like the longest time.
One night, during a sleep-over with my cousin, we had a long discussion life, and death, and heaven and hell. I explained to Him all about Jesus, and made such a convincing case before him that I wondered why I didn’t believe it myself. That night, out of sheer curiosity, I whispered out to God. All I did was simply whisper out loud the name of “Jesus.” At that very instant, I felt and saw this beautiful, shimmering light cover my body. It was dark in my room, I was in bed, and my cousin was asleep. I remember looking out at my hand, and it was covered with this pulsating light. I thought to myself, “is this real?”
That lasted for a few seconds, and it was as if God had just let me in on a little secret. It was as if He was saying through that light, “yes Dean, I am real. All the things that you have heard of Me are true.”
From that night on, the knowledge of hell weighed heavily on me. I knew that everything I had been pondering about was real. I saw it with my own eyes. I knew God was real. I knew Jesus was real. And, it was quite a scary thought, but I knew hell was real too. I would just about kick myself every night for not humbling my pride and asking Jesus to forgive my sins.
This continued for weeks, but finally one night I reasoned that it would be complete foolishness, (knowing what I had known, and seeing what I had seen), to risk hell for even another second. So, I closed my eyes, and I prayed just five words in my heart. All I said was, “Jesus, come into my heart.” He knew what I meant, and He knew what I was asking. And guess what? He did. At that exact moment, I felt this warm, comforting presence enter me; it was as if that beautiful light that I had seen earlier was no longer on the outside, but it had just now entered inside of me. Salvation, for me, was not earth-shattering, ground-breaking, or anything dramatic as I was expecting. It was rather a gentle, reassuring spirit that came over me.
And, as a matter of fact, it was the Holy Spirit. That’s the third part of the trinity. (Remember the trinity?) God the Holy Spirit. This is one of the ways that we can be assured that God has saved us - because of His Spirit that He has put in us. “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24b). Though at the time I didn’t really understand everything, (and since it was one of my very first encounters with God, I wasn’t all too familiar with His Spirit), looking back and knowing now what God is like, and what His presence is like, I know that it was the Holy Spirit that came to dwell in me. This is God’s mark of redemption.
This was only the first step in a lasting relationship with God. Between now and then there have been many prayers, many times spent with an open Bible, many heartaches, many heartjoys, and innumerable times spent alone with God. But, that’s how I came to know God. This first step, turning from your sins, (called repentance), is the groundwork for everything else that is mentioned in my book.
"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." -1 Corinthians 2:13-14
For any of you who may not yet know the Lord Jesus as your saviour, I wanted to provide this testimony as a link. I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to reach out to anyone who may be struggling with these issues. If you still don’t understand everything that I have explained, or would like a question answered, or need some kind of help or prayer, please don’t hesitate to write to me!
(I won’t bite your head off, I promise.)