I grew up in Bucharest, Romania, were I lived until 1997. In 1997, I came to the United States for my graduate studies. Very early in my life, I had a desire to learn about God. One of my earliest memories is about me asking questions about God. I was attracted to the faith. In the fall of 1998 I was in my second year of graduate studies in electrical engineering. By this time I had become a very religious person. I would attend church regularly, spend much time in prayer, and read every day three Bible chapters. Though I was reading the Bible, I was not understanding it. There were many basic doctrines of the faith that I did not understand or believe. I was religious because I was seeking God's favor. On the outside I was a successful graduate student, but on the inside I was depressed, neither happy nor satisfied with my life. I had no hope of eternal life, so I was seeking God's favor only for this life. Though earlier in my life I had experienced some amazing prayer answers, at that time I felt ignored by God. He did not seem to pay attention to my prayers. Looking back, this was for my own good, so that I would seek him more earnestly, so that I would receive from him something that I needed so badly, though I was not even looking for it.
During the year 1998 I was changed. Before the fall of that year I was feeling miserable on the inside. Afterwards, however, I was a new person on the inside. I had new desires and dreams; I was full of hope. From a book so hard to comprehend, the Bible became to me the Word of God, understandable, and speaking daily to me. So how did all this happen? Looking back, I made two life-changing decisions in the fall of 1998. One night, as I was praying, I made a commitment to Jesus to obey him with my life. I told him that if I knew what he wanted me to do with my life, I would do it, whatever that might be. So I acknowledged Jesus as my Lord. Later, on another night, I sensed that God wanted me to stop doubting the Bible and to start believing all of it. At that time I decided that I will believe everything written in the Bible. This is how I received the Bible as the Word of God.
After my decisions to follow the Lord and to believe the entire Bible, I began to study the Bible earnestly. There was always some topic that I wanted to learn from the Bible, so I was very motivated in my study. When I would hear or read about objections to the faith, or when questions would arise during my study of the Bible, I would search earnestly for answers. My study became more and more focused on the Bible itself. I could mention two reasons for this. The most important is that I wanted my understanding to be based on the Bible. There was, however, a practical reason for this as well: my study resources were not very helpful. The commentaries that I was using, though interesting, were typically not addressing my questions. Moreover, after I purchased a study Bible, I noticed that the study notes added to it were not very helpful, since they were often written from a viewpoint that seemed to ignore the divine origin of the Bible. Therefore, instead of looking to other resources, I began to focus my attention on the Bible itself. By searching the Bible itself, my knowledge was increased and my faith was strengthened. It took me only a few years to become very confident that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, precise, complete, timeless, and without any flaw or error. Since the Word of God was revealed to me as logic and precise, I began to reason based on the Bible. Understanding that the Bible, though written thousands of years ago, is as relevant today as when it was written, I began to seek to apply it to my life. In particular, it has been encouraging to me to see how my own experience and life circumstances have been in agreement with the Bible. Here are some examples.
After I committed my life to Jesus Christ I have experienced the truth of the following Bible verse: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2Co 5:17). Moreover, "... after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph 1:13). After my commitment to Jesus Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit became obvious in the study of the Bible. I began to understand the Bible, for the Word of God was teaching me. "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God ..." (Jn 6:45). For "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (Jn 16:13). Before my commitment to Christ, I could not understand the Word of God, for "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" (1Co 2:14). After my commitment to Christ, however, the Holy Spirit began to teach me. My knowledge was not perfected instantly, for he did not show me all things at once. It took a few years until my knowledge of the faith became reasonably accurate. Nonetheless, he has been teaching me from the beginning, and he still teaches me today.
The radical change that took place in my life is known as salvation. When the disciples asked Jesus "Who then can be saved?", he replied "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Mt 19:25-26). "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2:8-9, NKJV). By the time the Lord saved me, he had already brought me near, so I was seeking him. However, I was not finding my way, so he continued to help me. Jesus helped me make the next step, to accept him as Lord over my life. For me, this was an act of faith. Before that time I had tried hard by various religious works to please God. However, he was not looking for my religious works but for my faith, for "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Heb 11:6). Were not my religious works also works of faith? Even if some proceeded from faith, the faith that I had, as I realized later, was not the faith described in the Bible. In fact, some of my religious works were contrary to the teachings of the Bible. So I was not feeling the Lord near me, for "the LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Ps 145:18). As emphasized in this passage, the Lord is near to those who call upon him in truth. The Word of God is the truth (Jn 17:17).
Before I was saved I knew the historical elements of the faith, such as the virgin birth of Jesus, his death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven. I knew that Jesus is the Son of God. I believed these, though at times it seemed as if I was not absolutely sure of their truth. I knew of heaven and hell. I understood well sin, and I did not consider myself worthy of heaven. My hope was only for this life. I did not understand salvation and I was quite ignorant of the teachings of Jesus. I would call Jesus "Lord", but to me "Lord" was an honorary title. I called him "Lord" because I wanted to win his favor. I was not meaning at all that I wanted him to rule over me. He said that "not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Mt 7:21). So my life was changed after I had enough faith to let him rule my life.
Before I was saved I knew so well that my life had been less than perfect and that "the wages of sin is death". However, I wrongfully thought that forgiveness of sins is something that is earned. The price to pay seemed to be high, almost impossible to attain. So I carried a load of guilt. The truth is that "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ro 6:23). God gives this gift to those who repent and believe. It is a gift, not wages for good works. If it is a gift, then it is free. If it is free, then it is not earned. This gift includes forgiveness.
Today, as I write these things, there are almost 20 years since the day of my salvation. The Lord has continued to work in my life. He has given me more knowledge, my faith has continued to grow, and my confidence in the Bible has continued to grow stronger. The Lord has continued to change me in conformity to the fact that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance .... And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:22-24). As for the joy of the Lord, it is amazing. I have lived so many happy moments, yet nothing is like the joy that I have in Jesus Christ my Lord. I do not mean at all that a life in Christ is without difficulties and tests of faith. Jesus stated plainly that "in the world ye shall have tribulation" (Jn 16:33). Would the Bible speak about peace and longsuffering if a believer would never encounter circumstances requiring longsuffering and challenging his peace? Nonetheless, I do say that my experience is consistent with the statement that "whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame" (Ro 10:11, NKJV).
"To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen." (Ro 16:27)
"I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation." (Ps 118:21)
"... O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever." (Ps 30:12)
Scripture passages marked with NKJV are from the New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version® is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000.
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