people have amazing dramatic testimonies. Its true - some
people get off drugs miraculously and quickly become the most
radiant, wonderful joyful people so quickly that you can
wonder: "God, what about the rest of us?" I am one person who
had a gradual conversion experience. Later there were moments
of profound spiritual experiences with God, but initially, I
was very stubborn and it took God a long time to get me to be
willing to change.
I thought I was a Christian because I believed the Bible was God's Word and that Jesus died for me. However, Jesus was not really the Lord of my life. I did not really know him at all, though I knew all about him. Although I believed totally in the existence of God, I'd have to acknowledge that, for the most part, during my childhood and adolescent years, I never experienced or knew God personally.
It's easy to be religious without knowing God. I'm sure there are still many people like that today.
Hyper-sensitivity was not my only problem. I was also extremely critical of others, negative and unpleasant to be with. I'm not saying I am perfect or wonderful now, but I can say that Jesus has made a big difference to my personality. For many years though, I rejected Jesus also. I did this because I desperately wanted to be in charge of my own life. I was happy for Jesus to be my Saviour, but not my Lord. I wanted to go my own way and somehow prove that I was great. My motives for acknowledging Christianity had more to do with a desire to be right even if others were wrong. I didn't care about others at all, but due to the influence of my parents I did have some moral principles which I generally stood by, though not perfectly. One of these was honesty. In the end, it was the love for the truth which God put in me which helped me to humble myself and receive God's love into my life. It didn't happen instantly. It was a process.
At the same time I was convinced that I was a Christian. I knew I had sins and was basically selfish, but I had confidence that I was saved because I mentally assented to the idea that Jesus Christ died in my place. I convinced myself that I had God's forgiveness even though I was still living for myself. There were times, however, when certain people made me uneasy, because of their obvious joy in serving God. There was something about certain people that made me very uncomfortable with myself. I now know that was the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, when he first comes to us, makes us realise that God is good and we are rotten sinners. During times when this was happening to me, I was always waiting for an escape so I could get back to enjoying my various hobbies and avaricious pursuits.
I was sure I was a Christian! I had felt sorry about some of my sins and had even asked Jesus into my heart! I was doing what others in church were doing! I could discuss theology with the best of them! I was outwardly moral, principled etc. - but utterly self-centred. The one thing I was most uncomfortable with in those days was telling others about Jesus.
But there came a day when a young man from Campus Crusade for Christ gave me a call on the phone and invited me to meet with him. I don't know why I agreed, but I did. Over the next few months with this man, my life began to change. He helped me to start telling the good news about Jesus to others. Doesn't the Scripture say that if we keep on confessing Christ as Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved? Strange as it may seem, it was at this point that I believe I truly surrendered my heart to God. For I had surrendered to Christ the thing I was most unwilling to do for God. And I think until we come to that point, we still have not received Christ as Lord. Until that point, we do not really belong to Christ. I didn't know that Jesus had to be Lord in my life before I could be really part of his spiritual kingdom and receive the forgiveness of sins I needed.
One of the surprising things for me was the joy I found in doing the thing I was most fearful of - to talk with others about Christ. What I found was, Christ became real to me as I went in His name. Before that, I knew lots of Bible and had done some things for God (I thought), but I was still miserable. However, taking these first steps in living for God released a joy and a happiness in me that I was not expecting.
The Bible says that the Kingdom of God is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". There is a surprising joy that comes when you give your life to God. That's my experience.