by Andrew Varner
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There are three reasons why I am Christian; He died for me, He lives, and I’m completely convinced. To some, this statement might imply a false notion that I have always held this position. To those, this statement may come off as naive. They might assume that I was brought up in a religious home. To some, this statement is simply preposterous. After all, we live in a increasingly secular society where seemingly the furthest thing from everyone’s mind is a God that would become flesh, live with us, die for our sins, and rise from the dead. Then to some, my faith is admirable. These people might have a profound respect for me in spite of the fact that they don’t share any one of my moral or spiritual convictions. To them, I’m “religious” - not in a bad way like Reverend Jim Jones, but in a good way like the Dalai Lama. The truth is that I know many people who would tend to agree with my “reasons.” I think these people would go as far to say, “Yes, I, too, believe that Jesus died for me and that he lives. And, yes, I’m completely convinced as well.” But secretly, I would oppose their position.
Romans 10:9 says “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” As Christians, we consider this a tenet of our faith; believing in the death, burial, and risen Savior. Some of us may have even had this scripture shown to us on the day we got saved. At one point, all of us were required - based on verse 10 of that chapter - to publicly confess that we believe Christ did these things for us; died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. But for as many as I know who would say they are convinced that Jesus was and is everything He said He was and is, I know many more who would claim they believe but simply do not live the lives of people who are completely convinced. Christians and quasi-Christians - I’ve been both.
My father - who I wouldn’t consider the most upstanding, Christian example - actually lead me to the Lord. When I was around the age of 12, my father was on a televangelist kick. Beings that Dad thought I was in need of some serious behavioral reconditioning at the time, he fused my interest in late-night Christian television. One of the programs he became particularly interested in was John Hagee’s. Pastor Hagee talked a lot about this thing called being “born-again.” His half-hour nightly broadcast featured him preaching, ranting, and sometimes screaming in front of his San Antonio church congregation. His old time religion and hellfire-and-brimstone approach to ministry had no shortage of explanations on why I was a sinner and what I needed to do fix my situation. I can’t say exactly when it was that I followed Pastor Hagee’s instructions to repent, but somewhere around that time, I did it just like he told me to. As I look back on it now, I see clear evidence of Christ actually stepping into my life. I can see now why the Bible says we become a new creatures. I started to act differently. I remember going to basketball practice after school and bragging to all my friends of how little I cussed that day. Of course, they all thought I was weird, but at the time I had no idea what was going on. Perhaps, I was a little weird, but Christ was changing me and I guess I was just stepping aside and letting Him do it.
I didn’t have a solid point of contact as far as a Christian influence until I was in my teens. I met an assistant pastor of a local church and he began talking to me about living a Christian life and the necessity of having a home church. At the time, I wasn’t too sure of his intentions, but because of his charisma and what seemed like genuine interest in me, I felt compelled to befriend him. In an attempt to keep this already-long-enough “personal sketch” shorter, I won’t divulge all of the juicy details and events that occurred between age 13 and 18 of my life. I’ll just say it as Mr. Dickens said it; “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Five very crucial years of my development involved some of the highest peaks and some of the lowest valleys I may ever experience for the rest of my life. It seems as if the most incredibly hideous display of human nature and the most beautiful example of love from a compassionate, kind, and tender God were revealed to me all at the same time. Unfortunately, by the time I was 18, the bad parts of the whole experience far outweighed the good parts, and I was ready for something new; drastically new. The true portrait of God was ever present in my mind all the while, but I had such a hard time understanding the horrible things I witnessed in the so-called ministry organization I had committed myself to. At the time, I thought I was running from God; and in a sense I guess I was. But I know now that I really wanted to see Him - I just really needed a reason; and that whole line about being a sinner and going to hell if I didn’t repent just wasn’t working anymore. Next step: college.
My college history goes down unlike anyone else’s I’ve ever heard. Forget about attending class. It never happened. Instead, I did my own studies. Forget about attending church. That never happened either. Instead, I found solace in any form of media or literature I could get my hands on. I read about other countries, other religions, people unlike myself, art, music, politics, culture, etc. I listened to new music. I watched new movies. I stayed out all night and talked to random strangers in little 24-hour coffee shops. Nothing was off limits and I couldn’t get enough input. I completely divorced my entire identity. I longed to be something new. I even asked people to refer to me as “Andrew” instead of “Andy” as I had always been known back at home. I was looking for something new; but this time something tangible. I wasn’t going to let anyone coerce me into anything ever again - for spiritual matters or otherwise. I became almost completely agnostic. If there was a God, I was going to find Him. And if there WAS a God, why was I exposed to those things and why did I experience the things I experienced? How could HIS ministers act the way I saw them act? I didn’t want to hear a case for God; I wanted to hear ALL the cases elsewhere - and then form my own opinion. I found a lot of incredible things. In fact, the most incredible thing I found is that more you search for God, the more you find. The more you search in the wrong places, the bigger your questioning grows. There are millions of theories and millions of doctrines and millions of reasons for being and millions of reasons to ask millions of stupid questions. If there is a belief of any kind, chances are good that it has already been written about. I even picked out some of my favorite writers. But the more I got to know the writers, the more I saw myself in them; and an image of myself staring back at me. I was getting no where. I suppose if I had not at one time in my life submitted myself to God then some of the material I was reading may have been easier to digest. But Christ was still living in me, and I couldn’t kick Him out. A lot of kids at that my age were into “experimentation” - whether it be drugs, sex, or the like. I guess I skipped that phase. I just couldn’t see how any of that “experimentation” was going to make me a better person. Either that or Christ was still living in me. I was running in every direction, asking questions that nobody had answers for. I felt alone.
I returned home for a visit one weekend in the Spring. A friend of mine who was a praise & worship leader asked me to help him with a National Day of Prayer service at my high school alma mater. I was shocked that my old high school would ask him to do such a thing, but reluctantly I said, “yes.” After all, he needed a piano player for the event and I liked playing music with him. Either that or Christ was still living in me. In short, the service that day changed my life forever. Along with all the many things of my past I chose to divorce, my high school memories were one of them. This was the school that I prayed for; the school that I started my Bible study in; the school that I set up National Day of Prayer and See You At The Pole events in. I think I may have had 30 people show up at the events when I set them up. But on this day, there were well over 200 kids there. The number of kids was enough to shake my conscience. Once all 200-odd some number of kids filed in, I thought for sure their response would be mediocre. The only response I ever received was mediocre; why should I have expected anything more on this day? Well, I was wrong. In one single, small course of action, the very God that saved me at 12 years old tore down all my inhibitions and surrounded me with His Spirit once again. Just as all those kids knelt on their knees in response to the music and atmosphere of what God was doing there that day, I surrendered - once again and for all - my life to God. He showed me that all those seeds that I had planted in my youth were very real and weren’t planted in vain. In a flash I knew that it was Man - not God - that had failed me and that Man will surely fail me again. He showed me that ministries had failed me but that mine didn’t have to be a failure.
I was 20 years old when I recommitted my life to the work of God. I found a new church after that and sat under the pastor there. I worked in that ministry for 3 ½ years on the praise & worship team and as youth leader. Since then, God has blessed me with a wife. We share the same heart for the lost and feel the same call toward the ministry. We feel as if this is a season of working and preparation. WCBI is an integral part of that preparation.
Since I became a Christian, I’ve learned more than any 25 year old should have to learn. But, in a way, I’m glad that I did. I feel I have much to share to someone who might be as lost or as hurt as I once was. I want to share the fact that there really IS a right and wrong. And it doesn’t take faith to believe it. I think I have the evidence - I can make the case. I’d say, “If you could be completely honest with yourself for just a moment, wouldn’t you have to admit that your lifetime isn’t nearly enough time to come up with the answers that are required to give you complete peace of mind? Life is too full of uncertainties. If it wasn’t full of uncertainties, why are scientists trying to make certain of everything? If it wasn’t full of uncertainties, tell me exactly what will happen to you tomorrow. If it wasn’t full of uncertainties, tell me the exact day you will die. While you’re at it, tell me the hour and the minute too. You can't even trust the certainty of the weather - just consider how often the weather man on TV gets it wrong. But wouldn’t it be nice to be absolutely certain of something? Perhaps in a God that has all the uncertainties worked out? A God that knows all? A God that is never surprised? A God that sees your yesterday, today, and tomorrow and knows every question you've ever pondered and every problem you've ever faced? A God that cares for you more than anything in the world? He does. I’m completely convinced.”
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...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them... 2 Cor 5:19
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"He showed me that ministries had failed me but that mine didn’t have to be a failure." Wise thought! I'm really blessed by your testimony and I pray that many readers will be blessed as well. A well-written article that a Christian magazine like Guidepost may publish. Welcome to Faithwriters!
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