Few people have been more sincere than I in trying— without success—to find meaning, truth, and purpose in life. At the university I noticed a small group of people—eight students and two faculty members—who seemed different. They seemed to know what they believed and why. I wanted what I saw. Two weeks later, while I was sitting with some of them in the student union, the conversation turned to God. That bothered me, because I thought it was not intellectual. And yet I was curious. Leaning back in my chair, I said to one of the students, “Tell me, what has made you so different from others?” She looked me in the eye with a little smile and said, “Jesus Christ!” My response revealed my bias and my ignorance. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said. “Don’t give me that garbage about religion!” She replied, “I didn’t say ‘religion.’ I said ‘Jesus Christ.’”
My new friends challenged me to examine the claims of Christ. I thought most Christians were idiots. But these people were persistent. Finally, I accepted their challenge, but I did so out of pride, to refute them. One of the claims I researched was Christ’s resurrection. And after more than one thousand hours of study, I concluded that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was either one of the most vicious hoaxes ever foisted upon human minds or the most fantastic fact of history. Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet, claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures. He was arrested, judged a political criminal, and crucified. Three days after his death and burial, some women went to his tomb and found his body gone. His disciples claimed that God had raised him from the dead and that he had appeared to them and to many others at various times before ascending into heaven. In my attempt to refute Christianity, I made some startling observations. Until then, I’d had no idea there was so much historical, literary, and legal testimony supporting the factuality of Christ’s resurrection.
But the more I investigated, the more evidence I found, including Jesus’s foretelling of his resurrection. Prior to his death, he took his disciples aside and told them that he would be condemned to death and handed over to the Romans who would mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. And three days later he would rise from the dead (Mark 10:33–34). The more I studied the Christian faith, the more I realized it is a thinking person’s faith. As Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Having set out to refute the resurrection and Christianity, and then having been compelled by the evidence to believe that Jesus Christ was indeed exactly who he claimed to be, I faced a new problem. My mind was saying, “Christianity is true,” but my will was saying, “Don’t admit it!” It came to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. I knew I had to get Jesus off my mind or go out of my mind.
Finally, on December 19, 1959, at 8:30 p.m., I became a Christian. I prayed four things that night to establish a relationship with the resurrected, living Christ who has since transformed my life. First, I said, “Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me.” Second, I said, “I confess there are things in my life that are not pleasing to you. I ask you to forgive and cleanse me.” (The Bible says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” Isaiah 1:18.) Third, I said, “Right now, in the best way I know how, I open the door of my heart and life, and I trust you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for coming into my life by faith.” After I prayed, nothing happened. There was no bolt of lightning. I even said to myself, “Oh, no! What’d I get sucked into now?” I felt I’d gone off the deep end. And some of my friends agreed.
But I can tell you now that in the months following, I found that I had not gone off the deep end. For one thing, I had finally found mental peace. I had also found control of my temper. And old hatreds were gradually turning to love. You can laugh at Christianity; you can mock and ridicule it. But it changes lives. Christianity cannot be forced on anyone. All I can do is tell you what I’ve learned. Beyond that, it’s your decision. Christ was raised from the dead. He lives. He has the infinite capacity to enter your life, forgive you, and change you from the inside out.
Adapted from The Resurrection Factor, published by Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California. Reprinted by permission of Campus Crusade for Christ.