Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Testimony/Salvation Story

I have posted it before, but I wanted to post a detailed account of my testimony/salvation story.

After growing up Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic and going to a Baptist church on and off during my teens, in 2008, when I was 24, God put a desire in my heart to seek Him. I knew God existed (see Romans 1:20-22 for proof) and that Heaven and Hell were real places and I was headed for one of them. I wanted to make sure I was going to Heaven and not the latter so I decided to start reading the Bible on my own to find out the truth (going into it with the premise that whatever the Bible says is true and there are no exceptions).

If you start out with the belief that God's Word is complete truth and there are no exceptions, I believe anyone can read the Bible and find salvation. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Jesus Himself said that if you are pure in heart, you shall see God. He also says in Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." If you hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only Jesus can provide, you will be satisfied.

Again, this assumes that you are willing to submit to God's Word without exception (not pick and choose what you like and don't). When I sat down with the Bible with this attitude for first time, God immediately gripped my heart with the Sermon on the Mount (which I was quoting from). I always thought murder was the one commandment I hadn't committed until I read this famous sermon. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."

Shortly after reading this, I read Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I had no idea that even my lustful thoughts could damn me.

A little bit later, I read Luke 13:3 where Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will perish." This was another surprise to me. The definition of repentance is to turn away from your sin and towards God. Not that I knew if it was right or wrong before I was saved, I would blatantly and willfully sin and just ask for forgiveness at night with no intention of ever stopping my sinful action. It was starting to become clear to me that I may not be going to Heaven.

Then I read Jesus' words in John 3:3, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Up until this point, I thought "born again" was a term that was coined fairly recently by Evangelicals and didn't give any weight to it. It was at this point that I realized I was not saved. I felt like Nicodemus in John 3:4 when he asked Jesus, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" I reached out to my pastor and asked him what Jesus meant by this.

God had shown me that hate was murder, lust was adultery and without repentance I would perish. If I was truly sorry for my sins and would turn away from them (repent), God would give me a new heart with new desires (being "born again"). This is a life changing event and if it isn't for you, I would ask you to re-examine your salvation. Everyone will have different sins they need to turn away from, but nevertheless, Jesus demands repentance.

As I continued to read the Bible, it became clear to me how sinful I am and how there is nothing I can do to save myself. Lest I think I wasn't as "bad" as other people, Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." My only hope to be saved was in Jesus Christ. Not even just mere "belief" in Jesus was enough- James 2:19 says "Even the demons believe—and shudder!"

The belief that I had to have was like believing in a parachute that could save me. If I were on a plane about to crash, merely "believing" a parachute exists will not save me. If I were to jump from a plane, I would need to put on the parachute and trust it with my life. The same is true with Jesus- to be saved, one needs to put on the Lord Jesus (Romans 13:14) and trust Him with your life.

Everyone knows John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life," but they don't understand how that applies to their life. It is a historical fact that Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years, but how and why does that apply to you and me?

Imagine yourself in a court room, guilty of a crime and the sentence is life in prison or a one million dollar fine (if you happen to have one million dollars, substitute an amount that you would never be able to obtain). You don't have one million dollars and you are facing life imprisonment. The presiding judge asks if you have anything to say for yourself. You mention all the good deeds you have done in your life and that the judge should have leniency. The judge tells you that while you may have done some good deeds, you still committed a crime and a punishment is due. You are left speechless and at the mercy of judge when at the last second, someone comes in and puts down one million dollars in front of the judge.

The judge looks at you and says, "You are free to go. Not because you are innocent or deserve it, but because your fine has been paid." This is what Jesus did for you by dying on the cross. He lived a sinless, perfect life and bore your sins on Calvary's cross. When you die, instead of God looking at your life (which will be sin stained and only damn you to hell), He will instead look to the perfect life and righteousness of Jesus.

So, what kind of attitude would you have towards this person who just paid your debt? You would want to do good deeds on their behalf since they saved you, but you realize that none of these good works could ever amount to what they did for you. This is the response we are to have towards Jesus- we perform good works not to save us, but as a result of our salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This post has transitioned from my testimony into an evangelist post and so was the intent. I hope if you are not saved that you will repent of your sins and trust your life in Jesus and Him alone. Jesus said in Mark 8:37-38, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" Nothing is more valuable than your eternal salvation.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back on the Street - 83 and Chester in Avon - 4/1/12

Today marks my return to the streets after a long absence. This is the first time I have been in Lorain County with the cross. Most of my evangelism was centered in the western suburbs of Cleveland and I had made an appearance or two in Summit county and downtown Cleveland. Having just moved to Avon Lake a few months ago, I plan to make Avon and Avon Lake my new evangelism stomping ground.

To those who don't know me, let me introduce myself. I am a Bible-believing, born again Christian saved by God's grace in 2008. In September 2011, my wife and I moved to Avon Lake from Westlake. My mission is to spread the Gospel. My inspiration for this form of evangelism is Tony Miano of Living Waters and I employ Way of the Master techniques when sharing the Gospel. Avon and Avon Lake have been described to me as "sleeper communities"- I am going to do my part to wake them up to Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross.

I have to admit that today was nerve wracking for me at first. It's been about a year and a half since I was on the street on a daily basis (around 4 to 5 times a week). This is exactly what I needed, though, because it forces me to draw closer to God and rely on Him.

I arrived at the corner of Route 83 and Chester in Avon at 5 minutes past 11:00 AM. This is a busy area in Avon- there is an interchange with Interstate 90/Ohio 2 and there is a Walmart within walking distance of here. There is also a church nearby with services during this time. I only stayed until 12:20, but some people were starting to leave church. As I drove by their parking lot exit at 12:30, there was a steady stream of cars. Next time, I will be sure to stay until at least 12:45.

About half an hour into being on the street, an Avon police officer in an SUV drove by, turned around at city hall and pulled up to me with his lights on. He approached me and asked how I was doing and referenced the Scripture on my cross- Mark 1:15- to which he said, "Repent and believe the good news." He told me I was doing nothing wrong and that he just wanted to beat the first person the punch who would call and report me to the police. He said as long as I wasn't impeding traffic, I was doing nothing wrong.

After he left, I thought about the pastor in Iran who was sentenced to death for sharing his faith. I am so thankful I live in a country that lets me have religion of freedom and the religion of expression. Not only that- to have a police officer in the community where I want to base a lot of my evangelism at be interested in protecting my rights. I didn't get the officer's name and wasn't able to share Christ with him, but I hope to talk to him again. The fact that he was so supportive and knew Mark 1:15 leads me to believe he is a Christian himself.

One man in a car stopped at the light on Chester rolled down his window and told me that he was ready. I gave him a thumbs up as he sat waiting for the light to turn green. I also had two teenagers drive by and yell what sounded to be "Hail Satan!" They have the same rights that I do, it's just unfortunate how they choose to use theirs. Other than that, it was pretty quiet. I'm hoping to find more areas around where I can actually interact with people.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Message of the Cross

The message of the cross is simple.

Hebrews 9:27 says, "Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." Do you know how you are going to be judged by God, come Judgment Day?

We've all broken the Ten Commandments. We've all lied, stolen (regardless of value), taken the Lord's name in vain (said "oh my ___"), looked with lust (which Jesus says is adultery in the heart, and hated (which Jesus said is murder in the heart).

Based on that, we are all lying thieves, blasphemers, and adulterers and murders at heart. We will all stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. He should sentence us to Hell for all of eternity.

But God loved you so much that He sent His One and only Son to die in place of your sins on the cross. He rose again on the third day forever defeating death. The Bible tells us if we repent of our sins and place out trust in Him, we will have everlasting life in heaven.

Repentance is more than just confession, though. Although confession is a part of it, repentance involves a turning away from your sin and abandonment of your sins.

Mark 1:15 says this: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Please repent of your sins today and place your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. Trust Him like a parachute if you were on a plane that was about to crash. Merely "believing" in the parachute will save you isn't going to. You must trust the parachute, strap it on and jump from the plane to be saved. In the same sense, you must trust Jesus Christ, put on the Lord Jesus and abandon your sinful lifestyle to be saved.

For a more detailed article on this topic, please read this post.

Friday, April 22, 2011

On the Street Before Good Friday- 4/21/11

Yesterday, I went out to my spot at Dover Center and Center Ridge in Westlake from about 6:50 to 8:00. I have been wanting to get back out on the streets- I have only been out a few days on the weekends. I saw a story on the news about a man who came up to Cleveland from Louisville, Ohio, dressed as Jesus and carried a cross around downtown for about two hours.

Seeing that really put a spark back in me and motivated me to get back out there. I didn't have any conversations last night, but these are probably people who have never seen my cross. I used to go out during the week for about two hour increments between 11 AM and 5 PM, but I now work (praise God for that!) and am not free during the day. I look forward to the warmer weather and being back out on the streets!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sinagara Park in Lakewood - 3/20/2011

Sunday, I went out to Sinagara Park in Lakewood with a brother from church, Ryan. For anyone following my blog, I'm sure you've noticed this is one of my favorite spots. We were out there from about 3 to 5. There was quite a bit of foot traffic even though it was a bit chilly.

Ryan was handing out tracts and as I've come to know in Lakewood, he was being met with some opposition. At one point during our fishing, a woman named Victoria walked by and Ryan engaged her in conversation. Victoria had a lot of time on her hands and she was very open to listen to the Gospel.

Ryan shared the Gospel with her and at one point she asked something along the lines of what she must do in response to the Gospel. I wasn't sure what Ryan was saying was answering her question, so I offered my past experience. I told Victoria that after reading the New Testament myself for the first time in 2008, I knew I wanted to be saved. I knew God existed, I knew there was a heaven and hell and I wanted to do what I must do to be saved.

I knew Jesus died for my sins, but how did I get the substitutionary atonement apply to me? It was my sin that stood in my way. The hardest thing was repenting (turning away from my sin) and the changes that it would mean to my life. I told Victoria that it would be a radical change in her life, but "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).

Please be in prayer with me that Victoria makes the right decision, repents of her sins, and places her trust in the only One who can save her- Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back on the Street in Lakewood - 2/19/2011

It's been a while since I've been on the street, but Saturday I went back out to Sinagra Park in Lakewood. A friend from church, Chris, joined up with me. I displayed my cross while Chris handed out tracts and engaged a few people in conversation as they passed by. As much as I like talking to people about Christ, I usually wait for them to come up to me- not the other way around- that is something I need to work on. I was glad to have someone alongside of me who took that initiative.

We arrived in Lakewood around 4:00 PM. Chris engaged a young man walking by who considered himself to be a good person, but Chris quickly took him through some of the commandments to show him how God viewed him.

Another young man who was 20 walked by and we engaged in conversation. He told he was on his way to his church for a youth activity. He told us his church was an Assembly of God church and there were about 30 youths in this group. Chris gave him about 30 tracts to distribute to the youth, which he said he would.

We got to talking a bit and he asked a few questions Chris and I really couldn't definitively answer. He asked about people having supernatural experiences where they were taken to heaven or hell. I told him I didn't really have an opinion on this because Scripture doesn't describe experiences like this. I told him I believed God has already revealed everything that is necessary for us in the Bible.

I offered one piece of advice when regarding revelation from God: Revelations 22:18-19: "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."

I made sure to ask the young man about repentance and his response concerned me a bit. Chris also asked this young man to go on YouTube and find Paul Washer's Shocking Message (to 5,000 youth). If you have never watched or listened to this message, please do. I also asked him to listen to Hell's Best Kept Secret. Chris wrote down this information on a tract and gave it to him.

Chris also engaged a man named Brendan in conversation while he was waiting for the bus. Brendan told us he attends mass regularly at a Catholic Church. Chris started off taking Brendan through the law and I remember at one point Brendan said, "But I haven't murdered anyone...' Chris asked him if he had ever hated anyone, and it was difficult to get him to admit to it. I'm sure Chris told him God views hate as murder in the heart. The conversation started going off on a tangent a little bit and Brendan had to leave to catch the bus.

Before Branden had come up, a group of youths passing by inquired about the cross and asked "ready for what?" I told them that it was appointed for man once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and asked if they were ready to face God for judgment. One of them had some choice words for God that I will not repeat.

One analogy I made sure to always use in our conversations was the parachute analogy: if you were on a crashing plane and there was a parachute that could save you, just "believing" in the parachute doesn't save you. You have to strap on the parachute, trust the parachute with your life, and jump from the plane. In the same sense, you have to put on the Lord Jesus (Romans 13:14), trust Him with your life, and repent of your sins (turn away from them).

I'm not sure how often I will be able to go out on the streets- I'm hoping at least once a weekend now that it is getting warmer. I'm also thankful for some new faces in church who also have a heart for evangelism who will now join me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nudity in Art

I have read a discussion on Facebook and even had one myself with a Christian about nudity in art. I have heard both sides of the discussion- that nudity is OK and not OK in art. I haven't really thought about this much until I heard Todd Friel talking about this week.

I am not going to go in depth with this, but I do believe nudity is not necessary nor should be permitted in art from a Christian perspective. I can't tell the world what to do or change its views, and I don't expect to.

In the beginning, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve "were both naked and were not ashamed," (Genesis 2:25). What happened next in chapter 3? Eve is tempted by the serpent, ate the forbidden fruit and gave some to her husband to eat. Genesis 3:7 says, "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."

Clearly, they both knew they sinned and they knew being naked was something to be ashamed of. If you don't think so, just read the rest of chapter 3 and see God's response to their action.

Outside of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2-7), Scripture clearly shows nudity is something to be ashamed of. There is no "exception rule" for art- and anyone saying there is, is shaking a fist at God.

I'm not saying the human body is something to be ashamed of- hardly- "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband," (1 Corinthians 7:2). That's where God draws the line.

Actually, this is just like the Garden of Eden all over. God has given us an entire world to use as inspiration as art, and we want the one thing God has told us to stay away from.