Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Atheist Turns to Christ

"Hillside Glory" by C.V. Lacroix
I would like to share the testimony of my dear friend Gino.  When he told me how used to be an atheist and came to Christ in his quest to know the purpose of life, I thought that many people would be blessed to see what God did for Him. Here is his testimony.

Gino's Testimony
I was raised in a very non-Christian family.  There was nothing said about God in our home, except that we qualified as “ChrEasterns” by attending church twice a year on Christmas and Easter.  The school I attended also met those minimum requirements, but otherwise was godless.

As a high school student, I was the sociable type and not very academically minded. But after I graduated, a question came into my mind. I wanted to discover the purpose of this life, why the world is the way it is, and the solution to the world's root problem. I determined that I would try to find some answers to these questions through my research. Since I was an atheist, the only place I knew to look for knowledge was in the world. So I went to the library and began reading many books about Australian history, United States history, and other topics, looking for the purpose of life and the reason it is the way it is. I was not very sociable during this period in my life.  Now I just wanted to be by myself and read all these books, even though I had not been much of a reader or bookworm in my school days.
One day I discovered a book in the library about the creation story. I had always viewed the biblical account as a myth, but this book gave a possible explanation of how science and creation may actually be in perfect agreement. That was a big surprise to me, because I had loved to read Darwin’s writings, and always viewed his teaching about evolution as fact, just as everybody else that I knew did. You know, Darwin basically showed the picture of a monkey next to a picture of a man, and it had always seemed perfectly logical to me that the monkey became a man, just as I had been taught in school. Now I was wondering if anybody else besides me knew about this little book that I had just read about creation. It seemed like a well-kept secret of some kind.  That book was one of the things God used to begin directing me toward Him in my quest, at least in my thoughts, and opening up my mind to the possibility of the Bible being true.

Some time after reading that book, I was in a secular bookstore, shopping for some new books to feed this insatiable appetite I had acquired for knowledge.  While I was there, I noticed on a display rack that there was a book on sale. I picked it up and read the back cover, which stated that we all have a purpose in life, for which God made us. It claimed that this book would help me understand why I was alive and God's amazing plan for me, which seemed interesting, so I bought it.

In the first part of the book, the author explained that God made me, and that in His great love for me, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me, so that I could be with Him forever. As I read that, suddenly the realization of it all came to me personally. I was overwhelmed by the thought that Jesus Christ would die on the cross for me. I felt so unworthy of His loving sacrifice. I was hunched over in shame beneath my burden of sin, as I cried out to Him in my heart, “No, you couldn’t have done that for me. Not me! No! I don’t believe it.” Then just as suddenly as that overwhelming feeling of guilt came, it was replaced by an overwhelming sense of God’s love being poured over me. As I sat there under the weight of it, I said in my heart to God, “I believe.”  I did not even repent or confess my sins to God out loud, but in my heart, I admitted before God I was a sinner.

That moment was a turning point in my life that directed me to the Lord Jesus. I realized that He was the answer I had been searching for.  But I still had no understanding of what it meant to be saved or to become a disciple of Christ. I would describe myself to people at that point in my life as a devout Catholic, because I did not even know what else to call myself.

Sometime after that, I went to a Christian bookstore I had discovered and bought a Bible. I was so ignorant that I didn’t even realize that the three letters written on the front cover were an acronym.  I was telling friends that I had bought a “Niv”, pronouncing it like it's spelled, as if it were a word rather than an acronym. People didn’t know what I meant when I told them I had bought a “Niv”. It wasn’t until later that I looked closely at the front of my Bible and saw the subtitle in smaller font printed under the letters “NIV”, which said, “New International Version”. Then I realized that it was actually called the “N.I.V.”

I read through the entire Bible from front to back in three months! And God taught me so many things in His Holy Word during that time. For example, I now realized that the reason for all the problems in society is that man is sinful and has failed to obey His God his Creator. I didn’t hear that on the six o’clock news. Nobody seemed to know about it. I realized that the droughts and disasters were the judgment of God against sin, and not just some normal cycle within nature. But it seemed like a well-kept secret, since I heard nobody else talking about it.

Through my Bible reading, I now realized that everyone in the world must repent and turn to God through His Son Jesus Christ. It was such a great revelation to me that I simply wanted to tell everybody about it. I was not aware that others knew about this, too. In fact, one day I decided to find the local Muslim imam and tell him about this. I was going to ask him quite directly, “Do you know that you need to repent and give your life to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for you?” In fact, I actually drove to the mosque and got out of my car, went over to the windows and peered into the mosque, but I couldn't find the imam or see any people there. Who knows what kind of reaction I would have gotten from the imam, if he had been there that day. 

But I began telling friends and family around me.  I thought it would be easy to tell my family, because whenever I visited relatives, I saw their pictures of Jesus hanging on the wall, the crucifixes over their beds, and their idols of Mary and the saints. I assumed they would accept what I had to say. I was very surprised when they rejected me and reacted with hostility toward me! Some of my relatives heard that I was speaking to other relatives about Jesus, and they called my mother to warn her that they would break both my legs if I ventured over to their side of town to speak to them. I actually thought it was rather humorous that they would be so frightened of little me that they would threaten to break my legs if I even went near their neighborhood.

As I had been reading Roman Catholic literature about their beliefs, I realized that the practices of that religion were unbiblical. For example, I read what they believe about the Eucharist, which is the bread used in communion.  I saw how it did not agree with what the Bible said about the Lord’s Supper. And there were other things like that. But when I shared that with family members, it was not received.  I remember attending a Roman Catholic mass for either a wedding or a funeral, and I did not participate when they served communion.  I was surprised afterward when my mother scolded me for it. She assured me that everyone present at the mass noticed that I did not participate. Again, it seemed ridiculous to me to think that someone as unimportant as me could create such waves.

I got a similar reaction from friends and coworkers. I remember sharing my new faith with a coworker one time, and he asked, “Wow, who’s been brainwashing you, mate?” I said, “Nobody! I’ve just been reading the Bible and learning all this on my own!” I was not even part of a church yet, and I didn’t even know how to share Jesus with people, but the Truth of God’s Word was so plain and clear to me.  I couldn’t really understand why nobody seemed to share that perspective.  I would have expected that at least some people would at least give some consideration to what I was telling them. But nobody received it at all. Instead, it was ridiculous to them and I became the object of their jokes.

One day I shared with a coworker that I had decided to burn my television, because I had come to realize there was nothing of value in secular programs. After that the rumor spread that I was throwing out my TV. So one burley coworker, who normally was pretty loud and rough-mouthed, came to me very quietly and gently. He said, “I heard you decided to throw out your TV…” Evidently the reason he was being so sweet was that he hoped I would decide to sell the TV to him for a really good price or give it away, rather than burn it. So once again, people were not able to see that these changes in my life were from God. Instead, they were only thinking of it from a human point of view.

I had been watching a video called Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll, in which Bruce Donaldson and Eric Holmberg of Reel to Real Ministries clearly showed the evils of rock music. One day I was riding in the back seat of my friend’s car. He was driving with a young lady beside him in the front passengers seat. And as I began telling my friend that I had thrown out all my rock music, he lost his temper and became very angry with me. He said something like, “You’ve gone too far with this!” Again, the changes I was making under the conviction of the Holy Spirit to rid myself of evil were misunderstood by someone close to me.

On another occasion I attended a family outing, where there was folk Italian music and dancing. In the past, I would normally have accompanied my father on the guitar.  But this time, I stayed in the background and ate food, refraining from joining in the festivities, because I realized that folk music and dancing are not godly, but worldly practices. As usual, this received quite a negative reaction from my relatives. I heard about it afterward through my mother, who told me that everyone noticed I was not playing guitar or dancing.

I began to attend a Baptist church occasionally, and I figured that these people should know what the Bible says. I was spending a lot of time with the youth of that church at different events and gatherings.  But I was surprised at the lack of biblical teaching on basic things. For example, let’s take the practice of going to the beach and wearing bathing suits, which leave a person half naked. I knew from the Bible that this was ungodly. But when I once commented half-jokingly to a young lady in the church that we should not go to the beach, she reacted very negatively to me. So I found that even within the church there is hostility toward holiness.

Some time afterward I began to pull back from some of the Christian social life I had been heavily involved in. At one point after that, my Christian friends took me out to dinner to see how I was doing. They told me that they missed me and were concerned about me. They told me they had not seen me around lately and wanted to make sure I was doing all right. While I certainly appreciated their concern, I realized that once again they were missing the point, which is that God requires holiness and righteousness from His saints. Christians cannot simply go on living like the world after we come to Christ, and expect to reach heaven.

In my disappointment with the Church, I began to look online to see if others besides me saw the requirement of holiness in the Bible. That’s when I found a site called Eternal Destinations.  There I began to read testimonies of people who had experienced heaven and hell, and who came back with a message of holiness from the Lord for mankind. Though these holiness messages are very unpopular in general in today's churches, they line up with God's Word, and the Truth is that without holiness no one will see the Lord.

I also discovered Seeking the Lord, a related site by the same author, which teaches holiness from the Word of God as a biblical requirement. This further confirmed for me that the testimonies of hell from those people are truly genuine.  I also discovered Working God’s Way, which is another site by the same author, which shows the need for true saints to practice righteousness. I began to realize that the Church has now rejected many of the things that Protestant Christians once accepted as biblical requirements. Sadly it’s true. History is repeating itself with man rejecting God’s Word over man’s opinion or denominational beliefs.

Then I read an article called Restored Truth, which showed that just as the Lord once restored Truth through reformers like Martin Luther, John Wesley, and others, He is now in the process of doing so once again.  He is restoring Truth to the Church, so that we can return to the Lord and live holy lives, as we ought to. He is coming back right away, but He is only coming for the holy ones, so we need to prepare ourselves. 

One common sin I read about on Working God’s Way was failing to keep Sundays holy. I found out that many famous Christian preachers down through the centuries kept Sundays holy, such as John Wesley and D.L. Moody, but the Church has abandoned this practice today.  However, when I tried to share this with other Christians, I received a negative reaction once again. They don’t want to hear anything about it, and consider it going back to the Law. I reckon that if God had commanded us to work seven days a week, then people would take one day a week to rest. But because He commanded that we rest one day a week and honor Him, people rebel against it.

All of this rejection from people showed me how important these things were to satan.  If I had just kept to myself, remained alone like a hermit, and carried on my life privately without telling others, it would not have been a problem. But the devil hated the fact that I was telling others, and their reaction to me made that very obvious.

I am very grateful for the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross for me. And since I came to Christ in 2006, He has taught me what a high and holy calling it is to be a disciple of His. I cannot say that the Church has taught me that. In the Church, I see lots of programs and activities that appear to be helping countries in various humanitarian ways, such as providing clean drinking water for third world countries, but I don’t hear the biblical teaching about holiness.

One day I was visiting some very dear Christian friends, an older couple that lives close to me, named Feri and Elizabeth, whom I had met through Church. Feri was taking a nap on the couch, while I was telling Elizabeth about the testimonies I was reading on Eternal Destinations, and the articles I was reading about God’s biblical requirement of holiness.  When Feri got up from his nap, he said that he could hear me while he was sleeping, and as I was speaking he was having a dream from the Lord, in which he saw a prominent local pastor sitting asleep in a chair. It was yet another confirmation that what the Lord has been teaching me is in fact true.

This is not meant to be critical of any of the people I have mentioned, who have rejected me, or who have rejected the Lord’s message of holiness. I don’t have any ill will toward them, but only love and compassion. How can I be critical of anyone for the same things I myself once did? 

It’s written in Scripture: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (Ps 14:1, NIV). That describes what I was like at one time. But I’m so glad He loved me enough to send His only begotten Son to die a horrible death on the cross for me. And He loved me so much that, even though I was living my life denying His existence, He reached out to me to make Himself known to me. I’m forever grateful for this new life He has given me. I’m still not all that I should be, but I’m definitely not what I used to be. I’m a new creature in Christ. And since I’ve come to know Him as my Lord and Savior, He’s continued to reveal His love to me in more ways than I can count.

If you are an atheist, I want to tell you that God is real. It takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God. You can see evidence of His existence all around you.  All the wonderful things in nature that you enjoy each day experienced their birth through Him. And you can see evidence all around you that God loves you. He provides you with food to eat, beautiful flowers to see and smell, the stars of the sky in their constellations, the sunshine, the majestic mountains, and the vast ocean with all its awesome power.

Meanwhile, atheists like I once was refuse to believe in the One who made it all. The Bible says, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Rom 1:19-20, NIV).

He is the One who made you in His own image. You did not evolve from a monkey! He has an amazing plan for your life, both here on earth, and forever in eternity. But you cannot experience His purpose for your life without a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. I urge you to give your life to the Lord Jesus, who died on the cross for you. The reason He died was to pay the price for your sins, so that you don’t have to spend eternity in hell. Hell is real! It’s a very hot place of eternal torment that was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (demons). You don’t want to go there! You need to repent of your sin and believe in Him for the forgiveness of your sins. You need to surrender your whole life to Him, and invite Him to come and live inside your heart as your Lord and Savior.

If you are a Christian, who already knows Jesus, but you are not living a holy, righteous life, then I have a message for you. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. Return to the Lord with weeping and mourning. Seek the Lord while He may be found. He loves you and does not want you to perish in hell. Don’t continue to trample underfoot the precious blood that saved you. But realize that you have offended the Lord and grieved the Holy Spirit.  Repent now with all your heart and ask the Lord to forgive you. Then by the power of the Holy Spirit, begin to live a life of holiness and righteousness for His honor and glory.

-- Gino Villella, Melbourne, Australia

Editorial Comments
What a marvelous testimony of God's love! Brother Gino was searching for Jesus while he was still an atheist, and he didn't even know it. He was seeking God without realizing it. In Psalm 14, David said, "The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." (Ps 14:2, NIV).  It would not surprise me if God is the One Who initially put the question into Gino's mind, so that he would seek after Him, and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.

God was so kind to brother Gino to reveal Himself to him the way He did, such as the way He used a book about Creation that was hidden in a public library among books by Darwin.  He used that book to open up Gino's mind to accepting the Truth of the Bible about God's existence as Creator of heaven and earth. He also used a book by a Christian author in a secular bookstore to open up Gino's mind to accept that Jesus died for Him on the cross.

All of those things were preliminary steps to get Gino to a place where He would read the Bible for Himself.  Just as Gino responded positively to each of those opportunities, he did the same when He bought a Bible and read it cover to cover in just a few months. As he read the Bible, whenever God showed Him something, he responded to it properly. I'm not saying Gino was perfect or that he never made a mistake. There were probably times that he did not respond as he ought to. But overall his attitude was that he listened to God's voice each time He spoke to Gino. He took the Bible literally and seriously. He wanted to know what pleased the Lord.  And when the Lord put His finger on something in Gino's life, he was willing to give it up, whether it was rock music, television, public bathing at the beach, unbiblical practices of the Catholic Church, or folk music and dancing. That's how the Lord wants to work in each one of our lives to sanctify us. But we must respond to Him in repentance, forsaking sin each time He convicts us of guilt.

And at every step along the way, Gino was sharing Jesus with friends, family, and others within his sphere of influence. He didn't have any formal training on how to do it, but he just did it. Each time God showed Him something, He was telling others, including his Christian friends. He lived what he believed, and let people see the life of Christ within him. He wasn't afraid to talk about the Lord and His Word. And when people rejected him, he didn't let that stop him. He kept right on sharing Jesus with others, in spite of being ridiculed, despised, and persecuted.  That kind of faith pleases the Lord. True saving faith will be marked by those kinds of deeds.

Let me assure you that a person does not go from being an atheist to living like that unless it's real. Nobody brainwashed Gino. The Lord revealed Himself to him. He didn't join some religion and become indoctrinated. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and followed Him, which he is continuing to do up to this day.  It hasn't always been easy for him. And he hasn't made the mistake of assuming that the truth is with the majority opinion. He hasn't conformed to the world or the worldly practices in the Church. He hasn't assumed that because the pastors are not preaching holiness that it must not be important to God. He reads the Bible and believes the Scriptures, even when it goes against popular opinion. That's what God expects from each of His children, and He's pleased when we live that way.

Let me encourage you today to seek the Truth like Gino did and give your life to Jesus. Live for him one hundred percent, loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." (Lk 13:24, NIV).

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The "Hillside Glory" painting and the "Holiness" calligraphy are by my seventeen-year old daughter, C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork and calligraphy on A Brush with Life.

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read Unbiblical Practices of the Catholic Church, Holy Living in a Perverted World, God's View of Public BathingRock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Six Divine Revelations, Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Messages from the Lord for Catholics Worshiping Idols, Gabriel Doufle Kokou Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Tattoos and Body Piercing, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part I, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II, Famous Christian Sabbath Observers, The Truth Set Me Free, Who is God?, and Australian Pastor Raised from the Dead. You are also invited to view my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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