Testimony Tuesday // Josh
For as long as I can remember I have always been a Christian. I don't think however that I was always a follower of Jesus. What does that mean? Well, I was raised in a Christian home, my family actually 'went on mission' for several years in Uganda. I was brought up knowing who God was, I knew my Bible well and I knew a lot about God, but I didn't actually know Him. In the same way that the difference between knowing all the ingredients in a meal and actually eating it, tasting it and experiencing is huge, so is knowing about God and just knowing Him. That's why the Bible says "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). It was because of this lack of depth in my relationship with God that I began to drift away from Him in my later years of being a teenager. I found other things, other relationships that seemed more exciting and fulfilling than what God could offer me. I still went to church every Sunday but I was a once a week Christian. Outside of St Aldates, I was not really a follower of Jesus. If you compared my life to anyone else's it would not have looked very different. I had conformed to the patterns of this world as Paul would say (Romans 12:2). I finished school, had an incredible summer experiencing the highs of what the world could offer me. And then in autumn, it all came crashing down. I entered a cold lonely winter where I became became increasingly depressed and unsatisfied with my life. Luckily we have a good God and though I had given up on Him he had never given up on me. As I entered the second half of my gap year I flew out to South Africa to go to LIV Village to take part in their discipleship program, LIV4change. What is LIV? LIV is a long term foster care home where children who are orphaned or vulnerable can live with a foster mother and a loving christian community, and come to know that they are no longer orphans anymore in Gods sight but children of the King of Kings. What is a discipleship course? Good question, I didn't really know at the time either. I went expecting to learn more about how to do International Development, the degree I am now studying at Sussex University. I knew that it was a Christian organisation but I was hoping to just do a bit of christian stuff on the side and focus mainly on the charity/aid side of things. How wrong I was. As soon as I arrived I realised I’d gotten myself into something completely different. Over my time at LIV I saw and learned so much. I saw incredible miracles, people being healed, tongues, words of knowledge, prophecies, demons being driven out, the full Acts spectrum. My mind was pretty blown. More than that though, I finally began to experience and come to know God for myself. I felt His presence and learned to hear His voice and slowly understand His will. In short, I actually formed a relationship with my Father. This actually started to happen right at the start of my time at LIV (it's a 6-month program so I was there for a while). Because I had drifted so far away in my faith and because I had done things I knew God didn't want me to do and I had actively disobeyed Him I thought that God was angry at me. That I had burned my bridges and could not go back. That God would only accept and love me once I started acting like a good Christian and had cashed in enough Christian credits at the bank of Heaven. If you've read the parable of the prodigal son you will know the truth about our Father. That story is my story. In a time of worship, I just confessed everything I had done wrong, I laid it down because I was tired of carrying around all the baggage. In the parable, this is the point where the son comes to his senses and returns home. I remember a leader praying with me and telling me to say "I want to walk with you God and I want you to walk with me." In my mind, I had always seen it as me trying to do good things and when I did I would be walking with God, but as soon as I messed up I would have to start at the beginning again. But that is not the gospel. God came down. God sent his son. God saved me. Even when I didn’t and when I still don’t deserve it, He is still loving me. He gave everything for me. I didn't have to earn anything. It was a gift freely given, I just had to accept it. Jesus didn't die for me so that the Father could love me, it was because the Father loved me, that He sent his son to die for me. I could feel the weight of sin and shame coming off and being replaced not with the wrath of God but with the embrace of his strong loving arms. This was the start of a relationship that I am still building on and enjoying now. We are all finished works in progress. Each of us is bought and washed in the precious blood of Jesus. I am a new creation. But each day I learn new things, I strengthen that relationship through time and through investment and through his grace. For the first time I realised just how high a price God paid for me. He has given me everything so it is only right for me to do the same. He ransomed my life, it belongs to Him now. That means I have the joy and the privilege to walk with him in every aspect of my life. I was lost but now am found, was blind yet now I see. I know it is grace alone that’s brought me safe thus far and I know it’s grace alone that shall lead me home.