A man from the congregation, with a huge Bible that had gold pages, was somehow designated to speak to me specifically and to teach me about Jesus so I could receive Him as savior. At this point, we were all kneeling at the front of the church, beneath the pulpit, and each potential convert had been matched to a congregation member. I scoffed under my breath as mine began to recite scripture and blab some religious mumbo-jumbo that I seriously tried to ignore. I wanted desperately to leave.
Then, unexpectedly, a woman about ten feet from me who had also come forward, started to cry. She cried with such depth and feeling that I was shocked. It was weird. This fanatical display was not what I wanted to be a part of, so I just focused on getting through it so I could leave.
Then someone else began to cry the same way and another. I wanted out!
By now, I was nervous. I wasn't sure what to do or to expect, so I looked at the man I had been ignoring and decided to listen to him for just a second and then I'd continue to ignore him. All the while I was wondering how to get out of there. But, in that moment where I paid attention, he asked, "So, do you want to receive Jesus as your Savior?"
Now, I am not the "jump on the band-wagon" kind of a guy, not at all. I wasn't going to fall into this emotional hype sweeping through the church. So, I decided to focus and think logically. I examined this man. I remember very clearly looking at him. He seemed normal enough. Then a thought occurred to me. I realized that this situation might be important and I didn't want to simply scoff at it and ignore it. Maybe there was something to this God stuff. After all, I don't know everything. So, I thought about the options: If I choose God and He is there, I win. If He is not there, it doesn't matter. If He is there and I don't choose Him, I lose. Logically, I should give God a try. It made sense.
I knew that if God was real that I should, at least, manifest some form of sincerity even if it wasn't much. I figured that being flippant with God, if He were real, wouldn't be a good idea. It wouldn't hurt to try and be sincere and these people in the church seemed to have some common purpose and identity. It was, to say the least, interesting. So, I quickly addressed a prayer to God (not knowing if He was there) and said, "God, if you're there, then I'll try and be sincere and accept you. If you're not there, it won't cost me anything."
I looked at the man and said, "Yes."
"Good," he said. "Let's pray," and he led me in the sinner's prayer.
As I started to pray, I tried to manifest a sincere and honest heart. I was "giving God a chance." I followed the man's lead and I began to confess my "sins" to God and to ask Jesus to forgive me... everything was fine until something completely unexpected happened.
(I want to interject something here. I make no claims to being "spiritual" or "special" in any way. But, what follows is what really happened. And please remember that I have never been able to adequately convey the "experience" side of what happened in my soul that night. It is difficult to adequately describe. So, please bear with me.)
As I concluded my prayer, I became aware that someone "other" was there. Someone else was in the room with us and His attention was focused on me. This someone was not a member of that congregation. But I felt His presence dawning like a sunrise. This person was making Himself known to me in my heart. I somehow knew it was God. It was the Holy Spirit. He came to me slowly, gently, and then in a sudden movement, His Holiness overshadowed me with greatness and I became incapacitated. It was indescribable. He permeated my heart, mind, and soul. He washed over me in a burst of holiness and I was utterly undone. His incredibly deep purity shone upon my soul and I was instantaneously made aware of my utter sinfulness before a Holy and Righteous God. It was a supernatural experience of profound and utter depth. It wasn't emotionalism. It wasn't being psyched-out. It was God. I was in the presence of God Himself. I was in the presence of Perfect Holiness....and I knew it!!!
From the very deepest part of my soul, I felt a powerfully new and profound remorse for my sins, for offending God, for being unclean. I was a sinner! My body could not help but let loose a flood of tears of sorrow and guilt. I wept hard. I wept from the depths of my soul in guttural, heaving, moans of confession and brokenness. I was in the presence of incredible Purity, Holiness, and Love.. I was encountering God Himself. and I was a sinner. I could hardly stand to be in the presence of such deeply pure perfection and holiness. It was out of balance and I was profoundly aware of the disparity.
So, there I was, on the ground, sobbing like I've never wept in my life. I was a sinner and I knew it. The Holy Lord had revealed Himself to me and the natural result was to realize my own sinfulness. I kept sobbing and heaving out tears upon the floor. They came like a flood. And then.
This may seem unbelievable, but the only way I can explain it is that Jesus Himself manifested right there next to me. He had come to meet me on my knees. It wasn't as though I could see Him or touch Him. But, He was there. I was aware of His Holy awesome holy presence next to me. It was incredible. It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him. His concern for me was precious and tender. It was marvelous. He enveloped me in His love, His holiness, and His awesome greatness. I knew He was there to forgive me. I knew He loved me. I basked in His presence. I was with Jesus.
Then, while I was kneeling there, utterly absorbed and drifting in the experience of His presence, He moved. He moved toward me and gently entered my heart. Instantly, I physically felt my sin leave me. I felt the sudden and wonderful burst of forgiveness wash over my soul. I was instantly cleansed and born again and with it came the most profound and absolute sense of security of salvation I had ever known. My salvation was in Him. I was forgiven and safe for ever.
Then, He gently lifted His marvelous presence from me. He let me breathe again, think again, and regain my composure. It took a while, but I was finally able to recover and eventually able to stand up. But I was not the same. God had touched me and I was forever changed. I was so ecstatic. My heart was overflowing with excitement, love, hope, intensity, and great joy. I was smiling so hard, that my cheeks were hurting and I couldn't stop. It was great.