Converted from a Dead Belief into a Living Faith!
My name is Luke, and I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I'd like to share with you how I was converted from a dead belief into a living faith!
What is really amazing is how the Lord has worked through many circumstantial events, which are in hindsight nothing short of a miracle!
I wanted to study at college. I looked at the course list... one language stuck out: Russian. I said to myself, "sure, why not?"
The real story starts when the time came for me to choose which language I wanted to study at college. I looked at the course list and saw a long list of languages, but one language stuck out: Russian. I said to myself, "sure, why not?" I knew the class would be small, and the likelihood of having a good Russian teacher in the middle of an American cornfield was small, but something inexplicable drew me into the Russian language classroom. (The teacher was great, actually...)
Soon my junior year (the third year of undergraduate study) was coming around and I wanted to spend a semester studying somewhere else. There were several exchange programs that I wanted to apply for, but found myself unable to do so. I still wanted to study abroad, but not with the programs available. Then one day, out of the blue, a man came from a college in upstate New York (near where I live now!) and spoke with my Russian professor. It turned out that this college was looking for determined students of the Russian language to study in a specialized overseas program: my professor recommended me! I initially declined, but after meeting with the visiting gentleman myself, I made the decision to go with his program.
When I left for St. Petersburg I didn't know what to expect! A different culture, a different religion and a different language all posed ominous and elusive obstacles to friendships and common interaction. I knew that the Orthodox faith was not right and that it did not teach the Bible as complete truth; however, I knew that the church I grew up in also did not even attempt to follow all of the teachings from the Bible. In fact, I had become interested in learning about the Jewish holidays and religious practices, as well as Catholic practices because I knew I lacked something. I believed in Jesus Christ, but the faith was not "alive" in my heart, and I sought for that life in Christ whilst not knowing what really I looked for or how to even look...
My faith was without power, and so was that of those around me...
While in St. Petersburg temptations did come, and I did give in to excess drinking, smoking, and lewd behavior: my spiritual life went down the drain. Inside I was becoming cold, uncaring, and heartless despite my success with the language and social life. My "Christian" faith could not carry me through, even though I went to an American church in St. Petersburg, sang the hymns, listened to the sermons, and participated in church events and many youth group outings! My faith was without power, and so was that of those around me - I could feel it and see it. They were just going through the motions. It was just the same as back home in America! People were going to church, then going home and resuming their everyday lives: sins and hypocrisy included. No one was trying to change; no one was really learning; no one had a relationship with God; no one was really dying to themselves and desiring to become like the disciples I had read so much about as a boy. I felt hopeless inside, but my pride kept me from showing it - like every body else. Our faith wasn't in God, it was in a religious lifestyle.
Then one day when rounding a corner, I literally bumped into two blokes who handed me a Russian tract. We spoke about Jesus Christ, salvation, baptism, faith and going to church. Afterwards we parted ways and I immediately forgot about the leaflet I had just received. Two months later, I was cleaning out my coat pockets and found the leaflet. I was shocked and happy to see that the leaflet said exactly what I knew in my heart: that liars, cheaters, whoremongers, fornicators, adulterers, murderers, thieves, etc. would not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10; GALATIANS 5:19-21). I knew that scripture said this, but had never heard it preached in church and was excited to hear that someone was willing to stand up for the entire Bible and not just the "nice" parts! So, I decided to go along to a meeting there in St. Petersburg.
Afterwards, I was challenged by a gentleman to read ACTS chapters 1, 2, 8, 10 and 19, as well as 1 CORINTHIANS chapters 12 and 14. These scriptures speak about the Holy Spirit, how the disciples received it, and the power it gave them to do wondrous things. I had never heard these verses before and was excited to learn more! The people from this assembly knew something I didn't and I wanted to know and have what they knew and had!
The power of the disciples is mine because Christ lives in me!
Knowing that I would have to leave my old life behind, I was baptized according to scripture after repenting. Then after the laying on of hands I received the Holy Spirit, and could speak in a new God-given language, just as the disciples did 2,000 years ago! But what is more important and amazing is that my faith came to life because of the Holy Spirit! The dead belief and failing heart I once had were gone! God was, and is, REAL to me. And the Bible came to life, like it jumped from the page! The stories I had learned as a boy became real and practical. The power of the disciples is mine because Christ lives in me!
Is it not strange that an American would go all the way to Russia to get saved on the 4th of July - Independence Day? God calls His sheep by name. Now I pray that others who have a dead or dying faith might be "fished" by God and added or brought back to His fold.
Praise the Lord!