Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Friend Obrad


*The author of the following Testimonial is Obrad Nikolic, Nis, Serbia, pastors in Nis, Serbia. Obrad formerly operated the Church of God, Reformation Movement Website at www.geocities. com/chogrefmov. He can now be found in frequent discussion on various Facebook pages.        
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  Testimony of Conversion 
I was born into a family that was nominally Eastern Orthodox, but practically unbelieving. In our neighborhood there was an old lady who was a practicing Roman Catholic. She had some Christian influence over my sister and me. I still remember how she taught us to pray before going to sleep.

Also, from time to time she used to read to us from the Young People's Illustrated Bible. I was very much impressed with these beautiful illustrations of such Bible stories as the flood, the tower of Babel, and the great exodus of the children of Israel.

Unfortunately, when I was five years old, we moved away, and this was the end of this good woman's Christian influence.

Atheist Indoctrination 
At seven, I started to attend public school where I was systematically indoctrinated in atheism. At that time, my country, formerly Yugoslavia, was under a Communist regime, although it was not behind the so-called "Iron Curtain" and a bit more open to the West.

During my eight years in elementary school, I often wondered how anyone at the end of the 20th century could possibly believe in God, Adam and Eve, angels, heaven, and other names and places presented in the Bible. My conclusion was that believers were probably people raised in such an environment that they could not overcome such Christian indoctrination even when they grew up. I did not realize that, in fact, it was I who was being indoctrinated!

But when I was about 17 years of age, as I was leaving childhood and growing into adulthood, life became complicated and harder. Due to many circumstances, I entered a deep, personal crisis that lasted for a few years. I withdrew from my usual company of friends and, as a result, became very lonely and isolated.

I felt disappointed by the injustice, cruelty and hypocrisy of people around me. Life seemed gloomy and meaningless, like a cruel joke. We humans, I reasoned at that time, come from the darkness of nothingness. Then we live for a short while, only to vanish again, as if we had never been.

In between birth and death, there is only pain and suffering, I decided. The next question was inevitable: Why do we live at all? I was on the edge of suicide.
So, I started to search for answers.

I went to a public library and checked out a book by Lao Tse, a Chinese Confucian writer. Everything looked so bright and promising as I began reading his book. There was peace, harmony, love, and integrity.

But by the next morning, I realized that the world still was the same as before I'd started reading, and, most important of all, I had not changed at all, either. It was not hard for me to conclude that books like this one promise much, but do not accomplish anything.

First Ray of Light
Yet, I kept on reading and searching. Soon I came across the works of a German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer. He agreed with me that all life is really as it seemed to me--cruel, unforgiving, and unpromising.

In spite of all his pessimism, old Artie showed me one more thing. His writings convinced me that Christianity is a saving religion. Of course, Schopenhauer was an atheist, and his definition of "salvation" was a bit different from the Christian definition. Nevertheless, the Lord used an atheist to witness to me about His Son and salvation! (God's ways are strange, indeed!)

Soon, I was reading the books on Christianity. Most of the books I read were from a Roman Catholic perspective because these were the ones I could find in the library. I was especially impressed by a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monk and one of the most faithful followers of Christ of all times.

As I read about St. Francis, I said to myself, If there is a life worth living, this is it, the life of unselfishness, humbleness and love for all men. From that time, I started visiting that old Roman Catholic lady I had known as a child when we'd lived nearby.           She was the only practicing Christian I knew at that time.

I would borrow Christian magazines and books from her and take them home to read. Still, I did not have any Bible, nor could I get one to read. But in these Catholic magazines and books, I found some quotes from the Bible. I would write them down in a small notebook and carry this with me in my pocket. Reading these verses and learning about Christianity was like finding a jewel. I would sell or give up anything to get this fortune!

One Scripture passage especially impressed me: "Now, therefore, says the Lord, Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him - a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?" (Joel 2:12-14).

As I read these words, I felt that God was already "rending my heart", but I did not know that what was happening in my heart is called "repentance." There was no one to teach me this wonderful truth!

Struggle with Sin
A few months later, at the age of 19, I was called into the army to fill my obligatory term of 12 months for every young man. This proved to be the worst time in my whole life, even worse than when I thought life had no meaning!

My conscience had been awakened, so I was trying hard to resist sin and not to conform to the people around me. But I had no actual strength to do it. So, although I was trying hard to fight the sinful nature within me by shunning the evil around me, it was to no avail.

After a month or so, I would give up and begin doing the very things that I had abhorred before--drinking, swearing, fornicating, and so on--until I would get sick of it all. Then repentance would follow and another period of struggle and austerity. But soon sin would overcome me again.

This pattern went) on and on for some 12 months. My experience resembled that of Romans 7, but there was no one to show me the hopeful verses of chapter 8 of the same epistle. I did not have a Bible yet to find it myself.

After being discharged from the army, I felt totally sick of sin. A friend of mine, whom I hadn't seen in years, came and asked me to go to the cinema with him to see the movie "Scarface"! He obviously wanted us to become good friends again and to enjoy our evenings together by visiting pubs and such things. I had no heart to say no to him, but my behavior in those few days we spent together was such that he obviously concluded I was no good for company.

I was glad. All I wanted at that time was to be holy, to become a saint, and to live the kind of life I read about in those Christian books. I was tired of sin and weary of the world.

Coming to Know God and Myself 
Soon I started to attend a church where I got my first Bible. As I was reading and studying it, I even came to believe in God, Adam and Eve, angels, heaven, and all those names and places I had scoffed at when I was in elementary school! My great discovery was that it is not enough to want to be a Christian. Before that, I thought that all one needs in order to become a Christian is to wish it! But my experiences in the army and afterwards taught me otherwise. There was something inside of me that was "bringing me into captivity," as Paul says. That was my innate sinful nature.

I realized I was a slave to sin. "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24,25).

And He did deliver me: He saved me by His grace, regenerated me from death to life, justified me, sanctified me and adopted me into His family as a son! Life was not meaningless anymore! I knew now who I was, where I came from, and where I was going. Life made sense.

There was destiny and hope before me. The world was still wicked and full of suffering, but all of this had been overcome (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19,4,5)!

I have found God, His grace offered in Jesus Christ, the Savior, and victory over sin! Praise the Lord for His indescribable gift! More than 10 years have passed since that day, but the sense of destiny and a calling to a life of meaning, love and joy have not vanished. In fact, that life has already started. And the fullness of it will come when my Lord comes to take me where He is!
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Warner’s World, walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

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