Updated: Nov 16
"When God doesn't conform to our expectations, we're tempted to betray what we believe in. Like Judas, we're in it for what we can get out of it. So when God doesn't grant our wishes like a divine genie in a bottle, we are tempted to turn our back on Him. This is what separates the boys from the men, or the girls from the women. Or maybe I should say the sheep from the goats! How do you react when God doesn't meet your expectations? If you truly accepted the invitation to follow Jesus, you'll keep going on through hurricanes, hail, and hazardous conditions. If you have simply invited Him to follow you, you'll bail out at the first sign of bad weather.” ~ Mark Batterson
I'm going to tell you a story. And like any good story, it's a wee bit long, and it's going to have a twist, followed by a happy ending. The only difference in this story is that the protagonist dies a gruesome death and still lives. Sounds like a low-budget, potato-CGI movie that came out during the pandemic? Well, at least my story has a title screen disclaimer that would send shivers down the spines of most horror movie fanatics; it's based on a true story.
Before delving into the story of this famous Carpenter from Nazareth that you should know more about, I think it is fair to tell you a little about what brought me to write this article in the first place. Growing up, although I was raised in a Christian family, the rebellious side of me took over at around the time I turned 16, where I eventually ended up bunking family church sessions and prayer times, until such a point in my life where I put away my Bible for the last time in 2014, vowing never to read it again, although I could count the total number of pages I had read from the Bible on one hand. Post that, I genuinely wanted nothing to do with Christianity and was willing to do everything in my power to disrespect the church and God.
Although I have not admitted this to anyone but my close circle of family and friends, I had my first kiss 'inside a church', right inside the empty Sunday school tent. Yeah, and you thought this was going to be a lame story? Buckle in folks, the ride's about to get worse. See, when you don't have to be accountable to anyone, it's easy to be whoever you want to be. You can do whatever your heart desires, and that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what I did all throughout college. See, as events escalated at home because of several personal reasons, I was somebody else in college and that was the chief thing I lived for. In fact, I had already ticked off 60% of the things I wanted to do on my bucket list by the time I hit 20, and as bad as many of those were, those were the good ones on the list compared to what lay unaccomplished. On the flip side, at home, I lived a whole other life. To present my family with the guise of still being a curious Christian, I followed the study of Christian Apologetics, as it seemed less hocus-pocus compared to Bible reading and sounded much cooler. And although it equipped me with a few smart quotes and some nice intellectual stimulation, I was as much as a Christian as a Speed Racer is a Formula 1 champion.
To cut a long story short, as soon as college got over, I leaped at the first opportunity to move out of my parent's house and move to a state far away, where I could do whatever I wanted with whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And as I hoped for, I eventually found the bachelor pad of my dreams and moved in with a whole new bucket list of items to tick off. By that time, I had already dated quite a few girls, and had gotten into a relationship with someone who was quite toxic as well as brought out the worst side of me. But the problem with this newfound sexual freedom is that for the first time, there were many more fish in the sea that was Bangalore; all of whom were in no hurry to wait for their Dory or Marlin. So taking advantage of the odds, I broke up with my girlfriend at the time and went onto a Tinder spree that took me from person to person where, with every tryst that I barrelled through, I was leaving a huge part of myself behind in the wake of each failed romantic encounter. All these experiences added to my growing sense of hopelessness, despite the appearance of bravado that I put up at work and with my family.
"God's relationship with man does not work in a way in which man stumbles and then God has to drop what he is doing in order to lift him up; rather, man stumbles so that God can lift him up. Hence it is utterly impossible to truly diminish His glory." ~ Criss Jami, Killosophy
On December 2019, I had reached an all-time low. My conscience was so clouded with guilt that I secretly hoped that there would not be a God, so that I would not have to face the repercussions of my rather serious actions. At the time, a close friend of mine had flown in to spend the week at my place and although we had a ball of a time catching up, he felt like it would do me good to visit a church program happening nearby, to which I agreed, albeit with some of my own internal reservations. During the proceedings of the entire sermon, I felt nothing. I saw people all around me smiling and laughing, looking like they had discovered the fountain of joy, and to be honest, that ticked me off. But after seeing the pastor call the folks who needed prayer to the front of the stage, I felt like walking up, so I did, as did many others. But I still felt nothing. In fact, there were so many people crowding around the front of the stage, eager to pray and rejoice in God, that I eventually moved to the back of the crowd, feeling more isolated than I had ever been. It occurred to me that God would probably not want anything to do with me after the life I lived, so I might as well leave. But before leaving, my friend caught up with me and said that he had to meet this other friend of his before he left, and we ended up going to dinner with him and his family as well.
After that dinner, his friend asked whether he could see us at his hotel afterwards, as there was something he felt that God wanted to say to me. Although it sounded fishy, my curiosity got the better of me and we sat with him in the lobby of his hotel to hear what he had to say. The next few hours changed the course of my entire life. He talked about events that had happened in my life and my family's, as if he had known us for years. He described incredibly personal events which nobody but my family knew about, which weren't on social media or public record. And to top all that off, he said that Jesus loved me and that He wanted a relationship with me despite what I had done, which is why He revealed these secret artifacts from my past to him to earn my trust. At the end of the conversation, he got up and came to give me a hug, telling me that Jesus never stopped loving me and was waiting for this day eagerly. In that moment, I felt such an inexplicably powerful sense of overwhelming peace, that it drove me to tremble in fear at the very feeling of real Love in my life, which was far more tangible than any other feeling I had ever experienced. That same night, I dedicated my life to Jesus and vowed to spend the next few years genuinely examining the evidence for Christianity one more time, as well as give the Bible a thorough read through to understand what God wanted with me.
"Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through their own good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus Christ." ~ Josh McDowell
Since you have been patient enough to bear with me until this point, I will no longer dilly dally around the topic at hand. Over the course of the last 2 years, not only have I found sufficient evidence that proves that the Jesus is Lord, but have actually felt overwhelmed with the shear volume of the key facts and crucial pieces of evidence which I had purposely overlooked during my teenage years. So, to map out my journey of investigating the Gospel accounts and the claims of the Bible, here are some of the key questions which I had focused on during Phase 1 of the investigation:
Is the Bible a reliable historical record of the Biblical account?
Are there any non-christian witnesses or sources that confirm Jesus Christ's existence?
Can we trust that the 66 Books that make up the Old & New Testament King James Version were translated without errors? And if there were errors, are they enough to prove an erroneous and potentially fallible biblical account?
Are there many archeological discoveries that corroborate events from the Old and New Testament?
Since the entire Bible rests upon the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, what are the Biblical and Non-Biblical evidences that support the claims that:
Jesus claimed Deity, or that He was the Son of God
That Jesus indeed died at the time of the Crucifixion
That Jesus was Resurrected in 3 days
What claims does the Bible have against other religions and faiths?
Is there any scientific evidence to prove that an Intelligent Designer made our Universe, rather than other origin theories?
Can science in its complete body of knowledge and resources today actually refute or disprove God?
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! ~ (Jesus's words recorded in Luke 11:9-13)
Encouraged by the promise that Jesus would guide me to the answers that I desperately needed to validate my encounter with Him, here are some of the helpful resources that directed me to the answers to many of the above questions:
Some of the helpful books that had helped me answer 90% of these questions are shown in the collage below.
Along with the above titles, I took most of my research from sources of both secular and non-secular experts from the fields of archeology, mathematics, christian apologetics, medicine, psychology, genetics and other fields which could corroborate, test, verify or even make sense of the various events, accounts and witness statements that were posited by the Bible writers.
After months of scraping together research, data and expert statements on the 7 questions I had shared earlier, I hit another major roadblock which MANY folks face today, when they reach the end of this cookie crumb trail.
Well, a Man called Jesus of Nazareth existed and the Biblical and secular evidence strongly validates His claims of being God, His Cruxification on Cavalry & His Resurrection as well. So what now? 2 years of knocking on doors had finally led up to this monumental conclusion, but in all honesty, I still felt like I rolled a 6 and ended up two levels down a snake, instead of at the top of a ladder. It took me around 6 months to realise that although my theological questions have been answered beyond a doubt, there were certain unspoken questions that I had failed to ask, which are imperative to the sincere unravelling of who Jesus is and why He should matter to you. So for your reference, I'd like to share some of the KEY questions that I had to ask before attempting to fathom the complex Love of this incredible Carpenter from Nazareth;
Who is Jesus Christ, and why does the Bible say that He is the Son of God?
Since He's God, why did He knowingly allow Himself to be taken into Roman custody and whipped with lead weights and eventually crucified on a wooden cross? (To understand more about the severity of death by Cruxifiction, check out this article to learn more)
What does the concept of a Triune God mean and what does Jesus really say about being part of that Holy Trifecta?
What did Jesus really come down to earth for? Who was meant to be saved? And why do they have to be saved?
Why were all 12 disciples willing to defend their faith to the point where many of them withstood public stoning, beatings, humiliation and even martyrdom to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ?
What does the Jesus in the Bible say He wants with me and what do I have to do to follow Jesus?
What are the terms of my salvation, and are they voidable by the continued exercise of my free will after being saved?
What does the Bible say about Christianity differing from other faiths?
I am not going to bog you down with the answers to each of these questions yet. It has taken me 5 years of asking the wrong questions to know when I am on the path to the right ones. So in conclusion, I'd like to leave you all with a few things I learnt about Jesus Christ to make your journey of discovering faith in Jesus a wee bit easier;
Jesus Christ came down to earth to die for you and me, which is not a statement to be taken lightly with your afternoon tea. As it says in John 3:16~18 -
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
While all other major religions all build around the belief that we have to earn our way into heaven or reincarnation (in some cultures), Jesus promises us that His Love is unconditional, and it's a gift to all those who will accept it. Your salvation or fate is not dependent on your good works, as Jesus Himself said that ALL people fall short of the God's standard of Righteousness. No, your salvation is already guaranteed if you are willing to accept Jesus into your life and follow Him. Sounds easy enough doesn't it?
On a very personal level, the sheer volume of change that I have seen in my own life over these last 2 years after accepting Christ is exponential, although my hardships and troubles are pretty much the same. See, following Jesus does not mean that you get a free get-away from jail card from all of life's burdens, but for the first time, even in the middle of the toughest storm, I can count on Jesus to grant me relief and peace to weather the storm, as was promised in Isaiah 40:28~31 -
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Christianity is not a faith for the faint of heart. If God is loving, that He cannot be unjust. If He cannot be unjust, then He has to judge us for the sins we have committed, and if we even take 3 of the ten commandments He gave us, we would find ourselves guilty on all charges and then some, with the punishment being death. See, that is where Jesus came in. He literally lived a blameless life and came down to earth and died in our place on the cross for a crime that was NOT worthy of death, so that you, my friend, could walk away scot-free with the free gift of eternal salvation. And all He asks of me and you in return is for us to love and follow ONLY Him.
This bring me to my last point; the exclusivity of Christianity. I often find that many folks are willing to follow and believe in all Gods with the flawed notion that this blanket gamble of their lives would win them brownie points with whoever is the true God. See, at least with Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin sums it up best;
Jesus claims rule over all of heaven and earth. He presents Himself not as one possible path to God, but as God Himself. We may choose to disbelieve Him. But He cannot be one truth among many. He has not left us that option. ~ Rebecca McLauglin
So, if you have stayed with me thus far, I must appreciate your perseverance. And if you are a believer, I encourage you to continue asking Jesus questions throughout the rest of your life as it would uncover a never ending trip of awesome and revolutionary findings that you'd wish that you had known earlier! And for those of you who are new and struggling with your faith, I would like to ask you a question that I wish I had asked myself before I embarked on this search to unravel the mystery of Jesus Christ.
"When your search leaves you with all the evidence pointing to Christ, and all attempts to cross-examine the evidence with reliable sources end up pointing back to Him being God, what then? Are you asking questions you do not want to know the answers to, and what will be your ultimate choice when you reach that fork in the road? See, whether you like it or not, Jesus of Nazareth existed. He did say that He was God, and He was crucified on the Cross, plus, there is a plethora of evidence that validates His Resurrection as well. So the bigger question is, would you be willing to follow a Carpenter from Nazareth at the risk of losing everything on earth, but with the guaranteed promise that you will have a personal relationship and eternity with the Creator of this Universe?"