Jonathan Cousar

This is the story of how God brought me to genuine faith in Jesus Christ. And I say “true” faith because up until that point I had always thought that I did have faith in Christ.  I had always thought of myself as a Christian. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, as I was soon to find out.

It all happened when I was 11 years old.  I thought of myself as a very good boy. In fact, if you had asked me what my worst sin had been up to that point I’m not even sure I could have listed a single one! Yes, I pretty much thought I was sinless – just like a lot of adults think of themselves today.

I was so blessed to have grown up in a Christian home and to have been taken to church almost every Sunday of my life by my parents. But unlike what many atheists believe – that did nothing for me as far as what I believed. I didn’t necessarily not believe in God or the Bible, but I didn’t really believe in Him either. I believed He existed, but I just didn’t see that He had any relevance to my life. Yet if someone had asked me if I was a Christian I would have said ‘of course I am!’ My parents were, I went to church every Sunday – what else could I be? But in reality – I wasn’t one at all.

One fall afternoon when I got home from school my mom told me our neighbors across the street were having a Bible study for the kids in the neighborhood. And I was happy to go.  It seemed like a great excuse for not doing homework that night!

There was a woman there teaching some stories from the Old Testament that I had heard a hundred times from my Dad, as he had often been the Sunday school teacher for my classes at church. He is such a wonderful story teller that all the Old Testament stories really came alive as he told them.

This woman droned on and on for about half an hour and I’m not sure I really heard anything she said – until the end. She was telling the Passover story from Exodus 12. She was explaining how God had promised that He would pass through the land of Egypt (where the Israelites were then enslaved) and take the life of all the first born (even the animals) from Egyptian and Jewish households alike, that didn’t have the blood of a sacrificial lamb smeared on their door posts. But from the houses that did have the blood of a lamb on the door posts, he would “pass over” them and not harm anyone in that household.

I had heard my Dad tell this story many times and I loved the story. The awesome judgment of God against a cruel and wicked people. It was great to see good and justice finally triumph over evil. But other than that, it had no relevance to my life.

UNTIL… until this woman said what she said next. She asked, “Don’t you see? The Passover story in the Old Testament is a forerunner to the crucifixion of Christ in the New Testament.” And then she said, “Do you remember, the Bible calls Christ the Lamb of God. And they call the blood he shed on the cross, the blood of the lamb.”

And at that very moment, the Holy Spirit awakened my heart and opened my eyes to His truth. The words “Jesus, the Lamb of God” and “the blood of the lamb” stuck in my mind and in my heart. For the first time, I saw the connection between the blood of the Passover lamb and the blood of the Lamb of God. But it wasn’t the lesson about sacrificial forgiveness that caught my attention. It was something totally different than what the text was actually talking about.

My mouth dropped in amazement as I suddenly realized these two events were completely connected and formed a single coherent story – and yet they occurred some 1,400 years apart. My mind began to race as I realized that no human could have caused two events that fit so perfectly together so as to form a single coherent story with a vital spiritual lesson, to actually happen in history – separated by nearly 1,400 years in time. No human could do that.

And if no human did it – that left only one other possibility – that a God did it. And if a God did it – that meant two very significant things. It meant that He really does exist and that the Bible really is His Word to humanity. Therefore, the answer to the question many people ask, if there is a God – which God is it? – was instantly answered.  He’s the God of the Bible… the only book in history that foretells events more than 1,400 years into the future.  And the only book in history that those foretellings and their fulfillments can be historically verified.  And like a lightning bolt flashing through me – I suddenly believed – I mean really BELIEVED – that the Bible was indeed the very Word of God. The Word of the God who created everything that exists! Because who other than the creator God, could so perfectly control events separated by 1,400 years in time that they could form a completely consistent and whole story? Who but the God who created time itself could do that!?  Surely no man could do that.  And no group of men who conspired to invent a new religion could do that.

People can say a lot of things with their words. People can make things up and even create false religions out of whole cloth. It’s easy to say things. But these stories weren’t just words. They were actual events. And no human could cause the first Passover to happen and then 1,400 years later cause a man who performed miracles, healing the sick and raising the dead, to die on a cross and rise from death on the third day.

No human being could do that. Not even people sitting around trying to invent a fictitious religion could cause actual events to take place 1,400 years in the future – that would fit and verify their story.

Suddenly it all made sense. It was like all the dots had instantly connected. It was like these Bible stories I had heard all of my life suddenly jumped off the pages and came to life – in my heart.

No other religion even has a book that was written over a 1,400 year span of time. All other religions that have a “book” – their books were written within the lifetimes of their founders and their books were written by only one man.  No other religion even attempts this feat of producing related events that lie far outside the lifespan of any single individual, or even outside the lifespan of multiple generations, that coincide and form a consistent whole. Only Christianity does that.

As I thought all this through – I suddenly became alarmed! Because if the Bible was indeed the Word of God – then I had a huge problem. At that moment, I still didn’t consider myself a bad person (and by worldly standards, I surely wasn’t at that point), but I knew the Bible said ALL people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) That meant that according to the Bible I was a wretched sinner too. And now that I believed the Bible was true, that was a huge problem. I was a wretched sinner whether I felt like one or not – and I deserved to spend eternity in hell – according to this book that I now believed was true! For the first time in my eleven years of churchgoing I saw that I had a deep need for a savior.

BUT… there were problems with that. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. The woman who led the study asked if any of us kids felt convicted and wanted to give our lives to Christ. Giving your life to Christ is more than just words, I knew. It meant a commitment to do whatever He asked. And I was struggling with that at that moment. If I was going to confess Him as my Lord and Savior, I had to also be willing to let him be the Master of my life as well. I had to be willing to serve Him and live solely for Him.  That meant I had to be willing to give up anything and everything that He would ask me to.  So as you can see, confessing Christ as my savior and as the Lord and Master of my life was – well, a little complicated.

I knew I’d have to give up a lot of things that were important to me. I knew that repenting of my sins and following Jesus as my Lord meant that I had to make an iron-clad, life-long commitment to follow Him and do whatever he asked. In my eleven-year-old mind, the thing I feared most at the time was that he might ask me to become a missionary to Africa! And Africa was the last place on earth I ever wanted to go! Living in mud huts with no electricity, dirty water, bugs, mosquitoes… yick!

Closer to home, I knew the kids at school would be merciless in their ridicule of me once they found out I had become a born-again Christian. And I considered that. I considered whether it was worth it to lose all those friendships and their approval and become the object of their derision. I had heard them mock and ridicule born-again Christians before. They were okay with regular Christians – but they had a special place of disdain in their derisive little hearts for the “born-again” variety!

I spent probably 15-20 minutes considering all this in my mind. I knew that becoming a follower of Christ meant I had to die to myself and live for Him. And I knew it wasn’t a decision I could take lightly.

I also knew what the consequences were of not making the right decision – an eternity of hellish tortures. And since the Holy Spirit had just convinced me minutes earlier that all of the Bible was really true, I knew hell was real too. I mulled all this over in my mind and the truth of God’s Word became overpowering. When faced with these Biblical truths I realized I really had no choice. At 11 years old, I knew I was a terrible sinner. And while I didn’t feel like a terrible sinner, I knew that the Bible was more true than my feelings.  The knowledge that eternal hell would be the consequence of my sins, made me realize just how grievous even the smallest of my sins was.

It was at that moment that I realized the Gospel, this so-called “good news” that I had heard about all my life, truly was Good News. In fact, it was incredible news! It was God coming down from heaven to bear the consequences of MY sins, so I wouldn’t have to. That’s not good news if you don’t believe you’re bad enough to deserve punishment. And it’s not good news if you don’t believe there will be any punishment. But when you know you have been more than bad enough, even in your best moments, to deserve this horrendous eternal punishment – then suddenly, it’s AWESOME AWESOME NEWS!  It’s not like God has thrown you a life preserver and expects you to catch it and then struggle to swim back to the boat. It’s like God has brought the boat over to you and reaches down and takes your hand and pulls you back in – all in His strength.

A few minutes later, the teacher took a few of us who had expressed an interest in following Christ back into another room to pray. She asked each of us to pray out loud – in front of the others! I did not want to do this because the others were all girls – and they were all older than me, and I had never prayed in front of anyone before. I felt terribly embarrassed to do it. But I’m so glad she did it that way. Because in doing it that way, I not only acknowledged and confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, but I did so publicly. I prayed and acknowledged my sins before God, I repented and asked for His forgiveness and I confessed that He was the Lord of my life.

It was that day that I was born again!  And I didn’t feel a thing. I left our neighbor’s house and crossed the street to go home. My only worry was that my mom might ask why I had stayed longer than everybody else and that she might be mad at me for not leaving enough time for my homework! But in her graciousness, sensing I’m sure that I would be embarrassed if she asked anything, she said nothing about it.

Over the next few weeks though, things began to radically change. The first change was this palpable sense that I had personally met and come into an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe! The Creator of the universe was now my Father and I was His son! If you don’t think that will turn your world upside down, then you’ve never experienced it! All my childhood insecurities began to evaporate. What was there to be insecure about when the Creator of the universe was your Father!

I also began to realize that for my entire short life up to that point there had been a very subtle yet foreboding kind darkness that surrounded my life. Something where I had this gnawing suspicion that something wasn’t okay. Something where I knew I was somehow doomed. I knew death would come some day and this knowledge hung over me all the time. It wasn’t in the foreground though, it was very much in the background. I was hardly aware of it at all. In fact, I don’t think I really became aware of it until it was taken away. And it was taken away the day I was born again. I remember this exhilarating joy that came upon me in the months following my decision to live for Christ. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, except to say it would be like what you might feel if someone told you (and you believed them) that you would live forever and you would do so in great health and in peace and harmony with everyone, including the One who created you!

It was walking in that light that made it possible for me to see what darkness I had been in before. The darkness of a condemned and doomed man. I was condemned and doomed even though my eleven years of sins were so minor, in human terms, compared to what we think of as serious sins. Those little childhood sins were more than plenty to condemn me to eternal punishment. And I could almost tangibly feel that as I began to walk in the light and life of Christ. It was during this time that I really began to understand that being born again – really is – being born again. You become a new creature, just like the Bible tells us, with a new outlook and new thoughts and a forgiven and rescued soul!

I started to find that things I had once dearly loved, I had completely lost interest in. And things I used to hate I now began to love. When I went to school, the things I cared about and valued before, I suddenly had no interest in!

Slowly word leaked out around school that I had become a “born-again” Christian. (I think it leaked out because I couldn’t help myself from telling a few close friends)! And to my amazement, I didn’t care what anyone thought! A few short weeks earlier, I was consumed with what other people thought of me. But, I had just met face-to-face with the God who not only created me but created the entire universe and He was no longer this detached far-away figure or far-fetched notion, He was now my loving Father. And what other people thought about that just didn’t really matter anymore.

I was right in predicting the ridicule I would receive. But an odd thing happened. Not only did I not care, I actually came to love it. Because it meant I was representing God to those whose hearts were still enemies of God – and they didn’t like it one bit. And I was right in predicting that some who had been friends would become enemies. But again, it was like a badge of honor as a follower of Christ. He had suffered similar (but far worse) ridicule and loss of friendships, so what an honor it was to in a very small way, follow in His footsteps.

Jonathan Cousar

The Passover Story: Exodus 12

John 1:36
As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”

I Peter 1:18-19
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

Romans 3:21-31
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses* and the prophets long ago. [22] We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.[23] For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

[24] Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. [25] For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,

[26] for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.[27] Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.

[28] So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.[29] After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. [30] There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

[31] Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

I Corinthians 5:7
…Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.

Ephesians 2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Revelation 5:12
And they sang in a mighty chorus:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—
to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing.”