Youth Messenger Online Edition

July-September, 2018

My Steps to Christ
My Steps to Christ
Serban Ionita

One day as I was reading, I was shocked to discover what is the most important knowledge I should be getting right now. These are the words that instantly grabbed my attention as I read them; they would stir my mind for what felt like an eternity during the next few weeks:

“It is certainly important that we become acquainted with the reasons of our faith, but the most important knowledge to be gained is the experimental knowledge of what it means to be born again.”—Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 64. [Emphasis added.] These words made me shudder and ultimately lead me to the most honest encounter I have ever experienced with the Lord. But to help you understand fully, let me back up a bit.

Just two months before hearing these words, I left my home in California in the United States to go to missionary school in Australia. I had grown tired of meeting objections I could not answer, and looked forward to coming to missionary school to learn the reasons for my faith and to become grounded in the truth. Throughout our missionary course we would learn this and more. We would spend the first month at “Boot Camp” as our school principal liked to call it. We covered the fundamental doctrines of our church, did some practical gospel work, learned how to research, and to give Bible studies.

But above all these, there was a most important lesson that God wanted to teach me and all the other students. And so, on that crucial morning, as we all came to class, a simple sentence was read that would change everything for me. “The most important knowledge to be gained is the experimental knowledge of what it means to be born again.”—Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 64. Like a stroke of thunder, these words sent shockwaves through the deepest recesses of my heart, as I realized that I was not born again. And how could I keep pretending and going from door to door inviting people to come to church to experience something which I did not have? How could I be born again?

For two weeks I was stirred and troubled within, realizing I had no answers for the only question that really mattered. I saw how great my own sinfulness truly was. I wanted change, I wanted restoration, and peace with heaven; unity with God was what I craved. I needed Jesus and I needed Him now more than ever before. And so, I started looking in a place where just maybe I could find Him—the book Steps to Christ.

One night, as I was doing my devotional, I opened to a chapter that made an impact on me and that has defined my Christian experience ever since. This chapter is entitled “Faith and Acceptance” in the book Steps to Christ. The very first paragraph, I read, described perfectly my state of mind and my struggle:

“As your conscience has been quickened by the Holy Spirit, you have seen something of the evil of sin, of its power, its guilt, its woe; and you look upon it with abhorrence. You feel that sin has separated you from God, that you are in bondage to the power of evil. The more you struggle to escape, the more you realize your helplessness. Your motives are impure; your heart is unclean. You see that your life has been filled with selfishness and sin. You long to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be set free. Harmony with God, likeness to Him—what can you do to obtain it?”—Steps to Christ, p. 49. Immediately I knelt down and prayed, “Lord, if you have an answer for this question, please open my heart to receive it.”

How could I gain an experimental knowledge of what it means to be born again? How could I be in harmony with heaven? “You have confessed your sins, and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God. Now go to Him, and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart. Then believe that He does this because He has promised. This is the lesson which Jesus taught while He was on earth, that the gift which God promises us, we must believe we do receive, and it is ours.”—Ibid., 49, 50.

Jesus says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). And further inspiration intreats us, “Do not wait to feel that you are made whole, but say, ‘I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God has promised.’”—Ibid., p. 51. I knelt down once again, and quoting these very words I prayed and all my anxiety, fear, and worry melted away, as I read even further, “Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart.”—Ibid., p. 52. [Emphasis added.]

It was this sentence that opened the floodgates of relief, peace, and confidence in God’s forgiveness and presence in my life. The conscious awareness that God is by my side to talk with me and counsel me, and to ask Him questions, had a profound effect on almost every aspect of my life. For example, there was the time when I woke up at 3 A.M. to study for a Trigonometry test that I absolutely needed to ace to keep alive my hopes of getting an A in the class. It was the Lord’s answer to my prayer right before the exam that netted my one and ONLY 100% score on any exam in my life. Another time, it was God who heard the cry of my heart when I was overwhelmed because I took 21 units at school, a looming career choice, and a broken heart. God paved the way for me to go on a mission trip and to revitalize my spirit.

It is God to whom I pray and listen to every morning in my devotional time. He fills my day with satisfaction and gives me peace of mind that makes me smile for no apparent reason at all. It is Jesus Christ whom I have come to know and appreciate as my older Brother, Counselor and Friend, who brings me true joy as He occupies my thoughts. I just don’t know how I’d live without Him in my life.

Do you, dear reader, desire a deeper experience with the Lord, even an experimental knowledge of His power? He is only a prayer away. So, I encourage you to pray and believe; believe and pray, because Jesus has promised, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).