Maybe the biggest obstacle for me was the fact that I was a Christian already. I had heard most of the Christian concepts and ideas for a long time. And they were not appealing to me at all.
My name is Jan Witsel, I am a 27 years old from The Nederlands. I have been a Christian all my life, well honestly, it has only been 12 years. Let me explain.
I grew up in a devoted Christian family, and we were part of a very traditional Dutch reformed church. We went to church twice every Sunday. I went to a Christian school at the time, and all off my friends were Christians too. My parents read the reformed newspaper, we had no television, and we had special filtered internet to protect us from the bad stuff. A comparison with the Amish is a bit too much, but if you want to have an idea of how my world looked like I recommend you watch the (Dutch) movie ‘Dorsvloer Vol Confetti’.
Although I pretty much lived in a Christian bubble, it didn’t feel like I believed for myself. In my teenage years, I got into graffiti art, hip-hop, beatboxing, and the like. Although I never used drugs, for a short while my friend and I grew some marihuana in a local garden to sell at school. With that same friend, I used to thief from shops. Not because we needed it, but just for fun. I was pretty rebellious in that period, and I disagreed on a lot of things with my parents. I still went to church every Sunday, because deep down in my heart, I always kept believing that God was out there.
Traditionally the reformed churches preach a lot about sin and salvation. The church I went to focussed a lot on the sinfulness of humanity, because ‘if you do not feel like a sinner, why would you need forgiveness?’ they would argue. Although I believe it’s necessary to preach about the fall of humanity and the grace God, I think the focus on how bad people are and not nearly as much focus on grace, made me scared of God. How was I ever going to look him in the eyes when that time would come? I wasn’t sure about God’s love for me and didn’t dare to call myself His child.
I actually have a better understanding of my sins and shortcomings now, than I did in my early days, but I have also come to know God’s grace for me in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The thing that caught my attention, and helped me to decide to become a Christ-follower, is a combination of two things.
First, I started reading the Bible in a translation I understood. Before that, I always read a difficult, complicated translation because I thought (and was taught) that was somewhat superior to the other versions. Reading an easier translation helped me understand and apply God’s word to myself. The more I discovered, and the more I learned from reading the Bible, the greater my hunger became.
The second thing that happened, was around the same time. I got in touch with a few guys from my church that I usually did not hang out with. They were pretty open-minded and had the same sort of questions I had. I remember one specific time very well, we had lunch together and they started praying out loud, one after the other. When it got to me, I had no idea what to say. That experience made me think about myself a lot and I ended up praying because of that event. After some time I discovered that Christ had chosen me to be his disciple, and I gradually followed.
That decision changed my life quite a lot. I had to sweep through all my music and clean it up. I stopped trying to earn pride or status from the things I did. Also, I gradually disconnected from friends that had a negative influence on me. I tried to remember the shops I had stolen from and wrote them a letter to apologize, including a fourfold of the amount of money I think I took from them. I changed my career plans. Instead of graphic design (which is still great!), I started studying theology.
Jesus Christ is the only hope I have for this life and beyond. Sometimes I experience that hope more intensely than other times, but honestly, life without Christ is pointless to me. In Christ, I am assured of God’s grace every day, over and over again.
If I could say just one thing to anyone that is struggling to decide to follow Jesus Christ, or to someone who simply doesn’t believe in Jesus, but is open-minded about it, I would say, pick up a Bible and study it! The Bible is so mindblowing both in its composition and its message. You can Begin with Gospels(= good news) in the New Testament. They are easy to read and are about the life of Jesus. I truly believe that Jesus is good news for everybody in every possible circumstance. Check it out for yourself. There is nothing to lose.