I’m not a mystic. I don’t seek out special divine experiences. My Christian faith is based on the Bible’s revelation of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit has often, softly spoken to me as I study God’s Word. Nothing dramatic, but still quite profound in terms of experiencing God.
Years ago I was on a youth missions trip and a fellow tagged along who had led a very different life from mine. He had fought in Vietnam, engaged in many sinful behaviors, and then come to faith in Christ with a corresponding dramatic change in his attitude and behavior. He was very outspoken in his testimony, and one phrase he constantly repeated was, “since I met the Lord” or “since I met Jesus.”
I never asked him what he meant by that, but I assumed it was just a dramatic way of saying, “since I became a Christian.” On the other hand, he may have meant exactly what he said.
I was 45 years old when I met the Lord Jesus, although I had been a believing Christian from an early age. Prior to meeting Jesus, I had read my Bible and prayed regularly. Starting in my teens, I occasionally heard from the Lord in the form of a soft voice – not audible, but in my Spirit – or sometimes a very pointed Yes or No regarding some situation. Sometimes, while reading a familiar Scripture, the Spirit would well-up inside me and reveal a new understanding, like a spiritual lightbulb going off.
But for all that, I had never met Jesus. When I was age 45 I was going through a very stressful time, full of anxiety, and although I prayed daily over my situation, peace was elusive. One morning I was reading a daily devotional while leaning against the washing machine downstairs. After contemplating the day’s reading and Scripture passage, I again began to pray over my situation. I had hardly begun when suddenly, Jesus was right there in front of me. He was somewhat indistinct, and the only words He spoke were these: “It’s me! Don’t be afraid.” Then He just faded away.
In that moment of meeting I received and understood several things. First, I understood with absolute certainty that Jesus was referring to my then-stressful situation. He conveyed to me the He was the One behind the circumstances, and therefore I had no need to fear. In that moment, as Jesus spoke, an incredible peace flooded me, and from that moment on my anxieties disappeared completely. I can tell you with joy that my “stressful situation” ended up coming to a wonderful conclusion a few months later, and I endured those months with absolute confidence that whatever the outcome, I would be OK.
Second, I perceived that as Jesus spoke, He was smiling. Not just smiling, but really almost laughing with enthusiasm. It was as if my closest friend was delivering to me the happiest news, and was relishing the joy it would give me once I heard it. Jesus was thoroughly enjoying the moment!
Third, without Him saying it, I understood that this was the Jesus I had always known – the carpenter’s son from Galilee who had healed the sick and driven out demons; who had been killed on a cross and raised to life; who had ascended to heaven and in whose name alone there is salvation. This was the Jesus of the Bible, whose identity and claims have been challenged and ridiculed, whose followers have been imprisoned and killed, whose Church has been often fractured and rebellious. This was the Jesus proclaimed by Peter on the day of Pentecost and by Paul across the Roman Empire. This was the Jewish Messiah, God’s anointed Son. It was Him, and no other.
Since I met Jesus, I approach every spiritual discussion with a new confidence. You could say that, more than ever before, “I know whom I have believed.” High-minded philosophies and speculations that deny Christ or try to minimize His significance are sheer nonsense to me now, whether I can mount an intellectual argument against them or not. I have met the Lord, and no argument can overcome that. I realize that there are many Christians and non-Christians who have not (yet) met the Lord, and I don’t know why He chose to reveal Himself to me in that way, but whenever I pray for struggling believers now I always include a request that God might reveal Himself to them in some special way, so that they may receive a faith and confidence in Him beyond what they’ve ever known.
Interestingly, I have heard numerous testimonies of how Jesus has been appearing and speaking to Muslims in the last decade or so, and that many have come to Christ as a result. I have heard of formerly-Muslim Christian ministers who were prompted by the Spirit to go and visit a neighbor who had just received such a visitation, in order to share with them the Gospel and the Word of God, and to encourage them for the inevitable persecutions that lie ahead.
Of course I will never forget the day I met Jesus. That He was willing to condescend and take the time to visit me, so undeserving, still astonishes me, and it shows me that every person, no matter how unbelieving or lukewarm or unfaithful, matters to Him. What grace! What kindness!