Kaleb Arpit Shukla

16 01 2017

We all long for a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life, inner peace in the stormy circumstances, contentment in the rhythms of ordinary life, and especially knowing what’s truth versus a counterfeit reality. Whenever I reflect on my journey in search for these ideals, it always fills me with deep gratitude and awestruck wonder for having discovered a perpetual source of peace and joy. My reason for writing this is in hope that my journey would inspire and lead you to experiencing this truth that has brought joy beyond words. And sometimes truth can initially be wounding in order to heal–just like a surgeon–it can cut away false perceptions, shallow views and deep seated beliefs so that were anchored on a firm foundation with an enlightened perspective. This is what has brought me stability and a solid current of joy underneath all the ups and downs of life.

To give you some background, I was born in 1976 in Agra, the city known for the Taj Mahal (meaning Crown Palace) one of the great wonders of the world. Growing up in India, I was saturated with Hindu culture and religion. My father was born into the Brahmin caste, the highest of the four Hindu castes. Brahmin’s are traditionally known for being engaged in attaining the highest spiritual knowledge of God and for performing religious duties as priests in the temples and homes and also served as mediators between humans and God. Even though my father was not deeply religious, yet he took great pride in the teachings of Hinduism. My mother would faithfully pray daily to the multiple gods that were kept in a set apart area of our home. Watching on television the ancient Indian Hindu religious epics and seeing the gods display their supernatural powers in battle developed in me a fascination for the Hindu gods and created a hunger for a deeper revelation of who God is. I had hoped that there was a God up there who we could connect to and get to know and who would help us through life.

Hinduism is very complex to define because there is not a common source of authority, so although there are a wide range of traditions, philosophies, cultural practices and even conflicting ideas, there are some predominant beliefs that generally emerge. Hinduism teaches that there is only one ultimate reality and that is Brahman; all else is Maya (illusion, a false view of the world due to ignorance). The chief goal is the self-realization that there is nothing distinct or separate between you and God and the whole universe, all is of the same essence, Brahman. One author says, “You are God…you just don’t know it yet. Look within and realize that you and Brahman are One, and you will be delivered from the illusion of fleshly passions.” Hinduism consists of the teachings of Karma (action and subsequent reaction), Samsara (Reincarnation, continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth), Moksha (liberation from Samsara) and Universal oneness. And the great objective of Hinduism is reaching moksha, or God-consciousness through various paths (yogas) that include Bhakti (love and devotion), Karma (right action), Raja (meditation), and Jnana (wisdom). Devotional practices include repeating prayers, holy baths in the Ganges, offerings to idols, sacrifices, mantras, rituals, pilgrimages to holy sites, in effect to elevate the worshipper into oneness with God.

My parents and I were first in our family history to leave India and settle in USA when I was just 8 years old. In 1992 (at the age of 15), as a junior (11th grade) in high school, I took an electrical engineering course where I made a new friend, Joseph. It was during that time that Joseph had made a radical commitment to follow Jesus Christ. He shared his faith with great zeal and with deep conviction. My impression of Christianity was that it was dry and boring, merely following a bunch of rules that restrained you from all the pleasures in life. After knowing Joseph for a short while, he invited me to come to church with him. Since we had become good friends and because I respected all faiths, I decided to attend the church service.

During the main service at the church, the minister preached passionately and with great boldness about having a relationship with the one and only living God through Jesus. He shared powerful testimonies of those who experienced God in supernatural ways. Afterwards, Joseph had me buy a bible from the bookstore. That evening as I was pondering the sermon, on one hand I was deeply offended by the preacher as to how he could be so narrow-minded by preaching Jesus as the only way to God, but also at the same time I was struck by the depth of conviction by which he spoke and how Jesus answered prayers supernaturally. I was offended by the message and yet captivated by the miracles. So, I thought to myself, “What if this Jesus is for real?” I had hoped that He wasn’t, because if He was then I knew that I would have to change my lifestyle. I felt that it would lead me to a less-fulfilled life because Jesus would cut out from my life the things that I really wanted to do. Since I was hungry for truth, I prayed a simple prayer that night asking Jesus that if He was really real than to prove and reveal Himself to me. I had no expectations that any convincing proofs would follow.

Out of curiosity, I immediately started reading the first book of the Bible in the New Testament which was the book of Matthew. I was quite shocked to find Jesus using strong, and sometimes even harsh language. I just simply could not believe that a loving God could display such harshness like Jesus because of His confrontational words and bold actions. I thought to myself there is no way I could believe in Jesus as God because if He really loved people, than He would not offend anyone’s feelings or make such hard demands on people. He did not fit my understanding of what love looked like, which was based on a backdrop of the love that Hinduism portrays as trying to include everyone in an effort to offend and disappoint no one. So, my heart grew cold and I was turned off to Jesus and did not want to pursue Him any further.

As a senior (12th grade) in high school, I vividly remember one afternoon I came across a television program, where I saw people sharing their testimonies about how Jesus set them free from drug addictions, healed them from various sicknesses and where several had supposedly even come out of wheelchairs. Suddenly, with a deep desire to know if this Jesus was really God, I broke down with tears crying out to God again to make Himself real to me. That very instant I got a call from Joseph, who I had not heard from for probably several months, inviting me to a bible study. So, I thought maybe this had to be more than just a coincidence and it left a lasting impression.

Throughout my childhood, I was very shy, introspective and longed to break out of the shell. As I went through high school and early college years, I had a deep hunger for truth and the supernatural realm. I came across books describing experiences of those who received communications from the spirit realm and how it had a great impact on their life. I became deeply absorbed by New Age as these authors offered their methods to develop these supernatural powers and it was very compatible to my already held Hindu beliefs. Just like every boy fantasizes about being a super hero with super powers, I yearned to have supernatural experiences and awaken these hidden powers. Based on testimonies I had read from those following New Age practices, I started practicing meditation, self-hypnosis, channeling spirits through Ouija boards, tried to develop psychic powers, pursued out of body experiences, lucid dreaming, astral travel, mind over matter, and went to psychics who did palm reading, astrology, and tarot card readings. My perception of truth became deeply rooted in new age and self-help ideas. I believed that when I unlocked these supernatural powers within me, that I would find fulfillment and completion of purpose. I believed that just as several roads lead to a city, so all religions and all paths are stepping stones that will take you to the same one God. This appealed to me because it was accepting, non-confrontational and seemed like a well-balanced view. I didn’t see any difference between Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna…because to me all religions were merely the same, having universal moral values and their founders as those who had attained enlightenment. The peaceful looking yogis and gurus who went to great extremes to attain spiritual consciousness always impressed me because of their total abandonment of worldly pleasures to focus on spiritual practices by a lifestyle of continual fasting and prayer, living on very little means. It seemed that they knew God and lived a transcendental life. I believed that Jesus was an enlightened teacher who walked in great power but I was not willing to believe on Jesus alone.

The God described in Christianity did not make sense to me. I did not understand why if there is an all-powerful and all-loving God that He would allow so much evil in this world. The Christians would blame everything bad on the devil, but I felt it was a cop-out to blame everything bad on the devil when really their God should intervene. I figured they just blamed everything bad on the devil in order to make their God look good. I could not fathom why a loving God would send people to a place of eternal torment called hell and I argued that He should not have made them in the first place. I did not like Jesus because He claimed to be the only way to God. Furthermore, I did not want to serve this God because it was too costly and too demanding on my life. I wanted to have freedom to make my own decisions.

One of the greatest obstacles in understanding the Bible message was that I had a watered down concept of sin (which is anything the separates us from God in thought, word or deed), so I did not know that I needed to be saved from anything. The idea presented to me of Jesus dying on the cross for my sins did not make sense to me and I didn’t see any significance in that event. The concept of sin separating us from a perfect and holy God was a direct contrast to my beliefs, because Hinduism taught that we were gods and just needed to be enlightened to that reality; sin was not the issue but ignorance of our reality as already being One with Ultimate Reality (Brahman). The solution it offered was that supreme peace could only be attained through the practice of meditation. So, even though I had bad thoughts and committed wrongful deeds, I did not bother about them. I was not a bad person in my own eyes. Even if I did bad things occasionally, the good always seemed to more than compensate for the bad. This made me feel good about myself. I thought if there really is a God, He knows that I have a good heart and He’ll surely accept me. Even with all the lying, drinking, pride, rebellion, immorality, filthy thoughts…I saw myself as a very good person in comparison to others.

In 1995, during my second semester in college, I started pursuing a relationship with a friend I had met, who I later discovered was of the Christian faith. Our religious ideas strongly clashed because she held to the Christian faith. I did not want to lose her, so in order to preserve our relationship and out of respect for her, I began taking her to the same church that Joseph had introduced me to 3 years back. I was again very disturbed at some of the things that were preached from the Bible that were a direct contradiction to what I held dear. Yet, I was always intrigued by the great joy that my friend Joseph had and how Christians would testify of Jesus intervening supernaturally to answer prayers. So, a year later in the early part of 1996, I began to pray a little but I sought God for selfish reasons, I just wanted Jesus to answer my prayers, especially praying that God would strengthen my relationship with my girlfriend. I thought that if only I could just marry her, than that would bring me ultimate fulfillment. I would read the bible and listened to Christian radio programs, but conflicted inside about going all the way and giving up my lifestyle of sin.

The real spiritual struggle began in me as I wrestled with this concept of man being separated from God due to sin (disobedience to God’s ways). As I continued with church and heard about what God expects from us, I began to feel greater conviction and a sense of uncleanness before God, because I was living an immoral lifestyle. I reasoned that I would “really serve” God when I was much older when the youthful lusts and desires weren’t so strong. I knew that following Jesus meant I had to turn away from my sins. I didn’t want to do that! There was too much pleasure in my sin. I was still looking at Christianity through my religious glasses, seeing the Bible as full of Do’s and Don’ts, rules and regulations, and because I kept falling into sin, I didn’t think I could ever be good enough to please God. I still continued my search to fill the inner emptiness. I was comforted by hearing this Scripture on Christian radio, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”

After some time, I began to gradually experience how Jesus was distinct and really stood out when I compared and contrasted with everything else I had experienced and studied, primarily in relation to healing miracles, prophecies and most of all, personal life transformations. I had heard about Hindu gurus who had the power to read people’s minds, see into the future and heal the sick (e.g. migraine headaches). But Jesus and His followers seemed to far exceed these powers, because I would hear stories from those who went to places like Africa and India and through praying to Jesus on behalf of people had seen remarkable healings take place, such as blind eyes and deaf ears opening, cancer and tumors disappearing, lame walking, the dead being raised and many other such miracles. These were the same things that I had read about in the Bible of what Jesus and His followers did while on earth. When it came to prophecies, the fortune tellers were sometimes very accurate about the past but it was a hit-or-miss when it came to the future. However, in the Bible, I learned that over a fourth of it is prophecy and judged by scholars to be 100% accurate, where even Jesus’ coming to earth had fulfilled over 100 prophecies written down in the Bible hundreds of years before His birth. Evaluating these things and seeing great contrasts made such a deep impression on me, that now I was coming to realize that even though I don’t fully understand or like some things with the Bible message, yet I cannot deny the miracles and prophecies. So, I came to the realization that the reason for my lack of peace was not because I needed to meditate more but it was my disobedience to God that had separated me from God, because up until that point I was blinded by my own rebellion against God and my need for Jesus. So, on the one hand, I was growing in my understanding and desire for spiritual things, yet I was experiencing relational conflicts with my girlfriend and our relationship was fast deteriorating.

In summer of 1996, I had surrendered my heart to Jesus, but it lasted only for a few months for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that I came to a fork in the road and had to make a decision whether to follow Jesus all the way or to hold on to my relationship with my girlfriend. I could not keep both, because we were at different levels of spiritual pursuit and getting into sin was a continual battle. Because I was so emotionally tied up with my girlfriend, I allowed my personal desires and ambitions to rule my life. I chose to leave my relationship with Jesus in order to wholeheartedly pursue and try to restore my relationship with my girlfriend. Secondarily, is that even though I had felt sorry for my sins, I had been trying to live for God in my own strength, and was frustrated with lustful desires and struggled with what family and friends would think of me by following Christ. In my mind I convinced myself that I was not good enough or strong enough to be a Christian. I had wanted to serve Christ and wanted for Him to save me from pain and, of course, from hell, but I still wanted to pursue my own pleasures. So, it was not that I did not want God, but I wanted other things more than God. During this time, there were still many questions I wrestled with in my mind as I read the Bible and sometimes I would see contradictions that did not make sense to me which also became a stumbling block in fully surrendering to Jesus.

In early 1997, my third year in college was the real turning point of my life. I went through a really bitter breakup with my girlfriend and was very frustrated that the one relationship that I thought would bring so much fulfillment and tried so hard to keep was completely over, even after all my efforts to preserve it. I came to the place where the foundation I had built my life upon had totally crumbled and now life felt totally meaningless and without any purpose, only wishing to die to escape the emotional pain. For years, I had drifted through life pursuing the methods I learned from new age and self-help books and had done things my own way, but I was still empty and faced many regrets. I felt wearied from running around trying to fill my emptiness through religions, relationships, pleasing people and really wanted my life to end.

In the midst of this inner turmoil, I began to reflect on the life transforming stories of those I had witnessed, who lived for Jesus Christ and experienced lasting peace and joy, who seemed confident in decisions they made because they knew God helped them, and how their lives experienced healings both physically and emotionally. I was once again drawn to Jesus because he was relational and pursued us. I discovered that in all religions, man makes the effort to go to God through good works, while Jesus leaving heavenly bliss, comes to where we are to identify with our pain by the sufferings he endured in order to heal us from it and bring meaning to our lives. I concluded that I had nowhere else to turn to but to Jesus, because I understood that not only had I witnessed Him heal bodies but also broken hearts. The fear of God came upon me as I came across a website about this self-proclaimed Messiah with supernatural powers bringing together all religions and how multitudes were flocking to him. It reminded me where in the Bible, Jesus warned about this deception of false messengers that would claim to be the Messiah and deceive many. I realized that doing things my own way had in the end only brought more pain, so I surrendered myself completely to Jesus. My heart had been filled with bitterness and hatred toward life’s disappointments. So, in April 1997 (at 20 years of age) I made this promise to God, “I’ll serve you no matter how many times I fall [meaning it would only be a temporary fall, that I would always get back up] if You’ll heal this broken heart”. At first, I was bothered because I didn’t feel any immediate relief, but I later realized that Christ never promised wonderful experiences and feelings at the time anyone accepts Him. But that does not negate the authenticity of Jesus’ promise. So, even though I had felt nothing when I took this step of faith, the peace and emotional stability that I had longed for came progressively as a result of walking with Him. A genuine transformation took place in my heart; love for God and for people began to fill my heart driving out fears and bitterness.

As I attended church services, I felt stronger on the inside because the messages preached would speak right to my heart and I would receive the wisdom and power of God to soar above everyday challenges. I began to master the basic disciplines, like prayer, going to church as often as possible, bible school and got involved in reaching out to the community. That summer of 1997 I went to a life changing conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Joseph and after personally witnessing the healing miracles and demonstrations of God’s power in those meetings, all doubts about Christianity had been removed and I was completely rooted in Christ. I had also been filled with the Holy Spirit and experienced the gift of a new heavenly language flowing through me. I began to witness God working through me, in one case shortly after committing my life to Jesus, I prayed for a man with a dislocated shoulder and he was instantly healed, whereas previously he had not been able to move his arm for over a year. One of my Christian friends I met that same year in college told me how he had gone to India and prayed for a lady who was lame and was healed and could walk again and another story of praying for this lady with cataracts and she was instantly healed. And my faith grew as I continued to hear countless other testimonies of those who first-hand had seen God heal their bodies, speak to them through dreams and visions, and experienced God’s hand guiding their lives. Ever since this full surrender of my life to Jesus, a peace beyond comprehension guards me day and night and when I come across circumstances that try to disturb my peace, I immediately know where to find it by praying to God and getting His perspective. That inner vacuum and emptiness I had for so long has been filled forever!

My family thought that my new-found belief in Jesus was just another phase and that it would soon pass. All my relatives had a very difficult time with my conversion and it caused many arguments and heated conflicts. Since religion and culture are closely linked in Indian society, they believed that the culture a person is born into determines the religious beliefs of that person and especially with a born Hindu, they should never deviate from it. My family, though they loved me very much, they could not fathom why a person like me with family members from the Brahmin caste would resort to the lowest-caste religion of the Untouchables. They could not believe that I would do anything to hurt my parents and that Jesus would only want me to love my parents and never do anything that would disappoint them. They thought of Christianity as a western religion and that it was only because I had spent so many years in USA that I was influenced by Western thinking, deceived by the Christians and possibly offered money to convert. Because of the British rule in India for nearly 200 years, it had left them with a bitter taste of Christianity and they did not have anything positive to say about the Christian faith, especially hating the idea of evangelizing and converting people. Also, some in my family had very different views of Jesus, believing that He studied in India and taught meditation for which I had found no scholarly support. So, following Jesus brought great dishonor to the family and it appeared to them that I was rejecting the culture. Jesus teaches us to honor and respect our parents, but not at the expense of disobeying His commands. During these times of family pressures, I had to remind myself of Scriptures where Jesus said that if you want to be My follower you must love Me more than your family and that there will be strife and division in the family on account of Him.

At the time of this writing (Dec 2016 and 40 years of age), it has now been nearly 20 years from the time that I surrendered my life to Jesus in April 1997 and I stand in awe as I look back at the wisdom of God in directing my steps, His incredible healing power manifested many times over, and His continual display of loving-kindness and faithfulness. The thing I am most grateful for is the stability that I have found from an active and intimate relationship with Him and discovering the joys of answered prayers. Several years ago, I was inspired after I read the biography of George Mueller, who trusted in Jesus alone for every need, while caring for over 10,000 orphans, and in the course of his life had written down 50,000 answers to prayer. Imagine the immense daily needs involved in caring for over 10,000 orphans and his life is an awesome display of living in answered prayers continuously. So about 10 years ago I started writing answers to prayer and things that I praised God for and I’m so grateful to now have journaled over a 1,000 entries. One of my favorite stories of answered prayers in the life of George Mueller, who experienced these types of interventions daily, is the following.

“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.” Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.

The truth that I’m about to present to you is not “my” truth, it comes from a source above me to which I’m as responsible as everyone else. According to the Bible, it pleased God to create the world and mankind in order to reveal the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness. God made man in His own image, placed them in paradise, and gave them the ability to obey his law and the potential to disobey it. God wanted mankind to have the freedom of choice, so that they are not merely artificial, mechanical, compulsory beings. Adam and Eve, the first parents and root of all mankind, disobeyed God’s command and as God had warned them, the penalty for breaking His command was death. Consequently they were distanced from God and driven out of paradise. The disobedience created a barrier between them and a perfect, holy God. The powers of darkness began to rule over all people, causing sin, death, and destruction. This brought upon mankind further burden of guilt, shame and being enslaved to fear.

God seeks to restore that relationship, to bring us to that original state of glory, honor and harmony with Him. But that can only happen when we have been made perfectly righteous because nothing impure can withstand His glory. Mankind has sought to attain God’s level of righteousness through good works. For the Hindu, because of bad karma (even from previous lifetimes), life is lived out paying back a debt that one cannot know in total but that must be paid in total. So the only hope is to aspire to become righteous through spiritual practices such as meditation and many exhaust themselves with the goal of perfection, hoping that by going through innumerable rebirths they will one day find liberation from this cyclical pattern. However, the Bible says that in the single lifetime that every human is given, no one will ever perform enough good works to attain perfection because we all are born with a rebellious nature that is bent on doing things that separate us from God. Sin is anytime we disobey God that breaks up our relationship with God not only in this lifetime but also for eternity. Because we don’t have a perfect revelation of the holiness of God we don’t understand how serious our disobedience is to God. In fact, it is so serious that there is no payment that can be made, no punishment that we could take that is big enough to make us right with God. When we compare ourselves with others, we can have a false perception of our own righteousness, but in God’s sight all our attempts at being righteous before Him fall far short in light of His standards and even in all our good efforts we are left looking like filthy rags. You may think, Well I’m a good person with a good heart, why wouldn’t God accept me? If your drinking water had only 1% sewage, would you still drink it? In the same way, God looks for total purity in our lives – nothing less than 100%, that means never having lied, lusted, cheated, or even yielded to any of these things or entertained them in your mind, not even once. Imagine trying to do that just for an hour, or a day, let alone a whole lifetime.

Sin cannot survive in the presence of God. Though God is loving, yet because of His perfect character and nature which cannot be corrupted by sin, that without a mediator, the revealing of His full presence would destroy humankind because they could not meet God’s standard which is to love God and others perfectly. So there’s never enough good works we can do to make us right with God and come to His level of perfection. It would be as ridiculous as trying to jump high enough to reach the sky. Jesus is the only one in all of history to have lead a perfect life, so He could take a punishment that is big enough to pay for what we have done wrong. He wanted to do this for us, so He became a man and He took the punishment for our sins, wiping all our debts away and credited our account with His righteousness to get us right again with God. And by believing that He paid the price for our sins by His death on the cross we can all receive forgiveness of all bad works (karma) and instantly experience rebirth, ‘born again’, being forever grateful to start a new life with God dwelling in us. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day and is alive forevermore. This is not philosophy or mythology, but based on historical events and His resurrection seen by many first-hand eyewitnesses.

Just as the ozone layer in the atmosphere shelters us from deadly ultraviolet rays from the sun, so also Christ was suspended between heaven and earth, on a cross taking our punishment, and now stands as a mediator absorbing the deadly rays of God’s wrath against wickedness so that we can experience the life-giving rays. Christ has purchased for those who believe in Him, the freedom from guilt that comes from sin, no longer under the condemning wrath of God, and obtaining victory over satan, fear, death, grave, and from everlasting damnation. As Jesus begins to live through us, we become more sensitive to what pleases and displeases Him, so our behavior and lifestyle starts changing from the inside out, and we begin to experience restoration at every level, guilt and shame leaving, addictions breaking, depression lifting, relationships improving, prayers being answered…and so much more that we can’t even conceive.

In closing, the first few times I heard the Christian message, I thought it was all too simple and didn’t give it serious contemplation. I also couldn’t understand that if we needed forgiveness for sin, why God can’t simply forgive (like people forgive one another) without Jesus having to go through so much suffering. I later understood that there is an underlying cost to our sin (e.g. if someone damaged a very expensive vehicle of mine, I could forgive the person, but there’s an underlying cost to restore the vehicle). I had grossly underestimated the damage of sin and didn’t consider the magnitude of the horrific torture that Jesus had to go through as punishment for our sins in order to restore and reconcile us back into an intimate relationship with God. Jesus endured extremely severe torment in His soul and extremely painful suffering in His body. By displaying the victim naked at a prominent place, there was no form of death more shameful than crucifixion. It was the lowest form of punishment used on the lowest classes of society–slaves, violent criminals and the unruly. He didn’t just teach about love, but demonstrated His enduring love with the greatest sacrifice and price ever paid in history.

It can seem like what Jesus did 2,000 years ago feel so distant and far removed from our current reality and the problems we have before us. Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in abolishing slavery by enforcing a legal document in 1863 that declared slavery dead in the USA. When this news first spread through southern plantations, many of the slaves would not believe it and thought it was a hoax. But as the truth dawned on them as they saw former slaves walking about happy in their new-found freedom, they also began to walk away from slavery and begin a new life. And this has brought tremendous freedoms to those who have never even met Abraham Lincoln. Millions of precious lives were lost during the Civil war to bring about this outward freedom from slavery. In the same way, what Jesus did on the cross of paying the debt for all mankind and offering forgiveness from the penalty of sin, it offered internal freedom (the inner enslavements of the heart) for the entire human race, clearing them from all guilt of wrongdoings and offering a new life. Just as it would have been tragic for the news to not have been spread to the slaves in the southern plantations, so also it would be tragic for followers of Jesus to not share what Jesus did to set mankind free, to all the world.

After walking with Jesus for many years, I realized that religion, even Christianity can complicate the simplicity of the good news of life of devotion to Christ, because religion creates a form of godliness with its rules and regulations but without any power to bring peace and lasting change. I learned that in order to have the unshakable peace of God, you first have to have peace with God by seeking forgiveness for sins and walking in forgiveness towards others. Even though the practice of meditation and other spiritual practices may offer a sense of peace, but that inner peace is not complete because the consequences of bad karma will still hang over us as a constant burden. There are so many paths that claim to be the superior way, but are like clouds without rain, promising fulfillment and freedom yet remaining shallow and never able to quench spiritual thirst. I have discovered that the greatest of all deceptions is self-deception, where you are enslaved by or settle for a false reality. The bible confirms that the heart is deceitful above all things, it can lead us down destructive paths, all the while rationalizing that it is the superior way. Many long for the greater thing but settle for the lesser thing that only on the surface has the appearance of the divine, but is not grounded in ultimate reality. This is where many feel that they can have their own personal way to God. And the Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” So, there are many who are sincere in going down the path they are traveling and yet according to the Bible, they are sincerely going the wrong way. Because Jesus makes crystal clear claims that He is the only One who can bring us perfect peace, reconcile us back to God and can form an intimate relationship between God and man; it would sound totally illogical and insulting to presume that Jesus would share His throne with other gods or is the same one God but called by different names, when He is very explicit and exclusive in declaring “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life, No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Either Jesus is who He claims to be as the only way to God, or He would have to be a liar, or a lunatic or just another legend.

When I read through the Bible, the Koran, the Bhavagad Gita and other religious literature, I noticed that they all make exclusive claims about the nature of God, paths to peace and enlightenment, and I discovered that they all greatly contradict one another. Naturalism says that ultimate reality is simply material. New age says ultimate reality comes as some force, energy, or consciousness. In Hinduism, God is one with all creation, and God can be both personal and impersonal, formless and having form simultaneously. Whereas the God of the bible is clearly transcendent, superior, separate and distinct from creation, yet He is personal and longs for close relationship with mankind. Since all religions claim to be true and truth by its nature is exclusive and exposes counterfeits, that results with only two possible conclusions, either all religions are wrong, or one is right, but they cannot all be right at the same time, otherwise truth would be self-contradicting leading to confusion. And if there are many paths to God and Jesus was only making another way to God, than it would seem ludicrous for Jesus to go through such immense sufferings as blows to the head, being spat upon, beard pulled out, mockings, scourgings to the brink of death, and tormenting crucifixion, just to make one more path to God. And if all is One, and evil is an illusion born out of ignorance, then who is the source of the ignorance but the One? Since God is not the source of ignorance or confused about His identity, this means that He would not constantly contradict Himself by sending other messengers who are also claiming to be God but presenting contradictory views about God.

I think one of the greatest tragedies in life would be a life lived without experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and settling for far less. I have realized that temporal pleasures are fleeting and cannot satisfy the human heart; they just leave you craving something else because they’re never enough. The psalmist in the Bible says to God, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” We can find joy through God even in the worst of circumstances, because a continual intimate relationship with God can satisfy our eternal longings and anchor our hearts on a spiritual bedrock of peace. After traveling through various paths and drinking from the streams of many religions, I have found Jesus Christ to be the only one who can transform an individual by healing the broken heart and filling that emptiness with His love, peace, and bring joy unspeakable (joy beyond words).

‘Kaleb’ Arpit Shukla

Source: https://kalebshukla.wordpress.com/joy-unspeakable/

accessed on 16th Jan. 2016

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