By Josef Urban
In early 2004, the Lord reached down from Heaven and plucked my soul from the fire. At that time, I was living a life of sin, wickedness and rebellion, running the streets, fighting, lying, cheating, stealing, using drugs, etc. I was truly the worst of sinners. I knew of God intellectually, and desired to serve Him, but was such a slave to sin that I saw no possible way to ever be free. I knew of God’s calling and hand upon my life from a young age. I tried many times to repent and get right, and even prayed all the time for the Lord to change me, but every time I tried to reform my wicked ways I always failed and relapsed back into slavery to sin even worse. One time, when seeking God, I had such a mighty revelation of Christ that I got dramatically delivered from some of the demons that were holding me in bondage, and for a few days experienced a freedom and victory, but soon went back to my sin. The devils came back seven times worse.
Pretty soon, I hardened myself against God so much that I became a professed atheist. I would curse Him openly. I knew God was real, but I hated Him, and didn’t want to serve Him. I was extremely angry, hateful, and worst of all, all-out rebellious. Because of this rebellion, the Lord began to smite me. I began to experience many mental and physical afflictions that were unnatural for a youth of my age. The hate within me would rise up and control me at times, and I would lash out in fits of rage, being tormented by terrible depression and despair. Because of my wickedness, I would also get into fights. One time I was beat up so badly I came close to losing my life. When I got up from being knocked out, my face was utterly dripping with blood. I continued to rebel. The Lord then began to smite me with the most painful thing on earth: kidney stones. I ended up being hospitalized a number of times. Nothing could ease the pain except morphine injections. One kidney stone almost took my life, because it was blocking my urinary tract and causing my blood to be poisoned. However, just before the doctors were to call for emergency surgery, I passed it. I also experienced many infirmities dealing with my stomach and digestive system. I knew all of this was the judgment of God for my rebellion, and these are but a few of the things I went through during this time. I was conscious that this was a result of the hand of God upon my life, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”.
After a period of this affliction, I renounced my atheism. Now, I professed to believe in God. I knew He was calling me, and I wanted to serve Him. But I was a slave. A total slave to sin. I couldn’t get free no matter how hard I tried. But the Lord was drawing me still. The Spirit of God was moving upon my heart. Though I was now involved in heavier drugs than ever. One night, I had a turning point that I’ll never forget. I took so many drugs that I thought I was going to die from overdose. I spent the night smoking cigarettes and marijuana, getting drunk, snorting cocaine and using a synthetic hallucinogen that I can’t even recall the name of. I began to see skulls, hallucinating. My heart began to race so incredibly fast and I was struck with a dreadful fear that I was about to die. In my distress, I called upon the Lord and He answered me. I asked Him to let me live through the night. I told Him that if He lets me live, I will try to clean myself up and serve Him.
Praise God, He answered this helpless sinner’s prayer! So I began to go to church. I started attending an extremely large one. It was seeker-sensitive, with the dramas, movies, slick speeches, etc. I would feel so good when I left. However, I knew I was lost, a slave to sin. Pretty soon, I started to get convicted because I wasn’t getting convicted at this place. It had a form of godliness without the power, and my desperate soul needed the power and a miraculous breakthrough or I was going to die in my sin and I knew it. Many times I had tried to read the Bible, but I didn’t understand it, and this place wasn’t helping me to one bit. So I began to go to a different church. This one was much smaller. Here, enough Scripture was preached for the Spirit of God to use. I began to come under heavy conviction. The weight of sin weighed heavier and heavier upon my shoulders as I sat through the services. An altar call was always given at the end of each service, and I would just boil in conviction. I wanted to serve the Lord, but was afraid that if I dedicated myself to serve Him, I wouldn’t be able to live righteously, and would be a hypocrite. I thought I was too terrible a sinner for God to make a saint out of. I was trying to clean myself up before I came to Christ, because I thought God would never accept such a wicked sinner as myself. I thought I needed to make myself righteous before I came to Christ so I could be a good Christian. Then, one day, the Pastor prophesied. Without knowing me, he said, “You’re trying to clean yourself up before you come to Christ, but that’ll never work. You need to come, just as you are, and He will clean you up”. It pierced my heart like a sword!
I still resisted, under heavy conviction and drawing by the Spirit of God. I went home, and for a whole week I wrestled around with the idea of forsaking ALL to follow Christ. I knew what that meant. And the Spirit made it so plain to me, that if I surrender all, forsake all, and follow Him, that He would set me free and make me a new creation. A whole week passed, and it was the day for the next service at this church. Then the Lord spoke to me, though it wasn’t with an audible voice, but it was so real and personal and powerful, and He said, “You get right with me NOW or I will cut you off”. I knew this was it, that I either came to Christ TODAY or else sinned away my day of grace. Tomorrow was too late. So I went to the church early, and found the pastor before the service. I ran up to him, and looking him straight in the eyes, said, “I’m ready. I want to surrender my life to Christ”. I told the Lord that if He would clean me up and set me free, then I would give my life for His service, and right there, laid down my rebellion and surrendered. The pastor prayed with me, and I believed with all my heart in the Lord Jesus, and confessed Him with my mouth.
Many people think Christ was crucified on a Friday. However, I believe He was crucified on a Wednesday, leaving Him dead for 3 full days and 3 full nights. So the “Good Friday” should actually be “Good Wednesday”. It was on this Wednesday that I surrendered my life to God, in the year 2004.
However, since I just quit everything cold turkey, I began to go through some incredible withdrawls from my drugs. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday passed. Now it was Sunday morning. I was about to backslide again. I couldn’t handle it. It was now “Easter” morning, the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I was so weak and on the verge of defeat, I went back to the church, earnestly hungering and thirsting for true righteousness. The whole sermon was about the resurrection of Christ. It was here and then that the Lord revealed Himself to me powerfully. I had a heart-revelation of the risen, victorious Son of God, and I saw Him for the first time through the eyes of faith. I truly saw that He is the Almighty God, the sinless One, who personally put down all sin and death under His feet and rose from the grave in victory to be my Mediator at God’s right hand! He became mine personally! It was as if He had died and rose for me personally! I had instant assurance that my sins were forgiven! And the chains that held me in bondage were snapped! The burden of sin that wieghed me down was lifted! The peace and love of God began to flood my heart like a mighty cleansing stream! I was cleansed inwardly and rivers of glory and liquid love washed away my sin by the blood of Jesus. “He who the Son sets free is free indeed!” I began to weep profusely. For over an hour, I wept and wept in tears of joy, my soul being flooded with the righteousness, peace, love and joy of God! I knew in my heart of hearts, and in my deepest spirit, that this was it, and I was SET FREE; truly, finally, once for all, never to be the same! I had a powerful revelation of the mighty risen Christ, and distinctly remember that I kept weeping because I knew that I didn’t choose Him but that He had chosen me. I was overwhelmed with the thought that He had chosen me, and the indescibable love He bestowed upon me by His free grace. And I knew ever so profoundly that as a result of Him choosing me, nothing could now pluck me out of His hand. I felt years of sin and rebellion being utterly washed away by the infinite grace of God. This time my life of sin was gone, never to come back. I truly became a new creation. I had no idea the Bible said all these things, but I knew them there and then, by revelation, within my heart.
Praise God! I immediately got rid of all evidence of sin and went idol smashing! I laid out all my secular CD’s on the ground and smashed them to pieces with a rod! I threw away all my paraphanalia, movies, and everything that was wicked and cleaned house! Immediately, my heart was so changed that I couldn’t even stand the sound of rap music any more, which I used to listen to. Now, I went and bought a worship CD and absolutely loved the hymns and songs on it, glorifying my risen Lord with spiritual songs! I began to talk differently, without cussing, and much more politely. My pride was shattered and I saw myself as the lowest worm on earth, but a redeemed worm! I began to dress differently and much more properly. I used to always wear a hat or bandana on my head, but now, I didn’t like to. I liked to comb my hair now instead! I could no longer fit in with or run with my old friends. Whenever I seen them afterwards, I would testify of what the Lord did, and pretty soon, they disappeared from my life peacefully, which was a miracle in itself. Everything changed!
The Bible became my favorite book. Praying and studying and worshipping God became my favorite things to do. I was so hungry for God that I would read and read and pray and pray, constantly reading the Scriptures and praying over their meaning. I would go in my room, lock the door, and prostrate myself before the Lord for hours, worshipping Him and praising Jesus! Before, I couldn’t understand the Bible, but now, it became so illuminated to my understanding that I was spiritually nourished by its truth and I hungered for more like a newborn babe. This book became my best friend on earth, and I read it so much that my family would criticize me for it, call me a bookworm, and tell me to put it down and go do something physical with my hands. But of course I would reply by telling them what I was learning, and testify about the power of God and preach repentance for the remission of sins in the name of Jesus.
Soon after my conversion, I sought out to be baptized, and was baptized in water (by submersion) to publicly affirm my faith in Christ, and to openly renounce my old life of sin, and that I have personally been buried to the old life and risen again to a new life in Christ. I was also at this time seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had learned about it by reading the book of Acts in my Bible, and wanted it for empowerment to serve God and to bring me into a closer walk with Him. I earnestly sought this baptism of the Spirit for weeks. I was so hungry for more of God. I surrendered to Christ on the Wednesday He was crucified, was truly born again and raised to a new life on Resurrection Sunday, and the Day of Pentecost was coming up in two weeks at this time when I was seeking the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I proclaimed a two week partial-food fast, and prayed constantly for this blessing. Then, when the Day of Pentecost was fully come according to the calender, it was a Sunday. I was desperate now. In the evening, I began to pray so hard that I began to sweat. When calling on the Lord and praising Him, suddenly the striving ceased, and my hands began to feel as if electricity was surging through them. Then, flowing from my belly came the release of the Spirit, and I began to speak with unknown tongues, praising God.
Now, I was brought into a new level of communion with God and received a boldness in Christ that I never knew before. For an entire year after this, the Lord had me in a season of studying and praying, of learning and growing in grace. The Lord became my Teacher at a whole new level. For that whole year I did no ministry, other than serving as an usher and helper at my local church. The whole year was filled with learning the Scriptures, and being taught by the Spirit to rightly divide the word of truth.
After this year, the desire began to burn within me to go out and preach to the lost. I was conscious that the Lord was calling me to preach His word. God answered my prayers to use me for His service, and I soon began to take Gospel tracts and literature and go to the center of the city in my hometown to the crowded bus stops, parks, and open areas to tell people about Jesus and declare the message of salvation through His name. I started by handing out tracts and talking with people individually. Before long, I was standing up in the public squares and preaching in the open air on the streets, shouting abroad to all that the same Jesus who saved me can save them! I have since been preaching the Gospel on the streets and wherever there’s lost souls who need the Lord.
It was around the time that I began to preach the Gospel that the Lord started to open my eyes to see the hypocrisy of many modern Christians and to see the error of much that goes on in the system of modern American Christianity. The Lord made it clear to me that I was to sit under Him and that He would be my teacher, and I was not to sit up under any man as my teacher. As I continued to learn the ways of the Lord, and study the Scriptures, the Lord eventually led me out of the local church I was attending because it was in serious error, beginning to teach prosperity doctrines and compromising the message of the cross and failing to preach true repentance and holy living. After leaving this place, I began to seek fellowship at other churches, only to find them all filled with so much error, whether it’s hypocrisy, Phariseeism, legalism, perverting grace as a license to sin, not testing the spirits, etc. My soul was so grieved. But praise God! He led me into fellowship with other likeminded believers, and He continues to draw His own sheep together to this day, by the unity of the Spirit.
I have preached the Word of God since the day the Lord first sent me, mainly on the streets, though occasionally in fellowships and chapels, and have seen the hand of God do many marvelous works. It is a wonderful thing to see sinners buckle to their knees under the conviction of the Holy Ghost and to cry out to the Lord in repentance, even as I did years before. I have seen the Lord deliver crack addicts, alcoholics, drug addicts, and more, sometimes even instantaneously with no withdrawls, by the power of the Gospel. I have seen demon spirits come screeching, howling, and roaring out their hosts by the power of the name of Jesus (yes, demons are real, I have seen them). I have seen people miraculously healed from cancer, partial cripples made whole, and more, by the power of God when prayer was made on their behalf. In fact, all of the infirmities that I was constantly afflicted by myself before my conversion (kidney stones, digestive problems which was believed to be Chron’s disease, etc.) have been healed and I have not had a single problem with those things since.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus, saying:
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He (Jesus) grew up before him (God the Father) like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:1-12, NIV)
Dear reader, I want to ask you now: what’s your testimony? Have you been saved from sin’s power? Do you have a living and personal relationship with God as your Heavenly Father? Have you seen that your sins have seperated you from God, and that God is holy? The Bible declares that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It further declares that all those who sin shall DIE (Eze. 18:20). This death that all sinners must die is not physical death, it is spiritual death, in “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). God is so righteous, and full of justice, that He will punish all who practice sin on the Day of Judgment. The Bible declares that on that day, God will be full of fury and blazing wrath, taking vengeance against all iniquity. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). Don’t think He’s going to overlook your sin, because He won’t. He will punish it to the uttermost, except you repent.
You have broken God’s Law. Nothing can change that. You deserve death and Hell. BUT, there’s good news. Jesus Christ was the Word, as God, and existed from the beginning, before anything was ever created (Joh. 1:1). He was born in the womb of Mary, who was a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He lived a sinless life. He never broke God’s Law, and as God’s only begotten Son, He never sinned, not even once. After doing many miracles and preaching His Gospel, He was crucified on the Cross. Though we have sinned, and we deserve God’s wrath, Jesus Christ took that wrath upon Himself in our place. The Bible says that without the shedding of innocent blood in a way ordained by God, there can be no forgiveness of sin. Jesus Christ shed His blood for His people, to cleanse them from their sins. We broke God’s Law, and Jesus paid the fine with His blood. Then after being dead for 3 days, and 3 nights, He rose again bodily from the dead. He appeared to His Apostles, to others, and to over 500 chosen witnesses. These went forth, preaching the Gospel in His name.
Now, dear soul, you know what the Lord can do. You know He died to set you free from your sin and bondage. I tell you by the command of God, REPENT and BELIEVE the Gospel. Turn from your life of sin, and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, trusting Him to redeem you, save you, cleanse you, and make you a new creation by His Spirit. The same Spirit that rose Him from the dead is the same Spirit that can raise you up from the deadness of sin to the newness of life! But you must surrender. Come to Him! Don’t wait! I’m a living testimony to His power! If He can save me He can save anyone, including you!
Jesus said, “You must be born again” (Joh. 3:7). He said that if you are not born again, you will never see the Kingdom of God, which means you’ll never go to Heaven either. I can testify that I’ve been born again by the power of God, not because I was righteous or holy, no, no! But because God is full of love and compassion for His afflicted and elect sheep and saves them by GRACE alone according to the good pleasure of His will. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Have you been born again? Have you become a new creature in Christ? The Bible says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). You must be born again, by the Spirit of God, by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus, or you will perish in Hell under the mighty hand of God’s justice!
Don’t wait any longer! Turn and live! Be converted! “Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation.” Call out to the name of the Lord! The same God who created everything, the same God who saved me, is the same God who can save you right now if you will call upon His name in faith and forsake all to follow Christ.