Searching For God
Testimony By Bart Morris – Melbourne, Australia
Searching for God. Now that’s an interesting idea! To a committed Christian, that’s a rather extraordinary statement. All you need to do is kneel down (if you are able) and start praying and HE is there to listen to you. So to have to search for Him seems to be unusual. But is it?
TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN FOR SIXTY YEARS
I was born in 1925 in Sydney, the capital of the State of New South Wales, Australia. I am in my late eighties now. Christened and raised up in a traditional Christian denomination, I spent more than sixty years going to church every Sunday. I started singing in the choir at nine years of age and did so for nearly sixty years. When I was old enough, I became active in church affairs; joined the vestry (administrative board), ultimately became a warden (senior position) and even represented my church at regional conferences (synod).
I also learned to assist in the regular Sunday services as a “server”, which required me to do readings from the Bible, assist in the dispensation of bread and wine at communion and other activities connected with the services. After that, my participation in the church activities was complete.
However, never once was it suggested to me that I should read the Bible and study and think about what it said. In fact when I once suggested that maybe I should read the Bible from beginning to end, I was actively discouraged from doing so, “as it wasn’t really necessary since I got all that was needed from the usual Sunday readings.” These consisted of short readings of ten to twenty verses each Sunday. Virtually the same set of verses was repeated each year, so my biblical knowledge was very limited.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
However, one day in the 1990s, someone quoted something from the Bible, which prompted me to open my Bible and check the quotation. I read on from the quotation and what I read, started me thinking and reading further on. I cannot at this moment remember what the quotation was, but whatever it was, it had far-reaching consequences: the verse prompted me to ask my then vicar (clergyman) about its meaning. His reply startled me. He told me to stop wasting my time and his time with silly questions and to just believe what I was told. Since he hadn’t told me anything, his reply annoyed me, so I decided to study the Bible more in detail, and find out for myself what it meant.
Being a researcher by nature and training, I decided that the best way to study the Bible was to start at the beginning, and read through the entire Bible, so that I could get each idea in context and in correct relationship with other parts of the Bible. I became methodical in my reading. I divided the number of pages by 365 and found that if I read three pages each day, every day, I would read the Bible from start to finish by mid-December.
The effect on me was startling, to say the least. I discovered that the Bible is not just a collection of unrelated and disjointed quotations, but a fount of great knowledge—a history book of the world and everything in it; a book of morality which contains everything that we need to live a better and more moral life; and finally and most importantly, a guide book that could lead me to God.
I must add here that reading three pages a day takes about fifteen minutes. Since there are 1440 minutes in a day, fifteen minutes is approximately one percent of a day. I decided that if I could not give God at least one percent of my time, I must be a very busy person! I am not that busy! I now find I am spending much more than one percent of my time reading God’s word!
All this led me to realize what my problem was—I had been searching for God without really knowing it. In my sixty years of going to church on Sundays, I never realized that I had fallen in love with the rituals of the church. There was no belief in God or Jesus Christ in the ceremonies in which I was participating; I had become a ceremonialist and not a Christian—similar to most churchgoers today. The ceremonies in most churches today are or appear to be purely military in origin and style. Minor clergy and other participants in the ceremonies act more like military guard of honor or escorts.
Ceremonialists look at the pomp and elaborate movements by the clergy and those assisting them in church services performed for the benefit of the viewers (congregation). To an analytical mind, the church ceremonies are very similar to military parade ground movements, where soldiers put on a performance for a head of state and his public. Religion is absent in these ceremonies. By the time I had read through the Bible the third time (the third year), I began to seriously search for God. I tried a number of churches and sects, and while they supplied some answers to my questions, they didn’t supply all the answers. So I kept on searching for my answers.
Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways. One day I was driving along a street when I came to a traffic blockage; I turned left into a side street, intending to then by-pass the blockage by driving down a parallel street and back onto the original street at the next side street. As I was waiting to turn right into the parallel street I noticed a curved sign outside a building on the corner, which read, “TRUE JESUS CHURCH.”
Now I hadn’t heard of this church before so I pulled over and went to look further at the sign. I then noticed the smaller sign listing the beliefs of this church. This list interested me so I decided to investigate further.
The following Saturday (one of my questions), I turned up and started enquiring about the beliefs of this “new” church. Sabbath keeping was the particular item which first attracted me, since God included it as the forth commandment after the first three which require us to worship Him. It is the first commandment, which instructs us to actively do something. Eight of the other commandments commence with the words “You shall not” (cf. Ex 20:1-17). Also throughout the Bible we are constantly and continually told to “keep My Sabbaths.” So God obviously considers it to be important. I started with the simple questions first; and they were answered. For example: does the True Jesus Church observe the Saturday Sabbath? Does the True Jesus Church believe that the Bible is the immutable word of God? Do they believe in full immersion at baptism?
Every time the answer was “Yes.” Then I tried the difficult questions, which usually sent priests into hysterics, e.g. Do you believe that God created the universe in six ordinary days? Do you believe the description of the second coming of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible? Again, back came not only positive but also sensible answers! Hallelujah! I had found what I was looking for.
I became a regular at training lessons and soon was participating in full services. As I continued to study and learn the biblical truth and attend services in the True Jesus Church, I gradually felt increasingly convinced that I had found what I had been searching for and that I had to be baptized in this church. Ultimately, I was blessed with receiving baptism by full immersion as well as the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!
GOD’S WORD IS KEY
Since then I have participated in as many services as I can and have been blessed with coming to know many brothers and sisters who firmly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and His word. Studying God’s word has strengthened my belief in the presence of God in my life. I now constantly feel His presence, and am frequently turning to Him for help and advice. Whenever I struggle with a problem, be it great or small, He is always there at my side: His Spirit comforts and reassures me.
In addition, I have been encouraged to preach the gospel to other people and bring them to church, which is very different from my previous church, where I was even made fun of when I tried to bring new people. I have also been encouraged by the growth of the church, which has made it necessary to purchase new premises at Croydon South, a suburb of Melbourne, the capital city of the State of Victoria, Australia. These new premises allow us to double our numbers who attend the main services on Saturday, and also provide more rooms for separate classes that allow our members, particularly our youths, to be trained in the word of God.
Just like the previous church building, the new building has no distracting crosses, statues, or other images. Its simplicity reminds me of the fact that finding God is not very difficult as long as we truly believe in and follow His word as given to us in the Bible. Just get down on your knees and pray, and you will find that He is there with you.
May God bless each and every one of you as you study His word, and pray ceaselessly to our Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!