Testimonies :: Ed – My Life Story

testimonyI was born in 1975 in St. Petersburg, Russia to a good Jewish family. My father and my mother were atheists, so was everyone else I knew. At the time the country was suffering under the communist regime where any kind of religion was despised, mocked, and almost prohibited. Communists taught people that “religion is the opium for the masses”.

Ever since I could remember myself even in the very early age I was fascinated with the question of life and death. I was aware that people die. What happens then? Do we just “stop existing” I was asking myself. The possibility of “stop existing” some day was terrifying and I was very afraid. I remember being maybe 5-6 years old and crying in my bed one night. My father walked in and asked me why I was crying. I told him about my fears. It was the first time I told someone. This is how he answered: “Someday, when you are old, you will get tired of living and you will feel like its time for me to die and time for someone else to live in my place”. His answer didn’t satisfy me. I didn’t believe that I will get tired of living, plus I didn’t understand why I have to give up my life in order for someone else to live. So it began. Little that I knew at the time, I made my first step on the road that led to God.

When I grew a little older I learned about something called God. I learned that some people believed in God and hoped that someday they will be in “heaven” with him. I didn’t understand any of that, but it was an interesting idea and some kind of hope, so I kept it. That is all God was to me at the time: an idea, nothing more. I remember reading the book called “Legends and Myths of the Ancient Greece”. The book was full of stories about different gods. Gods in those stories were just like people, only immortal. These gods were capable of lying, steeling, backstabbing, and even killing. Sometimes they were nice and kind to people and each other, and sometimes they were hateful and vicious. I liked the stories, but they gave me a wrong perception about God.

Later in my life I witnessed a softening of the communist regime. The times were more liberal. People started talking about religion. However, nothing really changed in my family or among my friends, or in school. I was growing up with the idea that the Bible is full of fairytales and no educated individual could possibly believe in stories like Noah’s Ark, Flood, Tower of Babel, etc. My biology teacher said once in class:” There are many views on the origin of life today. Some believe in God, some believe in aliens. We will study EVOLUTION as the only PROVEN theory”. There it was: the biggest lie that was ever sold to me. They didn’t say I couldn’t believe in God, they just made it sound so ignorant. Why would you want to believe in a fairytale if there is a proven theory that contradicts the entire existence of God?

At that point of my life I developed a principle that helped me later on in my perused of God. I believed that to have FAITH in God is better than not to have it, because of the following: If God does exist, then the person who believes in God is correct. If God doesn’t exist, then at least a person who believes in him will live his life without a fear of death. I wanted to believe in God because of my fear of death and uncertainty that comes with death. Fear was my driving force. I was not just afraid of possibility of death or painful death. I was not afraid of hell, because I didn’t believe in hell. I was terrified of NOTHINGNESS. I didn’t want to “stop existing”. However, I couldn’t just start believing. This issue was so important to me that I couldn’t risk it not researching it. I couldn’t just tell myself: “Its ok, let’s just believe that God exists and there is a life after death and everything is going to be fine”. I had to prove it for myself!!!

At the age of 18 my family and I moved to the United States. It was a big change for all of us. We had to adapt to a different language, culture, and life style. It was very tough for my parents who had to give up their prestige professions in St. Petersburg (my dad was a Principle of a High Scholl and my mom was a teacher) for something like cleaning offices. I know they did it for me and I am forever grateful. It was a huge sacrifice on their part that not every parent will do for their child.

We ended up in Cleveland, OH where there is a big Russian-Jewish community. I never really associated myself with Judaism. I always knew I was different from other “non-Jewish” kids back in Russia. However, I always looked at it as a curse rather then a blessing. It was not easy to be a Jew living in an anti-Semitic country. I couldn’t understand the significance of being Jewish. And again, every Russian Jew I met in Cleveland was just like me – without any comprehension of God.

I was a rebellious teenager. I was also pretty popular with the opposite sex. I had friends and girlfriends. I was pursuing fun. I lived for the weekends when I could get together with my buddies and go party. Alcohol, drugs, loud music, and wild times – I loved it all. At the same time I went to the community college and finally at the age of 21 I transferred to Ohio State University and moved to Columbus, OH. I lived through good times and I lived through bad times. College life could be very challenging. I was responsible enough to understand the importance of having education, but was never a very good student. I ended up with 3.2 GPA in Industrial Engineering though.

When I look back at my college years, it seems to me that I was “testing” everyone and everything including life itself. I still tried to live for the weekend, although sometimes the weekend would start on Thursday and sometimes end on Tuesday. Getting dead drunk on Friday nights was a religious practice for my friends and I. I don’t remember how many times I was kicked out from clubs for abusive behavior and even got beaten by the security. I don’t know why I had to act that way? Nothing seemed to be wrong with my life. At some point I met a guy name Alex who considered himself an anarchist. We became friends and formed a rock band together. I was a singer and a guitar player in that band. I considered myself and anarchist as well. It seemed to me and people around me that I would jump from one extreme to another for no apparent reason.

I was always interested in religion though. At some point Alex turned away from anarchy and became a Jehovah Witness. I was very interested in his transformation. We talked a lot about God and I even attended several services on Sunday in his Kingdom Hall. It was somewhat appealing to me, but never made complete sense. I heard that JW’s is a cult, but I didn’t care at the time. Plus, I never believed everything that people told me (which is always a good thing), I had to know for sure. Later in life I had more encounters with Jehovah Witnesses. Number of times they would knock at my door and try to convince me. I was always interested in what they had to say, but was never persuaded enough to join the organization. Several times I had conversations with various “New Agers”. I didn’t like what they had to say at all. None of their doctrines made sense and they seemed very delusional to me.

During my senior year I noticed a very dramatic change in 2 of my friends. They told me that they became Christians. They stopped drinking and parting. They started reading the Bible and joined Columbus Church of Christ. For some reason I was very skeptical of them. I went to church with them once and for some reason concluded that it was a “cult”. They tried to preach to me but unsuccessfully. I did listen to what they had to say though, because I didn’t give up on this “God Idea” and was willing to give a fair hearing to anyone.

I graduated in 2001 and got my first job as an engineer. I also met a beautiful Russian-Jewish girl who fell in love with. We got married later on. We also purchased a condominium in Columbus, OH. Natalia (my wife) was everything I could hope for. Both of us had pretty much everything a normal, successful and loving couple should have, but I was pretty miserable inside. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I just didn’t see the reason for my existence. There was a small cemetery right next to our condo. I was passing it by everyday on my way to work. It was a small reminder for me of how empty my life was.

The situation got worse when I lost my good engineering job. I became a temporary employee working for the bank. I got pretty depressed about the insignificance of my new job and the loss of the income. The economy was bad, so I knew it would take me a while to find a new job in my field. While working there, I’ve met another temp name Adrian. Adrian was about my age. There was something about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. On one occasion we started talking about God and I was very interested in what he had to say on the subject. Adrian was not by any means “religious”, but his faith seemed so certain to me. I asked him: “How can you be so sure?” He told me that he learned enough information about it, so he no longer doubts the existence of God. That was a complete shock to me. I never though that science can possibly support the Biblical view point. He offered his help.

My first “quest” was Noah’s ark and the flood. I told him that I cannot possibly see how Noah could fit all the animals on a boat. I also asked him if there is any evidence that flood ever took place. The next day he brought some DVDs for me to watch at home. I had my doubts, but sure enough there was an explanation. This information didn’t convince me that the story was true, but it showed me that there is “the other side of the coin”. In school I learned evolution and evolution only. Adrian showed me the alternative theory called “Creation” or “Intelligent Design”. For the first time during my spiritual journey I saw a real light. I came to work the next day and asked for more information. From that point on Adrian started bringing DVDs, VHS Tapes, books, CDs on the subject of my study. I was interested in Creation vs. Evolution debate. I learned about the evidence for Creation. I have read books by chemists, physicists, doctors, astronomers, theologians, and journalists about Intelligent Design. The evidence for Creation was so overwhelming I couldn’t believe how I didn’t know any of that before. Also I learned about the lies my teachers taught me at school. I learned that Evolution doesn’t have a single shred of evidence. I learned about fabrications that some “scientists” tried to put together to support the theory. I learned that Evolution is not scientifically, but philosophically driven theory. After several months of intense studying I was convinced that Intelligent Design is the method of origin of life. That means there must by a DESIGNER. God does exist. I proved it beyond any reasonable doubt. 29 years of my life I doubted, and now I could know for sure.

At the same time I started reading the Bible. Adrian said that he believed the Bible to be the Word of God. That means it must be 100% accurate. I made a covenant with myself: I will read the Bible until I find it contradicting itself, history, logic, or any proven scientific fact. I knew even before something about the Bible. I knew that Jews and Christians differ on what they accepted to be true. I thought that the Old Testament is for Jews and the New Testament is for Christians. To my surprise I found the Bible to be very uniform. I started to read Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) and some parts of the New Testament. My favorite book of the Bible at that time was the book of Ecclesiastes. I read about King Solomon’s quest for meaning in life and realized how similar it was to my path. Like Solomon I tried to find the meaning of life in pleasure and found that to be meaningless.

A big part of the Bible is the prophecy. I wanted to see whether the biblical prophetic statements were similar to the statements made by Nostradamus that no one can really understand, therefore assume whatever they wish. To my surprise most of the biblical prophecy was very direct. Some prophetic statements dealt with specific cities, countries, and nations. Now, this information became part of the history anyone can check and verify. I was very impressed with the book of Daniel from the Old Testament that outlined the entire history of the mankind that goes to our day. Also, during the 20th century prophecies regarding Jews and the Land of Israel were fulfilled.

I read in the Old Testament about the blood sacrifices Jewish people used to make in order to provide the atonement for their sins. I learned about the Temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem that became the center of their worship. I was puzzled by the fact that the Temple was destroyed and does not exist in our day. I thought to myself: “If God requires a blood sacrifice for our sins, but the place of the sacrifice doesn’t exist, then what do people do?” Of course I was thinking about religious people, because I knew that almost every Jewish person I have met in my life including my family and friends couldn’t care less about “God’s Law”, Temple and Sacrifice. Later on I learned (not from the bible) that the Sacrificial system was replaced by the Rabbinical system that doesn’t require any kind of sacrifice. That didn’t seem right to me. As a matter of fact, I found that to be a huge contradiction to the present day Judaism. Think about it. Religious Jews know about God from the Bible (Tanakh – Old Testament). If they believe it to be the Word of God than how can they disregard for such an important commandment? If they don’t believe it to be the Word of God, then the whole religion is based on human imagination and traditions. That encouraged me to continue my search.

I learned about Messiah. The Old Testament is full of passages about Messiah. This person was supposed to come and save his people from the condemnation of sin. So that was my answer. Now I realized why this Messiah is so important that some Jewish people are waiting for him even today after several thousands years after the destruction of the Temple. I knew that Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Could that be true? I started to read the Gospel of Mathew and other books from the New Testament. I didn’t want it to be true, because I knew that it would create issues with my family and friends. Jews do not become Christians. People just wouldn’t understand, but as one writer said:”I have to follow where evidence lead”. I was surprised to find out that everything about New Testament was Jewish. It was written by Jews about Jews. 12 apostles and other disciples were Jewish. It took place in Jerusalem and other Jewish towns. NT has references to the Old Testament. On top of everything else Jesus himself was Jewish. “How could that be?” – I thought to myself. How Christian faith could have such deep Jewish roots? What happened in the last couple of thousand years that made the Church and the Synagogue the blood enemies? Where do I fit in? And the most importantly: Is Jesus the Messiah?

Is Jesus the Messiah? There are more than 300 Old Testament prophesies that were fulfilled in the person of Jesus. These are the ones I like the most:

  • Messiah was supposed to be a Jew from the Tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10)
  • Born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2)
  • Sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:13)
  • Isaiah 53 – Description of his trial and crucifixion and death
  • Psalm 22 – Description of crucifixion

The probability of someone fulfilling all those by accident is ZERO. I know enough about statistics to conclude that. This must be true, Jesus is who he clamed to be: the Son of God, Messiah. But how does this relate to me? Why is his death so important even after 2 thousand years? The New Testament teaches that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. So that’s why no more blood sacrifices required. He was innocent of the crime they charged him with; he was also innocent of sin. That’s what the perfect sacrifice means: innocent for guilty. But how can I be sure of that? The answer is RESURRECTION -if resurrection actually took place, than it’s true.

I learned about various theories people have about what happened. Some say that Jesus never died on the cross, but only “passed out” and then in the tomb regained conciseness and rolled the stone away, overpowered Roman guards and appeared to his disciples. Muslims believe that Jesus was never crucified on the cross, but it was someone else in his place. Jews believe that the apostles “stole” his dead body from the tomb. Some people don’t even believe that Jesus ever existed and resurrection ever took place. After careful examination of everything I could find on the subject, only 1 theory left standing. And you guessed it; it was the New Testament account of the resurrection. I remember reading a book by Lee Strobel at the time called “The Case for Christ”. This book discusses all the possibilities. According to Lee’s testimony he came to be a Christian as a result of examining the facts of the resurrection. To anyone who doubts I can say the following: The resurrection is the most attested facts of the antiquity. As one writer said: “The evidence for the resurrection is so overwhelming, it’s enough to sentence a person to death in the modern court of law”. So let me see, so far I proved to myself the following:

  • God must exist
  • Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is in fact the Word of God
  • Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of the Bible

What’s next? What does the Bible teach about salvation?

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, for whomsoever believes in Him shell not perish, but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9, 10 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you WILL BE SAVED.

Jesus said: “Truly I say unto you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again”. (John 3:3)

After all this I was ready. On March 4, 2004 I confessed my sins to the Lord. I admitted my faults and believed in His promises. I asked God to forgive me and change me. I accepted His sacrifice and got saved (born again). You know, some people say they didn’t feel anything on the day of their salvation. Some did and tell about interesting things happening to them. I can testify that the fear of death that hunted me all my life disappeared completely at that moment. I knew from that point on I had nothing to worry about, for even Jesus said: “I came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…and to release the oppressed” (Luke 3:18). I came home that day a different man. Natalia saw the change in me and started asking questions. On August 12 the same year she got saved as well. God works in mysterious ways the Bible says. Now we have a little son name Joshua and live in Baltimore, MD.

In conclusion I want to say that all of us some day will have to face a question: Why am I here? That’s the most important question a person should answer. I believe our lives were given to us by God for the soul purpose of answering that question. I advise people to choose wisely, for scriptures teach us: “Wide is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow a road to salvation”.

It took me 29 years to find the truth, but it was worth it.