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Summer 2016: How the Holy Bible Changed My Life
Publish date: Jan 3, 2017
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When I was young, I was a fool. I was raised in a Greek Orthodox Christian home which was by profession only. We went to Church once or twice a year (and by the loving instigation of my dear grandmother, sometimes during the week), but I lived as if God did not exist the rest of the time.
Books were my windows of escape from the tense and sometimes hostile world around me. I read constantly, and voraciously. My dear mother tells the anecdote that when I was about five years of age, she saw me reading through the American People’s Encyclopedia during my spare time. Comics were my first love. They developed an imagination which did not really help me mature and prepare me for real life. In fact they almost cost me my life, as I contemplated one day to jump off our seventh floor balcony with my “Superman” cape on but later considered the risk and decided to jump off the sofa instead. Comics also gave me false views of myself and a nagging fear of the dark. I had many fears at this time in my life because I did not know and realize that the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).
“Canst thou by searching find out God?” (Job 11:7)
As I grew older I began reading psychological and philosophical works which gave me a perverted knowledge of human nature and left me with an empty feeling inside. As I was struggling to cope with my parent's divorce and my new living conditions, I began to search for meaning in these books but found instead dryness and impractical advice which never seemed to change me but only inform me more and more of the hopelessness of my situation.
As I grew I discovered the world of martial arts which showed me the physical aspect of discipline and a new way to look at things which was not really new but another wolf in sheep's clothing. Martial arts was teaching me to act humble even though I knew deep inside that I could physically pulverize anyone who tried to interfere with my humility. I was to discipline myself and devote my life to physically preparing for a fight that I would try to avoid at all costs. After all, as the teachers said, the discipline was for my character to become better not for the fighting. The only problem was that the fighting was a constant carrot on a stick which made it rather difficult to ignore. And I did not realize that “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt.26:52).
I devoured martial arts books on technique, history, philosophy and chased the teachers and their ways. This left me with a way to express my anger and frustration at life but it was like a hamster running on an exercise wheel. I was running but going nowhere.
When I was sixteen and graduated from Secondary School, I moved to Greece with my father. At first, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. However the brief time there helped me get in touch with my cultural identity and showed me a slower pace of life in which there could be enjoyment just by sitting down and having a conversation with someone else.
My conversations up until this time were either with books or video games. I also learned that food did not come from the grocery store but from the land which was farmed and worked on. These lessons helped expand my maturity but unfortunately at that time in my life, they fell on deaf ears. I returned to Canada with a longing for which I now began seeking for by other methods.
“There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22)
My life of drinking in of the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil, now brought itself to its logical conclusion and natural direction. I had found the broad road that leadeth to destruction and began walking in it fast and loose. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, rock music and spiritualism now became my best friends. And with so-called friends like these, who needs enemies. I became absorbed in finding myself and was losing myself in the process. I drank in the spirits of intoxication both physically and spiritually and my mind became a cesspool of confusion, depression, and apathy.
I studied horoscopes to figure out who the stars say that I am and became imprisoned in lucky numbers and lucky days. Little did I know that I was formatting myself to have a good day or a bad day and not looking to God to go through the day, not realizing that every day is a gift from God and I should learn to say “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Numerology, supposedly calculated my character but left me with nothing but my alleged tendencies. The New Age taught me that I will always have another chance to make it right whether in this life or in the next reincarnation, that all is one and one is all and we are all heading in the right direction, that the type of path was not the issue but how you walked in it. I wanted to believe these things because they were attractive to my natural impulses and allowed me to be free to live as I pleased and still live on. But if we were all heading in the right direction: Why did I feel so miserable and empty? I tried meditation, out of body travel, and other such psychic phenomena but nothing changed inside of me. All was still empty and dark. I needed to learn that this life is the only opportunity to make things right with God. I needed to realize that Jesus Christ is the only “name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” and that after this life there is not reincarnation but “it is appointed unto men ONCE to die; but after this the judgement” (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:27).
I listened to hard rock music to channel my anger and rebellion emotionally but only found that after the music was over, I was still angry and rebellious. After a while the music became a temporary fix to escape the raw view of my sinfulness. I thought I was all alone. Without help or sympathy or anyone or anything. Little did I realize that the God of the Bible was working in my life to show me the vanity of all things without Him (Eccles. 1:2).
I came to a point in my life where I wanted desperately to die. If this life is all there is and this world is all there is why prolong the agony any longer, I thought to myself. This world looked to me like a rotten apple of lying, betrayal, murder, violence and useless pain. The physical and spiritual drugs were taking effect and I considered taking my life. I made plans and just waited for the right time. As the Bible rightly declares “the way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19).
“Thy Word is Truth” (John 17:17):
Then, it happened. There was one Book that I had heard and known about but had not really read. I was taught by my dear grandmother (whose prayers and words when I was a child planted seeds which now began to bear fruition) that it was God’s Book and I believed it superficially in the back of my mind when I was in my childlike innocence. I even carried it around with me in Greece using it as a talisman of sorts but never really reading it! I had gold “purified seven times” right next to me and I never opened the treasure box! I was impressed to go to one of the rooms during my break at the Hotel I was working in, pick up the Gideon Bible in the room and begin reading it. I began with the Gospel of Matthew and as I read the words of Jesus day after day, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart. Never a man spoke like this Man. Never a man lived like this Man. Never a man died like this Man. Never a man rose again from the grave but this Man did. I now fell on my face before God in my living room and with tear filled eyes begged for help. I said “O God, the God of this Book, if you are real I need You…” I had cried out for help before but did not realize that when I was living in sin I was crying out to the devil who enjoyed watching me suffer. I realized that living life my way was not working.
After this prayer was prayed I felt a peace that I had never felt before. I asked God to send someone into my life to find Him with. After about three weeks a new worker was hired at the hotel I worked at. Just as I was losing hope, God sent me Elida, my beloved wife and together we began a journey of searching for God. Elida also was raised to believe that the Bible was God’s Word. She and I began reading the Holy Book together. We read a Psalm everyday and prayed at her suggestion and I found that my depression was lifting and my mind was becoming stronger and clearer. Also I was getting victory over drugs and alcohol. Indeed the Scripture was true for it declares “Thy Word have I hid in Mine heart that I might not sin against Thee”. As the Word of God grew in our study, reading, thinking, and praying, our character began to change for the better.
“I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt.16:18)
My dear wife and I now thirsted to learn more about God and we began to study with anyone who offered to study the Bible with us. We had a rule however. If you cannot prove it from the Bible - this study is over. As we studied with many groups and denominations we noticed that they would reach a point where they could not prove their doctrines and assertions from the Bible but had to use other books or writings or traditions to substantiate what they believed. And these books and traditions were not in harmony with the Bible. We continued to pray hoping God would continue to lead us.
One day Elida taped a program on television where the speaker (Garner Ted Armstrong of the, at that time, Church of God International) was telling people that the seventh day is the Sabbath and not Sunday. We watched the program together and I got so upset at this dear man that I ordered all of his free literature and tapes to study them and to prove him wrong! After all how could so many Sunday-keeping Christians be wrong all these years! At last after weeks of study and prayer comparing what he wrote with the Bible I found that he was absolutely right! How could so many people have been deceived? The Bible is so clear that the Sabbath day is the seventh day which falls from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, has never been changed by God and is for everyone (Gen. 1:31; 2:1-3; Luke 23:54; Exodus 20:8-11; Rom. 7:12; Mark 2:27, 28). We began studying with his church group and found most of what they said was Biblical as far as we knew at the time. We even arranged for baptism with this group after we would have a few months more of study.
“Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12):
Even though we had found a good church group and solid Bible study we still felt that something was missing. This Church group was absolutely right on the Sabbath and state of the dead issue (that the dead are unconscious until the resurrection and that the wicked will not burn forever in the end), there were some areas where I had my doubts. They kept the feast days which the Bible clearly says are a shadow (Col. 2:17). They believed that the lost tribes of Israel became people of Britain and the USA, which is not Biblical. Being a part of the true Israel (or the people of God) does not depend on our natural birth but on our spiritual birth (Rom. 3:9, 10, 29-31; 2:28, 29). They believed that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a Person as the Bible clearly describes Him (Matt 28:19; John 15:26, 27; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:30). And they believed in some kind of strange second chance theory where after the coming of Christ the glorified saints will teach the people on earth at this time about God and give them a chance to accept Jesus. This was not Biblical either (Heb. 9:27). But in spite of this we continued to study and pray and wait for God to enlighten us further.
The two areas we were convicted in were the seventh day Sabbath and by inference the continuing responsibility to keep God’s Law through His grace and Jesus Christ’s righteousness (Matt 5:17-20). Secondly we had discovered the fact that the Bible teaches that the dead are asleep and awaiting one of two resurrections and by inference that God’s punishment of the wicked will not be eternal but they will be ashes after the lake of fire (Eccl. 9:5; Ps. 115:17; Acts 2:29-34; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15: 51-55; Rev. 20:1-15; Mal. 4:1-3).
During this time I found a pamphlet advertising an evangelistic series at a church not far from our home. The titles of the messages looked very interesting and intriguing and so I suggested to my dear wife that we go and see what it was about. To our surprise after two nights of very dynamic Biblical preaching by Dr. Earl Cameron, the Seventh-day Sabbath was affirmed! Then a little time later the state of the dead was also taught! I was shocked. After all I thought that the Church of God International was the only Sabbath keeping Christian Church. As we studied with Pastor Cameron, I found him to be a very Christ-like and humble man who always pointed to the Scripture as his basis. We now were faced with a decision. Which one was God’s true Church? The Church of God international or the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Which Church was truly Biblical? We prayed and fasted and studied. After this it was clear. In the teachings of the SDA Church we could find nothing which contradicted the Bible. In the other Church, as explained above, there were quite a few things which were not Biblical.
We realized that we had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and that we now needed to confess our sins and find forgiveness in Jesus Christ who died for us and shed His precious blood that we might be made whole (Romans 3:23; 6:23; John 3:16; Matt. 11:28; Acts 2:38; 1John 1:9).
We cancelled our baptismal date with CGI and set a new date to be baptized into Christ through the SDA fellowship. What a day of rejoicing that was! We had found God’s people through God’s Holy Book by His grace and kindness! (Rev14:12; Rev.12:17; 19:10).
“I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12):
After committing ourselves to Christ, the Bible became to me a great treasure. I could not wait for breaks at work or days off to drink in if its sacred precepts and principles. I wanted not to live by bread alone but by every Word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. As I studied the Bible and prayed: my health got better, my mind got better, and my character began to grow and mature (2 Peter 3:18; Romans 10:17). The Bible became my guide to every issue in life. How to be a better husband and father (Eph. 5:25-31; 6:4). How to be a more hard-working, honest and dedicated employee (Eccl.9:10; Prov. 22:29). How to relate to people in my speech and dress and conduct (Eph. 4:25-32). How to raise our child in a worldly environment (Deut. 6:4-7). How to live within our means and be good stewards of God’s provisions and doctrines (Mal. 3:8-10). In all these areas and more the Holy Spirit and the Bible became my teachers and they were always accurate and clear.
As my life became more “Bibline” as CH Spurgeon called it, people in my family and my workplace started to ask questions. Some out of curiosity, some to scoff and to call us crazy and some who were really impressed with the way God had changed us and the peace and joy He now gave us in our marriage, home and personal lives. My workplace at the hotel now began to become a place of witness, Bible study and prayer. God would open people’s hearts and lips to ask me about God without me initiating the conversation. I worked the overnight shift as a night manager and had so many precious opportunities given to me of God to tell people about His Word and His truth and to pray for them. This included guests and some of my fellow workers who during breaks would come and ask me for advice about their health, marriage, or home. Imagine, asking me a vile sinner for advice! Yet by God’s grace He always gave me a word in due season from the Book of Books to soothe a weary soul. Many is the time I would be found bringing a poor troubled soul to God in prayer on our knees right in the front lobby at 2 or 3 AM. To God be the glory for using a sinner like me to lead others to Him and His Word.
“Behold, I have put My Words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9):
The more I read and studied the Bible the more there was a stirring in my heart to pray to God as to how to serve Him in His vineyard (Acts 9:6). I did not want to be pew-sitter just coming to Church and doing nothing for His kingdom. After praying that prayer I was asked to teach Sabbath– school class, do prayer meeting and preach, all with no one making even an inference to the matter. I had told no one of my prayer or my desire, but God knew. There was only one problem. I was a very shy person and to speak in front of people was always the worst thing for me since I was young. My worst day at Greek school occurred once a year when I would be selected to recite poetry before parents, teachers and students. I would become physically ill and beg to be released from the duty. Now God wanted me to teach and to preach before people?
I wrestled with God for a long time. I tried to run away like Jonah. I tried to bargain with God. But all to no avail. God wanted me to preach and teach and He would not change His mind! I went forward asking Him to give me the courage and power and wisdom I needed for this undeserved calling. “Who is sufficient for these things?” was my feeling on one side and “Woe unto me if preach not the Gospel of Jesus Christ” was my conviction on the other. As I prayed, studied, and prepared, God showed me that He was (and still is) in control and that it is by His grace that I could speak, and not by my ability. I realized that my greatest concern should not be what the people say or do about the message but about how God is glorified in the message. God would then do the rest.
As I prepared for the ministry, I began praying for and looking at which version of the Bible was best and most accurate for my usage in preaching and teaching. I had usually used the New king James before this but I began exploring other translations as well. I noticed that in Seminary every time we would translate the verses of the Greek New Testament into English, the translation which was always closest was the King James Version. I would translate the Greek on my own (being Greek and having a grasp of the language) and would always find as I compared translations that the King James was always the most faithful. I also began studying basic manuscriptology and discovered that there were two families of Manuscripts which had come down to us from antiquity. The Textus Receptus and the Vaticanus/Sinaiticus families. The Bible translations of the Reformation were based on the Textus Receptus. Each of these families of manuscript, when traced in history, demonstrate God’s providence in preserving the Bible and also the devil’s attempt to confuse the Word of God. This, of course, is my own personal opinion and study and I do not force it upon anyone. I do humbly believe however, that we ought to be very careful with what we presume to take out of and add to the Holy Scriptures. The Bible gives us serious warnings on how God feels about subtractions and additions to His Word (Prov.30:6; Rev. 22:18. 19). When I looked at the average translation and compared it to the KJV, I noticed that some verses were changed and missing. Things were added and subtracted. Notice, for example, a very short list of the following: (Matt. 6:13 “For Thine is the kingdom…” missing; Acts 9:5 “it is hard for thee…”; 1 John 5:7 “There are three that bear record in heaven…” missing; Mark 16:9-20 notice the margin on the new translations; John 8:2-11 notice again the margin in the newer versions; also missing from Sinaiticus Luke 24:51 reference to Jesus ascension and Mark 1:1 in the original omits reference to Jesus as the Son of God
– see biblical archaeology.org: Article: What’s Missing From Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest New Testament?).
Now I had read the explanations as to why they were taken out but they were not convincing enough, for the evidence presented was only based on two manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) and these two manuscripts became the basis for all scholarship after the KJV. For example, the verse in 1 John 5:7 which the current scholars say is missing from the oldest manuscripts and not found in any manuscript before the 1600’s or so is actually referred to by Tertullian in 200 AD Against Praxeas Ch. 25, Cyprian of Carthage in 250 AD, Priscillian and Athanasius in 350 AD, and Augustine in 398 AD as well as others. How do we account for this? As I began to investigate further, I found that the omissions were unfounded and was convicted to stay with the King James Version. I am not a “King James Only” believer. I do not believe that the KJV is more inspired than the originals. In fact, if they would make a translation using the Receptus into modern English it would not bother me at all. I do believe however that the KJV is based on more reliable manuscripts and therefore is safer to use than the newer versions. My appeal to anyone is, not that we enter into debate, but that you study this prayerfully and let God lead you. And I feel deeply that if some scholars (and there are quite a few see list for further study at the end of article) have good strong evidence regarding the reliability of the Textus Receptus then they and we should be free to translate modern Bibles using this information. I do not persecute those who use modern translations, neither do I expect them to persecute me for believing what I believe. I strongly feel that I should be free to teach my views on these things when the Lord leads, just like others are free to do so as well. I do not use this issue as my main teaching nor do I preach whole sermons on it, but do feel that I should be free when necessary to speak about it without being insulted and mocked and criticized by people who wish to believe differently. They are free to hold their opinions as I should be.
This discovery has helped me see how Bible prophecy applies in our day and has encouraged me to believe in God’s Word more strongly and have faith in Him as the Preserver and Protector of the Holy Scriptures.
“Purified Seven Times” (Psalm 12:6):
When people ask me how I know the Bible is true, I can honestly speak by the experiences God has given me.
1. What other Book can change a life so fundamentally, so completely, so miraculously as this Book? The Bible says “O, Taste and see for the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). In my life I studied many other religious books but none of them had the effect the Bible had. They had some good things informationally but only the Bible can transform the life. Jesus said "The Words that I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are life". The Bible is the engrafted Word which when we receive it with meekness “which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We are born again by the Word of God (1 Pet.1:23). We are made pure by “obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1Pet. 22). What other Book can so do this?
2. The Bible gives directions in every area of life. How to live in this world in such a way as to be in peace, joy and strength in spite of the heaviest burdens and problems and trials. The great Reformers and martyrs lived powerfully and were even able to go to their deaths with perfect peace even singing praises to God with the promises of this Book in their lips and in their hearts.
3. The Bible has been supernaturally preserved by God through fires, floods, wars and deaths. When the devil wanted to exterminate all the Christians in the first three centuries AD by martyrdom their blood became the seed of the Church and the Word of God was distributed to the world. When the devil saw that he could not completely exterminate the people of God, he strove to exterminate the Word of God from the people. New Bibles were printed, new manuscripts written and slight changes made to the Word of God using Greek and Roman philosophies. People added their opinions and biases to the teaching of the Word rather than allowing the Word to inform and correct their biases. But God still preserved His Word and his people. Through the Waldensians and Albigensians the Bible was preserved in proper manuscript and witnessing form. During the Protestant Reformation, God’s preserved Word came to Erasmus who translated the Manuscripts into the latin and largely corrected the previous latin version which was based on faulty manuscripts. The Bibles of the Reformation such as Martin Luther’s German Bible, William Tyndale's English Bible, The Coverdale Bible, the Matthew Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible were all instrumental in causing a revolution, revival and reformation of true Christianity. The slogan of humanism of “ad fontes” (returning to the sources) was used by God to return to the Source of primitive Christianity - His Holy Word.
4. The Bible is the only Book that Is accurate in history, prophecy, theology and practical life. It is always relevant, always true and always necessary to live a holy life before God and before man (2 Peter1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16).
In conclusion, after 20 years of preaching (4 as a lay preacher and 16 as a pastor) by God’s grace and mercy, I still marvel at God’s greatness and power and His working in my small life. It is still a miracle every time I teach and preach. It is still a miracle to see lives changed by the Spirit and the Word of the Living God. It is still a miracle to wake up everyday with His Word and allow His wisdom and guidance to lead my life. I am not worthy of the least of His mercies yet I am overfilled with love and gratitude to Him for this blessed Book that has changed my life. "Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them." (Ps 119:165)
Soli Deo Gloria!
For further study on Textus Receptus (If you wish):
Burgon, John William: The Revision Revised and other works (Available online: Search the Dean Burgon Society).
Cloud, David: The Glorious History of the King James Bible
Fuller, David Otis: Which Bible? And True Or False?
Wilkinson, B.G.: Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, Answers to Objections and Truth Triumphant
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