Personal Testimony of Robert Sievers

This blog has been up and running for about six months now. I have been extremely honored by how many people have freely chosen to read many of these articles. Yet I have no idea who many of you are. At the same time, you don’t know me either. So it seemed appropriate that I share a quick testimony. My hope is that you will do the same, and share with me how wonderful God is by relating how you came to faith in Christ.

As a child, my parents took me to church occasionally, but I never understood the gospel. As a college student, I developed into a flaming atheist. I argued with the campus preacher, and was so effective at it that he called me possessed and performed a mock exorcism on me one day right there at the campus student center. As time went on, I focused on my career in software and various hobbies. During this time, I encountered a number of Christians that didn’t match my expectations.

Several years had passed since college, and I was working on starting my own business in the software industry. My sister had been a follower of Jesus for about eight years, and I felt responsible as her older brother to correct her regarding her “errant” theological beliefs. I knew I didn’t want to attend church to do it, so I contacted my ex-next-door neighbor, a pastor at a local church. I asked him if I could launch some tough questions at him. He agreed and started a Bible study at a time I could conveniently attend. I started to pound away with questions, not knowing at that time that the anvil of Christianity had worn out many a hammer. [i]

One of the things that drew me in was watching people’s visceral reaction to Jesus. Why were people so incensed about Jesus if He were merely a historical figure, a good teacher, or even some kind of religious prophet? The verses that stuck in my mind were Matthew 10:34-36. To put it another way, if Jesus were unimportant, why did he say that He would be so divisive? This question stuck in my mind as I continued to investigate His claims. I call this my “hinge” verses; it was around this scripture that my mind turned.

This is a story that I am sure you have heard before. The more contradictions I thought I found, and the more paradoxes I brought to light, the more I started learning about who Jesus is, and why it was important. It was Monday, March 19, 2000, and I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. He suggested a thought experiment. Imagine that you are not perfect. I thought, “Hey, that’s easy!” Then, imagine that all God wants is for you to be sorry. Now, how could you truly be sorry, since you are not perfect? You can’t really be 100% sorry, but might hold a little back. So then my mind continued down the same path, that all that would be required is to be sorry for the small part of you that wasn’t sorry in the first place. But again, since you are not perfect, you cannot be perfectly sorry for the part of you that wasn’t perfectly sorry, and so on to infinity. As someone well equipped in mathematics, I fully understood the concept of asymptotic functions, and recognized I could never reach the limit. It’s like walking halfway toward a wall over and over again; you never actually reach the wall.

Then I read the next sentence, which explained that the only person who could truly be perfectly sorry would be someone who was perfect, and therefore would never need to be sorry in the first place. I set the book down in amazement and marveled at how simple this truth was, and asked myself how I could have missed it for so long. That was the moment of epiphany.

For you math geeks, the following picture represents what came into my head. It is the function y = arctan(x). It approaches π/2, but never gets there even if the independent variable goes to infinity.

Asymptotic graph

But back to the main point, I have seen more prayers answered, and more strange things happen than anyone has a right to. I have endeavored to grow in knowledge and its corresponding application. In my short time as a follower of the triune God, I have been blessed beyond measure.

Of course this is only the intellectual piece of the story. It doesn’t give credit to the prayers of others, and most importantly how the Holy Spirit was moving to reveal God to me in profound ways. Yet those are details which must wait for another telling.

I am the only person I know who God saved by using asymptotic math. Please share a little about yourself in the comments below.

[i] The quote above is a rough paraphrase of a statement originally purported to have been written by Theodore Beza to the king of Navarre in the 16th century.

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6 Responses to Personal Testimony of Robert Sievers

  1. 1 john 3:9:

    Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

    This is the verse almost all churches ignore because it says that once a person is born again he sins no more, and cannot sin, while their ministers go around sinning all the time while claiming to be saved.

    As to mathematics, there is no asymptotic limit here, it says cannot and does not sin, and it means what it says.

    In other words, virtually all Christians are fakes and won’t be saved at the last judgment 🙂

  2. Billy,

    You make a good point. I always like to view Scripture in context to make sure we have the correct understanding. Here is the verse prior and following to the one you cite.

    8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

    The Bible teaches us here that when we give our lives to Jesus the Son of God, we are born into God’s family, and we can know longer make a practice of sin. In common language, what happens is that Jesus changes us from the inside out. I can testify to this. While I may still stumble, and more often than I would like, I continue to be molded into the image of Christ.

    As for people who claim to be believers, but “keep on sinning”, continuing in destructive sinful habits indefinitely without any remorse nor lack of change in their lives, you are correct that they should question their salvation. Anyone who truly belongs to Christ will show evidence of a changed life. It make take longer than we wish, but it is a promise that He gives to us, and He is always faithful.

  3. traeh says:

    Not sure I really understand Christianity yet. Maybe I would understand it better if I did a better job of following Christ’s commands.

    Some Christians say that their salvation is guaranteed. But looking at the finer print, I feel a bit confused. It looks like if you are to be saved, you have to “repent.” I take it this means you have to sincerely regret and want to turn away from your sins, and perhaps it also means that you actually do stop sinning. Yet no one perfectly stops sinning.

    In the Bible, Jesus also says that those who keep his commandments are his friends (or he is their friends) and he and the Father will come and make a home in the heart of such a person.

    All this leads me to wonder how it is certain schools of Christians say that their salvation is guaranteed. After all, how do you know if you have repented adequately? How do you know if you have turned away from sin sufficiently? How do you know if you keep Jesus’s commandments enough? If you don’t know, does that mean you don’t keep them sufficiently? How do you know if you are trying hard enough?

    But some Christians say it’s not about works — that Jesus died for our sins, so all we have to do is accept him, and we are saved. He’s done the work already, paid our debts already. But then the question again seems to arise? What does it mean to accept Jesus? How does one know if one has accepted him sufficiently? Does it mean that one keeps Jesus commandments, he has literally come into one’s heart and made a home there with the Father in some absolutely real sense? So again, how does one know if one adequately keeps Jesus’ commandments?

    So I don’t know how one can have certainty that one is saved — i.e., that one will not, after death at some point be dissolved into nothingness, or worse, thrown into eternal damnation. I guess the only way one could know would be if a divine being actually literally made contact with one somehow and told one personally, in such a way that one knew with certainty that that being was divine. One wouldn’t know that merely because of some sort of special effects or sensational manifestations. A mighty voice, or flashing thunder, only means much power — it doesn’t necessarily mean God. One would have to meet God in such a way that one would know very clearly, from direct experience, what God is, what divine is, what the absolute is. That absolute would have to tell you in a divine way, that you are saved. To be certain, your mind would in some sense have to participate in the divine consciousness of God, so that in some sense you could see all and thus see with certainty.

    I find all the disputes among Christians make it hard to know what to believe. Some Christians say there is no eternal damnation — the worst there is is a sometimes hellish purgatory, a sort of temporary hell. Other Christians say eternal damnation is real. I don’t quite understand why people who commit merely temporal crimes would be punished forever by God, but who knows. C.S. Lewis says God didn’t create hell — God merely set bounds to it so it wouldn’t spread everywhere. From that point of view, hell is not God’s punishment for bad creatures. Hell is created by bad creatures who are trapped there through their own decision over time to live in that kind of place. But then I ask, who would knowingly choose hell? Let’s say someone wants something sinful in the short term, and decides he’s willing to accept hell later on, if he can get that sinful thing in the short term. Doesn’t that mean that the person who thinks that way lacks some ability to see things as they really are? Perhaps he sees, for example, wealth, or power, or sexual pleasure as the most important thing, so he’ll give up heaven itself, and his own soul, in exchange. But doesn’t it mean that he’s blind to perceive cheap things as more valuable than heaven and his soul? But if he’s blind, then how is it really his fault that he ends up in hell. Eternal hell therefore doesn’t seem just — though a purgative temporary hell doesn’t necessarily seem unjust.

    I gather that Western Christianity sees Christianity through a juridical sort of lens, whereas Eastern Christianity sees Christianity more through a lens of healing human spiritual sickness, the sickness of sin.

    Ah well, many questions.

  4. Danielle says:

    Traeh, you ask a lot of good questions. In order to be saved, we have to accept Jesus as our Savior. Salvation is not by works, but through grace. That much is true. This is necessary because humans are imperfect. Even the most favorable person is imperfect and incapable of making themselves worthy of salvation. That’s why Christ died for us. However, this doesn’t mean that Christians are morally free to do whatever they want. (I say morally free, because we do still have the free will. Sorry if that’s not the best way to put it.)

    When someone believes in the Lord our God and accepts Jesus Christ as our Savior, they’ll have a desire to do what’s right. That doesn’t mean that they don’t still have sinful desires, but they recognize that doing what’s right and not giving in to those desires is more important than the gratification of fulfilling them. However, being imperfect, we will still mess up sometimes. At which point, it’s important to repent for giving in and doing wrong. There are many things, like repenting and obeying commandments, that are important to do as a Christian, but don’t directly contribute to our salvation.

    You don’t need to “participate in the divine consciousness of God” to know that you’re saved. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever believes in Him is saved. I think this can be difficult to believe because we think it sounds to easy, not to have to do more to earn our way in. Living in a world where there’s almost always a catch, we naturally ask, “what’s the catch?” We also want to be worthy. We don’t like the idea that nothing we can do will make us worthy.

    No one will be sentenced to damnation purely for committing sins. They are sentenced for not believing in God and/or for believing that worshiping false gods, such as Lucifer, is a better plan than worshiping the One True God. There are some people who worship false gods, who later see the light, convert, and are saved. There are other people who look at the moral rules of Christianity and decide that following God impedes upon their freedom. They don’t love God, don’t want to follow Him, and would rather trade their soul in for immediate gratification and die. I understand where you’re coming from, saying they’re blind. Lucifer himself seems to have needed to be blind to make the decision that he did. However, everyone is given the opportunity to come to know and choose God. I don’t know everything about Hell, or about anything for that matter, but I do think that Hell, if it exists as a physical location, is temporary. God is Merciful. Any eternal aspect of Hell must mean that someone would die and remain dead, and unknowing (basically ceasing in their existence). That would be a kind of Hell in and of itself, to be gone forever and separated from God. This would be because they flat out refused to follow God, and wanted to remain blind in what they wrongly perceived to be freedom. I guess because they don’t feel like they’re free unless they’re in control; even knowing that God knows what’s best for them, and only tells us what to do for our own well-being. Like a child who refuses to listen to their parent, no matter how old they get, and even when the parent is proven to be right. They refuse to mature, and they refuse sanity, no matter how many times is is presented before them. Therefor, nothing can be done for them any longer. They only way to help them would be to take away their free will, and God won’t do that to his children, because he’d just be turning them into robots. This is where the quote you cited from C.S. Lewis comes into play.

    Christianity IS about healing the sickness of sin. That doesn’t negate judgement, however. God is the only true judge; not humans, not religious officials. It’s also important to remember that we don’t have the capacity to think like God. There are things that we may not be able to make sense out of, because we don’t see the full picture like Him.

    I’m sorry if I didn’t answer all of your questions fully, and I know you must have plenty more where that came from. I may have caused some more too. I think that’s partially a good thing though, because asking questions leads to finding answers. I feel like your questions have led me to answers I didn’t have before, and hopefully this is true for others as well. I agree completely that all the disputes among Christians make it hard to know what to believe. Of course, I am an imperfect human too, and you shouldn’t expect everything I say to be 100% right either. So how can we find the absolute truth? By reading the Bible. God gave us his Book for a reason. Go straight to the source, and just do your best to interpret the meaning correctly. Pray for understanding when you read, and you’ll find it; maybe not 100% of the time, but you will.

    Stay curious and keep searching. 🙂

  5. Danielle says:

    In response to the original post, I like that you saw religious meaning in math. I don’t know how much sense the following will make to anyone other than myself, but here’s my thought process. I was wondering about how if God created everything, then how was God created? How did He begin? Then I thought about the concept of a time before God, where absolutely nothing existed. Well, this didn’t make any sense. As hard as it is to imagine something existing without a beginning, it’s even harder to imagine pure nothingness. At best you come up with a dark, empty space, but that’s still something, though not much.

    So, something had to exist without a beginning. Then, either God had to just poof out of nowhere, or He had to have never had a beginning at all. This is when I thought about a lecture in math class about lines vs. line segments. What most of us would call a line is actually a line segment. It would be impossible to draw an actual line, because they’re infinite. So, instead, we represent lines by drawing line segments with arrows on either end. God is infinite. This means that He had no beginning, because He always was and always will be. Believers would be sort of like a line segment with an arrow only on the right (a ray), because we have a beginning, but no true end.

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