Actor Kirk Cameron may be best known as the adorable troublemaker Mike Seaver on "Growing Pains." But many Christians also know him for his role as journalist Buck Williams in the "Left Behind" movie series, based on the popular Christian novels about the End Times, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Cameron is also the co-creator of The Way of the Master, an organization that teaches Christians how to spread the gospel to the unsaved. In this excerpt from "How Do You Know He's Real: Celebrity Reflections on True Life Experiences with God," Cameron describes the events leading up to his conversion.

For me in my life, the biggest celebrity, the biggest star, the one who is famous in my mind—not just here on earth, but throughout the universe— is Jesus Christ. He’s the One who I applaud and thank.

I’ll be honest with you—I was not always a good Christian guy. I grew up in a home where we didn’t go to church. I didn’t believe in God. I was a staunch atheist for most of my life. I thought I was just too smart to believe in a fairy tale like that.

When I was about 14 years old, I had been working in the entertainment industry for a few years, and I got the part of Mike Seaver on “Growing Pains.” Within a few years, it was a hit show. I had everything that I wanted. I had as much money as I wanted to spend. I was traveling around the world meeting famous people. I was a famous person. I had everything that I wanted.

But I met a man, who was the father of a girl that I liked, and I got to talking to this man, and he said, “There’s still something that you don’t have, though, Kirk. You have a lot, but you don’t have the Lord.” I’m thinking to myself, Okay, what’s your point? I don’t believe in God, and that’s really not something I’m interested in. But I thought, Well, I better not turn down his invitation to go to church. After all, this is the girl I like's father.”

So, I went to church with them, and I heard the Gospel for the very first time. And I listened because it wasn’t what I thought it was. This man stood up front and he opened up a Bible, which I thought was just this big, thick, dusty book full of rules designed to suck all the fun out of your life. The man at the front said it was the Word of God. He explained that there is a God who made me and you, and everyone on this planet, and everything in this universe; and He sustains our life, moment by moment. He is a holy God. He is a pure God. He is a good, amazing, wonderful God.

He went on to explain that we were designed by God to know Him, and to love Him, and obey Him with all of our heart, to be in a right relationship with Him. But that kind of right relationship does not naturally exist between us and God because of something that separates us from God, and that something he called sin. I didn’t understand what sin was, and he explained it to me very simply. He said, “Sin is this stubborn, selfish streak that runs deep through the heart of every person. It shows up in many different kinds of ways in your life. It shows up when you lie. It shows up when you steal. It shows up when you dishonor your mother and father. It shows up when you think you’re better than other people. And one of the clearest ways it shows up is when you put other things in your life in a more important position than God, who gave you those things.”

As I was listening to him, I was feeling really guilty, because if that was true, I was in big trouble. I was guilty of all those things. My dirty socks were more important to me than God, because in my mind, God didn’t even exist. He said that God hates sin. God is pure and holy, and He hates sin, not only because it separates us from Him, but because it’s wrong, and that God will punish sin and those who commit sin in a place called hell. I’m thinking, Wow, that’s really harsh.

But he went on to explain the character of God as also being loving and compassionate and merciful, and that He has provided a way for each and every person who has sinned against God to be forgiven. He did that through sending His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and then rose from the grave; and if we will humble ourselves before God, repent of our sin, and trust in Jesus Christ who died to pay the price for our sins, God would grant us forgiveness and everlasting life. He did that to demonstrate His great love for us.

Now I’m sitting at the back of this church feeling two things: one, very guilty because I knew that I had sinned, if anyone had ever sinned against God; and two, I felt this incredible sense of hope. My heart was swelling with hope that this story of an amazing God who sees my sinful heart would be compassionate enough to actually take my punishment for me, forgive me, and welcome me back into a right relationship with Him.

So I went home not knowing what to say to my friend’s father, but I sure had lots of questions. I asked him about evolution. I asked him about all kinds of religions. I asked him about the Bible, and I asked him for answers. He gave me lots of intelligent answers to these questions, but he said, “Kirk, there’s one question you need to ask God Himself. I can’t answer it for you. And that’s whether or not He’s real.” I thought, Well, how am I supposed to do that?

Well, about a month later, I was sitting in my car all by myself on the side of the road, and the thought occurred to me, Kirk, if you get in a car accident and die today, will you be going to Heaven? I knew the answer was no. I knew that I had ignored God my whole life, put everything in a more important position than He was, and I had sinned against Him. Even though I knew the things I was doing were wrong, I did them anyway, because I could get away with it. But God saw all of that, and I knew that there was no reason He should let me into Heaven, especially in light of what He had done by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for me.

And so, I knew it was time for me to do something about that. I decided I would pray. I didn’t know how to do it. I had never done it before, but I closed my eyes and I prayed the clumsiest prayer ever prayed in the history of prayer praying. I just said, “God, if You’re there, I need to know. God, if You’re real, would You please show me? And would You please forgive me? And would You please change me into the person that You want me to be?”

I opened my eyes, and it wasn’t like a gust of wind blew through my window or I saw visions of Jesus on my windshield, but I had a very real sense that God heard me. I felt He was listening to me, that He was real. And it felt so good.

I went back home and told a friend who was a Christian. He gave me a Bible, and I started reading my Bible. And I started learning about this amazing God who is not this big bad cop up in the sky just waiting to punish people because He somehow gets His kicks by doing that. He is a holy, just, righteous God who desires for us to turn from our sin so that we can be forgiven of our sin. It’s an amazing story of love that’s spelled out in the Bible, and that’s the God that I have fallen in love with and that I live for.

I can honestly tell you today that of all the places I’ve ever been, of all the people I’ve ever met, of all the fun and exciting things I’ve ever done, absolutely nothing compares to the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, of knowing that my sins are forgiven and that I’m in a right relationship with God.

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