For me, hearing the voice of the LORD was the first major difference I realized, which happened in Oct '96. I was raised in a Baptist family and became a confessor at an early age. I went to a Christian elementary school and was made to go to church every Sunday until reaching my high school years. I was exposed to and came to partially believe the diluted, warm and fuzzy, watered-down Gospel that many Christians believe today. This basic teaching being that to be saved a person only need to believe that Jesus is LORD, that He died, rose from the grave, ascended to Heaven, and is coming back again one day. Even at a young age, I believed the Bible seemed to be a large and overwhelmingly detailed book and the LORD seemed to be conveying much more than this simple message. I remembered reading Scriptures that seemed to contradict this warm and fuzzy message and would wonder how it all fit together. I can recall times during grade school religion class when we would talk about soul salvation. No matter how hard teachers and classmates tried to convince me, I didn't believe that if I died at that very moment that I would go to Heaven to be with Jesus for all eternity. Lastly, and probably most compelling, I also recall having this repeating thought, at times it even seemed as though it were a voice, repeating itself over the years. This thought or voice told me that there was more, (MUCH, MUCH, MUCH MORE) to the true Christian walk than what I was being taught. So as I listened to teachers at school and heard the preacher every Sunday supposedly talk about how to live for the LORD, on the inside, I just knew that something was missing.
I also remember that every Sunday during altar call, I would be convinced about not going up to the front of the church to truly join and be baptized. Every Sunday, my aunt and grandmother would look over at me as if to say, "Get up there," but I would resist. I resisted until one Sunday, I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. After the sermon, the pastor invited those that wanted to join the church to come to the front. I remember I felt as though something picked me up off the seat and made me go down the stairs from the balcony into the main sanctuary, and down to the front to shake the pastor's hand and join. Two or three Sundays later, I was baptized. I remember my aunt asking me how I felt after being baptized. I was actually disappointed in that I actually expected some kind of miraculous change to happen inside of me upon being dipped into the water, but, of course, nothing happened. I also remember feeling as though I were supposed to all of a sudden change the way that I was and be the way the LORD wanted me to be, but didn't know how. At that time, I did not know that water baptism was symbolic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mat3:11 Acts2:38) which is truly the life-changing baptism, and would not begin to happen until years later.
The church had new member classes in which the pastor and elders of the church would teach the Christian walk to those that had just joined, but I don't remember anyone ever telling me when, or where the classes were held. So I was left in the dark.
Years later, during the summer of '96, the LORD's working in me became much more noticeable. I was at the end of my second year of college at UIC, and to catch up, I decided to take a full load during the summer semester. I also decided to work at UPS handling packages from 10pm to 3am during weekdays. The LORD had brought me to the point in my life were I decided that if I considered myself a Christian, then I needed to do the things that a Christian does, I needed to live as a Christian lived.