And many people on campus despised me because of how I had treated a few girls. Feeling lower and lower by the second, I decided to look up toward God — again.

I decided to start a Bible study in our fraternity house. I sold this unusual idea to my frat brothers by explaining that it would be great PR to help our sullied reputation. Truthfully, I wanted to learn about God. Since church hadn't really helped me in that department, I thought I might as well go straight to the Bible to see what I could discover for myself.

On the Tuesday morning before our first Bible study, I was strolling across campus between classes when it dawned on me that I didn't have a Bible. (I left the family's gold Bible at home.) On my way to my world literature class, an older gentleman introduced himself to me, saying he was a Gideon. He asked me if I wanted a free Bible. I wasn't sure what a Gideon was, but as far as I was concerned, he might as well have been one of God's angels.

That night, a handful of us started reading the Bible in a small, sweat-soaked, party-stained room in the Lamba Chi Alpha house. We started reading in Matthew, chapter one, and once we moved past who begat whom, the pace picked up. At the end of our rookie Bible studies, we prayed the only prayers we knew: "God, protect us as we party. God, keep Joe's girlfriend from getting pregnant. God, don't let us get caught cheating on the American history test." They weren't the typical prayers prayed at Baptist student unions, but they were honest. We were a bunch of guys who believed in God but didn't have a clue who God really is.

Although we didn't know what we were doing, our little Bible study started to grow. Apparently many of our party friends bore a similar spiritual curiosity. The more Bible we read and the more prayers we prayed, the more people showed up and the more God seemed to do.

After finishing Matthew, we discovered that Mark, Luke, and John had several of the same stories. Three chapters into Acts, we got bored and skipped to Romans. Midway through Romans, I got so excited that I started reading ahead. When I reached Ephesians, I encountered two verses that would forever change my life: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast." Could this be true? We're saved by God's grace and his grace alone? It's not by our works? Why didn't anyone tell me?

I felt like a caged animal and had to escape that tiny room. Someone was sitting in front of the only door, so I slipped out the closest window and dropped to the ground. Sensing something important, I dashed to a nearby softball field, needing to be alone with God. What happened next is hard to explain and even harder for me to believe. The presence of God became real to me.

I always thought that only wackos actually hear from God. Sure, you heard God. And there's a teeny angel on your shoulder right now telling you what to do next, right? Well, that evening I became a wacko. Kneeling on the grass, I heard a voice. It wasn't audible — it was actually way too loud to be audible, too present inside me. "Without me, you have nothing. With me, you have everything." I knelt and prayed the shortest, most power-packed, faith-filled prayer of my life. Not so much whispering as mouthing the words, I said to God, "Take my life."

That was it. I had knelt down in the field as one person, and I stood up as a completely different person. I had the same body, the same voice, and the same mind, but I wasn't the same. I'd later learn that I'd become what the Bible calls a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). The old was gone; the new had come. I had finally transformed from a Christian Atheist into a Christian.

For the first time in my life, I believed in God and began to live like he is real.

Mission Not Accomplished