Very early on in my Christian experience, having accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour as a child, followed by water baptism in my teens, I became painfully aware of a separation or gulf between God and myself. As much as I understood, I had done what was required to attain salvation but peace with God just plain eluded me. The collective effect of observing other Christians, listening to sermons and teachings and trying to be a good Christian, left me with a deep sense of alienation towards God because I just could not imagine being acceptable to Him. I knew the un-Christian kind of life I lived when not being watched as well as the impure thoughts and imaginations that constantly plagued my mind. Quite frankly there were a lot of things in the world that attracted me more than the charade of Christianity that I was involved in. Eventually I just became angry with God and told Him I wanted nothing more to do with Him. It was not that I wanted to go and be evil. I just wanted Him to simply leave me alone and let me live out my life.
Well I did my part in the world very well from what I can remember but God must not have heard me because He never seemed to really leave me alone. While others seemed to be able to have a good time in the world, my good times were always tainted by a vague awareness of His presence. I also must give Him credit as I am well aware of the many times during those dark days when He saved me from serious life-threatening disaster.
Eventually in my early to mid-thirties I was reconciled to God, like the prodigal returning home. As joyous as that time was, it was not long before I was again feeling like a square peg in a round hole, reminding me of that early Christian experience that caused me to turn my back on God in the first place. The difference this time was that I had no desire to abandon God again.
In His mercy the Spirit began to deliver my thinking from those thoughts and impressions of what it meant to be a Christian which were really keeping me from truly understanding Christianity. You see, the only understanding I had ever had of Christianity was essentially legalistic, notwithstanding that salvation was a free gift. I had accepted the free gift but from there on I understood my relationship to God in terms of my performance. If I did well, He was pleased with me and if I did not do well, He was not so much pleased with me. In other words, my relationship with God was always dependent on actions which “I” initiated to which He responded one way or another. Needless to say, I had good days and I had bad days, and more bad days.
Eventually the Spirit opened up my understanding to God’s grace towards me in a way that I understood. He had done all that was required and nothing more was required on my part to gain His approval. I can still remember that experience very clearly. However it was not clear sailing from then on as my mind, despite being enlightened about God’s grace, was still largely unrenewed. While I had a certain understanding of grace, I was still haunted by a sense that there was something fundamentally wrong with me . Regardless of how much I understood, I was not experiencing God with an attitude of expectancy.
By the grace of God, those days have largely passed, but it took time. First God had to miraculously reveal to me that there was nothing wrong in me that could or would ever end our relationship. Then He also revealed to me that since becoming His child, the separation from Him that I felt was directly related to believing certain untruths originating from an erroneous understanding of certain key Bible passages – passages that to this day are largely interpreted by the enemy of our souls in a way totally inconsistent with the Gospel or Good News of what Jesus Christ, our Saviour has accomplished on the Cross for us. The enemy of our souls will stop at nothing to keep believers from experiencing the fullness of Christ as their life as Paul expressed in Galatians:
“I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 ISV)
There are three passages in particular that I believe the enemy has used successfully to keep scores of believers in bondage to sin when they should be walking in freedom, experiencing the fullness of the indwelling life of Jesus Christ . They are Romans 7, Galatians 5 and 1 John. We will tackle each one of these (and maybe some others) in the following writings. As always, keep in mind that we believers can only proclaim and explain. It is the Spirit only who gives understanding and separates the wheat from the chaff.