Grace Given to Me — my personal testimony — Part 2

I chose Jesus. This was a private moment between God and me; all I did was respond to the offer that He presented.  Responding to the gospel is described in the Bible as the “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2). It is not a “work;” it’s the acceptance of a gift.

When I received the free gift of Jesus, I passed out of death and darkness because Jesus is “the life.” (John 14:6) He gave me His life, and His life saved me.

If you want to receive salvation, you simply need to believe in this message of grace and decide to trust in the good news. Tell God that you trust that Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sins; that you believe He paid the debt that you owe. Tell Him that you accept the free gift of the Holy Spirit; that you need His life to save you. Thank Him for the gift of eternal life.

It was 1991, and I had become a brand-new creation. Once a foreign concept, I now understood that to be born-again was real! This was proven to me the day after my salvation.

I worked with my mother at a law office, and in the hallway, I noticed the obituary of the lawyer’s father posted on a door. The article related how he had attained great wealth, success, and fame.

Suddenly, I began to cry. My heart ached with sadness over this lost man.

My reaction surprised me; it was as if someone else were living inside of me and giving me a new way to view the world. That was exactly the case.

I had received the Spirit of Jesus; I now had access to His mind. God’s view of success was radically different from my own: true success is finding the grace and peace of God, and has nothing to do with fame and wealth.

A few months later, my parents called a family meeting in order to discuss my strange new behaviors. They were disturbed that I was going to church four times a week, reading the Bible at the kitchen table, and worst of all, they were angry that I got baptized in the Atlantic Ocean, a very offensive thing to them in light of the fact that I had already been baptized as an infant.

The family meeting gave me the opportunity that I was looking for to tell them that I had accepted Jesus and was born again!

They did not share in my enthusiasm. As they saw it, I had joined a cult. I was a fundamentalist, a term I had never heard before.

“What’s a fundamentalist, Mom?”

She answered, “It is someone who takes the Bible literally.”

“Oh!” I said, “Then it must be a good thing to be a fundamentalist!”

My mother set up an appointment for me to meet with our Parish Priest. I explained to him that I found God, and had become a new person.

He said, “No, you found God and received the Holy Spirit when you underwent Confirmation at age 13. You are welcome to come back home whenever you are ready. Once you realize the mistake you’ve made, the doors of the Catholic Church will always be open for you.”

Of course our Catholic priest was wrong; I had found the true God. To illustrate His reality in my life, here is a diary entry from December 9, 1991, just three months after my salvation.

Dear Diary, 

God gave me understanding today as I was taking a shower. Thank You, Jesus, my God. My wonderful, loving God! I didn’t even ask for this – but I needed it. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for knowing my needs. God revealed to me the fall of man. 

Before sin, Adam and Eve were in perfect union with God. They had a perfect relationship. That is why and how God created us to be. Adam and Eve lived in perfect peace and happiness. Then Satan came along, stealing God’s serpent to speak through and tempted Adam and Eve to commit sin.

“No, God’s word is that we can’t do that.”

Satan said, “Oh, c’mon, you believe God’s word? Would he really punish you? He’s God. Did he really say that? C’mon, do what I say and you will know what evil is. Your eyes will be opened. You will know all things.”

O.K., they said. They were tempted and they followed and they sinned against their father’s word. God was grieved – he was hurt. Now they could see good and evil. Now they were unclean, unworthy of God.

God could not change what happened. He created us with the free will to choose him or to reject him. Adam and Eve chose to reject God. So the punishment for sin is death. Sin would have to lead to death. Sin had to be killed.

As Adam and Eve procreated, all their children were born as they were – separated from God by their sin. Nothing they could do could change that fact. We are born ungodly creatures. We are born as children of the devil. Our bodies are destined to death. Sin is contained inside our flesh and our soul. But God desires and yearns for his creation.

God does not want any of us to perish. But when he saw how sinful we had become, he sent a great flood and wiped out most everyone. That didn’t work. Then he sent us the 10 commandments and the Law spoken through prophets. It was written down and called Scripture. But the law couldn’t save us or take away our sinful flesh. God told us that he would send us a son. He said a child would be born by a virgin.

This child was born and he claimed to be God himself. But his words were rejected. He was hated and eventually was killed. The blood He shed on that cross fulfilled God’s word. That blood took away our sins. God rose from the dead and therefore overcame death. Satan was defeated, forever. But since we are sinful, we must now turn from our sin and accept God.

If we don’t believe that God’s blood was shed on the cross as a sacrifice to us, then how can we be saved? If we don’t believe, we are still living in sin. We remain as simply a creation that has rejected God.

When we come to believe in Jesus’ sacrifice and that God rose him from death, then we become God’s adopted child and heirs to his kingdom.

How are we saved? All one has to do to be saved and to have eternal life in Jesus Christ is to truly believe that Jesus was sent to save us from our sins. That takes a leap of faith. Believing that is all you have to do. Then, to secure your salvation he sends the Holy Spirit to live inside of you.

Once you have the Holy Spirit – you are saved and you know it. You may not realize it is the Holy Spirit at first, but you will feel a rebirth. You are no longer the same person. You have been made whiter than snow on the inside. God now can see us and have a relationship with us. Because, when God looks at you, he sees the pure blood of Jesus. You are now justified. You have been born-again.

All you have to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus was sent from God to die for us, and that he was raised from his death. You believe by faith, and you are saved through God’s grace. Ask God for the faith to believe. Ask God to reveal your sin to you.

God, help me to understand salvation. I want to share it with everyone. Lord, I want to be with you in heaven. I desire to love you, God. I want to obey. (End of diary entry.)

Meanwhile, my church was teaching me to walk away from Christ. This was actually a popular teaching at CCFL:  that maturity in Christ is the ability to walk on your own.

One of the female deacons could see that I was fully depending on the Lord, and that He was working in and through me. So, she set me straight.

She told me, “Yes, God is holding your hand now, but as you grow in the faith He will let go of your hand and teach you to walk on your own.”

One day I would be on my own? God would eventually push me away from Him? How deflating and discouraging it was to hear her say those words! But, she was popular, and well respected, so I trusted her; I believed her.

I allowed this falsehood to begin to permeate my thinking. In fact, I began to like it.

My prideful nature began to assert itself.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…” (Gal 5:17, ESV)

I didn’t want to struggle with sin; I wanted to be perfect and holy. I didn’t want to have to wait around for God to continue leading me; I wanted to take control. Sure, I had read the verse that says “God would be faithful to complete the work in me that He had begun,” but I wanted to be faithful to complete the work myself.

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Gal 3:3, NIV) …Apparently, yes; I was that foolish.

Fifteen months after getting saved, in January of 1993, I moved across the country to California in order to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College. I was thrilled to be in an environment where I could commit myself 100% to works-based-sanctification.

“Sure, positionally you are sanctified,” we were often told, “but practically you are not.”

I lost sight of my closeness to Jesus as I focused my eyes fixedly on myself and worked tirelessly to accomplish my sanctification.

One of my roommates complained to the Dorm Dean about me. My behavior made her feel uncomfortable. Well, sorry, but I was not going to change for HER. I had a mighty God to please!

I continued with my 5:30 a.m. quiet times, attended all of the prayer meetings, wrote the best papers that Pastor Larry Taylor (PhD) had ever seen, fasted once a week, went street witnessing in L.A. every Friday night, did the hospital ministry, the phone hot-line ministry, the Junior High ministry, the puppet ministry, wore baggy clothes, and taught Sunday School.

Without acknowledging that I was in a competition with the other students, I did realize that I was at the top of the food chain: after all, I had been asked to come on staff and manage the front office. I was practically in full-time ministry, thank you very much.

Despite my efforts to be godly, I continued to struggle with the temptation to binge on junk food. This bizarre behavior had confounded me for eight long years; it was painfully obvious that there was nothing I could do to change myself. And then one day­­, I said a very sincere prayer: “God, I am completely fed up with this. Could you please give me a new sin to struggle with?”

As it turns out, God said ‘yes.’

This event should have proven to me that my efforts to ‘sanctify myself’ were futile. We cannot conquer our own sins, but the Lord God can choose to change our hearts. And on this day, He chose to deliver me.

For years, it had been like walking down a long, dark alley with a scary man following me. The fear of that man had been with me for eight years. In the months to come, I would occasionally turn my head to check for him, worried that he was still there lurking in the darkness, but he was really gone.

As I said, I had begged God to give me a new sin to struggle with, and He did. But that is an entirely different story.

Part 3 out of 3 is continued here.

 

Did God create sin and evil?

Did God create sin and evil?

A homeschooled teenage girl asked me this question last week:  she basically said, “I would never want to say that God is at fault for all of the sin and evil in the world, yet as the Creator of this world, why isn’t He the One to blame?” 

I was the substitute teacher in her Government class (part of a large homeschool co-op.)  I wanted to begin the class with a discussion before I played the DVD that the teacher had provided for me.  I began by asking the teens…

“What is government?”  “And why do we need to be governed?”  “What is wrong with us humans anyway?  Animals don’t need to be governed!”

We never got to the DVD.  Instead, we spent the hour in discussion.  Teenagers have a lot of questions!  And, I have found that with a correct understanding of the gospel, all of our questions can be answered.

Why is God doing things this way?  Simply put, He is doing things this way, because the end result will be an eternity of love and communion spent with His dearly beloved children.  He is doing things this way, because He has made us so much greater than the animals and even all of the angelic host; He will know us and we will know Him.  What He has done is that He has made us his FRIENDS.

– – –  and just pause for a minute to consider being best friends with the One who made 150 billion galaxies –  –  –

The discussion I had with those teenagers that day kept returning to the question of evil.  They want to know why — WHY! — is there sin and evil in this world?  First, you must consider the unique design of Adam and Eve.  God made them alive.  He breathed life into them.   He gave them “the breath of life.”  He created the animals to also contain the “breath of life,” but it is a totally different set of Hebrew words compared with the Genesis 2:7 “breath of life” that the first man and woman received.

Second, you must acknowledge that the life that was contained within the breast of Adam and Eve was the very life of God Himself.  Since Adam and Eve were created to contain the Spirit of God within their body (Genesis 2:7), they had the capacity to have a close, personal, deep friendship with their God.

And, third, you must realize that ‘the law of sin and death’ caused Adam and Eve to die when they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  When they died, when their life was lost – through their sin and unbelief – they were no longer able to live according to their unique design.  From then on, mankind became capable of committing tremendous evil.

Think about it, Cain murdered his brother Able.  Yikes!  Talk about starting things off on the wrong foot.

That first murder reveals that humanity was no longer able to function in the way that we were designed.  By Genesis chapter 6, about a 1,000 years after creation….

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Genesis 6:5

Because after Adam and Eve sinned and died, every child of theirs was born in the image of Adam:  sinful and dead (Genesis 5:3).  Unlike Adam and Eve, humans are no longer born “in the image of God.”  We are born in the image of death, of emptiness, of sinfulness.

Why did God allow this to happen?  Why did He create a world where evil could exist?

Could He not have done things differently?

Well, yeah, but that would require us to be made like the animals.

Animals are perfect because they are governed by instinct.  God wanted us to be His friends; animals, however, do not have the capacity to be friends with a holy God who dwells in unapproachable light.  He wants to be with us, to be near us, to be as close to us as our very breath.

Since the day of Pentecost – since the day that the Holy Spirit was given back to believers – we do have the capacity to fellowship and interact with the holy God who dwells in unapproachable light . . . because when we believe in the gospel, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us.  Born sinful, dead and empty, we become forgiven, alive and filled!

And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. Colossians 2:13 (NET Bible)

He has made His home within our bodies.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are the Bride of Christ.  We are His beloved.

Sin, suffering and evil exist because men refuse to trust God; they rely on themselves instead.  Men refuse to believe in the gospel; they would rather believe in lies and fantasies.  Sin, suffering and evil exist because, without the Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, we are all dysfunctional.

To explore this topic more and learn why humans are so inclined towards sin and evil, check out these 27-minute audio messages by Aaron Budjen: The Lamp of God and The Image of God.

 

September 21, 2017