Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 3

…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.  - 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)

See previous posts for part 1 & 2. I shall call this section: Getting Grounded & Surrender.

When I was 16 there was another milestone in my Christian walk. For the past 3 years I had tried to get into the habit of reading my Bible daily. I wanted to, but often would completely forget! That fall I attended a week-long video seminar – Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles seminar. There were several things that impacted me through that week at this time in my life, but the one thing that stuck the most was this: Mr. Gothard made a challenge to those listening, that if we struggled with reading our Bible daily to pray about making a vow to God that we would read it every day provided He reminded us. It was a very serious commitment to make (warning: not one everyone should make – this was just my experience and personal conviction), but I was compelled to do it and promised God that from that day on I would read at least 1 chapter in my Bible every day, as long as He would be faithful to remind me. After that, the Lord was very faithful to remind me of this commitment and I very quickly had a daily habit of spending time reading not just one chapter, but multiple chapters, books and eventually all the way through the Bible in the next year and a half.

“You all have by you a large treasure of divine knowledge, in that you have the Bible in your hands; therefore be not contented in possessing but little of this treasure.”   -  Jonathan Edwards

When was in college I began to really grow doctrinally. Attending a private Seventh-Day Adventist college as a Baptist meant I had to pay attention in chapel and really search the Scriptures for myself. I began to really study different aspects of Scripture like the person and work of Christ, salvation (how we get saved), sanctification, the Church, the end times and more. I am so grateful now that I attended that school because 1) it allowed me to live at home with my family, and 2) it really stretched me spiritually and grounded me in my faith. There were some who were genuine Christians there, but the majority of the students in my department were not, and actually many weren’t SDA either.  

 During 4 summers between and after college I worked at a Christian camp and was blessed to spend two of those weeks each summer under a great Bible teacher. This is where I really began to deeply study the Bible and all its different aspects. Through his teaching and example as well as the sharpening of brothers and sisters in the Lord I learned so much and was driven to study the Bible all the more.

"I spend half my time telling Christians to study doctrine and the other half telling them that doctrine is not enough."   –  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 

Also during my college years another milestone occurred. I attended a week-long revival put on by LifeAction ministries at a church in the area. The Lord really used the messages that week to convict me of some things in my life that I needed to confess to others and make right that I had been ignoring. There was a lot of soul-searching and conviction and the Lord graciously brought me through and gave me the willingness and strength to surrender my fears and walk in obedience. If I hadn’t surrendered those seemingly small things, my spiritual life would have been greatly hindered.

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.   - Psalms 32:5 (NKJV)

The idea of being fully surrendered is throughout Scripture. We are in and of ourselves, self-dependent and proud. We want to do things our way. Sure often we want to do good things, like go to the mission field, but things that are not done in God’s way will not have God’s blessing. Somehow we think that the "little things" won't matter, "It won't really make a difference... I mean really, what's just a little compromise. And it's not really compromise... I mean...." We are SO good at rationalizing in order to do what we want! The little things DO matter. Let us learn to surrender even the small things, for if we are faithful in little we will be faithful in much and we will lack no good thing.

“Let us see that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways and seek to please and glorify Him in everything great and small. Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”   -  Hudson Taylor

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.   - Psalms 37:4-5 (NKJV)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 2

“The idea [many Christians] have of grace is this: that their conversion and pardon are God's work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians and follow Jesus...No, wandering one, as it was Jesus who drew thee when He spake "Come," so it is Jesus who keeps thee when He says "Abide." The [past] grace to come and the [future] grace to abide 
are alike from Him alone.”
-Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ

As I wrote in my last post, my life changed when I was 13, I was indeed born-again. I immediately had a passion for Christ in my life, the Word of God and a realization that there were many, many people that needed God to change them too. My thoughts were no longer so self-centered - not that I was entirely God-centered, but I was thinking about Him more, considering what He wanted, not just what I wanted. I began to have a thirst for the Word of God, a deep desire to read it daily. Before I would read it once in awhile, but it was different now… I wanted to know GOD, not just facts and information.

When God saves a person, He justifies them – in other words He puts them in Christ and since Christ is perfect, that is how God sees them. But that’s not the end. In reality we still live in a fleshly body with a mind and soul tainted by sin. While we are perfectly sanctified positionally in Christ, in a practical way we still need to be sanctified and grow in our relationship with God. While sin has been defeated, the “old man” still lingers and has to be subdued within us. Thus begins my journey of that practical sanctification…

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  - Eph 4:20-24 (NKJV)

As I grew in my Christian walk there were several “milestones” – things that happened or I experienced that I look back on as significant to my growth in Christ. The first one was about 9 months after God changed me. I went on a 2-week missions trip to Haiti. It was my first time out of the country and the longest I had ever been separated from my family before. I was the youngest one on the team and knew NO ONE else. This was rather remarkable for me as I was somewhat shy and would not have done anything like that a year earlier.  I remember laying bricks and then helping to pour cement over them for a roof/floor for a 2nd story; playing with the children in the church/school we were helping at during recess; one little girl falling asleep in my arms; driving through streets where there were no sewers; seeing the desperation of the people; children running in the streets... It was a life-altering experience. It’s one thing to hear about it, or even see pictures. It’s another to actually go, to see it with your own eyes; to feel the dust on your skin, smell the filth and hear the noise of people begging or trying to get you to buy something from them. This would be when people ask: Where is God in all this? He was there… He was there in me. I am His hands and feet to the world. Sure God could step in and take over, but that’s not the way He’s seen fit to do it – He’s chosen to use me, to use you, to be His hands and feet.

In Haiti I saw the world in desperate need of not just food and water, but of a Savior to rescue them from their greatest threat – eternal death. I saw people who desperately needed the message of God’s salvation to give them hope! You can live on very little. There were many Christians there who did; they were content with the extreme little that they had. I realized it doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have, the things of this world will all pass away. But it’s the spirit that lives forever; it’s the Gospel that brings peace, joy and hope. If we don’t tell them, who will?

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" - Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)

As I’ve looked back on this time in my life, I prayed that the Lord would renew in my heart this spirit, this love for the lost. May I always be willing to share the Gospel, even if He never calls me to foreign missions. May I be willing to be fully given wherever He has me, 3rd-world country or 1st.

“I want all converted people to be missionaries. I do not want them all to go to foreign lands, and preach to the heathen; but I do want all to be of a missionary spirit, and to strive to do good at home.” – J.C. Ryle

"If you don’t have a definite call to stay here, you are called to go.- Keith Green

(For more on God’s call to go or support worldwide missions visit: http://www.heartcrymissionary.com/)