After forty years of Christianity, I came to the conclusion that I had somehow missed the way. Recalling the spiritual journey that had summed up my life, I realized that there was very little fruit to prove that all my striving for God had paid off. My dilemma came from a sense that He wasn’t available to me as I believed He could be. This nagging thought demanded answers; was He really there, or had I spent four decades believing in some ethereal image of a savior? Now, my heart knows Jesus exists and I’ve seen Him move in times of crises, but I really needed to know whether there was more. Was there any proof we actually had gained a relationship? I could sit in a church and be aware of the presence of God all around, however I was never sure if He was making Himself known because He loved me, loved the leader, the choir, or maybe it was the pew that I was sitting on. Without some greater assurance I felt like little more than a rescue mission.
About this time there seemed to be a breath of fresh air. I was introduced to a small group of believers and a very charismatic leader. They appeared to be dedicated Christians who really loved God and were committed to looking for what could be called “the deeper Christian walk.” Our first prayer meetings on Wednesdays were so successful and encouraging that within a short time we were soon meeting together most every night. It was an expression of church life and fellowship I had never seen before.
These people were different because they were not content with the Sunday church mindset; instead they wanted to know what it meant to “be” God’s church. In their motivation they were looking for ways to invite Jesus into their daily lives and gain a true understanding of both intimacy and maturity. At the time this appeared to be a healthy example of fellowship, unity, and spiritual practice all leading to that one goal. I was convinced that the greatest expression of godly relationship was seemingly staring me right in the face and I certainly didn’t want to miss out on any of it. Under their direction I was ready to prove myself as available, capable, and reliable to the God that supported their faith.
Five years of commitment passed quickly and brought me to the place where the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit was calling me to move on. There was a sense that another aspect of His life was just on the horizon and that meant moving away from the security of this small group; however my choice was met with disapproval.
As I proceeded to make plans to leave, I was confronted by a feeling of alienation. Suddenly, the people who had been near and dear to me began to pull away. The word had gone out that I was now off limits to anyone who still desired a committed Christian walk. If that was not enough of a rude awakening, there was also a real and foreboding sense that God Himself had some how left me. It was as if someone had pulled the plug on a dynamic spiritual connection and I was now empty, confused, and very much alone.
How could this be? How could I know God in such a great and powerful way in one moment and then seemingly find such a cataclysmic lack of His potency in another?
After much thought I came to the conclusion that I had not actually invested in a true relationship with God after all, but had been overly dependent on others for my Christian walk. My error in judgment went back even farther than this last group of believers. I realized that throughout my entire Christian experience I had sought out qualified mentors and then mimicked their spiritual success as a sign of Christian devotion. However to depend on others for the answer when I had been granted my own access to the one true God was tantamount to spiritual suicide. Said in another way;
Because I didn’t go to God first, confusion dominated much of my Christian walk.
Yes, Jesus had made Himself known to me in salvation, but like the eleven-year-old boy, I hadn’t taken the time to read the instructions. The result was an improper trust in man to move me along in my faith rather than a healthy dependency and trust in what Jesus could deliver all by Himself.
This pattern of improper dependence on others is not mine alone and can be found in most every religion on earth. What is created are all sorts of disconnected religious agendas, each one proclaiming that they must be the one true way.
I then started to look more closely at the subject of Christianity. Was there a reason that the Church was also so divided? Shouldn’t we be participating in a singular expression of Christ; so why all the factions? Then another question gripped my heart, “If the Church was so divided in their definition of true Christianity, could it be that I myself had missed a healthy foundation for knowing God?”
Is it possible that even in the Church I could have believed in another god?
This question was intriguing and at the same time scared me to death. To come to the conclusion that I may have not known a pure expression of Jesus was overwhelming. Based on that earth shaking inquiry I became motivated to find an answer, but where could I go for a clear perspective? That’s when I came across something Paul the Apostle once wrote and it confirmed my suspicions.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
Another jesus? A different spirit? A different gospel?
Paul was certainly speaking to me now.
This shook me to the very core of my being. Too many encounters with other men’s gods had left me wounded, alone and falling headlong into religious delusions. In short order, I began to see how spiritually bankrupt I really was and I became frantic for answers. What I now needed more than anything was a way to make sure that the One True Savior was my only savior. For the first time in my life all I could do was cry out to Him for help.
“Jesus, I can’t find you, would you come find me!”
What a powerful request that turned out to be. All my life I had been pursuing God, as if by my own strength and reason I could find Him. Yet He was able to make Himself known without my prompting. In this way, salvation and the continued unfolding of His plans could be His gift to me, rather than my religious obligation to Him. It would now be my highest call to wait upon Jesus and allow Him to be the one that adds true purpose, meaning and spiritual depth to my life.
Defining the Foundation
This transition was an important move for me. I was now determined to understand Christianity for myself. Christian ministry, practice, and doctrine where certainly a part of what needed to be looked at, but it really all hinged on whether I could first grasp the very basics of the Gospel.
Prior to this day I could have summed up the salvation message based on four spiritual laws.
- Jesus loves me.
- I’m sinful and separated from God.
- Jesus is the way for me to return to God.
- I must receive Jesus as Savior.
Yet this didn’t answer the need within me for a continued move toward Christian maturity; a way to become more like Christ. To my amazement I was missing a significant piece of the puzzle. As it turns out a fifth spiritual law was necessary in order for me to put on the nature and character of Jesus. Galatians 2:20 brought this to light:” I have died with Christ.”
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This scripture and many more just like it were stating that Jesus’ death on the Cross was also the place of my death! No, I didn’t die physically, but rather Jesus supernaturally took me into His own death so that I could also have access to His life.
Now hopefully you can see the benefit, but also the problem. Prior to this remarkable discovery I had spent too much time trying to make faith work; it had been my strength and discernment that was improperly calling the shots. I had inappropriately added rituals and concepts to my faith that eventually proved to be more destructive then good. These can best be described as agreements or contracts that had held me captive to a natural way of thinking rather than a trust in the mind and heart of Jesus. When this reality sunk in, I shook my head in disbelief because I knew I had given my authority away a hundred times over. Recognizing that all those choices were religious in nature and carried spiritual weight, I began to call upon the Holy Spirit to lead me out of the web of bad choices.
Talk About a Cure!
Romans 6:11(KJV) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As a believer who had lost touch with Christian reality, I had many questions about how to get back to a simple faith. Those questions were soon resolved by the presence of a living and active Gospel. As the Holy Spirit prompted me to recognize my death with Christ I caught on to what He was saying: “Dead people are no longer owned by anything —- especially bad contracts.” If I have died with Christ then the strongholds that have once held me captive can fall away. All that was required of me was a willingness to let go of my past ideas about life, love and commitment and agree with His way of transformation. I promptly began to declare freedom from all sorts of issues that needed a redeeming breath from God.
“God, I recognize that I died with you to being improperly owned by this person, that contract (agreement) or that power.
Yet that is only half the benefit: once I let the Cross separate me from my former way of life, the resurrection power of God began to move in my heart, mind and actions. Jesus raised me up into a new and living way that was empowered by His Spirit.
God had just showed me the secret to the transformed life.
This one revelation became pivotal and changed everything I had previously known about the Christian walk. It transformed a dead religion into a vibrant relationship with the Son of God and made me realize that only Jesus by His Spirit was able to bring this about.
Colossians 2:12b … having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The delightful freedom I was now enjoying was the result of my death with Christ and His ability to make all things new.
In the pages ahead I want to tell you how I began to experience that freedom on a daily basis. It’s a story that in part tells of my experiences with a small group of believers, but in reality it could just as easily be speaking of similar dynamics found in all of Christendom. A wonderful hope has been revealed in the Person of Jesus and there is not a day that goes by that I do not thank Him for leading me,
“Out from the Shadow of other Gods.”
Free PDF Version ———————- Send an E-mail message to [email protected] and in the “subject” heading abbreviate the title. I’ll send it shortly.
- Out From the Shadow of Other God’s = OFS
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