Having grown up in a Christian family, I can't remember a time when I didn't know about God. So I found it confusing when I was seeking salvation. How did I know when I was 'saved'? After all, I had always believed that God was real--admitted I was a sinner--that Jesus had to save me so I could be reconciled to God. I knew the Gospel well.
What was it that I had to do to be saved?
Because I knew, very clearly, that though I went to church every Sunday, helped to serve, sang hymns, did my devotions, and prayed sincerely, that I wasn't actually a Christian, that something vitally important about my heart was missing. I looked at the Christians around me and knew that though perhaps, judging from outward actions, I might appear quite similar, God was somehow 'realer' to them.
God, Jesus, faith, all these were deeply and fiercely personal realities to them rather than the concepts they were to me--much the same way you study chemistry. Of course, you believe diatomic molecules are real, and that they affect things. But they aren't really real to you the way your sibling, a friend, your pet, or even your water bottle--something you see and interact with everyday. You could live perfectly happy and undisturbed without having ever heard of, or understanding, diatomic molecules. You know about them, but they don't actually affect you and your life (unless there's a chemistry exam; I suppose, to continue the analogy, that means death--?)
Of course, as you would know if you read my testimony, it was coming to see my own sin, not just acknowledge it, and truly feel the weight of what it meant to be a sinner, which was the turning point for me. My pursuit of God became more than an uneasy attempt to stop my worries about Hell, and became a deadly earnest pursuit of Life.
' No man can grasp salvation until he is horrified by the works of his hands...
Every man faces a day when guilt transforms from an abstract concept to a soul-crippling infection.'
I thought I knew my Bible pretty well even then, but looking back, I wish I'd read Isaiah 29:13 earlier, and grasped what it meant.
'Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths,
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men...'
Yes, I had feared God, and I had honored Him--but not so much because I really knew Him, as because I knew I should. I worshiped Him merely because I admitted He was my Creator and Master--not because He was worth worshiping, the only thing worth worshiping, because it was a joy and glory to worship Him.
Jonathan Edwards called this the 'true sense of God', something he himself experienced in his own conversion:
'There is not only a rational belief that God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the loveliness of God's holiness. There is not only a speculatively judging [a rational assessment] that God is gracious, but a sense how amiable [lovable/worth loving] God is upon that account, or a sense of the beauty of this divine attribute.'
(Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God)
Having discussed all that, the truth remains that God alone can work this in your heart. After reading this you may realize that's your problem; but the realization isn't the cure. All it can do is help you to pray specifically.
Perhaps you are struggling with this--just as I did once. My heart goes out to you, whoever you are. I know how confused and anguished I felt, feeling as if I knew both everything and nothing, feeling like I was groping in the dark even though I saw the light all around me--but not touching me.
Perhaps you're complacently drifting, content with the external honoring of God, and secure in your sincerity (sincerity isn't enough; you may truly believe a tsunami is coming but what saves you is acting upon that belief. Isn't it?)
Well, I was like that once too.
May your heart be aroused and wakened as mine was, to become discontented with anything superficial, everything less than this 'true sense of God.'
It is transforming. It is empowering. It is freedom, and it is good.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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