God’s word says that we must love and obey God to get to heaven (Matthew 7:21). I have always given a reasonable effort to obey God and for most of my life, the results have always been the same. Sooner or later my willpower would always fail me and the frustration of not really ‘feeling’ Jesus would set in. What was I doing wrong? If the Bible says I should have the fruits of the Spirit, why was I not seeing it? I believed that the Bible was real and I believed that Jesus was the Son of God but I never saw any real changes in me. I didn’t feel a close connection.
When I would hear others talking about hearing from God I couldn’t relate and I often thought they were making it up. When I would hear about other people reading their Bibles, I often wondered how they stayed so disciplined to read something so dry. When I would see Christians seemingly able to follow all of the rules I assumed they had stronger willpower than I had because I failed every time I tried. When I would hear other people talking about their answered prayers I became frustrated and upset. Through the years I had prayed the same things over and over again without results and as time passed I strongly began to wonder if God was even listening.
Most all of my life has been all about me. I chased what I could get, what I could buy, what I could accomplish, and what I could feel. I chased pleasure and I avoided pain. I cared what others thought about me because my image was important. I wanted to be liked and it felt good when I was noticed. A compliment would fill me up and my success would give me joy. On the flip side, there were often moments of sadness and gloom. Without the small victories through compliments or accomplishments, I would feel alone and empty. I would look for ways to get the good feelings back because the darkness would be overwhelming at times. When my team would lose I would be crushed. When Monday rolled around I would feel so defeated. When someone had a critical word it would ruin my day. My emotions went up and down like a rollercoaster depending on life’s circumstances and I tried to do what I could to stay at the peak because my happiness depended on it. I was driven by the external and life was so exhausting. I was like a feather in the wind. I was blown here and there like I was not in charge of my own life. No matter how much I prayed, no matter what preacher I listened to, no matter how much I tried to make the right choices, I never found the abundant life. I thought I was a Christian. I thought I was on the path to heaven. Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Why did I struggle to identify with Christianity for all those years? Why did I feel like I didn’t quite fit in? Why did I care about the same things non-Christians cared about? Why did I not have any power over sin? Why was I not filled with peace and joy? I was not in the vine. I was trying to do Christianity and use my own power to live a Christian life.
After my wife died, when facing something that was far greater than I could handle on my own, something changed inside me. For the first time in my life, God was my most prized possession. I had known of God most all of my life but I finally truly knew Him. I had attended church for 32 years but during my 3 months of grief I received the Holy Spirit. God in my life became an internal desire instead of an external religion.
So what specifically did I do to receive God’s Spirit? Most all of my life I have suffered from a terrible pornography/lust addiction. For years I cried out to God for Him to take it from me but I never gave Him complete control. I tried counseling, I read books, and I tried will power. I finally realized I could not do it without God’s help. Through that realization and through God’s providential wisdom, He sent me a situation that would cause me to fully surrender my life. I got down on my knees with tear filled eyes like a child and cried out to my Father. I asked Him to help me with a sincerity that I had never known. I prayed without ceasing. I called out to Him without holding back. I fully obeyed God for the first time in my life. And because I obeyed God, I received His Spirit (Acts 5:32, John 14:23).
The changes that took place after receiving His Spirit were substantial. I now looked at the world with grief and sorrow. Laughter was replaced with tears. My heart ached for the hurting and I saw the world flying by at an incredible speed. I saw that the devil’s plan was to get us so busy, we couldn’t possibly have time for God. Situations in my life no longer crushed me. Bad weather no longer depressed me. The roller coaster of life turned into a Sunday drive. I had a hope, and a peace, and a joy that did not leave or dissipate. Pornography no longer controlled my life. Possessions no longer mattered to me. I didn’t need to impress people. I had no need for approval from others. When I prayed I heard God speak back. When I read the Bible, I understood God in a whole new way. I had an internal desire and burning passion to know Him more.
If sin controls you, if the world interests you, if joy escapes you, if you struggle to find hope, ask God to have His way in you. If you have not had an undeniable, life changing experience that has totally reshaped your life, you must surrender. Ask God to break you. Ask God to bring you whatever it takes to get you to your knees. I promise you whatever hardship you may suffer or whatever struggle you may face will not compare to the blessings you will receive through the cross of Christ. If you are led by your desires and a friend of the world you don’t know God (James 4:4). If you have God’s Spirit, if you want what He wants, you will have an abundance of peace and joy and you will be saved. Romans 8:14 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”
I have lived the numb life. My heart breaks for those that still live that life. I wouldn’t trade what I have found for anything and if I had to choose between living without Him and dying, I would choose dying every time. How miserable I would be to go back to my old life. It is my greatest desire that everyone feel as special as I feel. Every day is an exciting adventure and every moment is another opportunity to see what God has in store for me next. I am living the dream and this dream is only a foretaste of what is to come. All glory and honor to my Lord Jesus Christ. He is why I live.
John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less."
Romans 8:9 “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”