Once I opened up Spurgeon's book on prayer, and read a short ways in, I came upon this:
"I would ask anyone here who has found Christ to bear witness that God heard his prayer. I do not believe that among the damned in Hell there is one who dares say, 'I sought the Lord and He rejected me.' There shall not be found, at the last day of account, one single soul that can say, 'I knocked at Mercy's door, but God refused to open it.' There shall not stand before the Great White Throne a single soul that can plead, "O Christ, I would have been saved by You, You would not save me! I gave myself up into Your hands, but You did reject me. I penitently asked for mercy of You, but I had it not.' Everyone that asks receives. It has been so until this day-- it will be so till Christ Himself shall come. If you doubt it try it and if you have tried it try it again."
I knew God was speaking to me when I read this. Those were my exact thoughts. Thoughts I hadn't expressed to anyone but answers to those thoughts I was desperately searching for. And then again:
"Do you feel yourself as if you were shut out from God altogether? --that matter not, either-- 'knock, and it shall be opened unto you, for everyone that asks receives.' "
My constant feelings of this wall between me and God were acknowledged and told to ignore and press forward. Who could know this was an issue for me but God? Spurgeon continued, posing that some of us might be saying this:
" 'I have been crying to God a long while for salvation. I have asked, I have sought and I have knocked, but it has not come yet.' "
My long agony and constant begging was acknowledged. It was as if he was speaking to me directly. As I realized this was all applying to me, I wanted to know what the answer to my issues were though. Why had I never been saved all those days I had asked?
"Now you have been asking God to save you--do you expect Him to save you without your believing . . . ? "
It was here I realized that I believed in the resurrection of Jesus and that he and God were one. I believed it, but I didn't believe I would be saved- God wouldn't save me. I just knew it. That was my issue. Spurgeon continued:
"But how am I to know that I am saved?" asked one. God says, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." Have you believed? . . .If so, you are saved. How do I know that? On the best evidence in all the world --God says you are-- do you need an evidence but that? 'I want to feel this.' Feel! Are your feelings better than God's witness? . . . I have no evidence this day that I dare trust in concerning my salvation but this -- that I rest on Christ alone with all my heart, soul, and strength.
Every time I had prayed, I had waited on a feeling, hoping I would feel saved. But I began to realize that feelings account for nothing. You can feel good about sin, but that doesn't make it okay. Feelings change so often. As I continued on, he said:
'I have asked for faith,' says one. Well, what do you mean by that? To believe in Jesus Christ is the gift of God, but it must be your own act as well. . . . You must believe for yourself or be lost! Trust in Him and you are saved, and your prayer is answered!
And I realized that's what had hindered me all this time. My disbelief. And my reliance upon feeling some magical way once I finished praying- hoping to have warm fuzzies inside. That's not what has to happen though in order to be saved.
So that very day when I finished reading the chapter, I prayed for the last time for salvation. I was tired of my habitual sins. I desperately wanted a new heart. And I finally believed God's Word about salvation. And no, I didn't experience magical feelings, but I knew in my heart this time that salvation had come to me. I knew God had heard, and I noticed a difference in my viewpoint of life automatically. The fears I had about death were gone. I wasn't the least bit concerned about catching the virus from this pandemic. I wasn't worried about flying anymore. In fact, that's one of the first things I thought of- finally flying because I no longer was afraid to die in a plane crash. If I died, I died. No loss. I had finally been assured of my salvation- for twenty years I had doubted, and it was gone! All of a sudden. No more doubts. No more fears.
I held back sharing my testimony for awhile because I wanted to see evidence of my salvation and behold fruit as confirmation because feelings don't define truth. God has revealed so many things to me and even now has required me to give up things I never would have imagined. I am thankful for my salvation and have no regrets. I am thankful for Spurgeon and Pink's life who helped lead me to salvation, but most of all my parents who knew I was lost and prayed constantly for me. I don't doubt that it was perhaps hours every week for quite some time. I'm thankful for their persistent prayers. I am thankful that God drew me to Him by using these four individuals to bring me to Christ. I cannot imagine living my life deceived and saying ending up in hell, being one of those saying, "Lord but didn't we do all these things in your name?" and His response with, "I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity." What an awful end that would have been. Perhaps you are like I was- deceived. Consider your salvation carefully. Consider your fruits. Are they real? I wish all who are deceived would come to know the truth. There's salvation for you too.
I was recently saved a few weeks ago after being deceived for many years about my profession of faith at ten. Although my parents didn't become believers until I was nine or even start attending church until then, the majority of my life I was in church and did what I was told to. And I do want to say that I believe it is extremely difficult for children who come from a Christian background to actually come to Christ- more difficult than for those in the world.
I say this because we can spit out Bible verses and knowledge about why we believe in what we do, but we can't understand the extent of our sin. I make a blanket statement because it's something I noticed for the majority of second generation "Christians" who are most likely deceived into believing they have a real faith, like I was, but don't. Because these second generation kids grew up doing things the "right" way, they have no way to fully understand how offensive their sin is- they can know it in their mind but not feel it in their heart. There's typically no guilt because we tend to think that we're not as a bad as the alcoholic, drug user, or sexually immoral. We've never ventured out to do those taboo sins, so the guilt we feel over "lesser" sins is typically non-existent.
Jesus wrote two parables about us. The prodigal son parable mirrors our parents who were deeply engrossed in sin but repented. The brother who had always been with the father and was upset at the celebration over his brother is us who have grown up in a Christian home and have no understanding of our sin. We've never had a celebration because we aren't saved. We consider ourselves righteous and in need of nothing because we have always done what God would expect from us.This concept is also mirrored in Luke 7, with the parable of the two debtors. The first was deep in debt to the moneylender, equivalent to a deeply excessive sinful lifestyle, while the other was in debt but not as much. The one who was forgiven of his excessively sinful lifestyle felt extreme gratitude while the other did not because he could not comprehend that his sin was just as bad. Jesus spoke this to the righteous Pharisee who had the same attitude. It takes a deep unveiling to remove that blinder from our eyes to see the truth.
This was my very problem. I didn't understand my sin with my heart- I felt like I hadn't really done much wrong- I just knew in my heart that it was wrong to commit sin and that God disapproved of it. Beyond that was a mystery to me.
About a year ago I had considered leaving the faith and the ramifications of that. But at that point in time, strangely, I assumed that line of thinking was due to my lack of Bible reading and praying, which was non-existent at that time. Three months later, I came to the conclusion that I was actually lost because I had no guilt over sin or conviction over it. My profession of faith as a ten year old had no idea of the gravity of sin, and I knew that one could not come to Christ without acknowledging that. It was at that point in time that I made a decision I would never abandon the faith, and I would pursue salvation until I received it.
My main concern was that I had no grief over my sin. I didn't understand it. If I wanted to be saved at that moment, I couldn't be because I was lacking that one thing. Why would God decline that ability from me when I wanted it? So I prayed everyday for salvation and for remorse. I felt nothing for a long time. And then the night terrors began. I'd wake up in the middle of the night upset over the weight of my sin and how I couldn't get out of that cycle. It felt like a literal burden. Every day I'd attempt to do better, and everyday I would fail. So every night I'd be upset about my sin. I still didn't feel like I understood sin though as I wasn't in tears over my sin, which isn't a necessity, but once again, I had deluded myself into thinking I needed to feel something more.
As I prayed for my salvation on a regular basis, I sought out books on salvation to help me understand what I was doing wrong because I'd pray and not feel saved, as if it didn't work. And nothing was working, and I was scared. I felt a barrier between God and I that I could not pass through no matter how hard I tried. I started to become like those people famous reformers and pastors talked about in the congregation that believed God didn't want to save them and would not. They were not the chosen. And I firmly began to believe that. I was in earnest- desperate to find God.
So I went to the Christian giants of our faith because they knew something about salvation and spoke words about it that I knew were truth. They didn't sugar coat how to be saved. They said it like it was. And I knew they could guide me when nobody else could. I read a book on salvation, actually two, by A.W. Pink, which confirmed I was not saved because I hadn't experienced guilt over my sin- which is something the majority of preachers today will not tell you. It's misleading many into hell. You cannot simply believe in Jesus or be saved in a moment whenever you feel like it. That's not how it works. You come to God begging and pleading- just as the Bible says that people take the Kingdom of God by force and that it comes with great wrestling.
Despite this acknowledgement, it still didn't usher forth my salvation, or so I thought. And this concerned me even more. I didn't think I would ever be saved, but I kept trying. One day I happened upon a collection of Spurgeon's books. I had loved his quotes and felt like perhaps I should see what he had to say about salvation. Instead of finding a book on that though, I stumbled upon his book on prayer and thought, well it doesn't say salvation, but I'll read it anyway. It ended up initially being about salvation. And every thought I had had for the past few weeks mulling around in my mind was answered. It was like God was speaking to me through that book . . . .
It seems that Christians today are so flippant about holiness. We seem to have made it into a game to see how much we can get by with without actually sinning. How much can we drink before we get drunk? Let's drink to that limit. Let's have a Bible study at the bar and just not get drunk or indulge in inappropriate talk while those around us do. How about we watch a movie with sexual content and just fast forward through the inappropriate scenes?
All of these little exceptions to the rule have seeped into Christianity and made it useless to even call oneself a Christian.
God demands holiness, and it was first noted in the law given to the Israelites, God mentions that the first fruits of one's labor are His, and the firstborn children are as well. Even though this was an Old Testament command geared towards the Israelites, one can see just how important being wholly devoted to God actually was. In fact, it expands more so into everyday life as well, not just tithing and children. Exodus 22:31 states, "You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs." The list of requirements ends with a very generic statement that these people belong to Him and therefore must be dedicated in every way to Him.
If God was concerned about every bit of the Israelites' lives being devoted solely to Him, how much more every aspect of our lives?
Of course, we may not need to devote our firstborns to the ministry or eat special foods, but God's example of what holiness looks like is something not mirrored in today's society of "Christians." These ridiculous notions that entertaining some inappropriate content at times and not at others is absurd. God would never condone that! When we give our lives to Christ it's an all or nothing situation. It's not, "Let me abstain from sex until marriage but watch porn in the meantime." It's not, "I won't watch Game of Thrones, but I will watch R-rated movies." It's not, "Let me have God on the side and spend the majority of my time doing whatever I want."
God wants all of us or none of us. There's no in between. If we can't give God our all, are we true believers? If we look so much like the world, are we actually lost?
Count the cost of giving God your all. Giving your all means turning from the things of the world. It means setting aside our need for constant entertainment. It means setting aside our desires for His desires, no matter the cost. Are you willing to count the cost and make the change?
Young people tend to get so caught up in the present. We tend to think that life will always be as it is- happy and carefree. But we live in a fallen world, and that's not the case. There's a judgment day coming sooner than we think. As I was reading back to one of my favorite classic series, Anne of Green Gables, in Anne of the Island we see Anne's friends all grown up and going about their lives. In particular there's one girl we have watched grow up named Ruby Gillis. Ruby is about twenty, and she's dying. Lucy Maud Montgomery chose to portray death in her novel, and she captured it quite well. As Anne sorrowfully reflects Ruby's life, discussing Ruby's fear of death and desire to stay on earth instead of pass on to eternal life:
“I can’t help it,” said Ruby pitifully. “Even if what you say about heaven is true—and you can’t be sure—it may be only that imagination of yours—it won’t be JUST the same. It CAN’T be. I want to go on living HERE. I’m so young, Anne. I haven’t had my life. I’ve fought so hard to live—and it isn’t any use—I have to die—and leave EVERYTHING I care for.” Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She WAS leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life—the things that pass—forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives . . .
Ruby was so focused on boys, parties, and fashion, that she never took the time to get eternal matters straightened out. And if she had, she wouldn't have cared so much about those things at all:
"Heaven could not be what Ruby had been used to. There had been nothing in her gay, frivolous life, her shallow ideals and aspirations, to fit her for that great change, or make the life to come seem to her anything but alien and unreal and undesirable. Anne wondered helplessly what she could say that would help her."
And here Ruby was in the story at death's door. She had wasted her time on silly things. Today's generation of silly things would be selfies, social media, one upping others, posting our possessions, buying the latest and greatest technology. All things that don't matter in the scheme of things. Ruby's frivolity was different, but still, she hadn't thought of getting right with God until the end. Unfortunately the book claims that being a church member saved Ruby from hell, but in if this were a real story, Ruby would have ended up in hell as she never took the time to repent and see how ridiculous her life was.
And it's Lucy Maud Montgomery's story that makes death such a real concept for those who are young and unaffected much by it. It could happen to us sooner than we think. And what will become of you when you have to face death with a guilty conscience?
The partying, drugs, sexually immoral lifestyle, and other sins will be judged. Although they may seem fun right now, it's a temporary pleasure that's exchanged for eternal pain and gloom.
Contrary to the popular saying that one would rather be in hell with friends rather than Heaven with none, your friends will not be talking and laughing with you in hell. You will be in so much pain you will most likely be unable to talk. The screams and anguish will most likely be deafening without the ability to hear a word spoken. Hell is full of constant torment. How would you have time for fun? What here on earth is worth eternal pain?
The things we may do now because we don't think we will die young or soon could be what dooms us. That indulgence in sin could be our last indulgence. And if professing believers are indulging in habitual sin, be wary that you might actually end up hell, finding that you were not a true believer!
I say these things with an imploring and sorrowful heart. I have had a couple of people pass on, not young, but still heartbreaking, and it was a gentle reminder about preparing my heart for my eternal home, not to think so much about the material things I have or concern myself with work constantly, but to be truly focused on desiring God's word, praying constantly, and leading a life that reveals such. Those things are eternal, and when I get to my home in Heaven, I will not regret that I didn't indulge in worldly sins. What I will regret is that I didn't store treasure in Heaven sooner.
If you're not saved, I would encourage you to get right with God before it's your last day. For those who are, I would encourage you to surround yourself more with the house of mourning than the house of feasting to understand the gravity of eternity. To situate your mind on the eternal and prepare for that day we look forward to.
God gives each person a different trial to go through, and part of overcoming that trial and seeing victory is the ability to overcome complaining and self-pity.
I remember one time seeing the social media page of a young woman who was particularly sad at her inability to find a spouse. She grieved over her lack of love, understandably so, but it wasn't just once in a blue moon, it was often. When she finally received the desire of her heart, a spouse, everyone was joyous for her. But alas, once she was married she started to grieve over her inability to have children. That became her all-consuming thought, infiltrated the majority of her posts, and I don't remember ever seeing anything really but complaints about not being a mother.
I wondered if she realized how odious she had become. Did she even have any friends? All she talked about was what she didn't have. It was always about her. Her grief. Her loss. And yet, at the same time, I thought of all of those people out their suffering silently. Those who harbor deep depression. I thought of my great aunt, suffering a terrible weight, carrying a heavy load knowing her husband had been diagnosed with a fatal disease and only had a year left to live, and yet when I saw her face after this diagnosis, it was full of kindness and gentleness. You would have never known what pain she was going through. Or a friend's mother suffering with cancer. She bears it so well, only thinking of others. She never complains. Yes, she updates everyone on her progress, but she doesn't keep the focus on herself, when she has every right to. For those who bear their burdens alone, who will be there for them when we are so consumed with our pain? What will our God say to us when we could have prevented the suicides of people around us, but failed to do so because we constantly complained and focused on that miserable pain in the back we'd had for a decade? What good are we as Christians when we focus on self-pity?
In comparison to death and trauma, some of the trials we face are miniscule. They are not dismissed by God as trivial, but God doesn't want us to dwell on a trial to the point where it consumes us. That is not God-glorifying. It is called complaining, whining, and self-pity, all ungodly character traits. And unfortunately it seems that this is all too common amongst Christians with the easy access of social media. It is much easier to put our heart on our sleeve instead of standing strong in Christ, bearing our burdens gracefully, incorporating a prayer group for the times when we feel like we will fail.
Consider this: Is the trial that I am facing, big or small, a hindrance to my testimony? Here are some ways to test this:
1.) Does almost everything I post, or every message I write discuss the trial I'm facing? If so, you have become focused on self instead of God. It's time to redirect your focus.
2.) Have friends dropped off the face of the earth ever since I began experiencing this trial? It could be because they don't want to bear your burden, but most likely it is because the relationship centers on you as the focus.
3.) Do I post just to receive sympathetic comments? Do I secretly enjoy the attention? If so, this is a red flag that the focus is off God and on you.
4.) What am I doing with my trial to impact others for Christ? Can you think of something beneficial to do with your trial? There's always a way to reach out to others with the same trial to encourage them.
Take a step back to reflect on self-pity versus suffering. As Christians, we will endure suffering. That is certain. God wants us though to take up our cross. Instead of complaining, seek God out continuously and help lighten the burdens of others. Use your trial for God's glory and as an example to others.
An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah mentions the false prophecies being prophesied within Israel and the poor instruction of the priests. All the prominent leaders are doing their own thing and instructing the Israelites to do things that were not pleasing to God. Based upon previous passages in Scripture, it was probably obvious to the Israelites that the instruction was bad or misleading, and they most likely chose to pretend like the information they were given was accurate. That also seems to be the case when God says, "My people love to have it so."
And wouldn't people love it if our actions were condoned instead of condemned? What if the police officer stopped you for speeding and said, "You were going 60 in a 40, when the horsepower of your car shows me you could have been going a lot faster. Don't let that vehicle go to waste. Use it and enjoy its abilities." What if your boss for a major corporation caught you sleeping on the job and said, "I get it. I do it too. Gotta catch up on sleep sometime. Just make sure to get your daily work done, and you can sleep as long as you want!" You'd feel good about these reassurances to do wrong disguised as good. Speeding impacts others around you and could be deadly. It should never be condoned. Sleeping on the job means you're stealing time from the company- it doesn't matter what your boss says unless he personally owns the company.
So yes, we would love to hear others affirming our sins and allowing us to commit them instead of feeling shameful, and that's what the world does to us today. The world says things like "Porn is okay. Everyone watches it. It's healthy. View it." or "Monogamy is old school. Polyamory is socially tolerable now. Try it out." We have the choice to give into the world's ideas or to refrain, but as God reminded the Israelites, "But what will you do when the end comes?"
Sin does provide pleasure for a limited amount of time. It ends. It grows old. It leaves you hanging. Suddenly that high you had on it or the happiness you received from it is gone, and you keep chasing it, but it's not the same anymore. Some of y'all might not get to that point though. What happens when your life is shortened unexpectedly?
It can happen. I'm a fairly healthy-looking 20-something who recently found noticed my birthmark was beginning to grow abnormally. I figured it wasn't a big deal, but I went and had it checked out, which led to a biopsy and a surgery all within a couple of weeks. The abnormal growth was the most severe form, and I was told it would have led to melanoma cancer had it not been removed. Some people experience abnormal skin cells that could potentially lead to cancer, but the site is a mild form, unlike mine. I had the worst case. I could have developed cancer and not known it for quite some time. I rarely look at that birthmark, but God allowed me to examine it one day and notice something wasn't right before it became a serious issue.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. One moment you think you're young and invincible, and then the next God shows you that that's not the case. What happens when you fulfill your sinful desires only to realize you made a mistake and your life has been cut off short? What happens when you die in sin, and you wake up at the judgment seat? It's too late to repent.
God reminded the Israelites of this. Yes, you have the choice. The choice to keep on sinning or to stop and follow God. But if they chose to keep it up, God warned them of the consequences- the end outcome. Eternity in hell.
Time is short. God is gracious, and He gives us chances. But sometimes enough is enough, and there are no more. I would urge you to stop the sin. It's not worth it. Pick up the cross of Christ. That is worth it, and it's something I don't regret.
One thing I've noticed about the mind is that it says many things that are true and many that are untrue. One of the biggest lies the mind perpetuates is that God will stop forgiving us, that He will simply cut off His love for us no matter how hard we beg His forgiveness. I've heard stories from people who didn't believe God wanted to save them or that they just weren't part of the elect, and no matter how hard they begged, they didn't believe God heard their prayer. And for some this may seem silly, but for others who are struggling and wondering if God will forgive them, you might be thinking this too.
He could just suddenly stop forgiving us. After all, the Bible talks about how God has the ability to do as He pleases with us because He made us (Rom. 9.21). So this would follow that idea. He isn't obligated to forgive us. We are considered unworthy and undeserving of forgiveness, so it would follow that God could suddenly take his mercy from us and choose not to forgive us. Right?
You can breathe a sigh of relief. The book of Jonah tells a much different story about forgiveness. If you remember, Jonah refused to obey God, was punished, and then restored. Jonah was forgiven, despite the fact that he purposefully disobeyed God and had no intention of obeying God until God created dire circumstances. When Jonah was at his weakest, though undeserving, God heard Jonah's prayer and forgave him. I know what you're thinking. Well that was one story. One example. Maybe Jonah was the exception.
Let's take a closer look.
Remember the Israelites before they left Egypt? They cried out to God for help. He saved them. Remember when David was fleeing Saul? He prayed to God to save him, and God responded and did so. Remember the evil king named Manasseh? One day he was extremely sorrowful for his sins, and God forgave him. And what about those Ninevites? The evil Assyrians? God forgave them once they tore their cloaks and repented of their sins. If you look at all of the stories of people who cried out to God in repentance, God saved them. He never says "No."
But the Bible does say that there is a time when God will not hear the cries of those who call out, and that's reserved for those who purposely live in sin, unremorseful. Sin separates us from God, and if we hold onto it, God won't listen to our cries for forgiveness. This is written about numerous times, "If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psm. 66.18).
Notice the key term: repentance. So if your mind tells you God won't forgive you, ask yourself if it's because you're dwelling in unconfessed sin. If that's not in, then your mind is fooling you- a ploy of Satan to get you to live a life of misery with a disconnect in communication with God. If you're one of the penitent ones, then you have the Bible to reflect back on and recognize that everyone who called out to God for forgiveness, repenting of their sins, was heard and forgiven.
It's as simple as that. God's love is so great that He won't purposely slam the door on us. He won't say "No" to a sinner begging at His feet. As long as you are alive on this earth, God extends His mercy to the truly sorrowful.
God will forgive the penitent sinner!