Wednesday, January 6, 2016

THE NARROW PATHWAY






          This is for those who may have taken only a few tentative steps on that narrow pathway called Christianity and for some who may have been walking this wonderful way for many years.  I also write this for those who have not discovered the door, but can hear a gentle knock which bids them to open it.

          I know there are as many different stories about how one received their salvation, as there are Christians to tell them.  My purpose in this writing is to stir up that pure mind, the one which has been renewed and brought about the transformation which Paul spoke about; Rom: 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

          What about your own experience?  Was there a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder; or did you hear Angels singing and rejoicing?  Perhaps God spoke to you in an audible voice, welcoming you into His family.

          Before you knelt to pray for that forgiveness God made available to us, were you convicted by the Holy Ghost of your sinful condition?  Did you feel your heart break inside your chest?  Did you fully understand the awesomeness of the one that you were about to speak with?  Did you experience the drawing of God's Spirit, encouraging you to continue on in the direction you had started?  Maybe you could feel the heat as the flames of Hell licked at your feet.  I've heard such stories out of the mouth of others, and all I could do was relive my own experience and compare it to the events that they had related to me.

          I've heard people say, "I REALLY got saved!"  As if there were levels of salvation.  But, for most, the transformation was not instantaneous, from sinner to full fledged, mature Christian, preaching, witnessing, going out on visitation one or two evenings a week.  Some know a state of total shock as they begin to grasp the changes that have taken place in them.  They might even go so far as to question or doubt that anything at all has happened to them.

          Did you feel different after praying to God for forgiveness?  The only sensation I recognized was as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  Some might scoff at that claim, stating that sin doesn't weigh anything at all, so how could you feel its absence?  I would answer that by saying that I believe Jesus died from a crushed heart.  Hanging there on that cross, Jesus became sin, our sin.  The weight of it crushed His heart and it burst.  That is why when that Roman soldier thrust his spear into his side, blood and water gushed out.  The pericardium is a sack of membrane that surrounds the human heart, and that sack is filled with fluid.  The only way blood could be in the same sack is if the heart ruptured.  So you tell me, does sin have weight?

          For some, the first thing they notice is an improvement in vision.  Things look different.  I can't explain it, but I had that experience.  The simplest way I can attempt to explain it, is that my focus was changed.  I didn't look at others the same way.  My attitude was not one of judgementalism.  They looked like brothers and sisters to me.  God's creations, on their way to being better creatures or worse creatures.  But, I knew that none of them were hopeless. They all had potential, potential to see the truth, to repent and be saved, just like me.  Some of them were sinners, I knew that, but the only difference between them and myself was that I was a "SAVED" sinner.  I had accomplished the HARD part, through the mercy and grace of God.

          Inside, I felt different.  When I looked at others, all I could think about was the fact that they needed salvation, and if they would listen to me, I could tell them what they were missing.  Some did listen, but the telling didn't come all that easy.  I felt ignorant, ignorant of the specifics I needed to know to explain to them what they really needed to know.  I suppose God could have given me revelation knowledge, where all I had to do was open my mouth and He would supply the words.  That has happened to me since, but only after I had matured a little as a Christian.

          It's kind of strange, the phases some go through in their development. It compares to a child growing from infant to toddler, to teenager, to young adult, to fully-grown and slightly matured adult.  And you know what I have come to realize; growth depends upon what you feed your spirit and how much you feed it.  Spiritual growth has no reference to God's Spirit.  His Spirit is as mature and powerful as it will ever be.  It's that spirit within you, that unfamiliar something which you ignored all your life.  That oppressed power within which you kept subdued for so long, no matter how it struggled to be free, to be given some recognition for the contribution it could make to your existence, if you would only allow it to.

          Not everything you felt inside at various times was the result of emotions. We are told that love is an emotion, but some say that God is love and we know that He is a Spirit.  So, I would submit to you, there were times when you allowed your spirit some freedom, and the result, you attributed to feelings of love.  Have you discovered yet, that after you were saved, suddenly you were able to love those who had been unlovable before?  It's a wonderful awakening, and you can't take one bit of credit for it.  It's that rejuvenated spirit within, fueled by God's Spiritual power.  Every time you allow your spirit to commune with God, it grows in strength and influence.  It gets easier to override the desires of your flesh, to push it aside while your spirit gets some exercise.

          Being a Born-again Believer is an existence of extremes. You are either on the mountain tops or way down in a valley, seldom is there any in between.  It is a truth I have experienced in my own walk, and if I thought there was any way for me to exert my own influence to maintain a desired level, I would be vaulting from mountain top to mountain top, never touching those valleys.

          Let's talk about God's Word, the Bible.  Before I was Born-again, it was a dead book, full of meaningless stories, not worth the time it would take to read it all.  Three days had passed since I had "prayed through" to eternal life.  I was at work, and I walked back into the most remote part of the plant, to be by myself and to think about what had happened and was still happening to me.

          There was a homemade toolbox sitting against the wall, and on top of the toolbox was a Bible.  I went over to it and opened it, thumbing through the pages.  I was passing through Psalms, and as I got to the 23rd one, I paused and allowed the Bible to lay flat.  I started to read those familiar words, and suddenly, they were not just words anymore.  Every syllable brought a reaction deep within myself and I could actually feel the words as they registered in my mind.  The words were accompanied by mental images, so vivid, it was like taking a journey through Bible Land at an amusement park.

          The Bible says in Jms: 1:5: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
As time passed, I began to have an unquenchable hunger for the Word of God. I devoured it, eagerly, and if I came to a scripture that I believed to be important for my life's direction and I lacked full understanding of its meaning, I would do exactly what that scripture instructed.  I don't know why God uses the means he does to give us that understanding, but His methods are endless.  Some times the answer comes in lightning quick revelation, even when you are thinking of or involved in something else.  At other times, another scripture will bring understanding or perhaps some Preacher just happens to have picked that matter, for which you lacked understanding, to preach about while you are listening.  It's not coincidence, it's God fulfilling His promise to us.

          Jn:3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  I've often wondered about those who claim the title of Christian and yet, will not admit to having ever been Born-again.  They have had some kind of mind experience or have made a public profession of faith and shook hands with a Pastor and their name was added to the membership roll.

          Jn: 3:5: Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Jn: 3:6: That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jn: 3:7: Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Rom.9: 9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Jn:6:44: No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
2Cor:5:17: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

          These are just a few of my favorite verses concerning salvation and being born again.  The last verse I submitted for consideration; 2Cor: 5:17 has long been of a particular concern for myself.  It is true that I have become a new creature, but I find that some old things have not passed away and all things have not become new.  Those facts have caused me many hours of prayerful thought and given me cause to question where I was in Christ, because the beginning of that verse says Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. 

          There is an old song which says I took off the old coat and put on the new, which refers to the conversion experience.  I used to say it was as if I took some of the things that were in the pockets of the old coat and put them into the new coat before I put it on.  If that verse is taken literally, accepting it for exactly what it seems to say, then one can only arrive at one of two conclusions.  Either what that verse says is not true or a lot of us are not in Christ and Christ is not in us and we have fallen short of true salvation or we only believe that we have been born again.

          No one can convince me that I have not been reconciled with God, that Jesus Christ is not my Savior, that God doesn't hear me when I pray and answers my prayers, I know the Holy Spirit of God.  He and I commune with one another daily.  God speaks to my heart and what He says to me is not that I haven't quite gotten there.   In fact, the opposite is true.  If I ever have reason to doubt my salvation, for whatever the reason, God's Spirit witnesses to my spirit and continually reassures me that I am now a Child of God.  A person does know, beyond doubt, that they have been born again.

          As I said before, if you don't understand a certain scripture, ask God to give you the understanding and He will find a way to give you wisdom in the matter.  One must be able to rightly divide the Word.  God uses it many times to give understanding.  That is why Bible Study is so important.  It is as vital to a Christian as prayer.  As I also said, the changes that occur to a born again believer are not normally instantaneous.  They will take place over time.  But the scriptures tell us we can have what we say and that faith functions when we speak of things which are not yet, as if they already were.

  Heb:11:1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
 Heb:10:38: Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Heb:12:1: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
  Rom:7:15: For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16: If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17: Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19: For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20: Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21: I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22: For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

          Here is a perfect example, showing the importance of knowing what the scriptures would say to us.  Paul was no different than myself.  He knew what a great battle takes place within us.  Could anyone deny that Paul was a new creature after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that day.  He became a new creature.  With his mind, he served God.  That is where the transformation takes place.  (See page #1, Rom:12:2)  The new creature will crucify his flesh each day to fulfill the description given, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW. OLD THINGS WILL PASS AWAY.          No matter how mature we grow as Christians, the flesh will always desire to sin, and there will be times when it will win the victory and we will sin. 
1Jn:1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If, after our conversion and we are born again, we believe that we can not sin, then the above verse has no truth in application to our walk as a Christian and no place in our life.  Jesus didn't say that it would be easy but He did say that He would never leave us, "For low, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the earth."

lst Corinthians Chapter 13:
1: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2: And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3: And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5: Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8: Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10: But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

          That which you have just finished reading describes the condition of the heart and mind of a true believer, a born-again individual.  Faith, hope and charity (Love) are the three forces which govern our new Christian walk.  They are tools that we must learn to use properly.  So many of us become skillful in the use of one of these forces, but seldom do we master all three. We do not receive them set on automatic pilot but they are put at our disposal, to be used as best we can. 

Clarence Bowles



Copyright 1999, Clarence Bowles
All rights reserved.  Reproductions without the author's express permission are prohibited.

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