(This is Segment II of My Faith Journey. If you haven’t yet read the first part, you can look at it here.)
As a young woman struggling to discover myself, I made a lot of mistakes. Not only that, but I fell into disgrace as I became involved in sins that I should have stayed far away from.
When I was about eight years old, I remember accepting Jesus as my Savior, and saying the “Sinner’s Prayer.” And I really meant it. My heart longed for Jesus; to know Him better, and to be pleasing to Him.
Ten years later, I turned my back on the Lord, and denied that I knew Him. My poor choices led to more pain than I thought I could endure. Eventually, there came a point at which I felt I couldn’t deal with the heartache any longer.
disappointed with my life,
and full of doubts about the Christian faith,
I was getting to the point of hopelessness. The problems that I was dealing with felt like a huge Black Hole inside of me, sucking the life out of my soul. I had no rest, night or day–just distractions. I felt like my heart was thinning out, little by little, until nothing but a wisp of me would be left. I no longer had the energy to face my life anymore. I felt that it was beyond repair.
One night, I decided to pick up a book that had been sitting on my shelf for several years, but that I’d never read. Some of my family had sent it to me on my graduation from home education “high school.”
This book is called, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, by Beth Moore.
In this book, the author details how a believer who was once sincerely and wholeheartedly devoted to Christ can fall into the seductions of the devil. Later on, she describes the biblical steps for restoring a right relationship with the Lord, and reinforcing our lives from further temptations. I highly recommend this book to you; it’s a must-read. She references the following verses from the Bible, which serve as the “spine” of her book:
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:2-3
“The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty.” As I read these verses from God’s word, the truth of them pierced right through me. I had been seduced away from Jesus through the cunning craftiness of the powers of darkness. My weak and vulnerable heart had been susceptible to the enemy’s deceit. I had walked right into his trap.
“…so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” My devotion to Christ had been undermined by a slow, corrosive process. Little by little, undetected by me, I had been slowly enticed away from my “Husband,” Christ. At one time, I had loved Him with a sincere, simple, childlike affection. Then, I had been lured away by the things of the world, and by my own sinful tendencies.
Yet, I am confident that I never lost the salvation that had been given to my when I was around eight years old, and had received Jesus as my Savior. A true believer can NEVER lose his/her salvation! Jesus says to us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
You see, there are several classes of “Christians”:
- Those who merely acknowledge the existence of Christ with their minds. This is simply intellectual assent. Even the demons know that Jesus is God. And they tremble. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). These people are not true Christians.
- Those who recognize that Jesus is God and Savior, but who make a superficial, emotional commitment to Him. This is simply emotionalism (read the parable about the Seed Sown in Matthew 13:1-23). These people are not true Christians, either.
- Those who believe in Jesus as their only God and Savior with all the heart and mind, and who wholly commit their lives to Him. This is genuine faith. The realness of their firm decision to follow Christ will be displayed in their actions: “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:43-46). These people are the true Christians! Faith without works IS DEAD! (James 2:14-26) However, they can experience seasons of sifting, during which God tests their faith. Their weaknesses will be revealed, and the impurities will be sifted out of their lives. This process is often painful. And not at all pretty.
Though I was wrestling with doubts regarding the validity of the Bible as God’s word, and whether there was any corroborative historical evidence for Jesus’ existence and supernatural power, I had never really let go of those beliefs! In the deepest part of my heart, I knew those things to be true, and continued to believe them. I had strayed from God temporarily, but my heart longed to be reunited with my Savior. You see, a true believer will not long be able to endure separation from Jesus, Who is the true Vine (see John 15). Jesus is Life, and distancing ourselves from Him drains the life out of us. I was hungry and thirsty for the life that I knew could only be found in Jesus, the Son of God, but I was hesitant to come back to Him. Why? Because of my sin. Because I knew that I had failed Him. God produced in my life the fruit of repentance. If I had absolutely denied Him, I never would have returned. Because I did come back to Him, this shows that the tree had not gone entirely bad. There was still some life. I was really a good tree. A good tree that needed some pruning.
I think of myself as being like Peter. Peter denied Jesus just a short while after he had claimed that he would fight to the death for Him! (John 13:36-38) Peter was on fire for God, but he lacked endurance. Jesus knew this, therefore he said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32; see vv. 33-34). I needed to be sifted, as well. As a teenager, my faith had been genuine, but I lacked stability in my faith. I believe that God allowed me to go through certain circumstances to sift out of my life that which was useless. If I had denied Jesus like Judas, I would have never repented, but would have been swallowed up by remorse. My life would have ended in complete destruction. I was more like Peter, in that I denied Jesus momentarily, but after being devastated by my foolishness, returned to the Savior seeking forgiveness.
Reading the book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, I realized that what had happened to me was not uncommon for Christians. This is war. Satan is actively, viciously, cunningly attacking true believers in Christ. Satan tempts us into infidelity to our “Husband” (Christ), seducing us into all sorts of traps. And our sinful flesh follows the lead. We begin to make up all sorts of rationalizations for why the sins that we are committing are okay. We get further and further away from God’s word and from prayer. Our church attendance starts to slacken, and then stops altogether. That’s when we’re at our weakest. And that’s when the satanic powers of darkness take the opportunity to pounce upon us, and seize us in their grip.
My questions about the Bible and Jesus were valid, and I needed to work through them; but my real problem was rooted in my immaturity, and my lack of trust in God when things didn’t go as I had hoped.
The first step in renewing my faith, then, consisted primarily in finally recognizing the sinfulness of my sin, and in confessing it before God and asking His forgiveness. My doubts about the Bible and Jesus had been, in part, a false front I had erected in order to hide the ugly truth; I had wanted to make my rebellion seem reasonable. When I admitted my wrong to God, the tension of being constantly in opposition to the truth was released. I wept bitterly. I hated what I had done. I hated myself. I wished that I could go back and change (almost) everything.
But out of destruction, God raises us to life. My first son I named Phoenix, to represent my hope in God’s restorative power. Despite the painful situation I had gotten myself into, God had poured out His grace on me, in the form of my son, and later on, by blessing us with our other children. God took the wreckage of my life, and transformed it. He truly is the Redeemer.
After coming to terms with my sin, the next phase of my journey was about to begin: Confronting my doubts and finding answers to my questions. I needed to solidify my faith by training my mind to think through the arguments for and against Christianity logically. My being home educated and raised by Christian parents had laid the foundation. I had been introduced to the fundamentals of the faith. Many of the books I had read had presented very good principles for discerning truth and error. I just hadn’t applied them to my life; I hadn’t internalized them. Now was the time to get serious.
Let me leave you with this thought from one of my other favorite books, which summarizes this section perfectly:
“The rejection of Christ is often not so much of the “mind,” but of the “will”; not so much “I can’t,” but “I won’t.”
I have met many people with intellectual excuses, but few (albeit some) with intellectual problems. Excuses can cover a multitude of reasons.
… I once counseled a person who was fed up with Christianity because she believed it was not historical and there was just nothing to it factually. She had convinced everyone that she had searched and, as the result of her university studies, had found profound intellectual problems. One after another had failed to persuade her of the truth about Christ because they approached her intellectually to answer her many accusations.
I listened and then asked several questions. Within thirty minutes she admitted she had fooled everyone and that she developed these intellectual doubts in order to excuse her moral life.
One needs to answer the basic problem or real question–not the surface detour that often manifests itself.”
(from the introduction of The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell)
Read “My Faith Journey, Segment III: Radiant Joy” here.