When I was a child, I had the privilege of growing up in a somewhat Biblical atmosphere. I grew up in church, and the Bible was preached, and people worshipped God on a weekly basis. I was taught to love God and even memorize Scripture. Even up until the age of 18, I was protected from the notorious worldly sins (drugs, alcohol abuse, fighting, porno, gangs, stealing, cussing, etc)—you know the sins that are highlighted in our culture. I would have told you that I “had it made” as far as the circumstances of my life. However, there was a major (the most important) factor of my life missing—a genuine experience with Christ Jesus that would transform my world and turn everything upside-down for me. The experience that I am referring to would be the “born again from above” experience.
At the age of 19, I found myself under the teaching of some radical Christian friends, who challenged me to see Jesus not in a box, not in a religious light, not found hidden in one denomination (Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, etc), not in youth group trips, sleepovers, Christian bands, bumper stickers, Christian t-shirts, or even Bible reading (one must understand that I’m not saying that God cannot and does not use these things—I’m stating that they/anything can at times be hindrances to a genuine life-altering encounter with Jesus when elevated to an unhealthy point of attention or devotion). I had often found myself hungry for the will of God as I grew up religiously and even enjoyed doing “church”. It was the only portrait of being a Christian that I had. My view of God was contained in Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night meetings; and sometimes prayer meetings for the really devoted people. Terms like “forgiveness”, “repentance” (terms pertinent to a genuine walk with Jesus Christ), were probably a dime a dozen, but they were never demonstrated to me in a daily walk with Jesus. I eventually met, as I was saying, a group of Christians that were hungry for Jesus Christ and Him alone—not tied/obligated to a paycheck from an organization, not desiring to be well known or build a following, not interested in tithes and offerings from me, or even wanting to advance themselves in what I had always understood to be the church world. There came a GREAT and HOLY understanding in my life, of seeing a new distinction between those who claimed to be followers of Christ, and those who really walk as Jesus did.
Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).
Again, the difference that was seen was between those who were hearers of God’s Word, and those who were hearers AND doers of God’s Word.
True and False Disciples, NIV
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven (Jesus, Matthew 7:21).
It took me at least a year to spiritually and mentally adjust to the understanding of the basic principle that Jesus Christ is simply found…in Jesus Christ—go figure! All my life, I had been searching for peace with God, and finally I found it in the person of Jesus. Not to mention, this new found peace gave me “joy unspeakable and full of glory” like the old hymn says (1 Peter 1:8, KJV). And, on top of everything, I had the assurance that no man, demon, devil, or lie from my own mind could steal!!! I spiritually became aware that Jesus is the “Christ”, the Messenger, the Answer, the Deliverer, the ONLY Way to God (John 14:6). Not only was He my Savior from Hell, but He was/is to be Lord of my everyday life. Every life decision, every path, every way that I could take was to be submitted unto Christ.
I have been shell-shocked ever since—like I was hit with a “logging truck” (to use Paul Washer’s phrase from his “Shocking Youth Message”). Truly, I was likened to Nicodemus in John 3, who questioned Jesus about His statements:
(5) Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you (Nicodemus), no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (6) Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (7) You should not be surprised at My saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (8) The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus (Rebekah Lucas) could not understand these words and yet was a respected, admired, and dare I say even coveted, teacher over Israel. When Jesus rebuked Nicodemus, he got into his head somehow by the miraculous power of preaching raw REGENERATION. How can I explain this except to say—the words spoken by Jesus were not some cheap excerpt copy and pasted from sermonsonline.com. No!!—these were the words that transcended the situation and were words of the Eternal—words that made you stop and think: “What in the world is this man talking about???!!!” It’s like a different language until God reveals His Son, as the Living Word to a person. Looking back now, I can see that I was totally a different person than I am now. I am not devoid of my old personality. On the contrary, I have “recaptured my soul” (as St. Francis of Assisi said in Brother Sun, Sister Moon). God’s law became life, and I began to be aware that I am a spirit. Truly this is a mystery.