There was a definable moment in my Christian walk when I decided I had had enough of assenting to propositional truth, accepting it and applying it to the way I lived, without experiencing a corresponding, deep affection for God and Jesus, my Saviour. I wanted to love God; I wanted to love Jesus; not through obedience and submission alone, but in a way that involved all of me — a living, breathing, feeling person responding in love to the living, breathing, feeling God of the universe and his beloved Son. I knew people who, when they talked of our Saviour, spoke of him with such genuine affection — their tone of voice changed and their eyes glowed. It was real and they couldn’t help themselves.
As I hinted in my second post, I’d tried other ways to develop this aspect of my relationship with God — sometimes in desperation and frustration — but this time I went straight to the Bible. I decided that I would read the first letter of John over and over, until the Holy Spirit worked in and through the words, and I prayed, pleading with God to open my eyes to the truth in his word and, in his gracious kindness, change me. I longed to understand more about his love.
By his loving choice at this point in my walk with him, God chose to use his word, his Spirit and my feeble prayers to work his transformation in my heart. I don’t know why he chose to do so then (and I don’t share it with you as a formula), but it was his good pleasure to answer my request in that way and I am so grateful for the change. I still go through dry seasons, but I’m aware now that this can be for one of two reasons: either I have not been faithful and have become distracted by the cares of daily life (repentance needed!), or it is God’s sovereign will for me to persevere through the difficulty of unquenched spiritual thirst, still trusting in him and his loving purposes. (More on this in Chapter 9.)
Sometimes during times of suffering God’s presence has been particularly real to me, and I can identify in a very small way with Michael Raiter’s brother-in-law Joel’s dramatic experience (p 209). But at other times it hasn’t. What I’ve learned from this is exactly what Raiter explores in Chapter 8: true spirituality is centred in God and salvation in Jesus, and develops through the study of his word, the practise of prayer, the testimony of the body of believers and the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s everyday growth in godliness in a life firmly established in God’s love. But Michael Raiter says it better than me:
It is a life rooted and grounded in God’s love for his people, expressed in all that he has done for us in Jesus. It is a life that responds to this love with heartfelt thanks and praise, and a commitment to love others with the kind of love that God has shown us. This life of godliness grows and matures in the crucible of suffering, and in the midst of a life marked by frustration. Yet, all the time, it is focussed on the Lord who reigns on high and for whom we live, day by day, in the eager expectation of beholding him face to face. (p 221)I can no longer sing songs about Jesus’ sacrifice for me without being overcome by the knowledge of his loving kindness, and I am thankful.