The Wayfarer wrote:
Overcomer, in Ecclesiastes it says that there is nothing new under the sun and yet again these very personal and difficult conversations usually end with someone questioning my salvation.
I am sorry if you were insulted by what I wrote, Wayfarer. But I honestly think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was not suggesting you didn’t have your salvation. As you say, that’s between you and God. But you were asking about being in a relationship with Jesus, how to achieve that, how to grasp and know his love and THAT is what I was attempting to address, not your personal salvation. I have just completed a course in spiritual formation and the instructor encouraged us to go back to our moments of conversion to make sure that we grasped what it fully meant in terms of the Holy Spirit and our growth in the Lord. It was beneficial for me to do that and I hoped that it might be for you, too. That’s why I suggested it. Let me try to explain myself more clearly:
Like you, I grew up in a Christian home and attended church all my life. I had my salvation because I accepted Christ’s gift of it in faith. However, the denomination I was in taught NOTHING about the person of the Holy Spirit, about his infilling, about how he would lead and guide me in life and help me get to know Jesus on a personal, intimate level and feel his love for me. I had to leave that denomination and visit others to gain that all-important knowledge.
You say you think all the time. Like you, my brain never stops. But I have learned that, when it comes to Jesus, just approaching him and grasping what he says on an intellectual level isn’t all there is in a relationship with him. There is an experiential, affective side to it. When I read what you wrote, it struck me that your relationship with Jesus is a cerebral one only and that what you are missing is the mystical side of it. That’s why I asked if you ever felt the presence of God or got an impression in your spirit that you knew came from the Holy Spirit when you prayed. I wondered if you had felt Jesus in your spirit as well as comprehended him intellectually.
I have had encounters with Jesus where I have felt God’s love. Therefore, I have no problem understanding it. For example, when I was disabled in a car accident and left with chronic pain, I constantly begged God to heal me. One day, after returning from church, I asked the Lord, “Why don’t you heal me?” I would never have anticipated the answer he gave me. He didn’t explain why (not at that time, at least. He did do so eventually, but that was several years down the road). Instead, he made me feel what he feels at my living in constant pain. It was the deepest, most intense sorrow I have ever felt in my life and I just burst into tears. It was heart-breaking and gut-wrenching. And I realized that Jesus had felt every stabbing pain, every burning sensation, and every ache I had ever felt in my life and that he would continue to do so for however long I had them. I felt his profound love for me and I have felt it other times when I have communed with him in prayer.
Because of experiences like that, I don’t have to just accept God's love on an intellectual level, but have felt it emotionally, spiritually, powerfully, in a way that has transformed me and my life. I think that is what you are looking for and what you need. I don’t know what kind of church you were raised in, but if it isn’t teaching you about the Holy Spirit, and the necessary heart understanding of Christ and the mechanics of how to build an intimate relationship with him that involves real encounters with him so you can experience his love first-hand, then you need to find a church that does.
I realize that some people have a problem with the heart side of spirituality because they think it’s crazy or just plain emotionalism. People who err on the side of feelings and experiences with God and leave their brains out of it can go off-track. But people who err on the side of rationality and intellectualism and never engage in real experiences of God also go off-track. The head and the heart have to be kept in balance.
I have had long periods when I could not feel the presence of God or hear his voice. Those were important because they helped increase my faith. I had to learn to trust what the Bible says about God and his love even if I could not feel anything.
I need to add that I take no pride in having personal encounters with God as if that makes me special or superior to the Christians who don’t. I expect there are a lot of Christians who have them, but they don’t talk about them unless they feel it would edify someone else which is precisely why I have shared one of my encounters with him here. I also expect there are Christians who don’t have them because they are in denominations that do not teach about them and may even speak disparagingly of them out of ignorance and fear.
As to fear being a motivation to accept Christ, I don’t think fear has anything to do with it. I am not in a relationship with Jesus because I fear going to hell. I’m in a relationship with Jesus because I love him! The whole goal of a Christian is this – to get to know Jesus, to experience his love tangibly, to return his love, and to live out that love in service to him and to others. But again, it takes a heart understanding of him as well as a head one to be able to live that authentically. It's that heart understanding that I think you are missing. I hope I have made myself a little more clear and have not offended you again, Wayfarer. That certainly was never my intention.