04 - The Deeper Christian Experience

Do you sense that there must be more to the Christian life than you are experiencing?  Have you ever felt the terrible frustration of not being able to find victory over your flesh and stubborn sin, in spite of the New Covenant promises for it?  Have you ever felt shameful because you aren’t able to carry the love you feel for God during worship, throughout the week?  Have you ever had your heart for God ripped out and stomped on by church legalism?  Have you ever felt the frustration of trying to reconcile your spiritual life with your secular life?  Have you ever been fed up feeling that “church” has become nothing more than entertainment, programs, and yet another random sermon you won’t remember by Tuesday morning?

If you can identify with any of these feelings and you haven’t given up all hope yet, you are in for a true blessing.  Whatever your age, and how ever long you have been a Christian, this much is certainly true; there is a much deeper and much more satisfying spiritual life still to be had in Christ. It offers indescribable treasures in the heart yet to be experienced by the majority of those who call themselves “Christians”.  I didn’t have it for 19 years, but now I do and I want others to know what I found and more importantly exactly how I found it.  

I remember when I first decided that I wanted to experience a deeper spiritual life that I ran into two major challenges.  First, I saw that everyone seemed to have a different opinion about what a Christian should focus on in order to live a successful Christian life.  My pastor said, “this” was the area to focus on, and then the teacher on Christian radio said, “this” was the real secret to victory.  Then the best-selling Christian author said, “this” was the absolute answer to the blessed life.  Then a friend suggested that, “this” was the key for them.  For several years I jumped from one “this” to another, but I found nothing but frustration and exhaustion.  I grew tired of spinning my wheels, listening to men, and just studying and talking about God. I desperately wanted to experience Him, and I wanted to know what He alone said the answer was!  

 “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from Him who sent me.  If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” – John 7:16-17

Right there, in those tiny words in red, was the secret I had been searching for.   It came into my heart like a drink of cold water after walking in a dusty desert for many years.  Jesus was saying that if I wanted to actually experience God personally, I needed to intentionally learn and practice His teachings, which is God’s will.  Incredibly, my step-father even realized that if you turn John 7:17 upside down, you get John 17:7 which says the exact same thing.  In prayer to the Father, Jesus says that his disciples knew with certainty that His words were from God because they obeyed them.  It is clear that Jesus promises to honor our intentional obedience to His teachings with His manifest presence.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself  to him.” – John 14:21

I found the answer, but then I met with my second great challenge.  I have always loved reading the Bible, but actually learning and applying the teachings of Christ was not easy for me.   I felt overwhelmed by the volume (there are approx. 113 actionable commands).   I would sit down and open up the Gospels and within minutes, I would feel intimidated and mentally exhausted.  Many of His teachings were duplicated over the four Gospels, and they were not all exactly the same. Then I saw that some of them were actionable, and some of them were just parables explaining the fixed principles of the kingdom of God.  Plus, some of them were written to all of us and some only to the twelve disciples, like much of Matthew chapter 10.    
I couldn’t seem to get my mind organized around all of them in an easy enough way to learn them.  This was no excuse though because calling myself a “Christian” meant that I am a follower of Jesus. But how could I be a follower of His if I didn’t know and apply all that He taught? (Luke 6:46)

This book resulted from over two years of work to extract, organize, and learn our Lord’s teachings.  I’m not saying the Holy Spirit didn’t do a perfect job writing the Bible.  I’m saying that I am a weak and easily distracted learner and I needed it consolidated into one place.  It helped me tremendously to harvest the teachings and put them all into one place.  It wouldn’t be long before I myself found out that His teachings were from God.