Friday, March 28, 2008

How Do You Know?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
- Revelation 3:20

God showed me something yesterday that I'm simply bursting to share. But I'm having difficulty figuring out how to package it. So I've decided to show you what I read, and then explain afterward what it means to me.



This excerpt is taken from the novel The Hidden Hand by J. Sidlow Baxter.

From Chapter 16: The Big Eye-Opening

"Joseph, do you know that promise of Jesus in the last book of the Bible? - 'Behold I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him...'"

"Yes, I've read or heard it a hundred times."

"Then why don't you act on it? Is it your pride which keeps you from doing so? Or is it that it seems too simple? too easy? too unemotional?"

"It's not pride; not now. I know how deeply I'm a sinner and need to be saved."

"Then why don't you ask Him into your heart right now?"

"What! with you watching, Molly!"

"Oh, Joseph, you ought to have a witness. Let me be your witness. I've prayed so much for you to do it. Somehow, I feel this is the moment."

"But, Molly, how do I do it?"

"Kneel down, and simply ask Him to come in; and I'll kneel with you."

Joseph hesitated. "Is it truly and honestly as simple as that?"

"Try it."

They knelt together. "Now, Joseph, ask Him like this: 'Dear Lord Jesus, I open my heart and receive Thee as my Saviour.' Pray it audibly. I'll be your witness. Then believe that according to His promise He really comes in."

"But I can't see Him."

"No, but He can see and hear you - and He's waiting this minute. Believe His promise, and ask Him in."

"Molly, I will."

So they knelt down together in that sitting room, and Joseph simple-heartedly asked the Lord Jesus to come in. They lingered there in silence a moment, after which Molly suggested, "Now thank Him, inwardly and silently, for coming in as your Saviour. If a sneaky voice from somewhere says it's all make-believe, that's Satan's voice. He says that to all of us when we are accepting Jesus. Pay no attention. Keep your eye on the plain, unchanging promise of Jesus, and trust it."

They rose from their knees. "Have you really asked Him in?" Molly enquired.

"Yes."

"Then has He come in?"

"I think so..."

"You think! Read the verse again."

Joseph read the verse again.

"Has He come in?" Molly asked again.

"I hope so..."

"You hope! Read the text again."

Joseph did so. Then Molly asked, "Look here, Joseph: did Jesus clearly promise to come in if you asked Him? And have you asked Him? Then has He come in? Has He? Think, Joseph. Has He?"

Joseph thought. Then, like a sunrise, a look of discovery shone in his face, and he suddenly shouted, "YES! He's come in!"

"How do you know?" Molly persisted.

"Because He PROMISED!" sang Joseph.

"Oh, Joseph," she exclaimed with tears of joy, "that's it: you've got Him alright. So long as you kept saying 'I think' and 'I hope' I knew you were on sand; you were thinking it had to be some upsurge of feelings. But as soon as you say, 'Yes, He promised it,' your feet are on the solid rock of His promise. It's true, it's true, Joseph. He has come into your heart."

"Yes, yes, yes!" shouted Joseph. "I know it! Oh, how simple it is! How blind I was! Lord Jesus, You're mine! - my own Saviour! Oh, how wonderful! I'm saved! I'm SAVED! I know it!"

He simply did not know what to do or say to express his relief and joy. He knew that through simple appropriation of the Saviour's atoning death his sins were forgiven, his guilt blotted out, that he was covered before God in the imputed righteousness of the sinless Sinbearer, and that the risen Saviour had now come to live in his heart, bringing new spiritual life. His heart was bursting with the wonder of it. He wanted to run out and tell all the world what had happened.



There are obviously a couple of extemporaneous practices cited, like kneeling and having a witness, but the basic premise is, of course, the beautiful moment of salvation.

Now. Let me see if I can explain why this excerpt had such an impact on me, and how it could impact some of you who might be in my same boat.

I've been a Christian for many years. But I've pretty much always been stuck in a whirlpool of emotional confusion regarding my faith. While I believe, at my core, that everything the Bible says is true, when it comes to its application in my life, I've lived in the wasteland of "I think so..." and "I hope so..."

I've carried with me a whole luggage cart of doubts, fears and insecurities; of wistfully timid hopes and wishes; of self-deprecation regarding all my failures; of a desperate, fatalistic view of a bleak future driven by the sometimes panicky prognosis that I will never change. In short, I've been held captive by lies.

I've known for a few years now that I'm a prisoner of the lies in my head. I've worked diligently to stave them off by speaking the truth. But lately, the truth has seemed to appear weak and pallid in the face of my many strongholds. I feared the lies would finally win out.

Let's take one of my lies as an example. I have long believed the lie that no one cares about me. I have always thought that each person who displayed care for me had some ulterior motive. They wanted something. Their expressed concern for me alleviated their obligatory guilt. Or it enabled me to meet their needs. Or it went no further than the words they spoke while their hearts remained hard toward me. Or they were simply just being polite, and doing so out of a sense of personal pride in condescending toward the downtrodden.

I've also believed, at my core, that God Himself doesn't really care about me. I thought He did. I hoped He did. I wished with all my heart that He did. But I also felt that I could screw it up at any moment. That eventually, I would do something bad enough that He would finally say, "That's it. You're on your own until you get to heaven. THEN I'll forgive you and everything will be fine. But until then, you're out of chances."

So I've labored under the delusion that God cares about me IF. God cares about me IF I spend time with Him every day. God cares about me IF I only make this many bad choices. God cares about me IF I continue to serve Him faithfully. God cares about me IF my blog post accurately reflects Him. God cares about me IF He's not busy doing something else. God cares about me IF I pray right. God cares about me IF I put His first. God cares about me IF I do, do, do in order to please, please, please. And when I succeed in my "try, try, try", with my whole heart I hope, hope, hope that did the trick.

But if I failed, I took it a step further. I heaped shame on my own head by telling everyone that I had screwed up AGAIN, and I knew it, and I thought it was just as horrible as they did. This, too, was an attempt to be loved. How? Well, if God knew how ashamed and sorry I was, He was bound to care, right? About my truly penitent heart? Right?

I'm not talking about believing in works-based salvation. By God's grace, I believe my salvation is by grace through faith, not of myself, not as a result of works (Eph 2:8-9). I know I can't earn my way to heaven, but that Christ already "earned" it for me, by His death on the cross in payment for my sins.

Ah, but I've been smothered for many years by the oppressive notion of works-based fellowship. Works-based communion with God. Works-based progressive sanctification. And as I alluded to earlier, this modus operandi has not been working too well for me. The harder I've tried, the worse I've felt.

Yesterday, in a moment of honest complaint, I muttered to Abba, "What kind of twisted setup is this? Why in the world do You make it so difficult to be close to You? Why do I have to jump through all these hoops? You're demented. You don't care about me."

God didn't respond to my questions, except to remind me that He was there.

I shrugged Him off and endeavored to put my despair out of my mind by reading my book.

Well.

Of course you know I'm going to say I read the passage quoted here. When I got to the part where Joseph says, "I think so..." I was right there with him, thinking about God's twisted setup. And when he said, "I hope so..." I nodded my head with tear-stung eyes as I bemoaned all the hoops I thought I had to jump through in order to be close to God.

By the time the sunrise of discovery shone on Joseph's face, the same sunrise shone in my own heart: "...because He PROMISED!"

Realization dawned. God's setup wasn't twisted. My lies were. He wasn't making me jump through any hoops. I was doing that all on my own. He wanted, instead, for me to rest on His promise. That's where fellowship happens! In the laying down of striving. In the letting go of DOING. In the pure, sweet rest of KNOWING and BEING.

My chains fell off, the prison doors swung wide and I peeked my head tentatively around the corner, hardly daring to believe I was actually free. God responded with a rush of His presence, and I knew. As long as I kept saying 'I think' and 'I hope' I was on sand; I was thinking there had to be some upsurge of feelings, which until recently, God had amply supplied. But He had lately taken those warm, fuzzy feelings away, I believe, in part, to show me this:

As soon as I knew, 'Yes, He promised it,' my feet were on the solid rock of His promise. A foundation impenetrable, from which to build a faith unshakable.

I don't hope God cares about me IF.

I know God cares about me because He PROMISED! (1 Peter 5:7)

I know God forgives my sins because He promised! (1 John 1:9)
I know God will provide for me because He promised! (Matthew 6:33)
I know God loves me with everlasting love because He promised! (Jeremiah 31:3)
I know God is always with me because He promised! (Matthew 28:20)
I know God works all things together for good because He promised! (Romans 8:28)
I know God will bind up my broken heart because He promised! (Isaiah 61:1)
I know God is releasing me from captivity becasue He promised! (Isaiah 61:1)
I know God will bestow on me a crown of beauty because He promised! (Isaiah 61:3)

Now THAT'S something to run out and tell the world about.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1