A reader asked:
I grew up a Nazarene; at 18 wandered until 39 then came to a Bible believing church and asked for forgiveness. I was once a heavy drinker and a bad father. That all stopped. Over the past 8 years I have been active in many ministries and have helped others. But never once have I heard God speak to me. The only thing I feel is in my gut and can only describe as “the little angel on one and the little devil on another shoulder” guiding me. What am I missing? I pray many times a day and read scripture nearly every day. I do not want to go backwards to before. How can I really, really feel a complete connection? Am I one of the few who is not destined to be with the Lord and just kidding myself?
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You have several mini-questions, so let’s answer them starting with the easiest.
First, there will not be a “few” who are not destined to be with the Lord. There will be many. There will be many times more lost than saved evidently:
- Matthew 7:13-14 – “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NKJV)
Next, is it possible to “kid” yourself about being saved? In a sense, apparently YES:
- Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (NKJV)
Obviously, at least part of those saying “Lord, Lord… look at everything I’ve done for You” are “kidding” themselves about being truly saved.
So your concern is valid. We should evaluate, examine and seriously ask ourselves about the authenticity of our salvation which I believe is the essence of “working out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12; which does NOT mean we work to earn our salvation, but that we diligently examine ourselves to make sure our walk is worthy of our claim of salvation).
How can you objectively evaluate your salvation? 1st John is a good place to start:
- 1 John 5:13 – These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
You can know you are saved… (assuming you have responded in faith and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; verses from 1st John):
- if you keep God’s commandments (2:3)
- if you keep His Word (2:5)
- if you practice righteousness (2:29)
- if you love your fellow Christians (3:14)
- if you lay down your life for your Brethren (3:16)
- if you confess that Jesus Christ is God (4:2)
- if you love others with God’s love (4:12)
That is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. And remember, doing these things does NOT earn you salvation, it authenticates that your salvation is genuine.
What about the “little angel and devil” on your shoulder? For the Christian, that might be a way (not a good way!) to describe the tension that occurs between your flesh (wanting to sin) and the Holy Spirit who now indwells you (wanting to sanctify you). This tension exists in various degrees in all Christians and will continue until the sinful flesh is gone. Listen to what Paul says about this:
1 Timothy 1:15 – This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (NKJV)
Romans 7:17-20 – But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (NKJV)
Now, that is not to imply that we take a casual attitude toward sin and think, “Well, I’m just human, sinning is just part of life…” NO! NO! NO! Yes, we will struggle with sin, but that is NOT an excuse! We must hate sin in every form, and our life should be characterized by an increasingly consistent holiness.
So stop thinking of the battle as “little angels” on your shoulder and recognize that there is a spiritual war going on between your old sinful Self, and the Holy Spirit who is seeking to conform you more and more to Christ (Eph 6:12).
Your final, and probably most important, question was “How can you feel completely connect to God?” The good news is, that answer is simple. The bad news is, that answer is hard. It requires focus, discipline and faith. Okay, here it comes……
- Pray. Spend time with God. You can’t know someone or connect with someone you don’t spend time with.
- Read. Read God’s Word. In it you will find all you need to be fulfilled in your Christian life (2Tim 3:16-17; 2Pet 1:3).
- Obey. Obedience is the glue that brings it all together. Obedience authenticates, validates and demonstrates our salvation. Read 1st John and note all the calls to obedience and the resulting benefits.
No doubt we could add a hundred other things to this list, but they will all neatly fit into these three categories. There is no magic pill or plan. Much to the dismay of our “Madison Avenue” mentality, there are no “seven spiritual secrets” or “ten power verses” or “10 keys for Christian success.”
Those are merely spiritual fast-food products. The only real “secret” is the daily consumption of God’s Word, daily communication with God through prayer, and daily communion with God by spending time alone hearing His “voice.”
And that, my friend, is no secret. It’s just hard work.
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