If I were to draw a caricature of myself as a baby christian I would draw myself with a small head and in my upper body I would place a disproportionately large heart. The small head would depict my knowledge and my large heart would reflect my relationship with Jesus.
It was in 1972 that a catholic young man discovered the Lord Jesus Christ, embraced His lordship, and was cleansed of his many sins. I was born again, yet I had never heard that term. I was an adopted son of the Father, sanctified, justified, the very “righteousness of God”. My name was written in the Lamb’s book of life, my body a temple of the Holy Spirit, my future home the New Jerusalem. And yet I never knew these things. My knowledge was meagre.
But did I ever feel good! My insides were bouncing with new life. Oh, the presence of the Lord in those earliest months! My life was Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus. I didn’t understand but knew something awesome had taken place. I would often tell others, “Something happened!”
Were it not for the “charismatic movement” sweeping our catholic world immediately after my conversion to Jesus my departure from catholicism would not have taken five years. At that time I entered fully into evangelicalism, a term I understand to mean denominations adhering to fundamental teachings of the Bible. My knowledge increased immensely. Do-s and don’t-s, Old Testament history, dispensations, church history, false religions – you name it, I learned it. Tons of sermons, tapes and books. Now my caricature would have an oversized head.
And a very small heart.
I had drifted from “first love”. Jesus somehow got lost in all that knowledge. My enthusiasm for christianity usurped my enthusiasm for Christ. Those around me, those above me, those in the forefront of christianity…. my attention was on them and their emphases. Certainly I sang praises to the Lord in our assemblies. And there were those times kneeling around the altar. But something alien had captured my heart. What was it?
The Lord taught me I could determine my spiritual health by the number of times I spoke His name. This principle applies to everyone and every group. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt.12:34)
And so I listened. Surprisingly, Jesus’ name was rarely mentioned in conversations, even in discussions about spiritual matters. Sunday morning preaching was about deliverance and healing and sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit and evangelism. It was not about the Deliverer, the Healer, the Sanctifier, the Baptizer, the Lord of the harvest. Biblical principles and keys and doctrines were emphasized more, much more, than relationship with Jesus.
I prayed more than most and was influenced by some cherished books and a special friend. These had the effect of turning me around. I began, slowly at first, returning to my first love, removing my trust in other people and things and placing that trust once again upon Jesus Christ.
I am determined not to ever distance myself from Him again. Not for gold, not for ministry, not for reputation, not for anything. This isn’t to say I have arrived; there is and always will be more of Jesus to be gained, relationally speaking. I confess that if there is one I still love more than Jesus it is me. How can someone so pitifully incomplete be riveted on himself? “O wretched man that I am!”
But I am travelling in the right direction. I am learning obedience. Giving gets easier. I am slowly fostering a relationship with the Holy Spirit. The theme of my life is increasingly “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”.
I am not licensed and never will be. Never been to Bible school. If I had brag in me it would be that I have learned to turn immediately to Christ when I sin. Sin, I have learned, as awful as it is, does have the advantage of making one appreciative of His grace and less judgemental of others.
Foolish is the man who would blindly place his trust in my perspective, spoken or written. I have said both wise and dumb things. I have been faithful and negligent to friends. I have set good examples and poor…. I choose the path of humility but ugly pride sometimes surfaces. The venerable song expresses my creed: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” I understand that, as His ambassador, my responsibility is simply to point others to Christ and submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
I must never be deluded into thinking the author is somehow above the reader. Both are teachers and both are students; both are shepherds and both are sheep; both are God’s anointed. “One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.” (Mt.23:8) I must be yoked to Christ in what I do or what I do will be fruitless.
The one qualification I have to write this book is that I have been around. For close to fifty years I have listened, observed, and considered all manner of teachings, practices, unwritten codes and human failure. Well over a thousand times, perhaps five or ten thousand, I have prayed Psalm 25:4,5: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.”
As a matter of possible interest, I am a husband, a father of three, a father-in-law to two, a grandfather to eight, a great-grandfather to two, an electrician (retired) and sometimes writer.