Jason, not long after he was saved, wrote the following:
For as long as I can recall I have attended on a weekly basis a Christian place of worship. If you had asked me at the start of this year if I believed in the God of the Bible and what the Bible taught I would say that I did. I would have confirmed I was a sinner before God, I prayed occasionally, read the Bible with various degrees of enthusiasm and gave regularly to the church.
Despite this knowledge and upbringing my sins gave me little or no cause for concern, my conscience was rarely pricked and I was quite happy and comfortable with my life. This state of formal attendance and lip service continued until a Sunday evening in February 2009 when a Bible reading was taken from 1 Kings 21. I had heard the Bible read week in week out for years and was occasionally struck by something that was said but never for more than a short time. The first part of verse 25 however, was different:
“But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD”
I had always thought of Ahab as an extreme example of an evil man, some sort of Old Testament Hitler figure, who I could comfortably compare myself to in a positive light, but I came to realise over the days following that service that before God I was actually no better.
During this period this verse seemed to lodge in the front of my mind and it seemed every time I said, thought or did anything slightly amiss these words would immediately spring into my mind. I would out of bloody mindedness often continued with a course of action or train of thought I knew to be wrong but got no satisfaction and a great sense of God’s displeasure, as though He was there listening and observing.
I started, I believe, for the first time to seriously repent of my sins, to try and move away from some of the sins I had enjoyed and to pray for forgiveness. Yet despite the fact that the verse was never far from my mind I found myself going against my conscience and again and again thinking or doing things I knew were wrong. Each time I would almost have to force myself to commit the sin wanting to experience the pleasure it brought, would do so, and then immediately feel a sense of guilt and repent of it.
This continued for several weeks into March and I began to think that my repentance and prayers were false and I was going to end up like Ahab. I seemed to be sinning, repenting and almost immediately going back and committing the same sin often several times in a day.
It was in this state of increasing despair that on a Sunday evening in late March during the service the words of Christ in the 4th verse of Luke chapter 17 were quoted:
“And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent: thou shalt forgive him.”
These words I found a real encouragement to continue in prayer and shortly after I found I was not having the same struggle with the sins which I was having previously.
Reading the Bible and prayer became far more real and important to me during this period and on 1 April 2009 I was reading at home on my own from the gospel of John chapter 5 I found myself identifying with the man at the pool of Bethesda. The whole of the narrative included in verses 5 to 9 seemed to be written about me. Verse 5 says
“And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years”
I am myself in my 38th year and I felt my sins as an infirmity or disease I had suffered throughout my life. As I read on in the narrative it was as though I was the man and when in verse 6 it says Jesus knew his case and asked him if he would be made whole it was as though the question was addressed to me personally.
Like the man I felt I had to say that I was helpless, verse 7
“Sir, I have no man”
When I got to verse 8 and 9 it was as though the words had been spoken directly to me personally:
“Jesus said unto him Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole”
It was when reading this I felt for the first time a real sense that my sins had indeed been forgiven.
The following day this was confirmed when reading on into chapter 6 the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The words in verse 12 seemed to fill me with a great sense of peace and assurance:
“…he (Jesus) said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost”
I felt when reading this that I was one of those fragments insignificant in myself but precious to Christ who was determined I should not be lost.
Days of great blessing, encouragement and peace followed when the Bible was very precious and the Lord Jesus felt very near. Over the months and years since that time I cannot say it has been easy. There have been times when the Bible has felt a closed book, when I have felt as though I have wandered far from Jesus, His teachings and His service. Times when old sins and old ways of behaving and thinking have come easier to me than faithful service to Christ. Situations and circumstances in which I have not wanted or been able to display those characteristics which are the evidence of those who are taught by Jesus and yet through all of these times as I look back I can see He stayed faithful to me, teaching and gently correcting me.
So often I have been reminded of the truth of Jesus’ words “for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If I am honest as I look at my life, my obedience to Christ and my faithfulness to Him I still have to agree with Paul the apostle who when he looked at himself had to confess “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) But I can also say with him “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
How much more I marvel and wonder at the love of the Lord Jesus and the mercy of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit, as I see how poorly I have repaid that love and yet how faithfully and kindly He has dealt with me.
How grateful I am for the encouragement, prayer and teaching I enjoy at Zion Baptist Church through which God, in His grace and mercy, continues to bless me, correct me, instruct me and guide me. For the opportunity to be able to share with others the trials and difficulties and the blessings and encouragements of the Christian life.