Yesterday I was struggling with various spiritual issues. I was being tempted to commit various sins. I was feeling guilty over sins that I had committed in the past, which were some of the same ones I was presently being tempted with. I was also struggling with fear and doubt, mostly about whether I would ever be able to overcome these particular sin issues, and also whether I would ever get to the point of being a spiritually mature, fruit-bearing Christian who lives a life that glorifies God and pleases God. I was also wondering whether even that desire was to glorify myself – so that I could be this great, accomplished Christian in my own eyes and in the eyes of men – or to glorify God. Now this might seem to be a lot, but it really wasn’t, as these thoughts, temptations and fears are common to me. I experience them quite often.
It is a weakness, a failing of mine that I seldom resort to the Bible during times like this. Instead, I usually pray and meditate on the Lord. However, this time God moved me to open my Bible and read. My Bible reading practice is from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation and then back again, and it so happened that my place was Nehemiah. I must admit: Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther do not constitute my favorite sections of scripture, for reasons having to do with certain spiritual weaknesses of mine. But today, I received a great and wonderful spiritual blessing in spite of – or because of – my weakness!
I came upon Nehemiah 9:16-19. “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments. And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage; but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.”
I realized: this passage is talking about me. It applies to me personally. It is 100% directly applicable to what I am going through right now at this very second! Despite my struggles, sins and temptations, God is ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and will not forsake me! Despite my sins, the pillar of cloud (God’s presence) and the pillar of fire (God’s presence) will not leave me! God will stay with me, show me light, and the way that I should go! And upon reading this, and applying it to myself, I had a powerful, cathartic emotional experience. I went from feeling tense, anxious, possibly sad and depressed to being happy and joyful!
The amazing thing: this is the first time that I have had an experience like this from reading the Bible. Normally I connect with the Bible on an intellectual level. This was quite honestly the first time that I had ever connected with the Bible on a personal emotional level. The first time that the Bible had ever spoken to me in such a personal, direct and powerful level. Now do not mistake me, I have been emotionally moved by the Bible before. But never like this. Never before have I felt it so deep inside me. Deep in my inward parts, in my bones, in my nature, in my being, in my heart! And it was quite unlike the charismatic experiences that I used to have when I was Pentecostal. I didn’t jump up and down. I didn’t shout. I didn’t dance. I didn’t run around screaming. I just sat there and felt happy. I felt ALIVE. I didn’t just KNOW INTELLECTUALLY that because of what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross that my sins are forgiven. I came to intellectual comprehension of this fact in about 2004. But the emotional feeling, my heart coming to grips to this reality and what it personally means to me came for the first time today. As I was reading Nehemiah. Which before today was one of my least favored portions of the Bible.
And immediately another thought came into my mind. I want to say out of nowhere, at least in a natural sense. “This is what receiving assurance of your salvation from the Holy Spirit means.” When that thought came into my head, that is when I really became happy; when a smile came to my face! I just started thinking: the scriptures that refer to God’s wrath being poured out on sinners apply to the non-elect. But Nehemiah 9:16-19 applies to me because I am saved! Why didn’t God destroy Israel over the golden calf? He should have. He had every right to. His not doing so made no logical, rational sense. But God spared them because they were His elect. They were His chosen people! And that is why I am not going to be destroyed for MY golden calves! Because I am saved. It is not a possibility. It is a promise. It is not a maybe. It is a reality. It is not something that might happen if I keep working, trying, striving but something that will happen, something that has already happened, and it happened not because of anything that I did or will ever do, but because God chose me before the foundation of the world, and sent His Son to die for me and those like me!
Again, these were things that I knew before. But let me tell you. It is one thing to know it and another thing to FEEL it. Once I felt these things in my heart, I experienced a joy that was unlike any joy that I have ever experienced before. That was my blessing, and that was my testimony for today. I shared it with you in the hopes that you might be blessed by it, and that the Holy Spirit might give you joy too! It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit does, right now and today!