“Few, very few, today really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man....there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute sovereignty of God.” - A.W.Pink
As a result what is being taught in the pulpits affects our understanding of salvation and even our walk with God. This is exactly what happened to me....
Growing up I believed in God. Deep and firmly rooted within me I knew God existed. However the only place I learnt of God as a child was in school. It was a CofE and we often visited the church we were linked to for the usual celebrated dates. I was in complete awe of the church building. As I sat on those hard wooden pews, tapping the worn prayer cushion on the cold stone floor with my foot, staring at the colourful picture book windows and the smell of incense in the air my mind would wander. My thoughts were far from what was going on in the service. When those thoughts weren't on wondering how to get to the top of the tower to see the bells, they were always on the Being for whom this beautiful building was crafted and constructed for. The church became for me a very special place. It was a kind of refuge for my thoughts. I was Christened there with my brother and sister, took part in school nativity plays for parents and the congregation....... until I was nine and we moved. My life would never be the same again.
Far from where I grew up and in a new school, by God's providence (though I didn't know it at the time) God continued to be made known to me by my new headteacher. A short yet quite broadly built man with a strong Welsh accent(kind of like a granddad type figure, lol.) In every assembly he would sing loudly and almost very proudly, hymns from the school's hymn books. He sang so passionately in fact that I believed every word he sang. Like the building had done, those words drew my attention to the person and work of the Lord. No one really taught me how to pray; I would just talk to God. It was safe to say that growing up I did have a tender conscience however it was often mocked and trampled on. It wasn't "normal" for a child to be so "soft" especially in my family. The women are all very independent and strong minded. But the days came where I was forced to face the harsh realities of life. I felt I had to try and take on some of those characteristics of the women in my family just to survive. Slowly but surely I was pushing aside God and my conscience.I said the prayer, was baptised and that was that. I became just another notch on the belt.
Fast forward to where I was reintroduced to the Lord. He never completely left my mind and neither had my conscience. But the church I became a part of never told me of my sin, only urged me to accept Jesus "back" into my life. I said the prayer, was baptised and that was that. I became just another notch on the belt. Over the next few years I would genuinely seek God but just didn't know why Jesus had to die. No one told me what sin was and the need to be saved. I was in church for years before someone held up to me the mirror of the law and I saw myself for who I really was.....totally sinful, lost and helpless to do anything to save myself. Then I saw Jesus upon the cross and the joy that filled my heart to realise what He had done for me only to be followed by the shock and horror of my sinful self.
There He was.
There I was.
I fell to the foot of the cross in repentance, understood that there on my knees I had to die to self and stand up as a new creation in Christ, take up my cross and follow Him. No more would I be blindly groping in the dark trying to find my own way. Suddenly all made sense to me. I was led to believe that as I let go of God growing up He became a helpless figure unable to tame me. That I was in total control of my life and that I chose Him to "come into my life". OH how wrong I was!
Now as I looked back I saw things very differently. My life now up to this point made complete sense. It wasn't chaotic and unpredictable as I viewed it before. Tracing my footsteps I could see I was never alone. God was directing my steps. I wasn't the independent, free spirit I thought I had become. Far far from it. I wasn't free at all. I was a slave to the wrong master. All this time God had been drawing me to Him. I saw His long suffering towards me. No longer was Salvation for me about choosing the Lord and finding Him but He found me, opened my eyes to sin and the price He paid on the cross!
How many more similar stories I have heard since then. A failure to see ourselves as we really are effects our knowledge of Him. Yet once we realise our need for the Saviour (a truth that needs to be preached more today) we can begin to learn who God is, His attributes, to understand He is sovereign. As we learn more about Him and draw near to the Lord in relationship our faith strengthens and there can be no denying that God is in complete control. This knowledge brings with it comfort:
But When we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings-whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyrs stake-we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight.”-Pink
As I started my new life in Christ I grew to know Him. It was progressive but the more I learn who He is the more I love Him and the more we focus and fix our thoughts on Him there will be rest for the heart and peace for the mind. Mere head knowledge alone will not do. We must also know God!
To quote Pink once more;
“The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits, Daniel 11:32 We know of nothing which is more calculated to infuse spiritual vigour into our frames than a scriptural apprehension of the full character of God.”
In summary, it is crucially important that we understand the basic Christian truths and how we apply them, to have a right view of ourselves, and of God. Once we understand God is sovereign we see Him as the the potter and we as the clay, the Lord as The Good Shepherd and we as His sheep. This is the abundant life indeed!