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The Feeling of Being Christian

By Reese Currie

Happy personSome people would have you believe, if you are a follower of Christ, you will always be ecstatically happy. Some believe this to the degree that they claim the evidence of salvation is you will lose complete control of yourself physically and verbally.

Some people would have you believe, if you are a follower of Christ, you will never have trouble in knowing God's will. Some people would have you believe, if you are a follower of Christ, you will be totally incapable of sinning, and if you sin, it is proof you are not saved.

Some people say only good things will happen to you if you become a Christian. You will experience monetary success, and success of all sorts will follow you in all your ways.

Contrast That With the Bible!

The Bible does not say you will always be ecstatically happy or only good things will ever happen to us. In fact, it indicates the opposite will be true. We are warned hard times will come, people will hate us, persecute us and laugh at us. John 16:33 quotes Jesus saying, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Paul also testifies, in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

The Bible nowhere indicates that anyone who is saved will lose complete physical control (for example: "slaying in the Spirit"), nor does the Bible anywhere indicate Christians will necessarily speak in tongues. In 1Corinthians 12:30, Paul rhetorically asks, "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"

BibleThe Bible certainly never claims that a saved person will always know God's will. Paul himself wrote, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1Cor 13:12). This indicates even Paul did not have total knowledge of God's will; why should we consider ourselves any different?

The Bible does not claim Christians will ever be totally incapable of sinning in this world. 1John 1:8,9 says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Some people, including John Wesley, have claimed 1John 3:9 indicates a saved person is incapable of sinning. The verse says, "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."

How can these two verses be brought into agreement? Here we have a problem in that English is not as expressive a language as Greek. In 1John 3:9, the present tense of the Greek verb for sin is used. What the apostle John is saying, then, is a Christian cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God. This is not to say people cannot stumble from time to time, even if they are Christians. But Christians who stumble will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and will turn from their sin back to God.

As for the notion that monetary success will follow becoming a Christian, this is never indicated by Scripture. It is certainly not indicated by Jesus' statement at Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

So What "Feeling" Accompanies Christianity?

The feeling you get from being a Christian is largely dependent on your spiritual situation. The first thing to understand is that the Holy Spirit bears witness to your own spirit on whether you are an adopted son of God, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God..." (Rom 8:16).

When all is well with your soul, and there is nothing in you at present worthy of conviction, the feeling yielded by the Holy Spirit is best described as a spirit of peace, "... and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:7).

But when you allow your flesh to take control, you can expect a very bad feeling, the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, "For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."

Understand this carefully: People who claim you know you are a Christian because you always feel good are wrong. The Bible gives the opposite test in Hebrews 12:8, "But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."

Praying handsThis chastening received from God is necessary when we are sinning so that we will repent. To repent is not just to apologize for sinning and then go back to doing it. To truly repent is to change your mind completely about the sin, acknowledging it is wrong in the eyes of God, and being broken in heart before Him (Ps 34:18; 51:3,17; Isa 6:5; Hos 5:15; Rom 7:24). Repentance further involves desiring to turn from the sin and to follow God's commandments, looking to Christ for the strength to do so (Matt 3:2,8; Acts 26:20; John 15:4,5; Phil 4:13).

Jesus healed a man in John chapter 5. After Jesus had defended healing on the Sabbath to the Jews, He went looking for the man whom He had healed to tell him something important, "Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you’" (John 5:14).

In John 7:53-8:11, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman before Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery. They told Jesus that the Law allowed them to stone her; what did He say they should do? Jesus thought about it and said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7).

Everyone wandered off, leaving the woman alive. That's about where most people stop reading, but that is not all the Biblical passage has to say. After the people were gone, this took place: "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’" (John 8:10-11).

What If I'm Sinning and Don't Know It?

That probably sounds like a silly question, but it is far from it. We are so liberalized in our thinking in this era, we sometimes have the temptation to claim things are not sins when the Bible plainly says they are. I don't say that from a holier-than-thou position, I get caught in that trap myself.

Nice people fall into sin. Even nice Christian people fall into sin. But it is no excuse to say sin is not taking place, no matter how much we wish to protect the feelings of others, or more commonly ourselves. As Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

Sin before God requires repentance. After the repentance has taken place, the sin is forgotten by God and the sky is the limit for what you can accomplish in Christ.

I find these verses highly inspirational:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind (Phil 3:12-16).

Note, if in anything we "think otherwise" God will reveal it to us. We needn't worry about people’s attempts to conceal sin, re-label sin, or redefine words so that certain actions, which are sin, appear not to be sin. If we are His, God will reveal our sin to us. We have to listen to Him, though, not to the many voices around us, which claim we are not sinning when we do wrong.

In Conclusion

Depressed personIt may be surprising to hear you don't always feel good in your Christian walk. That certainly isn't the way most evangelists present the gospel; but it is certainly the way Christ presented it, and all of His apostles. So if you get down or depressed even though you are a Christian, don't despair and wonder if God has deserted you; God loves you, and He may well be motivating you to take that next step forward (Ps 77:1-15; 86:1-7).

The Feeling of Being Christian is Copyright 1998 by Compass Distributors, used by permission. Compass Distributors Web site: "Providing the freeware Bible Search Utility software and discussing various Christian topics."

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site in September 1998.

Problematic Theologies

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