A few weeks ago I had a dream and I saw myself walking along a road in a sort of field and to my right there were some people (I would say two or three), and they were talking about me. I don’t know quite how to put it but they were talking about my work for Christ, my writing and ministering to others. I felt a feeling of contentment whilst this was happening and then I heard “she still thinks it’s by works”. All in all, this dream lasted no more than 5-10 seconds it was more of a scene than complete revelation.
Now because I was really tired and the dream was so short I thought it to be my mind, but I still made a mental note of it. I had no idea how relevant it actually was!
What I didn’t realise was I was about to have a mini breakdown the very next week. It began when my eyes were opened to a weakness in me. When this happened I began to feel condemned and like a hypocrite. How can I minister to another person or write when I still haven’t dealt with this issue I have?
That’s where my trouble began. When this happens to me I can’t minister to others, my prayer life falls and bible study suffers and it’s no mystery that the conclusion is I feel distant from God.
Well that dream was forgotten until a few days ago when I found myself crying on a bus on the way to work. I love encouraging others and testifying, I love talking and being in fellowship with God through prayer and the reading of His word – but I could not because I felt that until this issue was dealt with I couldn’t go to God and claim the promises He has spoken to me about, or ask Him to deal with some of the pending issues in my physical life. I was somewhat paralysed.
As I sat on the bus welling up I prayed with no uttered words, but from within my heart – “Lord I’m stuck, I can’t stop doing what is wrong, I want to be with you, close to you, show me that you still love me and that this does not change how you can use me. I want to speak your word to others, am I still worthy Lord? Show me”
It was pretty intense – but by the time I finished work and went home I completely forgot what I had said until He answered me the very next day and I realised He had heard me.
So I’m now sharing with you what he reminded me of and what I had to remind myself of.
During my Christian walk I have to say one of my main weaknesses and struggles has been going from faith to works – the very same issue that Paul wrote to the Galatians about.
Galatians 3 vs 1-5 (ESV)
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
Let me elaborate
At times in my walk with God I have struggled with various sins. There were times at the height of my struggles when I knew I needed to go to church and I wanted to be in his presence. There were times I even went to church drunk and high in faith that if I went God would heal my brokenness and sinful ways.
In fact one of the most moving examples of love God has shown me was exactly that! There was a day that I had a strong conviction that I needed to go to church. It was a Friday evening I had finished work in the City at 5 and knew church started at 7. It would take me 30 minutes to get there. Did I go straight away? No. I stayed with colleagues for after work drinks, one drink turned into 2 then three then four – but I still said in my heart that I would go no matter what even if I was late. Time past and 7pm became 8pm but I still said I must go. I told myself I wouldn’t talk to anyone or they would smell the alcohol on my breath, hear my slurred speech, and smell the tobacco on my clothes – but I had to go.
I called a cab and jumped in with only half an hour before the service would finish, but I thought ‘it doesn’t matter just go’. I will never forget it, it was the one of the first times I understood God heard silent prayers.
In that cab I spoke to God while I was completely smashed off my face. I told Him that I loved Him but I couldn’t stop this life, I told Him that I knew I shouldn’t be coming to church like this. I asked Him to help me and see my brokenness – ‘Lord I love you and I need you’. That was it – without a single sound, all from within me.
Now in my church lobby we have a basket full of scriptures, small pieces of paper each with a different scripture written on it. As people enter the church they pick a scripture from the hundreds in the basket. When I got to the church that’s exactly what I did and this was the scripture I got:
Isaiah 1 vs 8
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
I could not believe it!!!!! God was talking to me – He had heard me and my journey was not in vein – He had truly seen my heart.
Fast forward to now. Would I go to church like that now? No. Why? – Because God has done a great work in me. Today I am not where I was then and by the grace of God I will keep being transformed by His resurrecting power, day by day, into His likeness.
In the past when I have struggled with various sins I would be made aware of my desperate need of Christ for deliverance. I would go to church in hope of refreshing, but often I would leave condemned, being taught law and not understanding grace but instead faced with all the things I needed to change before I could call on His name. I was focused on all the things I did wrong. I thought if I join ten departments if I just stopped it then I would be right with God. I left more convicted of my inadequacies, knowing what I needed to stop but it wasn’t that simple.
I needed to stop drugs, smoking & sexual immorality but with some of these things I just couldn’t or at least not in my own strength. Many times I would stop, go a few months or even years without doing the things only to fall back into the same sin later on. The more I tried the harder it was.
A prime example was smoking weed. I think that was my killer challenge. When I stopped, on the surface I was abstaining but inside all I could think about was weed, I could smell it everywhere I went, if someone lit a joint 1 mile away I could smell it – I was still in bondage.
So I found myself paralysed I couldn’t and can’t go back to the world, just like Peter who said to the Lord “where else do we go”. How could I live freely in the world and enjoy the things I used to when my eyes have been opened?
I can only go forward, and to do that I need God. The issue is when I get convicted of my sin and forsake faith and begin in my own strength by works of the flesh to correct my ways, I tend to exchanged contrition for condemnation and begin to think I cannot or should not go to the God in my condition.
So my fellowship with God breaks down and it is impossible to walk by the spirit without close unbroken fellowship with God – He alone is the fountain of spiritual life and power.
Just like Apostle Paul who said “what a wretched man am I”, the closer to God I get the more I see my flaws, that there is truly no good thing in me.
Romans 7 vs 15, 18-19, 24 (ESV)
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Well surprise surprise it didn’t work. All my efforts to stop or change these things in me didn’t work. I tried everything to become better and free myself from my sin, but it was all useless. Why? Because no one who ever received the Law of Moses could obey it! I began to see the only way to get over these issues was to stop trying and simply give it to God and trust Him to heal my flaws.
Now the issue is how do I give it to Him when I feel I cannot go before Him because of what I have done? I simply can’t. As I’ve said, a lot of the time the more I have struggled with sin the more I have moved away from God – it’s almost a catch 22 situation.
Why do we behave this way?
Let’s look at Adam. He was created to have fellowship with God, and this is something He did have before the fall of man. The moment he sinned he immediately fled and hid himself from God. There is something to be seen in this and it is a prime example of the way in which we behave when we are confronted with sin and our fleshly nature. It is the flesh which is at enmity with God, which causes us to flee when we should in fact go to God in our sin.
What we need to remember is that God is with those who are contrite in spirit.
Paslm 51 vs 17 (NASB)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
The definition of the word contrite is: feeling or expressing remorse at the recognition that one has done wrong.
That is the sacrifice that God requires and He goes to work from there. So what can we do when we find ourselves struggling? The only solution is prayer.
James 5 vs 16 (NLT)
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
It is by the confession of weakness and prayer on the issue that it is dealt with and healed. Not only prayer but by the prayer of a righteous man. The longer the enemy and flesh and keep us from that effectual prayer the longer we remain in our struggle.
How does Satan hinder prayer? By getting us to postpone it, through unbelief and through hopelessness.
Unbelief because if we don’t believe we are righteous then we can’t pray in confidence that our prayer will have effect. If we don’t believe ourselves worthy of God’s grace then we can’t use it to overcome our problems. This is exactly what happens when we condemn ourselves.
Do you believe yourself to be redeemed? We must understand that we go to the Father and make our request known not because of our works, but because of our faith in Jesus Christ as our redeemer.
Come as you are to God, not tomorrow right now. Be real with God about where you are at, about your struggles, about the deep issues of your heart – cast all your burdens on Him in faith.
Let prayer become a relationship, communion with God the redeemer and not a chore. We come to Christ no longer by works but by faith, Faith that He hears us, loves us as we are, died for us and cares for us deeply. Faith in His word and His promises.
Only when we have confidence in the Father, in His word, in what He says we are; will this confidence take the place of self condemnation.
Romans 8 vs 1 (Berean Literal Bible)
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Nothing we do merits who we are in Christ. We can’t and don’t earn His love, He loves us as we are. You see when Paul saw his wretchedness with clarity he didn’t stop there but continued….
Romans 7 vs 24-25 (ASV)
24 Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
He separated the works of the flesh from the spirit. He saw that it was through Christ and Christ alone that He was worthy to go before God and he was thankful for this truth. We are made righteous through Christ and in fact we are the righteousness of Christ.
If we truly desire righteousness and fellowship with God what we must understand is that it was to this end that Christ was given. I will say it again in case you missed it – it was for this reason Christ came. So we must believe and know that THIS WILL be accomplished if we yield ourselves to Him in surrender. His purpose will prevail!!!!
If we are ever to overcome we must take hold of these promises and renew the way we view ourselves.
Romans 12 vs 2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
When we think differently about ourselves we will act differently. We also have to remember that it doesn’t all come at once as some would like to have you believe. God has great patience with his children. He bears with us in our slow progress with patience, the patience of a Father. If only we can believe.
Psalm 85 vs 11 (NIV)
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.
Let us go to God not in false perfection or through our works, but through faith in Christ and He will rain down His righteousness. It is faith not righteousness that comes from earth and is offered to heaven, and righteousness can only come from above.
Prayer is not only about coming to God to ask for something from Him. It is most importantly fellowship and relationship with Him and being brought under the power of His love and holiness until he takes possession of us and our entire nature is transformed into the likeness of Christ. This truly is the secret of worship.
God Himself will heal and change our ways, He alone can do it
Hosea 14 vs 4 (KJV)
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
God Himself heals backsliding it is a work of the spirit we need only turn to Him in faith through Christ Jesus our redeemer.
It is one of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life – that no matter how powerless, hopeless and weak you may feel, the resurrection power; that same power which raised Christ from the grave to life is working in you! If only we can believe.
In closing I want to leave some scriptures below to pray, declare and meditate upon if you are struggling with any of the issues I have mentioned. I pray the Lord keep, strengthen and bless you in the name of Jesus.
Hebrews 12 vs 2 (NIV)
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Isaiah 43 vs 25 (NIV)
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Matthew 28 vs 20 (NIV)
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.