Whilst this transformation is instantaneous, yet it would seem that many of us struggle to translate our new desire to serve Yahweh and to live the way that He wants us to into ability and a walk of obedience to His Word. We should not be discouraged or surprised by this conflict of obedience that is faced by us all and to which Paul alludes in his letter to the Romans: “…For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:15-18).
The truth is that whilst it is correct that the gift of salvation is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ consummate transaction, there is plenty of evidence in the Scriptures (and I am sure from all our own personal experiences) to show that it is also a process of growth and change that we all need to embrace. The Scriptures exhort us to grow in our knowledge and experience of Yahweh (2 Peter 3:18). Ultimately, the process in all its forms will be complete only when we step into eternity: “I was saved…” (Ephesians 2:5). “I am being saved…” (1 Corinthians1:18). “I will be saved” (Romans 5:9). All these statements are equally true and are supported in the Word.
The apostle John alludes to this process of growth in the faith in his first letter, where he identifies three stages in the life of a believer: little children, young men and fathers.
“I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you young men because you are strong, and the word of [Yahweh] lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:12-14 emphasis mine).
Understanding and identifying these three key stages in the personal development of a believer is helpful in understanding the true nature of the transfer.
I was eight years old when I first asked Yahshua to come into my life. I had been attending a children’s Sunday School run by The Congregation of Yahweh and held in a hut at the end of our road for a couple of years. I had heard the ‘basics’ of the gospel message many times and in many different ways, through songs, stories, prayers and plays. One day the leader at the front asked a question that was often asked, “Who has Yahshua in their heart?” Not wishing to be the odd one out, I stuck my hand up. When I went home I thought logically about how I had responded and its possible consequences. “I have just told everyone that I have asked Yahshua into my heart when I know that I have not. This is a lie. Lying is sin and if I sin I am going to hell. I don’t want to go to hell, so the best thing I can do is ask Yahshua into my heart.” Having worked this out, I got down by the side of my bed and asked Yahshua into my life - job done! I have to say that I didn’t feel much different after this, however every time I did something wrong I felt prompted to apologise to Yahshua and ask Him to come back in again! (My understanding of Yahshua’s grace was limited!)
It was not until I began to attend Sunday night family services that I began to be more aware of the Spirit of Yahweh and His presence not just around me but also in me. I have discovered over the years that it is this presence of Yahweh in me that is not only a guarantee of future blessing in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:5) but also a source of life and power, enabling me to live the kind of life that as His disciples, Yahshua has called us to live.
Yahshua instructed us that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to ‘become as little children’. I had a distinct advantage in that I came to know Yahshua as a child of eight and in a home, too, where no one else was a believer. This child-like approach to faith and Yahshua’s teaching came naturally to me - if Yahshua said it, it must be true, and so it can and should be done. Knowing that our sins are forgiven and that Yahshua also forgives us even when we fail, at times, in our quest to live according to His Word, is key to our early stages of growth in the faith (and indeed throughout our walk with Yahweh).
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – [Yahshua Messiah], the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” (1 John 2: 1-2).
It is however not Yahweh’s intention that we should live a life of repeated forgiveness for the same old problems and issues (Romans 6:1-2). There is much more to Yahweh’s gift of salvation than that.
I have to say that in striving to live a right life, I found myself, particularly in my younger years, failing. I found that the same Holy Spirit that was a source of joy and blessing was also a convicting voice, making me feel bad, even desperate at times, at my own inability to speak and act in the way that I knew I should, especially when with my friends. We should not be surprised at these growing pains. This convicting of sin is one of the key works of the Spirit (John 16:8). Yahshua emphasised the importance and benefits of such attitudes in His sermon on the mount. “[Yahweh] blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. [Yahweh] blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:3, 4, NLT, 6, NIV emphasis mine).
At this time many in our national church had been praying for revival and as a result, were experiencing a great breakthrough in their quest for personal holiness - an experience called sanctification. Many were finding that through true repentance and faith in Yahshua the root of sin was being taken from their life, and the desire to do wrong was gone. I will never forget being prayed for by the late Peter Warsop, who was the senior Pastor of our national church. It was during a national gathering at the Feast of Unleavened Bread 1979 and I was fourteen years old. He prayed that Yahweh would give me the ‘gift’ of sanctification, and that one experience was, for me, the most significant and life-changing of my entire walk with Yahweh. It proved more life-changing than asking Yahshua into my heart for the first time, better than speaking in tongues for the first time, better even than getting baptised in water, though all of these were significant and great milestones in themselves. It was as if the ‘penny’ had finally dropped. I was finally experiencing a vital aspect of what true salvation was - the power of sin destroyed in my life; and Yahweh was so near.
It was this experience that catapulted me into a new level of personal victory. Whilst I did fall a few times, I found myself learning how to pick myself up and get back into that close relationship with the Father and walk the pathway of holiness. I found myself able to make the tough day-to-day decisions between right and wrong no matter what the personal cost. I had, within, a sense of having overcome the evil one’s influence in my life. It was not long after this that I began to seriously read and study the Scriptures on a regular basis. As a result, I found myself becoming strong in the Word and more readily able to discern the voice of Yahweh and His will for my life. The book of Hebrews classes this as a mark of spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:12-14). In short I had progressed from being a spiritual babe to a young man in the faith. “…I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of [Yahweh] lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14 emphasis mine).
I particularly remember a time when, aged fifteen and on holiday with my family, Yahweh began to convict me of unrighteous thought patterns and to show me that this stronghold of the evil one in my life was the domain of a demon. He told me what its name was and showed me a Scripture in Psalms where we are taught that Yahweh has given us weapons to overcome our enemies. “May the praise of [Yahweh] be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them…” (Ps. 149:6-9a). I renounced any sin on my part in this area and then commanded this evil power to leave me. I had an immediate sense of release, forgiveness and freedom, as I felt it leave. Remember these great words from Paul: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of [Yahweh], and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to [Messiah]” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Whilst it is true that, as Paul points out, we have ‘not many fathers’ in the faith, that is to say leaders of rare stature, influence and example in the Church, yet in another sense we are all called to be ‘fathers’ in the faith. Our ultimate calling in this life is not only to live in the resurrection power of Yahshua but also to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in producing life in others. Some years ago, Yahweh presented me with a two-word mandate which I now see as the whole direction that my life should now take: “duplicate yourself!”
In so many words Yahweh said to me. “You have learned well (and continue to learn) how to live your life in a way that pleases Me. Now seek to reproduce that life in others. In the measure that you know Me, bring others into that same knowledge.” As the psalmist said after recognising his need for forgiveness and a new heart: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:13).
It is in obedience to this mandate that I am taking time out now to convey some of my experiences of Yahweh in written form. As the songwriter said, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, but it counts where you’re going.”
My friend, it does not matter how deeply into sin and degradation your life may have taken you. There is no sin or injustice, whether committed by you, or by others against you, no habit or stronghold of the evil one in your life, no impure action, no words, not even thoughts in your mind, that is too great for change. The blood of Yahshua shed freely for you at the cross (1 John 1:8), has the power to make everything new. The Word of Yahweh and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit can identify the problems and the blood of Yahshua cleanse and heal your heart if you truly want him to. “For every child of [Yahweh] defeats this evil world by trusting [Messiah] to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that [Yahshua] is the son of [Yahweh]” (see 1 John 5:4-5 NLT).
So what is Yahweh looking for from you? A simple decision of your own will and faith in the mighty power of the risen Messiah. What He’s done for me, He can do for you. Trust Him today, get down on your knees and confess to Him whatever it is that is getting between you and your relationship with Him. Remember this, “…everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh WILL be saved…” (Joel 2:32 emphasis mine). Yahshua did not die for anything less than total victory over sin, sickness, demons and death. He has promised us everything we need to live a holy life (2 Peter 1:3). So let’s be strong in Yahweh and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10 emphasis mine).