After I Believed
When I think of the goodness of the Lord to me, I feel overwhelmed. Who am I that He should have dealt so graciously and kindly with me? I do not deserve the patience and devoted love that has been bestowed upon me.
I wrote previously (How Two Little Boys Stopped Fighting) of how the Lord strove with my heart when I was rebelling against Him and was full of my own ways. How differently my life would have gone if He had not persisted in drawing me to Himself! But He had persisted in calling after me and knocking on my door until I surrendered and yielded, and then I tasted that the Lord is good, indeed, and everything was changed.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
This was my experience. I was so different from what I had been. The motives of my heart were so different. There was in my heart a great love for God and a constant desire to please Him. I loved everyone and my desires toward them were dictated by a benevolent goodwill to everyone. This was the effect of the work of God that He did in my heart.
My life was greatly different from how I had lived before. Self was no longer first, and God was foremost, and He blessed and helped me. I was easy to entreat and yielded to Mother and Daddy as I had never done before. I wanted to do what was right, whereas before I had wanted to do what was wrong, and this change made all the difference. For about four years I continued to grow up and mature, but now it was the maturing of a boy with a changed heart. My mind was growing in comprehension, but the work that the Lord Jesus had wrought in my heart continued to manifest itself as it had at the beginning. I continued to hunger to do what was right and can remember no rebellion against the Lord during that time.
When I was twelve, the Lord began to deal with me more vividly again. I was wonderfully conscious that I was His, that He had made me His child, and that I had not knowingly done anything to mar that relationship. And the dealings of the Lord were for me to draw closer to Him, to live closer, to make my life count for Him.
I began to read the Bible more. Even though I had been read Bible stories regularly since I was small and been in church services regularly, I soon realized that I was remarkably unacquainted with God’s Word, and now I hungered to learn more of Him and His ways. This began to seem more important than anything else that I had previously enjoyed, and I found and realized wonderful truths. It began to dawn on my comprehension that others had found these same things, too, and I began to search for writings of others that matched the Biblical truths that I had found.
I had passed my thirteenth birthday by then, and I came down sick with some affliction that caused me to be bedfast for several days. During this time, I was reading an article entitled “Humility,” from The Hidden Life, by Charles E. Orr. As I read, the Lord dealt with my heart. I was deeply convicted of a lack of humility; yet such is the nature of the dealings of the Lord, the conviction was combined with a strong uplift of encouragement and hope that God had something for me that would enable me to be able to please Him along these lines. How precious is the memory of those days! As the Spirit of God began to open my spiritual eyes to what He had seen all along, I acknowledged my need as I was helped to see it. It was painful to my heart to have to recognize conditions within myself with which my Lord was not pleased. My blessing and joy in the clearness between my Lord and myself was changed to mourning, and I prayed earnestly that I would become just as humble as God wanted me to be (James 4:9-10).
I felt relieved, and was certain that the dear Lord had heard my prayer, but was not completely satisfied that everything inside where I couldn’t see it was just as God wanted it to be. I knew I had not done anything to displease my Lord, but I was also fairly certain that somehow He wanted something about me to be different than it was.
I began to search. As the Psalmist says, “My spirit made diligent search.” (Psalm 77:6) This would have done very little good in spite of my intentions, but the Holy Spirit helped me. Surely, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” (Psalms 127:1) He began to open the requirements of the Word of God to me, and I soon began to see that my evaluation of myself was not only wrong, but far more incorrect than I could have ever realized except for His help. Without any willful intention of doing so, I had just thought of myself more highly than I ought to think, but the Lord began to teach me to think more soberly—realistically (Romans 12:3). I began to realize that I was proud. The Lord convinced me that I was proud of my upbringing, the high values and principles that I had been taught. My parents had disciplined and trained me to excel in everything I undertook, and I was proud of that. I was even proud of my steadfast decision to live for God. I gloried in the reputation I possessed as a good boy. I felt I was precocious and advanced for my age. I felt I was advantaged over others who did not have the benefits of careful raising and nurturing. I thought I knew a great deal for my age and was preparing well for life. I thought I was important.
“And He taught me that I must
Then be prostrate in the dust,
That with Him if I would reign eternally,
Self within must all be slain,
And I live with Him again,
Just the holy life my Lord now giveth me.”*
The hand of the Lord was heavy upon me. The lines of the poem, “Oh, to be but emptier, lowlier,/ Mean, unnoticed, and unknown,/ And to God a vessel holier,/ Filled with Christ, and Christ alone!”* got a hold on me with great power. I prayed that I might view myself realistically, that I would not hold a higher opinion of myself than my Lord knew me to be.
These words were also used by the Lord in His working with me at this time:
Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you. Under the banner of this truth, give up yourselves to the meek and humble Spirit of the holy Jesus….
So much as you have of pride, so much you have of the evil one alive in you; so much you have of true humility, so much you have of the Lamb of God within you. Could you see with your eyes what every stirring of pride does to your soul, you would beg of everyone you meet to tear the viper from you, though with the loss of an hand or an eye. Could you see what a sweet, divine, transforming power there is in humility… how it expels the poison… and makes room for the Spirit of God to live in you, you would rather wish to be the footstool of all the world than to want the smallest degree of it.
[William Law; Spirit of Prayer]
In this way did my Lord open mine eyes to my need of a cleansing in the previously unknown depths of my heart. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
I come now to the part of my story that is so hard to accurately describe and communicate to you. Words just do not seem adequate to really portray the depths of consecration and dying to my inward self into which the Spirit of God led me at that time in my life. I was stripped bare. I was shaken and re-shaken and shaken yet more. I felt turned inside out; the candle searched me through and through (Proverbs 20:27; Psalms 18:28). Oh, how unspeakably little I turned out to be! And all the time, my inward cry was a great hungry longing, an agony of yearning to know that my Lord was pleased with me, and I was just as He wanted me to be in all that He had uncovered. Surely the Lord leads us into His rest through labor (Hebrews 4:9-11).
The Lord helped me to consecrate to be misunderstood, to be unappreciated, to be faithful to Him whether others approved or not. He targeted my ambitions and helped me to nail them to the cross. They struggled and fought hard; they begged for mercy and promised many things if only they might be let live, but in the end, the Lord helped me to die to them. Then did Satan paint my future as barren and bleak without these things. And I did consecrate for my life to be as my Master would have it. If He would be pleased for me to be brought to such a pass, then I would have it so also. Accustomed and conditioned to the luxury of others’ approval and praise, my flesh would rather have attempted service to God in the ways that pleased itself, but the Lord desired it not, so by His help, I died to my hunger for the approval of others. I consecrated to have no home, to wander for Jesus. I consecrated to not marry if He so desired. I consecrated to give up music, to give up reading, indeed, to be His so completely and utterly that I, too, could say with another, “Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.”*
My faith began to mount up. I knew that “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6) and the Holy Spirit was empowering me to sink down, down, down, and to die the death my Lord demanded.
Each morning, before the school bus would come, I would go out to the woods and pray and beg God to help me measure to the standard He was putting before me. When I came back from school, I would head for the same place. Nothing mattered but pleasing God. A great cry of YES to whatever God wanted, present or future, filled my soul. Praise God, it is there yet as I write these words!
On one never-to-be-forgotten evening, I came to the little grove and bowed once more before the great God, the Creator of this world and all that is in it, and my faith took hold of my Sanctifier. The words came from deep within me, and they were dictated by the Spirit of God to whom I had yielded myself. I was praying aloud, and the words that I uttered were along this line: “O dear Lord, Thou hast brought me to this place and I am empty before Thee.” The tears fell, for I knew in my heart that it was true, and the Lord had indeed brought me to an end of myself. Then I cried for the Lord to fill me and make me so that I would always be His, forever and ever. And that day I was conscious that my sacrifice was accepted, and a great, great peace, beyond anything I had ever known or imagined, filled me through and through. I shouted the high praises of God in the woods. It was even greater than the peace and glory that filled my soul when He washed me from my sins and forgave me.
How can I tell of the great, great difference this has made? I was the Lord’s before this, yet I am joyfully conscious of such a difference when I say, “I am all the Lord’s now.” Those who have experienced this same infilling need no detailed explanation, for they know; and those who know not—how can it be told? Surely it can only be experienced. Oh, the Lord has something for you!
The results? “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard… the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) “Ye are complete in him.” (Colossians 2:10) The Bible is geared to a sanctified life. To be moved at the impulse of His love! What a marvelous helm the Lord has to install within you! How easily He controls those who are all His! It turneth about “whithersoever the governor listeth.” (James 3:4) What a wonderful heavenly bit, freely and willingly accepted into our mouths! (James 3:3). Does the Lord have the control of you that He wishes to have, my brother? Have you found that wonderful wisdom which is from above? It is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) Has a work been wrought in you that hath purified your heart through faith? Are you like the Master, pure as He is pure? (Luke 6:40; Acts 15:9; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 3:2-3). Has the good heavenly love in your heart, obtained from the Father in the new birth, been perfected by His mighty working power? (1 John 2:5; Hebrews 10:14-15).
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. [This was his great confession and humiliation; my name is Supplanter, i.e., he who takes for himself what belongs to another.] And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:24-28) Is it not reasonable to surrender ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him? (Romans 12:1).
“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2)
“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21-24)
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14)