A Personal Experience
I was born again with a heavenly birth on August 10, 1970, just before I turned thirteen years old. The Lord’s love was very real to me, and I thought of nothing but happily serving Him the rest of my days. I found very soon that there was a real enemy of my soul still at work, and I soon succumbed to temptation and did things I knew were wrong. The rest of my teen years and young adulthood is a story of repenting, new starts, and failures. I was taught that this was typical, and had no better experience than personal conscientiousness could bring me. But the Lord knew my heart, and had better plans for me. In my early thirties the Lord began to bring me to those “better plans.” The first area the Lord brought to light for me was the uselessness of discouragement after I failed. It was time to immediately repent, and seek the Lord again, to minimize the damage and get back to a place of a clear conscience before Him. I began to do somewhat better in fighting against some of my besetting sins.
In early 1991, I encountered what was a new teaching to me. God both requires and provides deliverance from sin. Jesus came to “save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) The life of a Christian is a life of reigning in this life. Now being exposed to truth, and even recognizing something as truth, is not the same as appropriating it in our lives. There was a memorable day in my life when the Lord opened this to my own heart in a peculiar way. A brother was speaking to me of the victory the Lord had for me by way of a parable, and I was only half listening. I suddenly “tuned in” as he was finishing the story: “As the ship crossed the ocean, at each mealtime he would go to his cabin and eat some more of his carefully hoarded cheese and crackers. Just as the voyage was ending, he found out that his ticket included the price of the fine meals the ship served three times a day, and he could have been eating well during the whole trip!”
The story hadn’t particularly captivated me, but the thought of what was included in the ticket price kept growing with me. When I was tempted to sin, I would call on the Lord for the provisions that had been already purchased for me, and I would get the victory! I began to lay hold of the many promises in scripture to sustain me in time of temptation, and Jesus indeed brought me into newness of life. Now temptation still assailed me, but I did not yield! Oh, the blessedness of a clear conscience!
I then began to discover a natural bent to evil dwelling within me, that made it difficult to keep the victory, and made it difficult to keep a whole-heartedness in my service to God. It wasn’t a particular act that I needed to repent of, and my conscience was still clear, yet it caused trouble for me, and my soul was not at rest. I was recognizing the fallen nature that I had inherited from Adam. The teaching of an inward purging, a second work of grace, was new to me, and I was naturally a moderate, slow-acting person in disposition. It took several years to come to a place of consecration to obtain that rest. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God…. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” (Hebrews 4:9,11) And again, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) But again there was a memorable day. I had gone out to our car, and was praying for God to purge and sanctify me, when He brought before me some things to yield utterly into His hands. I had sometime earlier consecrated my children into His hands, after much agony of spirit. Now the Lord brought to mind several things I had been fearful to face, and I consecrated to go through those things if He wanted me to. One final matter He brought before me, and I consecrated on a certain condition (I couldn’t feel that it would be right to do what He was asking unless He changed a condition that existed). At this point I felt blessed in writing down on a piece of paper the following words:
I, Richard Joel Erickson, being of sound mind and body, do hereby yield myself wholly and forever to the Lord, that I might be His completely and forever. Signed this seventh day of September, 1995.
I bear witness that the Lord received that consecration, and let me know it was accepted and the work done, at that moment. I felt a restfulness in my soul, a single-mindedness, a witness that the fallen nature had been purged out.
Since that time I have had more and harder trials than ever before in my life. Things I “gave permission” to the Lord to do, so to speak, have happened and the Lord has brought good to me through them. I have been smaller in my own eyes than ever before, and the Lord larger. I find that my own judgment and feelings still very much exist, and many times I find that I must seek the Lord for a laying aside of my own thoughts in order to discern His will, and then I say, “Abba, Father,” and go in His grace.
If you were to meet me, you would find nothing outstanding, and a number of character weaknesses, and little that is particularly appealing in earthly terms. But the hidden life of Christ is at work in me, and there is a clearness between myself and the Lord that counts more to me than anything else. “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.” (Acts 24:16)