Monday, 15 February 2010

Jesus, friend of sinners

It is a huge blessing to be born into an extended family that is predominently made up of Christians. I don't know of a time when I didn't believe in God, or that He created all that there is out of nothing, or that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins.

Yet somehow, I grew up with a very theoretical understanding of the Gospel. As far as I was concered, God was God, I'm was a sinner, and Jesus died to save sinners. So all I needed to do was just trust in that, and hey presto: I'm saved! And, by God's grace, I did have times of immense assurance and joy, but He generally seemed remote.

I was unsettled by people who obviously had a much closer relationship with God. One coping strategy was humour: they're just the "holy rolies", but "normal" people know it's not that simple. But one encounter that haunted me for years was "back stage" with Leith Samuel at a mini conference where I was serving as organist. I don't think Mr Samuel could say the words "The Lord Jesus" without a smile on his face. And that bothered me, because I didn't know Jesus like that.

I've spent most of my life with William Cowper's "O for a closer walk with God" almost as if that's just the way things are supposed to be. "Where is the blessedness I knew / when first I saw the Lord? / Where is the soul-refreshing view / of Jesus and His word?" And I think a defective reading of latter half of Romans 7 had me stoically resigned to living the rest of my life there.

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