by Mike Ratliff
29 And if you are Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed and according to promise, heirs. (Galatians 3:29 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
I mentioned many times on this blog that I grew up going to church. Some of my first memories were as a small child in church in 1950’s Oklahoma. I doubt if many today would feel real comfortable in the “church environment” I remember from that period. Of course, I did not come to faith until I was in my mid-thirties so I saw most of what went on during that period as a child, a pre-teen, and a teen in the youth group then as a College and Career young adult as an exercise in religiosity that seemed to have something to do with getting better and better at being righteous. When I went into the military in 1973 I left church until the mid-1980’s, married and with a family of my own. What was so interesting was that it was little different than I remembered. I still couldn’t wait for that last verse of the never-ending invitation hymn to get over with so we could get home.
What changed? I’m still pretty much against religion for religion’s sake. However, one cold Sunday in January 1986 we went to church and as I found my seat in our Sunday School class I came under such a severe conviction that I was lost and that I was being called to come to the Lord Jesus that I couldn’t tell you what went on that Sunday morning in that class or in worship service. I dealt with it all day and when we went back to church that evening, I turned to Christ as Lord and Saviour as we drove those few miles from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma into Tulsa to the original location of Gracemont Baptist Church. I remember being so full of joy all through and impatiently waiting for “invitation” time so I could go tell the Pastor all about it, which I did.
That was in 1986 and a lot has happened since then. We moved from the Tulsa area back to the Oklahoma City area and lived there until early in 2000 when we moved back to the Tulsa area before moving to the Kansas City area in September 2001. In any case, those years between that time of my Justification and now were marked not with a constant upward spiritual growth. No, not at all. No, instead, I did quite well for a few years then in 1990’s I would do well for awhile then have a few years of hardness or dryness followed by a revival of sorts then it would start over. Things really went downhill in 1995 when Timothy McVie blew up the Federal Building in OKC. I was in the blast zone. I found out later that I was suffering from depression and had some anger management problems stemming from that.
I was still dealing with those things, teaching Sunday School, being a Deacon, and having a very flat spiritual walk. My pastor gave me a year off of teaching, which was great. That was in 2003. However, in 2004 he asked me to start a class for young couples. The prayer to prepare for that caused me to draw closer and closer to our Lord in humility and I had a period of revival that lasted from January 2004 through August 2004. By the end of that month I was changed forever. My taste for the “elemental things” of this world became extremely muted because I was seeing everything from a very different perspective. Why? I had just spent many months in almost continual prayer, worship, and seeking the Lord’s face. I was in the Word continually.
It was through this that I started writing and seeking information online. This is how I met Jim Bublitz and Ken Silva at the Slice of Laodicea blog and became involved in discernment ministries. This is also why I knew I had to know doctrine in order to know what I was talking about. Therefore, I began to study it. This is how I became Reformed in my Theology. This change did not go unnoticed at our church and it did not make everyone happy.
Those who were trying to take the church down the Seeker Sensitive road just could not understand why I had issues with the bad doctrine of Rick Warren. Our Pastor hated Reformed Theology. It was only a matter of time. When we left it was because I lost my class and the church was going Purpose Driven no matter what I did or said.
That was in May 2006. If you go back and look at when this blog came online you will see that the earliest posts are from early 2006. It wasn’t much longer after that that I was asked to join the discernment team at CRN.
Why did I share all that? I’ve shared much of it before. It was to show you that we do not become mature believers right out of the gate. It takes time. It takes the Lord taking us through difficult and trying circumstances, the fires of tribulation, in order to burn away the dross so that the likeness of his Son will become evident in us. Why does he even bother? We are heirs if we are in Christ.
1 Now I say, for however much time as the heir is a child, he differs nothing from a slave though being owner of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time previously appointed by the father. 3 So also we, when we were children, we had been enslaved under the fundamental principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5 that he might redeem the ones born under law that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, “Abba Father!” 7 So, you are a slave no longer, but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
As an heir through God, if I were to die right now, I would go right into the presence of my Lord and that would be great. However, to stay in this life of trouble and tribulation is worth it as a Christian. Why? In this life we both have the opportunity to bring glory to God and to impact others with God’s truth and even be instruments God uses to bring others into the Kingdom.
Are you having a tough time right now? Some of us are, but let us not dwell on that, but instead, focus on the reality of who we really are in Christ and what that means in eternity. I remember distinctly that day in Tulsa in 1986 when I went from a simply religious person who hated those long invitation hymns at the close of church to one with the Spirit of God’s Son in my heart crying, “Abba Father!” Notice, I did not become an expert or huge fan of SBC religiosity after that. No, but I did become one who fell in love with the Word of God and became a Bible teacher after it was discovered that that was my spiritual gift. How was that discovered? It was by my comments in class as a student…well, you get the idea.
No matter what low point I was in, I was still used by God to teach his Word. No matter what my circumstances, good or bad, I was still used by God to teach his Word. That is what I do.
What about you?
Soli Deo Gloria!