When people say that they don’t “feel close to Jesus,” I ask them if they are making disciples. After all, his promise to be with us is directly tied to his command to make disciples. While every Christian wants to experience the power of the Holy Spirit, we often forget that the Spirit’s power is given for the purpose of being his witnesses. Experiencing God, which is the longing of every true believer, happens when we are being his witnesses and making disciples.
There’s nothing more exciting than experiencing the power of God firsthand. We would all love to stand with Elijah as he called down fire from heaven or to walk with Daniel through a den of lions or to see Peter and John tell a crippled man to stand up and walk. But these miracles happened when God’s servants were being his witnesses in dangerous situations. We miss out on seeing the Spirit’s power when we refuse to live by faith. We miss out on experiencing Christ when we don’t speak up for him.
What’s most tragic is that we could be experiencing God but instead we are experiencing guilt! Our fear of following him into a life spent making disciples leaves us feeling disappointed in ourselves.
Don’t you struggle with this kind of guilt?
You read the Bible and believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. You fear that those who die apart from Christ face a horrifying future. Yet for whatever reason, you’ve made little effort to warn your family and friends. You have neighbors, coworkers, and others you pass by daily without saying a word to them about Jesus.
You look at your life and think, This doesn’t make sense! Either I don’t really believe the Bible, or I’m extremely unloving. I’m more concerned about being rejected than I am about someone else’s eternal destiny.
Much of my life was plagued with guilt because I knew that my actions did not make sense in light of my beliefs.
God doesn’t want us to live this way. He wants us free from guilt and full of life. But the solution is not to ignore our guilt, nor is it to justify our actions, comparing ourselves to others who are just as complacent. The answer is repentance. Change.
I see a trend in many churches where people are beginning to enjoy convicting sermons. They walk out feeling broken over their sin. The distorted part is that they can begin to feel victorious in their sadness. They boast, “I just heard the most convicting message, and it ruined me!” The focus is on the conviction itself and not the change it is meant to produce—change that doesn’t necessarily follow when we stay focused on conviction. Guilt is not always a good thing. It is only good if it leads us past sorrow to the joy of repentance.
Remember that the rich young ruler walked away sad, while Zacchaeus (who was also rich) leaped out of a tree with excitement. The difference between the two was repentance. The rich ruler was sad because he wasn’t ready to let go. Zacchaeus let go of his pride and possessions to joyfully follow Jesus. This is what Christ wants for us.
It’s time we trade our guilt and sorrow for the joy of the Lord. No regrets.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Platt, D., & Chan, F. (2013). Follow me: a call to die. a call to live. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale.