My spiritual journey began in a religion based primarily on Old Testament law, deviating from the completeness of New Covenant relationship. I think the argument that keeps many people bound in legalism comes from the book of James: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?…You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:14, 19-20) Deceptive doctrines go on to define just what those works should be, discounting the context of that scripture, which is to not show partiality towards others, bridling one’s tongue, good conduct sourced in heavenly wisdom, and humility.
My dad and step-mom sent me to denominational schools starting in the fourth grade, boarding academy for my high school years, and then college. As the indoctrination progressed throughout the years, I would respond to alter calls when guilt overwhelmed me, always vowing to be better—I always tried to be good because guilt was quite unbearable; however, I could not be good enough to overcome my sin nature! I didn’t understand the concept of the cross because, in my mind, salvation was based on behavior instead of belief, on me working out my salvation rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me. I also felt driven to be involved in ministry, I think primarily to get God to like me.
I came to a point of implosion in my early 20s when I worked in a restaurant ministry located in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district (late ‘60s, early 1970s). For a long time a suicidal spirit dogged me and the demonic influences in that area along with my spiritual turmoil culminated one evening with a set determination to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. …but God had other plans! As I was walking out the door of the restaurant, someone stopped me and asked if I would like to go to a Bible Study at one of the Christian communes in the area—that they were going to be praying for people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit that night.
I wasn’t even quite sure what that meant or if it was even something that Christians were supposed to do, but I was desperate and figured I might as well see if that would give my aching heart some answers. I didn’t speak in tongues that night or experience anything like it, but I believe that was the night I was saved. I was not there to give God anything; I just went into that room to receive from Him—and I received Him. It was the Holy Spirit who revealed Jesus to me (and He continues to do that), and it is He who lifted the religious veil which clouded my understanding of scripture (and He continues to do that, too!).
That was over 40 years ago and I continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I confess that I had a serious spiritual setback when my marriage broke up—the suicidal spirits came back to visit, but God and I wouldn’t let them stay. I rebelliously turned away from my Savior for a while but I could not stay away from the one who loves me.