Deep Christianity – Going to a Whole New Level of Faith
Around two years ago, my faith in Jesus Christ began to take on what felt like a whole new dimension. After being a Christian for about eight years, I felt like, finally, I'd started to really get it. This page describes some of the changes to my life since that time, and how they happened. It's a new page and like many of the others I'll add to it and improve it over the next few weeks (until college goes back, and I don't have the time).
Perhaps some of these ideas can help other people to deepen their own Christian experience. Eventually I'll expand on them all considerably, making them into separate web pages, and in some cases even whole sections of the website.
Around this time two years ago, my church did a series written by Rick Warren called Transformed. It involved small group meetings once a week, with a DVD episode, and then a discussion. We each had a workbook to write ideas down in, that was made to go with the series.
For some reason, I really got into "Transformed". I'd tried to read Rick Warren's most famous book, "The Purpose Driven Life", two or three times before — and I never found I could get into it. But I loved doing "Transformed". And it changed a lot of things about how I thought, prayed, and lived. Interestingly another friend from church said the same thing, that he never liked The Purpose Driven Life, but really liked the Transformed Series.
I'll get out my notebook from that sometime and write up more about it. There's a very large number of different types of Christian educational series available now, along these lines. If you can find one that resonates with you, doing a series like this can open yourself and your life up to God's influence in a very powerful way. There are many different churches and other Christian organisations running things like this all the time — if you look around it should be possible to find something.
I think one of the key reasons it worked so well for me was the regular meetings, based on a common theme. That's actually two separate reasons: There were meetings (i.e. with other people, in real life), and they were regular. This allowed for both repetition (that my life was being transformed into a completely new life, even though I was already a Christian), and for discussion with other people, in real life, about the details of that.
Both of these reasons combined made the things I learned have a lot more impact. They stayed with me more than other things I'd tried did, such as books that I'd read randomly, and was really impressed with at the time — and then later forgot most or all of what they said, and went back to my old ways of living and thinking.
As an example, when I was still a new Christian I bought a book series by John and Paula Sandford, called "The Transformation Series". This was a four-book set that I read, and loved, and really got into. I felt like I was learning so much from it. But then, not long after I stopped reading them and moved on to other things, I found that I just forgot most of what I'd read about and was so impressed by as I was reading the books and thinking about them at the time.
I think this is probably a very common experience for Christians. It certainly was for me in my early Christian years. Not just about that book series — there were a lot of other examples of things I felt so inspired by, but then not long after almost completely forgot about. And went back to many of the same ways of living that I followed before I was a Christian.
I think even church itself can be like this, in that you can go to church, hear a sermon, be really impressed and inspired, and then go away and forget about nearly all of it.
I found that doing a series that was centred around regular meetings with a small group helped a lot to overcome this problem of forgetting.
Jesus Is With You, Right Now, And Always
It was while doing the Transformed series that I had the idea to imagine Jesus as if he was physically present with me, right next to me. Since he is present with me, right next to me, right now, and always, in spirit form.
"Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
I found that doing this a lot, and really thinking about how Jesus is here with me, right now, all the time, helped a lot to change the way I thought about a lot of things, and also to change things about how I lived.
At the end of the Transformed series, I got baptised as an adult. Since I'd been going to a Baptist church for about 8 years at that point, it was something I'd thought about doing for a long time. Though I wanted to feel like I was ready for it and that my life was changed enough to be worthy of it.
Discovering Biblical Hebrew and Greek
Later that year (2017), I was in Koorong, my local Christian bookshop. For some reason I decided to look at the section called "Languages". Even though I'd been going there often for many (like eight) years, I'd never thought to look at the languages section before. I picked up "The Reader's Hebrew Bible", and it was like one of those moments in a movie, where a light shines down from heaven, and the person's entire life is from that moment on forever changed, and never the same again.
I knew right away that I had to learn to read the Bible in Hebrew, and from there it was only a matter of minutes before I realised I would have to learn Greek also (the Old Testament of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, apart from a few very small sections in Aramaic, and the New Testament was originally written in Greek).
I'm sure that one of the things that helped this feeling was the particular version of the Hebrew Bible I first happened to pick up. Being what they call a "reader's" edition, it only expects you to know a few hundred of the most commonly occurring Hebrew words. Which make up the vast majority (like 80-90% of the words) on each page of the Bible. Definitions for the other, less common words are given in footnotes at the bottom of every page. So the reader's Bible pages look a little like a study Bible, except the part under the main text, where the study notes would be, has the definitions of all the original language words apart from the few hundred you're expected to be able to learn in a one-year language course at Bible college. I thought to myself, that didn't seem too impossible, just to learn a few hundred words.
Bible college is like what I said about the Transformed series, only even more so. I find that the repetition, and having other people to learn from and to discuss things with, make the teachings really go in deeply, and stay there.
I've found that this has even increased my ability to learn things on my own. I mean that since starting Bible college, I've read a huge amount of different types of Christian material, some of it unrelated to any of the actual subjects I've studied formally at Bible college — but still I've been able to learn a lot more from them, and experience much more and much deeper real changes in my own life than I did in my early years as a Christian.
After starting Bible college, my life, both inner and outer, continued to transform. I bought a lot of Christian books, and listened to a lot of sermons (mostly on YouTube).
One of the first preachers I listened to on YouTube was Billy Graham. I didn't know much about him before that, nor had I heard any of his sermons. I remember my father talking about him a lot, and that he's one of the most well known preachers ever. Also I'm attracted to old-fashioned style things. So I started with listening to vintage sermons by Billy Graham. This was the first one that I found, and listened to a few times over:
There are many more sermons by Billy Graham you can listen to here on YouTube.
Also early last year, soon after starting Bible college, I bought a couple of books by John MacArthur. One was about preaching, and one about being a pastor. Later I got some others. This is a quote from the book about preaching (emphasis added by myself):
The First 600 Titles for an Expositor's Library
After the previous discussion of the importance of a solid library for an expository preacher, it seems appropriate to include a suggested list of materials and thereby identify a model library for one who has this goal. The works here are only suggestions. Each person will need to adapt the list to fit their own needs. "Books are like clothes: what fits one person's needs and style may not fit another person at all."
Also, this list is limited to a basic collection in the fields of biblical studies and theology, and does not identify other items an expositor may wish to acquire. The expositor should aquire a number of items on current biblical and theological issues to assist him in his study and keep himself current, The purpose of this list is to assist a new generation of aspiring expository preachers in gathering a collection of tools for this worthy task. It includes books which have or will stand the test of time and tries to avoid items based on current theological speculation.
The list has a wider purpose, however. It is for a wide spectrum of readers who are seeking to assemble a well-rouded library. Serious expositors should consider the entire list as a model library.
For a book addict such as myself, the idea that I should start to build up my own "library" — beginning with a "basic collection" of 600 books just about biblical studies and theology, plus "other items an expositor may wish to acquire" apart from just those first 600 — was a bit like when you pour petrol on a fire. Meaning that I bought a lot of books after that.
I hadn't heard of MacArthur before I bought those two books, but I noticed that he's written many others, and seemed to be well-known. So I checked him out online.
As it happened, in the first sermon I found of him, MacArthur completely bags out a book (and movie) called "The Secret", which an ex-girlfriend of mine used to read and watch on DVD, over and over, around the time I broke up with her. So of course, that got me even more on side with his message. He's quite hardcore, and some people may think too much so, and I don't necessarily agree with everything he says. But I found that I love this kind of old-school preaching. It seems very real — and I like having role models who are more strict than myself, not less so.
From looking at the comments and the other suggested videos that went with John MacArthur's sermons, I discovered Paul Washer, who I also listened to a lot of. This was one of the first sermons I heard by him. Again, his message is quite strict and old-school, and again, I found that this really helped me a lot to re-examine my own life, and how I'd been living it. And it helped me massively to change and improve it.
By "improve" my life, I absolutely don't mean that I feel that now I'm living in a more godly way, which will please God more, while missing out on a lot of fun worldly things that I used to do. I mean that my life is much, much better now. I enjoy life more this way and I'm happier than I have been for many years, living in a way that I feel is more like a dedicated disciple of Christ should live.
After listening to a lot of this kind of preaching, and reading books too, so many of the worldy things which had plagued me for many years just fell away. I mean things I was really struggling with, which made me very miserable. Many of them were the usual kinds of things that people look to for pleasure. One of the big ones was money — I no longer feel anywhere near as much that my life is a failure because I haven't been able to amass a lot of money (or even an average amount of money for someone in a rich Western country, which is a lot of money on a world scale), like I once wanted to.
I feel much more satisfied with my life now, and I've lost much of the bitterness and resentment I felt for a long time about health problems, and other things that have made my life unusual. So the idea of seriously trying to give up sin, and live for God, isn't just for God's benefit, or for our future benefit in the next life. It works now to make life better, while still in this world.
I also began to clean out a lot of old things from my old, pre-Christian life, which had remained part of my life during my early Christian years. (I'll write more about this soon...)