My Search for Reality

I was raised in a denomination. As a young child I remember asking my mom if Jesus was a woman. We never talked about Him, but upon seeing a religious calendar in our kitchen with a picture of Jesus having a beard, I wondered how that could be. Later, in church services, I was responsible for wearing the robes, lighting the candles, and carrying either the cross or one of the flags in the procession leading the choir. The only problem was that it did nothing to rescue me from the power of sin. I needed God, not religion. When I was 11 years old, for some reason my parents took me out of public school and put me in a Lutheran Church school. There, they actually read the Bible and that was so marvelously unique to me. Discussing the Bible and the things of Christ was quite refreshing. However, without meeting the Spirit of Christ through the gospel, after a while, as with most things the novelty wore off. I needed the reality of Christ’s person, not just the doctrine of Christ’s teaching. The Lutheran high school that I attended was vastly different from the Lutheran grade school. It was just a high school, but it was 1969, an age when Satan seemed to pull every lie and trick out of his evil bag and dump it on the young people.

Upon graduating I took a trip with my grandmother to visit some relatives in California. While I was there I had time to myself and so I started reading the Bible on my own. I came across some verses that were troubling me. Jesus said that if we try to save our soul, we will lose it, but if we give it up for His sake, we’ll gain it. I opened up to the Lord in prayer concerning these verses. Somebody must have been praying for me because I came back home different. I may have looked the same, but my prayerful encounter with the person of Christ changed me on the inside. I felt like I was beginning a personal relationship with God. I was only about 19, but beginning then, I started belonging to God. But I had no affiliations with any religious group or denomination. I didn’t feel to continue with the denomination of my up-bringing. I had been there and done that. But I didn’t know where to turn. Eventually I gravitated back into the world. In a very short time I managed to find myself at a very miserable point in my life. It was then that I prayed to God to rescue me somehow. I needed a spiritual home on the earth.

Eventually, one day in 1976 I was invited with some other friends to a gospel meeting of the local church in Houston. There were probably about 300 people there. I must say that up until then I had never seen Christians enjoy themselves in a meeting like they were. Throughout the meeting, various people would stand up and share something positive and meaningful in a remarkably spontaneous way that would either convict you or nourish you. It wasn’t wild and uncontrolled, rather it was alive, genuine, and refreshing. There was a Spirit in that meeting that matched the same Spirit that I received when I first met Jesus. After the meeting, I was fully convinced that if there were any Christians on earth who were truly absolute for God, it was these. Therefore, I made up my mind then and there to never go back. Why? Because I knew that these dear Christians were truly serious about being absolute for the Lord and His purpose and I wasn’t like that. I didn’t think I could follow the Lord like that because it wasn’t in my disposition. That was before I learned that it doesn’t depend on your personal or natural disposition. But I was seeking. And if you’re seeking you’ll find the truth and the truth has a way to free you. I just give thanks and worship the Lord that He later showed me that my disposition doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing and being obedient to the truth in simplicity and purity. It doesn’t matter if we’re rough and crude or if we’re quiet and refined. The Bible teaches that the Spirit desires to sanctify and transform all of us. The truth is that all who have believed into Jesus have also received this same Jesus as the Spirit to make us genuine partakers of the divine nature of God Himself. Most of us don’t realize that our disposition means nothing. The disciple Peter, acting as our representative, thought with much confidence he could follow the Lord, later to find out that he couldn’t, after denying Him three times. That was because he was trying to follow the divine person with his natural and good human nature. But only the divine nature can express the divine person. Therefore, later, when our resurrected Lord breathed on the disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” Peter, along with all the disciples, obtained something that he previously never had. Eventually in the book of Acts it was Peter who was so bold and fearless to follow Christ and who wrote in his second letter, “He has granted to us precious and exceedingly great promises that through these you might become partakers of the divine nature.” We are becoming people who can say as the apostle Paul said in Galatians “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” Finding the local church there in Houston was actually the Lord’s answer to my prayer. I am so grateful to the Lord for such a thing.

The second most wonderful thing in my spiritual life was finding a ministry that could expound the Bible in a way that could actually help me to discover for myself how to daily cultivate and grow a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. The writings of Watchman Nee and his co-worker Witness Lee do nothing less than that. I have found that there is a distinct flavor and taste about their writings. Their ministries complement each other in an interesting way. Profound is the best word I can think of to describe their influence on my choosing to love Christ over everything else and to seek Him out for all my life. After spending time researching into their insights it is evident to me that they are standing solidly on the shoulders of other spiritual giants of times past like John Darby and Andrew Murray. Yet God had more to reveal. The need for expounding the depths of the divine scripture did not end with these 19th century servants of the Lord. Since the day of Pentecost, whether by tongue or by pen, servants of God in every age have been expounding the words of Scripture. The Holy Scripture needs expounding. In retrospect it appears to me that God has used Nee and Lee to expound the word of God for the 20th century. Not only are their points, their emphasis, and their focus solidly and refreshingly based on Scripture, but also they both touch the goal and purpose for my Christian living. For example, from their writings I was helped to see the difference between the punishment of sin versus the power of sin. The redemptive work of Christ saves us from the punishment of sin and is finished. But the work of Christ in His resurrection as the Spirit in my spirit still needs to be worked out to save me from the power of sin every day. I recommend their expounding of the holy word to everyone.

Mark Johnson