At 25 years old, Sam was frustrated with Christianity.
With his foot heavy on the accelerator and steering abruptly, Sam would spin “donuts” in the gravel, sending rocks flying. That was his reaction to spending yet another futile Sunday morning in church.
“I couldn’t find help in the preaching and it was frustrating. I would get so exasperated that I would take it out on my car after the service, Sunday after Sunday, frightening my wife.”
Sam realized that he shouldn’t be reacting that way, but he had no idea how to control his temper. “I always wondered if it was acceptable as a disciple of the Lord to continue with the same reactions, the same sins, every single day.”
“There was no way to stop sinning”
Year after year, the frustrations continued, as Sam knew there was no change in his life.
“I couldn’t find help to change from the person that I was — anxious about the future, cruel to my loved ones, giving them the silent treatment, for example. The only thing I heard was that I could keep praying and asking for forgiveness. But there was no way to stop sinning.”
Sam went around asking pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians — he was desperate to find the truth. He would ask, “This is what we read in the Bible, but this is how we live and talk. Please tell me why this does not match up?” Some of them responded by saying, “Yes, I had questions about this too when I was younger, but if you wait, those questions will go away one day, don’t worry.”
No one had answers and it tormented Sam. “I felt like there must be something more! Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’ and I wanted so badly to ‘walk just as He walked’ (1 John 2:4-6), but how?”
“In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read about being transformed into His image, but I had no hope of becoming like Him. I would go to hear preachers, and they spoke about Jesus in these great swelling words, but He was so far removed. If Jesus was still God on this earth, how could I follow Him? I knew that I was certainly not God.”
The thought came to Sam that Jesus was a man on earth, just like you and me, but that thought frightened him, because the teaching that he grew up with was so strong.
Unable to find answers and fed up with religion, Sam eventually moved his family to “no man’s land” in Northern Canada, away from all denominations and religious assemblies. He was hoping against hope he would find peace in his heart by worshipping God in nature.
Jesus, a man I can personally follow
Just about that time, Sam met a man who had heard a message through some people from Brunstad Christian Church. “He told me about a gospel of the obedience of faith and shortly after, he invited me to a conference in Hungry Horse, Montana. A man by the name of Sigurd Bratlie would be there, and he urged me to come and listen to him.”
That proved to be an immense turning point in Sam’s life. “When I heard Bratlie speak about a life of victory over all conscious sin, everything in my heart rejoiced!” For the first time, Sam heard that Jesus came as a forerunner for mankind; someone he could personally follow.
How and why is it possible for us to follow Jesus? Sam explains this with conviction. He is gripped of this very revelation that has actuated breakthrough and development in his life.
“It was because Jesus came to earth as a man and took on Himself the same flesh and body as us. (Philippians 2:5-7) By the help of the Holy Spirit, which is also available to us, Jesus agreed with God to condemn sin in the flesh every single time it was revealed to Him by the Spirit of truth. (Romans 8:3) Jesus never committed sin! And now He’s paved the way for us, thereby making it possible for us to do the same! He is our Forerunner, an example, not just someone who died for us!”
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin…” 1 Peter 4:1.
“In this verse it says clearly that we too can be finished with sin! I could arm myself with the same mind as Jesus had — to suffer in the flesh, to deny my own sinful desires and put them to death, and be finished with sin.”
“Such a life of victory over sin is impossible for those who believe that Jesus came to earth as God. If Jesus had retained some of His heavenly power, power that was not accessible to us, then He would have been a deceiver to say ‘Come follow Me.’ He would have known it was impossible. However, it is written that He emptied Himself and took on the form of a bondservant and found Himself as a man.” (Philippians 2:7)
And now we have access to the same power that Jesus had
“Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and yet He never did sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Sin was put to death before it was ever manifested in His human body. Jesus was tempted to disobey the will of the Father but He never once gave in to this. That is why He prayed with vehement cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7), so that God would help Him to do the will of the Father (Hebrews 10:5-7) (Luke 22:42). For Jesus as a man to rely on that power indicates that He had given up His divinity.”
“While He was here on earth, Jesus had to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and that same power is available for me to follow Him. When we are born again, we receive that same spirit, and therefore we can follow Jesus! That is the key to help — by receiving the same Spirit that Jesus lived in, we can identify the sin that is in our body and put it to death; that’s how we can become like Him!”
“The Bible then became a whole new book for me, especially the New Testament. Scriptures that were previously just skimmed over and ignored came alive. I started reading the Bible not as a book of religious theories and doctrines, but as a book that could help me live a productive, happy and good life, and help me become a blessing for people. I could learn obedience and walk the way He walked on the earth. Step by step, sin could be eradicated. I noticed that as soon as I didn’t give in to temptation, I became happy! And what immediately followed was rest and peace on the inside, even though my outward situations didn’t change at all.”
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” Philippians 3:10.
“The way to Jesus’ life opened up for me when He revealed Himself to me personally, like Paul writes here. The same power that came into the life of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, is available for me to actually follow Him. Before hearing this understanding of ‘Christ manifested in the flesh,’ I had no idea that it was possible for me to be finished with all conscious sin, to actually, bit by bit, be freed from my sinful nature so that I can become perfect just like Jesus was perfect. This is much more of a triumph than the forgiveness of sins! (2 Corinthians 2:14) I had no hope of this before, but now I’ve personally experienced that it is possible. This is indeed the liberating gospel!”