So near, yet so far

So near, yet so far

When I was a chemistry student in Aberystwyth I lived in Pantycelyn Hall. There was a hall Bible study, which sometimes met in my room. The Christians were fairly conspicuous as we left for church twice on a Sunday dressed in our suits. In my last two years there was a certain law student in the next room to mine. The law students were a fairly ‘loud’ group, always voicing opinions and debating issues, as might be expected. Their Wednesday afternoons were spent on the local golf course, which was all part of their future lifestyle which would involve client networking. They often met in my neighbour’s room and, after returning from a night on the town, partied noisily late into the night. A couple of times some of us even had to rouse the sub-warden to tell them to keep quiet.  Sometimes lady friends would, illegally in those days, stay overnight. The dividing walls were very thin, so these events often prevented a good night’s sleep. All in all one could say that my neighbour appeared to relish all the world had to offer during his stay at university.

On the last night of the final year, he returned from a trip to town and instead of going to his room, he knocked on my door. I had never spoken to him directly before, neither had he ever been in my room. As you can imagine, I was apprehensive about what he was going to say. He began by apologising for being a bad neighbour, and looked quite sorry for himself. I assured him it was alright and made him a coffee. I had made no mention of Christianity, yet he began to relate how that in spite of all he had enjoyed while a student, his greatest pleasurable experience was when he attended an evangelistic meeting in his home town in South Wales. He had felt the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit in a way which exceeded all the other subsequent ‘joys’. I believe I pointed him to some relevant Bible verses and added a few words of counsel. I cannot say I was aware that he had undergone any permanent change of heart.

There are a few lessons to be learned. One is that if no opportunities have yet arisen to speak to your neighbour about Christ, never underestimate the witness you make as you regularly attend the means of grace. The world is watching and knows where you are going and your manner of life. You never know if they will one day call on you for help or advice. The second lesson is the serious one that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit.

It is dangerous to ignore the inward promptings of the Spirit as he stirs our conscience to deal with the problem of our sin, for which we must one day give an account before God. If we put off dealing with this issue, thinking it would interfere too much with our lifestyle and cause problems with our friends, two desperate situations could arise. The first is that we never know when we might be taken seriously ill or have an awful accident which would rob us of the sheer mental energy or capacity to deal with these matters. The second more serious event is that God could withdraw from us, so we lose all interest in seeking reconciliation with him, and despise any who would visit us and try to persuade us to think otherwise. Could God do this? Yes indeed! We read as early in the Bible as Genesis 6:3, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man for ever’. Paul implores us to be reconciled to God while we have the chance, because ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2b).

For those who have once made a profession of faith, and perhaps experienced the joy of the Spirit, but subsequently resolutely turned their backs on God, there is a dire warning in Hebrews 6:4, that ‘it is impossible that those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.’ Have you lost your first love for Christ? If so, there is still hope. If you are reading this, then you are probably concerned for your soul and have not yet fallen completely away. There is still time to seek God’s face and repent again and turn to him for forgiveness and restoration. Remember, ‘nothing is impossible with God’ (Luke 1:37).

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

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