When someone becomes a Christian a miracle takes place. The Bible describes this conversion experience as crossing over from death to life (Ephesians 2:1,2), being born again (John 3:3,8), and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). For this reason it's unsurprising that the Bible says that only the power of God can convert a person to Christ (Matthew 19:25,26). Human wisdom, decision making, and ingenuity are never enough to produce this kind of spiritual phenomena in someone’s life.

On the other hand, becoming a Christian is also an uncomplicated thing. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21), even if they have only a basic grasp of the gospel. They don't need to go to theological college to qualify for salvation. Once they accept they are a sinner and embrace Christ as their Lord, God will forgive and rescue them eternally. Why then do relatively few people accept this uncomplicated good news?

There are many reasons why people reject the good news of the gospel. Sometimes it simply boils down to spiritual pride. They are offended by being designated sinners in need of forgiveness. To them this message is demeaning. They believe they are good enough for God as they are and so they reject the call to repentance and faith in Christ. Or maybe they feel the gospel is too simplistic. They want God to speak to them in startling visions or miraculous events before they will believe. Sadly, such proud rejection of the simple gospel leads to self-exclusion from salvation.

But not all people who stumble at the uncomplicated good news of the gospel do so deliberately or defiantly. The problem for them is that, over the years, they have accumulated a series of false expectations and misunderstandings about the Christian faith. They want to move forward in following Jesus. Yet every time they try to do so the wrong ideas they have come to hold stand like spiritual roadblocks in their path. In the days ahead we are going to examine some of these roadblocks with the aim of dismantling their influence in our lives.

The problem of spiritual indifference

Many people feel that they cannot follow Jesus because they struggle with periods of spiritual indifference. Surely this automatically disqualifies them from salvation? Ought not a person who is serious about salvation always to be filled with zeal and passion for spiritual things? Isn’t the presence of inward coldness and apathy a sure sign that he or she is on the road to judgement with no turning back? It would be if such a person was comfortable and unconcerned about this state of affairs in his or her life. Yet the fact that such spiritual indifference causes personal grief and concern gives hope of better things.

It comes as a surprise to some to be told that being aware of personal spiritual indifference, and being concerned about it, is likely to be evidence that a person is qualified for salvation. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that it was the poor in spirit who were blessed in God’s eyes, not the rich in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He also said that those who mourn (over their sin) are the ones who shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). To lament our indifference to spiritual things is to recognise poverty of spirit and to mourn over the sin within. It would be more of a disqualification from salvation if a person said "I feel fine spiritually and nothing needs to change in my life for me to be acceptable to God".

Having said this, there are practical things that a person can do to combat the condition of spiritual indifference when he or she becomes aware of it. One crucial step is to learn to put obedience before feelings. Feelings are important in our spiritual journey, yet feelings are never to be the driving force in that journey. So, if you don't feel like seeking Jesus as urgently as you ought, remind yourself that it is a command of Scripture to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6). Be disciplined in making time to read the Bible. Pray to God for help in understanding what you read. Get to church services to learn more about the Christian faith through consecutive, biblical, preaching and teaching. Read good Christian books that explain the basics of the faith in clear and understandable language. If you feel the Lord is speaking to you through His Word about an area of your thinking or behaving that needs to change, don't ignore this. Instead ask Him for forgiveness in Christ’s name and power to repent and change as required. Ask a Christian friend to pray for you too in this endeavour.

But most of all, when we feel totally overwhelmed by the problem of our indifference toward the Lord, remember this: what saves us in the end is not the fervency of our dedication to God but the fervency of God’s dedication to us in Christ. It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that we are saved. And the wonder of this salvation is that it comes to us when we least deserve it (Romans 5:6-8).