I did an audio recording on this topic that goes into greater detail, I strongly suggest listening if you get an opportunity, The Journey of a Believer.
There are many misconceptions about the journey and/or life of a believer, someone who truly wants to be united to God in truth in spirit. From my understanding, there are three significant phases of a believer’s journey to moving into unity with God as we were created to live.
This journey isn’t embracing a religion, which is following man-made doctrines about who God is and what He desires. This journey is drawing near to God in truth as He is and as we are; it’s cultivating a real relationship with Him.
Phase 1: The Awakening
At some point God stirs our souls to what He did for us in Christ that brought reconciliation to Him. In Christ’s physical sacrifice and resurrection, God revealed His forgiveness of all the things we’ve done, do and will do that are contrary to Him (sin). His forgiveness had nothing to do with us earning it and everything to do with His love for us.
This awareness brings excitement and often blessings into our lives as we taste of the forgiveness, mercy, provision, and love of God. Our eyes are opened to the path of life as we are now able to be united to God, but true unity hasn’t happened yet.
Once we understand what it means for God’s love to be poured out upon us in such a way, our response is to draw near to Him in truth. Thus, we diligently seek unity with the One who showed us such a great love. Unity means surrendering to God’s sovereignty, acting in line with His will, abiding in His love and it flowing outward, and gaining His Spirit as a guarantee we are His. If we aren’t seeking Him, which will take us to the next phase, we haven’t grasped the point of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection — an opportunity for true unity with God. John 1:12
Many never get past this stage because of false doctrines about the purpose and meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. For example, they believe it was a free pass to heaven or only a resolution of their sins so they don’t have to carry quilt, when it’s THE doorway to a deep and real relationship with God. But for those who do understand, they move on to phase two.
Phase 2: Discipleship under Christ and the Refining Fire
This phase begins when we truly start seeking God, which means we are devoted to getting to know God as He is through His Word and the instruction of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we become disciples of Christ, the Word of God. Matthew 28:19 We read and meditate on His words, and seek to be taught by God Himself, not another person. For the deep truths of God to become ours, we have to be taught by God. He teaches us in a way that it becomes our truth and changes us. Others can only point toward the truth, they can’t write it on our hearts. Therefore, this tutelage under Christ is an individual endeavor.
When we are first awakened, we’ve become aware of the path of life, but we are still consumed with lies, false images, pains, anger, bitterness, pride, and our self-will. This second phase entails the truth revealing, purging, and replacing all the corruption, so His Spirit can move in … phase 3.
Commitment to abide in the Word on a regular basis and to seek God with all our heart, soul and mind are essential to move through this phase.
The second aspect of this phase, which goes hand in hand with being a disciple of Christ, is the refining fire. As gold is purged of its impurities by fire, so are we. Our fire consists of challenges and trials. James 1:2-4 These put pressures on us to reveal our impurities, to move us ask, seek and dig deep into God and His truth. The fires expose the impurities and purge them, IF we cling to the Truth of God throughout the process and seek His counsel and instruction.
Essentially, the part being purged is our self-will (i.e. flesh, dying to self). It’s the part of us that governs all that goes against God’s will; whether good or bad in our eyes. During this stage lies and deception are purged from our beliefs about God, us, others, and this world and truth is instated. It’s the purging and rebuilding of our souls that prepares us to be God’s temple, phase three.
One note about the refining fire and the tools used – because of the sin of Adam and Eve, in Genesis 3, they both fell under a curse. Adam was cursed in his work and Eve in marriage and childbearing/rearing. Because in Christ we are forgiven, this curse is lifted. These areas, which were once cursed, are now used as tools to refine us. God uses many things in our lives to teach and refine us, but the main and consistent tools seem to be these areas for men and women. Therefore, don’t run from the challenges in these areas. Seek the lessons and grow through them. God is making all things new in His time and His way.
This stage can be long and difficult because of all those things we need purging of: deception, pride, resentments, pains, anger, and our self-will, which loves to be in control. These are what manifest our hardships, block unity with God and keep us from being who He created us to be. All needs to be removed and replaced with truth, peace, trust in God, and love. The purging, humility and refinement isn’t easy. Yet through it all, God is right there. We need to trust Him and His work, and not what we see.
Many don’t make it through this phase … this is why many are called (phase 1) and yet few are chosen (for phase 3). Matthew 22:14 It’s difficult. Some complain and blame which keeps them blind to God’s work and moving forward. Others turn back to their ways and the wisdom of the world (the things God is purging), by not clinging to the Word.
I’ve done a couple of audio recordings related to this stage, that you will find constructive and helpful:
Growing in Intimacy with God through the Bible
Unlocking the Bible
Holy Spirit as Our Teacher
Phase 3: God’s Spirit at Home in You
As we are refined, we become new creations because we’ve been purified and sanctified. We can over spiritualize this process, but it’s a very real journey that we embark upon, full of real trials and challenges serving a higher purpose if we allow them – God building His temple. If we continue with God, we come out renewed with a framework of truth and God’s love and those change everything. As new creations sanctified by God Himself, we are able to hold the Spirit of God. Before He was with us … how He is a part of us. We are a new wineskin, able to hold new wine. This is phase three. 2 Corinthians 5:17
During this phase, God makes His home in us. John 14:23 We are always learning and growing, but we come to a point when God’s spirit moves in. Needless to say, it’s a significant transition in our lives. The old things pass away; lies, fears, and afflictions. We want only to walk in obedience because of a love for God and truth. We seek to serve God’s will in every way. We live His truth, not just speak it. A pure love for others flows through us. Our prayers are mighty as His truth abides in us. We are powerful vessels to be used by God as our will is submitted to Him.
This is the place we want to be. We can’t jump here as many doctrines profess. It’s a journey, because the relationship is real and based on truth.