In so writing, I think Jesse speaks to the core of why people experience doubts in their walk with the Lord. I will start my thoughts with a statement of belief about the gospel, but hope all readers recognize this post is not intended as a discussion on what the theologically correct doctrine of the gospel message should contain. Disclaimer thus stated...modern American Christian experience, the church as I know it (limited as that is), preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ somewhat as follows:
Interestingly, I started to say something here about the exercise of free will in making the choice of trust in redemption through Christ’s atonement and realized one of the great divides among us. Ahhh, well, so it is. The point here is to express a bare-bone minimum of the gospel message from which this post can speak. I recognize many would want to tweak different points or even add some, but I do not assert this is "the" doctrine of the gospel. This is a framework ...oh yeah, I’ve already done the disclaimer thing.
Man is separated from God by the fall and the resulting sin in all hearts.
The Father’s plan of redemption since Creation is to become incarnate in a human born of the Father’s perfect seed, and therefore, the incarnate Jesus is free through this parentage from all effects of the fall.
Jesus lived perfectly, taught the Truth, and modeled among humans a picture of the Father.
He was sacrificed for sin paying the debt owed God’s perfect judgment.
He resurrected from death and is the first born into a spiritual, complete and eternal state intended for all humanity.
The fulfillment of the plan is the Holy Spirit sent to reside on the earth to renew, then guide and comfort all that trust in this redemption.
From where I sit observing human behavior, the real problem is in the living out of the last point. There are two conditions in which people labeled "Christian" abide regarding living a life in the Holy Spirit.
1. People who wear the label “Christian” for all wrong reasons. These folks are goats. God knows who they are. They know nothing of living a life of spiritual renewal through the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
2. People who are renewed as per the reality of the last point of the gospel message above.
In group number two, there is a variety of states or levels of experience. These are based largely on maturity in the spirit. Considering Jesse’s comment above, maturity is about learning to fully experience in faith God’s unconditional love. The ramifications of this are many and will manifest in diverse ways, but all have to do with the development of the conscience. I submit maturity is not achieved by study of the Bible, though study of the Bible is a component of what happens in the life of the believer. The conscience develops according to our experience with God--literally. The conscience is a function of a relationship with God: more of God, more acute conscience; less of God, less acute conscience. Reading the Bible does not guarantee growth of the conscience. (See condition number one above and the last point in the gospel above that.) There must be an experience with the Holy Spirit for one to be in God.
Sometimes believers make the mistake of living according to the dictates of a conscience built on fear of man. Such practice is immature and brings no growth in God. In this scenario, a person does all the right things as expected by the group, but this doing is just layering over the old nature in an attempt to achieve the holiness of God. The inward experience of this person will be something of a manic-depressive dichotomy or to use the Christian vernacular, “roller coaster ride” Christianity.
Better it is to simply trust God and accept one's circumstances as divinely intended to teach one to love. God is love, and the walk with Him is about maturing in love. Our Christian experience needs to mature beyond layering over our natural man. The old man cannot be fixed or disciplined into love, which is life in the Father. We must learn to be a new creature, born of the Spirit, with the life of God ever springing up in our heart. This is not a Christian platitude; it is the day to day of the gospel message.