Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Believing Isn’t Enough

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” – Matthew 7:21-23

Begin raised in a Christian home, I’m proud to say I’ve been in church all my life.  From the time I was small I heard stories of God and Jesus and the disciples.  Believing in Jesus was easy.  He was the one the Bible was about.  He was the one with the five loaves of bread and two fishes.  He was the one that died on the cross.  But salvation didn’t come to me at the time I believed Jesus was God’s son.  Believing that He was God’s Son didn’t happen at any certain point in time, but through a life of being taught who He was.  Salvation came when I realized not who He was, but who I was.

There’s a huge difference in intellectual belief in Jesus and believing IN Jesus.  Thousands upon thousands of people have walked an aisle, signed a card, joined a church, repeated a prayer and said they believe in Jesus.  Oh, I would love to write 10,000 pages on the evils that are occurring in churches under these false pretenses of “saving” people.  Nowhere in God’s word does it say “repeat this prayer after me”.  No one ever was saved that way!  Nowhere in His Word does it say you have to join a church, or sign a membership card.  What the heck are we doing letting people that preach this kind of doctrine into our churches?  Are we that blind to the evil that they present? 

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone ways “Oh, you should take your youth to Judgment House!” or “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames will show them what hell is like, and they’ll want to be saved” - or just pick your fear maker of choice! When the Bible talks of fearing God, this is NOT the kind of fear it means. 

Would someone please tell me where in God’s word a man was ever saved by this kind of fear?  And if this kind of ministry is true, where are all those that repeated prayers and signed cards now?  Are the pews full of changed lives? No. Instead we have thousands upon thousands of people walking around thinking they’re holding on to a “get out of hell free” card when in fact, they will stand before God one day and hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”(Matthew 7:23).

I’ve heard people even make the stupid comment that “yes, but if even one is saved – it’s worth it.”  Really?  It’s okay if 99 go to hell if you truly make one believer? Consider that when you stand before God and He requires their blood at your hands.  We cannot deliver 99 to Hell and be justified by sending 1 to Heaven.  Do you think God does not also love the 99?

And if these methods truly save people, I ask you, where are they now?  Are they changed?  Do their lives prove they are following God’s will, or can you even tell a difference in their lives and that of a non-believer?  No!  They are walking around professing to be Christians, yet living like a non-believer.  How many times have you heard non-believers use this kind of “Christian” as an excuse for not believing? “Well, so-in-so says they’re a Christian, but I know I’m a better person than they are!  If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want it!”  Now it’s not just 99 going to Hell, it’s one more for each they deceive. Is it still worth it?

I’ve been in services like this where young people will come forward, tears streaming down their faces, repeat a prayer, sign a card, and you never see them again.  Yes, they confessed Christ with their mouth, but not their heart!  True believe in Jesus Christ doesn’t work that way.  True belief in Jesus Christ ignites a fire inside that will not go out.  It’s a hunger and thirst to know more about Him, to be changed by Him, to allow Him to rule your life.  Unless He changes your life, you are not saved.  That’s what Matthew 7:15-20 means when it says “by their fruits you will know them”. 

There is a common misconception that belief in Jesus will save a person.  I’m sorry if that’s what you’ve been taught, but that’s just not true.  Now – hear me out on this!  It’s time we stopped believing what we believe just because that’s how we were raised.  We must determine in God’s word what His word really says, and believe it from our hearts instead of our traditions. 

First, let me clear your minds of the “Oh my God!” thought that what I’m professing is that you are saved by your good words.  No friend, that’s not what I’m saying at all.  Salvation is always a matter of God’s grace, and nothing you can do of your own good deeds.  Being raised in church, being a pastor’s kid, being the song leader, teaching Sunday School, helping the poor, visiting the imprisoned -  that’s not going to save you! None of that will get you into Heaven.  If you could save yourself, wouldn’t it have been foolish of God to send His own Son to die for you? Do you think God would let Jesus, His only Son, suffer and die in vain?

Let’s back that up with God’s word.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Gifts are free, wages are earned.   Salvation is a gift!  It’s the gift of eternal life “in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  It comes through faith.

Romans 3:23-24 reiterates that in saying “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.  All have sinned. Grace, God’s mercy through faith, is free.  You can’t earn it.  Romans 3:28 says “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified [made right with God] by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Your deeds won’t save you.  Signing a card, repeating a prayer, joining a church, teaching Sunday School – are all deeds!  Faith in Jesus will save you – God’s grace will save you.  But faith is stronger than just intellectual belief.

Consider what James said in James 2:18-19: “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Are demons saved?  If all it takes to be saved is to belief in Jesus, then they are.  But of course, they are not! 

James says that salvation takes more than just believing in God.  Demons believe.  But their lives are not changed by that belief.  They’re still demons! Faith changes you.  Faith shows up in your life.  Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report”(Hebrews 11:1-2).  If there is no evidence in your life of the unseen change inside, I urge you to consider your status with God.

There’s a reason they call it the ‘rebirth’ and being ‘born again’.  Salvation creates a new life.  The old you must die so the new you – the you who is given life by your faith in Christ – the you who receives the Holy Spirit that will live in you – can live.  True salvation will leave you changed.  True salvation places the Holy Spirit in you (1 Corinthians 6:19).  How could you possibly not be changed when the Holy Spirit lives inside you? 

True salvation will give you a desire to walk with God, to not disappoint Him, to be the child He loves.  No, you won’t be perfected at the point of your salvation - but you will be changed in your desire to live for Him.  Justification, which is salvation, happens not over time – but at once.  Just as you have a birthday and time of birth, you will have a rebirth day, a time and a place that you can remember when you prayed to God, in faith, believing with your head and your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified and killed so you could live.  It is the day you see who you are, and see your need for a Savior, and accept Him as your Lord.

But let us not make the mistake of calling Him our Lord, proclaiming that we have new life, and yet thinking we can continue living the old lifestyle.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  You tell me what that means if it doesn’t mean we are to be true followers of God’s will.  We are to make every attempt to kill the sinful nature that is in us. 

Romans 6:12-14 says “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” It’s about presenting yourself to God, living the new life He has given you.  It’s being made ALIVE FROM THE DEAD – trading a life of sin for a life of righteousness.  It’s about letting Him change you, getting to know Him intimately through His word, praying, confessing (yeah, you’re still going to sin!), and pushing through to live as a new creature anchored in Christ.

Here’s another big misconception.  Most people who are not saved just don’t think it’s all that important to take God’s word seriously today.  After all - you’re not dead yet.  But I ask you to consider this: How many people have you known who knew the day they were going to die?  Do you believe God gives them a “get out of Hell free” card just because death was unexpected?  Listen carefully.  There are no “get out of Hell free” cards. 

Revelations 20:10-15 tells of the time to come, which I believe is coming soon. It’s the time in which satan will be cast into Hell, along with all his demons - who believe in Jesus.  It says that there “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Day and night. Forever. Eternally, suffering.  

But they won’t go there alone.  At that time, God will sit on the throne in Heaven.  John says “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life [which contains the name of every born again believer]. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  You either have a second birth, the rebirth of salvation, or you will have a second death.  Which do you prefer?

Let the reality of your impending death take hold of God’s words and your heart.  If your name is not in the Book of Life, if you have not been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, you will be judged by your works.  “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” is what it says in Romans 3:23, and you are included.  There will be no getting out of hell free.  Your fate is the same as satan and the demons who “believe in Jesus”.  Without the rebirth, your destiny is the wages of sin - death (Romans 6:23), the second death, and hell will be your eternal future.

Don’t be scared into salvation – but be changed by who He is and His great love for you.  He chose to send Jesus to save you even before the earth was created.  Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  He loves you even before you took your first breath with a love that is incomprehensible.  It’s not a love based on how you act toward Him.  It’s not a love that’s based on how you treat others.  It’s not even a love based on how you live.  He loved you more than His only Son.  He choose to make Jesus leave the riches of Heaven to become a poor carpenters child, to wander the earth from town to town, just to be tortured and killed – all so that you could be given new life, and live with Him.  You are God’s greatest desire.  You are His Passion.

1 John 4:10-11 says this of God’s love: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.“

Regardless of what you may have claimed in the past.  Regardless of any prayer you repeated, card you signed, church office you held, or any aisle you may have walked.  Today, take the time to pray in faith to Him, and accept His love so that you can “live through Him”.  Nothing else is so important that it should gain priority over this.  Nothing else will begin an eternal change in your life. 




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