Are you Really a Christian?
Salvation? What is Salvation? It is the workings of the most powerful force in existence.
Salvation is the reality of our planet. The purpose of everything that exists today revolves around Salvation. As our understanding of the essence of Salvation, and therefore the essence of God, diminishes, then society and the force that holds back the elements of chaos, total darkness, will soon part company.
When men are taught, around the world, that Salvation is merely a contractual agreement with no binding conditions, then the end is indeed in sight. One must be aware, that as with all our dealings with the enemy, (Satan)slight of hand and the utmost subtlety has been employed. If one is to defraud successfully, then one must not arouse suspicion.The counterfeit has to be almost identical and indistinguishable from what is real. If a child attempts to create a counterfeit $10 bill, the results would be amusing. If a master forger , employing the latest technology, attempts the same thing, then the results are not so funny anymore and if left unchecked, would lead to the devaluing of our currency, rendering it worthless.
The term Christian, has been devalued to such a point that it is no longer a legitimate term in society to describe someone who has been born-again. This has come to pass mainly in the last couple of generations but the process has been going on for a long time. For a more in-depth look at this topic this writer would recommend C S. Lewis Mere Christianity. With great skill and foresight, this author saw, fifty years ago, what was happening and rightly identified it. He uses an analogy between the term Christian and what that actually means and the term Gentleman and what that meant. He showed that originally the term Gentleman denoted landowner. Over a period of time more and more people started calling themselves Gentleman whether they were landowners or not. This eventually rendered the original meaning of the term void and the term was now just a name, it did not denote anything. Lewis was arguing that the same thing was happening to the term Christian, and that soon it too would be meaningless.
I would argue that this time has arrived. If one were to stop the average American in the street and ask him if he were a Christian, he would invariably say yes. Indeed some of the statistics claim that 80% of Americans are Christians.
I used the terms earlier on ,Contractual
agreement, and Biding conditions. The first term refers to the cheap grace, phenomenon of the last 50 years, popularized by the mass rallies by people like Billy Graham. Now to Mr. Grahams credit, he has stated on more than one occasion that he had no idea how many people, of all the people that came forward, actually went on and walked with the Lord. And yet we cannot get away from the fact that masses of people have been given false hope around the word by having come forward and signed on the dotted line. Get your fire insurance here, so to speak. Is this the fault of genuine people like Mr. Graham and fellow Evangelists? Yes, but also every true born-again believer has to answer for his or her lack of discernment on this issue.
Let me also clarify the Binding conditions, term. This in no way implies that we can add anything to Christ's work on the cross. I believe that this is the very crux of the semantics and sleight of hand that surrounds this issue. Let me state emphatically that Christ's work on the cross is a finished work. We can bring nothing to this work, nor take anything away from it. It is sealed, it is perfect, it is complete and it is finished and it costs us nothing. That's the good news, the bad news is, the choice to accept that finished work will cost us everything. Right here is where the major confusion lies. Most people get these two completely separate issues hopelessly confused.
If a very wealthy man decides to take his Mercedes, which is bought and paid for, downtown and give it away to the first bag man that he runs into, is not this his right? Will anyone step forward and say that the bag man worked , for the car? Of course not, it would be utter nonsense. In accepting the gift, the bag man does not add to the gift. How can he add to it? Its not his. He is merely the recipient of a very generous man. If the bag man refuses the gift, has he exercised any power over the giver? Has he taken away from the givers generosity? Of course not, one would only say that he was mad to refuse. This illustration is limited of course and only serves to prove that whatever the bag man does, he in no way takes away from the giver. It breaks down because there are requirements of us in accepting this free gift of Grace.
Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost For His Highest, When a person is born-again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is Salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God, on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins. In Sanctification, the one who is born-again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ. Jesus has something to say on this Matt 16:25 For who ever desires to save his life must lose it, but who ever loses his life for my sake will find it. No matter how consistently literal your interpretation of the scriptures are, no-one, I believe, would argue that Jesus is saying that one has to die a martyrs death to be saved. What He is saying is that when you submit your life to Him, then your old man dies and a new creature is born and that man is saved. So we see that this is one element of Believing, or getting saved.
At this point we shall discuss what Salvation is according to scriptures. Salvation is one event. You are either saved or your not. There is no-one half saved. One is a child of God or is not. As we said, Salvation is one event but three elements. The first element is hearing/believing. The second is submission and the third is death/resurrection. To receive Salvation, given by Gods Grace, we must exercise saving faith. Saving faith also has three elements, these are Obedience, Action, trust. These three elements are directly related to the three elements of Salvation. Hearing/believing-Obedience........Submission-Action.........Death-Trust.
When a man hears the Gospel, he comes under the grace of Calvary. That grace of the Gospel enables a man to be able to exercise saving faith. So we see that one must be in a position to receive, that position and Grace is realized by hearing the Gospel .After hearing, it is incumbent upon him to exercise believe and obedience. Believe what? He must believe that what he heard is true, that Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth and died for him. He must believe the scriptures that he has heard and obey. What must he obey? Jesus says a man must lose his life to save it. And so at this point comes the next elements of Salvation and faith. He must submit and give up his life unto death. And so the death proves he is acting upon his submission. And of course this employs the last element of faith, which is trust. When all of the conditions come together simultaneously, then the new man is born, he is born of the Spirit. Where is the old man? The old man is dead. The old man has been crucified with Christ and the new creature is raised up by the Spirit.
Man is multifaceted. Two of these facets would be The Old Man, and the sin nature. When the old man dies, the sin nature does not. The old man was bound by the sin nature, the new creature is not. This does not stop the sin nature trying to convince the new creature that he too is bound. When the new creature realizes that he is not bound by the sin nature, the freedom felt is tremendous. As the scriptures say, He who the Son sets free is free indeed. This does not mean that the Born-again man does not sin. Every day he still makes choices, good ones and bad ones. What it does mean is that he does not practice, sin.
All of these elements are simultaneous. God knows the heart and no one can fool Him. When He sees a man who has heard and believes and is obedient to what he has heard, that obedience leads to submission, that submission is acted out by laying himself upon the alter, or on the cross, he trusts that God will resurrect him as a new creature, God looks down and does just that. This man is born-again by the Spirit and there is no other way. A final three elements happen simultaneously, these are Justification (the man is declared not guilty and pronounced righteous) Regeneration and positional sanctification (set apart, holy)The regenerated man is horrified and ashamed of his previous sin and repents and receives forgiveness. All of these dynamics take place in the man who is truly saved. Many people are drawn to Christ and indeed partially fulfill some of these elements, unfortunately for them, the Lord requires it all. The missing element in every case is a lack of submission. They never made Jesus the Lord of their life and circumstances will reveal this, whether in a short period or thirty years later, it will be revealed. Without the key element of submission, there is no death of the old man, no real trust in God and most importantly, no new creature. We see many of these people described in the parable of the sower and the seed. Circumstances will reveal true saving faith and its counterfeit.
Jesus is the perfect example of the process. While Jesus did not have an old man we do see His tremendous struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. Here we see all the perfect elements of faith. After the struggle, Jesus submits to the will of God. This submission leads to His death and resurrection. Salvation is laid out for us-- He has heard His Fathers will, He is obedient and submits. He acts upon that and is willingly taken into custody, he dies and He is resurrected. Abraham is the obvious Biblical example of what true faith is. It was Abraham's obedience/submission that was an integral part of his faith, but it was not the whole. He fleshed it out by action, actually getting up and leaving his homeland, by actually lifting the knife to plunge it into his son. If he had not done these things, he would just have been a hearer and not a doer. And so we see that circumstances will reveal, test and prove what we claim to have. The problem is that when circumstances do prove that ones faith is merely words, we say that these people are still Christians and that God is a liar. Why is this? Does not the scriptures say, Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor the idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes not homosexual offenders not thieves nor the greedy nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9 . Could the scriptures be more clear? How is it then that it is taught by many today that no matter what way you live after you are born-again, you are still saved? If Jesus is not the Lord of our lives and this is to be counted as works, which is apart from salvation, then Antinomianism is the order of the day. If one can flagrantly disregard the commandments of God and still be saved, then this contradicts a whole host of scriptures including the one I just quoted.
In Matthew 21:28 we can read the parable of the two sons. Jesus teaches that it is the one that actually does what he is told, not the one who merely says he will do it and does not, that is saved. Their words at the beginning were meaningless until the actions demonstrated who was truly obedient.
Too many teachers today teach that scriptures themselves and following them will save you. We cannot extend the life that is in Jesus, to people who , because of morality, aspire too and do well in keeping a Biblical moral standard. You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40) This Scripture, perhaps more than any other, sheds light on today's problems. There is no life in the Scriptures, the Scriptures point to life, to Jesus who is the Way the Truth and the Life. Those who have not been born-again, yet teach from the pulpits and Colleges, have made themselves experts in the Scriptures. They know the New Testament as well as any Pharisee knew the Old, as well as Saul did before he became the apostle Paul. They take the Word of God and cut it to pieces and apply human logic in their attempts to understand what cannot be understood outside of illumination. The people who herald and trump today about getting back to the Bible, prayer in the classroom, Ten Commandments on the walls of courthouses lack any real courage. To know the Bible back to front does not produce Godly men or women, it produces self-righteous standard bearers of hypocrisy. Without a life that backs up their fine words, they are merely sounding brass.
The truth is that the Lords disciples are servants of all men and will not and do not force, by power of legislation, the Gospel or Spiritual standards on unregenerate men, for such would be impossible and sheer folly to try. Only through a radical encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit will men become Living epistles read of men.
In Matthew 7:21-24 Jesus says that the only ones who will enter heaven are those who do the will of My Father. There is another group of people mentioned here, lets see what the Lord says about these people, and who they are, Many will say to me in that day, Lord , Lord , have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils?and in your name done many wonderful works? And then I will say unto them, depart from me you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you. These people are the false prophets, and their followers ,of verse 15. They have indeed come in amongst us and look very similar. Not only have they come in amongst us but by their own confession before the Lord, these people do great and mighty works, perform exorcisms and miracles. These are the people who have a mental assent to the truth, followers of abstract truth, for they are indeed in shock and horror when the Lord tells them to depart and that He never knew them. Make no mistake, these people are genuine, genuinely wrong and have not been transformed by the new birth. And one who has truly received salvation and been dramatically transformed into a new creature will always make these people uncomfortable, for they themselves know that they have never had such a transformation, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by Pastors, Evangelists, or parents who convince them that they were indeed transformed when they were four years old or when they walked forward and signed on the dotted line. No matter what kind of lifestyle these people live, whether self-righteous or in flagrant disregard for the Lord and what pleases Him, they will never be rebuked by their own kind. Self delusion is the order of the day.
Leave it to Scripture to clear up all confusion. James 2:19-20 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know oh vain man, that faith without works is dead? Can James be any clearer? Believing in scripture and one God will not save you apart from regeneration. When were you born-again? You do not know? How can one have a radical encounter with the Lord, a whole life change, and not remember? Is that possible? Of course not. If one was to meet the President of the United States, one would remember that. In fact one would probably not rest until he had told every one of his friends and acquaintances. The same would be true if it were the Queen of England, a Hollywood movie star, music star. Now one claims to have had a life-changing encounter with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, God Himself, and cannot remember it? It is an incredible claim, an obvious falsehood. Take no care or false comfort from anyone, for it is the eternal soul we are talking about. Proud and arrogant sinners will come before God and terror will be the order of that great and notable day, one cannot even begin to imagine what the horror of those who are convinced they are saved, when they hear these words, Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.
In the last portions of Matthew chapter seven, Jesus gives clear warning of what happens to people who do not know, Him and been transformed. When the storm comes, those with a mere mental assent will be swept away and fall and great was the fall. For these people had built there faith, there good works, their very foundations on shifting sand. What is this shifting sand? It is a mental assent, an abstract truth. It is the personality of truth, that saves(Jesus) not the abstract truth. The abstract truth is that only by believing in Jesus and being born again can one be saved. Just because one believes that statement does not mean they are saved, they actually have to be born again. If you build your faith upon true salvation, the personality of Truth, Jesus, the Rock, when the storm clears and the mist and the fog blow away, there you will still stand unmovable, for He is unmovable.
In the parable of the sower and the seed we also see the various people who had accepted the word with gladness (mental assent, abstract truth) but when the trials came and the storms rose up, these people were swept away. With such a wealth of scripture it is hard to see how the old heresy of Antinomianism(flagrant disregard for Gods commandments) could raise its ugly head. Let us look at a number of these scriptures.
1. 1 John 2:3-4 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says I know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the Truth is not in Him.
2. 1 John 2:9 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now.
3. 1 John 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest, Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.
4. 1 John 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
5. 1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him.
6. 1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith, who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes ( no mental assent or abstract truth, remember James)that Jesus is the Son of God.
7. 2 John :6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.
8. Acts 17:30 Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.
9. Romans 8:14 For as many who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
There are just too many Scriptures that warn and tell us what is required and how we will know who is truly a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. This day you must ask yourself, have I been born-again, as defined by scripture? If we can know them by their fruits, then do you display any? What is it that leads you to believe that you are saved? Do not take comfort from any man, no matter what kind of standing he has in the community. You must let the scriptures point you towards the Truth. There is no more important matter for a man or woman to consider, our eternal souls are at stake. 2 Cor 13:5 says Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you- unless, of course, you fail the test? Do you really know Jesus?