My Journey to Finding Jesus

God gets our attention in unique ways.  As we are all individuals, with our own combination of personality and life experiences, God meets us where we are at with what we need to hear.

I believed in God (in my head), all my cognizant life.  I was fortunate to be raised in a God-fearing home, although God wasn’t actively talked about much.  We attended church regularly, and many in my family participated in church ministry.  I made a decision to follow Christ (at least, I thought I did) in my own backyard at Bible club – at the age of 4.  Because I most certainly didn’t want to go to hell.

I would pray the “Sinner’s Prayer”, and “sign the card” many times over the next few decades, following the “4-step plan” and the “Romans Road”.  Never entirely feeling secure in my salvation.  Sure, I had experiences of ups and downs in my spiritual journey.  Times when I “felt” close to God, and (many more) times when He was on the sidelines…religion just one thing among many interests that took up my time. (Was I like the soil that kept sprouting seeds – withering them – sprouting new seeds- choking them?)

It was my heart I struggled with – my heart would wane from enthusiastic, to wandering, to doubting.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  Romans 8:16.   If this is God’s job, I realized, surely He is good at His job.  Why then, did I feel such unease in my spirit?  Why did I not have assurance of salvation?  Why did I doubt?  Well meaning people assured me that it was just the enemy’s attacks.  Trying to rob me of joy and peace.  Was it?  Or was it God’s Spirit, nudging me, telling me to examine myself, to see if I was in the faith?  I did not have this inner witness, this peace of assured salvation.  It was this I struggled with for decades.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Can’t you see for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you–unless you actually fail the test?”  2 Corinthians 13:5.  Was I failing the test?  Was Jesus Christ not in my heart?

I had only been casually following Jesus, despite calling myself a “Christian” – whether I was a “prodigal child” or completely unsaved, I don’t know.  I had a lot of intellectual Bible knowledge.  I could look the part, say the right words.  I was pretty moral, felt guilty about the “right things”, hung around the “right people”.  I went to Bible college, went on several missions trips, led others to Christ.  I just couldn’t seem to get close to God, other than sentimental experiences here and there.  Don’t get me wrong – I genuinely believed I was seeking God when I would commit to reading the Bible or praying with others.  But with God, it always comes down to the heart.  It comes down to the WHY, not the what.

Did I read the Bible because I loved God and wanted to hear from Him, or because I wanted to tick off all the chapters and books and feel good about having read the whole Bible?  Did I pray because I knew I should and it was right, or because I genuinely believed that God hears and answers prayer?  Was I seeking *God*, or warm fuzzy feelings?

I didn’t have a passion for Christ.   I couldn’t maintain a commitment – I would try for awhile (sprout), and then give up and focus on LIFE (entertainment, work, buying things, hobbies) (wither/choke out).  Church, for me, was about friends, and sometimes about good feelings.  And while I didn’t find the Bible “boring” to actually read, getting over that HUGE hump of starting to read it was too much effort for me most of the time.

Even though I had grown up “Christian”, I struggled with not having boldness to share my faith – or even to admit I had faith when people were openly mocking Christianity.  And then I finally wondered, DO I have faith?  I had intellectual knowledge, I had emotional experiences, I wanted salvation (at least, I knew I wanted to go to heaven), I had “prayed the prayer”, I was even baptized as an adult – I was *IN*, wasn’t I???  Then, why didn’t I feel it?  People assured me over and over again that I was saved, quoting scripture.

Why didn’t my head and heart agree?

This verse terrified me:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  Matthew 7:21-23

Could I be a “Christian” all my life and yet not be a Christian???

Several years ago, our family went through some big changes.  I had challenging health issues.  I prayed to God for a fresh start – a time of spiritual awakening.  And I committed to wrestling it through.

It wasn’t a fast or easy process.  It was very much ongoing – day by day, week by week, month by month.  I like quick fixes as much as anyone else.  But I have had to struggle through these issues of faith.  Why, when others seem to “get it” so easily?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s my personality (type A perfectionist, like to control and analyze everything), or maybe it’s just God’s chosen path for me.

For me, the Holy Spirit pricked my heart when I read 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper (actually, when I heard a portion of it read at my grandma’s funeral – and subsequently bought the book).  Regardless of the story’s truth, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to consider that heaven *IS TRULY REAL*.  Surely, I believed this on an intellectual level.  But for the first time, I think my heart caught a glimpse of what that really meant…

I was left with two choices (as we always are when faced with the Holy Spirit nudging us).  I could ignore it, or I could explore further.  I chose to confront the following questions:

1.  Do I believe there is a spiritual realm?

Well, I did, mainly because as a young child, I had repeatedly seen (literally, with my open eyes) an image of a demonic face. (Note, my sister had also seen “spirits” when she was a child, and my daughter has also seen a demonic manifestation). So, despite this being a very negative and terrifying experience, it definitely convinced me that there is a spiritual (usually unseen) realm.  And, while I would have much preferred to see a (good) angel, pretty much everyone in the Bible’s response to seeing one of those is also falling on their face in fear.  If there is an unseen, spiritual realm that is REAL, then something (outside of humanity) has to explain it.

2.  If yes, then what best explains it?

After studying how Jesus fulfilled so many Bible prophecies, the only religion that made sense to me was Christianity (did you know that over 25% of the Bible is prophecy?  And that they have always been fulfilled – except the ones that are yet to come?  It continually is self-validating).  No other religious book has the track record of archeological and historical proof that the Bible does.  And while we can’t explain everything yet, new evidence keeps coming forth in favor of the Bible.  Intelligent as we are, I think it’s a pretty big stretch to say that mankind “knows it all”!  If Christianity explains it (an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God who is actively involved in loving and disciplining His creation as a loving Father), then God is REAL.

3.  If the Christian God is real, then because the Bible is His Word, it must be true.  If the Bible is true, then what implications does this have for how I live my life?

I decided I better start reading the Bible again.  I began by reading the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).  I hadn’t really read my Bible (or attended church) in years.  It is amazing how just reading the Bible for yourself, praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and understanding, clears up so many misconceptions and answers so many questions.  For the Bible to “speak” into my life evidences to me its’ power as the Word of God.  It was written 2000 years ago (and some of it as much as 3500 years ago) and can still represent society and the hearts of humanity today.

______________________________

Previously, when I did pursue God, I would give up if I didn’t seem to get what I wanted (a feeling of closeness, answered prayer, etc). I now believed God was worth pursuing relentlessly, that what the Bible said about Him and eternity was true.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  (Revelation 3:20)

I spent a few months reading through the gospels and John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus by flashlight at night while everyone else in the house slept.  Through this, God showed me that I was holding out on Him.  I wanted to add Jesus as a “part of” my life.  A comfortable part.  The part that would send me to heaven when I died, avoiding the whole lake of fire thing.  The parts about dying to self, making disciples of all nations, and being persecuted for my faith….not so comfortable.  I remember praying as a teenager for a boyfriend/spouse – for someone who was a Christian, but certainly not a missionary or a pastor. (I believe now that all who follow Jesus are missionaries – ambassadors for Him – wherever we are at all times.  We are just cleverly disguised in our roles and careers…)

Jesus doesn’t work that way.  There is no Jesus-Lite.  With Jesus it’s all or nothing – if I’m not FOR Him, I’m AGAINST Him.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  Matthew 12:30

If Jesus is going to be my Savior (and get me to heaven), this includes submitting to him as my “master”. (“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24).  Either I am following Self (fun, entertainment, materialism, etc) or I am following Jesus.  The Bible doesn’t leave any room for a middle road.  It’s either the narrow one that leads to life, or the broad one that leads to destruction.

The Cost of Following Jesus (Francis Chan) – because he says it so much better than I do!

Jesus is a gentleman; He didn’t force his way inside my life.  If I ignored Him, He went away.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

ALL my heart.  Not just a bit of my heart.  Not just most of my heart.  ALL my heart.  That is where I had gone wrong for so many years.  I was keeping Jesus on the porch, trying to entertain him through the screen door.  Never did I step aside to let him come in past ME.  To make any kind of progress, I had to decide to open the door and let him in…  All the way.  

screen door porch

I was scared to invite God to examine the dark corners of my heart.  I was scared to look myself – afraid of what I would see! When I consciously volunteered my heart to God – his forgiveness was so freeing!

God’s light consumes our darkness, but only if we let it in!

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:4-5

 

I Surrender – Hillsong Live

 

If you search for doubt, you will find doubt.

If you don’t search for anything, you won’t find anything.

If you search for God, you will find God.

At one point, we choose faith in something.  Whether that’s another god, or the wisdom of mankind (including our current understanding of scientific and historical discoveries), or the God of the Bible.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  Hebrews 11:6

I had worked through a belief in heaven and the supernatural.  I had committed to seeking God until I found Him.  I had confronted my heart, and the fact that I had been keeping Jesus out on the porch.

Now I faced a choice.  Would I choose God, or would I choose doubt?  This came in the form of stumbling across an evangelical-Christian-turned-atheist’s website.  It was very well written.  Reading his story was very convincing.  He had wrestled with some big issues, and his conclusions led him away from God.  I believe the enemy led me there in my weakness, to attempt the same with me as this other man.

Throughout the history of mankind, there have always been the two competing voices in our spiritual ears.  We know this.  It’s the battle of good and evil for our hearts.  We even make cartoons about it.

Bettajdbka

We have God’s Holy Spirit convicting us on the one side, and Satan’s hiss on the other.  Both sides want to be “found”.  Our free will allows us to CHOOSE which one to listen to.

My faith was slammed up against the wall.  It wavered.  A lot.  I saw stars and dots for a day or two, but when I recovered, I deliberately CHOSE GOD.

You want to know why?  In the end it came down to another conviction.  I believe that our time is short.  That signs indicate that Jesus will come back – SOON.  As much as I am tempted to spin around the hamster wheel and not get anywhere, I don’t think any of us have that “luxury”.  We are in the sunset of this age.  God has given us signs so we can prepare our hearts and spread the Word.

Now, I say I *chose*.  Perhaps the correct way to state this is that God allowed me to “choose” – God’s Holy Spirit must enable us to see God’s truths.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  1 Corinthians 2:14

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  2 Corinthians 4:4

While we can’t open our own spiritual eyes, we can certainly choose to close them – we don’t see what we don’t want to see.

Faith, like love, is a CHOICE.   We all put our faith somewhere.  I am consciously CHOOSING to put my faith in God, and trusting that He will take it from there.

I had confronted my beliefs intellectually.  I had examined my heart.  I had chosen God.  These all led to “emotional” experiences, of feeling my heart and head lined up temporarily.  But I KNEW I didn’t get something still!  I had no idea what it was.

I knew I desperately wanted to be saved.  I wanted Jesus to be my Lord.  I knew my head and my heart still didn’t agree.  But I still didn’t react right.

I thought, okay, I’m going to convince my heart to believe like my head.  How many times have we been told “act as if”?  Smile and you will start to feel happy?  That may work with confidence and good feelings, but I can tell you that it doesn’t work with salvation.

I tried to reconcile my head and heart by joyously throwing myself into God’s work.  I wanted to change direction of my life and let Jesus be my Lord.  I truly believed I was being led by the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t consciously do these things to try to earn salvation, but because I wanted my actions to line up with what my head believed.  I was trying to “make” my heart believe, by acting on what I believed.  WHY WAS MY HEART SO STUBBORN?

By the way, this is “works-based” salvation (which doesn’t save – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.  Matt 5:20) instead of true “faith-based” salvation (clothing ourselves with Jesus’ righteousness is the only way to “exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees”).

I kept searching and read articles about salvation by “faith alone”.  These suggested that if you believe you need to have good works to demonstrate salvation, then you are trying to earn the free gift of God.  In fact, to try to earn saving faith (through works, penance, donations, sacraments) is stating that Jesus’ finished work on the cross wasn’t sufficient.  Our works can’t add to or maintain salvation – I might do enough good things to build a great toboganning hill… Mother Teresa built a Mount Everest of good works… But neither of us reached the Moon.

This verse came to mind:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  Isaiah 64:6

This was a rocky time for me.  My inner dialogue went like this:  Faith without works is dead, but if we work for our faith Jesus will say to us “I never knew you”.  I believe that saving faith results in works, so I am trapped in a “no win” situation.  Either I am trying to add to Christ’s finished work by heaving filthy rags at it, desperately trying  to prove how much I yearn for salvation, or I choose not to do good works and get pruned off and burned.

No matter how much I want salvation, it seemingly eludes me.   Why did I have to think about it so much?  Why couldn’t I just lah-di-dah in faith carefree as many seem to do?

And I sobbed – Who am I to know my heart?  My heart is a fickle thing, full of deceit and selfish motives.  Even if I think I’m following the Holy Spirit’s leading I get it ALL WRONG.

I JUST DON’T GET IT.

And gently, but very clearly, God told me to STOP.

(I remember the moment clearly.  I was sitting in the bathroom on the [closed] toilet, telling God assurance of salvation was just too hard for me…I didn’t get it…and I was yelling in my head – I have tried EVERYTHING…and NOTHING has worked)

And that was God’s point exactly. *I* was trying.  I was reading and repeating a specific set of beliefs, a certain prayer – and knew salvation was confirmed by resultant fruit, which I was trying to produce as proof.

Was I serving others in love, or was I trying to prove my “salvation” to myself? (I didn’t care what others thought, I wanted that assurance in my heart).  I was striving for assurance of salvation, and God told me to STOP.

I couldn’t save myself.  I knew this intellectually, of course.  But I had to know it in my heart.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  Isaiah 64:6

God told me – stop throwing your gross dirty rags my way.  Just – Rest.  Rest in the finished work of salvation.  Only then will your works be “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).

So, I did.  I reflected on the Sabbath, and how Jesus came to fulfill the Law so that we could rest from striving for salvation.

The faith to believe in one’s heart is a free gift of God – sometimes He just gives it, sometimes we must ask.  Sometimes we must ask, and ask, and ask, and ask… Like the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).

And finally I got it.  It was as clear as day, like a light turning on.  Salvation is the finished work of Christ.  When we see how far short we fall of God’s glory, when we realize our utter inability to do anything about it, when we desire to clothe ourselves with Jesus’ blood and righteousness, when we TURN from following ME to following HIM, we are saved.  We don’t have to SAY or DO anything.  It happens in our hearts – it doesn’t even have to be a prayer.

Our heart clicks into alignment with God.  We are utterly, and completely, helpless to do anything about our condition.  We throw ourselves at God’s feet, acknowledging we are wretched, poor, blind and naked.  “I can’t do anything, God!  Please do it for me!  It’s too big for me – I need YOU!”  We agree that our way is the wrong way, and we choose to follow His way, with Him in control.

(It sounds so easy, but for those of us who like to be in control, perfectionists who like to analyze and understand everything, who like to follow a set of well-written instructions – the heart is a terribly tricky thing!)

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

It’s exactly as Jesus said, we must become like little children.  Salvation is described as being “born-again”.  When we are born, we are babies.  Helpless, dependent.  Like little children, we have faith that our Father will take care of us (and this heavenly Father does so perfectly).  He says what He means, He means what He says, and we choose to obey Him because we trust and love Him.  If you are a parent, you know how much easier life works if your children choose to trust and obey you (ideally because they love you) – even if they don’t completely understand your rationale.

My head and my heart have found peace and salvation.  The closer I get to God, the more I am aware of how far I am from God’s holiness.  How undeserving I am of His love and sacrifice.  But that’s exactly it.  We never were and never will be deserving.

(Update: It took about 2.5 years for me to wrestle through the above, pressing and seeking God that entire time without giving up.  I hope that it doesn’t take others that long, but if it does – KEEP PRESSING!  God is worth it.  Your eternity is worth it.  You will seek God and WILL FIND HIM, IF you seek Him with ALL your heart.  That’s His promise.  Some people in the Bible, like Abraham, had to wait dozens and dozens of years to see promises fulfilled.  NEVER, NEVER give up seeking God.  It has been 3 years since my moment in the bathroom, and I am pleased to report that I have never struggled with doubt since.  I have remained completely and fully confident of my salvation, in tremendous peace.  For some this comes easy, but for me it did not!  And because I believed in my mind in the truth of the Bible, assurance of faith was/is so incredibly important to me!)

 Amazing Love

I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken.  I’m accepted, You were condemned.  I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me, because You died and rose again.

Amazing love, how can it be?  That you, my King would die for me?  Amazing love, I know it’s true.  It’s my joy to honor You, in all I do I honor You.

You are my King.  Jesus, You are my King.

Is it Possible to be a Casual Christian?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.    2 Corinthians 5:17

Q – Just exactly HOW “Christian” do I have to be, to go to heaven (to be saved)?

A – The short answer is, ALL THE WAY, ENTIRELY Christian.  We either are FOR God or AGAINST Him.  There is no partway.  Being partway (having some Christian-like beliefs, values, or behaviors) can be a step in our journey towards salvation, but it is never an endpoint.  It is not-quite-there-yet.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.  

Revelation 3:15-19

Salvation (going to heaven) is a heart matter of being aware of one’s sinfulness and turning AWAY from it and TOWARDS Jesus.  Having the attitude of wanting as little to do with obeying Jesus as possible likely means the person is not genuinely interested in a relationship with Jesus. “Christian” is a follower of Christ.  If you don’t follow Christ, you don’t go to heaven.

When I first came back to the Bible, I started reading the gospels.  I was startled to be heavily convicted by Jesus’ many sayings which seemed to indicate a total and complete surrender to him was necessary.  He not only did not seem interested in casual followers, but actively repelled them.  Examples such as this:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.   John 6:53-56,60,66

People who had been casually following him, he repelled, by making an “eat my flesh and drink my blood” speech that must have baffled everyone.  Remember, he hadn’t died yet and so they had no point of reference for this.

And another example:

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”  (Luke 14:25-27)

Hating one’s family to follow him?  Hating one’s own life?  And carrying a cross, no less?  We are familiar with the cross as an ultimate symbol of triumph, through which Jesus obtained victory over death and redeemed us from eternal separation from God.  In the first century, when Jesus was preaching, the cross did not have these connotations.  It was a brutal, humiliating torture device for the worst of criminals.  To follow him is to take up a cross?  There was probably no more unappealing statement he could have made (other than perhaps eating his flesh and drinking his blood).

With those passages in mind, I took inventory of my life, found it fell far short of God’s standard, and was horrified to think that I may not be saved (and perhaps many whom I loved might not be either).

It is by grace alone, through faith alone that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).  However, we can’t have Jesus be our Savior (go to heaven someday) but reject him as our Lord (yield to Him throughout what remains of our life).   “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:13

So we see that faith, given as a gift by God, is what saves us. But the next verse tells of the results of that salvation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Rather than being saved by some easy act of our own wills, we are saved by the hand of God Almighty, by His will and for His use. We are His servants, and from the moment of salvation by faith, we embark on a journey of pre-ordained good works that are the evidence of that salvation. If there is no evidence of growth and good works, we have reason to doubt that salvation ever truly took place. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20), and a dead faith is not a saving faith.  Source

Here is a chart that helped me out.  Note that discipleship follows salvation, but both are marks of true Christians.

SALVATION

DISCIPLESHIP

Salvation is free and “without price” (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 55:1), although salvation is certainly not cheap (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 Cor. 6:20). Discipleship is costly and the cost must be counted (Luke 14:25-33).
Salvation takes place in an instant of time (Acts 2:47). Discipleship is a life-long process (John 8:31; Matthew 28:19-20).
Salvation is believing on Christ (Acts 16:30-31). Discipleship is following Christ (Matt. 4:18-22) and learning from Him (Matt. 11:29).
Salvation is coming to Christ and finding rest from the burden of sin (Matthew 11:28). Discipleship is taking Christ’s yoke and learning from Him (Matthew 11:29).
Salvation involves Christ loving me (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20; John 3:16). Discipleship involves me loving Christ (Matthew 10:37).
A truly saved person is one who believes the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 6:17). A true disciple is one who continues in Christ’s Word (John 8:31).
To be saved a person must fall before the feet of Christ crucified and claim the mercy of God (Luke 18:13). To be a disciple a person must sit at the feet of Christ and hear His Word with a meek and teachable heart (Luke 10:39).
A saved person is a believer (1 John 5:1). A disciple is a learner [the word “disciple” means “a learner, student, pupil, adherent”].
A saved person confesses Christ (Rom. 10:9-10). A disciple denies self (Luke 9:23).
A saved person possesses Christ (1 John 5:12). A true disciple forsakes possessions (Luke 14:33).
Being saved involves trusting (Eph. 1:13). Being a disciple involves training (Matt. 28:19-20).
Salvation involves receiving God’s gift (John 1:12; Eph. 2:8-9). Discipleship involves receiving God’s instruction (Acts 2:42).
Every believer measures up to the full demands of God’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Believers often do not measure up to the full demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33).
Salvation involves one’s standing in Christ (one’s perfect position in Him). Discipleship involves one’s state (one’s actual practice or condition).
With salvation the emphasis is upon what God has done (1 Cor. 15:3-4). With discipleship the emphasis is upon what man must do (Luke 14:25-33).
The focus of salvation is upon the work of Christ (1 Cor. 1:18). The focus of discipleship is upon the Word of Christ, His teaching (John 8:31).
Salvation is God’s commitment to His Word based on the work of His Son (Rom. 3:24). Discipleship is the believer’s commitment to Christ’s Word based on his relationship to Christ (John 6:68).
The saved person is a saint (1 Cor. 1:2), perfectly set apart and holy in Christ (a position shared equally by all believers). The disciple is a student (Matt. 11:29). Some believers are better students than others.
The invitation to salvation is “Come unto Me” (John 6:37; Matthew 11:28). The invitation to discipleship us “Come after Me” (Luke 9:23).
Salvation requires obedience to the command to believe (1 John 3:23a; John 3:36). Discipleship requires obedience to all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20).
Salvation is the sinner hearing His Word and believing on Him (John 5:24). Discipleship is the saint sitting at His feet and hearing His Word (Luke 10:39).
The SINNER must not try to fulfill the demands of discipleship in order to be saved. This would be salvation by works. The SAINT seeks to fulfill all the demands of discipleship because he is saved. This is being saved “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10).
Salvation involves a faith response to the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:1-4). Discipleship involves bearing one’s cross daily (Luke 9:53).
God’s salvation is perfect, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10; 1 Cor. 1:30). My measuring up to the full demands of discipleship is less than perfect, but “I follow after” (Phil. 3:12-13).
To be saved a person must believe on Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). The requirement for salvation is simple faith and trust in the all-sufficient Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. To be a true disciple a person must continue in Christ’s Word, love Christ supremely, deny self, forsake all that he possesses, bear his cross daily, etc. The requirements of discipleship are many and they are difficult.
Discipleship (and all that it involves) is not a requirement for salvation. Discipleship is the obligation of every saved person.
Every saved person is saved by faith and faith alone (not by obedience or by surrender or by submission or by love for Christ or by giving up possessions, etc.). Every saved person is a follower of Christ because Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow Me” (John 10:27). In this sense every saved person is a disciple (follower of Christ), and yet some sheep follow the Shepherd more closely than others.
Salvation relates primarily to JUSTIFICATION. Discipleship relates primarily to SANCTIFICATION.

Justification and sanctification are related but they must not be confused.
They must be kept distinct. The same is true for salvation and discipleship.

Salvation puts a person into a right relationship with Christ the Teacher. Discipleship is an ongoing relationship and interaction between Teacher and student (a lifelong process).

Source

If you are struggling on the precipice of decision, don’t let it go.  Choose today whom you will serve – yourself, or Jesus.

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 6:2

Characteristics of Saving Faith

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Can’t you see for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you–unless you actually fail the test?”  2 Corinthians 13:5

Was I failing the test?  Was Jesus Christ not in my heart?

Deep down, I knew that something was wrong.  I certainly believed in God, Jesus, Heaven, and Hell – I had been raised with this knowledge from childhood.  My life didn’t necessarily look much different because of these beliefs, but I tried to make moral choices.  Why then did I feel so unsettled?  Where was the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, assuring me that I was, in fact, God’s child?

Desperate for confirmation of salvation, I continued to seek reassurance.  I looked up “ways to tell you are saved”, as if Google would be able to bring me relief.

Inner Witness from the Holy Spirit

One of the primary ways people are assured of their salvation is by this enigmatic (to me) inner assurance from the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.  Romans 8:16

I didn’t have this.  I agonized over why.

Many people throughout the years assured me of my salvation, because I believed in God.  I had prayed the Sinner’s Prayer many times.  I could recite the facts of the “Romans Road”.  People told me to rebuke doubt and stand on the promises in the Bible – that salvation is a gift, and all I had to do was receive it.

I would give up and try to ignore it.

Not this time.  I pressed on, verses about “examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith” ever before me.  I prayed for understanding, for God to open my eyes.  As I pressed on through the New Testament, the Bible continued to “come alive” in a way I don’t remember happening before.

Not having an inner peace, I continued to look externally – something I could point to and say “Aha!  That proves it.  My salvation is secure.”

The Fruit of the Spirit

As God works in our hearts, we will notice small shifts as the Holy Spirit begins to produce His fruit in us.  We begin to reflect Him, instead of reflecting the world.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:19-23

As I examined my heart, I didn’t see ANY of the fruit attributes – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Certainly, I could exhibit these behaviors sometimes, but when I was “bumped” by life’s troubles, what spilled out?  My life was more marked by depression, anxiety, impatience, anger, materialism (envy), and pride.

I knew I struggled with these things, and kept trying to work on them by my own effort – using self-help books, counselors, medications.  I didn’t understand that our behaviors are just the leaves and flowers of the plant – the real issue is the root, the condition of our heart.  If our heart is full of Self/Sin/Pride, our behaviors will reflect that.  We can’t heal our own hearts.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

Good Works 

As the Holy Spirit shapes our attitudes and character with His fruit, it will flow out in our behavior as “good works”.  These good deeds do not save us, or “maintain” our salvation, but if we are really saved then we will desire to do good works out of love for God and for each other.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

As I examined my life, I had certainly done some “good-looking” things.  But as I reflected on the attitude of my heart, I had done these things for my own selfish purposes.  For example, as an older teenager I had helped in the church nursery and Sunday School programs – because I found the church service boring.  I had gone on several short-term missions trips – because I wanted to be with my friends on a trip.  Each instance of “helping” had been done with ME as my focus – would I have fun?  Would I be with friends?  Is it what I *should* do, to earn love/favor/acceptance with friends or family or look good on a resume?

I don’t know that I could find a single example of something I had done thinking of God’s heart, with no benefit to myself, if I was brutally honest.

As we take on our identity in Christ, God enables us to see the world through His eyes.  Only then can we be moved to act with His love, His compassion, His purposes.

Repentance and Freedom from Habitual Sin

If we know the truth of the gospel (in our heads), but deliberately choose to continue in sin – then the choice of our hearts is sin.

You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.  1 John 3:5-10  

We all stumble and fall into sin.  However, God does not let us continue in sin without disciplining us.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  Hebrews 12:5-6 

I began to wonder if those times when everything seemed to go wrong were times that God was allowing hardship specifically to discipline me.  Or was it merely reaping what I had sown?  While my conscience kept me morally in line (more or less), was this an aspect of my upbringing (instilled values, morals kept out of habit or fear of guilt/shame) or was it because I was trying to live to please Jesus?  I most certainly felt uncomfortable with things that were overtly demonic or evil, but was this a result of the Holy Spirit’s workings to bring me to TO Christ or to further me IN Christ?

In Christ we are set free.  We turn away from sin (self) and towards service to Christ.  Without Christ, we can try to “be good,” but we will ultimately be unable to overcome our heart’s inclination to follow our own selfish desires (which plays out in different ways for different people).

Conclusion 

While heaven and hell are certainly real, salvation is not about securing a heavenly dwelling.  Salvation is about me and God.  It is about how I have sinned against Him, and Him alone.  About how I fall so far short of being able to measure up.  There is nothing I can do – nothing at all – to fix myself.

While external demonstrations of faith can indeed reflect the inner conditions of the heart, they cannot “prove” salvation (remember that none of the apostles suspected that Judas was any different from the rest of them).  However, these reflections can help us analyze our spiritual maturity and growth in Christ.

Saving Faith is NOT:

  • a religion, denomination, church, or sect
  • ordinances (baptism, communion, penance)
  • being a good person, doing good things (will/action alone)
  • religious feelings or experiences (emotions/feelings alone)
  • believing in a set of facts including believing in God, or believing Jesus existed (mind/intellect alone)
  • repeating a sinner’s prayer or signing a card, in and of themselves

These experiences can be steps that lead a person into true saving faith, but they do not attest to saving faith in and of themselves.

Saving Faith IS:

  • a condition of the heart.  It has no prerequisites and no formalities (specific rites, like a certain prayer, baptism etc).
  • a personal, individual relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Word of the Bible.
  • mind/intellect, emotions/feelings, and will/action all acting together in belief (the “heart”) in Jesus (the object of saving faith)
  • repenting, which is:
    • a change of mind – recognizing how GOD sees you (wretched, poor, blind and naked – utterly and hopelessly LOST, dying); and recognizing who Jesus is, your ONLY hope, your Savior, as revealed by his Word (the Bible).
    • It is turning AWAY from doing things our way (living for self – which is the way of the world) and turning TOWARDS Jesus (who frees us from the power of sin, and enables us to follow Him).
    • It may or may not involve feelings.  It is not the same as guilt, shame, sorrow (but these may be present as well).  It is more like a “lightbulb moment”.

What Do I Believe? Statement of Faith

THE BIBLE

The Bible is our “daily bread” – the Word of God.  It is the main way God speaks to us!  If we don’t “eat” of it regularly (daily!), we wither spiritually.  We can only identify the false if we know the truth!  I believe that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments (66 books), is supernaturally inspired and is inerrant in the original manuscripts.  I believe that it has been preserved by God throughout translation (moreso the word-for-word translations as opposed to the thought-for-thought translations), so that it is divinely authoritative.  I believe the Bible is sufficient for all life’s issues today!  (Matthew 5:18; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21)

GOD THE FATHER

I believe in one God that eternally exists and reveals Himself in three persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – each having the same nature, attributes and perfections. (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; John 1:1-2, 14, 10:30, 14:15-17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14)

I believe in God as sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and that creation was by divine command, from nothing and not through an evolutionary process. (John 1:3, 10; Acts 17:24-25; Genesis 1:1)

I believe that God, by His sovereign choice and out of love for humanity, sent Christ into the world to save sinners. (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 4:14)

GOD THE SON 

I believe that Jesus Christ – the Word of God – was fully God in the flesh and fully man, that He was born of a virgin and that He lived a sinless life under the Law.  He taught and performed mighty works and wonders and signs exactly as revealed in the four gospels. I believe that He willingly laid down His life and was crucified and died to pay the penalty for our sins.  He raised Himself from the dead on the third day. Forty days later He ascended to the Father’s right hand where He is Head of the Church and intercedes for believers. From there He is coming again personally, bodily and visibly to this earth to set up His millennial kingdom. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; Hebrews 1:1-2, 7:25; Luke 1:30-35; Ephesians 4:8; John 1:1-5, 10-14, 14:3; Colossians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 1:3,11; Revelation 20:4)

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

I believe that the Holy Spirit is a person and is God, possessing all the divine attributes. He convicts of sin, regenerates, indwells, and seals all believers at the moment of their salvation, and has the goal of conforming them to the image of Christ. He also teaches, comforts, gives spiritual perception and understanding, and power according to our willingness to yield to Him. (John 3:5, John 14:15-26; 16:7-11; Acts 5:3-4; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, 5:18; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 12:13)

The Spirit gives spiritual gifts to each believer for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.

I respectfully acknowledge that there can be some difference of opinion surrounding the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Although I believe in the continuation of the manifestation gifts of the Spirit, they are at His discretion and for the purpose of drawing attention to and glorifying Jesus.  We see the Holy Spirit working in signs and wonders where the gospel of Jesus Christ is actively being preached, to give testimony to the truth of the gospel (Acts).  He “comes upon” believers on occasions as He wills, separate from His sealing ministry at the time of salvation.  God is not the author of confusion or chaos and believers must always be on guard and test the spirits.  (John 16:13-15; 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 12)  One is neither more-holy nor less-holy by having these “experiences”.  (I do not believe in a separate, subsequent one time “baptism” in the Holy Spirit.  I only believe in one baptism – that by water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Matthew 28:19).

MANKIND

I believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, but that in Adam’s sin the race fell, inherited a sinful nature and became alienated from God. I believe that all people are morally corrupt, and of themselves utterly unable to remedy their lost condition. (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 1:18, 3:23, 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3, 12)

SALVATION

I believe that salvation is a gift of God and is received by mankind through personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sin.  This faith must come from the heart.  I believe that mankind is justified by grace through faith apart from works and that all true believers, once saved, are kept secure in Christ.  It is good and right to examine one’s own salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5).(Acts 13:38-39; Romans 4:5, 6:23, 8:1, 38-39; John 10:27-29; Ephesians 2:8-9)

I do believe it is possible to reject salvation, despite a knowledge of the truth.  Whether these people were ever truly saved or just believed it (along with everyone else around them, including a display of fruit), I am unsure.  However, the story of the Prodigal Son indicates that someone who was at one point a son, becomes dead, and becomes alive again IF he returns (which he does, in the story.  The story does allude to the possibility of him not returning, in which case, he would remain dead in his sins.  The Lost Sheep also alludes to a sheep, who was part of the flock, who gets lost and is sought by the Shepherd. (Hebrews 10:26, Luke 15:11-32, Hebrews 6:4-6, Luke 15:3-7)

I believe that salvation is through each person’s choice (free will) to accept or reject God.  Jesus’ sacrificial death was sufficient to save every human, but many will reject it.  God, existing apart from time, has known since before creation (foreknowledge) what each human will choose.  Those He foreknew would believe in Jesus alone for salvation are called the “elect” throughout the Bible (Old and New Testament).  In the Old Testament, salvation was through faith in a coming Messiah.  In the New Testament and beyond, salvation is through faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  Saving faith is demonstrated by actions that are congruent with one’s belief in Jesus – faith without works is dead.  (James 2:14-26) (Conversely, actions do not necessarily indicate saving faith – God is aware of the attitudes and beliefs of the heart).

THE CHURCH

I believe that the true Church is composed of all persons who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit through saving faith in Jesus Christ; that they are united together in the body of Christ of which He is Lord and Head; and are commissioned for the God-given tasks of worshiping, fellowshipping, teaching, evangelizing and exercising the spiritual gifts. The Church is the Bride of Christ.  (Acts 2:42, 47; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 2 Corinthians 11:2)

I believe that the establishment and continuance of the local church is clearly taught in the New Testament Scriptures. (Acts 14:27, 20:17, 28-32; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11)

I believe that the local church is autonomous and free of any external authority or control. (Acts 13:1-4, 20:28; Romans 16:1, 4; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16, 5:4-7, 13; 1 Peter 5:1-4)

THE ORDINANCES

I believe the ordinances for the believer are water baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper as a memorial. They are, however, not to be regarded as a means of salvation. Both are evidences of obedience and fellowship with the Lord. (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 41, 8:12, 35-38; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29)

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

I believe that a Christian should walk in holiness and not after the flesh, with the goal of being conformed to the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As a new creation, walking in the Spirit, the Christian learns to grow in faith, in obedience to Scripture, in prayer, in fellowship with the saints and in a life of service. I believe that the Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to have his life evaluated according to his deeds, to determine his/her eternal reward. (Galatians 5:16-26; Hebrews 10:25; Ephesians 4:20-24; Hebrews 11:6, 12:1-2; John 17:17; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

THE SECOND COMING

I absolutely believe in the personal, premillennial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead, of the believer to everlasting glory and the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Titus 2:11-13; John 14:1-6; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:11-15; 2 Peter 3:10)

(adapted from AWANA’s doctrinal statement, but similar to many evangelical statements of faith)

 

Am I “Good” Soil??? The Parable of the Sower

“A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root,they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it,the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Matthew 13:2-9, 18-23

In the parable of the sower, good seeds of the gospel are sown into 4 different kinds of soils (heart conditions):

1.  Jesus is Distasteful.  – In one person, hard-packed soil on the path, the gospel is snatched away by doubts, half-truths, and deceptions of the enemy right away.  These people aren’t interested, don’t understand, or are skeptical.  I kind of think of this person as someone who is offered a bite of a new recipe and either refuses to try it, or tries it and immediately doesn’t like it.

yuck face

2.  Flirting with Jesus – In another, rocky soil, initial zeal (or emotional experience) quickly dries up at exposure to persecution or challenge.  To them, Jesus is like a fabulous dip to eat once in a while – something to flirt with.  They are swept up by emotional experiences but fall away when the “good feelings” are replaced by hard times of testing their faith.  Their “faith” may ebb and flow, but they won’t commit wholeheartedly. Or they will try, but can’t maintain passion because they are trying to do it by their own efforts.  Their foundation is on the “sandy land” – they spring up quickly but can easily be swept away.

kale-artichoke-dip_03-31-13_1_ca

3.  Jesus-Lite – In a third, the soil is good and there is evidence of sprouting, but the cares of this world, money, and life’s passions (thistles and thorns) choke out cares about eternity.  There is too much competition for the roots to grow deep enough to anchor in, and the seedlings don’t get enough nourishment.  These people may “follow” Jesus for a short time or a long time, but add Him on to their lives like a “side dish”.  They likely believe they are “Christian” and call themselves so.  They may go to church on Sundays, have Christian friends, and be pretty moral.  They may be actively involved in the church or in ministry, but the root motive might be friendship or good feelings. These seedlings are SO CLOSE! to the productive soil.  In Luke’s version, these seeds produce fruit – but the fruit doesn’t ripen. Ultimately, the world succeeds at choking out the good news in their lives (day-to-day concerns and passions of this life take over), proving that in the end they choose the world over Christ.  No one can serve two masters.

side salad

4.  Jesus as Bread and Butter – Only one soil sprouts up a productive crop for its owner (demonstrates that it is good soil).  These people treat Jesus as the “main course”, their bread of life.  He is their pearl of great price, their treasure beyond compare.  With Christ as their foundation, they have built on the rock.

puwv2vfu_400x400

I personally had many “seeds” of the gospel sown into my life.  Some, I ignored (#1).  Sometimes I had emotional feel-good experiences, where I “felt” close to God (#2).  Note that these kind of warm fuzzy experiences are felt in other religions, too, as well as in other life experiences!  Many times, what I did have sprouting would get choked out by things of this life/world.  Either busyness, or hobbies, or entertainment, or friends, or dating, or any number of things (#3).

Some will tell you that all the soils are “saving soils”, or that all but the first one, where the seeds get snatched away, are “saved”.  I don’t believe this is true.  The first 3 soils don’t produce “saved people”.  However, they produce a lot of people who may call themselves “Christians”.  This, and because the church generally (wrongly) tolerates many types of hypocritical behavior, is why the church is so divided and ineffective in North America.

Jesus says, “the one who endures to the end will be saved”. (Matthew 24:13)  As in, those who truly believe (with their hearts), WILL hold fast to their faith until death.  These are the ones who take root, and produce a crop – this is the “wheat”.  And for these ones who believe, salvation cannot be lost: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”. (John 10:28)

Do not assume that you are good soil.

yuck face kale-artichoke-dip_03-31-13_1_ca side salad puwv2vfu_400x400

The Bible – God’s One and Only Book

Isaiah 44:6-8

This is what the LORD says- Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come- yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

The Bible is unique and special.  It’s amazing that most of us don’t read it more often – it is the one and only book that God has given us to understand Him, our world, and ourselves.  Does it tell us everything we WANT to know?  Of course not.  But it does tell us everything we NEED to know.  Maybe not everything we need to know to practice medicine, law, or be an electrician – but certainly everything we need to know about what truly counts in this life.

The life we have been gifted is part of a story.  It’s not the whole story – life is not centered on us just as our Earth is not the center of our solar system.  Oh, sure, people believed the Earth was the center of the universe for a very long time.  Just as many people yet believe that life is about them.

Our story is a small paragraph in God’s story.  How it reads is partly up to us.

Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors.  (The remaining 500 or so reach into the future and may be seen unfolding as days go by.)

God is not the only one, however, who uses forecasts of future events to get people’s attention. Satan does, too. [As him and his horde are “invisible” and have been around throughout the history of mankind, he sees what is going on – he also is well aware of the Bible].  Through clairvoyants come remarkable predictions, though rarely with more than about 60 percent accuracy, never with total accuracy. Messages from Satan, furthermore, fail to match the detail of Bible prophecies, nor do they include a call to repentance.

The acid test for identifying a prophet of God is recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:21-22. According to this Bible passage (and others), God’s prophets, as distinct from Satan’s spokesmen, are 100 percent accurate in their predictions. There is no room for error.  (Reasons To Believe)

Approximately 30% of the Bible is prophecy.  Prophecy is God telling humanity what is going to happen, before it happens.  How can He do this?  Because He exists outside of time.

“I make known the end from the beginning,” He proclaims, “From ancient times, what is still to come.” (Isaiah 46:10)  He’s chosen this way to authenticate Himself to us because He’s the only One who can do it and be right every time. (from gracethrufaith.com)

It is critical to  know that Jesus fulfilled Biblical Prophecy when He came the first time – as a Servant.  Why?  Because He’s going to fulfill Biblical Prophecy when He comes the second time – as Judge and King.  If you have never read how Jesus of Nazareth irrefutably fulfilled Biblical prophecies (written hundreds and thousands of years before His time), now would be a good time to do so!  Because if Jesus fulfilled prophecy the first time He came, He will certainly do so the second time as well.  Here’s a little bit about proving the existence of God.

Apart from Jesus’ first coming, there are many other fulfilled Biblical Prophecies.  Remember, we are looking for the Bible to accurately detail events that occurred in the future.

Here is an article listing some:

  1.  The prophet Isaiah foretold that a conqueror named Cyrus would destroy seemingly impregnable Babylon and subdue Egypt along with most of the rest of the known world. This same man, said Isaiah, would decide to let the Jewish exiles in his territory go free without any payment of ransom (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13). Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of these feats (and he did, eventually, perform them all), and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile.
  2. Mighty Babylon, 196 miles square, was enclosed not only by a moat, but also by a double wall 330 feet high, each part 90 feet thick. It was said by unanimous popular opinion to be indestructible, yet two Bible prophets declared its doom. These prophets further claimed that the ruins would be avoided by travelers, that the city would never again be inhabited, and that its stones would not even be moved for use as building material (Isaiah 13:17-22 and Jeremiah 51:26, 43). Their description is, in fact, the well-documented history of the famous citadel.
  3. Jeremiah predicted that despite its fertility and despite the accessibility of its water supply, the land of Edom (today a part of Jordan) would become a barren, uninhabited wasteland (Jeremiah 49:15-20; Ezekiel 25:12-14). His description accurately tells the history of that now bleak region.
  4. Joshua prophesied that Jericho would be rebuilt by one man. He also said that the man’s eldest son would die when the reconstruction began and that his youngest son would die when the work reached completion (Joshua 6:26). About five centuries later this prophecy found its fulfillment in the life and family of a man named Hiel (1 Kings 16:33-34).
  5. The day of Elijah’s supernatural departure from Earth was predicted unanimously—and accurately, according to the eye-witness account—by a group of fifty prophets (2 Kings 2:3-11).
  6. Jahaziel prophesied that King Jehoshaphat and a tiny band of men would defeat an enormous, well-equipped, well-trained army without even having to fight. Just as predicted, the King and his troops stood looking on as their foes were supernaturally destroyed to the last man (2 Chronicles 20).
  7.  One prophet of God (unnamed, but probably Shemiah) said that a future king of Judah, named Josiah, would take the bones of all the occultic priests (priests of the “high places”) of Israel’s King Jeroboam and burn them on Jeroboam’s altar (1 Kings 13:2 and 2 Kings 23:15-18). This event occurred approximately 300 years after it was foretold.

The Bible also forecasted scientific discoveries:

“Not only is the Bible filled with the fundamentals of science, but it is as much as 3,000 years ahead of its time. The Bible’s statements in most cases directly contradicted the science of the day in which they were made. When modern scientific knowledge approaches reality, the divine accuracy of the scriptures is substantiated. For example:

Biblical Statement Science Then Science Now
Earth is a sphere (Is. 40:22). Earth’s a flat disk. Earth is a sphere
Number of stars exceeds a billion (Jer. 33:22). Number of stars totals 1,100 Number of stars exceeds a billion
Every star is different (1 Cor 15:41). All stars are the same. Every star is different.
Light is in motion (Job 38:19-20). Light is fixed in place. Light is in motion.
Air has weight (Job 28:25). Air is weightless. Air has weight.
Winds blow in cyclones (Eccl. 1:6). Winds blow straight. Winds blow in cyclones.
Blood is a source of life and healing (Lev. 17:11). Sick people must bled. Blood is a source of life and healing.

For centuries the conjectures of science also were at odds with Genesis 1 concerning the origin and development of Earth and of life on Earth. However, science has progressed beyond these conjectures and now agrees with Genesis 1 in the initial conditions of Earth, the description of subsequent events, and in the order of these events. The probability that Moses, writing more than 3,400 years ago, would have guessed all these details is less than one in trillions. Below is a partial list of other fundamentals of science explained in the Bible:

  • conservation of mass and energy (Eccl. 1:9; Eccl. 3:14-15).
  • water cycle (Eccl. 1:7; Is. 55:10).
  • gravity (Job 26:7; Job 38:31-33).
  • Pleiades and Orion as gravitationally bound star groups (Job 38:31). NOTE: All other star groups visible to the naked eye are unbound, with the possible exception of the Hyades.
  • effect of emotions on physical health (Prov. 16:24; Prov. 17:22).
  • control of contagious diseases (Lev. 13:4546).
  • importance of sanitation to health (Lev.; Num. 19: Deut. 23:12-13)
  • control of cancer and heart disease (Lev. 7-19).

In the crucible of scientific investigation, the Bible has proven invariably to be correct. No other book, ancient or modem, can make this claim; but then, no other book has been written (through men) by God.”  (all from reasons to believe)

Are there any prophecies that have “failed” to come true in the Bible?  People sometimes fail to remember that there are many prophecies that are as yet future (even though they were given in the Old Testament thousands of years ago).  God Himself said, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. What I have said, that will I bring about, what I have planned, that will I do.” (Isaiah 46:10-11).  We are surely seeing some of these old prophecies coming true in these “last days”.  Here is a good discussion of that.

 

Jesus – The Messiah Foretold by the Old Testament

It is critical to  know that Jesus fulfilled Biblical Prophecy when He came the first time – not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Why?  Because He’s going to fulfill Biblical Prophecy when He comes the second time – this time as Judge and King.

I can’t possibly do better research on this one than has been done by others.  Here is a great list of many of the prophecies about Jesus and their literal fulfillment.  And here is a discussion of the major ones, taken from “The True Identity of Jesus of Nazareth”, gracethrufaith.com by Jack Kelley, is a summary of some of the major fulfilled prophecies :

Of all the so-called holy books, only the Bible authenticates itself. It does so through a method we call predictive prophecy and it works like this. Only God knows the end from the beginning. To help us learn to believe Him, He told His ancient people things that hadn’t happened yet. Then when they came to pass just like He said they would, He had them document everything and preserve it for future generations. We call this documentation the Bible, which by many accounts consists of nearly 40% predictive prophecy, some fulfilled and some still to come.

When asked what work God requires of us, Jesus replied, “The work of God is this. Believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28-29) The first prophecy of this appears in Genesis 3:15 and it’s repeated through out the Old Testament. Because He’s told us so many things in advance and has always been right, He expects us to believe in Him.

Let’s review a few of the better known prophecies relating to Jesus of Nazareth and see if we can prove that He’s the One God sent. Could this have all happened by coincidence, or can we know that Jesus is the promised Redeemer?

It’s About Time

It’s a fact of history that Ptolemy Philadelphus II had the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek beginning in about 282 BC. They didn’t do it all at once, but by 150 BC the work was pretty much complete and so each prophecy we’ll look at was a matter of public record at least 150 years before the fact. With that, let’s get started.

Born Of A Virgin

The Lord had Isaiah tell us that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. This would make Him unique among all men and clearly identify Him as the One God was sending. Isaiah wrote the following passage about 750 BC.

Prophecy: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.(Isaiah 7:14)

FulfillmentThe angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:30-35)

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: Impossible to calculate. But since there were about 300 million people alive on Earth when Jesus was born, let’s say 1 in 300 million. (See The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy for an explanation on why the virgin birth was necessary).

Born in Bethlehem

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah’s, also writing about 750 BC. The Lord had him identify the place where the Messiah would be born.

Prophecy: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)

Fulfillment: So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: Bethlehem has always been a small town. Of Earth’s total population, if 3000 people lived in Bethlehem at that time, then the likelihood of a child being born in Bethlehem would have been about 1 in 100,000.

Rides Into Jerusalem On A Donkey

Zechariah wrote after the return from Babylon. His first 8 chapters were written at the beginning of his ministry in 519 and 518 BC and chapters 9-14 at the end of his career, around 480 BC.

Prophecy: Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech 9:9)

Fulfillment: As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:29-39)

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: The population of Jerusalem 2000 years ago was about 50,000 but it being Passover, pilgrims from all over the Middle East would be arriving and would have swelled the number to many times that. It’s said that 100,000 lambs were sacrificed that Passover so using the ratio from Exodus of one lamb for every 10 people would mean that upwards of 1 million people crowded into Jerusalem and its surrounding area for the Passover. (Remember every able-bodied Jewish male in the world was required to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.) Now, what’s the likelihood that any one of them, while riding into town on a donkey that first Palm Sunday would cause the crowd to spontaneously hail him as the Messianic King of Israel? We can only guess. 1 in 1 million?

Betrayed For 30 Pieces Of Silver And The Money Used To Buy A Potter’s Field

Again, this prophecy of Zechariah’s was written about 480 BC.

Prophecy: I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter. (Zech 11:12-13)

Fulfillment: Then one of the Twelve–the one called Judas Iscariot–went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matt 26:14-16)

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said,”for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. (Matt 27:3-7)

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: This one’s also impossible to calculate. It’s hard enough to get someone to write about you 500 years before you’re born, but then you have to get your betrayer and your sworn enemies to cooperate in fulfilling what’s been written.

Though Innocent Made No Defense

This prophecy comes from the Book of Isaiah, written about 750 BC.

Prophecy: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

Fulfillment: Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor. (Matt 27:11-14)

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: I don’t know of a single person who wouldn’t defend himself before his accusers, especially if he was innocent. Above all, it’s a violation of the 9th Commandment. If there were 1 million people in Jerusalem that day and if He was the only one who wouldn’t defend himself when charged with a capital crime then the probability is 1 in 1 million.

He Was Punished For Our Sins

This is another promise the Lord had Isaiah write down in about 750 BC and one of the most crucial for us to prove.

Prophecy: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Fulfillment: This had been described as a primary goal of the Messiah through out the Old Testament and from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was identified as the One Who takes away the sins of the people (John 1:29) But did he?

After His death the Apostle Paul would write, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21and When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) The Apostle Peter agreed. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18) Both these men died horrible deaths rather than change even a word of their testimony and are reliable witnesses. As Peter said, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

Probability of coincidental fulfillment: Using our 300 million number for the inhabitants of Earth, could you find 300 men who had never sinned and could be convinced that by dying the horrible death of crucifixion, the sins of mankind would be forgiven? If so the probability is 1 in 1 million.

The Clincher

In Daniel 9:26 we find the most specific prophecy of all. It was written just as the Babylonian captivity was ending, about 530 BC. In it The Angel Gabriel explained to Daniel that the Messiah would come to Israel and be executed in a narrow window of time between the 483rd year after permission to rebuild Jerusalem was granted and the subsequent destruction of the city and Temple. From history we know that this time frame was 38 years in duration.

Prophecy: Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Daniel 9:24-26)

Fulfillment: When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:37-42)

It was the first Palm Sunday, the only day in His entire ministry when the Lord allowed the people to call Him Israel’s King. It was the 10th of Nisan, 483 years to the day after Persian King Artaxerxes Longimonus signed a decree authorizing Nehemiah to go and begin rebuilding Jerusalem – in 445 BC (Remember that Biblical prophecy years are 360 days, so to calculate the date we have to multiply 483 x 360 and divide by our 365.25.  And remember there’s no year “0”). (Nehemiah 2:1-6) It was the day ordained in history for the Messiah to arrive in Jerusalem. When they missed it, He prophesied the destruction of the city.

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. (Luke 19:43-44)

38 years later the Romans destroyed the city and tore the Temple apart stone by stone until not one was left standing on another. Another case of predictive prophecy fulfilled.

What’s It All Mean?

If you’re looking for the Messiah, you have to find someone who fulfilled not only the seven prophecies we’ve listed here but all the 300 or so others given in the Old Testament as well. And then He had to give His life for us within the 38 year window of time God revealed to Daniel.

The probability of one man fulfilling just these seven prophecies by chance is so small as to be unworthy of consideration. The true identity of Jesus of Nazareth is that He’s Israel’s Messiah and our Redeemer. That fact can be proven with greater certainty than you can prove that you are who you claim to be.

Do you Know Jesus, or Know ABOUT Him?

Do you KNOW Jesus or know ABOUT Him?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus, as revealed in the Bible, and the Bible alone, is the only way of salvation.  

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received…: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4    

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12   

There is much false teaching out there.  Is your idea of who Jesus is the real Jesus of the Bible?  Does your vision of Jesus command repentance and obedience?   Would you suffer for His name and stand up for Him even if all others fell?

[Or is your vision of Jesus more like a wise prophet who embraced all in love, peace, and unity?  Who welcomed both the sin and the sinner (we are, after all, hopelessly sinful)?  And that the Bible contains good suggestions, but isn’t necessarily all applicable today?  These popular opinions aren’t supported by the Bible.  Jesus of the New Testament hates sin as much as Father God in the Old Testament did.]

Judas left everything to follow Jesus too, just like the other disciples.  When Jesus didn’t line up with what he wanted Him to be (a conquoring King), he was done with Him.  Not just that, but he was so disgusted with the real “suffering servant” Jesus that he betrayed Him with a kiss – ultimate deceit, faking friendship until the end.  None of the other disciples suspected him – he went through all the motions, did signs and wonders in Jesus’ name – but it was his heart that gave him away.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”  Matthew 7:21-23

Judas knew he made a big mistake, and tried halfheartedly to rectify it and return the blood-money.  He may have even believed that Jesus was truly the Son of God.  But believing this doesn’t save us.  Judas REFUSED to ask God for forgiveness, he refused to repent and truly follow Jesus.  Instead, he preferred to believe the lies of the enemy and take his own life.

Only the Jesus of the Bible saves.  Jesus, the Messiah anticipated throughout the Old Testament.  Not “another Jesus”.

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:4

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  2 Timothy 4:3-4

You must be willing to confess your allegiance to Him, and not deny Him.

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:32-33

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

Note that it says “believe with your heart”.  Not “if you think with your intellect”.  This is where we must become naive, like children, to enter the kingdom of God.  The wisdom of this world is foolishness, and can stand in our way of believing with our hearts.  Thoughts are transitory.  Beliefs are firmly established and incorporated into your being – your feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.  Your heart encompasses your mind/intellect, will, and emotions.  If your thoughts assent to the knowledge of Jesus, but it stays there, in your head, you will remain unchanged.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.  This is how the most pious, religiously observant group of people, the Pharisees, were called “whitewashed tombs” by Jesus.  They were clean on the outside – deeds and appearances – but rotten on the inside.

Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a “God consciousness,” whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.  Source

Questions to ask yourself:

1.  Am I trying to “do religion” by your own efforts?

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

2.  Am I willing to do an honest self-inventory before God?  Do I see my sinfulness as God sees it?

Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. Psalm 26:2  

3.  Do I have heart knowledge of God, or is it all in my head?

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Romans 10:9-10  

The How To’s of the Good News – What Must I Do To Be Saved?

 

Salvation is God’s work, from beginning to end.

Hebrews 12:2 – …looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

We have to see our need

First we have to recognize our complete sinfulness – called depravity.  God needs to open our spiritual eyes to see this – and we can ask Him for it.  We recognize that we have been living for ourselves (SELF / ME), not for God.  We have to hold ourselves up to the Law of God and see that we fall hopelessly short.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What is the Law of God?  In the Bible, God has given many instructions for living right before Him.  These include the 10 Commandments and extrapolations from them.  But apart from the Bible, God has written His commands on human hearts, which we refer to as “conscience”.  This is how He can hold us as being without excuse.  (How else do you explain conscience apart from God?  Animals are “naive” – they have no knowledge of good and evil, right from wrong.)

So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.  Romans 2:14-16

Our conscience is what tells us that murder is wrong.  It is what makes us angry at injustices, abuses, and crime.  We know we violate our consciences.  The telltale signs are lying about it, hiding it (doing it in secret), or covering it up.  Above all, God tells us to love Him with all our soul, heart, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  If you love anything in your life more than you love God (or a fellow human being), you have broken this command.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

Our human condition can be compared to a drop of poison in a glass of water.  Whether there is one drop or many drops, the water is still poisoned.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  James 2:10  Such is it with us – doing even one wrong thing “poisons us”. Even if we are a really “Good” and “Moral” person.  Good, moral, and kind people listen to their consciences.  There are many non-religious (or other religions) people who are good and kind people.  However, unless we have turned to Jesus, we are spiritually poor, blind, and naked.

According to God, breaking even one of His laws, once, results in the death penalty – as He is a holy and righteous being who cannot tolerate any sin (breaking of the law) in His presence.  Sin is why we die physically, and unless we repair our relationship with God we will “die” for eternity too (eternal “death” is actually eternal separation from God, in the lake of fire/hell).

We can’t open our own spiritual eyes to see our depravity.  Neither can we open anyone else’s.  We must *pray* for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do this work through the conscience.  Ask God to open your (or someone else’s) spiritual eyes. 

Here is a wonderful article discussing how the sermon on the mount explains our inability to save ourselves.

We have to want to change

We were created to be in relationship with God.  This is why people feel that there is something missing in their lives.  We pursue, pursue, pursue, and when we accomplish it is exciting but also empty – now what?  We move from one thing to the next, never satisfied.  There *is* something missing.  God.  We are like lost sheep – wandering around aimlessly.  Sure there are some “good things” and distractions in this world.  But when it really counts, if we lost it all – what is this life about?  We were meant to live in harmony with God, our Father.  His Spirit is meant to comfort us, to guide us, to bring us love, joy, peace, hope.  We are born into this world as spiritual orphans.  We feel and see the results around us.

Once the Holy Spirit alerts us as to our depravity, we have a choice.  We can choose to ignore Him, or we can choose to do something about it.  This is where our Free Will comes into play.  God wants to restore the relationship.  But we have to want to restore the relationship too.  He doesn’t make us, as if we were robots.

A change of heart, seeing ourselves as utterly sinful and wanting to do something about it, is called repentance.  Just recognizing that we do bad things (or break God’s laws as given in the Bible), but not having a desire to stop, is not true repentance.  We must truly want to be “born again”, to be restored to relationship with God.

There’s only one way…

There is nothing *we* can do to fix our “wrongness” – no good work, no sacrament, no penance.  But because God our Father loves us, He has given us a way to restore the relationship.

Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)

We must desire Jesus’ payment of our death penalty through His sinless life (though He lived as a man under God’s Law, He never broke the Law), death on the cross, and resurrection (came back to life in an eternal physical body) on the third day.

We must be clothed with Jesus’ righteousness, to cover our sins and spiritual nakedness (just as Adam and Eve needed to be clothed with the skins of animals to cover their physical nakedness).

Repentance is not only a change of mind about who we are (a sinner – totally depraved and without hope), but a change of mind about who Jesus is (a Savior – the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament of the Bible – and Lord).  Our only job is to “believe in the one He has sent” (Jesus).  But this belief must be *in our heart*, not just intellectually assenting to facts (see Simon in Acts 8:9-25, or the whole story of the apostle Judas, and even the demons Jesus cast out) .

Romans 10:10  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him who can be saved, He replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matt. 19:26). Doing anything to earn or keep salvation by our own efforts is completely impossible.  Saving faith is a miracle, every time.  That is why salvation rests in God alone by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).

Acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice in our stead results in immediate salvation and sealing of the Holy Spirit.  We are forgiven.  We can’t accidentally lose our salvation, and God won’t remove it from us or ever kick us out of the sheep fold (but there is Biblical evidence that we are always given free choice to reject it and leave the faith/reject salvation by our own choice).

Ephesians 1:13-14  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The critical element is faith.

Faith in Jesus’ provision.  Faith in His completed work for us on the cross.  We can do nothing to save ourselves, and we can do nothing to add to or maintain salvation.  “It is finished”.

 Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;  it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

Anything we do to try and “add to” or “maintain” salvation (such as sacraments, good works on our own effort) leads to death, because it means that we don’t accept that Jesus’ finished work on the cross was sufficient – which is the one thing we need to believe to be saved.  I emphasize this, because I think for many years I didn’t “get” the simplicity of salvation and tried to “earn” it (by repeating the sinner’s prayer, trying to live morally, etc).  I also didn’t “get” repentance, and wasn’t willing to fully examine my heart to see how sinful I really was (and how truly I needed a Savior).

What Next?   Sanctification (growing in Christ)

When we repent, we do a 180* turn and choose to follow Jesus instead of sin/self.  We have been freed from walking in sin.  We are now to follow and obey Jesus.  Assuming we weren’t on our deathbed, if we don’t follow-through with obeying Jesus, it is unlikely that we truly repented.

Romans 6:1-3   What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Commit yourself to knowing God – read His Word, study it, and pray daily.  Ask His Spirit to open your eyes to understand.

Will we continue to sin?  Yes, absolutely!

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.  For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.  Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me.  For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.  But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.  Romans 7:15-25

Even the godliest people struggle with sin – doing what we don’t want to do, or not doing what we want to do.  We still wear the sin nature in this natural body.  However, our hearts and minds are freed from being enslaved to it – if we call for help – God will provide a way out so we don’t HAVE to sin.  The trick is identifying temptation early, and halting it before we are sucked into full blown sin.

What if I don’t “feel” saved?

Salvation is kind of like an epiphany.  You have been wandering around in darkness, aimlessly, chasing after this and that – from one thing to the next.  Lost in the drudgery of what this world offers.  Being saved is like God turning on the lights, and all of a sudden you can see.   This is the Holy Spirit, working inside you.

The Holy Spirit Himself, is sealed within you at the time of salvation (Jesus’ baptism, with the Spirit).  You will want to obey Jesus.  You will want to become more like Him.  You will “bear good fruit”.  Yes, you will still sin, but you will have a desire to get back on track and restore your relationship with God (although individual sins won’t take away your salvation, it will put you out of relationship with God).  The Holy Spirit will start to convict you of sins.  It is your job to listen to Him and follow His lead, to progress in holiness (sanctification).

If you do not feel secure in your salvation, IT IS RIGHT TO EXAMINE YOURSELF, to see if you are in the faith.

If you can continue in habitual sin without feeling remorse and guilt (common sins like sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, gossip, lying, cheating…) then you should question whether you are saved.  The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin.

The “heart” is comprised of our mind/intellect, our emotions/feelings, and our will/actions.  We have feelings about God, we think through the facts about Jesus and the Bible, and our actions will demonstrate what we believe.  In each of these areas, we must rely on GOD to provide the faith.  We can’t make ourselves believe – we can’t force feelings, we can’t understand if our spiritual eyes are closed, and actions done on our own effort will consistently fizzle over time.  Examine if all 3 aspects of your heart are in alignment.  If not, confess that to God and pray for HIM to provide you with saving faith.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

Do not give up!  Do not despair!  Cling to God with all your might.

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

This church has such wonderful articles on saving faith and growing in Christ.  I highly encourage anyone seeking to know more about salvation and God’s plans and purposes to check it out!