Monday, September 3, 2012
Last time in my blog I discussed the problem of sin. In other posts, I have consistently discussed that the only way to deal with sin is through a life-changing event through Jesus Christ. This event is called the rebirth (or being born again.) As you can already gather this post is going to go down a similar path. But I want to talk about this from a different angle. In this post, I want to personalize this experience because I believe that what many people think about Christians and that particular "moment" of conversion is faulty, incomplete or just plain wrong.
Some people think that this life changing event (salvation) could not happen to them. The enemy of our souls (Satan) has done a lot in our culture to perpetuate this lie. Here's the thing about this lie. We believe we're not worthy…that because of all the bad things we've done there's no way we can make up for it. Well, that's right. So it's a good thing that it doesn't depend on us. Read my post on My Righteousness vs. God's Righteousness for more on this. The thing is is that Jesus took care of our sin problem on the cross. He paid the price for our mistakes. All of them.
I understand that the last paragraph can be confusing. The message that the Bible tells us about Jesus is not supposed to be confusing. In fact, it's supposed to be so simple that even a child with child-like faith can believe in Jesus and be saved. Put it this way...we can't save ourselves. We can't "afford" the high price. But the price that Jesus paid for us on our behalf is a gift. And with any gift it can be either accepted or refused. It can't be bought or resold, rather it's a gift offered to everyone personally and there is a choice to be made. Are there conditions to the gift? Of course. But it's a gift nontheless.
I suppose that it's the conditions to the gift that always trips us up. This ties into the concepts of theology that I want to discuss from my last post. What I remember is that I wanted to have a relationship with God but on my terms. I sat in church as a 13 year old listening to a pastor tell the congregation that all we had to do was confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When he told everyone to keep their eyes closed and bow their heads as to not embarrass the ones that wanted to step forward, I raised my hand and declared my need for Jesus. I prayed along with the pastor the words that he prayed. But somewhere between saying the words and believing those words, I didn’t quite make it all the way. True effectual change never took place.
I sincerely believe I wanted a relationship with Jesus but I don’t think I was ready to let Him have control of my life. That’s the theology part that I had a problem with. This is where the discussion can get particularly deep and, quite frankly, overwhelming. Take, for example, the discussion of Jesus is Lord: the story continues at “Open Source Theology.” For the average person to read their theological position on Jesus being Lord it becomes such a daunting thing that it would be easy to say “forget it.” However, if we miss this point we miss a very important part. We need to understand what God expects of us when He offers the gift of His Son as the propitiation of our sins. (Propitiation simply means “…the turning away of wrath by an offering…For the Christian the propitiation was the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass "over the sins previously committed" (Romans. 3:25).”)
Let’s try to simplify the idea of Jesus as Lord with an analogy. When I stepped forward in church I either didn’t fully understand what I needed to do or I just wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I would have to give up my life and how I wanted to live it. That’s the problem I think that most people have. We see this every day with church-going people and quite frankly it is very confusing to non-church-goers. It’s obvious to many people that just by going to church that it doesn’t change a person’s behavior. They see the hypocrisy. The church-goers talk the talk but in the day to day living they act, talk and behave no differently than the rest of the world.
My life wasn’t different either. I sinned as flippantly and carelessly as I have ever done before. I lied, I stole, I cheated, hated, coveted, and on and on and on. At times I could see my life spiraling out of control. And this was years after I “confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” But darn it, I just wasn’t ready yet to surrender to Jesus. I still wanted my way. And I still had to make more mistakes, obviously, before I could admit that I was wrong. If I would have been honest with myself I would have admitted that I wasn’t in control of anything. That was the irony. I didn’t want to give up control of my life to Jesus so that He could be Lord but I wasn’t in control anyway. It was a mirage.
God was extremely patient with me. And He still is today. He brought me to the point where I realized that I was dependent on Him. Somehow, some way, God got it through my thick skull that I needed to surrender my will to His. That’s the whole point of making Jesus Lord of my life. I had to decide that I wasn’t going to live my life any longer according to the flesh (my way) but commit myself to living according to the Spirit (God’s way). I had to accept the fact that if I wanted Jesus that I was going to need to die to self and live for Christ.
All along in this discussion I’ve been trying to talk about the solution to sin, which to me is both making Jesus Lord and Savior of your life. However, I also think it’s important that we understand not only the “what” to the question but also the “why.” Why would God do this? Why as Judge of mankind would He provide an escape to His just and absolute wrath? In a nutshell it’s because He wants to. But that’s too simplistic. It all comes down to the fact that He is God and Creator of all things. The answer revolves around the fact that His purpose is to bring glory to Himself. We were created for His purposes – this purpose which was to display His lovingkindness and mercy through His Son Jesus. Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” Jesus, then, made it possible by becoming a sacrifice for those who would believe and put their faith in Him.
On this same thought, for many Christians the answer to the why would be because God loves us. That statement that God loves us is certainly true and I will not say that is not a reason. But we have to remember that why God provided a way for us to be saved is not exclusively because of us. That would exalt mankind to a level that we’re not intended to be on. God loves us, yes. But God loves us because of who He is. He is a God of love and mercy. If you want to get a clear picture of God’s character and attributes, check out the book of 1 John.
So where are you today? Are you trying to hold on to what you have…meaning are you still trying to be lord in your own life? Are you trying to live life on your own terms? For many people, they might say that their lives are going along just fine. Being in control and in charge of their own lives is working for them. But deep down, if they’re honest with themselves, they would have to admit that there is something missing.
Seriously, if you have everything that you want in life, what does that mean for you without Jesus? Can you take your stuff with you when you die? Do you know for certain what death means for you? Satan, and the world, will fill your head with all kinds of lies. He would say that you should live this life without any thought of the future or consequences of actions. King Solomon wrote a book in the Bible called Ecclesiastes, which consists largely of reflections on the vanity of human life. Look at what Solomon said here:
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
It truly would be a sad thing if this is all that life brought. But now consider the words of the Apostle Paul. In his reflections, he was pondering the life of a Christian…one who surrendered to Christ as Lord and Savior and this is what he had to say:
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul didn’t find the life as a Christian something to be pitied, rather he went on to exclaim that those who are children of God DO have something to look forward to: being raised from the dead just as our Savior has! The rest of 1 Corinthians 15 talks about this resurrection body. It’s certainly something to look forward to!
So what about you? The truth is there is an eternity. It’s either eternal life with Christ or eternal death forever separated from God. The question is where do you want to spend it?