In 2008 God brought me to a church that fearlessly taught Scripture vs by vs, we were going through Romans at the time, and for nearly 2 years every sermon was an arrow forged by God’s truth plunging deeper into my heart, creating pangs of conviction that lingered from week to week, and as painful as it was, there was an undeniable grip on my heart to keep me from running away from the truth.
It was the first time that I had seen that faith and repentance was the only biblical response to the GOSPEL. One response with 2 components, you cant turn to the Lord for salvation if you don’t trust He is the only way, and you cant begin to trust Him unless you turn to HIM as your only hope [Is 45:7]. God had opened the eyes of my heart to embrace JESUS as my greatest treasure of ALL. He was no longer fire insurance, or my ticket to the divine Disney Land in the sky, which takes absolutely zero faith to believe, and will leave your life unaffected, no one wants to go to hell, and everybody wants to live in pleasure forever, you don’t need to be a Christian to want those things. The saving faith that GOD gave to me, allowed me to see the glory of GOD in the face of JESUS. And when that happened I was forever changed, Jesus called this transformation the new birth [Jn 3:3], without which you will not see the kingdom of GOD.
You see you can be baptized with water and go to hell, you can be a missionary, Sunday school teacher, even a Pastor and go to hell, you can even know Scripture inside and out and yet go to hell, but you can’t be born again and go to hell because it is completely an act of GOD’s sovereign grace being wrought by His Spirit, for His glory and His joy [Jer 32].
Now because i was raised in a Christian home and because I was loosely conformed to the Christian culture, meaning I attended church regularly and i was surrounded by Christian friends, i don’t have a Damascus road experience where i can pin down the exact moment in time that GOD called into existence the things that were not, namely a living heart which desired Him. But my old Pastor said something profoundly true that has stuck with me throughout the years, he said… “our culture has made the decision the defining characteristic of a Christian, but a surrender of life is the defining characteristic according to Jesus” Lk 14:25-33.
I have prayed that this truth will pierce your heart today, how many thousands upon thousands of professing Christians have a false sense of security that they are reconciled with their Creator because of one decision, all while they live completely for themselves, and with their minds set on earthly things, they are being led by their appetites down the self-deceived path of ease as they enter the wide gate of destruction for all of eternity. “Let no one deceive you…… The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes apractice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” [1 John 3].
I learned personal holiness is not an option for Christians, it is a family trait [1 Pt 1:16], and we increase in it because God gave us His spiritual DNA. Please hear me today, the stakes are eternally high, we are not talking about what 4G network you use or what retirement plan is best, reconciliation with your Creator is life and death. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves .Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! [2 Cor 13:5].
I know first hand that examining your faith under the lens of Scripture is super scary because Scripture is objective truth and your subjective testimony must conform to it and not the other way around, but please if you ever needed to be sure of anything in your life, you need to be sure of this. God does not want you or I to live in doubt about our salvation, saving faith is not invisible, it proves itself by real tangible Spirit-wrought fruit in your life that glorifies GOD [Jn 15:8]. After all to glorify GOD is why He created and redeemed me, that is why bearing fruit of holiness, is the necessary evidence needed for final salvation, without which you will not see the LORD [Heb12:14].
Bearing fruit is not my focus, it is the product of abiding in Christ [John 15] and beholding the glory of the Lord [2 Cor 3:18]. Fixing my eyes on Christ the founder and perfecter of my faith is what cultivates faith to work through radical risk-taking love [Gal 5:6], because it treasures Him over everything, over my time, my possessions, my family, even my life [Phil 1:21]. I thank GOD for placing me into the death of Jesus Christ, i cant even begin to explain how vastly different my life is now being in CHRIST, compared to before when i made a mere mental assent to some facts about Jesus. Mere agreement with facts leaves you with a dead faith, which is a faith that cannot save, it is a faith equal to that of the demons [James 2:19].
Saving faith is a faith that treasures and savors Christ, it beckons others to “taste and see that the LORD is good” [Ps 34:8]. The difference between dead faith and real faith is the difference between someone describing a sweet golden-brown viscous substance to you, verse tasting honey for the first time yourself. There are spiritual taste buds arising from a new heart to savor JESUS. Our hearts should tremble at this thought, because it is completely humbling, and displays our total and utter helplessness. How can you create a burning desire and treasure something you find boring, the answer is you can’t. If Jesus is not your treasure now, what makes you think you are going to treasure Him for eternity. If pursuing holiness is boring for you now, to where you prefer watching the NFL, than drawing closer to the Lord, than why would an eternity in His presence, gazing at His beauty be desirable [Ps 27:4].
It doesn’t matter if you have conformed to the Christian culture for 50 years or if this is your first time in church, if you have come to the humble and helpless recognition of your sick heart, and you plead for a new heart to see and savor Jesus Christ as the exact imprint of God, the most Supreme being, than God is faithful to hear your prayer, for God does not despise a broken and contrite heart [Ps 51:17]. I am a living and breathing testimony that God’s grace can replace a self-centered lustful heart of stone with a heart of flesh that adores Christ above all. Im not perfect by any means, there is still real sin in my life that i battle, everyday the old dan tries to pry himself of that cross, but there is a fight now, where before there wasn’t.
Now instead of turning to alcohol for short lived bravdo, grace enables me to turn to Christ for an endless supply of courage and strength, instead of seeking satisfaction in the broken cistern of fleeting pleasures, faith turns me to the Fountain of Living Water, Jesus Christ, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. And when i fail, i can confidently and humbly approach the throne of grace, to find mercy and grace in the time of need, because i have died and my life is hidden in Christ [Col 3:3]. This is a miraculous work that GOD alone has done though Christ alone. Every year that passes i am less familiar with who i once was before Jesus. Perhaps I can describe what God has done in my life better and more succinctly with His WORD, and with this I will end… “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” 2 Cor 5:17-18