The more I read status updates and blogs the more I begin to wonder about this easy believing or a more watered down version of the gospel that is becoming so popular. More and more I hear people preaching that God is love, He loves everyone, and that it all ends there.
Now do not get me wrong. There is a lot of legalism in the church. Jumping through hoops, following a list of rules, and scaring people into heaven. It is wrong and it takes away from the work of the cross. However, there is also those who take the work that Christ did upon the cross for granted and feel that life can be lived anyway wanted and still gain all God has promised.
Sifting through verse after verse from the Bible I am convinced that there is more to God than just saying a prayer for fire insurance. I believe the start of a true relationship with the Creator of the Universe begins with a prayer but I also believe there is more behind that prayer. It is not about just closing our eyes and speaking some words. It is about believing in something so much that a life is changed forever. It is about surrender. It is about truly believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (1 John 4:15) That God is Holy. (1 Peter 1:16) That because of our sinfulness we cannot be in the presence of a Holy God and we deserve death. (Romans 6:23) Because of sin, God gave us Jesus. (John3:16) Jesus is God made flesh. (John1:14) He walked among us living a sinless life. He was perfect. (2Corinthians 5:21) Because of our sin, He was beaten, humiliated, tortured and crucified upon a cross for each one of us. (Isaiah 53:5) He hung on the cross bearing the sin of every person; past, present and future so that we could stand holy and redeemed before God our Father. Then three days later, He arose from the dead and walked among us yet again. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) That prayer spoken should be about believing all those things.
So a prayer is said in which those things are truly believed. It is acknowledged that because of sin, there is a need for a Savior. What happens next? Here is not what happens. Life does not instantly become easy. All those sinful desires do not suddenly disappear. It does not suddenly become easy to stop sinning. Something different happens. If that prayer is said and truly believed the Holy Spirit floods our life and comes to live in our hearts. That is when life starts to change. When the Holy Spirit resides in our life, desires change. Things are seen in a different light. The light of God’s amazing grace and love changes our perspective. The reality of how “dirty” we once were becomes real. How self-centered, selfish and petty we once were. Suddenly the work that Christ did upon the cross becomes so significant in our life that we want to repay Him for everything that He did. However, that is not possible. There is no work that can be done. No list of rules to get right. No hoops to jump through to gain His approval. Instead, it is about surrender. It is about obedience. It is about turning over our lives to Him. This is where the struggle begins. Giving up control is never easy.
So following Jesus means surrender and obedience. It means letting go of the old you. The old ways and old nature. Why? Because we are a new creation when we are His.
Since you have learned about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy.
What else does it mean? It means obedience. In Matthew 22 Jesus is asked by the Pharisees (religious leaders of the day) what the most important commandment was under the Law of Moses. Here is the response of Jesus.
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on the these two commandments.”
The response of Jesus comes from the Old Testament. It is written in Deuteronomy,
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. “
We are told in both the Old and New Testament that the we are to love God with every part of ourselves. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God that way. It seems so simple. The simplicity of those words is the very thing that people twist into something that takes away from the precious work done on the cross.
This morning while driving God gave me a thought. I love God. I love Him with everything in me. I want to be what He wants me to be and live with a purpose that brings Him glory. I want Him to know how much I love Him. But what exactly does that look like. I began thinking about my husband. I love my husband. I absolutely adore him. The last thing I ever want to do is break the heart of my husband. So how does that work? It means that I honor and respect him. I protect our relationship. I put him first (after my walk with God but before my children). I live in such a way the he knows he is first. I live in such a way that his heart is protected. I put his needs before my own. That is love.
The bible gives us a definition of love. 1 Corinthians says,
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
It is hard to love someone we do not know. In order to love God, time has to be spent with Him. I have to discover the things that He loves. I have to understand His character. In order to achieve those things I have to be patient. I have to take the time to sit down with Him and uncover the truths of His word. Just as I spend intimate one on one time with my husband discovering more and more about him, I have to do the same with God. Just as the things of my husband have become important to me, so must the things of God. I have found that the more time I have spent with my husband, the more some of his ideas and thoughts have become my own. It is the same with God. The more time I spend with Him, His ways become my ways. His desires are my desires. He is holy and so I want to be holy because I love Him and want to please Him. Because I love Him, I do not want to break His heart with my sinful ways.
This brings about my next point. SIN. We all have sin. There was once a person who told people to stay away from me because I was in a whirlpool of sin. At first, I was horrified but then as I took a step back, I recognized the deception taking place. There are those who walk as though they commit no sin ever. Truth is we are all sinners and if we say otherwise then we are being deceived. (1 John 1:8-10) Those who are children of God just happen to be sinners saved by grace because of the work Christ did on the cross. Just because you say a prayer and ask Christ into your life does not suddenly mean you are without sin. It means that the precious blood of Christ has covered your sin and you are now a child of God, able to stand before Him.
We are all sinning at some point during the day. The little white lie. The nasty thought about the horrible driver in front of us. The judgmental comment about the person we do not even know. The addiction. The gossip. The idolatry. The immorality. It happens to every single person every single day. None of us lives a sinless life ever. Sin is everywhere. If it were not, there would have been no need for Jesus. Every day I struggle with some sort of stronghold that tries to overtake my day and turn me from my desire to follow Jesus. EVERY DAY. Just this morning I know I told off (in my head) at least three different horrific drivers in the Wake Forest area who refused to drive without looking down at their cell phones. I did . The moment the unpleasant words escaped my lips, I felt conviction but I still did it two more times. I am a sinner. I have no clue who those people were. I have no clue of their story or what they are dealing with, and truthfully, this morning I did not care. They were in my way and prohibiting me from getting my children to school on time and they deserved to have their license revoked. (Where ARE the police when we need them?) Sin. You see it? You hear it in my words? I am not perfect. Moreover, I deal with that struggle daily. Because of that sin, I need Jesus. He told me “to love my neighbor as myself” and already this morning, I broke that commandment. I cannot do it on my own. I am not strong enough but He is. He is my strength in my weakest moments. He points out the sin and shows me areas in which I need to improve. I have many areas. But you know what? I am thankful He points them out because I do not want to sin. I want to please God. I do not want to be the cause of His broken heart. Though I know that I do and I am at times. The great thing about God is that He knows me. He knows my desire to obey and follow. He knows my love for Him. He knows how hard I try and He forgives me and loves me anyway. Now that does not give me a free pass to repeat willfully the same sins over and over. He expects me to give up the sin and live a righteous life but I still stumble and fall. I know I cannot do it without Him.
SO back to the beginning. This easy believism. Yes, we say a prayer but it has to be a prayer that we wholeheartedly believe. There has to be a change in our lives. There has to be a desire to be like Jesus and to please God. I believe that change begins with Jesus.
I believe there is a heaven and I believe there is a hell. I believe that those who reject Jesus will spend eternity in hell separated from God. I believe that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose again. I believe His blood alone has saved and redeemed me. My prayer is that those who do not know Him would take the time to get to know Him. All you have to do is ask. Ask Him to reveal Himself. Open His word and allow His truth to fill your life. He is there waiting. He longs for you to be His child today.
And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the scriptures tell us, anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced. Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.