Life with God
begins when a person realizes his deep need of God, understands the inescapable
reality of the magnitude, power, and consequences of sin, looks to Jesus for
the miracle of grace in redemption, and asks the Lord to come into his heart
and save him.
The request must be
heartfelt and unconditional. Nothing can
be held back.
With that said, it
is possible for a person to be saved by a process and not an event. One might have been raised as a Christian, having
always genuinely accepted and owned his or her living faith, but cannot point
to a particular moment when he or she became a Christian. The conversion by process is genuine so long
as this person can honestly and intently look at his or her life at present and
say, “I know beyond all doubt that I am saved by grace and my life is fully
committed to Christ.”
The invitation is
to come to Christ and die to self. If
you do not come to die, then don’t bother coming at all. Not yet.
Do not make the ascension of Mt. Calvary to perceive and receive the
glorious suffering and redemption there having not even removed your sandals to
tread on such holy ground. Wait until
you are ready. Wait until you are
prepared to cut out your heart as well as discard your shoes.
There Jesus died in
your place, paying the penalty for your sins.
You ought to weep for such a love as this. Behold His sufferings; they should have been
yours and mine. But this was the only
way to satisfy justice and still preserve us.
The Son of God had to come and take our place as a substitute.
You must see your
desperate need and the necessity of His sacrifice.
If you take it
lightly, your Christian faith will forever lack weight.
theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that the grace of God is
free, but it is not cheap. He said in
his classic, The Cost of Discipleship,
“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.
We are fighting today for costly grace…Cheap grace is the grace we
bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the
preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church
discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without
discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and
Today is, indeed,
the day of salvation, but salvation cannot be rushed along by fear of suffering
or hell and a lip service commitment as sanctuary from misery’s flames. The heart cannot be hurried. A false conversion today can lead to an
unredeemed life, giving worthless assurance with very tragic consequences of
that is not heartfelt is not sufficient to save. The heart must be changed. The mark of the Christian covenant with God
is a circumcised heart.
As Jesus said, no
man who puts his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of
Let the dead bury
their dead, come and follow Jesus, and go and preach the Kingdom of God. Leave your fishing nets, drop everything, and
run after Him. Never stop. Shadow Him forever.
Until you are ready
for such surrender and submission, such complete commitment, your heart is not
ready for salvation.
The churches are
full of the incompletely committed. It
has cheapened our witness to the world and done the Church immeasurable harm.
The church is
wrongly viewed as a place of sanctuary and preservation of our lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. The church by the wayside should be viewed
with awe and trepidation as a very dangerous house of power. People go in and come out radically
changed. They are never the same
again. The church is a place to die and
live again. You go to church to die out
to self, not preserve yourself.
People may say,
“Such a standard is too high.” But Jesus
set such a standard.
When I was young, I
was a pole vaulter. I found that if in
practice I would set the bar much higher than what I had formerly cleared, I
would make greater progress. If daily I
stretched and reached to go a foot higher than my personal best, in meets I could
easily go a couple of inches higher than in prior competition. In time, I attained the ambitious extra foot
Then I set the bar
another foot higher.
I kept setting it
far above my previous “ceiling”.
If the standard is
high, and we yearn to achieve it, our performance will improve. We perform according to our standards.
Set the standard above
all reasonable expectation. Jesus did
not shrink from it.
To use a modern pop
culture illustration, think of the movie Forrest
Gump from a few years back. If you
saw it, recall that Forrest suddenly began running across America. He crossed it several times. After awhile, he attracted followers who ran
with him. Forrest was indifferent to
their presence. He was fully committed
to his consuming compulsion to simply go; he didn’t know how far. He had dropped everything in a moment to run
his odyssey. His followers had to do the
One day in the
desert, Forrest stopped. He suddenly
announced, “I’m tired. I’m going home
now.” At this proclamation, his
followers asked, “Now what are we
supposed to do?”
Like Forrest, they
had no idea why they were running. He
just seemed to have a point to his life and knew where he was going. Alas, he was all too human.
They were used to
following him. They couldn’t just go
back to their meaningless lives. In all
their miles of following him, they had learned nothing of finding meaning for
Forrest, Jesus won’t quit and go home.
He is still here, running impossible distances in the person of His Holy
Spirit. He truly knows where He is going
and why. And we must run with Him. He will help us achieve the impossible time
When we are saved,
our lives are no longer our own. We run
until we die.
Do not turn back to
your former so-called life.
Lot’s wife looked
back as she was being saved out of wickedness and she turned into a pillar of
To be saved, you
must want Jesus as Lord as well as Savior.
To be saved means giving up all control of your life to God.
This is the new
The question of the
ages was uttered by those who heard Jesus say that it was easier for a camel to
go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of
God. Astonished, they asked, “Who, then,
can be saved?”
Jesus plainly and
simply answered, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with
occasion, He explained further to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is
flesh. That which is born of the spirit
No man can save
himself from sin. The attempt is
hopeless if reliance rests completely upon human finitude.
But the classic
hymn by Horatio G. Spafford, It is Well with
My Soul, sets forth the miraculous gospel hope: “Let this blest assurance control, that Christ
has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own Blood for my soul.”
As the Word declares,
it is by grace through faith that a person is saved. It is not of works lest anyone should boast.
Building a tower to
Heaven has been tried in Babel. It
failed. That proud edifice is no
more. Its attempted construction
resulted only in confusion, division, and disappointment.
Seek to ascend no
ladders to Heaven. Jesus has descended
The problem at
Babel is the problem that has persisted in human relations with God since the
very beginning. That problem is sin.
Its presence ruins all efforts at entering a relationship with God on
the basis of our own strength and righteousness.
The word “sin” is a
military word. The ancient Romans used
it in archery practice. If an archer’s
arrow landed anywhere outside of the bull’s-eye, the instructor would shout
“Sin!” The shot was outside of the
Sin is missing the
mark, the center of God’s will.
We are outside of
Christ, the center, and need to get in.
As the Word
declares, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
And again, “There
is none righteous; no, not one.”
God is perfectly holy and Heaven is a place of perfection, who can enter paradise
with the taint of sin? And who
can remove its stain?
No mortal man can.
That is why we must be saved by grace through
faith. The Word says that salvation is
not of ourselves.
It is the gift of God.
from the foundation of the world that any that would come to Christ with
repentant hearts full of faith would be saved.
God would draw them to Himself.
He refuses none of these. This
was God’s predestined plan for His elect.
In the fullness of
time, God sent His Son Jesus, the Christ, to die on the cross for the sins of
the world. Jesus knew that this was His
mission. When he talked to Nicodemus, He
uttered the famous and immortal words, “For God so loved the world that He gave
His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but
have everlasting life.”
Whosoever. That means you. That means me.
His shed Blood on the cross made possible the
cleansing of the stain of sin. Nothing
else can wash it away.
The nail scarred
hand of Christ plucked your arrow from outside the center and planted it
forever in the bull’s-eye.
You didn’t do it.
He did it for you.
But you must
That you must do.
To be saved, you
must realize that all of your sins were nailed to the cross. Jesus died in your place. He took the judgment and punishment for your
And there is more.
After realization must
come dedication and perpetration.
What you must do is
to be willing to die to self and sin and turn your life completely over to
Jesus. That is what belief entails.
Only believe and
lose all to gain Christ.
Your old, sinful self
must be crucified with Christ.
And yet, you will
In reality, you
were never spiritually alive before. As
the Word says, you were “dead in your trespasses and sins.” Christ has made you alive in Him through His
death and resurrection.
You live because you are born again as a new
person in Christ.
As the Word
declares, “Behold, all things have become new.”
The old things have passed away.
Bury them quickly
and never return to the grave. Do not
allow rottenness to lie about your clean spiritual house. Do not carry around the old corpse in a
bag. Throw these horrors out. Put them far from you, lest they defile again
what Christ has made pure.
You are a new
creature in Christ. You are a new
creation. You are a son or daughter of
God. You are a high priest and
king. You are an inheritor of all that
belongs to Christ. All of these things
the Word declares of you.
The born again
believer, you see, is radically changed by his salvation.
That is why being
born again requires a radical decision.
For those who have been saved by a life process rather than an event, it
requires a radical, present reality of their commitment to Christ. A lukewarm salvation is no salvation at all.
The Word declares
that God will spew the lukewarm from His mouth.
That is why Jesus
spoke of the road being straight and narrow that leads to life. Broad is the way, He said, that leads to
and inconsistent piety have no place with Christ. His words do not support it. His life does not support it.
Being born again is
a radical thing. Nicodemus learned
it. Those who followed and heard Jesus learned
it. Jesus set the standard high. We must learn that.
Who, then, can be
saved? Those who respond to the attraction
of the Holy Spirit to Christ and, by the grace of God, give their hearts and
lives by faith wholly over to Jesus.
who desperately and incessantly want Christ, the center.
Those who hunger
and thirst after righteousness.
Following Jesus is
a radical adventure. But grace will
supply even the most rigorous demands of God upon our lives.
Grace alone vaults
you over the highest bar.
God would have us
either cold or hot. The hardest people
in the world to share the gospel with are those who feel that they are
righteous in themselves. Better to talk
about Christ to the worst heathen who knows it than the self-righteous church
member or secular saint who feels he is a good person and therefore worthy of
God’s mercy and grace.
Such a one has no
real perceived need of Christ.
God wants you hot
in your humility before Him. He wants
you to be set aflame by your dependence upon His love. You stand before Him like a living torch that
cannot be consumed, a bonfire for all vanity.
Humility is not servility. Humility is not groveling like a worm in the
dust. Humility is obedience and
surrender to God.
Many was the time as a young man that I went forward in revival
meetings to be saved. I prayed the
“Sinner’s Prayer” several times. I swore
rash, useless oaths, making many promises to God.
But I always went
back soon enough to sin and my old way of living. Like Lot’s wife, I tried to flee the wrath of
God and escape by His grace and guidance, but I looked back. I became frozen in my sin, a pillar of salt
half-way to Heaven, a warning and memorial to others along the Way of what
happens to those who are double-minded.
But one day, by the
grace of God, I said with deep finality, “I am sick and tired of living like
this.” I got down on the floor and for four
hours confessed my sin and need for God.
I truly and earnestly gave God my heart and life.
necessarily need to pray for hours in order to be saved. Lightning need not strike you and the thunder
need not roll. But they might. The event
of the reality of your salvation matters, not the experience. People who chase experiences are not
following Christ. The point is that your
soul needs to be prepared. Be ready to
let go of everything. An old wineskin cannot
hold new wine, as the Word declares. It
The old Methodists
used to have Mourners’ Benches in the front of their sanctuaries back in the
days when they were more intentional about revival. There the new converts would come at the
invitation of the Holy Spirit and pour out their souls to God, getting broken
up so that God could rebuild.
Sadly, the only
place you see the Mourners’ Benches nowadays are in antique stores.
When I bowed down
to receive the Lord, I was a sinner on the way to hell who had been a mere
lip-service confessor of Christ. There
will be many in hell suffering its torments while still loving Jesus in a
measure. No doubt they will weep and
howl in self-pity, perhaps feeling that God did them an injustice for rejecting
their half-hearted devotion. But their
love was not sufficient to leave all to follow Him.
repeatedly to Peter, and to us, that if we love Him, we will feed His
sheep. The life of a shepherd is a
difficult and dangerous one, leading the flock to new pastures and protecting
them along the way. It can be a lonely
life, exposed to the elements and wild things while offering sparse food and
few places of comfort for sleep.
I bowed down a
sinner who had lived entirely for himself, but who had finally recognized that
life in Christ meant a life of service in the Kingdom of God.
At last, my
dedication and perpetration matched my realization.
Indeed, it could be
well argued that our realization of our need of Christ is not what it should be
until we are fully prepared to unreservedly commit our lives to Him. Realization, dedication, and perpetration
must all line up.
I rose up a born
again Christian having eternal and abundant life. There was not one particle of my former self
that deserved it. Once my soul
recognized that dark reality, that I was completely undone by my sin, I was
ready for the Light of the gospel and salvation. Once I threw down all of my absurd defenses
and fully surrendered, I was ready for victory.
I realized that my
grand and unsinkable life had met the same fate as another proud luxury liner.
So, I did more than
rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic
and play “Nearer My God to Thee” while the ship sank. It was not inevitable that I go to hell a
half-Christian. I finally abandoned ship,
trusted my soul to the deep, icy blue, and joyfully caught hold of the lifeline
Jesus threw my way.
Unlike the Titanic of history, there are always
sufficient gospel lifeboats.
I cast myself over
the rail while some, shaking their heads at my desperate leap, played on. They would go down more serenely, they
thought, to a common place with me in Davy Jones’ Locker. Having a forlorn, mere hope of Heaven, they
clung to the ship and those precious last seconds of life on earth.
But my crazy leap
of faith flung me instead into the vault of Heaven. I clung to Christ and, certain that I would
live, threw myself into certain death.
It gave me more
than a pious, religious, half-hearted hope of Heaven. I needed more than hope. I needed the assurance that only radical faith can bring.
They died. I lived.
I lived because I gave up hope and chose faith.
Once I really gave
God my heart, my life changed for good.
Jesus became the most important “thing” in my life. I immediately began to bear fruit that bore
witness to my repentance. This time, I
did not return to my folly, as the Word says, like a dog to its vomit.
Certainly, though, I
have sinned since the day I was born again.
My sins still mount up to Heaven, though not quite so fast. The former ways try to come back. Sometimes they succeed, even for a season.
But my attitude
toward my sin changed. I am persistently
vigilant in my heart against it and sincere in my progress toward further maturity
in my walk with Christ.
No doubt, I
continue to sin. Since I was born again,
though, I am no longer a sinner. I am a son of God. The
Son of God gave me that status by grace through faith. Though I am one who sins, don’t call me a “sinner”
because the Word says that I have been set free from sin.
What’s in a name?
The summary of
one’s life and being, that’s what.
A person is defined
by their greater aspects. The redemptive
grace of God at work in me is far greater than both the temptation to sin and
the actuality of sin yet in my life. I
rightly refuse to be defined by my minor negative aspects. I sensibly and honorably choose to be defined
by the major positive that most powerfully shapes who I am and what I do.
No, at the end of
the day, I am not a sinner. I begin and
end my days by grace. Naming me a
“sinner” is a verdict and label that is out of balance and touch with
reality. It is a narrow-minded,
sin-obsessed slur. It names my former
state of shame and, by its continued usage, attempts to beat me down and keep
me down, never allowing me to break free from its confinement.
Like I said, then,
don’t call me a sinner. I am no longer a
slave to sin. That is the name of my
former master and I have escaped to freedom under the mastery of grace.
What, then, shall I
I am the
righteousness of God in Christ. I have
been made to be such---brought to that impossibly high and exalted state---by
the grace of God. I have left my slavery
chains and rags far down below. When God
sees me now, He sees Christ in me. I
stand in the place of Christ, in His very footsteps before the Throne of God, because
I belong to Him. I am a son in the Son
and God is proud of me. Jesus, the High
Priest who sits at the right hand of the Father, checks off on me. I have divine favor.
That’s why I do not
grovel before God. Though I often kneel
before God in prayer to show my humility, worship, and desire of service to
Him, in heavenly places I am standing straight up before His throne. It was said of old in the Word that no man
may see God and live. But God has chosen
to reveal Himself to me in Christ. I can
now look on His face without shame. If I
fall on my face before Him, it is in holy awe and adoration. All terror has been taken away.
Sin has no more
power over me. Jesus broke that power on
Again, I am no
longer a slave to sin.
Its death has no
more dominion over me.
I am no longer a
child of the devil. Jesus told some of
those who heard Him that they were of their father, the devil. So it is with all who are not saved. They have not received liberation from sin,
death, hell, and the devil. They have
not left their chains and rags far down below.
In the Name of
Jesus, I am a free man now. I lack for
nothing because God supplies all of my need.
I walk in life, not death. I am
in the Light, not the dark. I am bound
for Heaven, not hell.
All of this benefit
I gain because Jesus died and rose again for me. He did it because of God’s love and mercy.
He took my
salvation seriously and made a serious choice, sacrificing all for me.
Should I do less,
hoping that a half-hearted faith will save me?
Let all who are
drawn to Christ, who come to Him for salvation so full and free, fully and
freely give their all to Him!
back. A bag of silver may hang you in
Being born again
means radical change.
It can be no other
when the power of sin departs from a person.
It can be no other
when the glory of the Almighty enters into a person’s heart.
All glory be to God, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who from
first to last saves us by His grace.
Grace, you see, is
the unmerited favor of God.
It is by His grace,
that wondrous favor and mercy, that we are sealed until the day of redemption
in Heaven. I cannot lose the great gift
of salvation because it is not I who hold to God.
It is God who holds