Alright, people, this is a LONG one. Go get something to drink, and maybe a snack.
“He saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy— through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 HOL
Leaving the Military Base for good didn’t really come as a surprise to me. I actually knew I would be leaving last November, 2012. What I didn’t know then is the manner I would be leaving it. Sometimes God has to give you a nudge to get your attention.
Here’s the deal. I realized what had gone wrong with my walk with God, some 20 years ago. I was doing it all on my own effort. I had fallen for a cheap grace; I knew in my heart that the call God placed on my heart a long time ago (1986 or 7), was the kind of call that means committing myself to that call.
Here is what I mean by that: At the on-set, I knew that what God had called me to was the kind of thing that takes total commitment. It was the type of calling that I could not, and would not do on my own. Not having the patience to grow up, I took matters in my own hands, ran WAY ahead of God’s will for me, and attempted to do it all on my own. My walk WAS pretty effective at first, but after a while, I grew fatigued. When I grew fatigued, and because I was doing this ahead of the will of God, I didn’t have the power to sustain what I was doing.
Instead of going back to where I should have been, and taking the time to grow up, and finding the time and wherewithal to go through the disciplines of spiritual growth, I gave up on God, and I gave up on everything else that relates to Christ.
I learned a few things over these last several years about that. One thing I learned was that I had to get back to the very basics. I had to be re-grounded. In 2007, I began searching for God, again. I didn’t know, at that time, that I had not left His hands. It just felt that way. The loneliness and desolation I felt was an isolation of my own creation. I learned this from being a daddy. Sometimes, you just have to let your kid alone with their thoughts, let them be mad at you, and let them struggle with the issue at hand. Eventually, if you have been doing your job as a parent, that kid will come back, and peace will be made between you. Hopefully, we both learned wisdom in that process.
God, however, does not need to learn anything. So, if I had a problem with God, Christ, religion, etc, then it was not God that was wrong, it was my perception, or understanding of God that got in the way. God is not going to let us play with strange fire, any more than you will let your child play in the middle of the Highway at rush hour.
It took me from 2007 to the present to learn what I am going to share with you. And this is fundamental to understanding what it means to be a Christian.
Salvation is a work of God.
Humans are not capable of saving themselves. Humans do not think they need saving. Despite of the ever present hole we feel in our heart that tells us something is missing, that something is wrong, it does’t occur to us that we are separated from God. Nothing fills that hole either. Trust me, I have tried. There is not enough adventure to satisfy that missing piece. There isn’t enough sex, food, money, material belongings, or vacations that can touch that hole in our soul. Still, we go out of our way to fill it, thinking that the next adventure will do the trick. We become objective junkies of whatever it is we pursue to fill that hole; yet nothing satisfies.
Somehow, someway, because it is not God’s will that anyone should perish, you hear the gospel message. You learn that we are sinful creatures. You learn that your best efforts will never please God. You learn that the wages of sin is death. But, while you were still enemies of God, He sent Jesus as His only begotten Son, to die in your place for that sin. And if you believe in your heart that Jesus did this for you, and if you confess with your mouth that his resurrection was proof that he has the right and authority to bring the dead to life, then you are saved.
Before, you were already dead because of sin. Now, you have eternal life because of Christ Jesus.
You didn’t do this by your own power. You were going along, pursuing anything that would fill that hole in your soul. It was God that drew you to the right place at the right time. There really was NOTHING AT ALL you could have done on your own to get to this place. (Titus 3:5). God draws us to Himself. Humans have no desire to be there. All we know is that something is missing, and it takes God to show you what it is.
What you received is faith, so that you can believe. That too is a gift from God, and not something you already have (Ephesians 2:1-5, 8). And here is where I get back on track.
REAL faith , saving faith, is neither defective or short-lived. REAL FAITH endures forever (Phil 1:6 & Hebrews 11). God gave you that gift of real faith. It never dies if it is real.
I had to ask myself a LOT of questions at this point. I will cut to the chase, though and go to the answers. The questions are self evident.
There is a gospel being taught in America. This gospel is NOT being taught anywhere else. Friends of mine, from all around the world, have talked to me about this gospel.
My friends live in a world where merely mentioning Jesus Christ in public is the death penalty. Or, they may go to jail. It is risky business being a believer in those countries. The Faith and Grace and commitment they have is genuine, real, forever, and powerful. It gets tested every moment of every day.
My friends talk to me about our cheap grace.
American churches have gotten to the point that they teach that, all you have to do is give some sort of mental assent to the fact that Jesus lived, and you are saved. There is no need to see a change in your daily life. You can go on and do whatever it was that you were doing.
American churches have stopped teaching that it is sin that separates us from eternity, and fellowship with God. It is this cheap grace that has allowed the Roman Catholic Church to say to the Moslems, your path to God is equal to our path to God. After all, there is plenty in the Koran and the Hadith that teaches that the historical Jesus existed. By the logic of cheap grace, that makes the Moslems Christians, and the Christians Moslems.
Cheap grace teaches that it is not necessary to do anything other than give some mental assent to Jesus. That you are saved if you do this. But this is NOT what the scriptures teach. (I recommend two outstanding books by John MacArthur, “The Gospel According to Jesus“, and “FAITH WORKS – The Gospel According to the Apostles” for a really deep discussion on this topic).
Where I went wrong in my earlier walk was that I only acknowledged God, and only acknowledged Jesus, and decided I had better get busy “doing” what “Christians” do. And it fell flat on its face. Because I did not have a complete understanding of the effective work of God in my life, I was not able to sustain a relationship with God.
If you are simply going around acknowledging that Jesus existed, then, you are not saved. SATAN knew Jesus existed, and HE is not saved either. There is coming, in our lifetime, a falling away from the Church. That will happen when those who say they belong to Christ are given a choice to serve Christ, or serve something that will cause less stress in their life. Humans always chose the easy path. It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord, and the faith that God gave you to stand up to the pressure. Those who live by cheap grace will discover that they are willing to sell their soul than acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord and the Savior.
The closest I ever got to what my friends overseas face was right after I was saved. I was with one of my Moslem friends. He had bought a new gun, and he wanted me to go shooting with him. I took my gun, and we went. I couldn’t shut up about Jesus. He pointed his gun at my temple and said that if I mention Jesus again, he will kill me. I mentioned Jesus. He pulled the trigger, and the gun jammed. God always protects children and fools. It is foolish to commit yourself completely to Jesus as your lord. It takes time, effort, and gets in the way of all your fun. But if you are saved, you will know in your heart that serving God is better than anything else you could possibly ever want to do. There is no cheap grace when you are on the firing line. Another Moslem threatened to storm in to my home, tie me up, rape my wife in front of me, cut her throat, and then see if I will still be a Christian. This is is actually what they do overseas to Christians. I told him that neither my wife, or I will ever denounce our faith. Fortunately, another friend from Lebanon stopped that guy.
In Ephesians 2:10, we learn that we are saved and fully justified BEFORE our faith ever produces a single righteous work. It is never the other way around. You are incapable of doing ANYTHING righteous until after you are saved and fully justified. Then you cannot produce on your own, but only produce by the will of the Holy Spirit working in you.
This gets us to the Object of our Salvation. The object of faith. The object in our faith is first, last, and always Jesus Christ HIMSELF. A creed, acknowledgment, or some sort of promise is NOT salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord AND Savior IS salvation. It is impossible to separate the two; Lordship and Salvation. It is impossible to please God without it, either. You can go and do all the works you want, but if it was not driven by the Holy Spirit, out of your love for Jesus Christ, you just wasted your time thinking that you have curried favor with God.
FAITH involves a personal commitment to Christ. (II Corinthians 5:15). Merely acknowledging that Christ exists is not being saved. Going to a church does not mean you will be saved, either. Being a deacon or a Sunday school teacher does not mean you are saved. Saved people will do these things, but we know that it is because the Lord has driven us to do it, and we have responded out of our love of Christ to get it done. We acknowledge that we do not have the power to do this on our own, but that God gives us the power to do it.
Works will happen if you are committed to Christ as your lord. If you have given your being to serve Christ. Works, however do not make you saved.
Now, here is where I get LOTS of lovely email. Go ahead and write. I love hearing from you.
All true believers follow Jesus.
“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 3:27-28
Simply acknowledging Jesus doesn’t get you saved. To repent because of your sin IS to have a change of heart. Faith and Repentance are concurrent. (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Peter 3:9) You do not see the need to repent until God has drawn you in, and until you receive the faith to see the need for repentance. The two happen at the same time. So check if you have ever repented. That is your first clue.
Repentance is not a work, either. It is an act of GRACE. It is by the grace of God that you are drawn to Jesus. It is by the grace of god that you realize the weight of your sin against God. It is an act of Grace that you are able to see what Jesus did on your behalf to take away your sin. It is an act of the grace of God that led you to repent, to turn around and follow Christ.
You will hear Jesus’s voice IF this is what has happened to you, and in you. You WILL follow Jesus Christ out of your love for him. Salvation is an act of Grace, and committing to Christ is not something you can do on your own, but only through the Grace of God. (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25)
Repentance will change your heart. Repentance will change the way you behave. Repentance will change your priorities. Repentance will lead you to a strong desire to please the Lord, Jesus Christ. Repentance, genuine repentance, means you will no longer desire to do the things you used to do. (Luke 3:8, Acts 26:18-20). Repentance is turning from sin. (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47).
SALVATION IS NOT JUST A TICKET TO HEAVEN!
We read in Romans 6:23 that eternal life is the “gift of God”. This gift also includes everything that it means to be a Christian. It means to stop what you are doing and serve Him. It includes every aspect of your life. It includes all that is considered godly. (2 Peter 1:3; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:32)
Everything I have written above pertains to the struggle I went through from 2007 to now. I knew that my days were numbered at the Base, long before it happened. I knew this because I finally understood that I cannot merely acknowledge the historical fact of Jesus, and give only head knowledge for what he did. I needed Christ to become completely and irreversibly part of my very being.
I also knew, the minute I understood all of the above, that this will call for a change in my life. A radical change. God brought me to faith. There was noting I could do or read that would do it for me. Only God. I had to face my sin and depravity and see what that looks like to God. It is a state of being that deserves God’s judgement of death. But, in His mercy, he bestowed on me the faith to see that Jesus died on the cross for me, and the faith to accept that, because Christ has risen from the dead, I too will have eternal life if I believe in Him.
I knew that this will take a commitment. Anyone who knows me well knows my passions run deep, and when I commit, I really commit. But this commitment is not one of my own doing. It has deeper passions, a stronger love than I have ever imagined, and a purpose that makes all my former plans and schemes look meaningless. And the real evidence that this change is real, is the evidence of real change in my life.
The people who have taken the time to get to know me, have seen this change. It is not fake. I do not have to pretend to love or care. I do not have to try to love Christ, I simply LOVE Christ, and I desire with all my heart to follow him. I hear his voice.
I knew I would have to accept whatever change God brings to my life. But I knew for sure, my old life was over and done with.
Cheap grace does not bring you to this point. Cheap salvation cannot create in you the desire to follow Jesus. Cheap grace does not change you like the real Grace God bestows on you. Cheap grace says it is OK to keep on sinning, and you don’t really have to change anything about yourself to be saved.
Real salvation teaches you that, as long as you are human, you will still sin, but you will not pursue sin. You will hear Jesus’ voice and you will follow him. And when you do sin, you will feel its weight on your soul, and the interference it brings to your relationship with God. And you will repent of that sin. The JOY of your salvation will be restored. Real salvation means that it will be your hearts desire to please God, and follow Christ wherever he leads you.
I am unemployed in the sense that I have not had an income since April 10th, 2013. But that does not mean I do not work. I witness for Christ because I love Him. I write about the things of God because I am called to do this, and I LOVE doing this. This is not labor. Earthly labor saps you of your strength. Obedience out of Love for Jesus gives you more strength, more joy, more grace, more courage, more love.
I have been writing a lot about the Church. I have been accused of being an angry Christian. Of that, I am guilty. I am angry that we have sold our birthright for a cheap or alien gospel. We are the only country on earth that has people who think they are Christians simply because they go to church, or give some kind of mental assent to the fact of the historical Jesus. We have let other forces, spiritual forces, take over every aspect of our lives because we have been deceived into believing we are saved, when the evidence of salvation simply does not exist.
I was one of those “Cheap Grace” Christians. Except for one thing. I actually read the Bible. I have seen that what the Bible says is not what is taught in our Churches. Real salvation means a changed life.
I knew when I realized this, that the only answer for me was to surrender it ALL to His will. I have no idea where this will lead, but I do know I am obeying.
My challenge to you is to have the stones to examine your life, like I had to examine mine. See if your life is one that pleases God. See if your life is one of submission to Jesus Christ as Savior AND Lord. You either genuinely believe, or you don’t. You are genuinely saved or you aren’t, and the fruit of your walk will be the evidence of it, and it will exist, not because YOU did it, but because, when you submitted to Jesus, HE brought forth fruit out of your walk.
Want salvation? Let’s do what my friends overseas risk their lives for everyday. Get real salvation. Get real.
Now, go be about it.
I love you.