Thoughts to Ponder

Are you truly a believer?

When the Lord comes back for His people (the rapture of the church) I wonder if some churches will even notice. Will their pews be almost as full the next Sunday as they were the Sunday before the rapture? Will the pastor still be there to preach a heart warming sermon? I am not talking about churches on the fringe of Christianity, I am talking about mainstream churches.

(Matthew 7:21-23 NIV) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' {23} Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

I want to look at that statement Jesus made. First Jesus says that these people will call Him Lord. I think this means that these people know who He is. Further they will remind Him that they did works in His name, such as prophesying and driving out demons and other miracles. I believe these are people who believe they are Christians. I think that these will be both leaders and followers.

I think there will be pastors and elders in this group and also those who sit weekly in the pews and listen to sermons. All of whom will think that they have what they need to get to heaven. Seminaries are putting out pastors who no longer believe in the inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth, sinless life of Christ, the physical resurrection of Christ... What is left? What do these pastors believe? Can you be sure they understand the concept of the gospel, and if not how can they themselves be true believers?

Through the work of the Holy Spirit some of these men may even bring some people to repentance and a saving faith in Jesus Christ without knowing Him themselves. They might very well tell Jesus that they brought people into His kingdom and yet be told that they themselves are lost. There may be a great percentage of people attending church every week who don't have a true relationship with Jesus Christ.

How could this happen? I think it is happening right now before our very eyes and in fact is happening because of our actions. Christianity has become a consumer religion. You can go to any Christian book store and find many books on how to market your church. How to draw in the people and how to keep them coming back week after week.

The problem is that we have cheapened the gospel and belittled the cross of Jesus and what He did for us! We no longer call the unsaved "sinners", instead we market our churches to seekers. We no longer tell people that they are sinners and are doomed to an eternity in hell because they have been sentenced to spiritual death by a Just, Holy and Righteous God.

We only speak about God's unconditional love. Yes God's love is unconditional, but His acceptance of us is not unconditional, it is conditioned on our repentance and faith in His Son Jesus. We don't mention repentance anymore, we tell people all they have to do is accept Jesus as their Savior. All they have to do is accept the free gift that God is offering them. We don't tell people that they must turn from their sins. That is part of what it means to repent of our sins, but if we don't ever mention repentance how are they to know? Accepting Christ sounds good but what does it mean?

Look at the story of the demoniac whom Jesus delivered: (Mark 5:2-8 NIV) When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. {3} This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. {4} For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. {5} Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. {6} When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. {7} He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" {8} For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" Notice that the demons accepted that Jesus was who He claimed to be: Son of the Most High God. So is it enough for a person to accept that Jesus is God's Son? (James 2:19 NIV) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. Fallen angels are not afforded the opportunity to repent, but my point is still the same, just believing is not enough.

Jesus taught us that we must believe on Him, but that is not the only thing He taught: (Luke 13:2-5 NIV) Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? {3} I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. {4} Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? {5} I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 15:7 NIV) I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Don't be fooled by the feel good gospel. We are saved by faith through the grace of God, when we repent of our sins. This is what the Holy Spirit said through Paul: (Acts 20:21 NIV) I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. Anything less than repentance from our sins is worthless. It is like standing on a sinking ship and saying that you believe that the life boat will save you, but never getting into it. The first step is done, but you need to follow through on that faith.

We apologize for the harsh language in the Bible about death, hell, eternal torment and wrath. We present a gentler, kinder more loving God, or at least that is what we think we are doing. We are lying to ourselves. Which is a more loving God, one who accepts us as we are, or one whose Holy nature demands death as payment for our sins, but who loved us enough to pay that price Himself? See what I mean? We have a loving God, who has shown His boundless love for us, why do we try so hard to block out His holy wrath against sin?

In fact we minimize sin. Sin is nothing more then the mistakes we have all made. No! Sin is an offense against a Holy God which must be paid for and the payment is death!! We also tend to give the impression that God needs our love or our company. We give a picture of God pining away in heaven begging 'seekers' to please come to Him. That is not an accurate picture of the Most High God. He pines for no one, He begs no one, rather He demands that we repent and place faith in His Son. (Ezekiel 18:4 NIV) For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son--both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

People are no longer saved, they just become Christians, like joining a social club. After all if they don't have any sins to repent of and God has no righteous wrath, what in the world are they being saved from?

We end up with a bunch of weak Christians. Their past haunts them because they were not set free. They struggle with sin in their lives because they were not changed. They don't understand the Bible when they try to read it and so don't try very often, and the reason is that the Bible is understood spiritually and they are still dead spiritually.

This can be seen clearly in the defeated lives many Christians live. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that those who are redeemed are free: (1 John 5:3-5 NIV) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, {4} for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. {5} Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. If you are not free from the past, if you have not overcome the world, but instead it is overcoming you, then maybe you need to go back to the foot of the cross in repentance and find the freedom Christ paid for.

Today the cross is a symbol of God's love not an instrument of death. Jesus said to be His disciples we must take up our cross daily, but people romanticize it. They think it means to identify with Christ. No! It means to put your flesh to death daily so that you may live spiritually through His Spirit!

We don't tell people that they need to work at their relationship with God, because that sounds so legalistic. Well any relationship you don't work at won't be a good relationship. We tell people that they are unconditionally accepted by God once they come to Christ, yet we ignore all the passages in the New Testament which speak of holiness and righteousness, they are just too harsh for sensitive new believers or for that matter 'mature' believers. Passages like this: (James 4:4 NIV) You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. But we are quick to quote this passage: (Romans 8:1-2 NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, {2} because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Don't get me wrong, that is a wonderful passage and of course it is true, but we take it out of all context and try to use it to say that we are fully justified and fully accepted no matter what kind of life we lead now. That is a LIE!!

God makes it clear what He expects from us: (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV) As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. {15} But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; {16} for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." He leaves no doubt as to what the consequences are of disobedience either: (Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

Does this all seem too harsh? It is true that people might start fearing God, but is that all bad? (Proverbs 1:7 NIV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 15:33 NIV) The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 19:23 NIV) The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. Why don't we teach what God's word says?

We are so afraid that God's word will turn people off that we refuse to state the truth to them. Yet what good does it do them to think they know who God is and to think that they are on their way to heaven if in fact they have no idea who God is and are still under His righteous wrath?

Take a look at a recent Barna Research Poll:

The 7 Most Discouraging Results

1. Born again adults are more likely to experience a divorce than are non-born again adults (27% vs. 24%). Are these truly believers? Of course they think they are.

2. Although women are more active in church life than are men, their levels of participation in many aspects of church life - from worship attendance to volunteerism - are significantly declining.

3. Large proportions of the lay leaders in Christian churches hold a range of unbiblical religious views regarding the holiness of Christ, the reality of Satan, the existence of the Holy Spirit, the reality of the resurrection, and the means to salvation. If these people don't believe in the resurrection Paul says they have believed in vain: (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 NIV) If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. {14} And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

4. Desiring to have a close, personal relationship with God ranks just sixth among the 21 life goals tested, trailing such desires as "living a comfortable lifestyle."

5. Born again Christians spend seven times as much time on entertainment as they do on spiritual activities.

6. Although two-thirds of all teenagers say they know all the basic teachings and principles of the Christian faith, two-thirds of them reject the existence of Satan, three-fifths reject the existence of the Holy Spirit, and half believe that Jesus sinned during His lifetime. If Jesus sinned just once then He could not have paid for our sins, so at least half of these people have no Savior according to their own beliefs!

7. In a representative nationwide survey among born again adults, none of the individuals interviewed said that the single, most important goal in their life is to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Where did people get such unbiblical views? Sadly all too often in church!! We have soft pedaled the gospel and denied the Savior who died for us in the process.

Satan has deceived the church into thinking that the old time gospel is going to chase people away from God, and that for a new enlightened age we need a new gospel. The message that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God is no longer taught. We candy coat the message to appeal to more people, but we never give them a fighting chance to know the truth, or escape judgment.

We as the Body of Christ should repent before God for the damage we have done. We should start speaking the truth, the whole truth in love. True love demands truth! People need to hear that they are sinners who are on their way to an eternity in torment, but that the good news (gospel) is that they can be forgiven. To be forgiven they must admit (confess) that they are indeed sinners, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He died in their place and was raised to physical life again. There are no short cuts, there is no way to make judgment and our sinful condition sound better without destroying the message.

If you are a 'believer' who never truly realized that you are a sinner under the righteous wrath of God, unable to do anything to save yourself, then you don't have a true relationship with God. A person without sin does not need a Savior, only those who realize they are lost need a Savior. Don't let the watered down message keep you from the only hope you have for spending eternity with God. Come to Him in repentance and obtain the mercy and forgiveness and freedom that He offers you.

If you are a shepherd and you have been soft pedaling the gospel, even if it was done with the best of intentions, quit. Start preaching the gospel that saves sinners from torment in hell! You will be held to a higher standard because of the position you hold, don't allow fear of the gospel's abrasiveness to keep you from proclaiming it as it is meant to be proclaimed. (James 3:1 NIV) Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

True repentance and salvation will be evidenced in the person's life. God has not changed, He is still in the business of changing lives. If you are seeing many converts but few changed lives, then you are really seeing few converts!! (Ephesians 5:6-10 NIV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. {7} Therefore do not be partners with them. {8} For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light {9} (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) {10} and find out what pleases the Lord.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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