Thursday, December 28, 2006

THE Most Important Question: Answered

As the year 2006 winds down, I have been contemplating what kind of "end of the year blogposts" I should write. It's always fun to post "New Year's resolutions" and ask visitors to post theirs. I'll probably end up doing a post like that. It's also a good idea to remember and post the significant events of 2006. Perhaps I will include that, too. But foremost in my mind today is a post about what truly matters in life. And that is finding, and believing in Jesus Christ.

I don't know how many blogging visitors here venture over to my discussion forum site. But there is a post that was done by a member of the forum (screen name "Sothenes"), that added a lot to a former blogpost of mine about some bad news concerning Rick Warren. You can read Sothenes' original post here, as well as the continued discussion between GMpilot and me.

Some fellow Christians and non-Christians have chastised me (lovingly...of course :-) ) for "picking on" Rick Warren at this blog. That's OK. I'm glad that people are willing to challenge and/or correct me when it's needed! I'm not perfect and I do make mistakes. However, I DO KNOW where to go when conflicts arise. That is to the Bible. God's Word is perfect. People can disagree with that, of course, but Jesus said to the Father, "Thy Word is truth. Sanctify me with thy truth." That's enough for me to believe that the Bible is inerrant! So when conflicts come up between Christian believers, it IS wise to go directly to that believer and discuss it. That is biblical. However, in the case of Rick Warren, I don't think he would hear me. Even an assistant pastor at my own church wouldn't hear my concerns over two years ago when I (as well as two other Bible study leaders) noticed that Rick Warren's prayer of salvation was missing something very crucial!

In a former blogpost, I stated my concerns:

There is no doubt that the success of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life book has stirred up a lot of controversy within many Christian evangelical circles. I have read several blogposts, opinions and comments from various Christian blogs and message boards. Some praise Warren for his book and efforts, others fear that he is pointing people in the wrong direction through a watered-down gospel message often known as the "seeker-sensitive" kind of approach to evangelism. Others even go so far as to believe that he is guilty of "preaching another gospel".

When I read the "Purpose" book, I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. However, when our church began a home group Bible study series based on the book, I had my concerns right from the start. I wrote about this in a former blogpost called Seeking to Save?

The crux of the matter and debate (for me, at least) can be summed up in this portion of my former blogpost:

All the leaders gathered to view a video done by Pastor Rick Warren as an introduction to the study course. When the video came to the portion where accepting Christ was involved, an alarm went off in my heart and mind as I noticed something missing from Pastor Warren's prayer. There was no mention of the need to confess personal sins and repent of them. I had arrived late to the meeting so I thought that perhaps I missed that part in the beginning. During the question and answer time, I raised my hand and brought this up to the assistant pastor leading the class. He said he would "look into it" and quickly called on someone else with the next question. His lack of reaction and abrupt answer was close to an outright dismissal about my concerns!! I was shocked! Two other women sitting nearby said they felt the exact same way about that prayer! I was hoping that this would be brought out to the general congregation (because my pastor ALWAYS SPECIFICALLY EMPHASIZES THE NEED TO CONFESS SIN AND REPENT BEFORE RECEIVING CHRIST AS SAVIOR) but I don't think it was ever brought up.

As a leader of two study groups, I felt that it was my obligation to be sure that the sinners prayer was included in this study so I led such a prayer myself to give people the opportunity to receive Christ at any time during the 8 week study. If I had to criticize the "Purpose" book for one reason, it would be its lack of this important point within its pages.

This is why the book, "The Way of the Master" SHOULD ALSO BE READ BY EVERY BORN-AGAIN BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIAN. It picks up where the "Purpose" book is lacking (IMO).

I will say this. There is much that is commendable in the work of Rick Warren. I am not saying that TPDL belongs in the trash. What I am saying is that it lacks the part of the gospel (the cross of Christ and his death in our place for our sin; plus resurrection to life) that saves people from their sin.

I do believe that God can, and does use even incomplete writings and turns them for good.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

But I also think that when a crucial part of the gospel is missing from a pastor's message, it must be pointed out and corrected!

It wasn't until this morning that I clicked on one of the links that Sothenes shared in his post. I'm really glad I finally got around to reading it because it is a truly wonderful, intricate explanation of What Must I Do To Be Saved?

I can't think of any other, more important message to share as the year 2006 comes to a close.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

This is the most important question a person could ever ask. Thankfully, we are not left on our own to "imagine" what the answer might be. God has clearly TOLD us what we must do in order to be saved. The question is answered in the Bible! The Philippian jailer asked this very question to the apostle Paul in Acts 16:30-31. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

Men have invented their own answers. Some have said we must "make a commitment" to Christ. Some say we must try to "be good", "stop sinning", "obey" the ten commandments, or join a church. God says, "BELIEVE" on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved! God gives the sinner but ONE requirement in order to be saved. He must believe on Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31) [see also Rom. 5:1; 10:9; John 3:15,16,18,36; 5:24]

But what does it mean to BELIEVE?
The Scriptures make it clear that ALL a man has to do to be saved is believe. The Bible also makes it clear that there is a real kind of faith and a phony kind of faith. Is your faith real? Put your faith to the test.

1.) True faith includes knowledge.
One must know the correct FACTS of the gospel message. Faith placed in the wrong facts will never save. The "facts" of the gospel are recorded in I Cor.15:1-4. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel … by which also ye are saved…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

The New Testament makes it clear that no one is saved apart from a knowledge of the facts included in the gospel. An incomplete or inaccurate gospel will not save anyone! (II Cor.11:3-4) A vague belief in "a Higher Power" will not do. Today God requires that a man know that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) Knowledge is an important part of saving faith. But saving faith is much MORE than simply KNOWING the truth about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.

2.) True faith includes assent.
There must also be an assent to the reality and truthfulness of the gospel! We must believe in our heart that the gospel message is true. (Rom.10:9) Saving faith is more than having information in the head. It must include a deep inner conviction and persuasion concerning the reality of the gospel and all it implies. Faith must exist in the head and heart. The fact that Jesus died for our sins implies that we are condemned SINNERS, unable to save ourselves, and desperately in need of a Savior! (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) No one is ever saved apart from knowing the correct facts concerning the gospel, AND being fully persuaded of the reality of those facts.

But even so, it is possible for a man to know the correct facts of the gospel, believe them to be true, and STILL not be saved! James makes that clear in his epistle. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19) Satan has that kind of faith. He believes the "facts" of the gospel message. He KNOWS those facts are true! He is well aware that Jesus died and rose again. But having the correct information and being fully persuaded of its reality is NOT saving faith! That is the point James makes in his epistle. It is perfectly possible (it happens often!) for a person to genuinely believe that all of the facts of the gospel are true, and yet in his heart want nothing to do with Jesus Christ! He may believe that Jesus died and rose again, and yet, he may at the same time, enjoy his life of sin and have no desire whatsoever for a new life! Thousands of men today have heard the gospel message, have assented to the truthfulness of it, and yet have said, "No thank you!" to God's gracious invitation to salvation.

3.) True faith also includes the will. Faith that saves must also involve a "choice", an act of the human will. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:11-12) In this passage, John says that saving faith is synonymous with the choice to "receive" Christ. That is an act of the will, and is a deliberate choice on the part of the sinner. It is one thing to believe intellectually that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. It is another thing to make the choice to "receive" Him personally!

Choosing to "receive" Christ goes beyond intellectual faith to personal faith. Christ becomes MY personal Savior! It goes beyond a cold, intellectual belief in facts to TRUST in a Person.

Consider the passage in John 3:14-15. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament book of Numbers. In that passage, the children of Israel were bitten by serpents and were dying. Moses was told by God to erect a pole and put a brass serpent upon the pole… and whoever would look upon the brass serpent would live. In John 3:14, Jesus uses this as an illustration of "saving faith". As condemned sinners, we are like those who were bitten by the serpents. That "bite" was poisonous, and left to themselves, they would perish. The wages of our sin is death, and apart from Christ, we too will perish - forever cast into the torments of the Lake of Fire! (Rom.6:23; Rev.20:11-15) The children of Israel were told to "look" upon the brass serpent and live! That's all they had to do! Look and live! If one bitten by the serpent did not believe the "facts" told to him [that looking at the brass serpent would cure him] he would not bother to go to the pole and look. But what would PREVENT the one bitten from looking on the serpent? Stubborn pride, self will, and rebellion would! Can't you just imagine some of those men saying to themselves, "I will not look to that serpent for a cure. That's the most foolish thing I have ever heard! It's too easy! I will never submit to anything so foolish"! The Bible tells us that "the preaching of the cross is to them who perish, foolishness!" (I Cor.1:18a) Yet it "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe". (I Cor.1:21b) The cross, God's way of salvation, humbles the sinner. Because of our sinful pride, we refuse to submit to GOD'S METHOD of salvation. It seems foolish to the proud heart of man. It is offensive to sinful flesh to be told that our own efforts to save ourselves are like worthless, filthy rags, (Isa.64:6) and that we must trust in Christ's work for us or perish! Most men WILL not come to Christ. They choose not to. (Matt.22:3; John 1:11; 5:40)

Believing is easy in the sense that it is the ONLY requirement God has given us. But it is NOT easy to believe in the sense that true faith is humbling and offensive to our proud, sinful human nature. It is hard to admit that we really ARE condemned (John 3:18; Rom.3:9-19), that in our flesh dwelleth "no good thing" (Rom.7:18), and that we must trust in Christ alone to save us or we perish forever. The act of believing is simple. It is as easy as drinking water (Rev.22:17; John 4:14), stepping through a door (John 10:9), or receiving a gift (John 1:12; Rom.6:23). But the choice to believe may be quite difficult. It is a big decision, and heaven and hell hang in the balance!

God's only requirement for the sinner is to believe on Christ. But saving faith must involve the head (knowing the facts of the gospel and my desperate need as a condemned sinner), the heart (assenting to the truthfulness of the gospel message), and the will (choosing to call on the name of the Lord to be my Savior and to save me! -Rom.10:13) It is a deliberate, personal, knowledgeable, choice to receive Christ. You KNOW that Jesus died for your sins and paid your penalty. Perhaps your heart has even been stirred by that truth, but have you decided to receive Him personally? Is your faith real? BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Do it today!

Hat Tip: Salem Bible Church website
(Special thanks to Sothenes for providing the link!)

1 comment:

Christinewjc said...

The concern over Rick Warren and his incomplete gospel is growing!

The Rick Warren Debate