Salvation

Saved From What?

This is a guest post by Jess*. She posted this yesterday on her social media sites but I wanted to post here, both for easy reference and for ease of sharing. I believe this is worth consideration for all of us but particularly for us Americans as we watch two opposite sides wage war with each other here in our country.

As a bit of background: The other day, Jess and I were sitting by a playground watching her three busy boys and grabbing a few moments of conversation when we could. During this time, she mentioned how both sides are really after the same goal: To fix this world. A light bulb went off in my head. Yes, of course. How did I not see this before?

“Are you going to write about that? Because if you don’t, I probably will,” I said. She said she thought she’d find some time to write. I am glad she did. I think you will be, too.

It is my hope and prayer that this will help you clarify what’s happening around us in the culture today and to refocus your eyes on Christ, who is not only our only hope for salvation from sin, but is truly our only anchor and hope for the future in these days of confusion and chaos.

Here’s what Jess wrote—

I’m reading an Easter devotional with my boys and every day tells a part of the story, starting with the triumphal entry and leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The story explained how the crowd who was shouting “Hosanna!” or “Save us!” were hoping that Jesus was going to save them from their oppressors. They thought He had come to set up His kingdom right then and there. They wanted temporal, worldly saving rather than the eternal, spiritual saving He really came to accomplish. (Luke 19:11) I was struck by a thought as I read that. Aren’t Christians doing the same thing today as the Jews who were waving palm branches and shouting “save us!” hundreds of years ago?

Dominion theology is becoming more and more popular in the Christian world. It’s the idea that the church is bringing the kingdom of God to Earth. They think that the church will take control over the seven major spheres of influence in society, claiming it’s their duty to create a worldwide kingdom for the glory of Christ. This theology works hand in hand with Christian nationalism. They claim “America will come back!” as they fight against cultural evils and attempt to return to morality and conservative values.

On the other side of the fence, liberal Christianity claims social justice as an essential mandate of our faith. They encourage joining up with groups like BLM to bring equality and justice for everyone. We must pursue social justice for the oppressed, poor, and marginalized by tearing down the current systems and building new ones.

Both groups are doing the exact the same thing but on opposite sides. Both are seeking to make this world a better place and to create God’s kingdom here on earth. The conservative, dominionist side does it by fighting against evil and promoting morality. The liberal, social-justice-loving side does it by fighting against all forms of injustice and enforcing equity for all people. The goal for both for them? A better world here and now.

Both groups miss the point. Both miss the Gospel. Both are shouting “save us!” without realizing that Jesus came to save His people from sin and death and not from the evil and oppression of this world. They’re just like the ignorant crowd of Jews cheering as Jesus paraded through on a donkey.

The kingdom of God is spiritual. It’s not of this world. Jesus came to die in our place and for our sins so that we might enter His heavenly kingdom. He came to save us, not from the temporary suffering of this world, but from the eternal suffering of hell. He will bring His kingdom to Earth when He returns and reigns. (Revelation 11:15) It is our job to share the Gospel and build God’s spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.

The Gospel is the only thing that changes hearts and transforms lives. Fighting against evil, seeking social justice, advancing so-called morality. It’s all worthless apart from the Gospel. What does it matter if we made the world a little better for people who are still headed straight for hell? Jesus did nothing to change the very corrupt world He was living in. He came to save those who are His and bring them into His kingdom through the power of His death and resurrection. We are called to be lights in this world so that others can see the transforming power of the Gospel and seek Salvation for themselves.

We should never expect to “transform the world” because we know that true Christianity is a narrow way that will always remain unpopular. We’re promised that sin will always reign on this earth. It will only get worse and worse as the last days approach. (2 Timothy 3:1, 13, 2 Peter 3:3)

It’s tempting, even as followers of Christ, to want God to fix things for us here and now. To heal us, mend our relationships, restore our country, remove our hardships and trials. But He never promised He’d save us from those things here on earth. Our hope is not in this world. It’s not in America and a comeback of conservative values, in obtaining social justice, or in having all our problems fixed. Our hope is the heavenly kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. A kingdom we could only enter because of His death on the cross for our sins. Let us not forget on this Good Friday why He came and what He died to save us from. And let us proclaim it from the rooftops!

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Colossians 1:13-15 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

*Jess is my oldest daughter and wife to Seth and busy mom to three adorable sons–who are also my three favorite grandsons! (Seth and Jess have provided us with our only grandsons!). You can find Jess at Anchor for the Soul on Facebook and on Instagram.

 

 

Changed Lives: Lorraine

Are you truly saved? Or are you faking it? Today’s testimony is from a pastor’s daughter who faked it for many long years.

When I first met Lorraine, years ago now, I was so refreshed by her vibrant faith and dedication to the Lord. I had no idea that her testimony included many years of only pretending to be a Christian. When she shared this with me, I realized she was probably revealing to me one of the most tragic and best kept secrets of the church: So many are just pretending.

Some of these pretenders do give doubts regarding their claims of faith by their continuing sinful and worldly lifestyles, but Lorraine reminds us that there are others who do all the right things, say all the right things, and yet their hearts are so far from God.

Lorraine’s testimony is so very important for this time–this era of pop Christianity (which isn’t actually true Christianity); for this time of easy-believism; for this time when people are taught that their salvation is assured with a childhood prayer or a walk to the altar; and for this time when the fake gospel of Jesus fixing your life and fulfilling your dreams or the gospel of being nice and doing good works is replacing the true Gospel.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says this:  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

A few years ago, I was leading a Bible Study that Lorraine attended. One evening I shared my consternation over my lack of faith in a certain situation and my accompanying doubts about my salvation. Instead of delivering cliches and assuring me that “of course, you are saved,” Lorraine looked me in the eye and told me to examine myself carefully to make sure I was in the faith. At first, I was quite taken aback by this unexpected reply but after reflecting on this for several days, I realized that this was the kindest thing she could have said to me and I took her advice to heart: I carefully examined myself.

Where are we going when this life is over? The answer to that question stretches on into eternity and there will be no second chances. I hope Lorraine’s testimony will cause all who read it to examine themselves to see whether or not they are “in the faith.” It’s the most important question of our lives.

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This is my testimony of coming to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus; of my soul finding rest and peace at last. It is a story of deceit, lies, and sin—and of amazing mercy and grace.

If a child is born into a godly Christian home, they have great advantage. My father had been gloriously born again just a few months before my birth. All of my life I was taken to church, including Sunday mornings and evenings, as well as Wednesday nights. Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Christian summer camp, and Youth for Christ were all part of my childhood. I went to revival meetings, mission meetings, and prophecy conferences. I was taught early on of the love of God, of the depravity of man, of the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus, and of the wrath of God on the unrepentant and unbelieving heart.

In other words, I had no excuse not to believe for I was surely taught the truth.

My childhood memories are very happy ones. Sometime probably around the age of ten I went to the altar and professed faith in Christ. My teen years were both happy and troubled (as teen years often are). It became evident to me during this time that whatever troubles I had, they were nothing compared to the trouble I was in with God! By this time, with the knowledge I had of the Scriptures, and the godly life my father modeled before me, I realized that I was not saved. I had not been born-again. I was not a child of God but, rather, was a child of wrath.

When I was sixteen, a pivotal moment is etched in my mind. There was nothing in my life at that time that would have given a perceptive father any confidence that his daughter was right with God in spite of her profession of faith and one day, with a very heavy heart, my father asked me if I was saved. Did I know Christ?

Instead of revealing my desperate need for Christ to my father, I boldly looked him in the eye, and very consciously and with frightening ease, lied right to his face about the state of my soul. I told him I was saved so that he would stop bothering me.

That lie would be deeply entrenched within my heart and life, and for many years my ugly pride would prevent me from ever acknowledging my desperately lost condition. Pride nearly carried me to hell, to everlasting separation from God, to eternal damnation.

Within the next few years, I would fall in love, marry, have a daughter and three sons, teach Sunday School, become a youth leader, and attend church every time the doors were open (which was frequently). And yet…

I lived in dread and fear of dying or of Christ returning because I was most certainly not ready to meet a holy God.

Years passed. By this time, I was an expert at living this carefully crafted and concealed lie of pretending to be this wonderful Christian—which I knew I wasn’t.

At one point in my desperation, I tried to make a deal with God. I wanted to be saved but I wanted to be saved at home in the privacy of my bedroom so that no one need know that, for the past 15 years, I had lived the life of a phony, a hypocrite, a liar.

I learned something about the Almighty God, the King of the Universe: He doesn’t make deals.

Shortly after this, during the last night of a revival service, the Sprit of God powerfully worked upon my heart and God reminded me that “today is the day of salvation”.  A great battle was being waged for my soul and, though I was so terribly lost, without hope and without God, the thought of publicly walking down that long aisle was just too much to ask of my prideful self and held me back. After all, whatever would people think?

The last verse of Just As I Am called me to come and be saved at the end of that service but I refused. I left that service still lost, still trying to find my own way to God. After that evening, it was like God said “alright, Lorraine, do it your way!” and for the next two years God left me to myself. There was no conviction or striving. I was utterly alone. There was a deadness in my soul and I plunged into despair, believing that I had been totally abandoned by God.

With my sin heavy upon me, I was at the point of being willing to do whatever was necessary to find peace with God and rest in the Lord Jesus.

At the end of that two years, another revival meeting was held. While I was not particularly affected by either service or the special speaker that Sunday, this was the day that I came to the end of myself.

We came home that evening and put the children to bed and then I sat down heavily on the sofa, deeply shadowed by much misery and despair…feeling like I could not live yet knowing I could not die.

My husband, Dick, sat down beside me, sensing something was terribly wrong. Finally—after years of carefully guarding my secret—I told him that I did not know Christ. I told him I had never been saved and that now I was quite sure I could never be saved. I truly believed I had “missed my opportunity” for grace.

He tried to assure me that I was simply backslidden—that I simply needed assurance of my long-held faith. But I would not be consoled. I kept telling him I was lost. If anybody ever was lost, it was me! I then told Dick that I wanted to go before the entire church body and tell them I had been a phony all these years and to ask for prayer to God on behalf of my lost soul. I was now far past caring about what anybody thought of me. I had hit bottom and was so broken.

It was very late by now and we decided to wait until morning to go to talk to my dad—who was actually the pastor of the church we attended (Yes! Pastors’ kids can look so good but still be faking it!)

Early the next morning, we took the children to my sister’s house and were soon knocking on the parsonage door. We went into my father’s study and I told him what I had told my husband the evening before.

I had so perfected my role-playing of “good Christian” to such an extent that even my father was unbelieving. “Oh, Lorraine, you are surely just backslidden,” he said over and over again. Again, I said no, I have never been saved. And now I can’t be saved. Surely it was too late.

Then my wise father gave me the first words of hope that I had had for many years: Lorraine, the fact that you are here is evidence that God has not given you up!

My dad suggested that we talk with the special speaker who was visiting our church for the revival meetings. This speaker had seen many just like me—pastors, missionaries, elders, Sunday School teachers, and others—who had made empty professions of faith perhaps in their childhood or as a young adult but had finally and genuinely come to Christ after many years of service. He said to me, “Lorraine, why don’t you ask Christ to save you?”

I had been down this path before but this time was different. This time my will was broken and I had been humbled. I was well aware of my sin and my need for a Savior. Had any sinner prayed such a simple prayer or one so heartfelt as I did that October morning? In simple, believing faith I received Jesus Christ as Lord.

Lightening did not flash. I heard no voice from heaven. But God has said in His Word: as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-12).

I had received Christ through faith and I was born again. My life was radically changed—For God hath said: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And my sin—well, God has something to say about that, too! : “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

and also: who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (I Peter 2:24)

Now I sing with gladness!–

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

I greatly fear that many sit in churches, as I did, with an empty profession, their hearts becoming increasingly harder and their doom sure. God will say to many as they parade their works before Him in that great day: Depart from me, I never knew you.  (Matthew 7:21-23)

If you are still in your sins there is a mercy seat. The door of grace is still open. The Savior has said all who come to me, I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37) Flee then to Christ. Look to Christ. Plead with Christ to save you!

In this world of pleasure, acclaim and applause, of fame and riches, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that can be compared to knowing Christ Jesus the Lord. He is the treasure of all treasures. Take ten thousand worlds and they are nothing compared to the infinite, amazing worth of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find other wonderful testimonies of God’s amazing grace and never-ending mercy in the lives of His children here.

Will I Come to God on His Terms or Mine?

People do many things in their efforts to be right with God. Mostly it boils down to being a “good person”, whether this be by good works or, even more specifically, is accomplished by a list of rules or rituals set up by someone long ago.

Then there are the thousands–perhaps millions– who declare that God doesn’t care if you are good or bad because He loves everyone and would never send anyone to hell.

Perhaps it is a bit presumptuous for us to tell God how things are?

And yet this has happened since the creation of man.

Cain thought he would tell God how things are (Genesis 4). We aren’t given many details, but we know that Abel brought an acceptable animal sacrifice while Cain brought an “offering of the fruit of the ground” (v. 3). Prideful Cain was, in essence, telling God what offering would be acceptable in His sight. When God didn’t agree with him, he grew so angry he went out to the field and killed his brother.

Instead of humbling himself before God and admitting that he was wrong, he murdered his own brother.

While few people let their pride go to such lengths, we are all born with it. It is pride that insists that we are innately good. It is pride that says I can determine on what terms I can be reconciled with God. It is pride that says I get to make the rules.

But guess what? God already made the rules. He had a plan of salvation for sinful man that he laid out long before we took a breath. That plan is in the Bible, which is God’s Word.

I have to just stop here for a brief moment and just remind you that there is much proof that the Bible is God’s Word. Both archeology and science show its reliability. The fulfilled prophecies (including Israel becoming a nation in 1948 against all odds) are truly miraculous. There are many reasons that we can know that God’s Word is true. I read Why Believe the Bible a few years ago which was so helpful. Answers in Genesis has a series of articles here. Men were even converted while trying to disprove the Bible (Part 1 of this series is here). And here is one more article on the Bible’s Proof. You can even find a whole sermon series by John MacArthur on this topic here.

But, may I remind you, when it comes right down to it, belief in the Bible and what it says is a matter of faith. We can have all of the proof in the world and still choose not to believe. Okay, back to our topic…

If the Bible is true (and it is!), then it is there that we will find out how we get right with God. He is God. He sets the terms and determines the way this is possible. He even determined if it was possible, because He could have chosen to let us die in our sins and go to hell without creating any way of salvation at all. We must understand that this is about marvelous grace and amazing love and abundant mercy.

Adam changed the future of the world with just a bite of fruit. Through him, we inherited our sinful nature (Romans 5:12). This is the first point of contention for so many. How dare you call me a sinner? I am a good person. Look at that guy over there and that woman over here. THEY are awful. I look amazing by comparison.

But the Bible says we are all sinners. We are born condemned sinners (See I John 1:8-10; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:9-12). Until we can admit this, we are hopelessly lost. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

When God opens our eyes to this truth, then we will understand our need for a Savior. Until then, we think we can do things our way and on our own terms.

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. The Bible goes on to tell us of how God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins.

I Corinthians 5:21 puts it like this: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I John 4:10 says this: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other words, Christ died in our place. Think of that for a moment. Jesus died for our sins and we can stand righteous before God through His blood shed for us. And only because of this. On our own, we have no merit whatsoever.

As we go on to study God’s amazing plan in His Word, we come to understand that accepting this free gift is something we must do. We aren’t automatically given this reconciliation just because were born as a human being on the earth.

No, instead we see that God has set it up that we must call on Him (Romans 10:13). We must believe (Romans 10:9). It is a conscious choice.

These are God’s terms. There is no other way (John 14:6).

But, oh, how prideful man is.

Just as Cain demanded that God accept his sacrifice and grew angry when he didn’t, so man insists that he gets to determine his own way of salvation. Whether it be through a set of rules or a list of good works, he believes that he can do enough to reach God.

But the Bible tells us that we can never be good enough. That we can do nothing to be right with God. That we are in desperate need of His grace and mercy.

We must come to God on His terms.

But, oh, the peace that is ours when we do!

Trying to pridefully reach God on our own terms yields only doubt and turmoil and frustration.

But peace can be ours, if we will but turn to Christ alone for salvation.

I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns–

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

 

 

 

(If you are not sure you understand salvation or you desire to know more, please don’t hesitate to email me at Leslie {at} growing4life {dot} net. I would love to talk more about this with you.)

 

 

Why Good Things Happen to Bad People

why-good-things

Last Thursday we left for our annual trip to the beach. On this trip we were joined by my brother (Pastor Dean) and his family and so we enjoyed a time of being together as a family that we rarely get anymore. As we sat and talked around the campfire one day about life and about the church, my brother mentioned that he wishes someone would write a book entitled, “Why Good Things Happen to Bad People”.

Remember the book written some years back called “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”? (I haven’t read it, so this post has nothing to do with that book at all). Well, my brother turned the title around and explained that he believes people just don’t truly understand how wicked they are and so they mistakenly believe that they deserve so much better than they get and are entitled to certain things in life.

How true this is! Have you noticed it, too? This belief by most people that they are basically good and deserve the best things in life. But there is a fundamental problem with this point of view: It makes mankind innocuous to salvation. Think about it– if you don’t have a grasp of just how sinful and wicked you are, how can you really believe you need a Savior to save you from your sins? God, holy, just, and perfect, sent his son Jesus, to die on the cross as a sacrifice (or propitiation) for our sins (I John 4:9-10). This is the Gospel. 

As we drove home later, we were listening to a recent album put out by a Christian group. As I listened to the words, I realized that almost all of their songs had to do with brokenness, healing, strength, purpose, and love. Not once did I hear the words sin, sinner, or repentance. Now, don’t get me wrong–of course, Jesus does heal our brokenness and loves us and gives us strength. Praise God, Jesus does all of this! But not until we repent, believe in Him, and turn from our sins. If this part is missing, then salvation is missing and so are the rest of the benefits that go along with salvation.

I am not judging that music group. Perhaps I missed some lyrics as we were driving along. I only share this because I did notice that song after song had no mention of sin and repentance. And it reminded me of just how little our new Christian culture mentions these two words. Why is this?

I believe it is because of two reasons– first, we hate to think of ourselves as sinners. Sure, we mess up and make mistakes, but wicked sinners that deserve hell? No way. We compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12) and come to the {wrong} conclusion that we doing pretty good.  And, second, if Satan can get us thinking we are doing pretty good, then he can effectively eliminate the need to recognize our sin and to repent and accept Christ–the only thing that saves men from eternal damnation.

Do you believe you are wicked enough to deserve hell? When I first came to Christ, I didn’t think so. I grew up thinking I was a pretty good person. I was raised in a Christian home and never did anything really bad as I saw some doing around me. Thankfully, God opened my eyes to my own wicked heart (and continues to do so) as I have matured as a believer and this has helped me to understand and appreciate salvation in a much deeper way. It has also magnified my thankful heart for all of the undeserved blessings I receive from my heavenly Father.

You see, none of us is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). And this means that we deserve nothing good. Anything that is good comes from the loving Father above as an undeserved blessing. Each breath, each step we take is because God, in his great mercy, allows it.

Is this a little too “over the top” for you? Consider these verses found in Acts 17:24-28–

 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  (bold is mine)

God gives to all life, breath, and all things. He has determined our times and where we will dwell. It is only in Him that all men live and move and have their being.

If we understand that we are not righteous (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10; Micah 7:2-4; I John 1:8-10; Luke 18:19) and that salvation and all other gifts–even our very breath–comes from God above and are undeserved, having nothing to do with our own merit (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:9) then we have a completely different view of the Gospel, do we not?

Instead of the Gospel being a mystical experience that makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us purpose or simply a “decision” that we need to make in order to have fire insurance from hell, it becomes the center of our very being. We admit we are a sinner, we repent, we turn from our sins. We are transformed and our greatest spiritual desire becomes to please our Savior instead of ourselves. To deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Jesus every day (Luke 9:23). If we understand our wickedness and the great mercy God has shown us in making a way to be reconciled to Himself, this is what we want to do. Oh, most of us don’t do this all that well, but it is our greatest desire to do so.

I am afraid that the gospel has been considerably watered down. I am afraid that we have become a people who have been warped by the world into believing we are basically good people. And I am afraid that in believing we are basically a good people we have become incapable of truly understanding the Gospel.

And, once again, we come back to the Word. The Word is our only source of truth on this subject. This is where we need to go to understand the plan of salvation. Authors and bloggers are nice and they can be helpful. But they can also be extremely destructive. We need to compare everything we read and hear and watch to the Word of God. I include myself in this warning. Don’t take my word for it! Go to the scriptures. Know the Word to protect yourself from a false Gospel. This is truly the only way to survive this time of unprecedented apostasy.

 

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