Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Belief, Confession, Salvation

Today I want to talk about salvation.  More specifically, I want to talk about the act of being saved. We have all heard alter calls and maybe we have responded to one ourselves.  We hear about it being a free gift and that we receive that gift by faith.  We also hear that it can not be earned by works or purchased with money.  All that is true, but I think that we often oversimplify something that is already simple.  I think it is important to have a real understand of just what it is to call upon the name of the Lord. 

Let's begin with some very familiar Scripture.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 NKJV
This is a very simple concept, but it is often oversimplified to where it loses its real meaning.  We should not be flippant even in popular verses such as this.  Yes, anyone who believes in Jesus will be saved, but what does it mean to believe in Him?  Some intellectual assent that He exists is not enough.  Many atheists even believe that there was a man named Jesus who walked the earth 2000 years ago.  Some even believe He is a great teacher, a prophet, or an angel.  None of these beliefs lead to salvation. What about merely believing that He was the Son of God?  Is that enough?  I mean many even outside the Christian church believe Him to be the Son of God.  Is it enough to just believe that Jesus was the Son of God in order to be saved?  Again, the answer is no.  Read what James says.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  James 2:19-20 NKJV
Yes, even demons know who Jesus is.  In fact, they recognized who He was when he confronted them in His earthly ministry.  Certainly demons are not saved.  What about those who worship Satan?  They believe that there is a God and probably even in His son, but they hate and reject God.  Are they saved merely because they assent to His existence? Of course not.  So let us explore what it actually means to believe in Jesus in a way that leads to salvation.  Again, let us refer to a familiar passage.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Romans 10:9-10 NKJV
Now enter that all important word "Lord."  It is not enough to believe Jesus existed, but to believe Him as your Lord.  You can not truly confess Jesus as Lord if Jesus is not your Lord.  It is not just speaking the words "Jesus is Lord" but it is about those words being an expression of something you accept inside your heart.  In other words, it is not the expression that saves, but the reality inside your heart.  The other part of this is believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead.  The reason is why the Resurrection is so important is because it is by that resurrection that we have the assurance of eternal life.  It is interesting that this is specifically noted because so many of the false religions who claim to believe in some kind of Jesus deny the physical resurrection of Jesus.  Some say it was a spiritual resurrection and some say that He was never full dead at all, but none hold to the true doctrine that Jesus was actually brought back from the dead.  The Word makes it clear that it is essential to believe that Jesus was truly raised from the dead. 

And that is it, that is the way to salvation.  It is something so simple yet so profound at the same time.  Unfortunately, some focus so much on its simplicity that the neglect just how profound it is.  It is just a matter of believing, but it is a matter in believing that Jesus is who the Bible says He is.  It can not be about believing in an historical Jesus or even a mystical Jesus.  We must be a believe in Jesus as the Son of God.  It must be in Jesus as God.  That is what Jesus is saying in John.  The "Him" Jesus is referring to in John 3:16 is "the only begotten Son of God."  And who is the only begotten Son of God?  Of course, it is Jesus.  That part is easy.  The part that trips us up is in calling him Lord.  It is an easy word to say for sure.  Anyone can say "Jesus is Lord."  What is more difficult to say, and mean, is "Jesus is my Lord."  That is the what Paul is saying.  It is not just saying that Jesus is some general Lord, but that Jesus is your Lord.  Sure we say it, but do our lives show it?  Can we call Him Lord when we do not take the time to see what it even means to follow Him?  Can we call Him Lord if we ignore those things He tells us to do and not to do?  God is not impressed with our words, but the reality of our hearts.  If Jesus is not our Lord, does it matter what we call Him?  I am not saying we are saved by how well we follow Him.  We are saved when we come to Him, before we even have a chance to follow Him.  What I am saying is that if we are saved, if we have truly called him our Lord, and if we truly believe in who He is, our lives should show it.  There should be a change in behavior.  We should he distinct from the rest of the world.  Simply put, we should act like we follow Jesus. 

And that brings me to my final point.  We often forsake discipleship for evangelism.  They go hand and hand.  We are called to make disciples of all nations, not just preach to them.  Jesus tells us to count the costs of following Him, but we neglect to share that there is even a cost.  We turn the greatest and most profound message ever delivered to man and turn it into some incantation we get people to say during an alter call.  We have pastors who in their zeal to get people to come to Jesus, never get around to teaching what it means to follow Him.  In fact, some teachers feel that it not even relevant to teach what it means to follow Him.  That has created a weak church full of people doing whatever is right in their own sight.   We have Christians where their only difference from the rest of the world is that they go to church on Sunday.  We have Christians who practice all kinds of superstitions and read horoscopes and see nothing wrong with it.  We have Christians who continue to live a life of sin and see nothing wrong with it.  We have Christians who marry or date people of other faiths and see nothing wrong with it.  We have Christian parents who raise their children to be secular and see nothing wrong with it.  All of this is because teachers while doing a great job at convincing people they should accept Jesus as savior, they have failed at teaching what it means to call him Lord.   We take the simplicity of Jesus and make it into something shallow and we do so at our own peril.  A shallow-rooted Christian will never produce fruit.
But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.  Matthew 13:20-21 NKJV

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