Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Has Jesus Changed Your Heart

There are some in the church, even some who lead churches who believe that we can ignore many of the teachings of Jesus.  They believe Jesus said it, they believe the Bible to be the Word of God, but they think that much of his teachings are not applicable to Christians.  They make the argument that the New Covenant did not exist until Jesus died and so what Jesus taught was law.  I suppose then even the Sermon on the Mount has no application to the Christian life, that is if you buy that argument.   I suppose I do not have to forgive someone who sins against me.  I guess I do not have to love my enemy, either.  That is, of course, if that idea held any water whatsoever.  It doesn't, of course.  Let me begin with some Scripture to immediately dispel that false teaching.
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'   Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV
There are some very important lessons in this short passage, but I am going to focus on two lessons.  The first lesson is that we are not saved by works.  These men did many works.  They preached, the prophesied (though probably not true prophesy), cast out demons (again, without the Spirit, I do not think they were authentic), and did many wonders.  Whether they were deceived into thinking they were doing genuine works or knowingly deceiving others, they were deceived into thinking they were saved by those works.  Nothing you can do for God can earn your way into Heaven.  We are not saved by works.

The second message is just as important.  We also learn that they were still sinners.  Jesus called them "you who practices lawlessness."  So we know that they were not saved by works and we know that they were identified as sinners, then we can conclude that they were never even saved to begin with.  It is interesting that Jesus did not refer to them as those who did not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Please also note that Jesus did not identify them as eschewing the grace of God.  All of these may be true, but Jesus chose to refer to them as sinners.  He pointed to their sin.  He pointed to their unchanged hearts.  The reason for that is that that when we are saved, we should not still be living in sin.  There should be a change in our lives.  We should be following the commands of Jesus. 
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV
Jesus reveals the purpose of the illustration.  The purpose is that we should not be looking to what we are doing for God (really for ourselves), but we should look to see if Jesus has changed our hearts.  When someone is truly saved, that person should have a changed life.  It is not about doing things for God but a changed heart that can only come as a result of the Holy Spirit taking up residence.  To say that we can ignore the teachings of Jesus saying they have no application to our lives to to teach people to be foolish.  As I covered in many of my posts, a changed life is a sign of being saved.  I am not teaching that we have to change our lives in order to be saved, I am saying that being saved means a changed life. 

The same person will tell us that I am creating a situation that someone may constantly question their salvation.  I am not teaching that either, but the fact is that the Bible tells us to examine ourselves. 
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.  2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV
The purpose of examining ourselves is to encourage us that we are saved, it is not meant to make us constantly doubt that we are saved.  However, if you are not saved, is it better to examine yourself in humility or go to Hell in pride?  We should examine our lives. We should see if we truly love Jesus, that is we are following His commands.  We should examine our faith, to ensure that it is in Jesus and Jesus alone that we have put our faith in.  We should examine the fruit of our lives to see if it is the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of the flesh.  We are also called to examine ourselves before we partake of the Lord's supper.  Self examination is important in the life of a Christian.  

There is one other passage I want to share that really brings home the message of a changed life being the result of being saved.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV
This verse clearly states that a Christian should have a changed life.  We were some or all of those things, and even if not one of those, we were some kind of a sinner.  We came to Jesus and we were washed from those sins.  Some like to end there, saying that our sins are forgiven and life goes on.  Jesus tells us like he told the adulterous woman, to go and sin no more.  We were not just washed, but we were sanctified.  That is we were changed.  We were freed from the life of sin that was our life before Jesus.  Sure we all still sin from time to time, but now we are conscious of it and we confess and repent those times that we do.  We are a new man, a new creation, we have a new heart, and we are filled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  If you can say all of that is true yet not have any change in your life, then you are foolish. 

I think the mistake is that some people believe that any talk of accountability is talk of salvation by works.  They seem to have mental block, purposeful or otherwise, that refuses to consider the idea of all of those things being a result of salvation.  You see, when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, He was not drawing a road map that one must follow to be saved nor was He setting up an impossible standard to draw people to His grace.  What Jesus was doing was painting a portrait of what the saved man should look like.  We love our enemy because we know that Jesus loved us while we were still His enemies.  We forgive others because we are forgiven.  We give to the poor because we know that what we do to the least of this world we do for Jesus.  We turn the other cheek because we know God did not take vengeance on us for what our sin did to His son.  We bless those who curse us because their salvation is more important than our vengeance or anger.  We do all that we do as a sign to the world of what God has done in us.  We leave our lives of sin because the blood of Jesus has freed us from slavery to our flesh.  We are the light and salt of the earth because that is what Jesus has made us by virtue of accepting Him as Lord and Savior. 

Finally, it is never about what we do for God, but about what God has done in us.  That is the purpose of the illustration that Jesus gave in Matthew.  Despite all of their great works, they still had the same sinful hearts.  There was no inward change because there was no Holy Spirit living inside their hearts.  Those tragically deceived people did so much for God but never took the time to examine if God was in their hearts.  I pray that none of us ever end up standing before Jesus thinking we are saved but learning that we are not.  Please, take the time now for self examination. 
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:1-4 NKJV

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