Sunday, November 9, 2008

Insulting God: A Non-Miraculous Salvation

(Part 2 of a Series)

In Part 1 I made the following (perhaps unexpected) observation.

We insult God when we expect unregenerate people to live just like those who have been born again by God's Spirit.
The salvation of a human soul is the Creator's masterpiece. It is nothing less than the miraculous raising of the spiritually dead to a state of spiritual life. It gives sight to the spiritually blind, and it transforms a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. It is a miracle as awesome in scope as the creation of the universe itself. Only God can do such a mighty work. What's more, only God's miraculous transformation will please Him. Human self-effort does not impress Him in the slightest.

We seem to have lost sight of that fact, and it has impacted our evangelism.

Much of modern Christendom preaches that salvation is merely a decision that one can make, with no dependence upon a work of God at all. We seem to believe the flesh can replicate the work of the Spirit; as if wind and rain can create a sculpture of David. Ironically, we who would scoff at the idea of being saved through any Sacrament still manage to rely on what has been aptly called "Evangelical Sacramentalism."

  • You assent to certain facts (or at least nod your head when they're presented to you)
  • You feel the appeal or the pressure of a well-practiced pitch
  • You repeat a certain prayer
  • Congratulations, if you meant it, you're saved (based on what you just did)
Where's the Holy Spirit in all of that? Where's the miraculous work?

Shame on us. We insult the true Creator of spiritual life. We look at what man has done and esteem it as if it were the same as God's miracle of regeneration. We do not even do God the honor of noticing His absence or missing Him. Someone has said a prayer, and isn't that enough? Who needs more?

We all do. We need so much more.

Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Rom. 8:9)
Can we really presume to tell anyone that they are saved because they repeated a prayer? Perhaps God really did do a miraculous work of regeneration in that person. But I can't be the judge of that based on a religious act.

I know from personal experience that there is a world of difference between praying with a dead heart, and praying with one that He has touched to life.

"Then how can you give them the assurance of salvation?" you ask. I must reply that that is not my privilege, especially not on the "evidence" of a simple religious exercise. I can, however, point them to the only One who can give the assurance of salvation, and tell them the truth about what the Scriptures say.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16)

Without His witness, my "assurance" is meaningless, and perhaps even deadly. For no one is in more danger on a sinking ship than the man who has been told his ship is fine.

Search the scriptures. Find the verses that talk about assurance of salvation. There are several. Now look for one that gives assurance by saying, "Did you pray a certain prayer? Then you're saved." You won't find one. Assurance of salvation is always linked to the reality of the Spirit's transforming work in a person's life, and to His witness with our own spirit. (Yes, even 1John 5:13 points back to the "witness" in 1John 5:10.)

Have you felt the Spirit's presence in yourself? Is His presence proving itself by the difference He makes?

By their fruits you shall know them. (Matt. 7:20)

We're uncomfortable with that fact. We feel queasy when we read 1 Co. 15:2 ,or 2 Co. 13:5 , or any similar verses. We fear that they hint at salvation by our good works. But our works cannot save us because they cannot erase our sins or please God.

What pleases God? His works in us.

LORD, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us. (Isa 26:12)
We are never urged to search our own performance record to see how we're doing with our good works. The Bible condemns such Pharisaism. But we are urged to look at our lives and see if the Holy Spirit of God is in us, working repentant changes in our hearts, in our appetites, in our priorities, in our desires; changes which show themselves inevitably in the things we do.

Yes, I know I belong to Christ. But let me tell you why. It's because of what the Spirit did, and what He is still doing, not because of anything I did or do. I'm not talking about any signs like speaking in tongues or miraculous physical healing or other such things that Satan can counterfeit. I have experienced none of those things. I am talking about something far more miraculous.

What could be more miraculous than the changes which the Spirit has made, and continues to make, in my heart and life...His conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment? What could be more assuring than His work of weaning my heart away from an idolatrous love for sin, and toward an ever-growing love for Christ? What could be more impossible for Satan to counterfeit?

I know what He has done, and what He is doing. And it's different from anything my flesh can do.

Is He at work in you? (Gal. 5:22-25)

Yes, our low view of what it means to be saved has impacted our evangelism. Has it impacted how you were evangelized? Are you resting your assurance on some act that you performed, or on something that the Spirit has performed, and is still performing, and on the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit?

To whom do you give the glory?

(Photo from Flickr by iamPatrick)


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

This is so powerful, I don't even know what to say! You are such a thinker, friend, and have a way of putting those thoughts into words. I only wish I could do the same.

The scripture from Matthew 7:20 is one that came up in conversation a few nights ago with my husband. How do we really know if someone who "professes" to be a Christian really is one? I'm so thankful that God holds the final say in the matter; still and yet, I think we shouldn't shrink back from assessing pure motives...ones driven by the reality of Christ in us...his Spirit working in us to produce the living fruit of our regeneration.

In the past five years, I have seen the fruit of my own journey come to harvest. I've wept untold tears over my years of complacent Christianity.

The greatest miracle we could ever witness on this earth is the transformed life. Only by his Spirit is that possible. We must be ever vigilant to tend to his presence within.

Thank you for being a thinker and challenging me to do the same. Now could you please write a post about the Jehovah witnesses? They seem to be my portion lately. I'll have to dig our Ravi's book on "The Kingdom of the Cults" and do my research.


conarnold said...

This is wonderful and thought provoking. I'm so extremely thankful that my salvation doesn't depend on what I do, or I would be completely lost! Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to post a link to it on Twitter.

JesusRulzMe said...

Dearest sister Betsy,

This is so wonderful! Have you ever heard of the Way of the Master ministry? It's just remarkable! The reason why it's called Way of the Master and not anything else is b/c they teach others how to preach the Gospel the way our Master, Jesus did it.

I actually don't pray and have anyone repeat after me. I tell them if they're heart has been pierced by God's word and then, they will be able to pray a prayer of repentance and confession with the help of the Holy Spirit.

But I never even ask them if they want to pray after I finish sharing the Gospel as I feel that is really "fishing" for a false conversion more than anything else. Let me put it this way, if I hadn't eaten for a week, and you put food in front of me, would you have to ask me if I wanted to eat it? No!

Like you said, if the Holy Spirit convicts the unregenerate sinner to repent and receive salvation, then you won't have to ask them, they will ask you what they need to do to be saved (like in the book of Acts after the Apostle Peter shared the Gospel in Acts 2:37.

Anyway, I'm very passionate about evangelism so I could go on and on, but I won't. :-)

Bless you sister,

judy said...

Excellent! Well said. I especially resonated with insulting God by expecting unregnerate people to believe what I believe, to value what I value and to try to live the way I try to live. It's like being angry when a blind woman cannot find her shoes! She needs them, wants them but "wanting and needing" doesn't make it possible to for her to find them. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog! I have really enjoyed your post!

LauraLee Shaw said...

Awesome post, Betsy. My dear sister Sunny and I were JUST TALKING about this the other day. The Spirit of God really speaks through you on this subject.

Avalon said...

I'm crying. You wrapped this up so beautifully. Yeah, the Holy Spirit has gifted you, Betsy. Thank you for sharing your gift.

Esthermay said...

. . . even on this comment page, I can't help but feel as if I'm almost part of some secret underground society. For to speak so freely of these powerful, powerful truths would get you SO chastised in the "church" today.

To have this discussion out in the open with both beleivers and non-beleivers (Spritual-Beleivers and Carnal-Beleivrs) would be considered "judgemental" and "Jerry Fallwell Wacko Conservatism" Yet, it is GOD's TRUTH. (I wish I could bold that and make it 72pt type!)

...and as Elaine says, how do you know if someone's profession is true?

I'm pretty sure our President Elect has not had a salvation experience. Yet for me to say that to even some people in my church would be absolutely taboo!
So how do you share the TRUTH of Salvation? How do you get people to see that a prayer has NOTHING at all to do with it? How do you approach someone who is so secure in their works- and emotion-based Christianity to as to share the transforming power of a Crucified Christ so they can experience and live TRUE Biblical Salvation!!!????

It is not ours to judge another person's heart. But evangelism has to start somewhere. I think it will grow more and more difficult as Christ's return nears.

The contrast between true beleivers and those receiving a non-miraculous, non-fruit bearing salvation is growing quite stark!

--- I'm only on #2, But you ought to send these to some (radical wacko conservative JerryFalwell-brand) publication. They are very good!

The Words of esthermay have ended

Laurie M. said...

I'm a first time visitor. I hopped over here straight from your comment on Challies today. The person you described yourself to be sounded so much like me. I was saved at the age of 40, after years as a professing Christian. I've no doubt whatsoever that I was not a Christian before, though I sometimes wonder if I've been deceiving myself again - 'cause I'm so adept at it after all those years. Anyway, this is an excellent post and I hope you won't mind if I follow your blog.

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