(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)
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)