To follow up with yesterday’s post, I would like to keep the conversation with Maureen going.
Maureen, this complete faith business is no small issue. If we think about it, this makes sense. You’ve probably seen movies or read books in which a character faces a seemingly certain death situation. It looks like the end is moments away. Of course, the character yells out to God, something like this, “God, if you get me out of this, I swear I’ll give up drinking!” Then God does, and the person walks away saying, “Whew, that was close!” as he pops open another beer. As the writers expect, the audience usually has a good laugh.
What should we make of faith like this? Everyone knows that faith like this is meaningless. In fact, it demonstrates jaw-dropping hypocrisy, doesn’t it? That’s why the audience laughs because everyone recognizes it for what it is. The tragedy is that every one of us are faced with the same life-or-death script, and we do the same thing. There are times, however, when a few people really mean what they say. That’s when things change – big time.
What happens? It is at this point that a person becomes all-in. They no longer care about the stigma of being a radical Christian. They want God more than everything else they had and are willing to walk away from it all for a brand-new life. Then, and only then, does God do something incredible that only He can do – He changes us from the inside out. I don’t know how he does it, but everyone knows when someone has been changed.
This is called justification – a time of transformation in which God forgives all your sin – past, present, and future – based upon the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ, and instills the Holy Spirit within your body. It’s something that is easy to recite in a prayer but difficult to understand. The good news is we don’t need to become experts on any of this to experience it. All we need to have is complete surrender. God takes it from there. It’s like getting invited on a trip when someone else makes all the plans (including packing your luggage and paying for it!) and all you need to do is go with. This is actually what happens, literally!
Another thing you don’t need to worry about before you embark on this trip is sin. Don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t like sin, no matter when or by whom. What I mean by that is that you aren’t signing a contract that requires you to be perfect. God knows us. He knows we can try all we want and never be perfect. He takes us as we are – warts and all! Yes, we do walk away from our sin, but we get the desire and ability to do so from God. Remember, he changes us from the inside out. This is moment in time, but it is also a process. This process of cleansing is called sanctification. So, yes, I still deliberately sin. I’ll be honest, I often do because I enjoy things that are harmful to me in the long run. I know better, but I still do it. The difference now is that God has given me true regret. I may enjoy the moment of sin, but I don’t enjoy it for long. At some point, it becomes miserable, and I choose to change my ways.
Overall, I am willing for God to change me. I might protest, but I am willing. Before my justification (rebirth), I may have been willing to change a thing or two but not a wholesale change. Now, I’m willing for that. In fact, I desire it. Think of sin as a having a bad tooth. It needs to come out, but I don’t want the pain of the process. Eventually, I’ll get that tooth fixed or pulled.
Furthermore, I don’t need to worry about having “enough” faith. Jesus is clear that faith the size of a grain of sand is all that is needed. When you desire it, he supplies all the faith you need.
Does this mean you will need to sell everything and become a missionary in some jungle country where you may well get your head hacked off? Perhaps you might. Most likely you won’t. Few people change occupations. We don’t abandon our families. Sometimes our families abandon us, but we don’t walk away from them. As a kid, I was horrified by the thought that all-in meant I needed to become a priest. That didn’t happen. However, God did give me the desire to tell others about Jesus. I’m not forced to do this; I want to. He, however, is the one that gave me this desire. Missionaries go to remote parts of the world because they have a burning desire to share the gospel – over there.
This all-or-nothing concept is never spoken of in most churches. Don’t let that fool you. Here are a few bible verses to make that point:
Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 5:8-10 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Maureen, personally, I was seeking protection from myself. Some of us seek God for protection from others. Even those people need forgiveness of their own sin. Until a person is willing to walk away from our former life of sin, s/he cannot expect anything from God. So, step number one is to be reconciled to God. No getting around that. We’ll learn more tomorrow.
Father, I pray that this message of hope sinks deep in Maureen and many others that read this. Your word is clear. It’s all or nothing. As it should be. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers