“Of course, I was baptized as a baby in (church name)”;
“Yes, I am saved, I am a member of (church name)”;
“Yes, I have kept all the sacraments of my church”;
“Yes, I was born into a Christian family, we’ve been Christians for at least four generations”;
“Why yes, thank you for asking, I walked down the aisle of (church name) and said the sinners prayer back in September of 2001”;
and many, many more.
It has broken my heart to hear responses like this coming from those for whom I care. If you notice, in every case, the above responses imply that our salvation is based on something we have done. The Bible makes it plain that our salvation does not lie in what we have done, but what the Lord has done in us. (John 6:44-45, 6:63-66, Eph 2:8-10, Php 2:12-13, Col 1:25-29, Titus 3:4-5)
So where did we get the idea that salvation is based on something that we have done? Sad to say, in many cases, the churches of today must take responsibility for fostering this false belief. Since I am a Baptist pastor, I will use Baptist churches for my example… my heart aches when I see other Baptist pastors, at the close of the service, beg and plead for people to “come down the aisle and be saved” or “repeat the sinners prayer after me and be saved”.
In many cases, this is done by well-meaning pastors who are trying to encourage those in attendance to make a commitment to Christ. But, instead of bringing about commitment, they are encouraging others to trust in a work for their salvation.
Please remember, a person can be saved just as easily standing in the pew, or sitting in a chair, or lying in a bed etc etc. The Lord can work in the heart at anytime and any place, not just at the altar in the front of the church. Likewise, salvation comes through Christ creating faith into the heart of the faithless, not by us saying any prayer.
Whenever the gospel message is given out in the Bible, it is never accompanied with the instructions to walk an aisle, or say a “sinner’s prayer” (the same can be said for baptism, church membership, keeping the sacraments, or being born into a Christian family). The gospel message, when given in the Bible, is accompanied with the instructions to trust in Christ and His work. (Acts 16:30-31, John 3:15-16 etc etc)
The only way we can be certain we are saved is by knowing the Lord has worked in our lives. How can we know this for sure? The Bible makes it plain….
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. … For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2Co 5:17-21)
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Jas 2:14-26)
In the Bible, a true salvation experience brings about change in the life of the believer. When God intervenes in the life of a sinner and brings him to salvation, the newly saved person becomes a new creation in Christ. (2 Cor 5:17-21) This “new creation” involves a new attitude about the Lord and sin. (Eph 4:22-24) The newly saved now sees Christ as their Lord and despises the sin in their life. This new attitude then motivates the Christian to begin a life of service to their Lord and Savior. This service is described as fruit bearing. (John 15:1-5, Gals 5:19-26) This changed life is one of the reasons why God has saved us (Eph 2:8-10).
Also, this changed life is what gives us the ultimate assurance that the Lord has worked a work of saving grace in our lives. James clearly presented this principle in James chapter 2. In verses 14-26, James refers to “dead” faith as opposed to a Godly saving faith. How can we tell the difference? James tells us the works that we perform will reveal the true nature of the faith we have within us. The lack of a changed life shows us that the faith we possess is not of God but simply a work that we performed in and of ourselves (a dead faith). A changed life brought about by our faith, shows us that our faith is a work of God in our heart. (Please read James 2:14-26 in it’s entirety to come to a full understanding of James’ teachings.)
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:
So let me rephrase my original question, “Have you ever exercised faith in Christ? If so, has this faith produced a changed life within you? Do you now love the Lord and seek to please Him with your life. Do you now hate sin and strive to rid it from your life?” These questions get to the heart of our spiritual condition.
If you can say, “yes” to all three, you can be assured that you have been forgiven of your sins and are a part of God’s family. If you must say “no” to any, or all, of these then you must come to the realization you are yet in your sins. If you are yet in your sins, please follow the dictates of God’s Word….
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”(1Jn 5:11-13)
If you would like more information about salvation, please refer to my blog page entitled “forgiveness”.
Also, if you have any questions concerning this blog, or if you have a subject you would like discussed, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will answer all emails via my blog, email, or both.