Friday, January 9, 2009

Why Did I Come To Jesus Christ in Faith? (Part 4)

When I turned to the truth that "salvation belongs to the Lord, I began to gain a new understanding and appreciation of what God had done in my life that summer of August 1946. Initially I had no understanding about my salvation beyond John 3:16. As time went by, what little I understand got buried by ideas that blurred or minimized the truth of God's sovereignty in salvation. As a result I could never find peace and assurance. The new life that God had given me became an effort at moral conformity. I paid a heavy price trying to measure up to prevailing ideas of what being a Christian meant. When I think about how my life unfolded, it is a miracle that I have been able to return to the place where I started and discover anything worthwhile.

It is a miracle that I have been able to re-examine my conversion. It is a miracle that I am now able to see the events of August 1946 in terms of God's sovereignty. A verse that describes the reason for the change is Isaiah 45:22. God says, "Turn to (look unto) me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." That was how salvation came to me that moment in summer of 1946. That is how understanding of that salvation finally came to me in the winter of 2009. I struggled in vain as long as my focus was on the idea that I somehow had initiated the process. Without realizing it, that understanding caused something that I never wanted. It put me in the place of God as Lord and Savior in salvation. I never really saw it that way until now. Until I looked to Him as the starting point for understanding and the source of my salvation, the foundation for my Christian life was as fragile as an eggshell. As a result, I experienced fear, insecurity and spiritual emptiness for a large part of my life. Even worse, this wrong focus kept me from fully seeing and experiencing the richness of the Gospel - Jesus Christ. I didn't understand that this initial life saving look was meant to be a life long and intense look.

The way out of this quagmire has been to go back to the summer of 1946 and seek to correctly understand what happened. It has been a unique experience. I have been reminded of something that happened when I was in the tenth grade that, in a way, describes what I have experienced. In the tenth grade, I came to realize at the expense of a poor test grade that I could not see the questions that had been written on the blackboard. I initially thought I was sitting too far back in the class. Confounding the problem was the fact that I was not permitted to move closer to the blackboard. As it turned out, I needed glasses. I still remember looking through my first pair of eyeglasses and clearly seeing the leaves on trees. Until then much of what I saw was just a blur. That is what my spiritual vision has been like when it came to my salvation. What I am now seeing as I look through the lens of God's sovereignty is even more dramatic. For the first time, I have been able to look at my response of faith in proper alignment to the new birth. I have been able to understand why I came to Jesus Christ in faith.

I know my response of faith was not the result of a spark of human capacity being ignited. There were, of course, human factors used by God - like the faithfulness of my parents to the Lord and His Word, their word of witness to me and the Sunday School teachers who faithfully presented Scriptures like John 3:16. There were the human factors of prayers - especially those of my parents. I am thankful that they believed in the power of the Gospel unto salvation and in the power of the proclamation of the Gospel as well as the need to proclaim that Gospel to me. I don't recall them specifically articulating those beliefs; but, in looking back at their lives and the way they witnessed to me, I know those beliefs were real and true. I never realized until recently as I have reviewed their witness in my life just how strongly they did believe in the power of the Gospel and the proclamation of that Gospel - how strongly they believed in backing that up with prayer. They also believed in the witness of godly lives. That did not go unnoticed. It took awhile to really see how God used that in my life. Whether they fully realized it or not, my parents had committed my eternal destiny to nothing more than the power of God, His Word and the simple proclamation of a little verse like John 3:16. They had committed my eternal destiny to God's sovereignty and it was by the sovereign act of God that I was brought to faith. In a sermon, entitled "Free Grace," delivered 150 years ago on January 9, 1859, Charles Surgeon summed it up. He said,
"If thou be saved, thou hast had nought to do with it; God has done it. If thou be saved, thou hast not deserved it. It is mercy undeserved which thou hast received."

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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