Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Did I Come To Jesus Christ in Faith? (Part 6)

If you have ever driven in heavy fog and then had the fog lift, you will know something of what I have experienced concerning my salvation as I have come to see it in light of God's sovereign work. For years, it has been as though I was looking at pieces of a puzzle spread out on a table. I could never get the pieces to fit so they would provide a clear picture of what happened when I was saved. When it comes to putting a puzzle together, I have found that if I first build a framework using the straight edged pieces then I can fit the other pieces together and complete the puzzle. It also helps to have all the pieces and for all the pieces to be the proper ones. There were deficiencies in all these areas for me - no framework, missing pieces and pieces that didn't belong. The framework that was missing was the sovereignty of God. Once that was in place, things took shape and finally made sense. Also once I got rid of pieces that did not belong things began to come together. Tuesday morning at the men's Bible study, our pastor referred to Job's statement in Job 42:5. I needed to hear that verse because it explains what has happened in my life. After being confronted with God's sovereignty, Job said, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Over the years I heard more than I saw. I heard by the hearing of the ear and the source of that hearing was not always correct. However, as God began to confront me with His sovereignty in my salvation, what I saw was Him. I saw Him as the sovereign Lord of my salvation. When I finally turned to God and grappled with the truth of His Word and stopped listening to other voices, a very remarkable thing happened - at least from my perspective. I saw Him as I had seen Him in those critical moments in the summer of 1946 when He called me and I reached out to Jesus. It was like that summer all over again. Actually it was even greater because what I was now seeing was filled with more content and depth.

I know that what I heard as a nine year old boy in those life changing moments was God calling me through His Word and opening my heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the realities of His gift of grace, Jesus Christ. God's Word was made alive in my heart. John 3:16 became more than words. Through the years, as I have tried to understand my salvation, it became more and more like I was looking at scattered pieces of a puzzle. I would add more pieces; but I could not get them to fit. I could not find a sense of peace. Once the pieces were assembled within the framework of God's sovereignty an awesome picture began to emerge - one that has always been there - it was just jumbled. I see Christ dying in my place. I see Christ, as my substitute, paying the price of my sins, to accomplish perfect righteousness and remove me from the wrath of God. I see His burial and His resurrection after three days in the tomb whereby He accomplished victory over death and earned for me a new life just like His. I see me sharing in that burial and resurrection. I see a living hope or as Peter said in 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." I see the One I came to know as a nine year old boy - I see the essence of eternal life. In John 17:3 Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." For years the focus of my efforts to understand has been on me and what I supposedly did on my own. I thought that was where I was supposed to look. Over time that just scattered puzzle pieces even more. I was looking at the wrong life and in the wrong direction. It not only affected what I saw, it resulted in a loss of the sense of the goodness of the good news. The good news was slowly turning into words on a page. When the fog began to lift and the pieces of the picture started coming together that sense of goodness began to return. As long as I thought that the validity of my salvation pivoted on something I had initiated, life was being drained from the "living hope." It has been refreshing to once again reflect on that goodness. It has been a long time since I could do that.

It is refreshing to see that it was God who saved me and gave me faith. It is refreshing to see that the good news was the power of God for salvation - not something I initiated. Romans 1:16. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." It is refreshing to reflect upon the way God's grace was manifested. 2 Timothy 1:10. "...and which (God's grace) now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." It has been extremely refreshing to see that the issue of God's wrath was settled that summer of 1946. The more I struggled with my relationship to His wrath the more fear gripped my life over the possibility that I was still under His wrath. That is not conducive to experiencing the "living hope." It has been refreshing to read these words of Jesus in John 3:36 and find them very comforting. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." It has been refreshing to walk in the security that the good news brings. John 10:28. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." I have been able to dwell on God's gift of life. Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." I have been able to rest in the truth that this new life is in Christ. 1 John 5:11. "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." I have be enabled to know that I have not believed in vain because it was not my doing. I have been able to find peace about the future because of the eternal dimensions of the good news. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. "Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." But most of all, the greatest thing that has come in all of this process of understanding is expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:4. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." God has made it possible for me, by the faith He has given me, to see the glory of Christ. Because of that I can say as did the psalmist in Psalm 118:21, "I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation." I know that I now must pursue the way that will make that a continuing reality in my life - that will make 2 Thessalonians 1:12 true. " that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

It is good news in another sense because by it I have gained new understanding of what happened in my life during the summer of 1946. Through it God has enabled me see that it was His Spirit who brought me to the critical point expressed in John 1:12. "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." It is comforting to say as one writer did, "I came because He drew me. I came because I was born again. He opened my eyes. He gave me ears to hear. He enabled me to taste and see that the Lord is good." God has opened my eyes. I want to keep seeing. He has given me ears to hear. I want to keep hearing. He has enabled me to see more than scattered pieces of a picture. I want to keep looking at the picture that has so long eluded me. I know there is more to see and hear and I want to continue this journey of discovery to that end for as long as God allows. But, there is something else that I see or rather sense at this point of the journey. What am I to do with this understanding and knowledge? Will it become a picture to hang on the walls of my mind and heart or will my mind and heart become enmeshed with that picture? What now? Will I just be passive and become like a sponge soaking up truth?

Some fear that by accepting God's sovereignty in salvation this will happen. Yet the more I have dwelt on these truths, the more I have found that just the opposite will be true. Job was certainly stirred. The Apostles were transformed and on the list could go. I believe it will stir us as well. I believe that the Holy Spirit will use this truth to put fire in a person's soul. I already sense that it will produce thankfulness. I know that thankfulness will grow the more I come to grips with the awesome depth, breadth and height of God's grace, love and provision for salvation. That kind of thankfulness will not leave you passive. It will either drive you to faithful living or it will make you very uncomfortable when you are not fulfilling the priestly responsibilities of faithful obedience. Peter recognized that we were not saved to be passive. In 1 Peter 2:9, he said "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." It has been easy for me to see the "chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, a people for his own possession" part and miss the "that you may proclaim" part. I know I have missed it. I have taught that verse; but I have missed it in my heart. I have also missed seeing that in order to "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you" you need to see those excellencies.

As I have experienced peace over what God has done in my life these last months in enabling me to understand the extent of His sovereign action in my salvation, I have been reminded that there is still a world of people who know nothing of the peace and reconciliation that comes through Jesus Christ. There are people still under the wrath of God and people who are living without assurance that they have been removed from that wrath. I am now left with other questions to consider. Will I be content to sit in the comfort and peace of my salvation or will I live out the good news that brought me that peace? Did God give me understanding concerning the gift of salvation that I have long sought so that I can just be content within myself? Will Christ be so desirable in my life that I can't stand it if He is not desirable in the lives of others? Will I be content to be silent when I have knowledge of the only thing that will set people free? Acts 13:38-39 says, "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." At this juncture of my life, will proclaiming this truth, in word and deed be a driving force? Will I be willing to do all that I can to avoid being a barren branch?

“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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