Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are You Of The Faith?

Over the last few weeks, I have looked at my life in light of the question "Why Did I Come to Jesus Christ in Faith?" I have really struggled with the thought that I had, in someway, initiated salvation by my own will. That idea hung like a dark cloud over my life. It was a cloud that continued to grow darker. The more I considered the verses about the unsaved person's spiritual deadness the more concern I had with the idea that I could have initiated faith. I wanted assurance that the door that was unlocked actually led to salvation and not to some imagined version. The words "I never knew you" kept haunting me. It was only when I came to understand that it was God who initiated everything in my life leading up to and including my act of faith and repentance that I found meaning and peace in what happened in my life that summer of 1946. I have found no other door through which I could enter and find peace other than the door that was unlocked by the sovereign act of God.

Up until recently most of my effort toward understanding was like a search and destroy mission. Finally it became a search and discovery mission. I have been both aided and challenged in this effort by something Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" There is a lot in that verse that I would like to explore - and one day I hope I can. At this point, I just want to "examine" and "test" so that I can more fully realize this about myself - that Jesus Christ is in me and not only realize it but come to the point of consistently living in the reality of that great truth. Life is full of tests and much to my regret, I have not always met those tests. The test called for in this passage is one that I must not only pursue but actually meet. It is not that I haven't tried to test and examine my life over the years concerning my salvation, it is the fact that this effort has been more of a hit or miss endeavor - mostly miss. It was always from a wrong premise or framework. In the last few months, I decided to give it another go. I was concerned that I was just about to give up. I really don't think it was my decision other than to take the step God placed before me. Even then, I won't claim the credit. I know God was working in my life. He was doing that in a number of ways. One was through the prayers and encouragement of my wife. She knew how I was struggling. I also owe a great deal to those whom I have encountered at The Village Church. God has used their ministry and messages to help me escape from the murky waters that had engulfed my life. I believe that He is still using that ministry in ways that I have not fully realized.

The first stage of this examination dealt with the all important question of why I came to Jesus Christ in faith. I can't began to express what it has meant to be able to finally look at my salvation in the correct light of God's sovereignty and not through the lens of free will - that God had left some degree of will within me that, with proper stimulus, would enable me to receive His gift and that He chose me on the basis of knowing how I would respond. I believe in the important role of free will but, until recently, never fully understood that it first required God's work of regeneration. Until then, I was spiritually dead and could act only in keeping with that deadness.

When I found this long sought relief I almost stopped examining and testing - that is until I decided to look a little closer at Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 13:5. It was then that realized I needed to go farther. I needed to take a specific course of action that involved several things. You not only have to look at how the journey started, you have to consider how the journey has progressed. For me that will involve digging through a lot of rubble. When I walked through the magnificent doorway of salvation into newness of life at age nine, I immediately became immersed in a sea of religion - of doing church - of trying to meet certain moral standards. I grew up in an environment that considered moral conformity and busyness "at church" as the essence of salvation. Going to church, being active in church and trying "to measure up" fairly well summed up my life for a long, long time. As a result I don't think that I have ever fully realized the awesome truth expressed by Paul - "Jesus Christ is in you." I don't think I will this side of heaven; but I know there is room for more understanding right now.

Regrettably my life became one of self effort. Only by God's grace am I here and able to write about this or even want to have more in my life when it comes to Christ. For many years, I knew very little about the role of the Holy Spirit or the critical importance of prayer. I just extended the idea that many have about how you get saved to how you live your life once that happens. That thinking became the basis for living the Christian life. It was all about me and my efforts - not Christ, what He had done and why He had done it. It was also all about repeatedly failing to measure up. The gospel became just an entry point rather than my life. I focused more on the life than the Giver of that life. I think I lived in an environment that got caught up in something described by John Piper in his book "God is the Gospel." He said "From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the final judgment of the great white throne, human beings will continue to embrace the love of God as the gift of everything but himself." He points out that there are ten thousand gifts that flow from the love of God and then he says, "but none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God." Because of that, I know that part of the process of which Paul speaks will be not only be to examine and test but also to assure continued realization of the truth - "Jesus Christ is in you." That means my focus must be Christ-centered and not man-centered. That means I must pursue Christ and that I must live and breathe the gospel.

What I want in all of this is something Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 1:8. "Who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." The word "sustain" in some translations read "confirm." It seems like a two edged sword. It speaks of a confirmed destiny and being sustained to reach the destiny of standing guiltless before Him. I want to live each day in light of an absolute, rock solid, sovereign guarantee of my future. I want to experience His sustaining power. What hope do I have that this will be true? There are basically two reasons. The first is "Christ in me." The second is expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:9. "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." And why do I want to test, examine and realize? It is because of the thought expressed by Paul at the end of 2 Corinthians 13:5 - "...unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" But here is the beauty of the process called for by Paul. Even though that result is possible, you undertake this process not from the standpoint of failing; but with fearless assurance of proving you are in the faith.

“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.”

1 comment:

blaire blanchette said...

I just wanted you to know that your music on the blog is accompanying me as I study for my Christian worldview class.

I enjoyed this post and look forward to many more