Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are you saved?

Christians should be deeply concerned for the lost—those who are outside of Christ, who have no saving knowledge of him. Often, when we think about the lost, we think of those outside the visible church, those who do not confess Jesus as Lord, those who may be agnostics or atheists, or those who may embrace another religion. When we think of the lost, we think of those who have immersed themselves in a sinful lifestyle: drug addicts, drunkards, prostitutes, gang members, serial rapists and pedophiles.

True enough, the category of “the lost” encompasses all those groups, but do we ever think of “good” people as being lost? Do we ever consider that some who are in the visible church, who have made public profession of the Christian faith, who believe in God and in Jesus Christ, could also possibly be lost?

The fact of the matter is, one can be in a church and active in that church, and still be as lost as can be. You can lead a “clean” life—don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t cuss, don’t engage in sex outside of marriage, etc.—and still be eternally lost. A person can believe in God, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that he died on the cross and arose from the dead, and still die in his sins and spend eternity in hell.

How do I know? Because I was just that sort of person.

I was raised in the church. I never knew what it was like to stay home on Sunday morning. Unless I was really sick (you know—couldn’t move, confined-to-bed sick), I was in church on Sunday morning. That was how I was raised.

I not only went to church, I believed everything I was told I should believe. I’ve never struggled with believing the Bible, never had any doubts about it being the word of God. That’s what I was taught. More than that, my great-grandmother—“Grandma”—said the Bible was true, and if Grandma said it was true, that was good enough for me. When it came to accepting Christian doctrine, I’ve never been an unbeliever.

When it came to lifestyle, I grew up in a home where there was no drinking, and so I never picked up a taste for alcohol. To this day, I don’t drink. I never did drugs, I wasn’t sexually promiscuous, I’ve never smoked, I didn’t hang out with the “wild” crowd; I was just a good “church boy.”

But, I wasn’t saved.

Good church boy, but not saved. Didn’t drink, smoke, dip nor chew, but I wasn’t saved, either. I was in church every Sunday—never missed a week—but didn’t know the Savior. I believed the Bible, knew about the Bible and knew about God, but didn’t know God.

And that’s exactly the situation with untold multitudes today.

Some folks may be good people, relatively speaking—that is to say, compared to other people (compared to God no one—absolutely no one—is good, but compared to some others, these people are good)—but they don’t know God. Some folks give to charitable causes, are upstanding citizens in their communities, members of churches, civic leaders and in positions of trust and responsibility, but they are lost. They are lost because they don’t know God through Jesus Christ. They are lost because they are estranged from the household of faith, without Christ and, therefore, without hope. They are lost because they’ve never faced up to the fact of their utter sinfulness and their total helplessness and hopelessness outside of Christ. They’ve never come to realize that “all [their] righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6) in the sight of holy God, that no matter how much charitable work they do, no matter how many hours they give to community service, no matter how many Sundays a year they are in church, they are lost, under an everlasting sentence of condemnation and in desperate need of salvation. Salvation from what? Salvation from the wrath of God that is to come upon this world because of human sin.

I am so grateful—eternally grateful—for God’s sovereign work in bringing sinners to himself. You see, I grew up in a traditional church where the gospel wasn’t preached clearly or consistently. No one in church ever inquired about my soul. No one in church shared the gospel with me. I knew Bible stories and certain facts about the Bible, but had no personal knowledge of the gospel. No one at church ever explained the gospel to me. No one showed me that my soul was in peril. Why? First of all, I’m convinced, because very few people in my church knew the gospel. That’s the great travesty within “mainline” Christianity. But another reason no one showed concern for my soul was because I was a good “church boy.” I wasn’t guilty of any of any so-called “big” sins. I went to church. I stayed out of trouble. At the age of eight, I even joined the church, making a public profession of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and was baptized. But, if you ask me now, I’ll tell you I wasn’t saved. No change had occurred in my soul. I had no love for Jesus Christ, and no love for God and his word.

I believe I could have comfortably remained in this state for the rest of my life: looking and acting on the outside like a Christian, but inwardly lost, unsaved and devoid of a true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. The late E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) described this state as being “horizontally converted, but not vertically…outwardly in, but not inwardly in…a cancelled-out person, neither here nor there” (E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Autobiography [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1968], p. 27). But, blessed be God, when I was sixteen years old, God sent his word to me in the form of a gospel booklet. I read it and, for the first time in my life, understood that Jesus Christ, on the cross, took my place, bore my sin, endured the Father’s wrath that I justly deserved so that, through faith in him, I could receive forgiveness of sins and bear his righteousness. “For our sake [the Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

What about you, dear reader? Are you saved? Do you know it?

Are you trusting in the finished work of Christ alone for your salvation, or do you think that, somehow, you’re good enough to earn your way to heaven? My friend, you’re not good enough. Not only are immoral sinners in hell, moral sinners are there, too. Not only are low-life sinners in hell, but respectable sinners are there, too. Not only are atheistic sinners in hell, but so are religious sinners. It doesn’t matter: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That includes me; that even includes you. Because we’ve sinned, we are guilty and under the sentence of eternal death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).

There is only one remedy: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Listen to the voice of God—“he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Obey God’s command: “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ…” (1 John 3:23).

When it comes to your eternal soul, don’t rest complacent. Forget about the approval of men and women. What does God think of you? What about your sin? How does your soul stand with God? Don’t ignore the question, because God won’t ignore your sin. Are you saved? Are you, truly, saved? God says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

Thankfully, God has made saving provision through his Son—the Lord Jesus Christ—available to all who will believe. Will you trust Christ?

Dear reader, the Lord Jesus is everything to me. That’s why I commend my precious Savior to you.

2 comments:

Tree Newt said...

Wow...great post. I could put myself in your shoes, as I was the same (more or less) as you described: a church kid all my life, "moral", publicly professed and baptized, yet lost. Praise God for His mercy, for at 22 I realized my need for a Savior and accepted Christ.

Mike Waters said...

Glory to God! This is one of the most powerful post I have read in quite some time. Continue to allow Our Father to use you for His purpose.