“I’ve found Jesus.” “I’ve been saved!” “I walked the aisle and gave my life to Jesus.” “I rededicated my life.” All great phrases. All sentiments of repentance that must happen to receive the worst-thing-you-ever-did cleansing power of God’s grace! You have received Jesus as your Savior. Now what?
Attend a Bible study? Go to Sunday service regularly? Or, Lord forbid, tell someone else about the experience of Christ in your life!? Sure, all those are vital parts of the Christian walk. New Christian, hear me when I say this, being a Christian is hard. If someone told you before you accepted Christ that being a Christian was easy, then they were handing out false information in hopes of padding their attendance numbers. Being an evangelica Christian in a world that is inherently against God and His Word is not easy. You will be ostracized, excluded, degraded, judged, and made fun of and that is just within the church. Back in the world, things have not changed. Sorry.
A personal relationship with Christ, must be just that: personal. Often you hear someone say, Christ died for everyone! And that is 100% true. Christ took the sins of the entire world from the beginning to the end unto Himself. But do you know what that means? He willing walked up Cavalry’s hill with half of the cross that He would be nailed to on his back. This wasn’t a pine bed slat that we are talking about. This was a rough section of tree that had just enough of the bark planed off of it to nail him to it easily. This was after the fact that He was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable. Roman soldiers were known for their savagery in punishing prisoners, and some even received monetary bonuses for inflicting maximum pain. This was often a side job to these people. On the hill at Cavalry, the stipe, or vertical part of the cross was most likely already in the ground. Christ was then laid on top of the patibulum, or horizontal piece that He just brought up Calvary. Whether there was some sort of bracket attached to the stipes that allowed for multiple uses of the same stipe with multiple patibulums, or if the stipe was inserted in the ground in the morning and then the patibulum nailed to it when the condemned arrived, I have not been able to find definitive documentation in all my years of study. Seems to me, that the Romans, as big on efficiency as they were, would have favored the first approach. Killing any dissident in Rome was big business in those days.
Let’s return to my original point: a personal relationship must be personal. Just because your grandmother went to church years ago, doesn’t make you saved. Just because you go to church on Easter and Christmas, does not make you saved. Just because you may throw a nickel in the offering plate once in a while no more makes your name appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life, than it makes you a stock broker. What matters when it comes to salvation is a personal, one on one relationship with the risen Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing else. Nothing else will suffice. In God’s eyes, if you don’t belong to Jesus, then you are lost. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
That’s enough talk of death for now. Let’s talk about Life. Christ Himself said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). WOW! The Son of God came to earth, lived, died, was buried and rose again so that I could have life to the full? How could you not shout about that? I’m definitely not from a charismatic denomination, but my denomination does not change who Christ is in my life. Christ is alive! That must be the message of the church first. CHRIST IS ALIVE! And because He is, so can you be. Christ didn’t come for you to spend your life “watching your p’s and q’s” and trying not to mess up. Here is a newsflash for those of you that are “trying to be good”: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).
Filthy rags? Hold up now! I am a “good person.” I go to church every Sunday. I teach Sunday school. I tithe regularly. I occasionally tell my neighbor that I am going to church and they should come with me. I am precious in the sight of the Lord, you say. Yes sinner, you are. You are precious in the sight of the Most High, but every good deed that you listed is pointless without Christ. It is Christ that makes us Holy. Christ pleads for you by name. He pleads to His Father ceaselessly, “They are Mine. I have redeemed them. I love them.” The enormity of His love is indescribable. There are no words in the tongues of Men to accurately describe how beautiful Christ is. There are also no words to explain the gravity of His death, resurrection, and redemption of Man clearly. No matter how many theologians and bloggers have tried, Christ is so perfect, there is no description that adequately can tell His story, and what He has done for us.
So Christian, I ask a different way, are you still in your grave? Have you accepted the death of Christ, but not the life? Do you see the darkness of Good Friday, but not the Savior asking Thomas to touch His hand to see where the nail went in? You see, with redemptive grace comes one caveat. It is your duty, your calling, your mission, whatever word that you want to use, to spend the rest of your days pointing people to Christ. Jesus Himself taught:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:34-40).
That doesn’t necessarily mean from a pulpit. It may mean going on a mission trip to Africa. It may mean volunteering to lead a new building project at your local church. It may mean gathering coats for the homeless during the winter. It may be as simple as taking a plate of food to your elderly neighbor who you know to be a widow, and asking if you can do anything for them, and then actually do it! You will hear me say time and time again, as long as I write for OMD, God does not call you to be successful, He calls you to be obedient. God determines what is successful, and what is not. My job is to follow the guidelines that He set for me.
Christ is not in His grave, are you?