(Editor’s note: Find the other blogs for this series and other useful resources HERE.)
“I know I’m going to heaven because I accepted Jesus as my Savior, but…” he said as he stretched out the word before starting again, “it’s more like fire insurance.” Let’s call this nice fellow Pete.
Somehow, I had gotten into an unexpected but enjoyable conversation with Pete as he was waiting for a business owner to arrive and unlock a door. We moved from the superficial – weather, jobs, common experiences as veterans and basic chit-chat – to the eternal.
Despite how refreshing his brutal honesty was, I was saddened. Many modern-day ideas about salvation, particularly fire insurance salvation, differ from those taught in the Bible which were held by the apostles and early Christians. (For a good two-part series, check out Dr. Ray Rooney’s “What Has Become of Salvation?” here and here.)
Jesus is who?
Jesus as Savior is an amazing gift and miracle.
Jesus as judge makes demons and mankind shudder.
Jesus as Savior cleanses us from sin and refreshes the soul.
Jesus as judge condemns us for sin and banishes the soul.
God’s love is true and His holiness, the essence of Him that tolerates no sin, is also true. He does not change Himself or His standards given to us by the Law. God’s love IS so great that He charged Jesus, as God the Son, with the punishment for all the sins of humanity.
Now, it’s decision time. Jesus can carry your sins or condemn you for them.
This isn’t about accepting Jesus but allegiance to Jesus. Allegiance is loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior. Jesus will not allow Himself to be used like a “Get out of hell Free” card without recognition of Who He is and your agreement with Him that you should follow.
“Follow me” has been the command Jesus gives to all disciples.
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38).
Jesus being judged for the sin of the world was brutal. The cross on Calvary reminds us not to cross God. Moreover, the cross on Calvary reminds us to cry out to God. We, like the tax collector in Luke 18:13, should humble ourselves and beat our chests saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Do you see why John 3:16-17 talks of God giving his Son so we wouldn’t perish? Do you see why those verses talk of how the world can be saved through Him? But let’s not stop there. Look at the section of John 3:16-21.
Those verses clearly show those who believe are not condemned, BUT many people miss this part of what Jesus shared:
“But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:21).
John expands on this in a later letter:
If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6).
The essence of Christianity as we follow Christ is to love, trust, and obey Him. This isn’t about fire insurance, but fidelity. One definition of faithful is to be steadfast in affection or allegiance.
We, in and of ourselves, are inadequate for the holiness of God to dwell. But somehow, the power of God is able to do what we cannot. We become new creations able to hold the Holy Spirit within despite still growing and battling sin.
New creations and the Holy Spirit
“We are new creations in Christ so we should be creating newness in our lives,” said Bert Harper, host of Exploring the Word on afr.net. According to Harper, the unspoken problem of those who claim Christ as their fire insurance is the lack of one word.
“Evidence! Evidence is ongoing and not stagnant. I will not declare that their salvation is not real. That’s God’s business. I would declare that something is wrong. If God only wanted us to be saved, then He would have taken us home immediately afterward. Instead, we stay to serve.
“There is no evidence in the Bible of honest believers being stagnant continually,” Harper said.
Honest believers? Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? It shouldn’t because there are honest believers and deceived believers. Remember, even demons believe there is one God and shudder (James 2:19). Do you think God will save them from hell? No, they are condemned.
So, what do honest believers need to be honest about? In the blog, “Failure to Heed Sinking Sand,” Dr. Ray Rooney writes:
What it all comes down to is being brutally honest with ourselves when it comes to obedience to God. Because the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount is the revelation of who can feel secure in their claims to be Christian and who has done a really good job of deceiving themselves about it.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them…(Matthew 7:24). We must all let that sink in. All of our creeds, deeds, and professions of faith are hollow and vain if we don’t OBEY Jesus in real-time. Worse than that actually, when you consider Jesus called the doers of deeds done “in your name…workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). We don’t get to treat the words of Jesus like a buffet where we pick and choose what we like and ignore what our preferences find distasteful. He framed obedience very specifically around “these words of mine” (Matthew 7:24).
Evidence of the Holy Spirit
Harper shared a copy of a few pages from The Royal Route to Heaven where Alan Redpath shares the “…threefold test of the reality of God the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life.” Redpath (1907-1989) pastored several churches including Moody Church in Chicago, and he later was named Pastoral Dean of Capernwray Bible School in England. If you’re interested and have a copy, these appear in chapter 25.
“First,” writes Redpath, “the Holy Spirit is primarily concerned with character and not with gifts (cp. Galatians 5:22-23).” He uses the idea of being shaped like clay by the Holy Spirit to be clean, pure, and righteous. Character and actions demonstrate Christlikeness.
“In the second place,” writes Redpath, “the Holy Spirit comes to a man’s life not to glorify Himself, but to glorify the Lord Jesus: ‘he shall not speak of himself…he shall receive of mine and shall shew it unto you’ (John 16:13,14 [KJV]).’” He continues by noting that being filled with the Holy Spirit is “…not that he has some extraordinary emotional experience, but that moment by moment he is conscious of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The third test of the reality,” writes Redpath, “is that the Holy Spirit has come to equip us for Christian ministry and testimony.” Acts 1:8, he shares, gives evidence of how the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and “…upon that man there is the anointing, the power, the authority of the Spirit for his witness.”
Pete’s favorite prayer and mine
Pete shared one of his favorite prayers that God allowed as a segue for His Holy Spirit to continue working in both our lives.
Pete shared that if we ever have problems with another person that we cannot stand for some reason, he recommended praying that God would allow us to see that person the way God sees him or her.
It was my turn to smile.
“I like it a lot,” I said. “May I challenge you with a slight variation?”
He nodded yes while smiling.
“Lord, let me see me the way you do and help me be and live as you desire. Amen.” Then I asked him to consider that prayer in relation to how God sees him when he uses Jesus as fire insurance.
He nodded his head no while smiling this time, but in that manner southern Americans do when acknowledging the difficulty but correctness of what we've seen or heard. It's like saying, "You got me. I can't argue with that at all."
If we allow God to show us how He sees us while staying true to His Word and following His lead, then we can truly sing:
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of his Spirit, washed in His blood.”