Gone are the days when a friend can just pop over for a cup of tea to chat. Gone are the days when someone calls in need of help and you are actually home to help out. Gone are the days when a neighbor can come by for an egg or a cup of milk. Community is so important yet we are too transient to have a true tribe. Too many of us stuff our schedules full of things that seem important only to find out that we are never available to be the hands and feet of God. We are never there to help a friend in need or simply build a relationship and sit for a couple hours at lunch without checking your cell phone. Even as Christians, we overbook our week with Bible studies, small groups, kids groups, service projects, but we may never really stop to consider our actual community. While all those things are good, do you have time to do the things that really matter, like build relationships? One-on-one actual face-to-face relationships? Look at your calendar. Can you edit your life a bit? Find a little white space and expand it. Permanently. Simplify your life. The more white space you have on your calendar, the more available you will be to be the hands and feet of Christ. Become a “White Space Christian”.
I often go to the “no no no” with my kid rather than the encouragement. I am learning. Looking back on my 2.5 years of being a Christian I can see God treating me differently than when I was brand new. I am still growing and learning and feel like I am just entering grade school so to speak. I was helping in my son’s second grade class this morning and I got frustrated with one of the disruptive little boys. I tried my best and then the teacher intervened. She was the perfect picture of patience, love, correction, and direction all at the same time. I joked that had she not gone into teaching she would have made a great lobbyist or politician. Point being, when we are very little, we need to hear a firm “no” from our teachers and parents, but as we grow, it is far more beneficial for us to learn to negotiate, mostly on our own, with encouragement and guidance from our Teacher. While God is no longer quick to spank me, I feel his tender patient guidance as he gives me a little more time to work through my sin and come to Him on my own in submission and repentance. He is allowing me the space I need to grow in my faith and through it I am learning to deepen my respect for Him. I am also becoming a better ambassador for Christ and a better mom to my 7 year old.
I got my ticket into heaven at the age of 14 right before my 9th grade year. It was in 1987 at Forest Home Summer Camp. I was excited to be “in” with my church group and quickly got involved in leadership, on the worship team, and many missions trips. I loved my friends, and loved my church group. But things never seemed right somehow. I searched for more knowledge and understanding. I was a good girl on most counts, at least better than others, or that‘s what I told myself. I loved Jesus and was told He loved me too. Outwardly I professed Christ. Outwardly I looked the part. I was a “Christian”. I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, gave money to the church, served and even taught in the High School ministry.
But things weren’t right somehow. A friend of mine shared with me a story of a gal who was brought up in the church and had “always been a Christian”. When she was asked to take a look at her fruits of salvation she honestly couldn’t think of anything. She hadn’t really grown as a Christian. Sure she served and read her Bible, prayed, and did all the things Christians do. She even loved Jesus. But inwardly she was discontent with her life, bitter toward her husband, jealous of what others had, selfishly desired more, was lonely all the time, and felt misunderstood and mistreated by others. She kept stuffing her life with all sorts of things to try to make sense of it all. She didn’t realize the shape of the hole she was trying to stuff was a God-shaped hole that only God could fill.
That girl was me. I realized that I never fully submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. I realized that my God was so small that I had made him into my own cafeteria pick-and-choose religion that worked in my life and did not disrupt my plan. I realized that it is not us who chooses God, but it is God who mercifully chooses us. I got so wrapped up in asking why God would save some people and not others. The question really should be, why does He save anyone at all? We are all a mess. All of us are unworthy. All of us are sinners.
I started really looking into my fruits. What are they? Are they the Fruits of the Spirit or do they go beyond that? What I found was profoundly upsetting. I was misguided, mislead. I was brought up in a church that taught counter to what the Bible teaches. A great pastor said to me during this confusing time of evaluating my salvation that “the best way to guard yourself against heresy is to ready your Bible thoroughly and often.” So I dug in. I started to allow the Bible to teach me, God to teach me, rather than man. God placed a deep desire in me to seek Him out. I had an insatiable appetite for His Word and his true teaching. I started learning Hebrew and Greek because I did not trust our translation and what I found was startling. Major passages that I was taught over and over again meant something completely different in Hebrew and in the correct context.
I learned that my relationship with God never seemed right somehow and it all had to do with my view of God. AW Tozer states, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I looked at God as my Daddy, a big happy grandpa in the sky. Jesus was my friend, the guy I could turn to when I really needed help. This low view of God is exactly where Satan wants us all to be. Think about it. If you were given 6,000 years to perfect the art of playing the piano, you would be the best pianist EVER. Satan has had over 6,000 years to perfect the art of deception. Why would he be obvious? His greatest accomplishment would be to get droves upon droves of people THINKING they are saved all the while sending them straight to Hell. He and the other fallen angels are fuming mad. They don’t have a chance for salvation. But we do. They are doing everything they can to get us to lower our view of God. He is not your Daddy or someone you’re going to curl up in his lap someday. Think about every single time the Bible ever mentions encounters with God. It’s intense. Really intense. Don’t miss this my friend. When you meet God for the first time, your body will be flat on the ground with your face firmly planted in the dirt in awe and submission to a Holy God.
Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord,’’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’’ And then will I declare to them, ‘‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’’
These are the people who think they are saved! He is talking about the Day of Judgment. The part about prophecy and casting out demons was what threw me off. Even though our works are different today than they were in the New Testament times, the application is the same. We have to remember context. If it were written today it might say, “Lord, Lord, did we not go to church, invite our friends, help our fellow brother and sisters, and give tons of money to charities in your name?” The sentiment is exactly the same, just in the context of our day. I don’t know about you, but I just cringe at this. This is quite possibly the scariest passage in all of scripture. Think about how many millions of people are deceived into thinking they are saved and are not. Jesus says on that day MANY will question why they are cast into Hell. This is no light matter. THIS IS HUGE!
Did you also know that Hebrew tradition states that when you say a persons name twice when talking to them it is not just a point of importance but is a form of intimacy? By stating a person’s name twice the person talking is stating they have an intimate relationship with that person. These people said, “Lord, Lord”… they thought they had an intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus simply says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Talk about a slap in the face. More like an eternal slap of doom.
Revelation 3:15-17 (ESV) says, ‘‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
This is a letter to the church in Laodicea. This is the current church we live in. He is talking about us… now! I mistook the various ministries I was involved in as fruits when all my efforts were really just self-promotion. I have lived a selfish and self-serving kind of faith in Jesus, only trusting in him when I needed Him. I was the epitome of a “Lukewarm American Christian” living out a clinical sort of faith. With all of this understanding and by God’s mercy in opening my eyes, on May 20, 2013 I came to the harsh realization that I have been only “dating Christ” and not actually committed to him in every way he commands us to be. It was then that I got on my knees and fully repented of my arrogance, foolishness and sin and gratefully and fully handed my life over to Him.
Since that day there have been three significant changes that I have experienced in my self-indulgence of worldly things, my lack of love for others, and my lack of true love for God.
Outwardly, my life was characterized by my selfishness and desire for things of this world. It is astounding to see this supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in my life to placate the desires almost over night. God says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (John 2:15) I remember working so hard for my sports car that I finally purchased. When I woke up that next morning on the 21st and went into the garage, literal bile came up in my mouth when I saw my car. It represented a huge portion of my sin and I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
Inwardly, my life was characterized by a disdain of humanity as a whole. Even though my friends didn’t see this, I felt I was somehow better than everyone else; more entitled than others, smarter somehow. I can honestly say that my heart of stone has been turned to a heart of flesh with compassion and love for everyone! God is clear, “By this all people will know, that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
And thirdly, and most importantly, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS ANYMORE! Others boldness for Christ is something I always marveled at and just thought, that is for them but not for me. No! The bible says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!” (Romans 1:16)
Since that day, people often ask me if I am sure that I was actually saved then and not back in 1987 with the following years just being part of my sanctification process. A sort of renewal of faith, a prodigal child scenario. It saddens my heart because I see in them what I now see in myself before I was truly saved. There is this justification that happens in us. We try to tell ourselves we are OK. God loves us. Of course we are saved. We assume our own faith to the potential life ending detriment of our souls. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” – 2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV
When you were born your parents were very aware of your growth. They had 100% proof that you were growing. If you were not, you would be taken immediately to the doctor. I remember having my baby and freaking out because his weight was in the 10th percentile. I was searching for any cause of lack of weight gain. Even to this date I obsess over the fact that his feet seem to not be growing at all while the other kids in his class have shoe sizes that are 3 sizes bigger. Moms search for evidence and proof of growth and life, constantly. How is it then that we never, or hardly ever, search for proof of growth and life in our faith? To have assurance in your own salvation is a huge thing. The word “hope” in biblical terms does not just mean you hope it might come true one day, but that it actually means “confident assurance.” That is a very different meaning and I think you would love to have confident assurance in the fact that you are going to Heaven.
Philippians 2:12 says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Fear and trembling! Those are not easy words. They are intense. Don’t let another moment go by without checking yourself. On October 8th 1871 DL Moody gave a sermon to his massive congregation where he ended by asking them to go home and consider their salvation and perhaps come back next week with a decision for Christ. On that night the Great Chicago Fire swept the city burning his church to the ground killing almost 300 people and leaving over 100,000 people homeless. He vowed to never ask people to sit on their decision again.
Looking back on the past two and a half years of being a Christian I can tell you with 1,000 percent assurance that I am saved and I was NOT saved as of May 19th 2013 the day before my actual conversion. It is something that I have spent lots of time tracking and being in tune with the Holy Spirit. Now I can count so many fruits that are solid evidence that I am actually saved. I have kept track of all the fruits I have found in the Bible that are not just the Fruits of the Spirit. An interesting one that I feel people who are not saved would never really appreciate until they are saved is the discipline of God. Would you ever feel comfortable harshly and firmly disciplining your neighbor’s child? Would they get the same punishment as your own child? No! Certainly not! It is the same thing here. In the brief time I have been a Christian, I have had the privilege of getting disciplined on a few occasions from my Father. While not fun, I see the beauty in His discipline. What a picture of correction and love.
Being a Christian is much harder than I would have ever thought. Life is hard. We are guaranteed hardships in this life. I laugh at how easy life was before my salvation but I would not have it any other way. I have lost my career, lost family members, best friends, and my husband now lives with a bonafide Jesus freak. Life is hard. But again, I would not have it any other way. What a blessing to have been chosen by God. To be counted as one of His children!
I encourage you all my sisters to check and make sure you are in the faith. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Do a fruit’s audit. Have that blessed assurance that Jesus is, in fact yours!
There are so many Truths in the Bible yet we must be careful not to base our beliefs on how we feel or what others say or think. We need to trust in the Word of God only. Paul understood this truth by repeating himself over and over again. The safest thing for us to do is read the Word of God over and over again working through the Bible continually until we allow the Bible to work through us continually.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
I am tired. Worn down by my own flesh. How do I maintain this effort? How do I reconcile my lowly pathetic life with my desire to be a highly useful and worthy ambassador for God in a world full of darts and flames. I desire in my heart reformation. My flesh fights every second of the way. There needs to be change. There needs to be repentance. There needs to be faith. There needs to be whole hearted devotion to the Almighty Creator. Coram Deo. Before the face of God. In the presence of God. For the glory of God. Always. Always. Always.