Recently I met with a lady who is almost 80yrs old. She prays lovely prayers and has a mind sharper than a 30year old. However, the people who live with her are at their wit’s end how to manage a good relationship with her. She is not easy to live with. When the conversation got around to the shared beliefs of our faith, she told me she was saved at the age of 12. That got me thinking.
I remembered how I myself thought I was saved at the age of about 17, when I was at a church service where a visiting American evangelist spoke about accepting Christ. The atmosphere was charged with the music and the charismatic speaking of the evangelist. The church was full. So when an alter call was given, there were many who went up to “receive the Holy Spirit”. I was one of them.
The initial feeling was euphoric. I remember feeling elevated and joyous. I also remember crying a little. Afterwards, I really did try to be a better person, being an obedient teenager and reading the Bible and being nice to people who I didn’t much like. This lasted about a week. I soon forgot all about the “born-again” experience. I went on with my life – school, exams, friends. Life went back to “normal”.
When the “real” regeneration happened many years later, I was able to compare the two experiences.
So what is the meaning of being “saved” or “regenerated” of “born-again”?
Is it believing that there is one God? I doubt it. Because even the demons believe that. (James 2:19 – You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder).
Believing involves some measure of faith, but is that “saving faith”?
What about Simon the sorcerer in Samaria (Acts 8:13) – who believed and was baptized? He later offered money to the Apostles to have the power to impart the Holy Spirit to others. What a terrible suggestion. We are told that he was rebuked – ….because your heart is not right before God. (v.20-21). What doe this mean? Was he saved or wasn’t he? The story doesn’t actually tell us. But we can be sure of one thing through our own experiences. At the point of being saved, we know we are justified. The sanctification starts at that point. We don’t become “the image of Christ” immediately. It takes time. So Simon possibly made the offer of money because of his greed and lack of knowledge.
A person might have a very positive initial response to the gospel. He might get involved in church activities and might even get involved in ministry without being saved. Got Questions.org illustrates the situation like this:
People will see an infomercial about the latest home exercise equipment, and they say, “That’s just what I need!” and they buy the equipment. They receive their purchase and eagerly use it – for a couple of weeks. Six months later its back in the box packed away somewhere. What happened? They believed in the product, it wasn’t the type of belief that led to lower their body weight. Nothing really changed their lives. …they were merely indulging in a passing fancy. Matthew 13:5-17 illustrates this well.
What is the danger of a euphoric initial response to the gospel? The alter calls are turning out quite a few new converts. How many will gain knowledge of the Word before they step out into the ministry? We are told many times in the Bible, the folly of not having knowledge. We have zeal – but no knowledge. It is with knowledge of the Word that we draw near.
We are given a warning in Matthew 7:21-23:
Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'”
Who are the people Jesus is talking about? Seems they are involved in the ministry. So this clearly tells us that even if someone is not saved, he is able to perform miracles, drive out demons and prophecy. So many signs and wonders – all deceitful. If some of those in the ministry are so self-deceived, what hope do we have of knowing with confidence that we are saved.
The key is in Matthew 7:21 – ...who does the will of My Father in heaven.
It is important to note here that we cannot do anything to be saved. We are saved only through the grace of God. It is a gift. However, the doing follows as a natural process in the sanctification process that every believer goes through.
John MacArthur says this:
..a deceived person seek feelings, blessings, experiences, healings, angels, etc. They are only interested in the by-product of the faith, not in Christ. They are not consumed with the glory and the honor and the beauty and the magnificence of Christ. They are not consumed with honoring Him, loving Him, serving Him, obeying Him, submitting to Him, exalting Him, proclaiming Him, worshiping Him, confessing Him (the will of God). They are only there for the by-products of that which is attached to Him. Give me blessing, give me spiritual experience, give me good feelings, give me healing, give me prosperity….
Does this have the ring of truth in it?
In the early church, people knew that being a Christian was tough. They didn’t harbor any illusions that life would suddenly be good for them. In fact, the early church knew very well they are making a fatal choice to follow Christ. Fatal – only in this world, not in the next. They actually believed what Christ said about carrying our cross.
So what do we know now? Take a good look at your life – you will recognize immediately if Christ is in your sights. If you are saved, being unsuccessful in business will not matter. Being poor will not matter. Being ill will not matter. Being incapacitated will not matter. Being dead will not matter. Because you have the pearl of great value. Nothing can take it away from you. You will be looking at things above, and not on things below. Earthly matters are for the unsaved. Life on earth will be hard. God will discipline us – whom He loves.
So next time before you rush to the healing service and rob God of His work with you, remember not every healer is saved, not every prophet is saved. If you are in hardship, praise God for giving you an opportunity to grow in faith (for how will your faith grow if there is no way to exercise it?) and pray for patience and endurance. If you are not well, ask the elders of the church to pray for you. (This is how Paul has instructed us). You must learn to submit to the will of God. First seek the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (Matthew 7:13).
The truly saved love the narrow path. They welcome everything in the narrow path for the sake of Christ. They will not be distracted by the lures of the world.