SALVATION (LESSON 4)
Here is a question for you: Are you really a Christian? Did you ask Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior? And when you said those words maybe at an altar call or when you were by yourself, did you really mean them, or was it just something to say? In tonight's lesson on salvation, we are going to talk about what should happen in your life if you are truly saved and what it really means to be a Christian.
We believe that a lot of people falsely believe that being a Christian means that you say a few quick words and then continue to break God's laws and live any way you please. We fear that a lot of people are going to be very surprised when they die and finally face God and He tells them these scary words found in Matthew 25:41: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." I imagine on that dreadful day, more than a couple people are going to say, "Lord, what do you mean depart? I said the sinner's prayer." And God is going to tell them what we read in Matthew 7:21-23: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Can you imagine the terror that will strike the heart of the person who had a false assurance, the person who realizes too late that they were never saved at all! Well, in this final lesson tonight we want you guys to see what the Bible has to say about being a Christian and salvation, and, hopefully, none of us here will be told by the Lord, "DEPART FROM ME."
So what does it mean to be saved? What is salvation? As we have said in the other lessons, salvation is asking for the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life. It is realizing that you are a sinner who has broken God's commands. It means that you are willing to repent, turn from your sinful ways and be led by God. And it means that you realize that Christ died on the cross for your sins, that He rose again, and now you want Him to be Lord in your life.
And the way that you can tell that you are truly saved is by the changes that take place in your life. Let's see what you should expect from God and what God expects from you. And we want to make it clear that the things that we are going to talk about and the changes that occur in your life are not what save you. There is nothing that you can do on your own to save yourself that adds to what Christ already did. But certain changes should occur in your life if you truly are saved and have been born again. These changes happen because you realize the sacrifice Christ made for you and you now want to be obedient to God's commands.
The Bible says that salvation is like getting a fresh start. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
I have a question for you: After you asked Christ into your heart, did you become a new person? Did any of those old sinful habits pass away? Or are you just as comfortable sinning now as you ever were? Psalm 97:10 tells us, "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
Maybe you used to do those things mentioned in that verse when you were dead to sin. But if you have truly been born again, you should not still be doing them. You should be sorrowful if you are still doing them, and that sorrow that you have offended God should lead to a turning away from those sins! God doesn't expect you to become sinless overnight, but if you have truly accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you should see your sins the way God does and begin to hate them so much that you stop committing them. That is a good sign that your faith is real and alive.
True faith isn't just saying "the sinner's prayer" one day and then living any way you please. How would you feel if you had a big wedding and exchanged marriage vows with the woman you loved, but after the honeymoon she continued to see all of her old boyfriends and go out? If she did that, wouldn't it tell you something? Wouldn't it tell you that maybe the words didn't mean anything? Well, if that is how you are treating God, it should be telling you that your profession of faith doesn't mean anything.
If you are still struggling with giving Christ control in your life, maybe it is because you have accepted Him into your head, but not your heart. Maybe you believe in the Bible and you believe that Jesus is God and you believe that He died on the cross and you believe in hell, but that is as far as it has gone. Did you know that the devil and his demons believe all of those same things? Let's read James 2:19-20, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
We know that the devil isn't saved. He believes those things about God, but he still is God's enemy. You have to believe those things and also say, "Jesus, be my Lord and Savior." And when you really mean that, you won't struggle so hard with being obedient to God's commands. You will see yourself becoming that "new creation" that the Bible talks about. Faith without works is dead. There should be some changes, some proof, and some evidence that we are new in Christ. Again, the changes in our life are not what save us, but if we are truly saved, there should be changes happening. 1 John 2:3-4 reads, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Are you keeping God's commandments? Has your past sinful activity been falling away? Are you striving to live a holy life? If so, wonderful! If not, beware!!
Now, someone may be thinking, "I'm trying, but it's so hard to live righteously." I've got news for you: Once Satan sees that you are not on your way to hell anymore, he's going to do everything in his power to try to win you back. So a good sign that you are truly saved will be that you are being attacked by temptations and opportunities to sin even more. But you have to fight against giving in. And the good news is that God is stronger than Satan will ever be. It is not even a close competition. 1 John 4:4 tells us "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." With the Holy Spirit living in us, we can overcome anything the devil tries to send our way. And as believers, God wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, and He wants us to know that we have already overcome Satan, the wicked one.
So if you are saved, God expects you to stop living as though Satan has you in his grasp. Stop using "the devil made me do it" or "I just can't help myself" as an excuse. Romans 6:12-14 reads, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace."
If you have been born again and adopted into God's family, you have been set free from those sins. Are you going to start living like a free man or woman, or are you going to continue to be a slave to those things that are trying to damn you and take you away from God?
Now, I'm sure someone here is thinking, "Well, I'm not ready to take that step. That's too many rules and restrictions for me. I want to be my own boss. Maybe later I'll accept Christ into my life." I have a question for you: Why do you turn your back and trample on God's gift as though you would be doing God a favor by becoming a Christian? Don't you realize that God doesn't need you? You need God. You should be begging God to save you instead of dragging your feet and putting this off. Just remember that God without man is God; but man without God is nothing. Heaven is not going to be a sad place if you aren't there, but if you go to hell, you are going to spend eternity wishing that you wouldn't have rejected God.
And when you are dead, it is too late. Luke 13:25-28 warns, (Jesus speaking) "When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are; then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."
For anyone waiting for later, we ask you to realize that later may be too late. Death may come and take you sooner than you imagine. In that case, you would have died in your sins and would eternally have to live in torment in hell with the decision that you made. Are you willing to take that gamble?
Lastly, there may be someone here who doesn't care one bit about being saved. You don't care about heaven, don't believe in hell, and feel that you don't need Christ as your Savior. Maybe you don't feel a bit of guilt over the things that you do -- you fornicate, steal, lie, hate, kill, and still have a good night's sleep and could care less what God or others think. I would say that you are in the most dangerous position of all. You are spiritually dead on the inside, yet you don't even know it. Friend, if I took a dead body and threw it off of a ten-story building, would the corpse feel any pain? Of course not, because it is already dead. You are in that same position. You don't see the need to turn from your sins because you are presently dead on the inside. You are condemned and too ignorant and rebellious to know it! John 3:18 reads, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Remember that you are either for Christ or you are against Him. And if you are against Him, you are just a "dead man walking," with Satan as your guide and hell as your ultimate destination. 1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God."
(To read an excellent article that details the evidence that should be in your life if you are truly born again, go here: EVIDENCE.)