Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saving faith is more than fire insurance

When we attended Grace Community Church in southern California, we signed up for their evangelism program. Each week we learned steps in how to make a clear gospel presentation. After instruction and a time of role-playing to practice what we learned, we went out in groups of three to visit people who had visited the church. If there were no new names on the list, we went to a local mall.

The presentation was structured around survey questions that most people didn’t mind answering. After the survey was completed, we asked if they would like to hear more and if they said yes, we shared the gospel. The presentations were designed to cover basic truth such as God created and loves us, sin separates us from Him, He planned a solution for that separation and sent His Son to die in our place, and our response is to turn from sin, believing in and receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives.

I had taken training like this before, but this church added something to the presentation that I’d not heard. They made sure we told people what would happen to them if they did become Christians. True saving faith was more than fire insurance—it would change their lives in at least five ways. One of those ways is that they would begin to hate sin and desire to overcome it.

This morning’s reading in God is Enough points out that the Scripture talks more about salvation in terms of overcoming sin in this life than it does about being saved so we can go to heaven.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to announce the coming birth of the Savior, he said, “And thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

When Zacharias was “filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied” at the birth of his son (Luke 1:67), he declared that God had visited his people in order to fulfill the promise and the oath He had made them, “that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (verses 74–75).

When Peter was preaching in the porch of the temple to the wondering Jews, he said, “Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).

The point of Jesus’ death is not merely to give us eternal life beyond the grave, but a new life that transforms us. Salvation would be a disgrace if all it offered was a way to avoid eternal damnation, letting people to live any way they wished without a threat of punishment in the afterlife or even a slap on the wrist in this life.

Instead, God who is holy offers a way to “be holy as He is holy” by allowing sinners to invite Christ into their lives and become “partakers of His divine nature.” Because Christ lives in me, I can “Pursue . . . holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

While that pursuit does have the promise of perfection when I see Jesus (1 John 3:1-3), it is important to realize that abandoning sin is not the means to that end. I do not earn heaven by my efforts to be holy. In fact, I already have eternal life as 1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life.

Jesus is my only reason and my only hope for transformation. As the Bible says, when we have Christ, we also have His attitude toward sin and His power to defeat it. He began to change me when He came into my life at salvation and that He will finish the job when I step into eternity. Fire insurance doesn’t even come close to describing any of what He is doing!

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