The “Tribulation” Upon Us
Mark 3:2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Mark 3:2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
For years, I thought sins (anything contrary to God’s truth and ways), the little ones, were not that big of a deal. I assumed they were a part of life. On some level, I accepted them. On some level I enjoyed them – though it was a false joy proliferating pain. How often do you hear among professing believers, “well, we ARE sinners”, as if it’s an excuse for the little sins we knowingly sow? Whether true or not, after hearing something often enough you begin to believe it.
I “faithfully” trusted God’s grace to cover me and believed it would somehow negate the ramifications of those little sins that didn’t seem that big of a deal. (Though my life proved differently, which I refused to acknowledge.) Subconsciously, I assumed “I’m forgiven, this hardship can’t be happening because of those little insignificant sins” so I never learned. More than any other, we are best at deceiving ourselves. Further, for conscious sake, we often don’t call those little sins what they are, but they are covered in excuses, justifications, rationalizations … basically self-deception.
How many of us trust God’s grace to cover the sins of:
Not seeking God as He instructs us? Amos 5:4
Not pursuing His wisdom and understanding? Proverbs 4:7
Relying on our own strength and wisdom of the world to get us what we need? Psalm 147:10, Isaiah 31:1
Not loving God with all our heart, soul and mind as we neglect to spend time with Him and deeply get to know Him one-on-one? Mark 12:30
“Loving” others in a way that is really for our acceptance by them, rather than for true love? Mark 12:31
We overlook certain transgressions in the name of grace. This thinking shows we don’t understand God’s forgiveness in Christ and our new life in Him. (Now no one is perfect, obviously. But do we willing accept sins? Do we tolerate them? Or do we fight to live in God’s truth?)
In rebellion to legalism, many warp the doctrine of grace. True, the Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ. However, there are instructions of God, like those above, that we are to follow, thus still His “law”. Grace doesn’t mean we don’t have to listen and obey our heavenly Father. It means God forgives us, by no action of ourselves, so we are reconciled back to the Him and able to receive His truth, to walk in it, and gain a spirit that is eternally united to Him.
If we truly understand God’s forgiveness and how that allows us to dwell in His presence, that knowledge changes us. We will act on this new understanding by seeking God and learning truth. This truth refashions our minds; preparing us to dwell in oneness with God.
If we really believe something, what do we do? We act on it. Once we truly understand God’s gift of forgiveness, we embark upon a journey of drawing near to God in truth and spirit. We want to know the One who showed us an incomparable love. This is the natural response to truly believing. What would our response be to someone who shows us true love? We would cultivate a relationship with him/her; same with God.
As we grow in truth, our lives are altered by that truth. John 17:17 We are the sum of our beliefs. In time, our lives are purified by the truth of God, and then God establishes His home in our souls. With Him a part of us, we desire to walk fully in His will. We see the little sins for what they are – the top of the stairs leading to the pit. No matter how small or big, anything contrary to God is following a self-will that creates destruction, pain and hardship. But in Him, our will no longer wants to have anything to do with any sin. This is why John said that those of God are without sin – our will doesn’t desire it. 1 John 3:9
If we have the truth abiding in us, will we willingly continue to sin? No. Will we desire complete obedience to God? Yes; an obedience that comes out of knowing and loving Him. John 14:23
It isn’t legalism; it’s love. What we do doesn’t “save” us. God forgave us, so He “saved” us. Seeking and walking in truth is the outcome of our understanding of God’s forgiveness. As God’s truth begins to dwell in us, our desires change because our truth is changing. We want to obey His truths as they are life and love. They aren’t burdensome because they are love and we abound in love with God. 1 John 5:3 It’s a burden when there is no love.
To willingly sin not only shows we aren’t rightly related to God, but also we readily invite a life of destruction, pain and hardship. There are many professing believers who hae been misled about grace and excusing sin and suffering for it, but have been blinded to the cause of their hardships because of the ill-communicated doctrine of grace.
To continue to knowingly sin shows we are foolish and unwise. We reap what we sow. If we sow truth, by following God’s will, we will reap deliverance, joy and love. If we sow lies, by following our self-will, we will reap pain, hardship, and suffering. There is a way to live that prospers our soul and a way that doesn’t. There are spiritual laws and physical laws. God designed us and this world to function in a certain way. When we honor His design, we live in peace; this is the essence of true wisdom. (verses honoring the world’s wisdom that destroys.) As a child of God, these laws still apply. God will not be mocked. Thinking God’s forgiveness is an excuse to go our own way is to mock God. Not a good idea.
Embrace God’s forgiveness given in grace, which enables you to live in unity with Him, by sowing truth and His love in your life. In time, as your beliefs are purged and renewed, you will reap a prospering soul. As you diligently cultivate a relationship with God, you will experience His love; a treasure that far exceeds anything you’ve known.
How often do we hear – say the sinner’s prayer and be saved? I remember sitting in the church pew whispering the prayer at the invitation just in case God didn’t hear me the last seventeen times. I was terrified of not going to heaven; not realizing it is mostly about a state of soul.
I recited it over and over because I had the head-knowledge that Christ died for my sins and through Him I could be forgiven. I recognized my need and knew I needed deliverance and of course I didn’t want to go to hell (not realizing the churches understanding was bound in lies), who does? However, I remained in charge of my life (often the part of the gospel quickly overlooked as churches focus on the number of people walking down the aisle). Jesus wasn’t Lord of my life, I was. I split Christ in two; I wanted Him as my Savior but His Lordship was on the back burner – and according to most churches that was okay, but it wasn’t and deep down I knew something was off, just not exactly what. I figured I just needed to say the prayer with more passion.
With Christ it is all or nothing. He is Lord and Savior. My plea was in vain because what I was looking for was a quick fix to my guilt, fear and terror of “hell” instill in by the church. Nothing changed in my life because I didn’t want to let go because I didn’t take the time to seek Him so I could know Him so I could trust Him to be my Lord. When it comes to salvation many churches overlook the significance and meaning of Christ as our Lord, it is all about a prayer and Lordship is an option. And for many who profess Christ is Lord, He isn’t. Our actions tell the truth; who we listen to, who we trust, who is the source of our truth, really. Words are useless without action backing them up. James 2:20
I wanted to believe in the words of pastors telling me that if I just said a prayer all was okay, but the restless in my spirit remained. Despite how I felt, for years I continued to try to trust in their words that left me barren, empty and spiritually deprived because without Christ as Lord we’ve got nothing.
The sinner’s prayer isn’t a magic prayer that takes us on a carpet ride into His kingdom; it is only an acknowledgement that our way isn’t the way to go. Surrendering our lives, believing in Him, Him being our Lord and Savior, and Him becoming the love of our lives is a much longer process. It entails knowing, trusting and living out what we know. We gain knowledge, trust and faith by abiding in His Word and cultivating a relationship with Him. If we aren’t abiding in His truth we can’t personally know and trust Him as He calls us to. Believe is a loaded word. If we truly believe Christ is our Lord then what would our actions be?
Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”
Telling people they are saved if they say a prayer presents a false security and denounces Christ’s Lordship, besides how do we know if they are saved or not? We don’t save others; we don’t save ourselves, only God saves thus eventually he will “save” all. It was never a question in the magnitude of his love. It puts us in the wrong position in their lives, a position that only God should hold. John 1:12-13 We have to be very careful not to be the surety or guarantee of someone’s salvation by telling them they are saved – only Christ can be their surety of new life.
Proverbs 17:18 “A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, And becomes surety for his friend.”
Proverbs 6:1-3 “son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend.”
Hebrews 7:22 “by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant”
A ticket to heaven and a prayer that is the be-all-end-all is a dishonor to God and to what Christ has done for us. He came to give us new life, to be our Lord and our Husband, for us to draw near to Him and abide with Him now not just when we die. Going to heaven is only the continuance of what we have done on earth – abiding with our Lord.
We are to point people to the One who saves, not give them a false pre-mature security by telling them they are saved. It only cripples their spiritual growth and we play God’s role as being their guarantee of new life.
1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”