Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are You Saved? No Really, Are You Saved?

I remember a long, long time ago being convicted by the Holy Spirit during a Spring revival at the church I was raised in.  The evangelist could really "throw down" and it really touched me, because I had never heard preaching that intense.  At seven years of age, my grandmother took me to talk to the pastor of our church.  After questioning me about some issues of my heart he determined I was primed to get "saved".  I prayed the sinner's prayer with him and I was in!  I mean I was saved.  The next Sunday I was invited down front of the whole church to make a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Afterward all the church members came by to shake my hand and welcome me into membership of the church.  The following Sunday night I was baptized.  From that point on I was pretty much on my own.  No discipleship, only Sunday School and church.

To be honest with you, I had no clue that I had to give my entire life over to Jesus. 
I just knew I had prayed a simple little prayer, that would keep me out of hell and cause me to go to heaven...whenever I died.  But the question looms as I look back to that crucial time of my life...was I really saved?  Does a short prayer (even though it can) guarantee that you are saved?  In my case...this first did not.

After praying that little prayer and being given a Bible, I simply continued to live the way I did.  I knew I had been convicted, but the softness in my heart produced by that conviction faded away over time.  As a teenager I was pretty rebellious and lived my life the way I chose to live.  I tried some of just about everything attempting to find something to fill the void in my heart.  The moment I left home at 18 years of age, I stopped going to church.  There was nothing in it for me.  (At least I thought.)  It really wasn't the church's fault.  The truth was, I simply had no relationship with Jesus.

What does it mean to be saved?  We could all split doctrinal, denominational hairs over it...but this is the bottom line.  Jesus said, ""If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. ."  (Luke 9:23)  Did you catch that?  Whoever desires to walk the walk Jesus walked, must deny himself.  It's not about us anymore - it's ALL about Him!  How do we deny ourselves?  By daily taking up our own cross and following Jesus wholeheartedly.  Your cross and my cross is the affliction and blessing we incur for His sake as a result of being avid followers of Him.  Sometimes it is wonderful.  Sometimes it is very difficult.  But all the time it is very glorious!  There is no cross to take up if there is no following after Jesus.  Jesus also said to his disciples (and you and me), "If the world hates me, it will also hate you.  If they receive me, they will receive you.  (Steve's paraphrase.)  Listen to something else Jesus proclaimed.  "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."  (Luke 9:24)  We must understand that if were are saved - we have lost our own personal lives in Jesus Christ. You cannot be saved and keep your own life!

Later in my life (at age 24) I experienced a life-shattering crisis in my life.  Because of that early conviction by the Holy Spirit at 7 years of age, and because a new believer in Christ whose life had drastically changed had been witnessing to me, I cried out to Jesus with everything I had in me.  This time the cry was so deep that in my heart I was ready to give absolutely everything over to Him.  He came in gently, but very, very convincingly and my life has never been the same.  Just like you, He's been working on me.  However one thing I know for sure, I could never go back to the old life!  It's gone!

The "sinner's prayer" prayed earnestly and in faith is the door by which we enter into the kingdom of God.  It is the point at which our relationship with Jesus begins.  Jesus never intended the "sinner's prayer" to be a quick-fix for the soul on its way to hell.  The "sinner's prayer" by God's design is the point at which we first begin to lose our lives in Christ so that we gain new life in Him.  It is the point at which the old man dies, and the new man is born.  From that point your life is no longer your is His.  If we understand this, we also understand what He meant when He said, "If you wish to come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, then follow after me."  Some believe this goes too far or is asking too much.  (See the rich young ruler Luke 18.)  But as Jesus said, "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?"  The answer is his own personal life.  If you want to save your soul - you have to give up your own personal life!

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