Prayer is Communication with the Author of the Book

Think about being given a book that contained a story about an author along with his design for living that would lead to the most incredible life anyone could live on this earth. A life full of freedom, joy, fulfillment, contentment, successful marriages and families, and successful relationships.  How about not just being given this incredible book, but having the author, who is the greatest person who has ever lived, willing to walk with you every day to show you how what he instructed in the book applies to various things in your daily life?   Sounds like it would be a great deal and a great privilege.  Who would refuse that?  This is the amazing design God has provided for His people.

I had the great privilege of meeting with a famous veteran of the Charismatic Renewal. He has spoken to great crowds throughout the world, helped provide a magazine for several years that impacted millions of people from all denominations, and worked with many famous leaders giving instruction and counsel.

There were about 14 of us around a table for several hours and I felt like the stories I had read in Eusieubus’ Early Church History about the Apostle John’s final days at Ephesus.  They would carry him out and sit him among groups of disciples and he would instruct them.

When our friend and hero began to talk we all pulled out our cell phones to catch the wisdom that was flowing from his lips.  He quickly began to cry and with passion in his voice he began to say, “It’s all relational.  The Kingdom, the church, Christianity is relational walking with Jesus and hearing His word.”

He went on to say that “we must have the ‘Word’ (Greek Logos which is what God has said and revealed through all of Scripture, Jn 1:1-14, Ps 119:89, 1 Pet 1:25), but also the ‘Word’ (Greek Rhema which is what He continues to say in speech and ongoing communication Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4).  If we only have Logos without Rhema it will lead to dead religion.  Logos can’t trump Rhema and Rhema can’t trump Logos.”

Back to what I said earlier, we must have the book and walk with the Author of the book who out of a living relationship will speak His specific word towards specific issues.  If we only walk with the Bible and not the Author of the Bible we can commit “Bible idolatry.”  This is what the religious leaders did and Jesus rebuked them for it.

John 5:38-40 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (39) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (40) and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” John Stott

Prayer, Logos, and Rhema

Prayer is essential to walk in the ongoing dialogue with Jesus where He speaks His Word to us.  Most of the time God speaks (Rhema) to us things from His Word (Logos) specifically directed towards our life and circumstances.

It works like learning a foreign language.  You learn words so you can enter into dialogue with people because the dialogue comes through the language you learned. God has “forever settled His word” (Logos Ps 119:89).  He continues to speak to us (Rhema) from His word in everyday life.  If the language isn’t in us we will have a hard time determining what He is saying.  This is why we must read and study His word.  We learn the language of God.

One of my friends used to say, “when you open the Bible you look into the face of Jesus.”  When we communicate with Him in prayer we hear His voice (Rhema) as He speaks from His word (Logos).

His voice is discerned from His word. If we don’t have the language from His word (Logos) we will tend to hear things that may not be Him.  They can be our emotions, fantasies, or preferences.  A good rule of thumb is “If what His is saying contradicts what He has said then it isn’t Him who is saying it.”  His Rhema word will never contradict His Logos word.

Prayer is the place where we learn to hear His word (Rhema) from His language (Logos).   It is where we get to learn and hear the voice from the Author of the book. Prayer is above all else communication with God and His word is to be in it.  There is a problem with people who don’t pray in order to hear His voice from His word, as well as those who don’t know His word which is the language by which He speaks.

Two extremes we must avoid.

  • Prayer and attempting to hear from God without His word (Logos) = Crazy Charismatic subjective hearers who are driven by their own fantasies or desires. This is inner subjectivism clothed in spirituality.
  • Having His word (Logos/Bible) without prayer and hearing His voice (Rhema) = Dry and dead intellectuals who twist and use the Bible to their own ends.  They use the Bible for themselves.  This is when the Bible becomes idolatry.  It is using His word without Him.



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What about Delayed or Unanswered Prayers?

Every person who has ever served God wrestles with the issue of delayed or unanswered prayer.  The Bible tells us in many places that we are to specifically ask for things in prayer.  It also promises that we will receive them.  At the same time, we all have had experiences of prayers that were not answered.  This dilemma can rob us of the Biblical motivation of faith in prayer.  Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

Biblical reasons for unanswered prayer

Considering the different scriptural possibilities of unanswered prayer can be perplexing.  Here are some of them.

  • There is the problem of a lack of faith.

James 1:6-7 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.

Mark 11:22-24  “Have faith in God…(24)  “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

At the same time, there are many examples in Scripture of anxious, ambivalent people receiving things from God they ask for.

  • There can be the reason of bad motives or praying outside of His will.

James 4:3  you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 

1 John 5:14-15  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (15)  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

  • Other times it could be a lack of persistence.

Luke 11:9 Amp  So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.

We must broaden our perspective on prayer

God is always “working in us” based on where He is taking us, not where we are at now.

There can be broader explanations for delayed or unanswered prayer.  We don’t know our future, only God does. God knows that what we desire right now we will probably not desire five years from now.   Things that we think are good for us right now may not ultimately be good for us over the course of a lifetime.  The thing we desired a few years ago (the opportunity, etc.) that didn’t happen may have taken us away from His purpose for our lives.  If God would have answered some of our prayers we prayed for in the past we may not have have experienced “this present result” as Joseph said in Genesis.

Genesis 45:5-8  “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life… (8)  “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God..

Genesis 50:20  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Joseph probably prayed many times about his trial but only after 17 years had passed did he finally realized that God was actually bringing about something good through the delay.

Some unanswered prayers are only because God doesn’t want to do something for us. He wants to do something through us. Bill Johnson

There is at times an element of not granting our desires that God simply understands things better than we do.  In realizing this it will help us keep from losing heart when prayers seem to go unheeded.  When we keep praying over time about certain things most of the time our desires become clarified.  Some grow stronger and others fade away.

It is also important to remember our walk with God is the most important thing about consistent prayer.  We serve a God who is eternal.  He is without beginning or end.  He stands outside of time a space and sees all things at once.  He sees years ahead of us right now.  He not only sees what has happened but what will happen. Over the course of time as we walk with Him we are adjusted, strengthened, receive revelation, and we overcome by His strength and ability.  We grow and develop through a consistent walk with Him.

This is not to suggest that we should not be bold and specific in prayer or expect to receive specifically what we ask.  Scripture commands this in many places.  Yet we must also keep in mind that long-term persistence in prayer is not only encouraged but expected and God is always at work for good as we pray (Romans 8:28).

In the parable of the widow (Lk 18:1-8) Jesus told us that we should always pray and not lose heart; then He gives us a story as an example.  Clearly, He was showing us that we should not give up praying about specific, personal concerns, no matter how long it takes to receive an answer.  In the persistence, over the long haul, God is at work doing things in us as well as others beyond what we understand.  It is a little like what the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky said when asked about the secret of his ability, “I never skate where the puck is, I always head to where it is going.” God is always dealing with us based on where He is taking us.

I remember reading a story about staying persistent in prayer and the positive effects God works in us as we do.

There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.

The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”

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The Secret Place and Secret Reward of God

Prayer is the most important thing in the Christian life.  Prayer is our soul’s traffic way through which God speaks to us and we speak to Him. Jesus spoke about the importance of our ongoing relationship with Him through prayer, “Abide in the vine…He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…if you abide in Me you ask what you want and it will be done for you” (Joh 15:1-7).  Prayer is about both a relationship with God and laboring together with Him as He accomplishes His will.

Prayer has a much bigger role in our life than simply asking God for things. There are effects that happen in prayer that go way beyond simply presenting a shopping list to God.  Your prayer life denotes how much you depend on your own ability or move in God’s ability.

The more self- confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have, the more you have to pray. Lars Widerberg.

In His famous teaching called “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus contrasted a living relationship with God with the dead religion most people were living in during that time. One feature that He strongly emphasized was personal connectedness with God through prayer.

Mat 6:1-18 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven… 5  “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites…6  “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

There is something essential about our personal prayer life before God who “sees in secret.” There is also a unique “reward” that Jesus promises.  While our walk with God isn’t private (we walk with the people of God and live before an unbelieving world) it must be personal.   The core of our life is lived personally in the sight of God.  We connect personally with Him and He with us.   Without this personal foundation, it simply won’t work.

Living before an audience of One (noticed by God)

I remember during my football days how special it was for my dad to be at my games. He wasn’t able to attend many of my High School games due to his work schedule but later was able to make most of my college games.  There could be thousands of people in the stands but I always knew where my dad was sitting.  I wanted him to be proud of me and his perspective meant more than all the other people watching.  When I made a good play I would look his direction for eye contact.  When he gave an indication that he was happy with the way I was playing it was more rewarding than any of the other cheers or opinions. His look of approval and pride was its own unique reward.

The same was true when I was in other settings with my dad.  When things got out of hand or I was saying or doing something stupid just one look from my dad was motivation to change.  Like the old song, “just one look was all it took.”

There is a reward that comes out of living noticed by God.  Being noticed by God is that place in which you are looking at Him and you are aware He is looking at you.  This is the secret source of all Spiritual strength, direction, correction, and everything that has to do with living the Christian life successfully.

Three essentials that come from connecting with God in the secret place.

  • It is the source of all adjustments that lead to bearing fruit.  Joh 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  2  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…5  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
  • It is where we personally hear God’s voice in order to be lead by Him.  Mat 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
  • It is that source of all Godly change.  2Co 3:3-18…Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Developing the secret life before Him

The only way to develop a life in which you become more aware of being noticed by God is to consistently have a personal prayer life with Him.   There is no magic pill that will do it for you.  Prayer is both a discipline as well as a delight 1 Timothy 4:7 discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Sometimes the discipline comes before the delight.  I know from personal experience that many times I come before Him out of discipline at first but never fail to end up being delighted in Him that I did.

Never be satisfied with trying to fit prayer into your day but instead schedule your day around prayer.

If you aren’t doing it start now!  Set a time (even if you begin with a small amount) and don’t miss it.  One thought that has guided me over the years and helped me with consistency is, never be satisfied with trying to fit prayer into your day but instead schedule your day around prayer.   That means set the time, don’t miss it, and adjust everything else around it.  This is an important way to consistently walk in the “secret reward” of God which is essential to the Christian life.

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Climbing in prayer to the snake free zone

Give me a beautiful mountain trail, a backpack, some water bottles, and a several mile hike and I am a happy man!  I love the mountains and vacation in Colorado almost every year.

People ask me, “what do you do all the time out there in the wilderness?” My reply, which often gets strange looks is “I walk around a look at God’s creation.”   The strange looks reinforce that the mountains aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is something magnificent about them.

There are also some very Biblical things you can learn from them.  The Bible speaks much about the mountains.  As a matter of fact, God’s dwelling place is described as a mountain.

  • Isa 57:15  For thus says the high and exalted One…, “I dwell on a high and holy place.
  • Psa 48:1 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain.
  • When we draw near to God in prayer it is seen as ascending His mountain.  Ps 24:3  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?
  • When people find Him they are seen as going up to His Mountain to learn from Him.  Isa 2:3  And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

The Snake Free Zone

“Prayer plumes the wings of God’s young eaglets so that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer brings inner strength to God’s warriors and sends them forth to spiritual battle with their muscles firm and their armor in place.” –Charles H. Spurgeon

There is another parallel issue seen in ascending earthly mountains. When you get up to about 7000-9000 feet something happens that I like very much.  You enter the snake free zone, hallelujah!    I hate snakes!  When I am on trails and see a snake in my path my heart always skips a beat.  It doesn’t matter if it is a small harmless snake or a large poisonous one, I can’t stand snakes!

The devil is described in Scripture as a snake (Gen 3:1-4, 15, Rev 12:9).  He comes at us like a snake, to accuse, discourage, and tempt us.  When he comes one of the best things we can do is climb to the high places in God, and prayer and worship are how we climb. They are powerful weapons against the enemy.  This is why James tells us that in the process of resisting the devil we must submit and draw near to God.

Jas 4:7-8 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

The enemy and his demonic forces are relegated to darkness (Jud 1:6).  When the enemy comes to accuse and trip us up, he comes in darkness and we can fall into it. Mat 6:23…. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  

The sun shines brighter in the mountains because of the higher elevation. When we are challenged by the temptations and accusations of the enemy,  the best thing we can do is climb higher.  We climb to higher realms of light.   1Ti 6:15-16…the King of kings and Lord of lords,  (16)  who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.  When we come closer to God’s light the enemy can’t stand the altitude, and he must flee as James said (Jas 4:7-8).

There is often a problem, however.  Many times I don’t feel like climbing.  Especially when I have been out several days.  When I go ahead and overcome my fatigue and climb anyway I am always invigorated.  The same is true spiritually.  When I am worn out spiritually and emotionally I often don’t feel like climbing, but I can’t listen to that.

One of the best Psalms that speaks of this process is Psalms 73.  I encourage everyone to read it regularly.  David is overcome by dark thoughts that seemed to overwhelm him.  He had stupid thoughts like all of us have at times, but he didn’t stay that way.  He climbed the mountain of God until he hit the snake free zone where there was clear air.  When we climb into God’s higher zone we drag the enemy and all of our stupid thoughts into the brighter light (snake free zone).

Consider what the Scriptures say will happen when we climb higher into the presence of God

  • Enemies perish  Psa 9:2-3 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.  (3)  When my enemies turn back, They stumble and perish before You (KJV Thy presence) 
  • Stability returns as God’s joy comes to us –  Psa 16:8-11 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (9)  Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely…(11)  You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • We are hidden from the plots and strife of men Psa 31:19-20 How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You…(20)  You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.
  • Determination is renewed and joy is restored –  Psa 51:10-13   Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  (11)  Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  (12)  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. 
  • Times of refreshing comeAct 3:19  “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
  • We see God’s glory afresh in His presence 2Co 3:18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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Burger King or King Jesus

“God is not a product to be pushed, but a King to be obeyed” Gregory Lewis.      

I had the great privilege recently of hearing Dave Richards preach a message about Christ’s Lordship in our lives and it’s challenge to consumer Christianity.  As I listened I couldn’t help but remember a friend telling me a sad story about people he had once looked up to as a young disciple.  They had drifted into a consumer mentality regarding their faith.

Like Paul’s companion Demas, they had once been “co-workers” who served on the front line of Kingdom expansion (Col 4:4, Philemon 1:24).  Sadly they had abandoned the front lines for an easier way (2 Tim 4:10).  They had begun to casually attended a church whose motto was “Christians should have choices” referring to their 3 short convenient services.  My friend walked up to greet them and overheard their conversation about the church, “you can sleep as late as you want and not have to worry about it.  You can show up to any service that is convenient to you.”  My friend was shocked because in earlier days he had looked up to them as examples.  The tears in his voice revealed his deep disappointment, “this isn’t what following Jesus is about! It isn’t about our convenience!”

It reminded me of a church leader who began to take a more convenient approach to services with a newspaper advertisement, “Express Worship, 45 Minutes, Guaranteed!” The ad went on with the description, “Three upbeat hymns…quick announcements…23-25 minute sermons.”  The logic was to try to attract Christians who were looking for a better deal and unbelievers looking for convenience.

There is no calling to be a consumer of Christian goods and services. There is only the call to follow Jesus. It is always disastrous to turn Christianity into a product.

I can’t help but think of these types of approaches in light of the 25 calls of Jesus in the Gospels to “Follow Me.”  In 20 of those calls He included some aspect of denying ourselves and giving up things in order to follow (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25,  Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26).

While there is nothing “holy” about long services, approaching God’s Kingdom with the first priority of our convenience can be a problem.   After all Ezra stood read the Bible for over 6 hours on a podium in a corporate gathering (Neh 8:3-4), and Paul drug out a message for several hours until midnight causing a young man to fall asleep and fall out of a window.  Acts 20:7-10  On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight… (9)  And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 

Burger King or Christ the King

I remember an advertising campaign for Burger King when I was young that captures the heart of this form of consumer Christianity.   Burger King was trying to cut into the market share of McDonald’s. They thought they would appeal to the idea of consumer choice which is a prized virtue. They came up with the great advertising jingle, “Have it your way.”  Some of you may remember the song, “hold the pickles hold the lettuce, special order’s don’t upset us, all we ask it that you let us have it your way.”

While churches should be seeking numerical growth, should we pragmatically seek it at all costs?  We want to be people who are faithful to the Great Commission, not the best deal.  The Matthew 28:18-19 Great Commission is to “make followers of Jesus, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.”  Growth should come with corresponding obedience to God’s word, not a have it your way mentality.

It works a little like raising a child. We must show great patience born out of love, which is “patient, kind, and full of gentleness” as we help people learn how to find, and walk with Jesus (1 Cor 13:1-7). Along the way, they have the great security of unconditional love while learning the maturity of “considering the interest of others ahead of their own” (Phil 2:3-8).

While there is an incredible great life that can only be found through Jesus we need to remind ourselves what Jesus consistently said about finding that life, “If you want to find My life, you have to first lose your life for My sake” (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25, Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26).  This is how we mature. If not we will perpetuate an “entitlement mentality” that is more like Burger King, not Christ the King.

Things that facilitate entitlement mentalities in the church

  • Numerical growth at all cost.
  • Membership without following Jesus.  God designed His church to be people who are following Jesus. The actual spiritual condition of members is important.  The spiritual component of Biblical church membership is real salvation (1Cor 12:13).
  • Ignorance of Biblical expectations of membership.  Membership without His expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
  • Having entitled people in influential positions. If you put entitled people into places of influence they will exercise their influence to “have it your way.”  The church isn’t about our way, but the King’s way.
  • Avoiding the challenges of difficult issues or difficult people.  While we don’t want to pick fights we also do not want to allow bullying, manipulation, or a culture of entitlement to grow through entitled people.  Additionally if we avoid problems they usually don’t go away. They only get bigger and more people end up getting hurt by them.

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“Saved” Without Following Jesus?

Are you saved…I’m saved…I think he is saved…let’s get ’em saved…what is salvation?  What does it mean? What are we saved from and what are we saved for?  Is it simply believing a message about Jesus and asking Him to forgive us which guarantees entrance to heaven when we die?

The most common definition in the Bible regarding someone who is “saved” is that he or she is a person “In Christ.”  That expression is found 164 times in Paul’s letters.  Paul himself said that his whole aim in life, and future, was being “found in Him not having a righteousness of my own” (Phil 3:8-10).  Paul further said, “as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, then walk in Him”  Colossians 2:6 

Peter said there “is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12).  What distinguishes God’s people as “saved” is not simply a belief, but following Jesus and walking in Him. The dominate ideas of salvation today has little connection to following Jesus or being in Him.

In the Gospels Jesus gave 25 clear calls to “follow Me.”  In 20 of those 25 calls there were clear calls to lay one’s life down, and turn away from things in order to follow Him.  Only 4 times did He say to “believe in Me.”  The dominate ideas of salvation today has little connection to turning away form things and “laying down your life” to follow Jesus. Yet following Him should bring obvious change in people’s lives.  Why is there so little connection to being saved and following Jesus?

Does the gospel we preach produce followers of Jesus or consumers of Christian products and services.

A Deceptive Line

There is a deceptive line I think people cross which causes salvation to take on an unbiblical definition. I know this based on my own salvation experience. I was raised in a secular environment.   While I was a hard partying college football player God got my attention and I gave my life to Christ just shy of my 20th birthday and became “saved.”  For 3 months I followed Jesus, walked with Him, and my life was being changed so drastically that my parents felt that I had become involved in some sort of a cult.

Then at the end of the summer I went back to college and for about 8-10 weeks I slowly began to turn back to my old ways.  I remember the justification in my mind, “I’m saved, Jesus is real, my life is going to be about Him, I cannot deny His reality, but for right now it is too hard to follow Him so I will wait until I get out of school.”  I felt myself drifting to the dominant idea of salvation, a transaction that assured my entrance into heaven when I die without actually living with, and following Him right now.  I was beginning to view following Him as kind of an optional part of salvation.

Is following Jesus optional? Click To Tweet

Fortunately by the grace of God I watched a popular preacher on a Sunday night television show when my roommates were gone and it busted the false idea of salvation that I was drifting towards.  The false assurance I was living in was exposed,  I repented, began to follow Him again, and never looked back.”

Did you receive Jesus at the point of your need or at the point of His will?  If you receive Him at the point of your need then once the need is met you quit following.  If you receive Him at the point of His will then you follow Him your whole life.

When we divorce salvation from being in and following Jesus we are redefining it from God’s design.  Salvation, righteousness, and sanctification are what the Bible refers to as “In Christ.”  While being in Christ is a standing it is also to be the actual state of our lives.  You need to be in Christ if you are in Christ.  You should follow Jesus if you follow Jesus.  Sounds crazy but we need to break the false logic in evangelical and charismatic circles about salvation.

I once heard someone ask, “if you could go to heaven when you die, be assured of deliverance from the consequences of sin, have peace, joy, and have it all without Jesus would you do it?”  If salvation is just acceptance of the doctrine of Jesus but not Jesus Himself, irrespective of any real change in life, what motivates us to follow Jesus and walk in the great commission of Mt 28:18-19 “make disciples… baptizing them…teaching them to walk in all He commanded”?

This unbiblical type of salvation allows people to live without Him while at the same time using Him when they need something and having an eternal assurance when they die.  If we are “saved” by giving mental ascent to a belief about Jesus while spending our life on earth ignoring Him how can we think there is anything right about it?  If we don’t love Him or agree to live the way He desires now will a change of scenery in heaven change that?  Will we want to be with Him then but not now?  Don’t we want to be with Him now and isn’t loving Him a large part of living for Him?  Paul said it a lot stronger than that. 1 Corinthians 16:22-23  If anyone doesn’t love the Lord, let him be cursed! Our Lord, come!  (23)  May the good will of the Lord Jesus be with you.

If a God-centered life is too much now how will we be able to take a full dose of Him in heaven?  Granted we will have new bodies, but we are called to love him and live for Him now. Ephesians 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

I was recently sitting with a famous spiritual father in the faith who was 86 years old. He was a major mover and shaker in the charismatic renewal and it was a privilege to meet him. Several times he cried and echoed the important reality of salvation, “it is relational with Jesus.  That is what Christianity is!”  Christianity without following Jesus is really a Christianity without Jesus.  I like how the NLT states this reality.

Col. 1:28–29 NLT So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

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