Malachi:  The Book of Remembrance

Malachi: The Book of Remembrance

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

The Book of Remembrance

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them;
so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name”

Malachi 3:16

For the seventh and final time the priests in the days of Malachi demand God be more specific in how He was chastising them for their apathy, disrespect and sin.  First, God said He loved them.  And, like spoiled, ungrateful children they responded to His love by saying, “In what way have You loved us?” (Mal. 1:2).  From there, six more times, God lovingly corrects His priests and people and yet they have the arrogance and gall to call God’s hand and demand He provide them proof of what He was saying about them.  They said:

“In what way have we despised Your name?” (Mal. 1:6).
“In what way have we defiled You?” (Mal. 1:7).
“In what way have we wearied Him (God)?” (Mal. 2:17).
“In what way shall we return?” (Mal. 3:7).
“In what way have we robbed You?” (Mal. 3:8).

Finally, God says to His servants, “Your words have been harsh against Me.”  And they quickly reply, “What have we spoken against You?” (Mal. 3:13).  In effect, we reject what You are saying about us, God, and demand You produce evidence to support Your claim.  Really?

So God, gracious and loving, ever patient and forgiving, presents the evidence they demanded.  He has heard what they have been saying to each other about Him.  He knows their demeaning words spoken in the shadows, in silent whispers, in gossip, about His love, His justice and His faithfulness.  He knows all and hears all.  And their words about Him have been harsh, cutting, and hurtful.

It began in Malachi 2:17 where God’s sense of justice and fairness was questioned and condemned by the people and priests. But God heard their talk, their hushed conversations to each other, and was wearied by their words.  “Everyone,” they claimed, “who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord.  And He delights in them.”

Ouch.  That’s calling the very nature and essence of God into question.  And that’s not a very wise thing to do

Then, they continued in the next chapter by saying, “It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts?” (Mal. 3:14).

Excuse me.  Let’s just get a few things straight before we go any further.  First, you haven’t kept His ordinance.  Not one little bit.  Have you been listening to what He has been telling you about robbing Him (Mal. 3:8), breaking covenant with your wives (Mal. 2:14), offering defiled food on His altar (Mal. 1:7), and despising His very name (Mal. 1:6)?  And second, saying you are walking around like mourners at a funeral makes one want to laugh.  There’s no mourning over your sin or over the disrespect of your God.  None.  You’re knee deep in guilt and self-delusion thinking God doesn’t know your heart and hear your words.  He is, after all, God— the always-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing God.


But What About Those Who Do Right?

But what about the others?  What about those who have stood firm in their faith, those who have presented themselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2), those who, like Paul, have fought the good fight (2 Tim. 4:7)?  What does God say about them?

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name” (Mal. 3:16).

The other group, those who feared the Lord, the remnant, spoke to one another and the Lord heard what they were saying (Mal. 3:16).  In fact, He was so taken by their words and their devotion to Him, in contrast to the harsh, hurtful words spoken by the priests and people, that He had their words written in a book of remembrance and set before Him.  Did you ever wonder why?


The Book of Remembrance

What is the book of remembrance that was written before God? (Mal. 3:16).  And what was written in it that needed to be remembered?

Several places in the Scriptures we find a reference to God’s book (Ex. 32:32; Ps. 56:8; Dan. 7:10; Rev. 13:8, 20:15).  Some of these references speak of the book of the living or the book of life, but they generally mean a book of righteous people or righteous deeds.  In fact, the Persian kings kept such books that recorded services rendered to the king so those services could be rewarded in due time.  Remember King Ahasuerus, Haman, Mordecai and Esther for example (Esther 6:1-3).

As with Mordecai, often rewards are delayed.  And sometime they are delayed to the point they seem like they will never happen, like they’ve been forgotten or intentionally overlooked.  When that delay continues indefinitely discouragement, depression, rejection and despair often occur.

But the Bible also teaches that faithfulness to God will never go unnoticed and will be rewarded in due time.  The book of remembrance is God’s way of telling those who might grow weary in doing well (Gal. 6:9), those who faithfully suffer alone in trials and tribulation (Jas. 1:2-3), those who may become discouraged or depressed, that God remembers and He sees and “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).


Are We Written in His Book of Remembrance?

God has a reason for His book of remembrance.  It’s to show the world the distinction between “the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal. 3:18).  It’s much like the plagues on Egypt, during the days of Moses, where the Lord made a clear distinction between His people and those who were cursed, the Egyptians (Ex. 9:6, 26; 10:23).  Or, in I John 2:19 where it says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  Again, the goal is to show a crystal clear distinction between “the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal. 3:18).

Hence, the book of remembrance.

But there’s also another reason for God to write the names of His righteous children or their righteous deeds of faith in a book of remembrance.  It’s not to help God remember because He is, after all, God and remembers all— but it’s to help us remember that God never changes (Mal. 3:6) and He will not forget those who don’t forget Him (Mal. 3:16).  And for those whose names and deeds are written in His book and not to be forgotten, for those who “feared the Lord and spoke to one another” God has a special promise.  A special promise He doesn’t want us to forget.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels (or, special treasure, personal possession).  And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Mal. 3:17).  Did you read that?  Can your mind wrap around the glorious, indescribable, uncontainable blessings He has for those who are His?  Just think, those who love the Lord with all their heart, those who serve and revere Him above all others, those who are called by His Name, those who live in the awe and wonder of who He is will be His personal possession and He will make them His own special treasure, His own jewels.  Can you think of anything more glorious than that?

Is your name written in the Lord’s book of remembrance?  Has He recorded your service rendered to the King of Kings so He can reward you in due time?  Is there anything in your devotion to the Lord Jesus worthy of remembering?  If so, praise to the Lord.  All glory belongs to Him.  But if not, why?  Why waste another second of your finite life living for the trinkets and toys of this fallen world when you can live for the praise and adoration of the King and be called His special treasure.

After all, God does not change and His Word is true. Always.

And this is the promise to those whose name and deeds are written in the book of remembrance.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Come Lord Jesus.

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Can We Trust Jesus at His Word?

Can We Trust Jesus at His Word?

As I’ve studied John 7, I’ve become somewhat fixated at verse 46.  This verse has spoken truth to me and has forced me to face some blind spots, some shortcomings, some failures in my relationship with my Lord Jesus.  And these failures come in the form of childlike trust.  Or my lack of childlike trust in my Lord.

Let me set the scene for you.

As Jesus was preaching His Word to the unbelieving crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), the Pharisees and chief priests were conspiring together to have Jesus arrested and removed from their midst.  They did not want the Romans involved, at least not yet, so they ordered the Temple officers, or Temple police, to “take Him” when the opportunity presented itself and bring Him back to them for trial (John 7:32).

It appears the officers shadowed Jesus for a least one full day, maybe more, before returning to the Pharisees empty handed.  In John 7:32, they are given the command to “take Him” and at least one other day passes by the time we get to John 7:37 when Jesus stands up on the last day, the great day of the feast, and offers His “thirst, come, and drink” invitation.  They listened to Jesus for at least one full day.  They also heard the promise of the Holy Spirit swelling to rivers of living water to those who believed (John 7:38-39).  And something in the words of Jesus changed them.

The crowd who heard Jesus’ message was divided (John 7:43) as to what to think about the man.  Some said He was the Prophet and others the Christ.  Still others couldn’t make up their mind and argued about Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and how many, if any, Jesus fulfilled (John 7:40-42).

But the officers weren’t divided.  They listened and they knew and they returned to the Pharisees without Jesus, without excuses, empty handed.  When the Pharisees demanded, “Why have you not brought Him?” (John 7:45).  They simply replied, with bewildered expressions on their faces, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).  Yes, no man had the words of truth like Jesus and no man ever said the things Jesus said.

No one.  Ever.


They Believed Jesus at His Word.  Do We?

I wish I could trust the words of Jesus more than I do.  I wish I had the faith to believe everything He said, even the hard stuff.  For example, in Matthew 6:33 Jesus promised, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  And what things was Jesus talking about?  For starters, the very things I worry and fret over: my life (Matt. 6:25), how will I provide for my family (Matt. 6:31), and what the uncertain future holds (Matt. 6:34).  But Jesus clearly said if I seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first, before anything else, then He will take care of my needs.  As a good and gracious Lord, He will provide food, shelter and clothing for me.  And not only that, but He said He knows me so well that the very hairs on my head are numbered (Matt. 10:30).  Not counted, numbered.  He know and loves us that much!

But that’s a hard thing to believe.  And I don’t know why.

Jesus says if I, being evil, know how to give good gifts to my children, how much more will my Heavenly Father give good gifts to me? (Matt. 7:11).  Why is this truth so hard to live by?  Why is it so hard to believe?

These officers were listening to Jesus speak while they were strategizing for the best time, the most opportune moment, to arrest Him and bring Him back bound to the Pharisees.  But His words changed their heart.  His words changed their view of life, their view of true, eternal authority, and their view of their purpose, meaning, and destiny.  They were no longer pacified with the temporal, passing, transitory trinkets of life— now they were enamored with the Kingdom of God, and the King Eternal.


What Did They Hear Jesus Say?

One, they head Jesus proclaim, over and over again, He was sent from God (John 7:28-29).  Not sent by God, but sent from God.  This implies a pre-existence with the One who sent Him.  You and I can be send by God.  But Jesus was sent from God.  And there is a great difference between the two.

Two, they heard Jesus say His life was not His own, but was planned, ordered and arranged by God (John 7:6).  Jesus said everything is in His Father’s hand and He was here to do His Father’s will.  In fact, the very words these guards heard Jesus speak came from the Father, and not from Jesus (John 7:16-17).  Jesus spoke and modeled true submission to authority.

Three, they heard Jesus say that He, and He alone, was the answer to man’s deepest needs.  He invited the guards to come to Him and drink and let Him satisfy their thirst for peace, joy, and purpose in this life (John 7:37-38).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Four, they heard Jesus say He comes to offer them the greatest blessing imaginable (John 7:38).  He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, to live inside of each of them, to take up residence as our deposit, our guarantee of our future inheritance to come in Him (Eph. 1:14).

And the officers were so mesmerized by the words of Christ, so thankful for what they heard, they went back to the Pharisees empty handed, willing to suffer whatever consequences awaited them.  But they didn’t care.  Because they had been in the presence of the Living Lord Jesus and had learned to trust Him at His word.

I pray that you and I, the church, would learn to do the same.  To simply trust Him at His word.

After all, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).

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Faith, Worry, and Anxiety

Faith, Worry, and Anxiety

The following is George Muller’s take on Matthew 6:33.  These are words I need to memorize and recite daily.

“Where anxiety begins, faith ends.  When faith begins, anxiety ends.”

And remember the words of Jesus:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

What “things”? we ask.  By “things” the Lord was talking about all the stuff we worry and fret and give ourselves ulcers about:  money (Matt. 6:24), our house (Matt. 6:25), what we will eat and what we will wear (Matt. 6:31), the future (Matt. 6:34).  Makes little sense to worry about things the Lord promises to take care of, doesn’t it?

If we are “children of God” and “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17)— then worry is a sin, a form of blasphemy.  Worry is assuming a responsibility that God did not intend for us to have.  And worry, is the opposite of faith.

I don’t want to live in the clutches of fruitless worry any longer.  Do you?  If not, come join with me in believing the truth of Matthew 6:33.

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Podcast 258:  Living in the Realm of the First Importance

Podcast 258: Living in the Realm of the First Importance

Jesus placed as first importance the need to count the costs (Luke 14:28) before coming to Him and partaking of His life (John 7:37-38).  But many today fail to embrace, or even consider, what it means to truly follow Christ.  We debate among ourselves trivial theological matters or define, to our own carnality, what is “permissible” in the Christian life, yet fail to understand the depths of the new life He has call us to.

It’s a life, mind you, of holiness.  After all, “No man ever spoke like this Man! (John 7:46).

Want to know more about the life of faith?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 7:40-52.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Salvation:  The Deception of Non-Saving Faith

Salvation: The Deception of Non-Saving Faith

All throughout Scripture we see examples of people who have faith, but it’s non-saving faith.  After all, everyone of us have some type of faith and we exercise faith every day.  We have faith a car will stop while we cross the street, we have faith our prescriptions will actually do what our doctor told us they would do, we have faith a chair will hold us up when we sit down in a crowded restaurant, and we have faith the sun will come up in the morning as we prepare to go to the job we have faith we still have.  We all have faith— but we have faith at different levels and in different things.  And not all faith is the same.

For example, we have a certain type of faith in our government or in our economic system or in the media.  But that faith is not as strong, nor of the same substance, as the faith we have in the sanctity of our marriage, or in the trustworthiness of our best friend, or in our ability to keep a promise to those we love.  Each of these kinds of faith are as different and varied as the objects of that faith.  And none of these reaches the level of faith or trust or dependence we would expect to have in Christ.  Hence, we would call these examples, non-saving faith.

But what happens when a seeking person, just like you or me, comes to Jesus for salvation with nothing more than non-saving faith?  Would that person be saved?  Or would they be deceived into thinking what faith they had, bordering on intellectual curiosity, was sufficient for salvation?


The Deception of Non-Saving Faith

The Scriptures repeatedly warn about the deception of non-saving faith.  In the Parable of the Sower, seventy-five percent of the seeds sown did not lead to salvation (Matt. 13:3-9).  Those who sowed in the shallow soil and in the thorny soil were deceived into thinking mere growth, without corresponding fruit, equates to salvation.  Or, to put it another way, faith, without corresponding fruit, leads to salvation.  And the Scriptures clearly state they don’t.

Additionally, the Scriptures talk about having a “form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5).  We see people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, both lost, serving as prominent members of the church (1 Tim. 1:20).  There are those who come to the wedding feast dressed in clothes of their own righteousness.  The end result?  They were bound, hand and foot, and “cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13).  We have the warning from the Lord about the wide road that leads to destruction and the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).  And, in the book of Hebrews, there are those who were “once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift” but never fully drank of the living waters of salvation (Heb. 6:4).

Remember, Jesus said He “did not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36).  How?  Because our commitment to Christ must be greater than our love and devotion for those we hold most dear, even our own family.  Jesus, when asked “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” said of His own family, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50).

The sad truth is many people come to Christ but never fully partake, or drink, of Him (John 7:37) and are deceived into believing they are truly saved.  Many people, most in fact, go part of the way towards Christ and end up short of true salvation.  They feel and recognize their need for Christ and acknowledge He is the only One that can satisfy their deepest longings, yet they fail to appropriate Him into their lives on His terms.  They thirst, they come— but they fail to drink.  They create their own gospel, their own way of salvation, and their own standards of righteousness, holiness and sanctification.  Yet they are deceived— because a man-made Gospel does not lead to Christ.


Thirst, Come and Drink

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, approximately six months before Jesus was to celebrate His last Passover in Jerusalem and was later betrayed and crucified (John 13:1), He stood in the midst of the crowd and gave the following invitation: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  Jesus gives His gospel presentation to a group of people who have very different views about who He is.  And whenever Jesus presents us with Himself— He always forces us to chose.  We are forced to either accept Him on His terms or to reject Him outright.  There’s no middle ground, no gray area, and it’s not open to personal interpretation.  It happened to the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles and it happens today every time the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed.

The questions are always the same:  Who is Jesus?  What is truth? (John 18:38).  Is Jesus who He really says He is?  And, if He is, what does that mean for me?  Is it really possible to have my sins forgiven?  How can I be reconciled with God?  Tell me, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 2:37).

In this passage, three key words describe the path of true salvation.  The words are thirst, come, and drink.  And the promise, of course, to those who thirst, come, and drink: eternal life with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit, the living water Jesus talked about (John 7:39).

Thirst – those who thirst recognize a deep longing, an intense craving, an unsatisfied need in their life.  It’s those who come to grips with the reality that their life has no eternal purpose or meaning and they are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  They instinctively perceive there’s more to life than what they’re experiencing and, therefore, they try to fill the void they feel with all sorts of carnal sensations— sex, drugs, food, false religions and philosophies, immoral relationships, pride, selfishness, arrogance— until they finally admit only Jesus can bring light into their darkness.

Come – when the personal longings become unbearable and the promise of redemption seems so alluring, so captivating, and enticing, many come to Jesus for what He promises to offer.  These understand who Jesus claims to be, the exalted Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, and they understand what He has done for them, redeeming them from the penalty and power of sin by dying for them on the cross.  What they know and understand about Jesus is true.  The problem, however, is what they do with that truth.

In other words, there’s more to salvation than simply coming to Jesus.  You can’t just come and receive Him on your terms as some sort of trade or barter transaction.  You must enter through the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13), on His terms, and His terms are not open to negotiation.  His terms are all or nothing, total commitment, His life for yours.  He doesn’t come to make us better or to enhance certain aspects of our life… no, He comes to put us to death and raise us to life again in His image, as His child, to do His will and not our own (Rom. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is the Lord, the Sovereign One, God Almighty (Phil. 2:10-11), and we are now voluntary slaves, bondslaves, of His.  Remember the words from Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Note, it’s Jesus as Lord and nothing else.  You cannot come to Jesus as Savior only.  He is Savior, because He is Lord.

Most people never make it this far.  They never move past simply coming to Jesus and they never progress to true salvation.  Most view Jesus as an enlightened master or great teacher or the supreme moral example for all mankind, but never as Lord.  They fail to take Him at His Word, or count the costs of salvation (Matt. 8:19-22), and to give their lives to Him in abject submission and humility.  They want what He can do for them to make their life better, but they do not want Him as their Lord.  So they say a prayer and try to incorporate some behavior, moral changes into their life and maybe even experience a deceptive sense of salvation, like a sensation of peace or contentment, but they have never yielded or surrendered their life to Him nor submitted to His Lordship.  And, as sad as it may seem, they’re still lost.  Why?  Because their nature has not been changed (2 Cor. 5:17), redemption and conversion have not taken place, and the Holy Spirit does not indwell them as their deposit, their guarantee of their future inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:14).  And then Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:23).

Drink – this is where true salvation takes place.  You have a thirst and you come to Christ to quench and satisfy your thirst, yet simply coming to where the Living Water flows does not, in itself, quench your thirst.  You must drink.  You must partake.  You must be engulfed, enveloped, saturated in Christ, the Living Water.  He must be everything to you if you are to receive anything from Him.  Salvation, being a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), requires more than reciting some prayer as a nine year old at VBS.  It’s a radical, unconditional, total and complete, without reservation and with reckless abandonment, pledge, vow, promise, commitment, allegiance to Christ as Lord.  You are no longer your own to do what you wish with your life (1 Cor. 6:19).  You have been bought with a price, you now belong to Him, and you are to live to bring Him honor (1 Cor. 6:20).  You are now pilgrims and strangers on the earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11), because this world is not your home (Heb. 13:14).

This is this kind of all or nothing relationship that marked the disciples, the early church, and every true believer since Pentecost until today.  And, if you truly know Christ and are known by Him, it will mark your life also.


Those Who Believed Jesus… Kinda

The Scriptures tell us when Jesus finished His invitation to the unbelieving crowd to come and drink of Him and those who would come and drink would receive, in themselves, the flowing rivers of eternal life in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), the crowd was divided.  Some believed His words, but only partially.  Some didn’t believe at all, and wanted to destroy Him (John 7:44).

Nothing much has changed.  As it was back then, so it is today.


Truly this is the Prophet

John 7:40-41 states:  Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.”  Others said, “This is the Christ.”  Note, they said He was the Prophet, capitalized, and not a prophet.  This first group was asserting that Jesus was the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,”  For centuries this passage had be interpreted to prophetically speak of the coming Messiah, the Christ.  However, by the time of Jesus, the Jewish scholars, from their understanding of Malachi 3, believed the passage spoke more of the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6). and not the Messiah Himself.  Now the Prophet was someone who would show men their need for a Redeemer, for Christ, and then faithfully point them to the only One who could satisfy their need.  But the Prophet was not the Messiah and could not, himself, satisfy their thirst, need or longing.  He could just point the way or be a path or channel, but He had no power or authority to grant salvation.

Unfortunately, many people still believe this about Jesus.

They believed Jesus came to point men towards the truth, but they would fervently deny He was the Truth (John 14:6).  They would declare Jesus came to point men to someone or something coming to satisfy all their needs, but He was not that Someone and He did not possess the something they were looking for.  The men who said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (John 7:40), recognized and affirmed the special status Jesus had as a one-of-a-kind religious leader who did things and taught things unlike any religious figure before (John 7:46).  He was in a class all by Himself.  They would even go so far as to say Jesus was sent by God and had a special relationship with God (John 3:2).  But they would not receive Him as God or serve Him as Lord.  They wanted Jesus and something else, anything else.  These were those who thirsted and came, but never drank.


This is the Christ

The second group said, “This is the Christ” (John 7:41).  This group recognized and believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of Israel, the One prophesied from the Old Testament (Luke 2:11).  Yes, they knew these facts about Him to be true, but they defiantly refused, like the first group, to bend their knee to Him as Lord (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).  They refused to commit their lives and future to Him as the Sovereign One.  The Scriptures do not indicate this group followed Jesus as Lord.  They simply said, “Yes, I believe He is the Son of God and, yes, I believe He is the Messiah and the Christ.  So what?  What does that mean to me?  Now, pass me the butter and biscuits.  I’m hungry.”

This group confessed Jesus as something, but not as Lord (Rom. 10:9).  They had non-saving faith in Jesus as the Christ.


This is the Christ… uh, but…

Then there’s the group that fully confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16), but would rather argue and bicker and debate over trivial matters of their own theology and reject Jesus because, in their mind, He didn’t meet every jot or tittle they thought He should (Matt. 5:18).  These are the ones who argue saying, “He can’t be the Christ because He came from Galilee and the Christ is supposed to come from Bethlehem.  Plus, the Scriptures teach the Messiah must come from the line of David, and I’m not sure where this guy comes from” (John 7:40-42).  So they compared what little they knew about Jesus with their own limited and incomplete knowledge of the prophetic Scriptures and concluded He could not possibly be the Messiah because He failed to meet all their sincerely held convictions of what the Messiah would be.  We have many in the church today who operate the same way.  They smugly elevate their own statement of beliefs or denominational creeds or preferences to the level of infallible Scripture and use them as a litmus test for fellowship or, sadly, salvation, and even truth.

But if this group would’ve investigated further, they would’ve discovered Jesus was from the line of David (Matt. 22:42) and did come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah (John 5:39).  But they were more concerned with being right in the eyes of each other and promoting their own theological brand or position than in knowing the truth.  In their apathy and laziness, they failed to look for the truth because they arrogantly assumed they’d already found it.  And in their pride and hypocrisy they missed their Messiah.

Again, just like the first two groups, they also missed out on eternal life.


Those Who Did Not Believe Jesus

The final group were those who hated the Lord Jesus and wanted to destroy Him.  These were the ones who wanted to take Him by force (John 7:44) but were prevented because, from God’s perspective, it was not yet His time and His hour had not come (John 7:30).  Needless to say, the people in this group did not understand Christ nor receive the gift of salvation He offered (John 7:37-39).


To What Group Do You Belong?

So where do you fit in?  What is your response to Christ?  Do you believe partially, somewhat, kinda, in Him?  Do you say, “Yes, He was a good man, and yes, He was sent from God, and yes, He’s a great moral teacher and example, and, yes, He’s a path or a way of some sorts to God.”  If so, that’s not enough.  Your confession of Him or your profession of faith is severely lacking.  Fatally lacking.  For Jesus, He is all or nothing.  There is no partial with Him.  There’s no half way, no honorable mention, no consolation prize, and no kudos for trying.  He’s all or nothing, totally in or totally out, through the narrow gate only, and on His terms without negotiation or compromise.

Remember His words,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53-55).

Or, in other words, Jesus gives eternal life to those who ingest Him into the core of their very being, as their strength, source of daily nourishment, their very sustenance.  Jesus did not come to make us better, or to enhance or improve our fallen lives.  No, He came to make us new, to put the old man to death and to raise the new man to life with Him.  And what kind of life does He promise?  It’s beyond anything we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21).  He offers a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).  And He promises we will be children of God, and if children, then heirs, and if heirs, then joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Just think, all that Christ is and all He possesses becomes ours as a joint heir with Him— when, and here is the requirement, we give all that we are to Him.  This promise belongs to those who exercise real, genuine, saving faith in the completed work of Christ.

One final thought, the seeds that fell on the path, in a shallow soil, and in the soil infested with weeds and thorns, did not produce fruit (Matt. 13:3-9).  They did not lead to eternal life.  Why?  Because Jesus never said you’ll know My disciples by their profession, nor church membership, nor civic good works, nor non-profit activities, nor from the applause of men — you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16-20).

Fruits.  And nothing else.

Do your fruits indicate you belong to Him?

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Salvation:  What About the Sinner’s Prayer?

Salvation: What About the Sinner’s Prayer?

Since we have established the fact that salvation is a spiritual experience and can also involve the emotions or feelings, the question to be asked is what happens when the salvation experience is devoid of any change in emotion or how someone feels?  What happens when the person never feels anything, no change, nothing new, after they pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask Jesus into their heart?  What does that mean?

I know, just the mention of the “sinner’s prayer” gives one pause, doesn’t it.

What is the sinner’s prayer and what does it mean?  What is a proper “sinner’s prayer”?  What specific words have to be spoken in order for true salvation to take place?  How much of the actual prayer does the sinner need to quote properly in order to get saved?  What’s a passing grade?  And how much of the prayer do you really have to believe to make it into heaven?  After all, we don’t want to miss the cut by just a few points.

See the confusion?  Let’s take a look at the “sinner’s prayer” together.


The Sinner’s Prayer:  What it is

In the church today, evangelism is often focused on simply getting someone to say a prayer or a formula that we believe always leads to salvation.  Why?  Because we have reduced the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to a short creedal statement of mere facts about Jesus, or redefined it as a set of steps or laws, much like a cake recipe, one must follow.  If we can get the person to pray the formula or recite the facts, or just agree with us while we mouth the magic words, then our theology states salvation has taken place.  Why?  Because, we reason, they have “confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus”— and we assume “have believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead”— hence, we conclude they “will be saved” (Rom 10:9).  And, to be fair, a casual look at this Scripture could give you that impression.

This prayer, popularly known as the sinner’s prayer, can vary widely in how it’s administered or recited, but always includes some required key elements in order to make it valid.  It’s a prayer that fulfills the confession requirement in Romans 10:9.  And we just assume that to confess means to pray and believe what we feel are key components about Christ and His nature and His atonement. It becomes a sort of short mini-catechism or dwarfed creedal statement.

One of the key requirements in the sinner’s prayer are some words that indicate the person understands they are, in fact, a sinner and in need of salvation.  This is obvious.  In this part of the prayer they would acknowledge their sin and guilt before the Lord and confess they have fallen short of what God’s intention was for them (Rom. 3:10, 23).  There would also be an understanding of their eternal state apart from Christ and His forgiveness and a distinction between heaven, the desired place, and Hell, the default place (Rom. 6:23).

Another required component in the sinner’s prayer would be the understanding of what God has provided for them through His Son Jesus Christ in order to have their sins forgiven and forgotten.  The prayer would include some words that acknowledge the fact that their sins were imputed to Christ and His righteousness was imputed to them and they are trusting in His completed work for the atonement for their sins.

The sinner’s prayer might go something like this:  “Lord, I know that I am a sinner and that I have lived my life for myself and not for You.  I confess my sins before You and ask that You forgive my sins because I believe that Jesus paid the penalty for my sins for me when He died on the cross.  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was raised from the dead on the third day and I’m asking You to come into my life to be my Lord and Saviour.  I renounce my life of sin and self and accept the healing and cleansing that only You can give.  Thank You for hearing my prayer and forgiving my sins.  For the rest of my life I want to love and serve only You.  Amen.”

Then, as far as we know, we assume the person praying the prayer was sincere and, therefore, is now saved.  But the Scriptures tell us the evidence of salvation is not a verbal prayer, no matter how sincere that prayer may be, but fruits that only the Holy Spirit can bring (Matt. 7:17-20).  But as not to get sidetracked, we’ll look into the evidence of true salvation at a later time.


The Sinner’s Prayer:  What it isn’t

The sinner’s prayer is not an incantation or mantra that always leads to salvation.  More often than not, it leads to a false sense of security for the unbeliever and literally innoculates them from true salvation.  It can function as the billboard to the wide road that leads to destruction Jesus warned us about (Matt. 7:13).  Let me explain.

For the past century or two we have been taught, both in seminary and from the pulpit, if a person says the sinner’s prayer they are saved.  And, under that assumption, we quickly baptize them to somehow “seal the deal” without any observable evidence of their salvation— no changed nature, no redeemed affections, no spiritual fruit, nothing.  We simply accept them at their word and on the authority of the prayer just prayed and forge ahead as if everything was fine.

But when warning sirens go off and they say something’s wrong, they don’t think they’re saved, or they begin to doubt the magic prayer worked, we ignore their pleas and chalk it up to Satan “just trying to make you doubt what God has already done in your heart.”  We point to Romans 10:13— “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”— and say, “Did you call on the name of the Lord?  Are you a whoever?  If you did, according to this verse, you’re saved!  So just believe it and don’t worry about how you feel.  The feelings will come later.”

Really?  So it’s more like the Amway slogan of “just fake it until you make it.”  No, I believe salvation, as we’ve stated before, radically changes every aspect of your life, and so much so, that you would know experientially if you had truly died and been raised to a new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4).

Reciting or memorizing historical facts about Christ does not, of itself, lead one to salvation.  For example, at the end of a Sunday service a young man walks down the aisle and tells the preacher he wants to get saved.  The preacher would, most likely, say something like this:

“Young man, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”
“Yes.”
“Do you believe He died on the cross, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in glory?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you asking Him to forgive you of all your sins and inviting Him to be the Lord of your life?”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“Great.  Then repeat this simple sinner’s prayer with me and you’ll be saved.”

But Satan could also recite these same historical facts about Jesus.  He could even pray most of the sinner’s prayer and still not receive the gift of salvation.  How can that be if the sinner’s prayer saves?

“Satan, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”
“Absolutely!  I know it to be a fact.”
“Satan, do you believe He died on the cross, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in glory?”
“Yes, I know what He did on the cross and all about His resurrection.  And I also know, and dread the day, when He will come back in glory.  I know all these things to be true.”
“Satan, are you asking Him to forgive you of all your sins and inviting Him to be the Lord of your life?”
“No.  I will not bow my knee to the Lordship of anyone but me.”

As you can see, salvation is much more than a simple prayer, it’s an acknowledgment, a life-long commitment, a fervent trust, a submission, originating from the very core of our being, that Jesus is Lord.  We focus on the confession part of Romans 10:9 because it’s easy, and not the object of that confession, the Lordship of Christ, because it’s so hard.  Simple, yes.  But very hard.  For it’s only belief, or faith, in the object of that confession, Jesus is Lord, that brings about salvation and not the simple confession itself.

That if you confess with your mouth (the confession) the Lord Jesus (the object of the confession) and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

To restate, there’s more to salvation than just mouthing the sinner’s prayer.  And we would all like to think by repeating the sinner’s prayer the seeking person is actually declaring to God their total reliance on Christ as their Lord and Saviour and trusting in His completed work on the cross as all sufficient.  And we also understand there are no magical words needed to be said in order for salvation to take place.  Why?  Because salvation is by faith through grace in Christ alone, plus nothing and minus nothing (Eph. 2:8).  But there’s more.


The Sinner’s Prayer:  The Caboose of Salvation

The reality is that a believer is actually saved before they even utter the first words of the sinner’s prayer.  Are you shocked?  You shouldn’t be.  It’s not the prayer that makes a sinner a Christian, it’s the prayer of a sinner, already now a Christian, giving God glory by testifying what He has already done in their life.  And what has the Lord already done?  Election, the effectual calling of the sinner to Himself, conversion, regeneration, and much more.  Sound confusing?

Regeneration and conversion have already taken place by the time the sinner places His faith in Christ and, based on that faith, utters the words of the sinner’s prayer.  Plus, the very faith placed in Christ is faith given by God for that very purpose.  Why?  Because Scripture states, “there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10-11).  So the only way someone seeks for God is if God places that desire for Him in them.  And the only way we can place faith in Christ, faith we don’t have in and of ourselves, is if God gives us the faith to place in His Son.  Because on our own, as Romans 3:10-11 teach, we would not seek God and would not have saving faith to place in the work of Christ.  It’s all a gift from Him, a sovereign act of grace.

From start to finish, from election to glorification, salvation is all God.  And since this is true, then we’re saved before we even utter the first words of the sinner’s prayer.

Are you confused?  Does it seem strange to you?

We’ll look into this topic in greater detail, next.

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