I do realize this post is quite long, and m it ay go unread. Then again, the Lord may providentially bring someone to this site so that they may come face-to-face with their need of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and that by reading the scriptures that I cite, they'll turn to Christ for salvation. That is my prayer!
I just heard something very disturbing. Granted, it wasn't the sound of tires screeching before a car crash with the knowledge that the the occupants of the car just died. In fact, it was a lot more disturbing than that. It came out of a Roman Catholic priest's mouth on tonight's episode of CSI: Miami.
While in confession, Horatio was describing some past deed that he is attempting to make penance. Instead of offering him hope and forgiveness found by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection and the forgiveness that He alone offers, the priest tells him "When you've done enough, Horatio, you'll know." Scary words, indeed!
The priest, and probably Horatio himself, believes that Horatio's right-standing with God is based partly upon Horatio's attempt to measure up to God's righteousness. This sense of righteousness is the exact opposite of what God says in His Word. Paul writes in Romans 9, verse 16: "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (NKJV).
According to this verse, our salvation is not based on our choosing or our striving. Basically, it can be said this way: God is the Doer in salvation. We do nothing to merit it. Instead, God saves by grace, and we accept the gift of salvation only by grace through the faith that He gives us. God is the One who initiates salvation through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44; 16:8-11). It's not as if a person rises in the morning and flippantly says to himself, "you know, I think I feel like becoming a Christian today...Heaven sounds like a pretty good deal. Why not?" This is not the attitude of a person that God has been convicting of sin and truly dealing with. As I remember my grandfather reminding me, the attitude of saving faith is the attitude of the man that simply knew he was a sinner and called out, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." My grandfather rightly saw this as one of the best summaries of an attitude of one with saving faith.
Remember that I made the decision to say a prayer when I was 7. However, salvation didn't come because I decided I wanted to say a few words of a prayer. God hadn't been dealing with me. This was a man-centered attempt at salvation, and it wasn't genuine. Instead, conversion came about during February of this year when I was truly miserable and convicted of my sin. Salvation will not come to a person who doesn't acknowledge their sin. As my great aunt Linda would tell me, "The Spirit's gotta deal with the person first." All I know is that at age 7, I had little awareness of my sin or that I had grieved a holy God. It took God convicting me over months and months about a year ago (one might even say He had been convicting me for years) before I would respond to Him in faith.
Saul did not choose the exact moment for the blinding light to change his life, and the disciples did not ask Christ to say, "Follow me." In the same way, I did not tell Jesus Christ, "Say to me, 'Come, follow me,' (Matt. 11:28-30)," which was the passage the Spirit used to convert me. Instead, He was the One who chose that moment, in the midst of my theological studies, to convert me, and once He called, I just couldn't say no. I knew I was doomed without Him, and I saw that I could never live without Him. It was like finding a treasure chest buried in a cow pasture. There's no way I would leave it behind, because it is so valuable. It was in this way that I finally saw Jesus Christ. The blinders were off, and I responded to Him. I responded to His invitation, and salvation (although it is ultimately a work of God) always requires a response from the individual. There are some who would say that salvation requires no response from the individual, and they are dead wrong and will be responsible for leading many to destruction. Instead, the Bible says that we must repent of our sin, which means forsaking what we have done and decide that we want to live for Christ. It is basically agreeing with God about our sin: it is wrong and harmful and we choose to leave it behind.
This truth is the reason why Romans 1 is so scary. Sometimes, God calls off the pursuit of rescuing the lost sinner. The bloodhounds for the lost are sent packing and the evangelists with their flashlights of grace are sent home. When men are turned over to a reprobate mind, it means that God has given up on them. When God gives up on a man, there's absolutely no hope. However, man chooses to be in this state by continually rejecting the Savior, and it's a reminder to those that are lost to be aware that there may be a point of no return, so to speak.
With some people, God gets to the point of saying, "Fine, if all you want to do is sin and reject me, have at it." It's a sad state, but it's a reality for many people. However, if there is remorse and conviction, there's hope. The person who is worried that he may be in this state of hopelessness is probably being dealt with by the Spirit at that moment. God never rejects those who come to Him by grace through faith.
And for that, I'm eternally grateful.
So, today, if you've been striving to please God with a good life, just hoping that you'll make yourself "saveable," there's no hope. The hope is in Jesus Christ. Quit trying to please God with your church attendance and your Bible reading and your prayers. I did all of that for years, and it just damned me further. God desires for you to seek Jesus. Acknowledge that you're a sinner and in need of a Savior (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) based on His life, death, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-4, ff.), and pray to God, confessing that you give your life to Him because you want Him to be the Lord of your life (Rom. 10:9-13). If you call on the name of the Lord, He will save you (Rom. 10:13).
And that has nothing to do with anything you have done or can do. At that point, you basically say that you want what Christ has done. See, when you come to saving faith, God considers Christ's sinless life, death, and resurrection as the payment for you. After becoming a Christian, He looks down and sees you clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. In short, He sees, "Debt Paid" written all over you. It's all about Jesus and His righteousness!
However, you must respond by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
I end with the words of the apostle Paul, who has just concluded writing of the truths of salvation in chapters 1-11 of the book of Romans. After writing of God's glorious work in salvation, it's almost like he just breaks forth in words of just sheer awe and praise for God:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.(Rom. 11:33-36, ESV)