"In Profession Only" (May 2004)
This month the newsletter is going to be a very pointed message. The Bible tells us to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15a) because it's the "truth that will make us free". (John 8:32) My desire and prayer is that the truth of this message- even if it sounds harsh- will bring conviction and repentance into your heart (if need be) before it is too late. The Lord's return is soon- we see the evidence of it all around us. The headlines in the newspapers and the reports that come to us via television sound like they are coming from the pages of the Bible. Prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes and the time for playing church and playing with the eternal destiny of our souls is long past. The sound will be coming forth sooner than we think... "The Bridegroom cometh". (Matthew 25:6) When it does, we don't want to get caught like the five foolish virgins... with no oil in our lamps. We don't want to stand before God on that day with "weeping and gnashing of teeth" because He says those dreaded words to us that will echo throughout all of heaven... "Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity, I never knew you". Sadly, many will stand before Him one day and hear those words, and the majority of them will be those who thought they were all right, who thought that everything was fine, who thought they were going to heaven. "Not every one that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven'." And then will I profess unto them I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21a, 23) We want to be ready. We want to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest of the Lord your God." And God has provided the way for that to be possible. But it's not a way that is to be taken for granted.
Having said all that, let me get into the heart of my message this month. It has been said that a person doesn't go to hell because of what they "do", but rather because of what they "don't do"- they go to hell because they don't receive (they don't accept) the way of escape that God has so graciously provided for them through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and the "wages of our sin is death" (Romans 6:23a)- eternal separation from God (which means we will spend eternity in hell, or rather, the lake of fire). "And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15- New Living Translation). But because God loved us so much, He provided a way of escape through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." (Romans 6:23b) If we don't accept the gift of God by accepting Jesus as our Savior, we are still lost in our sins and on our way to hell.
Getting back to our original statement- a person doesn't go to hell because of what they "do", but rather because of what they "don't do"- they go to hell because they don't receive (they don't accept) the way of escape that God has so graciously provided for them through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to submit to you that a person "does" go to hell because of what they "do"- because what you "do" is an indication of whether you have truly accepted God's Son Jesus as your Savior. If you have received Jesus then it is evident by the life you lead- by the things you "do". If you say you have received Him, but you are living contrary to His commandments, if you are following your own path instead of His ways, if you are not giving Him first place in your life, if you are not doing His will, if you are living in immorality and sin, then you have not really received Him!... bottom line!! If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then there is a change that takes place in your life- you don't do what you use to do, go where you used to go, live like you used to live- you don't want to do those things any more. Instead, you want to live in a way that pleases and is acceptable to Him. "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17- New Living Translation) A transformation has taken place in you and it is evident by what you "do".
There are those who would argue and say, "Drinking and smoking won't send me to hell. I'm not going to hell just because I curse, or gamble, or 'shack up'". Before we go any further let me say that it is not the purpose of this newsletter to debate whether certain practices are wrong or not, or are considered sin- the Bible is very clear on these subjects; these issues only come into question when we try to justify them. The purpose of this newsletter is to help you understand that if you have accepted Christ, then there is certain behavior and practices that will not be a part of your life. And if they are part of your life, if you are still partaking of them, if you are continuing to live the same way you did before you "accepted" Christ, then you need to take another look at what you consider to be salvation in your life. "Don't be mislead [deceived]. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit." (Galatians 6:7,8- New Living Translation) Remember, what you "do" is evidence of whether you have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord or not. If you have received Jesus as Savior and Lord, then what you will "do" is "live to please Him" and not live to "satisfy your own sinful desires".
As I said earlier, "the truth will set us free"- the word of God is the truth, it is always our source of reference, our guide, and our standard for living. So I want us to look at the word of God and see what He has to say about the connection between our lifestyle and our salvation.
Let's start at the beginning. If you say that you have accepted Jesus Christ and not rejected Him as Savior, then this is what happens. "But as many as received him [Jesus], to them gave he power to become the sons [children] of God, even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12,13) When you accept Jesus Christ, you have been 'born again'. "And Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter unto the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.'" (John 3:5,7) "Everyone who believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact) that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) is a born-again child of God." (1 John 5:1a) You have now become (been born) a "child of God". If you are a child, then you should take on the characteristics of your Father- you should look like and act like Him. "We know that whosoever is born of God does not sin." (1 John 5:18a) In the New Living Translation it reads- "We know that those who have become part of God's family do not make a practice of sin." If you are a child of God, then you do not practice sin- you don't have a lifestyle or habit of sin. "Dear children don't let any one deceive you about this: when people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the devil. Those who have been born into God's family do not sin, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they have been born of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not obey God's commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God." (1 John 3:7-10- New Living Translation) See, I didn't say it, the Bible says it- if you are continuing to do sinful things, then you aren't one of God's children; you belong to the devil and those who don't belong to God will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. If you truly have accepted Christ, then you can't keep sinning because God's life is in you.
Am I saying that Christians never sin- they never miss the mark? No, because there are times when we yield to temptation- "the Spirit is willing (to do the right thing), but the flesh is weak". (Matthew 26:41) This is why the scriptures tell us "that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). If Christians never missed it occasionally, then there would be no need for the Lord to tell us to "confess our sins because He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all iniquity". (1 John 1:9) The key word is "occasionally"- it's not a practice or lifestyle for us any more.
A profession of Jesus as Lord is not necessarily an acceptance of Jesus as Lord. Just because you profess to be a Christian; just because you profess to have accepted Christ doesn't mean that you truly have. "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast our devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?' And then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' Not every one that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord', shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:22,23,21) "So if we continue to live in him, we won't sin either. But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is." (1 John 3:6- New Living Translation) In Matthew Jesus talks about a group of people who will come to Him on that day and profess that He is Lord and that they have "lived" for Him, but He will tell them that He doesn't know them. In trying to discover why He would say that, we see in First John that He tells us that whoever keeps on sinning does not know Him. If you are continuing to live in sin, you don't know Him and He doesn't know you either; and if He doesn't know you... you won't enter into His kingdom (you won't live in heaven). "Afterward came also the other virgins [the five foolish], saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us'. But he answered and said, 'Verily I say unto you, I know you not.'" (Matthew 25:11,12) There is more to it than a mere profession. If you have truly accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior you will follow Him. This means you will do His will, and conform your life to His will. "But he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21b) He that "doeth"- actions speak louder than words. "As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him." (Colossians 2:6- Amplified Bible) Again, if you have truly accepted Him, it will be evident in your life by what you do- by how you live.
We can't think for one minute that what we "do" (how we live) isn't important. It is important because it's an indication of what's inside our heart. Whatever is in your heart, whatever you value most, whatever you believe, whatever you adhere to, and who you are will manifest itself in what you do. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20) "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16) We are known by what comes from our lives (our fruit). What's produced from your life? If you are a child of God, good fruit should be coming from your life. If you aren't, the fruit will be evil. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit." (Matthew 12:33) "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." (Matthew 7:17) "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matthew 7:18) If we are bearing fruit that is good- love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, temperance, longsuffering (Galatians 5:22,23)- then it is an indication that we have accepted Christ and that He lives in our hearts and directs our lives. If we are bearing evil fruit- hate, envy, jealousy, strife, pride, lying, adultery, selfishness, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness (to name a few)- then it's an indication that the Lord Jesus isn't living in our hearts. "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21- New Living Translation)
Since the word of God is our final authority on the subject, I'd like to just read you a few more scriptures. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8- NIV) "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." (Revelation 22:14-15) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8) "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." (Ezekiel 18:20- NIV)
As I said in the beginning of this newsletter, my desire is to bring the truth to you so that you won't be deceived into believing that it is well with your soul when it may not be. I am only to present the word of truth to you, it's up to you to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". (Philippians 2:12b) Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, but to save it. My purpose has not been to condemn either, but to enlighten. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17) We are already condemned because of our sins. He wants to reconcile us to Himself now on earth and then at the appointed time when our life is over, He wants to take us to heaven to be with Him forever. If we don't accept Him as our Savior, we won't escape the wrath that is to come. And if we have accepted Him, it will be evident in our lives. I'm sure that most of you have heard the question, "If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" I have to ask you this same question now. Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Where do we find that evidence you ask? It's is found in your lifestyle, in your behavior, in the way you conduct yourself, in your speech, in what you do and what you don't do.
If you "don't" accept Jesus as Savior you will go to hell. If you are living a sinful lifestyle, then it is evidence that you haven't accepted Him. (What you do is telling on you.) Because if you say you have but you aren't lining your life up with your profession, then you really haven't. If you have made the discovery through this newsletter that you really haven't received Jesus Christ as Savior, now is the time to turn your heart to Him before it's too late. When you do, He will make you His child and give you the strength and help to line your life up (line your actions up) with your profession. You will then be a doer and not a professor only.