Life's Most Important Choices
This Week's Feature Article by Jack Kelley
Recently I've been asked about witnessing to “unsaved believers” as one writer called them. I usually refer to them as Christians-in-name-only. They call themselves Christians and do some things that make them appear to be Christians. They go to Church, make regular contributions, sign up for volunteer service projects, even teach Sunday School, but they're not born again. Being born again means you know you're a sinner in need of a savior. You believe Jesus died for all your sins and have asked Him to be your Savior. According to Jesus, people who are not born again will be denied entrance into the Kingdom (John 3:3) no matter how “good” they've been on Earth.
Very few Christians-in-name-only have actually refused to be born again, they just don't think it's necessary. They were taught that they're saved because they were baptized as infants, or because they belong to a certain church or denomination, or because they try to live a good life. They're relying on what someone has told them instead of learning what the Bible says. With all the necessary resources at their disposal, they've staked their eternal destiny on the opinion of someone who might not be saved himself rather than do their own homework.
They're very difficult to witness to because they don't think they need it. Someone once said, "There is no greater obstacle to learning the truth than the belief you've already learned it." The only thing we can do, which turns out to be the best thing, is pray that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to the truth while there's time.
They don't realize that there are only two alternatives available to mankind. We either choose God or we choose Satan. If we fail to choose God we're choosing Satan by default. There is neither any middle ground nor is there another alternative. In Ephesians 2:1-5 Paul made God's perspective on this very clear.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
We evaluate people based on how we think they compare to others, but God's standards are very different (Isaiah 55:8). Even the good things non-believers do are disgusting to him (Isaiah 64:6) and further the enemy's cause (Matt. 7:21-23). This is not a benign issue, and it's not a case where someone can sit on the sidelines and not participate. In God's sight people who fail to personally accept His pardon for their sins have chosen to align themselves with His enemy and will be treated accordingly. They will have failed to meet His only requirement, and nothing else will suffice.
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
Believing there's a God is not enough. Neither is believing in God. You must believe God sent His Son to Earth to die for your sins so you could go to Heaven to live with Him.
You can't experience God in your life but reject the pardon He provided for your sins. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). If someone is experiencing God in their life, they're also feeling the call of the Holy Spirit to come to the Son, and by failing to do so they're rejecting the Father (John 5:23). The Son is the only way.
And Two More
Most of the people who visit this site have made the choice to accept the Lord's pardon for our sins and have been born again. Once we're born again there are two new alternatives to choose from and those are to either live the balance of our life in His will or continue living in our own will (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:22-24). If we choose to live our life in His will we can bear much fruit for the Kingdom and will receive eternal rewards. If we choose to live in our own will we can do nothing of value for the Kingdom, no matter how good our lives and deeds are perceived to be on Earth (John 15:5). We'll still be saved and we'll go in the rapture but we'll have nothing to show for the time we spent as believers here (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Most believers make the wrong choice in this regard, and there are several ways to do that. Some continue living their lives the same way they always have. To the casual observer they look just like their unbelieving counterparts, except for an hour or so on Sunday mornings. They're hiding their light under a bushel.
Others set out to show the world just how good a Christian they are. They take on great challenges and appear to do mighty works, but the focus is always on them, not the Lord. Applying the world's standards of success to their Christian life they completely miss the point. It's not what we can do for Him that matters, it's what we allow Him to do through us.
Still others wrap themselves in a cloak of self righteousness. Like the Pharisees before them they make a great show of living a “good Christian life” while condemning those who don't, at least in their opinion. They're known primarily for what they're against, instead of what they're for.
None of these choices can result in lives pleasing to the Lord because they're all self centered instead of being God centered.
Those who choose to live in His will discover that He gives us supernatural strength to accomplish His will. In Romans 12:1-2 we're told to offer our whole lives as living sacrifices to God as our spiritual act of worship. We're not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This is how we discover His will for us. Right after that is a list of seven spiritual gifts that strengthen us to accomplish His will. Romans 12:6-8 lists gifts of prophecy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy, and He gives each of us one or more of them.
These are all gifts that bring us great satisfaction as we administer them, so don't get the idea that living in His will means living a life of deprivation and hardship. John 10:10 says He came so we can have life and have it abundantly. Romans 8:28 says God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Psalm 37:4 says when we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart. And Phil. 4:4-7 says we're to rejoice always, to pray about everything and not be anxious about anything. In doing so we can live in a state of peace that surpasses human understanding.
Learning to live in God's will can be scary at times because we're used to acting independently. But after we get the hang of it, we find it's one of the most exhilarating experiences we can have. Blessings come in so many different ways and at the most unexpected times, we're literally driven to our knees in gratitude time after time. There truly is nothing like it.
What Does It Take?
Living in His will takes a little getting used to but it isn't as difficult as it sounds. It involves letting the Holy Spirit guide us away from obviously inappropriate behavior, and responding to the Lord's calls for action. In Micah 6:8 He gave us three basic principles to follow in acting out His will in our lives. They're the guidelines that keep us from going out of bounds.
He Has Showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
When we're in God's will, we'll be acting justly toward everyone, knowing He will never involve us in anything that violates His law. When we're in God's will, we'll love to do things for others that demonstrate His mercy. We're not called to be agents of His wrath, but to show forth His love. And when we're in God's will we'll always be humble, knowing that whatever good we're doing is at His prompting and in His strength.
With rare exceptions, God doesn't suddenly uproot people or put them through a time of discomfort when they offer their life to Him. Neither does He suddenly impose a lot of rules or discipline upon us. After all, our sins are already paid for. Living in His will is mostly a matter of learning to listen for His voice and doing what He says. Like everything else, this becomes easier with practice. It's important to remember we're only responsible for making the effort. The results are His responsibility.
He won't have us start telling others how to live their lives, but He will give us guidance on how to live our own. For example, since His word says to give to every one who asks (Luke 6:30) He may start prompting us to respond generously whenever someone comes to us for help. And since it says to not let the Sun go down on our anger (Ephes 4:26), He'll prompt us to forgive as we've been forgiven.
When you first make the commitment to live in His will, He'll start with small things to get you used to listening, so if you even think you've heard His voice, do what you think He said to do, asking Him for the strength to do it. And what ever happens, don't take any of the credit for a positive outcome. The Lord gets the credit, you're just following orders.
As you learn to respond to little promptings, you'll receive bigger ones. Then one day you'll realize you've gained enough experience at living in the Lord's will that you no longer have to wonder about whether you're doing it. You'll find your actions and his will have become one and the same.
I know we don't have much time left, but don't make the mistake of thinking it's too late. Begin implementing Romans 12:1-2 in your life today and you'll be amazed at how much the Lord can do with a willing follower, no matter how short the time is. Selah 01-07-12