“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
Romans 10:10 NLT
There is a lot of controversy and disagreement surrounding this scripture because it deals with the core foundation of Christianity, salvation and conversion. I do not disagree with either stance however, I believe this is the road to salvation. I also believe it is not the whole road to salvation.
Here’s what I mean.
I’ve prayed with many folks to receive the Holy Ghost and the one thing stopping them from receiving anything from God is the fact that they don’t forgive themselves. The word says that you must believe in your heart that you are made right with God. This isn’t always easy. Recently I’ve learned that true repentance is a three step process. First you have to confess your sins. This is one of those things that people can say, “Well I confessed my sins to God and that’s okay :).” Sometimes but not always. You have to confess your sins to the people you’re hiding them from. This doesn’t mean that hypocrites owe you something now, but simply they must be honest with themselves and God of their hypocrisy. However, the man cheating on his wife doesn’t need to just confess his sins before God. He’s gotta come clean to her AND admit his problem before God before he can be right with God. You see what I mean? This confession starts you on the road to the next step of repentance which is shame.
You have to feel bad for what you’ve done, plain and simple. True shame shows you the truth about mankind. None of us are deserving of what we have. Those scriptures that call our wisdom foolishness compared to God and our righteousness filthy rags and stuff…and you were like “Yea, in comparison to GOD. We all come up short!” and you felt all good cuz you were giving God props but you still believe that “in comparison to Bruce over there tho, I’m like a Tibetan Monk or something.” You miss the true meaning of the scripture. You forget that one sin in your life deserves the END of your life. That means before God, you shoulda been dead a looooong time ago. That means every second after your first sin, you were living on grace. Now 5-80-something years later in the present day, you just now figured this out and are just now saying you’re sorry for the jerk you’ve been to God for possibly 10-80-something years. Now lets make this personal. Your spouse comes back to you after leaving you like 40 years ago and living it up without a second thought about you or the kids, realizes what he or she has done and comes back for an apology and second chance. Would you forgive? Let’s look at the flip side. You’re the spouse. You’ve been drinking, smoking, gambling, lying, having sex, ignoring, cursing, insulting, and generally being a careless person (never really in a whole lot of excess like Hollywood types but its your life and your body right?) despite the fact that you’ve got kids and a husband that you left in the dust like 40 years ago. A series of events hit you and you feel really really really bad for it all and decide to ask for a second chance. Would you forgive you? I hope you better understand God’s position on how righteous you think you are and what grace really means. Grace means you’re lucky you’re not dead already; now say thank you.
Coming back to our subject, you gotta realize the true gravity of what you’ve done and feel bad. Our friend David (of Goliath fame) said it best, “17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Contrite means “feeling or expressing remorse or penitence; affected by guilt,” some other words for broken are “defeated, beaten, subdued; demoralized, dispirited, discouraged, crushed, humbled; dishonored, ruined.” You gotta be broken before you can be fixed.
So now that we’ve been honest, and felt bad, lets go on to the third step…realization.
This is the part where you turn around. This is the part that can’t be explained in words. This is the part that can only be expressed in desperation and tears. This is where you realize you don’t know how to proceed, and you’re just sorry. This is when you know you’re worthless. This is when you feel like just lying before God in a limp pile of dirt, rubbish, and snotty tears and don’t really feel like you deserve the right to ask for anything. You’ve realized that you’re broken. If you don’t come to this place, you’ll never find repentance.
You see…repentance is the first step in salvation for a very very good reason. There is a reason John and Jesus preached repentance and not salvation. Now as Christians we preach salvation because Salvation and the thought of it feels really good inside. Repentance hurts; quite candidly it really really sucks. It doesn’t feel good to reach that place where you feel like a broken lump of dirt without the self-worth to speak. But honestly people don’t need Jesus and they don’t need salvation. They need to see themselves how God sees them. A good analogy; sons don’t need dad until they realize that Mom didn’t actually equip them to be a good man, then they realize how inadequately equipped they are at dealing with a man’s world and they give Dad that call (I was the son in this case). They then see what Dad saw all along, just a boy heading for destruction, thinking he knows everything and that Dad’s an aging moron stuck in the world of early curfews, the glory days, and bad music. But God, just like my Dad looks at that stupid kid not with disdain or disappointment or bitterness. I can imagine Jesus closing his eyes, and soaking in the moment. I can imagine a smile swashing across his relieved face and warming his heart when I finally put up my all-knowing hands and with my all-knowing brain full of all knowledge I only could think of one thing that I could say….”I ruined everything.” No I admit to you, it doesn’t always feel good to do right and it doesn’t always feel good to be in the process of cleaning. I can imagine a pot doesn’t feel good after you’ve scoured off a layer of metal with woven steel. What feels good though, is to come back to God after a day of doing better, and to say, “Thank you Dad, I’m still trying.”
Once we get to this place of true repentance, the Bible says that “ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” In a vacuum (a perfect world scenario), this would mean all you have to do is truly repent of your sins, and God will just fill you because He wants to. There wouldn’t be a need for all the shouting, spitting and frantic hullabaloo that we’re so fond of. You just gotta repent. Of course, we don’t live in a vacuum and there are a plethora of human emotions we have to overcome but the question still remains. Maybe we should stop praying for the Holy Ghost and start praying for repentance? I think God would rather hear “change me” than “give me.”
Once we really see ourselves for what we are and see what we’ve done, our only response is that of the people outside the upper room in the second chapter of Acts, “What do we do now?” Those people felt pretty bad after killing an innocent prophet in cold blood, trading his life for a cheap thrill, and insulting his legacy by releasing a known killer back into the streets in place of Jesus’ brutal death. The Bible tells us they were pricked in their hearts. Once the clarity of confession, shame, and desperation are present, true repentance is found and the salvation and baptism part become very easy.
And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.ss6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.s7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
An amazing thing about this passage is how Abraham acted toward God’s presence. The “presence of God” is another one of those Christian buzz words that gets preachers a second call and saints a little bit of a stir, albeit at times an obligatory one. We’re expected to have a certain reaction when the “presence of God” is near. This is true, we should have a certain reaction when God’s presence is near but do we even know what that reaction is? Abraham gives us a fine example of how to act in the presence of God.
First we have to be looking. Abraham could have been busying himself with literally hundreds of menial tasks that might have had to be accomplished since he was by definition a wealthy farmer. He had servants, workers, cattle, family, crops and real estate to tend to during the day. However this particular time finds him standing in the door of his tent during the heat of the day, a time God saw fit to appear to him. If we can’t devote some time to stop our daily grind long enough for God to speak to us, how useful are we? Mind you, Jehovah didn’t walk up to Abraham and say here I am. Abraham entreated God and cleared his schedule to minister to Him. Think back on a typical day in your life, if God was to pass by would you clear your schedule to cook him dinner? Even more, would you notice Him?
Second, you gotta know Him. I find it so interesting that Abraham developed such an deep relationship with God that even without all the familiarity that we think we have with God today, he knew even by his entourage that God was near. That takes relationship.
Third, you gotta be humble. God is a king. God is a sovereign, Holy, perfect and mighty Deity. Why is it that when church gets deep and the “presence of God” is near, we start asking for stuff. Bless me becomes the cry of His people whenever He visits them. I’m certainly not God, but I’d start to get weary of people who are always asking for stuff and not giving back. I think I’d long for the days when holy men like Abraham ran to me, bowed to my feet, and cooked me dinner. Truthfully, how does God feel when He comes around. Do we take him for granted, or do we let Him know that we’ve been waiting for Him all our lives. Abraham walked closely with God all of his days but when God came to him he asked the question, “If I have found favor in thy sight.” He didn’t just assume that he was worthy of God’s blessing. He made sure he was right before he came to God. He also didn’t ask for a thing before letting God know his desire to serve Him.
Fourth, you gotta be a servant. Far too often, people don’t get a thing from God because they’re spoiled. I can’t speak for anyone else’s church, but many people I’ve seen in my organization have been in church for their entire lives. They’ve been around God for longer than they can remember and so God has become just as commonplace as oxygen and grass. Somehow an appreciation for God’s grace was never instilled in them so they just believe that God is that grandpa that just gives you stuff no matter what you do. Here we see Abraham, a very prosperous land-owner, taking the role of servant and hastening to cater to his God. He gave God his very best and served God as He should be served.
Lastly, you gotta follow through. Let’s just say that the part where God showed up until the part where God said, “So do, as thou hast said” happened on Sunday night. The rest happened the next day. Would we be as Abraham did and make haste to serve God? Would we cook a huge meal with the best food in our kitchen for God? Would we even remember the promises we made the previous day? I can tell you this, I’m alllllll tooo guilty of this. I’ve made God more promises than I can count, and when Monday rolled around, it was business as usual. I couldn’t even tell you what I told God in prayer the day before. I wonder if God takes our prayers seriously even when we don’t? Does God just hear our prayers and go, “uh huh….right….oook.” or does He take every word we speak so flippantly to heart and when we totally forget what we said the next day, feel disappointment. I can’t help but to believe the latter and I don’t like that feeling of disappointment coming from Heaven.
Now all these things definitely take a relationship with God. It’s not something that can be done in a night. It took Abraham a life of following after God in faith to get to the place where God would show up at his doorstep and have brunch. Who is to say that we can’t have that same relationship. Let me ask you a question. Has God ever audibly called your name? I’ve pondered over this question night and day just wondering if I could ever get to a place in my relationship with God that he would call me by name. Maybe I’ll get there, God willing, maybe not. Even so, I’ll keep pressing on.
Have a Happy Hump Day, January 18, 2012
Here are the links from the original post
For my inaugural post, I’m going to set the mood for my blog. It seems as though nowadays about half the people that have a Facebook account also keep some sort of blog around. Whether Mr. or Ms. Individual occasionally posts transcendentally revelatory insights (or ramblings rather) on Facebook itself, maintains a Tumblr account (which is like watching someone throw up the Internet), tweets (cuz we all want to read your text messages), or the much more ambitious WordPress or Blogger blog, everyone needs to be heard. Though I speak in satire much of the time, I’m no different. I’m are a man (sry….I’m IS a man…much better), I have the need for expression, self-awareness, and honesty. (I also have a Tumblr account, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a WordPress account; how is that for taking my own medicine). I need companionship, love, and intimacy. But in a world where one’s heart’s desire is never further away than the FCC allows, where do I find a truly fulfilling connection to something so fundamental and simple as an open ear.
I’ve recently started listening to Gungor. Now, If you’ve never heard of Gungor, click here….it’ll change your view of Christian Music. The title track of his album, Beautiful Things, centers around the mastery of God’s ability to create such beautiful constructs from something many of us (his constructs) deem as too unclean to ever let muck up our precious little hands. We must remember that we all are his Beautiful Things and we were made from the dust. But there’s more…Jesus said in John 14:12,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
God wasn’t the superstar of his own show, but rather a teacher to his children. God has empowered and commissioned every one of us to create equally Beautiful Things from the dust. However, we must stoop down, ungloved and honest and open, into the dust. As an artist I know this to be true… the only feeling better than looking with pride at your own creation is when that creation looks back at you and with earnest gratitude says, “Thank You.”
The hard part is being ungloved, honest and open. I’ll get into this next week (or as they say in church….on next week). Concurrently (at the same time), I’m going to be delving into a study on “How to Deal with Life” in addition to my frequent but inconsistent lessons on life which I shall entitle…”I’m Doing Fine”. Until then, I’m Chan and I’m feeling much better now, talking to you.