This subject is very important because it deals with the reality of salvation. Does something supernatural and observable happen to the person who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ? In other words, can you tell by looking? Does the Bible say something about that? I believe it does.
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17. (Behold is that old timey way to say, “look and see!”)
- Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21. (Just saying so doesn’t make it so.)
- “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46. (There was tangible evidence against those who called Him “lord,” but still were separated from God.)
There are many, many other places in the Bible to discover that those who authentically have received the gift of salvation are markedly different from those who have not. It is not simply a matter of, “God only knows.” A 5th grade girl in Good News Club came down for prayer one day and I asked if she had come to receive Jesus. She said, “no,” and when I asked her why not, she said, “Cuz I’m not ready to stop sinnin’ yet.” Even a child knows that God is expecting changed behavior.
Who does not think God expects changed behavior? I have met some highly educated grown-ups who can prove that they possess salvation according to the Scriptures. They cling to the legal opinion they have derived from the Bible that they will inherit eternal life. They remind me of the Jews who persecuted Jesus even after he healed the sick before their eyes. Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40.
I am not trying to make this difficult. The Bible explicitly shows us that receiving salvation is as simple as believing. Jesus told grown-ups, in Matthew 18, that they must become as little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. He never told children to come back when they had an education.
In my last post I talked about Philip the evangelist. There is a great story there about how God told Philip to go out into the desert, and then to run up and meet a chariot where a man was reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah (chapter 53, to be exact). Philip asked the man if he understood it. He told Philip that he needed someone to explain it to him. How fortuitous! Isaiah 53 contains the prophecy about the Messiah suffering for our sins!
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:35-39 KJV.
“If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Boom. It was as simple as that. Then the Lord whisked Philip away. God miraculously brought Philip to a place where a man was reading a messianic scripture, brought him to faith, and then miraculously took Philip out of the picture.
In Acts chapter 10, Peter is shown a vision and then told in the vision to go with the men who are knocking at his host’s door. He goes to the home of Cornelius, a Roman officer who believes in the God of the Jews. Peter preaches Christ to Cornelius and his Gentile household and this is what happens: ” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Acts 10:44. And how do they know that? For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:46-47. As they heard Peter preaching, they heard and believed and they had an observable event.
My point in using these examples is not to say that people must speak in tongues when they are saved. The point is that salvation is a real change. Something supernatural happens. It can be very disruptive. When Saul came to faith in Christ, it does not say he spoke in tongues, but it does say he was changed from the persecutor of the faith to the greatest champion of it, and changed his name to Paul.
In colonial America, during the 1740s, there was an event called The Great Awakening. It was not a movement begun by a group of theologians, or professional clergyman. It was a move of the Holy Spirit among nominal Christians after some young people had genuine conversion experiences. Their lives were so changed, that the townspeople realized they did not have the same experience and began to seek it. It was the nominal Christians, the people who possessed good standing in the church, who realized that God did not possess them. People wept before altars begging for the same experience those young people had. It spread like wildfire from town to town. The same thing was happening in England, and a man named George Whitefield came to America and found a ready audience. Life-changing experiences broke out throughout New England. There was much opposition from the professional clergy, but they could not stop it.
Are we ready for that today?