by Neil Thielke, July 2006
How Many Trust/Faith Units Are Needed for Heaven?
Did you ever wonder how much Faith is really needed to go to heaven? Faith is the same word in the Greek as trust. How much faith or trust is needed for heaven? I was preaching at the funeral for a friend of mine. Looking out at the crowd of mourners, I asked them, “How many faith units are required to get you into heaven?” Even among most church-goers, way down deep there is a paranoia about where they will spend eternity: “What happens if I don’t have enough faith, and I’m just one faith unit short when my time comes?” All you have to do is ask, “Where will you spend eternity?” to a congregation, and there is lock-on attention. Looking over the crowd, two eyes out every face were staring right up at me. I asked the questions for them, “What happens if I am one unit short?” “How many faith units do I need?” Oh, they were interested in that!
The Bible tells us exactly how many units of faith you need to get to heaven. You need a whole lot more than one. You need enough units . . . enough faith units to entrust your life to Jesus. That’s the faith that’s necessary to get to heaven. Do you trust Him with your life? He wants the whole thing. It takes enough faith to trust Jesus with your whole life: past, present, and future.
There are some wonderful benefits that go along with putting your trust in Jesus. One benefit is that you can forgive yourself for all the dumb stuff you did. The only reason I know that, is that I had a long list. I don’t have to beat myself anymore. It’s over. Christianity is not beating yourself for all the wrong things you have done. No way! The devil no longer has the right to accuse you when you have accepted Christ’s full payment for all your sin by his death on the cross, so why do we continue to accuse ourselves? We’re forgiven! You’re set free from the bondage of sin and the shame that went along with it.
There Are Five Promises of Salvation in Romans 10:5-13
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The five promises for having given our life to Jesus:
- You will be saved
- You are saved
- You will never be put to shame
- You will receive rich blessing
- You will be saved
Never Be Put to Shame
Paul wrote in Romans 10:11,
“Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
The shame Paul was referring to is the shame the unsaved will experience when God gathers all mankind from the beginning of history until the end before his throne for the final judgment. Those who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame, but those who did not give their lives to Jesus will be put in hell for all eternity with the devil and his fallen angels. There are about 10 billion people living in the world right now who will be among the generations before us and after us who will be gathered before the King of Kings on the judgment day. In some churches at funerals the pastor says something to the effect of, “Lord, please preserve these remains until we see you again.” God will not need to use any part of your body to make a new body. Another portion of the funeral service at some churches is, “Receive now this lamb from your fold.” When a person dies, that person is going to wherever he or she is headed. Their decisions made while they were alive determined their final destination for eternity. In Hebrews 9:27 it is written,
“and as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (NKJV).”
When we die, the deciding is over. Our destination after death isn’t something left to be finished up at your funeral. The funeral ceremony is for the comfort of the living. The deceased is already gone. Their body in the coffin is just a coat their spirit left behind. I can take my shirt off, and it’s no more significant than my dead body will be at my funeral.
What did Paul mean in Romans 10:11 about never being put to shame? In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Out of the 10 billion people alive on the earth today, most will go to hell. Jesus said the road to eternal life is narrow and that few find it. Jesus IS the road to heaven. There is no other way. In John 10:9 while comparing us to sheep Jesus said,
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
In John 14:6 Jesus spoke about being the only way to the Father. He was making it very plain that if anyone wanted to spend eternity in heaven, the only way we get there is through commitment of our lives to Jesus:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
You can’t get to heaven through Buddah, you can’t get to heaven through Mohammed, you can’t get to heaven through anyone or anything except Jesus, but compared to the number of people living on the earth, few are walking on Jesus’ road toward heaven. The popular belief today is that there are many roads that lead to God, but on judgment day, it will suddenly be sadly apparent who’s the boss! We don’t get to decide how heaven and hell are determined at the judgment. When Jesus comes to judge all the people who have ever lived, every knee is going to be bow down. As Paul wrote in Romans 14:10-12:
For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
It is written:
‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,’Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
No matter how important people appeared while alive on earth, at the judgment God is going to bring everybody down on their knees to worship Jesus, the King of Kings. It’s all about Him, it’s not about anyone on earth.
Well, after it is too late the guys who insisted there were so many ways to God won’t make it will realize, “Whoa! This is for ALL ETERNITY! I missed it!” Whether or not I would be ready to face God on Judgment Day is the one troubling uncertainty that caused me to stop running from God, and turn my life around to face Jesus so I could wholeheartedly surrender my life to Him.
If you aren’t ready to give your life to Jesus today, may the thought where you will be placed on Judgment Day stay with you forever. God is a God of love who has given all of us a free will. Jesus paid for our sins in full on the cross, but then left the decision up to us whether or not we are willing to accept that free gift of forgiveness. We are all allowed to make that choice, but we need to realize that what we choose to believe about Jesus has eternal consequences. If we choose to follow anyone other than Jesus in this life, we will find ourselves with the goats on Judgment Day, looking longingly at the sheep on the other side. I remember the lyrics from the rock and roll song, And When I Die, by Blood, Sweat and Tears, “I swear there ain’t no heaven, and I pray there ain’t no hell.”
My parents taught me enough that I knew there is a hell. The biggest shame that will ever be experienced by anybody, will be to realize that they have missed heaven for all eternity. That’s the big one. The Bible says that if you give your life to Jesus, you will never be put to shame. If you have given your life to Jesus, you can say, “I will never be put to shame!” You don’t have to worry about being gated off with the goats.
Today is the Day of Salvation:
I was invited by a woman in my church to visit her father who was dying in the hospital. He had been drunk most of the time since WWII. When we got to his room the hospital, he was having delirium tremens. I grabbed hold of him and I said, “In the name of Jesus, we command this man’s mind to come back to him!”
Just like that, his mind was back and he was talking to us. I told him, “You are dying, and you need to do something before you get out of here. Do you want to receive Jesus?” He was staring at me like I had just rescued him from something really frightening. Yes, he wanted to receive Jesus!
I said, “Pray after me: ‘Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. Please forgive me for all my sins. I give you my life, and invite you to be my Lord and Master. Amen.’ ”
He prayed those words after me, and he really meant it! As soon as he got done praying he went back into the delirium tremens again. He was gone. We weren’t able to connect with him anymore. He died the next day.
When I heard about his death, I this thought came to me: We will get to heaven, and there’s Ernie [not his real name]. His buddies who were drinking with him all those years will look across from where they are gated among all the goats facing the greatest shame they have ever known. They’ll yell across, “Ernie, how did you get over there with the sheep?”
Ernie will say, “You won’t believe this, but I was nine tenths dead, and this guy grabbed hold of me, called me back to life in Jesus’ name, and told me what to pray, and here I am.” Ernie was too close to the brink! Don’t cut it that close! There are lots of people who try to skin it too close, and they don’t make it. You don’t have to worry about the shame that goes along with missing heaven, if you take time right now to commit the rest of your life to Jesus.
Every Ethnic Group is Welcome
Paul wrote in Romans 10:12,
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, . . ..”
No ethnic groups are excluded. All are welcomed by Jesus. I’m blessed to have some Christian brothers and sisters from Asia, I’m blessed to have African American, Hispanic and Native American brothers and sisters. Every ethnic group is represented in the family of God. There is no dividing line between male and female or between rich or poor when God invites us into his family. The only determination is whether or not we belong to Jesus. In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul wrote:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female. for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
God provided restoration through the ark for the natural-born family of Noah who had all the genes of all the ethnic groups in him when he was on the ark. Fast forward from Noah to Abraham, and the writer of Hebrews refers to Abraham as the father of our faith. God provided eternal restoration for all spiritual-born descendants of Abraham who through faith when we devote our lives to Jesus. Praise God! As I travel the world, I really appreciate the rainbow of skin colors that there are in God’s family through Noah and the common faith of Abraham that can be shared through Jesus’ blood shed for our sins on the cross. In God’s family there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all. The same owner, the same landlord is owner of all and richly blesses all who call on him. Everybody who gives Jesus their life is in for rich blessing.
I used to think, “If you become a Christian – no more problems.” Well, that’s bunk! I still experience problems. The great difference is that now I have Jesus walking with me through my problems. We lost two of our babies in the first two years of our marriage. They were separate births. Each of our sons died in my arms, because Ruth wasn’t able to carry them to full term. Watching my sons die were about the toughest times I’ve ever been through, but I can tell you from experience that Jesus has never been closer to us than during that time. It’s almost like I wished I had those moments back. Oooh, that’s as close as I’ve ever been to heaven. Jesus was right there. Yes, it hurt like all get out, but Jesus was right – there! I don’t know how people who don’t have Jesus handle it. I know what some of them do. They do what I did before I gave my life to Jesus. They go out and get drunk, because they can’t handle it.
The Highway of Holiness
I developed a diagram to help people visualize the difference between salvation and restoration, and another diagram to illustrate the processes of salvation and sanctification. The first diagram I call “The Road”, based on what the prophet Isaiah wrote:
Isaiah 35:8-9 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, . . .
Jesus is the Road
In John 14:6 Jesus said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me ”.
Before we give our life to Jesus we are in the ditch. In John 3:5 Jesus said that in order to get on the road, we need to be born again:
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
We just talked about how to pray to commit your life to Jesus. The guy in the above diagram is on the road. He got out of the ditch when he was born again. When he gave Jesus his life, he handed Jesus the title deed. Jesus became the owner or landlord of that man’s life, and the man is now the renter just living in a body that he has given to Jesus.
Salvation Offers Relationship
When you came out of the ditch and you were born again, it had to do with relationship. Relationship makes my heavenly Father my Dad, and Jesus my Brother. Now what? He may take me out to the woodshed. Being his son means I will be disciplined by my heavenly Father, who is totally righteous, totally holy, with whom I cannot lay any of the blame for my actions, or with whom I can find no fault with how he raised me. When I am disciplined, it is because of something I have done or said that does not please Him. I have a choice. I can take my discipline and grow up into maturity, or I can try to run away from God. Walking away is deciding we don’t want anything more to do with that Christian stuff. Now how do we get on the road? We can never get born again, again. We can only give our life to Jesus once. I can only become the Father’s adopted son once. After that the issues are different.
What Happens When You Walk Away?
Let’s say that the guy on the road with Jesus muffs up big time, begins sinning, and takes a trip down into the ditch again. Now what? Some of you did ditch time after you gave your life to Jesus. How do we get on the road again after we walk away? The answer is found in 1 John 1:9-10,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Confession of Sin Restores Fellowship
When we confess our sin, the Father restores us. This has to do with fellowship, or how well I am getting along with Dad. Let’s say that little Johnny gives his life to Jesus on Thursday night and he means it. So, if he gives his life to Jesus, the promises we read in Romans 10:5-13 apply to him, right? Little Johnny is walking along the road the next day, and a Mac truck is bearing down on him. Little Johnny says, “Jesus Christ!”, and it isn’t using Jesus’ name in a good way. Then the truck hits him, and he dies. Boom, he’s gone! Does Johnny go to heaven? Usually in a room full of people there will be some who say, “He goes to hell. He shouldn’t be playing around in front of a Mac truck anyway.”
But the correct answer is, “No, Johnny had a bad habit, but he gave his life to Jesus the night before, and the promises in Romans 10:5-13 still apply. Jesus’ blood covers him. Johnny would go to heaven.”
Before the guy in the ditch gave his life to Jesus, he was God’s enemy. You can put x’s in the eyes of the first example, to demonstrate that he was an enemy before he gave his life to Jesus. After he gives his life to Jesus, and falls into the ditch, he is a still a child of God, but he needs to restore his fellowship with his Father.
One of the first sins Jesus worked on in my life was getting rid of foul language. How many of us still had a problem with the words that came out of our mouth when we gave our life to Jesus? Jesus wants us to clean those foul mouths up. I thought he would work on my tobacco habit first. Preachers were always checking on whether or not you were smoking cigarettes. Forget the cigarettes, man. It’s the mouth! Jesus said it isn’t what goes into the belly that make a man unclean, but rather what comes out of a man – what comes out of our mouths. What we are saying reveals the condition of our hearts.
I remember chasing hogs into the barn when I was farming. One sow wouldn’t go in through the open door. She kept running back outside. I’d get her in, and she would push me aside and run back outside. This went on for quite awhile. Then the other hogs would run back outside after her, and I’d chase the sow in again, ad nausium. Finally, after about the fourth time, the sow got her snout under the chasing gate, knocked it up in the air, and I went flat on my back right in the manure. I let loose a string of swear words that I wouldn’t want to repeat. All of a sudden I sensed the presence of God. I didn’t expect Him to hang around pig slop. I started crying! I realized, “Whoa, I just did that to Jesus!”
After that I stopped the foul language cold. I didn’t use that rot anymore. What if you die right in the middle of that? Realizing the greatness of God’s forgiveness isn’t a matter of, “Well, if that’s the case, I can keep on doing whatever.” No, then you’re not really responding to the One who owns you, the One who loves you. That’s not good. If you’re thinking, as Christians we can go out and do anything we please, it doesn’t work that way. When you give your life to Jesus, He owns you. Now we live to please Him. Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.” It didn’t end the idea that they were his servants. All he was saying was, “You are my servants. Now I’m going to treat you like friends. I own you, but I’ll still treat you like a friend.” What a deal! We are slaves whose master treats us like His friends. We’re still slaves. So we can’t just do whatever we please. Our Heavenly Father disciplines His children so we can become like His Son Jesus. God calls us to a new way of life, and He changes everything. I’m not the person I was 27 years ago. You wouldn’t recognize me now from the way I was then.
Obedience from Love Relationship
The Bible says if you have given your life to Jesus, you WILL BE SAVED. Someone will say, “Whoa, can’t be saved by warranty; if you go back to that, you’re in big trouble.” Wait a second. Let’s say you adopt a son. He’s ten years old, in the fifth grade. He’s old enough to understand. You invite him into your house and sit him down at the table and you say, “Bobby, there are twenty rules I’m going to tell you. If you break any one of them, you’re out of this house!”
What kind of a father is that? Yet, isn’t that how we are relating to God if we are always wondering, what happens if I do this? What happens if I do that? Our Heavenly Father is not that kind of a Dad. In fact, He expects that we will develop enough of a love relationship with Him that we will not want to do that bad stuff any longer. In a love relationship, we are walking in step with Jesus, not serving a legal system. That’s what our Father expects. The first thing He does in our Christian life is pour His love on us. In fact, for new Christians, it’s just great. Just after you give your life to Jesus, you ask God for something, and it shows up almost as easily as snapping your fingers. It doesn’t seem fair to our human way of thinking. As we get older in our Christian walk, our Father in heaven allows us to begin experiencing the consequences of sin whenever we stray down one path or another away from Him. Then there is what Paul wrote about rejoicing in our sufferings in Romans 5.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Now that I have been serving God for several years, I’m finding it takes a little more than a snap of the fingers to get answers to prayer. The baby bottle is gone, and I’ve been weaned. I’m on to some serious stuff.
I believe that if we enter into a love relationship with God, we no longer just follow the rules out of fear of punishment. Jesus loves you. Even better yet, Jesus told us he came so we might know the way to the Father. If you want to know the Holy Spirit, get acquainted with your Heavenly Father. The Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three persons, but they are also one God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, or the essence of the Father. In Luke 11, Jesus encouraged his disciples to ask the heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit.
Luke 11:9-13 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
When you get to know your Heavenly Dad, and discover what kind of a loving Father He is, you begin to realize that the Father is the One who really frees you up. Your Heavenly Father is a real dude. You can talk to Him. To overcome my false beliefs about myself after growing up thinking I wouldn’t amount to much, and that I didn’t matter, I had to go to my Heavenly Father and find out what HE said about me. Do you know what HE told me? “I made you special for a purpose. You’re special. You’re not junk. I’ve got a plan and purpose for you. You’re going to be a success!” That’s what Heavenly DAD says to me to encourage me. He’ll say the same thing to you, if you just invite Him to talk to you, and then listen with your spiritual ear. God made everybody to be a success. Everybody. True success comes out of a love relationship with Jesus, and with our Heavenly Father. You may think, “I don’t think God the Father can really love me, because if He really knew who I was and what I really did, and stuff I still think, . . ..” No, He already does know you, what you are like on the inside and on the outside. He wants to walk with you, so get rid of those dark discouraging thoughts about yourself and give your life to Him.
Defining Our Relationship With God
Imagine two guys are sitting in a bar soaking suds (drinking). One of them might be saved and the other one not saved. How would you know the difference? Neither is going to hell for being in a bar drinking beer. How would you know that one was saved? You would need to ask, “Where are you at with Jesus?” The illustration of the Highway to Heaven is great for helping people define where they stand with God. Sketch it out for them and walk them through it. With some people I ask them to please put the pen down where they belong on the diagram. One guy put the pen down in the wrong place. I said, “No, you’re not there.” He was seeking to follow God with his whole life. He wasn’t backslidden. So sometimes you have to help people find where they’re at with God.
Several years ago an evangelist and I went into the bar I used to get drunk in, to play pool and win people for Jesus. There were two gals sitting there. One I don’t think was saved; the other one was from our church, and saw us walk in the side door. She told her friend, “Oh, my God! There’s the pastor!” She was out the other door like greased lightning. She never went back. She wasn’t in the bar to share Jesus. She was in there getting drunk. She was saved before she went into the bar that night. There was a conviction from the Holy Spirit that came on her, “I don’t belong in this place!”
Light has no place in the darkness. Did you ever notice that in a bar there are no windows? What do they do when they want people to leave? They turn the light ON! Something is wrong with that picture! Do you know what we have to do to get people out of our church after a good evening service? We shut all the lights OFF! There is so much joy from being in the presence of Jesus, we have to dim the lights before Christians will think of leaving. What a difference! A good pastor will feed people. We don’t feed them beer anymore. We feed them the Word of God. We know what they need, and we feed them the way to be saved and how to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s why we need to have things like the illustration of the Highway to Heaven in our tool kit.
The House Illustration
In the house illustration in the Book of Revelation, Jesus is knocking at the door of the church. But if you have ever given your life to Jesus, you know that He also knocked at the door of your heart. Jesus always knocks, waiting for us to invite Him in. Jesus never kicks the door down, but in Revelation 3:20 he says,
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
In the house illustration above there are two houses. Each house represents your life. Jesus knocks at the door. When we open the door, and let Him come in, then Jesus becomes the owner, and we become the renter. Although Paul fell to the ground (Acts 9:4) when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul was searching for God on the inside. When Jesus said, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14, NIV), instead of kicking back, Paul said, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5).
Paul was looking. Jesus didn’t knock down the door to Paul’s heart, he just knocked loudly, and Paul responded. Paul was a murderer in the first degree. Can you imagine that after Paul became a Christian, he had to go back and ask Stephen’s relatives, “Will you forgive me?” Whew! That was difficult! Somewhere Paul explained in the New Testament that he and his companions tried to force Christians to say they weren’t followers of Jesus anymore. Well, how do you do that? What do you have to do to make a Christian say he no longer believes in Jesus? Torture! Paul had been torturing Christians. Paul had a lot of clean-up work to do.
Not long after inviting Jesus into our life (house in the illustration), we are standing in a room in our house. We have a trash can in another room with last week’s fish guts in it, and we hear that same knock again. It sounds the same. Jesus knocked on your door for you to become a Christian, and he’s going to knock on doors to the inner rooms of your heart in the same way. It will be a nudging on the inside. He wants to come into another room in your heart and clean up the trash can with the fish guts in it. The first knock is for salvation. The other knocking is for sanctification. The first knock is to allow Jesus to have control in your life. If we give him a permanent “no” when he is knocking for salvation, it means that we will go to hell. If our response is, “No,” when he knocks for sanctification, it means a delay in God’s plan. We have an example in scripture of the prodigal son.
The prodigal son takes off with a third of his father’s property. The oldest son gets two shares, and the prodigal gets one. The prodigal son takes off and goes out and spends it on whores, and one third of his father’s hard earned money, all of the prodigal’s inheritance is gone. Then he comes back home. He delayed the father’s plan in his life. The father said to the oldest son, “All that I have is your’s.” In other words, when the prodigal came back to his dad, he had really delayed the plan. It would take awhile to earn that money back again. He was restored to his sonship, but not the responsibility. You earn trust. Jesus will restore you instantly into fellowship. When you say, “Jesus, forgive me,” no matter what, he’ll receive you back into his arms. But trust is earned. To be a leader, someone Jesus will use, you need to prove yourself faithful. Jesus isn’t going to allow someone to lead His sheep down the wrong paths. We all want to be looked up to, but we need to be faithful to the Master. In order for Jesus to trust us, we need to quickly respond when he knocks on the doors of our heart. We all have issues. How well do we respond to God in the issues in our life? That’s how much He trusts us. The Heavenly Father loves everyone, but He doesn’t trust all his kids.
Is there an area of your life, a door of your heart, that God has been knocking on for awhile where He wants you to respond, and you want to say “yes”? Tell him “yes” in your heart: “Jesus, I’m saying ‘yes’ to that area in my life.Come on in and change me. Help me to have the right response in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
I was ministering in The Republic of Georgia. We were traveling on the road. You could tell my host pastor was “with it”. He was moving on with Jesus. As we were driving down the road, I asked, “How long were you in prison?” You should have seen him. He knew. He was a mature Christian. He was wondering, “What slipped?”
He asked me, “How on earth did you know?” I recognized a prison tattoo on his hand with his number on it. Some of the guys coming out of prison over there become Christian leaders. They lost the trust of others when they went into prison, but if they allowed prison to change them, they have been found faithful when tested by life’s trials and God has put them in places of responsibility in His church.
God has a plan for you, and he wants you to begin responding to it. He’s got a new identity for you. If you have been doing ditch time, or if you have rooms in your house that you have kept locked away from Jesus, He may not be able to trust you as a leader, but he wants to train you. In Hebrews 5:12 Paul wrote:
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”
In other words, Paul was saying, “By now you should have grown up.” If you have been a Christian for several years, don’t be satisfied to just attend Church on Sundays. After several years, you should be eager to be trained to become a teacher. Jesus loves us as our Good Shepherd, but He also calls us to grow up so he can trust us to minister to the needs of others.
The essence of your walk has to do with choices, not feelings. In Matthew 7:16 Jesus said:
“By their fruit you will recognize them.”
He didn’t say you’ll know them by their gifts. I have heard testimonies from people who had raised someone from the dead. Later we heard they had been beating their wife during the week. Hello! Beating your wife isn’t the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s not what a Christian does. Christians are to be full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One of the fruits is gentleness. Christian husbands need to serve their wives as Christ gave up His life for the church! You won’t recognize a Christian by their gifts. Jesus wants us to put on the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I believe that if just a roomful of Christians would put on the fruit of the Holy Spirit, they would begin to change their whole community, and in doing so, they would begin to change their world.
It is important to remember what it takes to get to heaven. It isn’t how many wonderful things we do for Jesus that will chalk up enough faith units for heaven. The work we do after we have given our life to Jesus is meant to be a response of love for Jesus, when we realize that our sins were washed away completely when Jesus died in our place on the cross, paying the full penalty for our sin. We have been set completely free to serve Jesus in grateful obedience. Therefore, the faith units needed for heaven are enough faith units to fully entrust, or to fully give our life to Jesus.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible,
New International Version®, NIV®.
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Used by permission of Zondervan.
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