MAN'S PURPOSE - Part III
Going back to Acts 2:47 – “Praising God, and having favour with all the people (Jerusalem as a whole was favorably impressed by what they saw respecting these followers of Christ). And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be Saved (many were coming to the Lord).” Note that it says: “And the Lord added to the Church daily.” Special attention must be given to this Scripture because it reminds us that it is the Lord, not a man’s program or even his invitation, which adds to the true Church. The Lord has a way of speaking to the heart of an individual. Jesus said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father Who has sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore who has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto Me” (Jn. 6:44-45). How did you come to Christ? Did you sense the Father draw you to His Son?
Look at Verse 41 of Acts, Chapter 2: “Then they who gladly received his word were baptized (some believed what Peter said, gave their hearts to God, and repented of their sins; they were then Baptized in Water): and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (on the first Day of Pentecost, the Day the Law was given, some three thousand men died [Ex.32:28]; on this Day of Pentecost, due to the Cross, some three thousand people were Saved).” What this shows us is a picture of Salvation, Baptism being a physical representation of what had occurred Spiritually in their hearts. It was only after they were Saved that they would have joined a local body of Believers. Joining the church should be an outgrowth of genuine Salvation, not a precursor. Folks, that’s what Christianity is about – Salvation! You may be Saved without ever stepping a foot inside the door of a church, and likewise, you may attend church every Sunday of your life without ever having been truly Saved! The true Church is invisible.
Most every congregation on this Earth contains members who are part of this true invisible Bride of Christ and those who are not. As a church-goer, it is up to you to know which you are. One might assume that no individual would even desire to join a local church without having first been truly Saved. However, religious motivation can be a powerful deceiver, particularly if it is backed by a crafty leader! If you join a church prior to a confident knowledge of your own Salvation and prior to a personal relationship with Jesus, watch out! You may have just entered the treacherous realm of religion, rather than true Christianity. One cannot choose to live a “good,” church-going life and then expect to have obtained salvation as a result. It won’t work! That’s not the Gospel. Religion can give you a false sense of security, and this distinction is not being taught in modern churches. Today, the sermon, the church service, the atmosphere, the music, etc. are all being changed to cater to the unsaved. But, the New Testament Church preached the Word with the Anointing and Power of the Holy Spirit! Men were Saved as they were drawn by the Spirit of God, and then they came into the church of their own accord to fellowship with other brethren and to worship God. They did not come to church due to persuasive sales techniques or “feel-good” speeches. It was rather the true unity of the Spirit which the new converts desired, and this was the reason they came into the church.
THE APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE
The Apostles did not necessarily worry about “how-to” bring more people into church or how to make the church appealing to the world. In fact, they knew it would be unattractive to the sinner until he was Saved. If the unsaved enjoy going to your church, it is a sure sign something is wrong! There must not be any conviction of the Holy Spirit. Are you beginning to see now just how far off-track the Purpose Driven Life and the seeker-sensitive churches really are? Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ Doctrine (that Doctrine is found in Verse 38) and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (simply meant it was a praying Church).” It says they continued in the Apostles’ Doctrine. Verse 38 goes on to tell us what that Doctrine is: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent (admit that God is right, and we are wrong), and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the Remission of sins and you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” True Repentance is the only guarantee of Salvation.
I can still remember as a young girl attending church and feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I can remember the strong pulling of the Holy Spirit to give my heart to Christ. I can still remember the release I felt when I finally surrendered my heart to His Call, the relief I felt as I repented of my sins, and the joy I felt as I was cleansed and made whole by the Spirit. Even though I did not know exactly what all had happened, I knew that a tremendous change had taken place within my heart and life. My entire direction for living had changed, and the things of God and my pleasing Him instantly became very important to me. I knew I was Saved.
In his 2008 Christmas message on Fox News, Rick Warren markedly trivialized the Lord’s great Plan of Salvation. He made this statement: “I’m not going to do what I want to do. I’m going to do what you want me to. I’m going to go with your plan. I’m going to stop being self-centered and be God centered, there is a word for this – repent. The Greek word is ‘metanoia’ which means change your mind, change what you think, change the way I think about God, the way I think about life. About my sins, about other people, it changes everything – it’s saying God I’m going to think about the way – actually the Bible uses this more often to mean to change your mind about Jesus Christ, to go from not believing to believing in Him, to change your direction and follow Him.” But, Repentance is so much more than a change of mind, so much more than an intellectual decision! People change their minds every day, but it doesn’t automatically mean Spiritual Repentance has occurred. While “metanoia” does mean “change the mind” as Warren stated, theologically-speaking it involves regret and/or sorrow, accompanied by a true change of heart toward God. It is a Spiritual Change of heart, not a mere mental change.
SALVATION IS NOT A PROCESS
“For with the heart man believes unto Righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto Salvation. For the Scripture says, Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed. How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:10-11; 14). A person must believe in Christ, not just agree to follow Him as a new philosophy of life and start going to a local church. You must personally believe (know in your heart) that the Gospel is True. “And saying, The time is fulfilled (as predicted by the Prophets, Christ has now come), and the Kingdom of God is at hand (is available): repent you, and believe the Gospel (‘repent and believe’ may be regarded as a summary of the method of Salvation. This means that Repentance and Faith are the conditions of admission into this Kingdom, i.e., ‘the New Covenant’)” (Mk. 1:15). Furthermore, in Rick Warren’s Ministry Tool Box, the January 18, 2006 article (Issue #242) was written by Dennis Baril. The article was entitled, “How to balance the Biblical purposes in a Charismatic/Pentecostal Church.” Under “Create a safe place for people to begin their journey,” it says: “One of the most important truths we’ve learned is that in the times we live in, coming to Christ is a process that unfolds – it’s not usually a singular event.” This is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches concerning Salvation, a life of works without ever really knowing we’re Saved until we die. No, Salvation is not a process, but an instant realization and reception of the Grace which flows from Calvary. You do have to wonder about your eternity.
Faith and Faith alone produces Salvation. In Luke 5:20 Jesus said, “And when He saw their Faith (true Faith always has action), He said unto him, Man, your sins are forgiven you (indicates that the wretched physical condition of the sick man was due to his sinful life; yet, Jesus treated him with the utmost of kindness).” The man with palsy was Saved instantly by his Faith in Jesus Christ as well. Listen to the Plan of Salvation again in Acts 16:31, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be Saved (presents the most beautiful explanation of Salvation that could ever be given), and your house (means that Salvation is not limited merely to the jailer, but is available to the entirety of his family as well, that is if they will meet the conditions of Faith in Christ required of them).” Paul was converted instantly as well. Acts 9:6 states, “And he trembling and astonished said (he was stupefied and astounded), Lord, what will You have me to do? (This constitutes the moment that Paul was Saved.) And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do (pertains to the Plan of God for Paul, which, in effect, would change the world).” To get a picture of the true Message of Salvation, please read the Book of Acts. Read of the fearless preaching of the Apostles and others who were called of God. Then, you will see the model for the true Church and the method by which the lost are to be reached. It’s God’s Plan, not man’s.
RELIGIOUS BUT LOST
Today, the lost are being brought into the church without Salvation. As we already warned, this will only make people religious slaves. If you have the Expositor’s Study Bible, it will help bring the Book of Acts alive to you. Read Stephen’s sermon preached in the Synagogue of the Libertines. You will find that Stephen’s sermon was so powerful (Acts 7:54) people could not contain their anger over his boldness and his message. You will also find that Saul was standing by looking on. He could not forget Stephen’s message and death although he did not accept it at the time. Acts 7:59-60, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God (presents a monstrous offense on the part of his murderers; we must remember, he was murdered by the religious leaders of Israel), and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (presents Stephen rendering Divine Worship to Jesus Christ in the most sublime form, and in the most solemn moment of his life).” Verse 60 says, “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (presents him dying on his knees, without malice toward his murderers). And when he had said this, he fell asleep (portrays the body falling asleep, while his soul and spirit instantly went to be with Jesus; due to what Jesus did at the Cross; death is now looked at as merely going to sleep).” The power of Stephen’s testimony stayed with Paul until we read in Acts, Chapter 9 of his own wonderful and glorious conversion. Paul, too, began to preach immediately without fear or favor! Paul brought the message of the New Covenant to the Church, never once looking back.
You see, God did not send these men, fresh from being filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit, to go and partner with the pagans. He sent them to preach the Gospel of Christ unto Salvation. They were willing to suffer great persecution and death if need be. Thousands were drawn into the Church by the Spirit of God. The Church of Jesus Christ would not be here today had the early church used modern-day methods for reaching the world. It took anointed men, touched by God and willing to place their lives on the line, to boldly stand and preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. This method was given by God, and it is the method He still has for us today. God’s Methods have not changed. And neither has God’s Message changed. Man’s needs are still the same, so the Message needed to meet his needs are still the same. Only Jesus Christ can fill the void of the human heart.