Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? How many times have you heard this question asked? How many times is salvation mentioned during worship and Bible study?
Is accepting Christ important? Yes it is. Is our salvation important? Yes it is, if we want to experience eternal life. But what does it all mean? Well for me it's not enough to simply say "yes" to Christ. Saying "Yes" is a good and important step, it's
really the first step of our faith journey, but what does it mean?
Does it mean, since I said yes "I'm done and good to go" even after I die? Does it mean I've reached the pinnacle of understanding as it pertains to God? Does it mean my life will now be filled with blessing and material riches? Does it mean now that I'm a
Christian I can judge others? No, saying yes to Jesus means none of these things.
I have a great appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to spreading the gospel with the hope of leading folks to accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
But at the same time I struggle greatly with those who only promote an intellectual or head-based salvation, and don't go any further with helping folks understand, in a relevant and practical way, what having a saving faith really is and really means.
I struggle greatly with folks who use coercive, manipulative, pressure-packed, and emotional moments to get people to say yes to Jesus, yet offer no explanation of the faith journey beyond yes, and understanding that saying yes to Jesus is not just a
one-time occurrence but a continuing daily choice.
I have no tolerance for leaders of the church who treat salvation as little more than a quick fix for the ills of this world, relegating God's saving grace to a status of cheap grace.
Evangelism and witnessing to others is very important, but without an awareness of the journey that follows a commitment to Christ, knowing and experiencing God's peace may never really become a reality. And ultimately it's peace with God that makes the
difference in our lives.
Consider the disciples who lived and followed Jesus for several years after saying yes to him. In their moment of acceptance they had no idea of what peace with God was all about. They had to journey with Jesus for several years before they came to even a
basic understanding of what Jesus meant to the world and to their lives. Why would we think that at the moment of accepting Christ, we would all of a sudden be enlightened to all that God is, to the point of not needing to experience or learn anything more.
Moving from "yes to peace" is more often than not a journey, not just an instantaneous transformation, a journey that begins with understanding what faith is and what it's not.
First, faith is a gift from God, that's foundation is based on trusting Jesus and trusting God through Jesus. Second, faith is not a matter of intellectual agreement about the truth of a collection of facts or ideas; it's an attitude of the heart.
Third, saving faith is more than the faith that the apostles had while Jesus was on earth, it's recognizing the necessity and value of Jesus death, and the power of his resurrection.
Faith acknowledges the death of Jesus on the cross, and that Jesus' death was the only way of saving human beings from eternal death. Faith acknowledges that the resurrection of Jesus restores us all to life and immortality.
Therefore, Christian faith is not only an intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel, but it's also a full reliance on Jesus. A reliance some might realize in an instant, but for most of us it's a process of study, listening, seeking, and growing more
We have to trust in what Jesus achieved through his life, death and resurrection, we depend on him as our atonement and life, and we hold on to him as the only way in which we can become holy, redeemed, wise, and right with God. This is what it really means
to say yes to Jesus!! And there is nothing we can do to earn this. Only through Christ can we receive redemption, righteousness, forgiveness, and wisdom.
Yet even with this appreciation for God's grace we find ourselves, or see others, going through life trying to build a stairway to heaven by doing good deeds, trying to earn another step closer to heaven, building a way to God. But the truth is no matter how
hard we try we can never build a stairway high enough to reach heaven.
God and ultimately heaven is reached only when we receive God, through Jesus Christ into our lives, and begin the process of becoming more like Christ. Real peace with God isn't about deeds, it's about faith, genuine faith, it's about trust, reliance, and
thanksgiving. A gift of grace that only God can give. So what exactly is this peace with God I keep mentioning?
Webster's dictionary defines peace as absence of conflict, and a state of calm and tranquility. And in the Bible the word peace is used to mean the same thing in certain situations. However, the Bible also uses the word peace to speak of wholeness or
Peace with God doesn't necessarily mean feelings of tranquility or calmness.
Peace with God means we have been reconciled to him. Peace with God means there's no more hostility between God and humanity, no sin is blocking our relationship with God. The only remaining obstacles between God and us, and living in his peace, are the
obstacles we create. And peace with God is only made possible because Jesus paid the price for our sins through his death on the cross, it can't be earned or bought.
So I hope you see that faith and living with God's peace is more than saying "yes" or "I believe," it means knowing in your heart that Jesus died for our sins and that through Jesus' death on the cross we are forgiven and reconciled to God.
Regrettably, many folks today struggle with only a shallow understanding of faith and never really experience the difference faith makes in their lives.
I believe that with only a shallow understanding of faith and peace, it becomes too easy for folks to say "the heck with faith" or the "heck with God" when they feel they've failed, or they believe God has failed them, or things just don't seem to be going
How many people have fallen from faith because we focus only on the acceptance of Christ rather than a necessity of a wholistic understanding and relationship with Christ?
When you stop and consider the reality of the Christian life we can see it's really two-sided and often times challenges our beliefs and values. On the one hand we are complete in Christ and can rest secure in our acceptance of him, but on the other hand
we're still growing in Christ, meaning we're not yet all we can be, but by grace are given the God-given opportunity to be more and more like him.
Or said another way we feel both the presence of Christ and the pressure of sin.
We enjoy the peace that comes by being made right with God, yet we still face daily problems that both tempt us and help us grow. This is a tension that we live in when we say yes to Jesus. And it's important for us to remember these two sides of the
Christian life so we won't grow discouraged as we face temptations and problems.
From the cradle to the grave, we can expect times of testing and moments of intense pain. The sudden loss of a loved one, a crippling stroke, cancer, loss of job, abuse, divorce - all crush the human spirit. We find ourselves consumed with the emptiness
these situations leave in their wake. The horrible loss of what we once knew and held dear traps us in a prison we can't easily escape.
But even more, there are the daily irritations that seem to have no end. It may be a demanding boss, an impossible co-worker, the difficult neighbor, or the controlling family member that keep us in a continual state of mental and spiritual wrestling.
Well as long as we live here on earth we'll never be free of these difficulties. But, there is a peace that can be known even in the midst of our trials. It's a peace that "passess all understanding;" an anchor in the center of the storm. Without this peace
as an anchor it becomes easy to succumb to our difficulties rather than overcoming them.
It's in the midst of the storms that we need to learn to depend on the power available to us from Christ, who lives in us, through the Holy Spirit. And it's this truth that helps us move from saying yes Jesus to peace with God.
In versus three and four of our epistle reading we hear Paul telling us that in the future we will become (meaning what we will grow to be), but until then we must overcome (meaning conquering the adversity we face today).
This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow, and that we ought to rejoice in suffering. Now this sounds kind of sadistic, but we rejoice in suffering not because we enjoy pain or deny the tragedy in our life, but because we know God is using
our life's circumstances (all of them) to build our character.
Paul tells us that the problem's we'll run into throughout our lives will develop our perseverance, which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence and hope regarding the future. Again, this is God's grace
at work in our lives.
Once I came to really know this truth I've yet to see a bad or difficult situation where I couldn't see God's grace at work. And typically when I'm able to see beyond the difficulty itself and see the bigger picture, I recognize God's grace in my life or the
lives of others, even during challenging times. I don't know about you, but I find my patience tested frequently throughout the week, and it's taken me a while, but I now thank God for these opportunities to grow, as I deal with them in his strength, knowing that I will become
stronger in faith, hope and love.
I now can see with a new clarity how God is using a particular situation to help me grow, and how my character is being changed to become more and more like Christ's. I know without fail that God has my back, and that God is in control. It's this depth of
understanding that moves me from a place of "Yes Jesus" to a place of being at peace with God.
Consider Noah, he serves as a good example of a person who because of his faith lived at peace with God. Noah walked with God in the midst of a wicked world. He was exposed to a disaster like the world has never seen, yet he faced it with peace. Noah could
have easily been traumatized by this worldwide catastrophe, a flood that destroyed everything on the face of the earth except for those inside the ark. But Noah wasn't traumatized, his faith never wavered, and his trust in God remained steadfast, even when faced with the ridicule
Instead Noah possessed a peace that passes all understanding; a peace that enabled him to keep his cool and remain steadfast in his faith in the midst of the storm and during the long silence afterward; a peace that rested on his heart-felt faith in God.
Paul states that that by saying yes to Jesus we now stand in a place of highest privilege. Not only has God declared us not guilty; he has drawn us close to himself. Instead of being enemies, we've become his friends - in fact his own children (John 15:15;
Paul also says in his letter to the church at Corinth that faith, hope, and love are at the center of the Christian life. This means that our relationship with God does begin with faith, a faith that begins by saying yes, and then moves to a profound
knowledge that we are delivered from our past by Christ's death and resurrection, and it's in this God-given knowledge that we live at peace with God. Our hope grows as we learn all that God has in mind for us, now in this life, and in the life to come. And as our faith grows, and
God's hope is realized, God's love fills our lives and gives us the ability and desire to reach out to others.
All of this is offered to us by God's grace, a grace that leads us to seek God, a grace that grants us forgiveness and eternal life, a grace that encourages us to grow in faith and gives us peace.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ and encourages us to say yes to Jesus and to live in his peace.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade