Monday, June 29, 2009

The Second Most Controversial Question

This column is slated to run in the July 7th edition of The Justin Texan.

Last time I wrote about the most controversial question in the Bible belt: “What is the gospel?” Today I would like to write about the second most controversial question: “What effect should the gospel have on our lives?”

On the surface of it, this does not seem like a controversial question at all. People expect some kind of effect from religious beliefs. If nothing else, it affects one’s weekly schedule. In other words, adherents attend religious services at places of worship. Muslims go to mosques, Buddhists go to temples, Jews attend synagogue and Christians go to church. In some cases, it affects their daily schedules. Muslims pray five times per day. Some Christians pray before every meal.

But what about the gospel? The claim of Christianity is exclusive; Biblically oriented Christians claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). We claim that Christ is God in the flesh (Jn. 1:14). We claim that the message of Christianity has inherent power; the power to change people, not just their schedules. Scripturally, it is the power to bring a spiritually dead man to life (Eph. 2:1-7). Since this is true, the question remains: “What effect does this message have on us?”

To hear some professing Christians tell it, it has no effect. Almost all would agree that it SHOULD cause change in someone’s life, but some say that it does not always follow that a Christian changes. He might have made a religious decision, participated in a religious ritual (walking an aisle or getting baptized), or even joined a church. But do they follow through on their outward commitment? And if they do not, can they be called a Christian?

Once again, the big question is, “What does the Bible say?” What it says gives no hope to the professing Christian who is a hypocrite. The Bible says that those who call Christ “Lord”, preach and even have evidences of spiritual power will not be allowed into heaven if they habitually practice sin (Matt. 7:21-23). It says that those who claim to know the Lord and yet do not obey Him are liars (1 Jn. 2:4). The Apostle John also says that those who habitually practice sin do not know the Lord (1 Jn. 3:4-6). The Apostle Paul gives lists of sins, which if habitually practiced, prove the true nature of the professing Christian (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).

These are all put forward in the negative sense. How does the Scripture state it positively? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away and all things have become new! In Luke 9:23 the Lord Himself said that if any man would come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross (be willing to die) and follow (order our lives after) Him! The Apostle James says that we must be doers of the Word and not just hearers who deceive only ourselves (Jas. 1:22).

Friends and neighbors, eternity is too long to be wrong about our position with the Lord. The Puritan Thomas Watson, writing in the 17th century, warned of those who would end up going to Hell with the hope of Heaven. Could that be you? Please, do what the Apostle Paul said and spend some time examining yourself to see if you really are a Christian (2 Cor. 13:5).

If someone claimed to have been hit by a logging truck, you would expect to see some evidence of the impact. Who is bigger? A logging truck or God? Why don’t we see radical changes in the lives of those who name the Name of Christ?

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