Thursday, December 4, 2014
Does Profession equate Salvation?
Scripture tells us in Romans that, '...if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart you SHALL be saved...' and I want ALL to understand that I believe Scripture. I believe that a true profession of faith that Jesus is Lord and Savior reflects a changed heart and results in a changed life! However, I want us to understand that our words are NOT what saves us and simply uttering the phrase Jesus is Lord does not bring about eternal salvation.
Preacher? What are you saying? Are you questioning Scripture? No, I am simply attempting to clarify it... But I want us to look at a story from the OT that can clarify an area where many may be confused. In 2 Kings 5:1-27 we read a story about a miraculous healing. [read that story now before you finish this blog]
In this story Naaman, who was NOT a follower of Israel's God; he is sick and desires to be healed. He has been informed that there is one in Israel who can heal him, but when he gets to this person, the prophet Elisha, Elisha sends a messenger out to him to go and wash in the dirty, muddy Jordan river... not once but seven (7) times.This infuriates Naaman...
"The NERVE of this man to not respect who I am..."
"The NERVE of this man to tell me to do something so beneath my station..."
I can hear him muttering to himself now, "I knew this was too good to be true! I knew better..."
However, his servants beg him to at least TRY what the prophet instructed. Now in viewing this story it seems as if Naaman was a reasonable master to at least give ear to his servants' urging. So Naaman, who was desperate, decided to try what the prophet had instructed...and to his shock it works and he is healed.
He is thrilled and excited at this miracle! He wants to celebrate and give offerings. He had brought gifts for the King of Israel but now he was trying to give these gifts to Elisha. This is a normal reaction to such a miracle... JOY overflowed from Naaman's heart and he wanted to 'pay' homage to the one who HE thought had healed him. Elisha refuses his gifts and so Naaman pledges his loyalty to the God of Elisha, but he does it in his own way. If you read this story I want you to notice something he does, that I find MANY people still do. He tells Elisha that he believes his God is the true God and asks him in advance to forgive him because he was returning home and he would be returning to his normal worship practice. He assured Elisha that when he was bowing at the altar of his god, that he would be thinking about Elisha's and Israel's God, whom he proclaimed as the ONE true God. Now Naaman DID acknowledge openly with his mouth that Elisha's God was the one true God... but we find that he refused to acknowledge God in this way with his actions.
Does that sound familiar to you today? Do you know anyone like this? Someone God has touched or healed and they have openly professed God as their God, but in practice they have 'returned' to their old life. How often do we see people who are touched by God's grace... a miracle is done in their lives... a physical healing, a mental repair, a financial tragedy avoided, a situation is resolved... and they freely acknowledge that it is God who has done this and that God is great... but then they return to their lifestyle and fall back into the same routine of 'worship' and 'homage' to their god... whatever that 'god' may be. I see so many people who have a situation cleared by God's intervention make wonderful professions of faith with their mouth only to fizzle and burn out by NOT living out their profession with their actions.
Naaman could have returned to his King as a great witness of God's power and might. He was cured from a deadly disease by miracle and he could have professed the God of Israel and influenced the Syrian King to turn TO God and become a godly nation! However, that is NOT what we see Naaman doing, what we see is that he made his profession to Elisha and then decided to NOT change anything in his life... sure he would remember this but he was not going to follow up belief with action.
I believe this is what James was speaking against when he wrote, "...faith without works is dead..." In other words, a profession of faith is an empty and dead profession of faith without change in that life and actions that support that profession. Jesus said that we would know the tree by its fruit, and when a false profession is made it is soon revealed by the actions taken or not taken.
God draws us to Him, God will provide a miracle to those OUTSIDE His grace... this is what His grace is... a miracle we cannot fully understand. However, mere lip service to God in professing Him as Savior does not cut it. A life truly touched by the grace of God will NOT be the same, will NOT return to its former way, but it will be radically altered by the Spirit of God that now indwells it!
Naaman had a tremendous experience that affected his life for a time, but he was NOT changed inwardly. There are many people who have a tremendous experience when it comes to God and may seem changed for a season, but their hearts are not changed, and it eventually shows up in their return to their own way. John says in 1 John 2:19 (ESV), "They went out from us, but they were NOT of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us."
Every portrait of salvation in Scripture that begins with a true confession of faith is backed up by a life of faithful service. This reveals that a changed life in Christ reveals itself NOT in the profession of the mouth (although that is the starting point... "for if you confess with your mouth") but it is confirmed in the actions and lives of the person making that profession.
Now what does this mean for ME as a believer! Does it mean I can go around pointing the finger at others! After all we ALL know someone who fits this description, don't we? The simple answer here is NO WAY JOSE'! Absolutely NOT! We are NOT called to place judgment on the salvation of others, in fact when we look at the teachings of Jesus we can see that Jesus says two things about this particular subject, and BOTH are important and should be taken into our hearts. FIRST, He informed us that we are NOT to judge a person's salvation - (Matt 7:1-2), judgment of the human soul is HIS task (John 5:22). SECOND, He tells us before we begin pointing out the frailties of others we should look at ourselves...(Matt 7:3-5)
With that being said, as a believer you will face MANY in this life who profess with their words to be a Christian, but their actions reveal a FAR different picture about who they truly follow. In fact, the old axiom, 'Actions speak louder than words' is true... A believer's life (how they live their life) should reveal far more about who they are than any words from their mouth. Their words should be a confirmation of how they live out their life!
However, we should never be judgmental or suspicious about others, but our IMPERATIVE is that we, ourselves, remain faithful to our own profession of faith and that our lives confirm what we speak! There is NO greater witness than a life lived openly and outwardly for Jesus Christ!