By Pastor Mike Gudka, St. Paul United Methodist Church
In today’s world, people have turned away from reading their Bibles and have looked for other ways to fill-in their knowledge of Christ. While at the same time, too many of our Churches have wanted to fill their pews by offering bland, happy-go-lucky sermons. And as a result, a Biblical understanding of salvation has been cheapened. And this misinformation is going to lead to many who think they are going to spend eternity in heaven, receiving a big shock right after their last breath.
How many of you have heard, “Believe in Jesus and you will be saved”? Well, on the surface, this statement is Biblically correct.But how much “belief” does it take to be saved? Can you just pray a simple prayer, become saved, and then just keep living your life the way you always have? And can you call yourself a believer and never attend Church? Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to explore three aspects of what it means to truly believe and be saved.
Part of what happens when we are saved, is that we are forgiven for our past sins. And remember in God’s eyes; a sin, is a sin, is a sin. Whether we knowingly steal a pen from work, or rob someone at gun point; all sin results in the same penalty – eternal damnation. So in order to achieve true forgiveness from God through true belief in Christ, there must be repentance. The word “repent” simply means to turn around and go the opposite direction. In other words, we are not to keep on sinning after we believe in Christ. Now I am not talking about “works righteousness” because on our own, we cannot stop sinning. You see when we truly believe, our old dead human spirit is replaced with a new spirit; the Spirit of God. And this new spirit begins to change us from the inside out. It begins to help us fall more and more in love with God and with each other. It begins to help us get the things that hurt God, others, and ourselves out of our lives. In other words, we cannot repent without God’s direct intervention in our lives. So when we truly believe in God, God begins the work of making us holy. So here is the tough message. If you simply say ask for forgiveness and don’t see the need to repent, or change your ways, then you should really ask yourself if you truly believe.
Now there are a few people that have such a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit that they almost instantly get all of their sin out of their lives. But unfortunately, these people are very few. For most of us repenting, or getting the sin out of our lives, is an ongoing process called sanctification. We do things really well; then we fall back and have to ask for forgiveness again; and then get back on the right track. This can happen over and over in our lives. But rest assured, if we truly believe then the Holy Spirit is working on returning us to the wonderful person that God could see from long before the very beginning of time.
Put simply, we cannot say we believe and be forgiven without repenting of our sin.
My prayer for you this week is that you will really wrestle with the depth of your belief and examine if you have repented and are in the wonderful process of holy transformation.