I want you to take a challenge. I want you to read the Bible and do two things; examine yourself and hold your leadership accountable. In the past few months, God has been challenging me both personally and corporately in regards to the church. What does all that mean? That means if we truly are Christ Followers (Christians), we should be in His Word, learning and growing every day. Let me be the first to say that over the past nine years of ministry, I have not. It would be easy to write off reasons why, like being too busy, constantly working, making deadlines, dictator leadership, etc. However, the responsibility was my own and I was not strong enough to own up to the task even in the face of working for men. (Notice, it’s not working for God or church but that’s my own burden to live with,)
We are responsible to “work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12),” to, “examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).” I want to state that I believe that God is real and that it is possible for Him to change the world. I also know that Scripture talks about those who will fall away (2 Timothy 4:3). There are two reasons people will fall away. First, people can’t “endure sound doctrine.” Why? They don’t like how God wants to run their life. Second, they find themselves some “teachers” who will ultimately “turn them away from the truth.” So with that said, what do you believe? And where can you find what you believe in the Bible?
I’ll give you an example. I have heard it said that “No one loves you more than you do and no one will take care of you better than you will.” That makes for great preacher talk, but terrible theology. God loves you more than you do and will take care of you better than you can yourself. The Bible spends a great deal of time talking about “dying to yourself” (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9) “and putting away the things of the world” (2 Timothy 2:4). Why would we love ourselves when God is trying everything to get us to get rid of ourselves?
Lately, there has been a number of people who have “gotten saved.” There has also been a number of people who have been “confused” and “doubting their own salvation.” Let Scripture be our guide and see how salvation works. Can you save yourself? According to the Bible, no you cannot. Then, if we cannot save ourselves, why is it that so many are now “doubting” and “confused” about salvation? First, many people have been taught that one must “pray the prayer” in order to be saved. I don’t read anywhere in Scripture about a specific prayer to be saved. I do read about “confess and believe (Romans 10:9-10).” Confession, in this context, is nothing more than agreeing with God. Realizing that confession is specific to a body part, your mouth, I can see where leaders can twist this into a new doctrine called the doctrine of the “Prayer of Salvation”. However, as specific as Jesus is about prayer, I would think that the Bible would have a specific “prayer” for us to read in order for us to be saved. Some people have said, “I got saved for MYSELF this time. The last time I did it for OTHER PEOPLE.” The Bible would reject that it’s even POSSIBLE for you to be saved at all “for your yourself” or other people. What I have discovered is that Satan can have a foothold in your life if you truly believe that you had anything to do with your salvation at all! How about this, let’s believe that salvation is given to men and women because of their repentant faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ upon the cross without praying a prayer (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:25; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 5:13), and that saved people consequently profess this saving faith in Christ both to God (Luke 23:42; John 9:35-39; Romans 10:9-14) and to man (Matthew 10:32-33) through baptism (Acts 2:38) and verbal witness (1 Corinthian 12:3).
I only bring this topic up because I am a victim of the same issues. Many have heard that I was saved at age 33. I even said myself that I had “prayed a prayer”, but couldn’t remember what I prayed or that it was even the RIGHT prayer. Let me set the record straight. I was saved in the 9th grade at a camp in New Jersey. How do I know that? I was confronted with my sins (conviction), was explained that faith is in Christ alone, and I chose to believe in Christ. I don’t remember what I prayed, who was there, or anything else. I do remember coming home and making some radical changes in my life (repentance). Let me assure you according to the Bible, I am saved, and I had nothing to do with it. It was all the work of God. To be persuaded otherwise would put me in charge and I want nothing to do with my own salvation except in “working it out” Philippians 2:12.
Being saved as a teenager at a camp, when I returned home, there was great joy and repentance for about 2 months, but no follow-up. I had no discipleship, no mentors, any and all preaching went right over my head every Sunday, and I had no guidance as to what to do next. I fell back into my old ways, but NOW, with conviction. I think that many people go through this if they were saved at a young age, especially if there is no “follow up” and discipleship.
When I arrived at my “former church ministry”, I was confronted with the “doubt of salvation”. I was told by the pastor (and pastor’s wife) that they knew I wasn’t saved because I didn’t have the right answers about salvation. My wife was told the same thing. Because of this feeling of doubt, and wanting to be free from it, and the constant doubt of my salvation by the leadership, I was confused, and I made a decision that ultimately didn’t HURT me, but it didn’t HELP me either. Instead of trying to determine, from Scripture, if my salvation was indeed true, I was confronted with “you need to pray a prayer, one that is specific, with specific words in it.” Folks, they could have easily explained that I was Biblically saved, but they did not. This leads to a few issues. First, the leadership has a wrong understanding of how to get saved. Second, the leadership is so focused on numbers that it didn’t matter if I was truly saved or not. I’m not sure what the answer is and that’s not even for me to decide. The fact of the matter is that this situation was handled wrong.
We not only have a responsibility to keep ourselves “examined”, but we need to also keep our leadership accountable. This does not mean that we are to be disobedient (Hebrews 13:17), but we are to consider the results (Hebrews 13:7). What accountability do you have in a situation like this? …………………Something to consider.