Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian Part 2

Commitment 2: Emotional

Emotions also play a role in receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Becoming a Christian also involves your emotions.
From the Scripture we know that God has emotions. He feels love, joy, sorrow, compassion, anger, disappointment and many other emotions. The Bible also says you are created in the image of God. As a part of His image, God has given you the capacity to experience emotions. Just about everything you do, from the time you awaken in the morning until you go to sleep at night, involves emotions.
Each person who receives Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord will have a different kind of emotional experience. Paul met God through a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus. Timothy, on the other hand, was raised in a Christian home where he came to know Christ at an early age and gradually grew in his faith.
One frequently hears Christians enthusiastically sharing how their dramatic encounters with Christ resulted in their being healed of drug addiction, gross immorality or some other distressing problem. The fact that their lives were indeed changed validates their claims.
On the other hand, there are many who have knelt quietly in the privacy of their homes, as I did, or at a mountain retreat, or in a church sanctuary and there received Christ into their lives with no dramatic emotional experience.

Value in Legitimate Emotions

Emotions can be misleading. Probably no one issue has caused more people to lack the assurance of a vital relationship with God than a wrong emphasis on feelings. I have had moments of great joy, enthusiasm and spiritual awareness. And I have also felt times of sorrow and disappointment. But I do not depend on these feelings to determine my union with God. My emotions can be very deceiving.
We are to live the Christian life by faith, not emotions. Yes, emotions have a place in your experience, but how you feel does not determine the truth of your life with Christ. Rather, your emotions are a result of your faith and obedience. Our Lord said, "The one who obeys me is the one who loves me; and because he loves me, my Father will love him; and I will too, and I will reveal myself to him." The Book of Romans assures us, "In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"
There is a place for emotions in the Christian experience, though you should not seek them nor attempt to recapture them from the past. While you should not ignore the value of legitimate emotions, it is more important to remember that you are to live by faith in God and in His promises- and not by seeking an emotional experience.

"I've Been Waiting for Such an Experience."

An acquaintance brought his friend to see me, hoping that he might receive Christ, which he did. But in the course of our conversation, it became apparent that my friend, despite his concern for his friend, was himself not a Christian. So I asked him, "When did you become a Christian?"
"I'm not really sure that I am a Christian," he replied.
"Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?"
"Do you believe that He died on the cross for your sins?"
"Do you believe that if you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, He will come into your life and make you a child of God?"
"You would like to receive Him, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, I would. But I'm waiting for an experience. When my mother became a Christian, she had a dramatic emotional experience, and I've been waiting all these years for God to give me such an experience."
Although he was a professing Christian and active in his church, the thing that kept him from assurance of salvation was the wrong emphasis on emotions. I was able to explain to him that he did not have to look for an emotional experience, but could believe God's Word. Finally we bowed in prayer, and as a simple expression of faith, he received Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord and rejoiced in the certainty that Christ was in his life.

Commitment 3: The Will

Placing faith in Jesus is also an act of the will.

Becoming a Christian not only involves your intellect and your emotions, it also involves your will. You must first be willing to obey God and His Word.
Christ emphasized the importance of man's will in relation to the assurance of salvation. Jesus said:
If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth.
Some people are reluctant to obey Christ because they fear He will change their plans and take all the fun out of their lives.

Example of Choosing to Obey

One student with whom I counseled and prayed hesitated to receive Christ because he enjoyed his life of parties and sex. But through the prayers of fellow students and friends, this young man decided to obey Christ. He discovered that what he thought was an exciting life was nothing compared to the abundant life which the Lord Jesus gives. He became one of the most vital and fruitful Christians on campus.
This student had fought against God's will for his life until he realized the truth of Jesus' words:
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.
And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul? And anyone who is ashamed of me and my message in these days of unbelief and sin, I, the Messiah, will be ashamed of him when I return in the glory of my Father, with the holy angels.
Let me assure you that no one has ever given up anything - home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or property - for love of me and to tell others the Good News, who won 't be given back, a hundred times over, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land - with persecutions!
A leading athletic coach held in high esteem by millions of people, a man of sterling character and tremendous ability, shared with me his reluctance to surrender his life fully to Christ. He feared God would ask him to become a minister and to give up the joy and love of his life - teaching.
Many successful people have refused to follow Christ because they are afraid He will demand they sell their possessions and give everything to the poor as Jesus told the rich young ruler to do." Although God does lead some people to give their possessions, He leads others to use their influence for Christ in other ways.

Doubt Comes from Unwillingness to Trust

As you walk in faith and obedience to God as an act of your will and allow Him to change your life, you will gain increasing assurance of your relationship with Him. You will experience God's work in your life as He enables you to do what you could never have done on your own - things like being able to love someone who treats you badly, maintaining a spirit of peace while surrounded by great pressures and problems, developing a growing desire to reach other people with the love of Christ.
But, if you do not trust God and His plan for your life and obey His commands, you will inevitably have doubts about your salvation.
Some people refuse to receive Christ because of pride or self-will. For approximately fifty years, I have worked with the so-called intelligentsia. In all those years, I have not met one single person who has said, "I have considered all the historical evidence and the claims of Christ, and I cannot believe He is the Son of God."
Every one with whom I have counseled who has rejected Christ has always denied Him as a matter of the heart, not the head - a matter of the will, not the intellect. They have used intellectual issues as a smoke screen to cover the deeper issues of the heart.

Experience with Seminary Professor

Many years ago I met with a famous professor of a very prestigious seminary. He did not believe that Jesus is God, even though he had taught thousands of young students who became ministers. One day I was invited to visit this great scholar by a friend who was getting his doctorate under his supervision.
My friend explained, "He does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but he is a good man. I like him. He is personable and warm-hearted, and I think you might be able to communicate with him."
The professor's first words to me after I was introduced to him were, "Mr. Bright, when you talk to students about becoming a Christian, what do you tell them?"
Knowing his reputation, I wanted to weigh my words carefully, but before I could reply, he asked a second question. "Better still, what would you tell me? I would like to become a Christian."
He went on to explain that he had recently been reading the Word of God with a new understanding. For a couple of years he had also been studying the writings of the church fathers and biographies of great heroes of the faith. As a result, he had become intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. But he did not know Him as his personal Savior.
I drew a circle on a piece of paper explaining, "This circle represents your life." In the circle I drew a throne and on the throne I wrote the letter "S" for self. I explained, "In order to become a Christian you must receive Christ into your life as your Savior from sin and the Lord and Master of your life. You must surrender the control of your life to Him."
"That's my problem," he said. "Intellectual pride has kept me from doing this. I've received many honors in the academic world, and I haven't been willing to humble myself before God. For years I have denied the deity of Christ and have taught thousands of young men to do the same."
At that moment we were interrupted by a telephone call, and due to other scheduled appointments, we were unable to finish our conversation. He asked us to return two days later. When we returned, he took us into an office with no phones and, locking the door behind us, said, "I want you to know that I went this morning to one of the local churches, took communion, and prepared my heart for your coming. I have been meditating on the third chapter of John, and I want you to pray for me that I may know Jesus as my personal Savior."
First I prayed; then he prayed, and then my friend prayed, and that day this man of international renown, like a little child, received Christ by faith as an act of his will. His whole life was changed. His teachings changed, his philosophy of life changed, and he became a new creation in Christ. Basically his problem was not intellectual; it was a problem of pride and self-will.

Deception Another Source of Doubt

Another reason people are reluctant to commit their lives to Christ is because Satan has deceived them. Jesus spoke about Satan's character this way:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Some years ago I was invited to meet with a well-known military leader. He was a most cordial and gracious person. As we talked, he said he wanted to become a Christian but somehow couldn't make the decision.
We talked together for more than an hour, and finally I felt impressed to share with him a passage from Colossians 1:13, 14. I asked him to read it aloud. "God has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins."
Then I explained, "There are only two kingdoms in the world - God's kingdom and Satan's kingdom. Which one are you in?" After some thoughtful moments of silence, he said, "I guess I'm in Satan's kingdom."
I then asked him, "What would you like to do about it?"
He replied, "I would like to move over to God's kingdom."
Then this great general, whose influence was felt over the world, entrusted his life to Christ and moved from the darkness and gloom of Satan's dominion into the kingdom of God's dear Son.

Acceptance is an Act of the Will

Has your enemy Satan deceived you? Have you thought you must become a better person before God will accept you? Has your enemy caused you to question whether God really loves you? Has he caused you to become comfortable with your disobedience to God?
No matter what influence may be keeping you from Christ, I encourage you to turn from that influence -- and turn to Christ.
To be sure you are a Christian, you must be aware of basic truths from the Scriptures. You must not only believe these truths intellectually, but you also must, as an act of your will, accept them and make them central to your life.
This begins with knowing that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
God has your best interests at heart. He is concerned about your needs and has provided a way for you to know His love and plan for your life.
But you are sinful and separated from God; therefore, you cannot experience His love and plan for your life until something wonderful happens.
You see, you were created to have fellowship with God, but because of self-will, you chose to go your own way as we all have. This self-will with which we struggle is revealed in either active rebellion against God or passive indifference to Him. The Bible calls self-will "sin." Your sin has made you spiritually dead and separated from God.

God is holy and people are sinful. A great gulf separates the two. People attempt to reach God and the abundant life through their own efforts including living a good life, holding to a certain philosophy and practicing religion. But no human efforts enable a person to reach God.

God's Only Provision

Jesus Christ bridges the gap that separates sinful man from a holy God.

Jesus Christ is God's only provision for your sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.

Who is Jesus Christ? Why does He have the power to bridge this gap between a holy God and sinful people?

What it Means to Receive Christ

Jesus' miraculous birth, the life He lived, the miracles He performed, the words He spoke, His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven - all demonstrate He was no mere man. Jesus is God.
You must receive Jesus Christ as God, as your Savior and as your Lord. By receiving Christ you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. You receive Christ through faith, by personally inviting Him into your life. Paul said, "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." And Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me."
Receiving Christ begins by turning away from yourself, repenting of your sins, and turning to God. It involves trusting Christ to come into your life, to forgive your sin, and to make you the person He wants you to be.

The Marriage Illustration

Let me illustrate it this way:
Suppose you meet a certain young man or woman about whom you have heard many fine compliments. You like what you see - looks, personality and many other qualities. Would this be enough on which to launch a marriage?
No. There is more to marriage than mutual respect and admiration.
As you become better acquainted, you soon fall in love. Is this sufficient for marriage?
No. There is more to marriage than the intellect and the emotions.
Then you become engaged, and the wedding day arrives. How exciting! Intellectually you believe he or she is the most wonderful person in the whole world. Emotionally, your heart beats twice as fast when you are together.
But now something even more important is about to take place. As you stand before the minister or priest to exchange your vows, you commit your wills one to the other. The marriage is not a true marriage if there is no mutual giving of one to the other.
So it is when you become a Christian. When you commit yourself to Christ, you must give yourself wholly to Him in a commitment of your intellect, emotions and will.

Two Kinds of Lives

Your life may be pictured in one of two ways. If you are living a self-directed life, you control your interests. This kind of life always results in discord and frustration.
If you are living a Christ-directed life, you are yielding to Christ, and your interests are controlled by Him, resulting in harmony with God's plan for your life.
Our lives parallel that of a caterpillar crawling in the dust - an ugly, hairy worm. One day this worm weaves a cocoon about its body. From this cocoon emerges a beautiful butterfly. We do not understand fully what has taken place. We realize only that, where once a worm crawled in the dust, now a butterfly soars in the air.
So it is in the lives of Christians. Where once we lived on the lowest level as sinful, self centered individuals, now as we trust and obey God, we dwell on the highest plane, experiencing full and abundant lives as children of God. This life begins by receiving Christ into your life as your Savior and Lord.

"No One Has Ever Told Me."

Some years ago, a woman who had just received Christ through the witness of a staff member asked me to talk to her father about Christ. He was the founder of one of the largest corporations in the world at that time. I visited him in his beautiful home. He was truly a great man. His bearing, his manner, everything about him suggested he was truly a statesman.
He showed me trophy room after trophy room filled with plaques and photographs of him with kings, presidents and all kinds of celebrities. He was a great philanthropist who had given hundreds of millions of dollars to very worthwhile causes.
After awhile he said, "My daughter tells me you have something important to share with me."
With this invitation, I began to talk with him about his relationship with Christ. He was very gracious, very warm, very open and responsive. I shared with him the words of our Lord in His discussion with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was deeply religious, moral, ethical and above reproach. I read from the Gospel of John, chapter 3:
Jesus told him, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"
At this point this dear, gracious man in his middle eighties said to me, "Mr. Bright, I've been the chairman of the board of my church for fifty years, and no one has ever told me that I have to receive Christ as my Savior or that I have to be born again! Do you think, in the light of all of the good things I have done through the years, that I must be born again?" I explained, "The need for you to be born again is not my suggestion. It is Jesus who said, 'You must be born again' to Nicodemus, who was also a fine leader and very religious."
Then I asked him, "Would you like to be born again?"
"Yes, I would," he replied.

To be continued....

Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Be Sure You Are a Christian, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

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