The part of salvation most people overlook

It’s risky talking about the typical anything in church–people are as varied as their fingerprints, voice patterns, and DNA–but once in a while, it’s safe to draw a few general conclusions. Here’s one:

The average Christian who goes forth to witness for the Lord leaves out fully one-half of the equation between God and man.

Here’s what that means.

Let’s suppose I decide to join my favorites, the New Orleans Saints football team. For many years I lived about two miles from their facilities, and pastored some of the players.  But, let’s say one morning, I drive down, park my car and walk inside. A guard meets me.

“I’m here,” I tell him. “It took some doing, but I finally relented. I’m ready to give myself to this team.”

Being of a suspicious bent, the guard looks me up and down and says, “What are you talking about, mister? Why are you here?”

“I’m joining the Saints,” I say. “I’ve heard by the commercials that you need the support of the community. So, I have studied up on everything–talked to people, read the books, watched some games on tape–and I am now ready to join the team.”

“Oh, you are, are you?” he says.

“Yes sir,” I announce confidently. “In fact, I want Gayle Benson (she’s the owner) to know that I trust her. I believe she has the good of the community at heart. And the coaches and players? Well, they are the best. This is a big day for me.”

“There is only one problem, mister,” says the security guard.

“How could there be a problem?” I ask. “I think I’ve got everything figured out.”

“All but one,” he says. “The Saints don’t want you on the team. You may know them, but they don’t know you. You may approve the owner and the coaches, but frankly, sir, that doesn’t mean squat.”

I’m crestfallen. But the guard is not through.

“Sir, you run on home now. You’re welcome to buy a ticket and attend the home games in the Superdome.  Or, the Saints will be on television and you can watch their games from home. Get you a pennant and wave it, wear the t-shirt, put a sticker on your car.”

“But you cannot join the team,” he emphasizes, as he ushers me out the door.

Okay, the illustration is faulty, but please read on.

The question before us today, class, is this: Even if you decided that you know Jesus, trust in Jesus, and have received Jesus, that you are “joining the team,” so to speak, how do you know that He knows you, trusts you, and receives you?

–After all, if Jesus does not know you, you are not saved (Matthew 7:23).

–If Jesus does not trust you, you are not saved (John 2:23-25).

–If Jesus does not receive you, you are not saved (II Corinthians 5:17).

In explaining salvation, many of us have left off the entire divine side of the operation. In so doing, we may well have left a lot of people in mortal peril.

1. For salvation to be genuine, you must know Jesus but He must also know you.

The Lord said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and am known by my own.” He added, “As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).

Later, He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Listen to Bob Churchmember as he brings up the subject of salvation to his friend, Roger Churchless: “My friend, may I ask, do you know Jesus?”

Now, to Bob Churchmember, that’s the essence of salvation. If Roger Churchless assures him that he does indeed “know” Jesus, unless Joe follows up with something like, “Could you tell me about it?” the conversation ends there.

Here’s what the Lord Himself said about that: Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23)

Sure, Bob wants Roger to know Jesus. But unless Jesus knows Roger too, nothing happens and Roger is still lost in his sins.

2. For salvation to be genuine, you must trust Jesus and He must trust you.

The old hymn invites us to “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.” No argument there. Trusting is the essence of faith.

It’s just not the end of the story.

Listen to Bob Churchmember telling a child how to be saved: “You must trust Jesus as your personal Savior.”

The danger here is that our well-intentioned witness may leave the child with the impression that everything is up to him or her, that by simply voicing a little prayer of trust, everything is taken care of.

One wonders how many millions of church members have lived and died with a false assurance of salvation because at some point they “prayed that little prayer.”

Here’s a stunner from the Word:

Many believed in His Name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25)

They believed in Him. But He did not believe in them.

The question then is one I ask myself: Does Jesus Christ believe in me? Does He trust me?

3. For salvation to be genuine, we must receive Jesus but He must also receive us.

The verse above all others which Bob Churchmember uses in explaining salvation is Revelation 3:20. Now, I confess to loving its imagery. In context, it is directed toward a church–and therefore to believers–but it makes clear that the Savior has done everything necessary to get us to Heaven except for one big thing: He has not forced it on us. Jesus brings Heaven’s blessings up to the front door and knocks. He pays us the highest honor imaginable by inviting us to choose whether to accept His gifts of love.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.

And so, we naturally ask people, “Have you received Jesus into your heart and life?”

Nothing wrong with that. But by itself, it leaves out another dimension: the heavenly. Has Jesus received you?

Here’s the Scripture: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus is in me.  I am in Him.  A dual relationship.

For us to be “in Christ,” He must receive us.

I am not trying to make anyone insecure about their salvation. However, untold thousands of church members whose faith in Jesus has made zero difference in their lives ought to be wondering if they have the genuine article.

To make an unsaved church member question his relationship to Christ is to do him the ultimate favor.

You see your friend sitting in the dark and decide to help him. You say, “The way to have light in this room is by plugging your lamp’s electrical cord into the socket on the wall and flipping the switch. Do that and you will have all the light you will ever need.”

That sounds right and it might be if the house’s wiring system is connected to an outside power source. But if no electricity is coming into the house–if the power company has shut off the juice!–your advice is meaningless and your friend’s acts will produce nothing but frustration.

In answer to a stranger’s question, you might answer, “The way to get to New York City is by going down to the train station, buying a ticket and boarding a passenger car in the yard.” That could be sound advice. After all, a lot of people do that and arrive in the Big Apple a couple of days later, so apparently it works.

But what if the traveler climbs aboard a car not connected to a train. He sits there, confident he has done everything necessary to get to the big city. Yet, he goes nowhere.

Dr. Norris Palmer, pastor of Baton Rouge’s First Baptist Church from decades past, told of the time he was traveling cross-country by train. During a stop in one city, the conductor asked him to pick up his bag and move to another car. The preacher said, “Sir, if it would be all right, I’m comfortable here and would like to stay in this car.” The trainman said, “It’s fine with me, but you need to know this car is not connected with anything that’s going anywhere.”

Our concern is that many church members are innocently and ill-advisedly sitting in unconnected train cars–to stay with the metaphor–that are not going anywhere. They did what they were told to do, but they were not told the whole story, that they were to make connections with the Lord Himself.

I suspect this is the single reason a lot of church members who were baptized as little children decide in adulthood they never have known Christ as Savior and were never saved, and now want to do this.  As children, they prayed the prayer and said the right words.  But nothing more.

Consider this a heart-cry for people to know God, not just know about Him.

The man or woman or child who is genuinely born again and a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ will know Jesus, trust Jesus, and will have received Jesus. But by the same token, Jesus will know them, will trust them, and will have received them.

Without this, there is no salvation.

In conclusion…

I am not naive and do not want to be presumptuous. I know the Lord saves whomever He chooses. I have not been handed the authority to announce who is in and who’s out. For that I am eternally grateful.

However, the weak status of Christianity in churches and communities all across this most-evangelized of all nations on earth should convince even the most casual observer that something is rotten in Denmark. Something is seriously wrong at the heart of our faith.

Perhaps Bob Churchmember needs to ask people: Does Jesus know you? Does Jesus trust you? Has Jesus received you?

Might be a worthy starting place.

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