I've been reading this book called "Stop Asking Jesus into your Heart" by J.D. Greear, and it has been one of the most impactful books I've ever read. As you might guess from the title of the book, it's all about how to know whether you're saved. You might be wondering, "why would a missionary be reading a book on the assurance of salvation?" Well, if you've been paying attention to the blog for a while, you know that I've often shared my struggle of believing if I'm really saved or not. So no, I'm not reading this as a book to learn how to minister to others (primarily). The reason I'm reading this book is that in spite of writing a blog, doing ministry, seeking to repent and believe the gospel, doing other good works, etc, I don't always feel the Holy Spirit at work in me.
Look, I'm a bad person. And if any of you argue otherwise, you don't know my thoughts. You don't know the things I struggle with when I'm alone, or my constant anxiety. I'm constantly questioning and disobeying the Lover of my Soul.
My guess is that I'm also not the only one. And my guess is, like me, you do what I try to do: lace up your shoes, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and make yourself better. Maybe you promise God to never ever sin again. Maybe you promise you'll lead more bible studies, join more Christian Fellowships, and even only watch sermons on Youtube! You are going to become the best Christian you can be.
This is pride, and it's escaping the true reality that, because of the Fall of man in Genesis 3, we are severely messed up. We rebelled cosmically against the Creator of the universe, and it went bad for us. The entire creation, including our wicked hearts, fractured. Without Jesus, how on Earth could we ever fathom to be made whole again?
Yet we try. We often take one sin and make it a bigger deal than the others. A big one is sexual sin. "If I only beat this thing, I will be holy." The problem with that is two-fold: 1. we assume that we have the power to defeat the power of sin on our own and 2. we think the thing standing in our way of holiness is one sin. We miss the point that we are cosmic rebellers! We are far worse than just that one sin, that sin is just fruit that we're messed up!
Get this, though. With Jesus, in spite of our sin, we actually have true escape to perfection!
Greear says this in his book, "Repentance, however, means recognizing Jesus' authority and submitting to it, even though you know your heart is weak, divided, and pulled in conflicting directions. Repentance includes a plea for God to change your inconsistent, divided heart."
He goes on further to say this, "Belief in the gospel is not demonstrated by "never falling" but by what you do when you fall. Paul fell often but each time he got back up looking toward God, thanking God for forgiveness and that the process Jesus had started in Him that He was sure to complete." (Phil. 1:6)
Lastly, Greear goes on to talk about why Jesus chose to get baptized. In Matthew 3:15, Jesus says he is being baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In response, Greear writes this, "Whose righteousness would that baptism fulfill? His righteousness was already fulfilled, and could not be any fuller! It was MY righteousness he was fulfilling. He was undergoing a baptism of repentance in my place, repenting in a way that could truly be called 'righteous,' so that His death could be a perfect substitute for mine."
In other words, if we truly believe the Gospel, Jesus is our PERFECTION, our RIGHTEOUSNESS, our EVERYTHING. Because of Him, we are perfect in God's sight! There is nothing you have to do to have Jesus, other than realize you need Him. When we ask, "what else must I do," Jesus says "It is Finished."
Now, before everyone freaks out and says, "well, don't I have to do something for God?" Let me explain. Yes, we are called to submit to God in everything. But the first thing we must submit to is the fact that we cannot submit to God on our own strength, and that we need Jesus and His Gospel. That then allows us to respond to Jesus and His saving, transforming work on the cross, by submitting to God in all other areas of life. Our lives should increasingly reflect Jesus because we have been so stirred by what He has done for us, not because we feel the need to be perfect for our salvation. Jesus is no longer the killjoy of all our fun, but instead He is the ultimate joy who shows us what really isn't fun (the enslaving power of sin).
How do we apply this? Well, here's what I've been thinking:
Submit to the Gospel - You are not required to get all your ducks in a row, Jesus has all ready done it. As a friend of mine has said, 'all you need is to need Him.' That's it. You're never going to be perfect on your own, so stop trying and submit to the one who has been perfect for you.
See things from Jesus' perspective - It's easy to look at the doctrine of grace and think, "wow, this means I can do whatever I want, when I want." Sure, that might be true, but if Jesus came to die to slay the giant of sin and death, why would you want to willingly continue doing the things that were killing you before? As Paul writes in Romans, "Should we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means!" Instead, being freed by the Gospel means that we are free to see things from Jesus point of view (which is the right one) and let Him sanctify us so that we can reflect more of the perfection and righteousness that Jesus has all ready achieved for us.
Cast your anxiety on Jesus - If your standing with God is assured, you don't need to be anxious about your approval. You don't need to be anxious about your struggle with that certain sin. You don't need to be anxious if God will provide for you. He has promised that if you repent and believe the Gospel that you are ultimately approved by Him, without reservation, and that He will provide for you not only in Heaven, but in this life as well. Repent of your anxiety/distrust, and trust that God is going to take care of you, even if it's not the way you would prefer.
I'll leave you with a song lyric that has truly touched my heart over the past several weeks:
"Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
my perfect spotless, righteousness!
The Great Unchangable I Am,
The King of Glory and of Grace!"
The King of Glory and of Grace is our risen lamb, and He is our perfection, our spotless record, and our righteousness. Let's not try to be perfect on our own, but accept the perfect record of our savior.
In His Grace,