It is true that God loves the world, He has a fantastic plan for your life and He wants to give you a future and a hope. However, if these truths are built on a foundation where repentance is not central, you can quickly get a very egocentric faith.
Perhaps not so many say it directly, but when you look at much of the Christianity today, you can get the impression that even Christians are focusing more on self-realisation than on sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
There are many who proclaim out loud that Jesus is number one in their lives until following Him starts to clash with their own comfort zone. When it does, it is strange how many good excuses they suddenly come up with.
When Peter preached the Gospel on the Pentecost day, his message cut the listeners to the heart (Acts 2:37). Nowadays you do not hear so often that gospel preaching cuts people to the heart. Maybe this is because many churches today make a point out of making their preaching “seeker-sensitive”.
Peter does not seem to try being very ”seeker-friendly” on the Pentecost and neither does Paul; it says that when he witnessed to Felix, Felix got scared (Acts 24:25).
The response to the ones who heard Peter’s preaching on the Pentecost was: “What shall we do, brothers?” (Acts 2:37) and the answer Peter gives them is: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). When people respond to the message today, we swap repentance with a short prayer and completely drop the issue of baptism.
I am not saying that everyone who received Jesus by raising their hand and saying a prayer is not saved. I am not saying, either, that all those who first received Jesus because they heard a ”Jesus-loves-you” message are not saved. However, since much of today’s preaching has a very superficial attitude towards repentance, many have jumped on the bandwagon without truly understanding that being a Christian is a call to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24).
In fear of offending people, some churches have completely dropped talking about sin at their services and many refer to the topic only in general terms as: “After all, we are just humans and have all done something wrong”.
When we discuss sin in this way, it is easy for people to trivialize their own sin, which results in the fact that they do not completely understand how serious it is or how much they are forgiven.
According to Jesus, as a consequence they will not love Him as much as they would if they really understood the seriousness and the amount of their own sin (Luke 7:47).
I do not want to be perceived as unnecessarily critical, but I think that many who call themselves Christians nowadays actually do not comprehend what it is all about. They have jumped on the bandwagon because they have heard a positive message about how much Jesus loves them, how fantastic it is to believe in Him and how He wants to help them with all their problems; who would say no to such an offer?
As I have said before, I think all of this is true. However, when you preach it without having repentance as the basis, it becomes easy to say yes to all the benefits without thinking through the cost. The Bible does not have any ”A” and ”B” Christians. There is only one type, namely disciples of Jesus; those who have agreed to follow Him.
Jesus tells them that the criteria are as follows:
(Matthew 16:24 + Luke 14:26-33)
- Deny yourself
- Take up your cross and follow Him
To those who jump on the bandwagon and hope it’s enough just to believe in Jesus, He says: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
There are many who call themselves Christians today but really don’t understand that what they consider ”a little mistake” has actually deeply hurt God. They are not aware that what they perceive as trivial, in God’s eyes is, in fact, so serious that it would be fair if He sent them to hell. It is only because He is extremely merciful and loving that He offers them forgiveness; not because they are so fantastic that they deserve it.
Some people will probably feel a little offended at this, but actually very much of today’s charismatic Christianity is VERY superficial. That is why there are many today who think they are saved, when in fact they are not. My prayer is they realize it before the day they face God. Try to read what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
What you should pay attention to when you are reading this passage is first of all that those who are not getting into the kingdom of heaven are surprised. In other words, they had been expecting to get in. Maybe their pastor had told them that everything was all right and they had nothing to fear?
Secondly, you should notice that the “Christians” who thought they were on the right path were the ones who apparently believed in the gifts of the Spirit. They practised healing, casting out demons, prophesying and powerful deeds. They were, in other words, not lukewarm “Sunday Christians” who did not practise their faith.
Thirdly, you should see that Jesus says, ”I never knew you”. In other words, those were people who had never really repented. They had jumped on the bandwagon, become an active part of the church and started their ministry without being saved.
Since there is so much superficial preaching today when it comes to sin, repentance and salvation, many have been told that they are saved even though they are not. When they become a little uncertain and go to talk to the pastor, he only tells them: “You have, after all, received Jesus and said a prayer, so relax, brother, it will be all right”. With a tap on the shoulder from the pastor they continue on their way towards hell.
Questioning people’s salvation is such a taboo that many could not dream of doing it; even though there are many clear signs that they do not live according to the Bible. Some will perhaps laugh at what I am writing here, but this is actually serious and I want to encourage you to do as Paul says:
If you are really saved, this message will not make you doubt. If, however, you feel you are getting uncertain, you should take time to become sure; it is, after all, your eternal fate that is at stake.
Jesus says very clearly that not all who say they believe are on their way to heaven, which is also obvious in the parable about the 10 virgins and the parable about the sheep and the goats. In both cases those who did not get in were shocked.
I am not saying this to condemn anyone, but I want you to be sure of your salvation. It’s not up to me to decide who is saved and who is not, but just like Paul I want to challenge you to examine yourself. I don’t want you to treat your salvation lightly because the consequences are so huge.
How do I know if I am a Christian or not? The Bible is very clear when it comes to knowing whether you are saved or not, and a good letter to read in order to see what characterises a true Christian is John’s first letter.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence… Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
— 1. John 3:18-19 + 5:12-13
- Are you walking in the light (1. John 1:7-10)
- Are you keeping His word (1. John 2:3-6 + 3:24 + 5:2-3)
- Do you walk like Him (1. John 2:6 + John 14:12)
- Do you love other Christians (1. John 2:9-11 + 3:11-19 + 4:7-8)
- You do not love this world (1. John 2:15-17 + James 4:4)
- You do not live in sin (1. John 3:6-9)
- You have the Holy Spirit (1. John 3:24 + 4:13 + Romans 8:14-16)
I would encourage you to examine your life according to the list we find in John’s first epistle. If you see that there are areas where you can not say yes then don’t sweep it under the carpet; rather do something about it. You can become certain of your salvation by following what the Bible says.