January 6, 2002


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Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Matthew 7:21 ¶ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

This is only the second time I have spoken through an interpreter, so please bear with me.

I count it a great privilege to preach the gospel of Christ in this land and in this church. I have heard a lot about Brasil because my brother has been a missionary here for about 32 years.

I am assuming that the Devil is the same whether in the US or in Brasil. Over the past 50 or so years, he has undermined the truth of the gospel of Christ, substituting what is called in the States, "Easy Believeism."

By this term, we mean any salvation message that fails to emphasize complete trust in the finished work of Christ in the sinner's place.

Many pastors in the US estimate that as many as 75% or more of US church members are lost. And these are members of good evangelical churches. My own personal experience has found that to be true.

I do not like to preach about experiences because God works in us as individuals. But I am going to preach the gospel in light of my experience.

My dad was a Baptist pastor for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a Christian home, and was baptized when I was about 9 years old.

After I got out of the US Navy Construction Battalions in 1965, I started working as a layman in a large Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

While there, the Lord dealt with me about being saved, so I prayed a prayer and was baptized again in 1968.

After I was married in 1970, I went on the church staff full time. In 1971, I became an associate pastor of a large Baptist Church in Maryland. Then in 1974, I became an associate pastor of a large Baptist church in Louisiana.

I was licensed to preach in 1975, and was doing all of the baptizing in that Church. (I became pastor in Linden in Jan, 1983.) I had been doing all of the door to door evangelism for the three churches I had been in.

After a series of unusual circumstances, the Lord again dealt with me about salvation in 1977, and the verse He used to show me the truth was Ephesians 1:11-13.

Then He used Matthew 7:21-23 to destroy my arguments against the truth.

My arguments against the Lord started with probably the most common, John 3:16: "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish."

But James 2:19 tells us that even the devils believe in God: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

When that argument did not work, I used other arguments to convience myself I was saved:

Lord, I am the associate pastor of the church.
Lord, I am doing all of the baptizing for the church.
Lord, I am doing a lot of evangelistic work.
Lord, I am to be ordained to the ministry in a couple of weeks.
Lord, I would not be doing all of these things if I were not saved.

Then the Lord showed me that I was depending upon my good works to prove I had eternal life. I was climbing into heaven on my own.

After the Lord destroyed all of my arguments, I finally had to turn to trust in the finished work of Christ. That was in 1977.

So what does the Word of God mean when He speaks of believing in Christ?

Is it believing the historical fact that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead? The devils know that fact.
Is it being baptized? I was baptized twice, and neither of those had anything to do with Christian Conversion.
Is it turning one's life over to God?
Is it deciding to follow Jesus?
Is it opening the door of one's "heart," and letting Jesus in?

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:10-14 that Christian Conversion consists only in trusting Christ's payment made in our place:

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

From the earliest, I knew about the work of Christ. But I had been told the many popular things, that if I would pray and open my heart and let Jesus in, I would be saved. Or, if I would turn over my life to the Lord, I would be saved.

But none of those things are the gospel. The gospel is that we are sinners, and the penalty for our sin is death:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The gospel is that Christ died to pay the penalty for the sins of His people.

Isa 53:4 ¶ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Yes, Romans 10:9 says: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

According to the Word of God in Ephesians 1:12, believe means total trust in Christ's payment for our sins in our place. Ephesians 1:13 says After ye heard the word of truth...

We must hear and understand the word of truth in order to be saved. That truth is that Christ died as our substitute, and that we must trust Christ's payment for our sins.

Christian Conversion is not trusting Jesus to come into one's heart.
Christian Conversion is not trusting Jesus to direct our paths.
Christian Conversion is not trusting Jesus to take care of our lives as we turn our lives over to Him.
Christian Conversion is not baptism, nor is it a result of good works.
Christian Conversion is not necessarily proved by good works, though conversion will result in good works.

Christian Conversion is the result of trusting Jesus Christ alone to pay the penalty for our sins. Salvation is trusting Jesus Christ to be our substitute and take our place under the wrath of God against our sins.

Just as we trust a chair to hold us up, we must trust Christ to pay our sin debt before God.

What are you trusting in tonight for your eternal salvation? A prayer, good works, or in the finished work of Christ in your place?

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