If you have a "coming to Christ faith story," I’d like for you to write down 1-2 names of people who impacted your life for the sake of Jesus Christ; people whom you’d say you’d not be a follower of Jesus, a disciple, saved, or a regenerated believer if wasn’t for <“fill in the blank”>.
Did you know over 2 million kids run away each year in the US; more than 2000 kids are reported missing every day.
There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
[My personal testimony] I didn’t really know what was happening, nor did i think anything was going to happen; but something really was happening I just didn’t know it yet (God works that way sometimes).
Two things I firmly believe because of that event in my life: One is: Spiritual leaders need to know the story of God well enough and be able to help people know where they fit into His story, so that they can teach them the language of their own conversion. [re-Explain]
The camp speaker could have left me in darkness and sympathized with my “uncomfortable inner churning,” he could have left me to figure things out on my own, he could have been distracted by the others (the pretty girls) in the room and had easily dismissed an 8 year old boy. But he didn’t. He spoke into my life the things of God and it was LIGHT. I think that’s why it was uncomfortable. An unknown presence was gaining access into me and something inside didn’t like it.
Do any of you like to be awakened before it is time to be? Ten minutes before your alarm goes off bing!—do you like that? Is the word GRUMPY an understatement? Except I was being awakened by God--to come to Him and trust Him; and that was a journey I started several years ago.
Maybe you feel an uncomfortable feeling this morning too.
After the camp speaker asked me that question, something happened inside. My heart was softened in a way as never before and tears came to my eyes which were the words I could not say; I stood there and just nodded, but an inner door was opened to what I call now: God’s love.
Ever felt your heart so softened by God you cried?
The 2nd thing I believe because of this event is: if you are a true believer you have a story that you just have to share!!
Acts 1:9 Jesus says when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…
There is power in retelling our stories. Do you remember those two who were on the Emmaus Road walking with that stranger who was later revealed to them and how they knew something else was going on! “Did not our hearts BURN?” Even before they knew it was Jesus! They then ran, told what had happened and Jesus showed up!
84% of American adults self-identify as Christians; does this cause any of you to think there really must be different types of Christians because this just can’t be true.
In Matthew 7, Jesus said, Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Mt 7:21-23)
Isn’t it sobering to think that some people believe they are in the kingdom, saved, going to heaven, and connected to Jesus, but are truly not. People might look like they are saved on the outside but something is still missing. Maybe this is you?
Peter exhorts us to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Pet 1:10); “Confirm” means this is going to take careful inspection! What do we inspect?
Your “Calling” is God’s invitation of how he brought you to Himself and includes your response to him; “Election” is His choosing to forgive you of your sins and selecting you to carry His Spirit inside your heart. INSPECT YOUR HEART!
Paul also commands, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith; Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5). “Tests” and “examinations” are not uncommon to us—it means we are students in a lab—You are going to need to provide proofs as to why you are in the faith and take a good look to see if Christ truly is IN you!?
Listen, statistically 100% of us are going to die. Wouldn’t you want to know before you died whether you belonged to Christ or not? Once you die there are NO 2nd CHANCES!
Jesus told a story of how the gospel is like seed and preaching and teaching is like sowing that seed. Some of the seed fell on the Indiana beach, some on the Salamonie rocks, some among the [local town's name] weeds, and some on the rich Mississinewa farmlands near here. Which seed took root and grew and produced fruit for future planting? The seed which was sown in the heart of those who persevered and testified!
There was once a man who stayed away from all evil but still wasn’t saved; who had a good conscience void of any offence, who was diligent to do all the good he could to all people but was still not saved; this man constantly and carefully used all the public and private means of grace he could avail himself of, and had a serious and real desire to serve God, but was still not saved; he had a heart devoted to please God and tried to "fight the good fight," and to "lay hold of eternal life" but by his own testimony was but almost a Christian. His name: John Wesley.
Is this happening today? Could people who are committed to the church, to doing good works, to being honest and sincere, yet be only “almost a Christian” and not completely or “altogether Christian”?
If this is true, right here today, would it make you sad to discover that on either side of you, when your life on earth is through or if Jesus Himself returned to take you to your kingdom home, the very people sitting next to you right now were not there because they thought they were Christians but were only ALMOST? Would that make you sad?
This is serious. Could you be missing something? TO the Nicodemus’ I say, Are you born again? Do you have a story?
It has been my passion for a long time to help people be sure, to help sinners have an assurance of their faith, to be genuinely converted and born again.
[The story of the congregant who was IN the church all his life but not saved!]
[The story of a man in my youth who was truly converted!]
The renewal of the church will not come through efforts to foster REVIVAL but through a renewed understanding of CONVERSION! Of obeying Paul and Peter’s instruction:
Have you an assurance? Or have you failed the test?
50% of the teenagers who grows up in church will leave the church after graduating from High School. That is sad! But even more saddening is the fact that only 20% of them had decided to do so. 80% simply drifted away allowing a slow fade to cripple them and finally be led away.
Why? We HAVE BEEN MISSING SOMETHING while doing Church. We have either failed to pass on as of greatest importance the faith we possess! Or we have been passing on EXACTLY what we have—an ALMOST Christian faith that we ourselves possess and not the biblical one. Without the Holy Spirit in your heart you are not saved! Heaven is not your destiny and you do not know the Lord and worse, HE doesn’t know you!
How are you ever going to testify about what God has done in your life if He has never done a work IN you? We can's testify about what we don’t have—we need to stop trying to trick everybody and we need to start repenting.
You might be religious but you are not saved; you might be devoted but you are unknown by Christ; you might be disciplined in your habits but you do not have the assurance your sins are forgiven and so you live an empty life void of any eternal hope or calling. You THINK you are saved. Will you miss heaven by 18 inches? That’s the distance between your head and heart.
DO you have to have a story! Or have you failed the test? “Without a story to tell, there is no faith!”
[Other significant experiences of God: at church camp, internships, mission trips, Walk to Emmaus, awakened at night to pray...]
God can do anything! The Gospel acc. to Romans 1:16 “IS the power of God for salvation” and the words of the writer of Hebrews are just as impacting as they were when they were written = “DO NOT harden your hearts” if you hear his voice; today is the day of salvation!
Wouldn’t it be horrible if you missed heaven by 18”??? Go home and check it kids! Measure the distance from daddy’s head to his heart and then say, “Wouldn’t it be sad if we missed heaven by 18”?
[The rest of the story of the in church all his life man]: A few years ago I knelt by the bed of man who grew up in church but was not saved or perhaps wasn’t sure of his salvation. All I know I was looking a little Q&A book from the ALPHA course sitting on my desk and the Holy Spirit prompted me with “take it”. I put in my jeep. I went to visit this man in the hospital several times and each time his condition grew worse. This time I went to visit him as I got out of the jeep my eye again caught the image of that little pamphlet and the Holy Spirit prompted me again with “take it.” Towards the end of my time with this gentleman who now had a tracheotomy I read that pamphlet. I reached over and took his hand to pray with him but then asked him if he would like to have peace with God and he squeezed my hand. I read the prayer at the end of the pamphlet that said:
Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. (Take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience.) Please forgive me, I now turn from everything which I know to be wrong. Thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by Your Spirit to be with me forever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
We have such a great salvation!
John Wesley stated he was almost a Christian. How did he become an all-together Christian? It wasn’t his doing!
He attended a meeting he really didn’t want to go to, but he went anyway. It was on Aldersgate Street.
Here is this is what John wrote in his journal about that night:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
The first thing John did was [He prayed for those he had done him wrong so he could forgive and continue in his forgiveness] I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me.
Then [He testified!] I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.
Then [he battled] But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but when it comes to joy, sometimes it comes now and sometimes later when God wills it so!
This didn’t mean John wasn’t tempted anymore! “After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.”
John Wesley described how this new way of living was different from when he was only ALMOST a Christian! He said, “I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.
“Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbidden me to take thought for the morrow.”
The Holy Spirit was now living inside John and he moved from conversion in his mind to being born again in his heart.
Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest wrote that conversion and regeneration (or being born again) are not the same thing, but everyone who is born again knows he or she has received something—the forgiveness of sins that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of grace who gives you peace.
[One more story: The story of Frank and The prevenient grace of cookies an invitation to Bible School = Frank came to Jesus.] What if those old ladies didn’t invite Frank in? What if someone didn’t bake the cookies?
Listen, what IF you keep failing the test? What IF you only think in your head but never possess in your heart? What if you never listen to the invitation of God “to come?”
I don’t have any cookies but I am still going invite you to come to Jesus today and get your story on track with God and ask Christ Jesus to come into your heart so you don’t miss out on kingdom living by 18”!
Over 2 million kids run away each year; more than 2000 kids are reported missing daily. 800 Pacos showed up at one invitation. Jesus left the 99 sheep in the pen to go and search for the one missing. Are you the one missing today? If that’s you, if you hear his tug at your heart today, won’t you come? Today’s the day!
Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. (Take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience. If you can't think of any, guess at it--I'm pretty sure you will guess it right the first time!) Please forgive me, I now turn from everything which I know to be wrong. Thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit. I now receive that gift. I open my heart. I say YES to YOU Jesus. Please come in and be with me forever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.