Don’t Be a Fake Cubs Fan; Love Jesus

Cubs fanIn our zeal to see kids come to Christ, we often push their little feet down the center aisle of our church the moment they whisper something about Jesus. And once they answer a few questions correctly or repeat a few special words with their eyes closed, we proclaim them to be genuine Christians. They are the real deal, now! Hurrah!

But are they the real deal? Is salvation truly just about repeating a prayer, walking an aisle, filling out a card, or telling a counselor, “I love Jesus?” The Messiah says, “No.” “Not everyone who says to me, “‘Lord, Lord,”’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Math. 7:21). 

If I asked you to stand up this Sunday and to repeat the following words, “I am the world’s greatest Cubs,” and if I had you wave a Cubs banner the following Sunday after the invitation, would people suddenly think you are a Cubs fan? We might have convinced them that there are now two nuts in the church. But, no one would assume that your new favorite hobby is making Lego models of Wrigley Field. Why? You never talk about the Cubs; you never watch their games; and you never associate with their paraphernalia. Saying a few words and waving a banner because I asked you to doesn’t make you a Cubs fan.

And yet, we often act as if these superficial actions when tied to Jesus are the most genuine of experiences. We think that by rushing a child (who loves the world more than God to pray a prayer and to get baptized) we can secure junior’s first heavenly mansion. Nothing is further from the truth. Salvation consists not just of reluctantly muttering, “Lord, Lord” while nobody is supposedly looking up. Those who truly embrace Jesus, demonstrate their faith by doing the will of his father. Even for children, saving faith is inseparable from repentance that spawns a new life.   

And while simple, repentance is extremely hard. To change the direction of our life, boys and girls (and all of us) have to die to self. We have to call our kids to count the cost. They have to understand that their hearts are little idol factories dominated by altars to fame, sports, sex, greed, and pride.  Little ones have to repent of these idols and fall in love with a Jesus. Our savior calls them (and us) to willing suffer the loss of friends, jobs, scholarships, homes, and every earthly comfort. Yes, It’s an awesome trade. As Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” But for all its appeal, our kids will still think the gospel call is foolish apart from Jesus. Only through the power of Christ can any of us come to faith. Praise the Lord! He saves!

But if we rush ahead of God, we will leave behind a generation of confused souls who experienced religion without encountering Christ. If our kids are told that salvation consists of nothing more than saying a few magical words while standing in holy water, they will disconnect faith from repentance. They will become just another one of the millions of Americans who claim Jesus as Lord while being addicted to pornography, enthralled with money, and captivated by sports. They will become one of the many to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”

Onesies: The Doctrine of Salvation

SalvationSeries_Onesies_2Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I decided to go above and beyond for my wife’s past birthday. I searched and dug until I found the perfect gift that made flowers and Godiva chocolate seem like gumballs. I presented her with a Chicago Cubs onesie for our recently conceived son (Since the two were still one, I thought it an appropriate gift). Because my wife is amazing, she was wowed by my gift! She was also quite amused and not for the reason you are thinking. You see, it seems that the great “onesie” creator decided to make onesies in more than one size. Who would have thought? Recent predictions project baby Witkowski to be wearing the Chicago Cubs onesie sometime around the year 2016.

               chicagocubsI have since learned that onesie sizes go from preemie to adult XXXL. In a much, much more grandeur way, the free gift of salvation also does not have an age limit or time sensitive restrictions. The seven-year-old child comes to Christ in the exact same way as the seventy-seven-year old man. They both only need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved! Becoming a Christian is easier than choosing the correct onesie. God has done all the work.

God Does It All

               Because God is holy, sin must be punished (Is. 13:11). And our punishment for sin is death in this life followed by eternal separation from God’s love in hell. This is our fate. To avoid death, we have to be perfect. If we commit one sin, we are doomed (James 2:10). And as anyone who has kept a class full two-year-old onesie wearing babies can tell you, perfection is impossible as our very natures are corrupt from birth.

Jesus Pays For Us

But being fully man and fully God, Christ lived a perfect life. He offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Knowing that we deserved divine judgment, Jesus intervened in human history following the plan of God the Father. By surrendering himself to the cross, Jesus lifted the burden of sin from the shoulders of believers. He who was perfect became sin for us (II Cor. 5:21). He was, as Romans 3:25-26 makes clear, our penal (legal) substitution. In the eyes of God’s divine justice, Jesus us took our punishment. He experienced God’s wrath for our sin and felt the eternal separation from God’s love that we deserved. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. By his wounds, we were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

God Calls Us

               Because we are corrupt from birth, we do not naturally seek after the salvation that Christ made possible (Rom. 3:10-12). “If God were to leave it up to us, not a single person would ever want to be with God, and no one would ever desire to do what pleases God” (Ware, p. 172). But, God in his mercy actually seeks after his children! In Romans 8:30, Paul tells us that Christians are called by God! We begin to question our allegiance to the lust of the flesh, to the lust of the eyes and to the boastful pride of life because God is calling us and drawing us to himself through scripture, other believers, nature, and the happenings going on around us.

The Holy Spirit Regenerates Us         

But God does not stop with calling! He also transforms. He saves us. John 1:13 reports that we were saved, “not by blood nor the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” God takes our hearts of stone and makes them hearts of flesh (Ez. 36:26). As Ephesians 2 makes clear, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Having worked as a hospital chaplain, I’ve seen many dead bodies. And dead bodies are a tad unsettling because they sit lifeless in the bed with eyes and mouths frozenly open. But no sounds come out; no muscles twitch. In the same way, we are spiritual dead, lacking all power to respond to the gospel. But God who is rich in mercy made us alive. He gives us hearts of flesh enabling us to respond to the gospel with belief and faith.  He regenerates our hearts, infusing them with life by his power.

Jesus Justifies Us  

And when the Holy Spirit regenerates us, we get the righteousness of Christ (II Cor. 5:21). SalvationSeries_BaptismClassforParents2Those who believe in Christ are fully justified from all sins both past and future. Christ becomes our sin, and we get his righteousness. We are no longer are under condemnation. When God looks at us, he sees only the righteousness of his son.

God Adopts Us

And it gets better! Because we have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ, God makes us his sons and daughters (Rom 8:15-16). We now have the privileges that come with being a member of God’s family. We are led by the Holy Spirit. When we fall into sin, God’s disciplines us so that we flee lawlessness and return faith stronger than before. And lastly, being adopted entitles us to a divine inheritance full of imperishable heavenly rewards. Praise God for his love and mercy!

So What Now?

If you are like me you are probably wondering, “What roll do we play in our salvation if God does everything?” Are we as irrelevant as an onesie on a fashion walkway?  The answer is no. We repent and believe (Acts 2:38)! As Dr. Bruce Ware explains,

“The only thing we can rightly do, and the one thing we should do, is this: we should bow our heads and admit before God that we are helpless to save ourselves. We are unable to make ourselves come alive…But that’s not all. We also know that God is kind and that he comes to those who are humble before him (see Isaiah 57:15)…We should put our hope in the kindness of God, his mercy toward sinners, and his power to save those who admit they cannot save themselves…He alone is our hope” (Ware, p. 160)

Embrace Jesus who saves!

Recommend Books:

Ware, B. A. (2009). Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God . Wheaton: Crossway.