Coming soon to a couch near you! We’ve been booking some intimate home shows in the Portland area this summer and are looking for some more homes to invade. So if you would like to host an Acoustic Living Room Concert please let us know!
It is not my intention to “thrust” my religion upon anyone, as such blame is often placed at the feet of Christians. First of all, religion is nothing more than man’s (when I say man’s I am of course referring to “mankind” and thus both men and women) attempt to place in a box, label, and come to some touchable, understanding with the infinite. Notice the keyword here, Man. Of course we are fallible, and anything that man tries to do under his own power is bound to have some problems.
Hence why so many people have had experiences with churches or people professing to be Christians that have left a sour taste in their mouth. I myself, being a Christian, have had run-ins with “religious folk” who were so busy nit-picking on some point of doctrine or law that they missed the point entirely: LOVE!
No, I don’t mean, “oooh, free love, let’s party dude” (60s voice-over included). I mean love for each other that does not have a hidden motive or selfish agenda tucked away behind a beguiling face. After all if religion, which has failed time and again, is about man trying to reach God, then salvation is about God succeeding in reaching man.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16
This is the meaning of true love:
For greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend. —John 15:13
And that is what it all comes down to — a friendship. It may seem too simple, which is probably why religious traditions have arisen in the past; to keep a shroud of mysticism surrounding our contact with God. But that is exactly why God sent his Son, Jesus, to earth; to clear up the mystery, tear down the walls, rend the veil of self-righteous religiosity that man had imposed as a barrier between himself and God. It is not about our works, or how good we are as people. Just look at society today. Do you truly believe mankind is benevolent by nature when you see the headlines on the news? It is about God wanting to have a relationship and be friends with us, and if we choose to believe and accept what He has done for us, then that’s all it takes.
You might point the finger at the examples that society tends to pull out of the closet when it needs a scapegoat, such as televangelists who have been caught with their hands in the offering plates; however, this is actually a good thing. If you had to be a perfect and upstanding individual in order to make it into heaven, none of us could ever hope of doing so.
All that society does by using these examples is point out the fact that yes, we all do wrong, none of us is perfect, and we have need of a gracious, merciful, and forgiving God. This does not excuse such behaviour, and all actions do have consequences, but Christians do not change over night. It is also important to keep in mind that just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean that they really are. If there is not evidence of their character reflecting that of God’s nature, then chances are they are using the title of Christian for their own gain as Paul relates in Philippians, and Jesus warns against in Matthew:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ —Matthew 7:21-23
So trying to use the example of such “false Christians” as an excuse for not turning to God, is just that—an excuse. God does not expect you to clean up your act and be a “good person” (whatever that means) before coming to him. He just wants you to come to him out of a true desire for friendship.
It’s like any friendship. Usually a person does something that attracts your attention, that makes you interested in them initially via some action on their part that appeals to you. Maybe you meet them at work, maybe you meet them on a subway, maybe they have a great smile, or an infectious laugh. Whatever it may be, you like it, and want to get to know them better. So you start to hang out together, talk, laugh, grab a bite to eat together, go to a football game or a concert, whatever your common interests may be. Eventually over time you begin to pick up some mannerisms, expressions, and habits of your friend and others are able to notice your connection to your friend through these things.
It’s the same with God. He paid the ultimate price, dying a painful death on a cross, so that we could be free of the guilt and shame of things we have done, could live with him forever. Perhaps you do not believe, but I’m sure you can agree that this was quite an amazing thing to do for someone who didn’t even know you at the time. You see, God didn’t wait until we came to him, cleaned up our act, and became someone that might be worthy of attention and an offer of friendship.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:6-8
So now that he has shown us such incredible love by dying for us before we ever knew him, perhaps we might be interested in at least being friends with him. And once our friendship begins, and we spend time with him by reading the letters he wrote to us (the Bible), talking with him about things in our life (prayer), we begin to want to do things to please him. Just as you might buy a pal some tickets to a basketball game, or surprise them with a bouquet of flowers. It’s not that we HAVE to do these things, it’s that we CHOOSE to do them, because of the friendship we have.
But it’s important to make a clarification and distinction here about “doing good works”. There are many religions and even Christian churches that will try to focus on abstaining from certain actions or over emphasizing the need to perform good deeds in order to somehow earn more favor with God. However, the good news of the Gospel message couldn’t be farther from this sort of behaviour. The whole point of the “good news” is that it isn’t anything that we have to do it’s all about what he has already done by dying on the cross for our sins! The truth is we aren’t good enough and can never be on our own. But when God sees us through the perfect and unblemished shed blood of his son, Jesus, he no longer sees our sins, only the holiness and perfection of Jesus!
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. —Ephesians 2:1-5
Yes, it is important to show fruit that reflects the change in our lives, but those “good deeds” that we do have no effect on our salvation and in fact can never make us any more holy. Only the blood of Jesus and the work of his Holy Spirit living within us can change our wicked and deceitful hearts. That’s not to say we should go on sinning since we’ve been saved by his amazing grace, but it does give us the wondefully lighter freedom of knowing that it has already all been done for us! We don’t have the burden of having to try and “be good enough” or struggling to make it into heaven on the merits of our works, because they will never stack up against the wages of our sin; which is death! It is by grace we are saved! How freeing!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. —Ephesians 2:6-10
It all comes back around to LOVE. Eventually that is what people will see in you if you truly have a friendship with Jesus, since that is what he is all about. And since love is:
patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:5-8
…I would never presume to thrust something upon you unwanted. After all, a friendship formed at the end of some gun, whether the gun’s barrel be made of steel or religious blackmail—”you must accept now or you will go to hell”—will not last once the gun is removed. Although it is true that anyone who does not accept the free gift of salvation will be separated from God for eternity, this does not mean that this should be used as a weapon to bludgeon people into making a choice of their own “free” will that isn’t really free.
I would encourage you to think over what I’ve said and see if you feel the tug of His love on your heart. In our current day and age everything is about shifting blame and pointing the finger somewhere else, rather than self-introspection and taking responsibility for our actions. If you are honest with yourself and can recognize your shortcomings, recognize that you have need of the saving grace that God offers freely through His Son, Jesus, and truly desire to have a friendship with God, then you can do so right now! There is no magic formula, or secret incantation required, just an honest heart wanting to make a fresh start.
If you would like you can simply repeat a prayer similar to the following, just speaking to God sincerely from your heart, and as it says in Romans 10:9-12:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Feel free to change this into your own words, as it is not the words but the intent of the heart that God is interested in:
God, I recognize that I have fallen short of your holy plan and that I have commited sins that have separated me from you.
I realize that I cannot remain holy and pure as you would have me by my own power, and that I have need of a savior to wash me clean from my sins.
I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son and fully God, and that by his love for me he became flesh and died on the cross, the death that should have been mine.
But that on the third day you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand, that by the blood he shed on the cross I might be washed clean and made a new creation.
Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and be the ruler of my life. Guide me in the ways of righteousness. Change my heart to seek after those things which are pleasing in your sight.
Thank you for your love, your sacrifice, your grace and mercy that you have given to me freely. I now accept that gift and proclaim you as Lord of my life. Now, please help me to walk with you all the days of my life.
In Jesus name,
If you prayed that prayer with me and truly meant it in your heart then according to God’s promise you are now signed, sealed, and delivered into the family of God. Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and you will live forever with all of the children of God in heaven. WELCOME! You probably have a lot of questions, and the best way to have them answered is to get plugged into a local church. I happen to attend Athey Creek Christian Fellowship, but there are thousands of churches to choose from. Lookup your local Calvary Chapel, Baptist or Assembly of God or other Christian denomination in the phonebook and attend a Sunday service. Go up and talk to someone afterwards and let them know that you recently accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation, and they should be happy to get you a Bible and answer any of your questions. Please do feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions regarding any of this, and I will be happy to respond.