Scott McKnight nails it on the head in his book, Jesus Creed:
For some, conversion is like a birth certificate while for others it is like a driver’s license. For the first, the ultimate question is, “What do I need to do to get to heaven?” For the second, the question is, “How do I love God?” For the first, the concern is a moment; for the second, the concern is a life.
Dean had a great post here this past week related to discipleship, and I think McKnight’s quote follows that up well. I’m still chewing through his book (Scott’s – I’m still waiting on Dean’s to be published), and loving the ultimate simplicity of the Christ-follower’s life being focused on LOVE.
• Love God.
• Love people.
Everything else falls into place.
I certainly don’t want to be overly harsh or produce doubt in needless places, but the average American church-goer, whether current or past, needs to truly reexamine their supposed profession of faith. I don’t know that NOT going to hell is actually a motivation that produces repentance and receives the full gift of God’s grace through salvation.
Jesus tells us, as do the apostles, that repentance is involved in this willing decision of faith to place one’s life in the gracious and loving arms of our Creator in Christ. Merely trying to save ourselves from damnation, without any shred of devotion and ambition to surrender one’s life to Christ is a dubious “conversion” at best. It may not even produce a birth certificate. Rather, it may be closer to the seed that fell on rocky soil in Jesus’ parable.
It is healthy to search your heart occasionally as to the true nature and evidence of your faith. Were you simply trying to escape punishment, or were you genuinely trusting Christ with your life and intending to follow Him? The New Testament urges our certainty at this point.
I’ve heard so many church-goers assert “I believe in Jesus” or “I asked Jesus into my heart,” or “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior” and just not seen the fruit that should come from those life realignments. At the very least, they ought to be concerned that language like “asking Jesus into my heart,” and “accepting Jesus” is not found in the New Testament in any of the passages relating to salvation. Rather, salvation is always accompanied by the unlimited kindness and grace of Christ in association with our recognition of Him as King, Lord, Christ and our accompanying repentance.
Some may be scratching their heads, wondering and conflicted about this issue of repentance. “I thought you just had to believe?” you may ask. You do. And you don’t. You see, there is obviously a kind of belief that results in action and adoration, while there’s another kind of belief that results in mere intellectual assent. One kind says, “I believe and will change.” The other kind says, “I believe and recognize the reality of the situation, but…” This latter belief is not ready to submit to or receive Christ as Lord. In James 2.19, we are told, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
So what kind of belief do you have? Do you have proof of birth? Better yet, are you licensed to drive?