I have recently been appalled at how my independent Baptist brethren have got the Gospel only half right. What do I mean? Let me give you a few illustrations:
1. I heard a sermon recently where the preacher (Bible college grad from an ind. Bap. school) gave the following illustration: “If I were to offer to give you a year’s worth of provision for a minute’s worth of work, would it be a good deal for you? Sure. So God gives us provision for eternity, shouldn’t we serve him for this short lifetime?”
If you missed it, the Gospel is not: Serve me and I’ll give you eternal life. It’s not even: Serve me since I already gave you eternal life. Why? Well, in eternity we’ll serve him, too. No. The Gospel is a new heart. I new life. New desires. From Ezekiel to John 3 to the writings of Paul we learn that the whole point of the New Covenant is that we will WANT to serve him if we’re born again. He will put a new heart in us and we won’t turn back to the old heart of sin (Jer. 3:17). This is a changed life! Not a life that serves God in exchange for eternal life. That is the motivation for all false religion. We have nothing to bring to God. He brings everything to us in the Gospel and makes us alive “unto good works” (Eph. 2:8-10)
2. I heard a song recently where the line repeated was this: “I am satisfied with you. I hope you’ll be satisfied with me.” I love the dear brother (also a grad of an Ind. Baptist college and a missionary) who sang this. In love I have to say, God is already satisfied with you! That’s why Jesus came! He satisfies God for you. He makes you satisfactory. (Rom. 3:25, 5:1, I Jn 2:2, 4:10) Then he frees you from a life of needing to work to satisfy God. God sees you as perfect, just, and completely whole. Now the motivation to serve him is a heart overflowing with thanks for his kindness, mercy, and blessings! (Is. 63:7)
This is natural in the life of a believer in Christ. No, we don’t need to work to satisfy God. In fact, could our work ever satisfy God? No, only the work of the cross. It didn’t only satisfy God concerning our salvation but it also satisfied God concerning our life as “Christ followers”. God is satisfied with his blood washed children. Don’t think your service as a missionary is what satisfies him with you. Christ’s service on the cross already did that.
Don’t the Muslims in North Africa need to know that working to obey Allah’s laws won’t satisfy him? Don’t they need freedom from a life of striving? Don’t the Budhists of SouthEast Asia need to know that doing good works won’t help them reach Nirvana having satisfied the Creators demands through Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths? Don’t they need freedom from that sort of life of striving? Don’t the Hindu’s of the Indian Subcontinent need peace with God without the sacrifices and the works on the Ganges river? The missionary message is that God’s demands have been satisfied in Christ! We satisfy God when Christ is in us! His blood! His cross!
3. I recently heard another preacher (well known and respected) preach these words exactly: “The security of our salvation is up to God. The assurance of our salvation is up to us. When we are living right we will know we are saved. When we aren’t living right we will doubt it. So then, the Bible teaches works assurance.”
Would it be, then, ok to say, “For by works are you assured of salvation through your efforts. That, not of God, it is the result of hard work.” (see Eph 2:8-9 for a reference)? I don’t think so. My salvation was a work of God by grace. My new life in Christ is work of God by grace. My assurance is a work of God by grace. The whole life of a Christian from beginning to end is a work of God by grace! Doesn’t Phil 1:6 teach us that he who began the good work in us (John 1:13) is the same one who completes it? Not of works, lest any Christian should boast.
Here are a few reasons I think we as Ind. Baptists miss the Gospel so badly:
1. At it’s root, we have understood salvation to be a prayer of acceptance that saves us. Since the Holy Spirit, repentence, and the new birth (new heart, new desires) don’t play a large part in salvation, then neither do they play a large part in the rest of our lives.
2. As a result of this root we have a lot of people who aren’t born again, don’t have the Holy Spirit of God living in them, and we try to get them to continue by the power of the flesh by works (Gal. 3:3). The only way left to motivate them is by scolding them or by making them feel guilty. “You have been given eternal life in exchange for a simple prayer, shouldn’t you then work harder in exchange!” is the common logic.
I think it’s time we square up with the Bible and stop trying to assure lost people that they are saved. The message of the Gospel is, “You will know them by their fruit.” If a person is saved they WILL want to serve God with all their hearts. They just need to know how. They need someone to walk with them and help them learn to walk in the grace of the Gospel the same way they were saved. We don’t need to work on their fruit, we need to look at the root.
The grace of the Gospel is not only for salvation it’s also for sanctification. It’s all of God. He has made me a new person and now I serve him out of this new heart. I serve him out of overwhelming thanks. God is satisfied with Christ in me. The work I do is Christ living in me. In myself is no good thing. When I understand Christ’s work in me and I am more and more consumed with a desire to serve him. That’s the new covenant. That’s the new heart he’s given me. It began with Him and will end with Him.
Here are a few verses to help you contemplate the work of the New Covenant in your sanctification:
Ezekiel 11: 19-21 “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.”
Jeremiah 3:15-17 “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
Philippians 1:5-7 ” For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”