Spring/Summer 1999 Newsletter: Are You a Christian?
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Are you a Christian?

Why of course I’m a Christian! Why do you ask such a thing? Don’t you know I go to church, pay my tithes and offerings, believe in Christ, have a clean lifestyle, and basically try to be a good person? I even do some witnessing, hand out some literature, and belong to the right denomination.

If we’d have been a member of the Jewish Church in Christ’s day, we would probably have believed that we were Jewish, and therefore in good standing with God. Because we were members of the right church, paid a faithful offering, went to the temple on the Sabbath, refrained from eating unclean meats, and looked for the coming of the Messiah, we would probably feel quite confident of our standing with God.

But when the Messiah came, only a handful recognized Him, only a handful followed Him, only a handful found their salvation in Him. The vast majority of Jews were not real Jews. In fact, Romans 2:28-29 says, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly.”

It is apparent from Scripture and history that most of the Jews were Jews only outwardly. In other words, they followed routines and rituals. They went to the right church and believed in the Bible.

These professed Jews were the very ones that crucified Christ, hung Him on the cross, and denied Him. It wasn’t just the church leadership, but also most of its members that in the end were only Jews outwardly.

Romans 9:6 puts it this way: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” In other words, not everyone who says they are Jewish are really Jewish. The same applies for Christians. In fact, Scripture clearly indicates that though their numbers “be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved” (Romans 9:27).

So are you going to be part of the remnant? Are you going to be a Christian outwardly or inwardly? Don’t rely on your church membership because it won’t save you. Don’t rely on your mental assent to certain truths; they won’t save you. Don’t rely on your lifestyle changes or your donations. They won’t save you either!

Salvation is found in Christ only! In the day of final reckoning there is going to be a lot of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Millions of “Christians” have been led to trust in their church, in their creeds, in their leaders, in their lifestyle, but have not been led into Christ. Only those found “in Christ” will in the end be saved and found to be true Christians rather than simply professed Christians.

1 John 5:11 says, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.” Eternal life is in God’s Son alone. Not in the Church, a doctrine, or a lifestyle. but “in His Son.”

Verse 12 continues, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” We must have Jesus, we must be “in Christ” for in Him only is eternal life.

What does it mean to be in Christ?

Being in Christ is, obviously, the opposite of being “out” of Him. When Lucifer stepped “out” of Christ, he decided his way was better than God’s way. He lost eternal life because he chose to disconnect himself from the Source of life. He chose to follow his will and way instead of God’s will and way.

Whose will and way are you choosing: yours or Christ’s? When Adam chose to step “out” of the will of Christ, he became fallen and selfish. He too wanted it his way instead of God’s way. Which way is it with you: God’s or your own?

The words “in Christ” are very important. In fact, it is the apostle Paul’s favorite expression, occurring in his epistles more than 70 times. Six of his epistles are addressed to the saints and faithful who are “in Christ.” Are you “in Christ?” Or are you merely in the Church?

Church programs and activities can become a substitute, a counterfeit, a cover up for the real, the genuine. They have a subtle way of convincing us that we are the “enlightened ones,” when in essence we may be the “foolish ones.”

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells a story about ten virgins. Five were wise, and entered God’s Kingdom. Five were foolish and did not enter His Kingdom. The only difference between them is that the wise virgins possessed the oil, which represents the Holy Spirit.

The wise virgins lived under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, they surrendered to the will of God. They were “in Christ” by faith, by a faith that worked and cooperated with God in all things in the present. Are you a wise or foolish virgin?

All of humanity was constituted in Christ on the cross; all of humanity was in Him. What He did, He did for all of us. But that’s only half of the “in Christ” equation.

Christ also invites us, by His preemptive grace, to surrender ourselves; mind, body, soul, and will to His Lordship over our lives in the present. What He has done for us and what He is doing in us are to be inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. Christ cannot be divided. You are complete in Him not apart from Him.

If you accept Christ’s subsitutionary role for your sins, you must also accept His role as Lord. It was the fact that Lucifer and Adam wouldn’t allow Him to be their Lord that got us all in this mess of sin today. Adam repented and allowed Christ to regain His position of Lordship over him. Lucifer still resists coming under Christ’s control and is now Satan, the leader of the foul revolt.

Who are you following: Adam or Lucifer? Millions of Christians have accepted Christ’s substitutionary role but resist allowing Him to be Lord of their entire life, particularly in the present. Until they do, they are not “in Christ.” No resistance, no rebellion, just a conscious, “Yes, Lord.”

For example, it may be -40° F outside. You may know that in Christ’s house it is a pleasant 80°. But if you’re out in the cold, you receive no real benefit: you’re still outside.

Knowing about the condition of Christ’s house does not warm you. Talking about it does you no saving good. Telling others about it does you little practical good. The fact that Christ’s house is paid for and you have a title to it in your safe deposit box brings you no present benefit unless you choose to get into Christ.

As long as you remain in Christ, you receive all the benefits of His protection, warmth, and security. They are yours, they are free, but you have to choose to enter in and remain in. You can at any time step outside, but if you do, you lose all the benefits of its warmth, security, and protection. That’s what Paul meant when he said in Colossians 2:10, “Ye are complete in Him.” Not in a knowledge or profession of Him, but abiding in Him.

In an article in Signs of the Times from July 4, 1892, a well known author put it this way: “We are complete in Him, accepted in the Beloved only as we abide in Him by faith.” Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him, we live and move, and have our being,” and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” 

Isaiah also understood this when he declared, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” And “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified” (Isaiah 45:24-25).

Scripture doesn’t say if we are renewed if we are just in the Church or know the truth, or into the doctrine of salvation, or into a good lifestyle. It says we must be “in Christ,” not just legally but experientially. It is a here-and-now experience of letting Christ have all of us, that we may have all of Him.

Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.”

Who is being referred to here? Can “them” be Adventists? Yes! Can “them” be Baptists? Yes! Can “them” be Catholics? Yes!

All who meet the condition, which is not walking in the flesh but in the Spirit by a living faith experience in Christ Jesus, will find no condemnation.

Conversion and righteousness are not received or retained apart from being “in Christ.” None of us can be in a saving relationship any longer than we abide in Christ and exercise a living faith in Him. Being a Christian is not a one-time choice but rather a minute-by-minute, continuous choice to let God have all of me. Day in and day out I am to life for Jesus. My focus is to be in His will, His way.

Many attempt to accomplish salvation through their own humanity. They set out with their strong willpower and their teeth gritted in determination to live the Christian life. It always ends in defeat.

How then is it possible to live everyday, every hour, every moment to the glory of God? It’s very simple. We are to live as Jesus did. Every morning Jesus took time with God. We too, must take time to give ourselves to God every morning, to surrender at the beginning of every day.

It can’t be a rushed thing, but must allow time for us to commune with God and really listen to what He’s saying to us individually through the Bible, nature, providence, and the impressions in the mind. After communing with our Father, and making sure there is nothing to prevent us from hearing His voice, we can rest assured that He will guide us.

When we leave our place of quiet devotion, it is essential to take God with us in order to commune with Him throughout the day. We need to learn to ask, as Paul did in Acts 9:6, “What wilt thou have me to do?”

God wants us to know we are not in this alone. We need help from a source outside of ourselves at the beginning of the day and then all through the day. As we learn to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting upon our hearts and learn to submit our wills to always do His will, it will come to be that “Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20).

But then temptation comes—perhaps the very same temptation where we have often failed before. In the past, we have gritted our teeth and tried to resist the temptation until we either failed or forced ourselves to obey. There is no peace or joy in such an experience. Friends, the true conflict of temptation occurs in the heart. I first must decide if I want to remain surrendered to God. When surrender is my choice, then self dies and the victory is won and God supplies all the power to meet the temptation.

This experience is hard because self must die; but it is the only path to peace and joy as a Christian! We must choose to remain in Christ, daily, hourly. Choice doesn’t merit us anything with God. We are not saved by our choices. The very desire to make the choice of submission to God is a gift from His grace.

Salvation is fully the gift of God, yet it is that choice to submit which allows God the freedom to transform our lives through the ministry of His grace upon the human heart. It is vitally important to see this, for most who have taken the name of Christ live a strange amalgamation of Christ and self. This type of Christian life is like a yo-yo, continuously up and down. Being born of the Spirit is going from this experience to allowing Christ to be sole Ruler of the life.

When this amalgamation ends, there is rest for the soul. Then we learn the true science of salvation and the language of heaven, which is simply how to allow Christ full access to all my decisions and then by His grace, through a living faith, to say yes to God and no to self. It all has to do with faith, a living faith, a faith that works by love and purifies the soul, where we are enabled to live above the pull of the flesh in the present.

Faith is not only a belief in what Christ has done but also a surrender of all our known choices to Him, where all our thoughts, feelings, and actions are in accordance to His known will.  We must choose by His preeminent grace to depend only in Him. This is a faith that works!

Are all your known choices surrendered to Christ? Do you trust only in His merits for your standing before God? Do you depend on His power to choose right over wrong? If you do, then you are a Christian. If this is a continuous choice, a continuous acceptance, a continuous dependence, then you are continuing to be a Christian. Welcome to be body of Christ!

Some might think that I am anti-church or anti-doctrine or anti-lifestyle because I deemphasize these things. This is not so! I believe in the Church but not as the solution, only as a tool. I love the truth but only as a means, not an end. My lifestyle changes have given me better health and a greater awareness of His presence, but I’m not made righteous by carrots and bananas. These are good only as they direct us to Christ. They are the dock that leads us onto the Ship; which is Christ.

Let’s not just be excited about being on the dock, let’s get aboard the Ship, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. The ship is sailing soon!

 

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