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Theoretical belief

 

 

The most serious and important thing in this world is saving a human soul. If we are eternal beings and our life goes on, either in eternal hell or in eternal heaven, it would be good for our sake to be aware the direction one is headed to. Are we truly saved, or is our belief only a theoretical one, which in the end, does not allow us to enter the kingdom of God?

This is an important topic to discuss, because there is always a chance one might be deceiving him or herself. There might be thousands of people in congregations that live in great spiritual darkness, like gentiles in faraway nations. They might possess the outer formalities of Christianity but might not fully know the fundamentals of it, or why they want to be saved. We might even be talking about unsaved congregation workers and officials. That is why it is of great importance to pay attention to this matter. This text is primarily aimed at people who have grown up with Christian values but might not be familiar with salvation just yet.

We should also pay attention to the words of Jesus. The allegory of the ten virgins, as well as the following words of Jesus, show how people can be surprised on the final judgement day. These people might think they are good with God, but Jesus does not know them:

 

- (Matt 25:1-12) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.

7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12 But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I know you not.

 

- (Matt 7:21-23) Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

 

- (Luke 13:23-28) Then said one to him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said to them,

24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and has shut to the door, and you begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer and say to you, I know you not from where you are:

26 Then shall you begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in your presence, and you have taught in our streets.

27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not from where you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.

28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

 

What is typical for such people, for such reverted (we are using this term in the coming paragraphs) believers, who externally seem Christian, but still haven’t connected with God? We are going to investigate this next through multiple examples.

 

Do you have faith?

 

- (2 Cor 13:5) Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?

 

One key characteristic of reverted and theoretical belief is that a person cannot say whether they have faith or not. That is, this question was presented to a few recognized church members and influencers (Kotimaa 26/7/2007) and not all of them were able to give a clear answer. It shows that the affairs of salvation remained unclear for these people.

But how could anyone work for this cause if they cannot even say yes to this fundamental question? For instance, revival and other revivalisms in Finland came about because people wanted to personally get to the bottom of things. Paavo Ruotsalainen and other leaders of revivalism might not be recognized today, had they left things unchecked. They wanted to know, how to be saved and have faith, for it has been written: “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5).

What if you ask a person like this, why they wish to be saved? They might often say that it is incorrect and inappropriate to ask such personal questions. Or they might explain that you can never say anything about the matters of the soul and eternity with certainty. They might consider assurance of salvation as pharisaic and as being prideful and consider uncertainty as humbleness. Olav Valen-Sendstad tells more about the attitudes of such people:

 

Usually, these kinds of people can be very religious. They are not only religious but also often think that they’re especially “profound” and “vulnerable”. They do not want to investigate their God-relationship with too much “effort” and “intrusiveness”, since they like to call it a “personal matter”. “One’s relationship with God is not to be discussed with any given person.” The harsh truth is, however, that these pretenders are sleeping on sin. They do not want to hear anything about change of mind, conversion, faith or rebirth, since they oppose, despise, and quite frankly hate it. (1)

 

Denying assurance of salvation builds on the former. Regular people often say directly that they do not have assurance of salvation, nor a relationship with God. Whereas, a reverted and theoretical believer will beat around the bush. They want to pass off as a Christian, but when they don’t have that internal experience, they cannot give a straight answer. Therefore, a reverted believer often denies assurance of salvation and thinks that it is humble to be uncertain. A well-known preacher, Niilo Yli-Vainio, has explained this as follows:

 

In the course of my spiritual work, I must have asked thousands of people if they were believers. An ordinary sinner admits, “Not yet.” But the convert beats about the bush and does not give a direct answer to a direct question. He wants to be a Christian but he lacks the internal experience. That is why he cannot really even lie properly. He does not want to deny – or admit – that something in his innermost being says that there is no assurance of what has been talked about. (2)

 

What can we find in the Bible regarding this issue? According to it we can have assurance of salvation. Jesus, for example, urged His followers to rejoice that their names are written on the Book of Heaven. His disciples would not have been able to rejoice, had they not been certain about it. This happened regardless of the fact that they were very much imperfect:

 

- (Luke 10:20) Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

 

- (1 John 5:11) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

 

- (Phil 4:3) And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.

 

- (Tit 3:5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

 

- (1 Peter 2:10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

- (Rom 8:15,16) For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

 

- (Col 3:13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.

 

It should be noted, however, that assurance of salvation in itself does not bring about salvation, but belief in Jesus does. Many can truly be saved, but they might not yet have complete certainty of their salvation. They might struggle with it.

The difference between them and reverted believers is that reverted believers are happy with their state and do not even want that assurance. They are not the kind of seekers who want to get to the bottom of things and get clarity. They are contempt with their current state of uncertainty.

Why are there so many people who are uncertain about their salvation? Most importantly, they look to their own feelings and changes, instead of to Jesus Christ, who already carried their sins for them. This is well written in the following verses:

 

- (John 1:29) The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.

 

- (Gal 3:1) O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

 

The most important feature in assurance of salvation is not that people would have joyful and boisterous feelings, but that we would be resting on the Word and its promises. We trust the promises of the Word outside ourselves, and not our own transformation. This is the only way to experience the assurance of salvation.

 

He is critical towards revival Christianity

 

- (Luke 7:29,30) And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.

30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

 

- (Isaiah 63:10) But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

 

If we look at the Bible, we can see that the most active opponents of Jesus and the disciples were religious people. These people kept rejecting the message that forgiveness of sins can be received as a gift through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Whereas, regular people were more open to the message of gospel.

These days many reverted believers are similar opponents of gospel and revival Christianity, as the religious people in the time of Jesus. For them any kind of revival Christianity is a cause for stumbling: it is seen as “sectarianism”, “fanaticism”, “false belief” or “foreign”, when they believe to have “the right doctrine” and “the belief of the fathers”. And if people begin to wake up from their sinful sleep, reverted believers might see it as a disruption for the congregation. That is when they act like the man through whom a bad spirit said: "torment me not." (Mark 5:7).

Similarly, these people might have taken a liking to humbleness, silence and the outer formalities of Christianity, but in reality, they abandon a chance to turn to God, have a change of mind and welcome Jesus. The following example illustrates well the attitudes of such people. It is difficult for them to understand conversion and God’s work:

 

The enemy often paints white black and black white. When a town is under spiritual death and darkness, when the shepherds and their herd are asleep, things are usually supposed to be all right. People suppose that they have the right faith and doctrine. If revival comes to town, many are ready to condemn it as sectarianism and as an effect of wrong faith that must be stopped. Many who become believers in those times end up suffering a bloodless martyr’s death because their faith is deemed wrong.

   In one town where God saved some people, a man visited each one of them warning them and urging them to turn away "from the wrong faith." I once had a chance to say to this man, "It is quite strange that you now worry about these people who have been saved. Why did you not worry about them when they were living a sinful life?” (3)

 

Another quotation talks about similar religious people. Their religion might include formalities and rituals, but they want to keep everything vague and uncertain. Paul must have meant people like this, when he said that “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Tim 3:5).

 

This is not always the reason, however: as often the reason is the people themselves. First of all, such people usually reject clear definitions; they do not like certainty and assurance. They consider religion nice as long as it is weak, uncertain and vague, full of rituals. I am not at all surprised when people are drawn to Roman Catholicism. The weaker and vaguer your religion is, the nicer it is. There is nothing as uncomfortable as clear biblical truths, which demand solutions. This is why such people say, “You are too precise, you are too legalistic. I do not like this one bit. I do believe in the Christian faith but you are too rigid and narrow-minded.“ (4)

 

When a reverted believer does not believe in revival and rejects revival Christianity, they also ignore history. They do not consider – despite being a member of church or a congregation – that in fact, all Christian congregations and churches have come to be through revival. This was the case with the Catholic church, Episcopal church, revival in Finland and with all Christian congregations. Although, they are now only a shadow of what they used to be, they were born through missionary work, spreading gospel, and revival. The reason why religious movements and revivalism were born, was because people had preached gospel, as was urged by Jesus:

 

- (Mark 16:15,16) And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.

 

Attitudes towards the Word

 

- (Matt 15:6-9) And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

7 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,

8 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

 

When talking about the reverted attitudes towards the word of God, it must be noted that people might still hold a level of respect towards it. They might even consider it as God’s words and believe that what is said actually also happened in the past.

But when we look at this in practice, it should be noted that this kind of religiousness always proposes its own interpretations of the word of God. It is not enough to have “what is written”, but to also include one’s own traditional rules and opinions. This comes especially apparent in attitudes towards sexual questions. A reverted believer does not take instructions from the written word, but from the shifting trends of today’s society. He does not believe that the teachings of Jesus and the disciples about sexual ethics bind the people of today.

Some reverted believers also question Genesis and creation. They think that science and Darwin’s evolution theory have proven creation to be impossible. This is where these reverted people have made a mistake. No one has ever been able to prove that the universe exerted itself into existence from nothingness, that life began by itself, or that a species transformed into completely new species. These are unproved theories. These theories might control people’s minds, but they have not been observed or proved, likewise, it is also impossible to prove creation afterwards, too. When it comes to this, we are all relaying on faith. We either believe in creation, or that everything came to be by itself. However, it is much more rational to think that everything was made by someone, by a Creator, as shown in the Bible.

That is, typically a reverted believer might degrade the word of God down to the level of their own human understanding. They are critical towards anything that conflicts with their own rationale. Or they might look for guidelines, e.g., for sexual behavior in the trends of society and not from the teachings of Jesus and the disciples. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has explained the attitudes of such people and how they approach the writings of the Bible:

 

The second problem with such people is that they are unable to fully accept the teachings and the authority of the Bible. I believe that this is the ultimate reason. They do not consider the Bible an authority and do not, unconditionally and finally, surrender to the Bible’s teachings. If we approached the Bible like small children, taking it at full face value and letting it talk to us, there would be no such problem. However, such people mix their own ideas with the spiritual truth. Naturally, they claim that they do accept the Bible as a whole but – this is their fatal mistake – they immediately start to edit the message. They accept some thoughts but still want to retain other thoughts and philosophies from their old lives. They mix natural thoughts with spiritual ones. They say that they love the Sermon on the Mount and Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. They say that they believe in Christ as the Saviour but they also think that we should not go too far but keep in moderation. This is where editing the message starts. They refuse to accept the Bible as an authority both in sermons and in real life, both in teachings and in relation to the world. “Times have changed,” they say, “and life is not what it used to be. We are now living in the 21st century.” They edit the Bible here and there to suit their ideas. The truth is, however, that the Bible is the word of God and timeless, and since it is the word of God, we must be subject to it and trust God to use His own tools in His own way. (5)

 

When a regular reverted believer reads the Bible, they do not regard it as an announcement given to us by God. Instead, they think it contains people’s opinions and interpretations about the word of God and God Himself. They only see people’s views – what people think and believe about God – but not God as He truly is. A religious person tells us what their views were up until they became converted:

 

I used to believe that Christianity was only a religion among the many religions of the world. Then I met Jesus. It is then that I understood that Christianity is not a religion but God in our world. Everything else was religion, people’s thoughts about God. It was all based on the sinful nature of humans, whereas Christianity was God’s own manifestation in our world, His thoughts about us and His acts on behalf of us.

   Because I was overcome by religiousness, I always read the Bible in a religious manner. It was important for me that the different writers in the Bible all preached in their own time and had their own thoughts about God. They believed and hoped, thought and pondered things in their own ways and with their own ideas about the truth. Thus, the prophets of the Old Testament had their thoughts about God, Matthew his and Paul his. They were good and pious people. They were close to God and served Him. In all this, they fed my own thoughts about God.

   Once converted, I saw everything in a different light: the words of prophets and apostles became the word of God. They said what God had told them to say. They had no opinions about God: what they said were the ideas about God given to them by the Spirit of God. Thus, their thoughts about God became the thoughts of God, words inspired by God, all centring on Jesus Christ. Firstly and lastly, everything was about Him. (6)

 

“My god”. When it comes to reverted and theoretical believers, it is important to highlight that they are not a united group. Among them you can find extremely different takes on salvation and how they see the essence of God. Some might heavily speak for the importance of acts in terms of salvation, and some might say that God accepts everyone as they are, period. This latter group believes that God does not condemn anyone. A person belonging in this group might say: “My God is so good that He does not condemn anyone to hell, instead, everyone gets to go to heaven.”

   If we only focus on the latter group, we find that they have this strange impersonal God, who does not react to anything. He does not love, or maybe He does, but does not react to anything else. He does not care whether people do good or bad, since everything is indifferent to Him. That is why people in this group do not believe in judgment after death, but rather think that God is indifferent about it.

   We can ask, however, why should God be impersonal? If people have different personas with feelings and reactions, why should God be the opposite? For instance, a mother can go through a set of different emotions, when it comes to her children. The following emotions, e.g., can be very real:

 

- A mother loves her children.

- She might worry about her children and their health.

- She can be happy about their success.

- A mother hates it if someone tries to harm her children. That is, a mother has hatred towards sin – in this case, towards sin that is directed at her children.

 

We can therefore ask, how do these people know that God does not react to evil, and that there is no judgement nor hell? If they don’t have any personal experiences about the afterlife, and they do not believe what Jesus and the disciples taught us about it, the only thing left is their own imagination. They are completely relying on their imagination, because they don’t have their own experiences about it. Such a source should not be trusted. Or if someone chooses to trust their perceptions, it would be the same if someone asks directions in New York from a Chinese or an African farmer who has never been there. A person, who does not know the truth, cannot provide the right answers.

On the other hand, a God that does not react to bad but, instead, is indifferent towards it, is bad himself. If he accepts all evil, and does not condemn wrongdoers, he is taking the side of evil. Or if God does exist and unrepentant people are allowed in his kingdom, as these people believe, we cannot consider him a good God anymore.

This is a good place to reference our mother -metaphor. When many people accept God’s love, but not His hatred towards sin and injustice, we find that a regular mother might feel the same as God: a mother loves her children and hates it if someone tries to harm them. That is, a mother possesses two different sides, which do not conflict each other. Why is it so difficult to associate this with God? He, too, has love for people and holiness that is hatred for sin. There is no conflict, as we can see from the following passages:

 

- (1 John 4:8-10) He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.

9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

- (Rom 1:18,19) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it to them.

 

Spiritual state of a reverted believer. Next, we are going to investigate the spiritual state of a reverted and a theoretical believer. This kind of person might think that they are in a good place in this department, but the problem is that they are using the measures set by people and not the one set by God. The following points are important to consider:

 

Comparing oneself to others. One feature that reverted and theoretical believers have is their habit of comparing themselves to others. A good example of this is the allegory told by Jesus about the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee did thank God in everything, but he kept comparing himself to others like to the sinful Publican. He thought of himself as better than the Publican and other sinners:

 

- (Luke 18-9-14) And he spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.

 

But is there benefit to being better than others, or not being as bad, in the eyes of God? Frankly, it does not have any benefit in terms of salvation, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom 3:23). Some might be better than others, but in God’s eyes everyone is far from perfection and sinlessness. None of us are perfect. David Pawson tells in one of his books, how futile it is to compare.

 

So long as you keep comparing yourself to others, you will think that you are righteous, but that is being self-righteous. I went to the barber to cut my hair and thought that it is time I talked to my barber. Whilst cutting my hair, he just said: “I am just as good as anyone who goes to your church.”

I said: “I don’t believe you can say that before you know them better; you might be right, but that does not help you.

He asked: “Why not?”

I replied: “Are you as good as Jesus?”

Our conversation stopped there as he went silent, but then he said: “Well, maybe not quite.” It was the beginning of him seeing himself as he truly was. He was a self-righteous man, because he thought he was good in comparison to other people. Many people do this. (7)

 

The problem reverted believers have is that they do not see their own sin, only the sin of others. That is why it is easier for Publicans, harlots and other public sinners to accept gospel. They know they have done wrong against God and, thus, don’t deserve salvation and their own merits can’t change that. The following words of Jesus fit well here:

 

- (Matt 21:28-32) But what think you? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 Whether of them two did the will of his father? They say to him, The first. Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you, when you had seen it, repented not afterward, that you might believe him.

 

They defend their sins

 

- (Mark 7:6) He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

 

- (Jer 2:27) …for they have turned their back to me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.

 

A reverted believer might reform, but it is a lawful reform that is often associated with fear of judgement, and avoiding sin only due to bad consequences, such as shame, losing one’s reputation and an illness. However, when the fear of judgement is no longer there, or there does not seem to be bad consequences for sin, a person like that might live rather carelessly. They might not feel fear for their sins, but rather defend them. This shows that they have not completely changed from the inside.

Whereas, reform according to the gospel is always attached to fear of committing sin. You don’t want to do sin, because it goes against the will of God. You are afraid to do sin because of the Lord, not only because of the bad consequences. This shows you have a new mindset given to you by God. A sign of this new mindset is also that you hate those sins the most that you used to love the most.

The problem reverted believers have is that they have not changed from the inside. That is why they might defend their sins or go back to them the second their fear of judgement has passed, or when they think that their sins no longer have bad consequences. They do not possess the kind of worry that God wants us to have, which brings about reform and willingness to avoid sin.

 

- (2 Cor 7:10) For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.

 

Rodney Howard-Browne has accurately described the state of people, who have not changed from the inside, in his book “What it means to be born again” (p.4,5). These kinds of people might have traits of Christianity, like its frames and formalities and also a relationship with the congregation – many of them have grown up in Christian surroundings and have parents that are believers – but they have not yet experienced rebirth. Similarly, they might engage in spiritual activities, even take part in prayer, but they still don’t understand what real salvation is. They do not understand rebirth and have not changed from within. Because of that, their outer life remains the same.

 

The Lord told me, "Many people have even not been born again. They have never experienced being born again. They have never come under the cross. They have stood in line and said, ‘Jesus, I confess that you are my Lord and my Savior’ but in their hearts they have not changed."

   Being born again is not something that happens externally. Being saved is not done through reasoning. It takes place in the heart when one accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. That is when he will change. He will become a new creation. This very thing is so exiting in being born again. (…)

   Do not come to tell me that you have been born again while you still live your life as before. I will not believe you. I do not care about the congregation you attend to. I do not care even if your father were a deacon. I do not care even if you were the leader of the elders. I do not care even if you belonged to all possible committees. When you are born again, you will change. You will become a new creation.

   People who think they can be born again and yet carry on with their lives as usual deceive themselves. Their relationship with God is not right and they cover it so well that even they themselves do not see it. They have never repented.

   In fact, there are people who think that they are a good deal to God. They think that God somehow owes them salvation.

 

How do you recognize real awakening then? One of the most important signs is real grieving of sin, which is grieving sin like God. Things that didn’t use to bother your conscience begin to cause worry. You see your lost state and how you’ve been separated from God. You understand that you cannot deserve salvation from within yourself. That is when you want to reform and start to seek forgiveness. Luther explained this in one of his preaches:

 

Real repenting begins, when your conscience vehemently blames you, and your heart truly fears God’s wrath and judgement – not only the rude and obvious sins, but also unbelief, contempt and disobedience towards God… Because of all this, you are guilty before God, and you know you deserve His wrath and you deserve to be cast away from His sight forever and burn in hell.

   This remorse does not apply to single actions that contradict with the Ten Commandments of God, in a sense that a person thinks they can still find some good in them, despite everything. No, remorse applies to your whole persona, your whole essence. It wants to show you that you are under God’s wrath and doomed to hell. Remorse can begin from a certain sin, like David’s conscience blamed him for murder and adultery. But real remorse will apply to your whole life and will tell you that you are under God’s wrath and a child of hell. That is when your heart is frightened, so that the whole world is too confining to you. (8)

 

They do not know themselves. One feature that reverted believers have is that they do not realize they have done anything wrong. They compare themselves to others, but do not see their own spiritual blindness. They do not realize that sin lives in their heart and is a part of their essence. They do not know themselves. Niilo Yli-Vainio has well described the state of such people:

 

From the human point of view, it sometimes seems to be totally impossible for these kinds of "great", egocentric people to be saved at all. Sometimes, it simply seems to be impossible to show these people that they have sinned, when in most cases they themselves do not think that they have done anything bad or wrong to anybody. They always think that other people have done so, not them.

   Countless times I have totally failed in my work in trying to show the converts and religious people that they are sinners and in need of salvation. Sometimes I have been totally irritated with people who do not understand that they are sinners before God and need Jesus as their Savior. But praise God for this wonderful verse in the Bible, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible”, Matt. 19:26. (9)

 

How come reverted believers only see the sins of others but not their own? Frankly, they have not seen their inner impurities in the light of the Holy Spirit. That is, when the light of the Holy Spirit enters, a person begins to see clearer the wrong attitudes within themselves: pride, temper, desires, self-righteousness, selfishness, narcissism, being rhetorical, etc. It is the same, as when a light enters a dark room and begins to reveal dust and dirt that were not seen before.

In biblical terms we can say that the law silences the mouth. The law shows how far people are from being perfect, and how they are lost and separated from God. The law is an accusation telling that person has done wrong against the will of God and doesn’t deserve salvation from within him or herself. He or she is like a castaway who needs to be saved from the outside. The following has been written in the Romans and Galatians:

 

- (Rom 3:19,20: Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

 

- (Gal 3:19-22) Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law.

22 But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

 

One feature of reverted believers is that the law has never made them defenseless or guilty before God. When the above verses show how the law is supposed to lead us to this state, this is what is missing from reverted believers. They have never been completely faced with the law of God, and thus do not recognize their guilt or reluctant mind towards God. They might compare themselves to others but do not understand that they are guilty in the eyes of God.

   The problem reverted believers have is, exactly, that they do not recognize their true state in the eyes of God. They do not recognize their sinfulness, wickedness (Rom 7:24: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death), their state that is taking them to hell, and how they are separated from God. The law hasn’t made them guilty and sinful before God, and that is why everything is fractured and shallow. That is, when we truly understand our real state, and we won’t get any comfort from within ourselves, from our actions, or from our change, it is only then that we realize to seek help from the outside, that is from Christ who has done everything for us and can alone save us, like one saves a castaway victim. This is always the order, and if that is not the case, it is the reason why some have not realized the whole truth. Charles H. Spurgeon has explained this:

Indeed, during these days we are going to hear stories of people, who are healed before getting hurt and who get certainty of their righteousness, although they have never cried over their condemned state. We, however, question the value of those healings and feelings of righteousness. Because this order of events does not correlate with the truth. God never puts people together, before he has first dismantled them. Nor does He resuscitate them with gospel, before He has first hit them with the law. When you meet people, in who you don’t see any signs of vindicating sins, you can be absolutely sure that the Holy Spirit has not affected them, because “when he comes, he vindicates sins and righteousness and judgement.”

…You cannot see him as having given his soul to Jesus, before he has stopped relying on his-self and his own merits and has come to Jesus. You must carefully inspect that he owns Jesus as his complete salvation through belief and not just partly. (10)

 

false paths to salvation. If we look at the places, where reverted believers find comfort and where they put their faith in, there could be more than one thing. They might believe in God and Jesus as the Savior, but in reality, they put their faith in things like, having worry for sin, saints, acts, and moral living. We are going to discuss a few of these false paths to salvation.

 

Having worry for sin. Many reverted believers find comfort in their worry of sin. They think that worrying about sin, feeling worthless and bad are enough on their own. In this doctrine and view “the light of sin” is enough to save you, and nothing else is needed.

What is typical for the state of these people, is that they might live like that for years and adapt to the lifestyle quite well. They might eat, drink, and live a normal life, even joke about their state, but they do not have the drive to seek salvation and help, which only come from Jesus Christ. If we talk about undeserved grace that can be received, they reject the idea with strange humbleness. After all, they won’t dare to be so bold as to venture into it. They might even pray “Holy God, have mercy on us”, but at the same time reject grace and assurance of salvation. They are like castaways who call for help, but then reject it, when it is being offered to them. They do not believe that a person can receive assurance of salvation and joy, although, e.g., Jesus urged His disciples to rejoice that their names have been written on the Book of Heaven:

 

- (Luke 10:20) Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

 

What is their problem? It is not that they have too much contrition but that they have too little of it. That is, contrition is only authentic and real, when a person cannot stand their current state anymore. Because of that they will look for salvation and help – not from within themselves, but from the outside, which is from the atonement of Jesus Christ. Only then will they find peace.

The worry we feel about sin is not there so that God would be urged to have mercy on us, but that we would be urged to receive it. C.O. Rosenius has explained it as follows:

 

When your awareness of sin is correct, it is never what you want it to be. If it were, you would be comforted by something within you. All such comfort must cease. True conversion means that you are unsatisfied with your own efforts: you feel hard, sure and decadent. Then, you must condemn yourself as godless and cursed. Only then can the blood of Christ take all the credit for your salvation.

   The answer to a person who asks how much in pain about sin he must have is that there is no specific amount. You need to feel so much pain that you cannot live without Christ, that you cannot find peace until you are saved in Him. That is what is required – no more and no less.

  If you think that you must first worry about your sins for a while to believe, you are wrong. Instead, just start to believe in Christ and then follow Him every day, and you will feel sin ever clearer. (11)

 

Another problem that people who find comfort in their worry of sin is that they only rely on themselves. It is only when they decide to rely on Jesus Christ alone that they can be saved. We have a good example in the 16th chapter of the Acts. Paul did not urge the prison guard to first go through worrying for sin, or do some remorse exercises but, instead, he urged the guard to believe by putting his faith in Jesus. Salvation can be this simple:

 

- (Acts 16:30,31) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.

 

Merits. As noted, there are different kinds of reverted believers who all have their individual views. They are not a uniform group, as their perceptions vary. This is also the case, when it comes to their idea of salvation. Some might put more emphasis on grace, whereas others might emphasize the importance of law. C.O. Rosenious explains:

 

Many people have adopted a clear evangelical understanding of faith. But they do not have a spirit that is afraid of God. It is easy for them to believe in the grace of God, even if they keep living by their own desires. They have started a perilous journey and are in danger of going to hell. Whereas, others like to talk about the law but have disingenuous and shallow attitudes towards it. They will never break, as they are rather contempt with their piousness, and holiness. It is just as bad. (12)

 

If we look at the law-oriented view, we find that these people might also talk about the grace of God. They might also say that the easiest journey is God’s grace. They might explain that we must believe in the Christ to become righteous. They do not directly say that we are saved because of our own merits.

Instead, these people mix grace and merits together. They see it if people do their best, then God through the atonement of Christ will give His grace. Grace, in other words, is the positive add-on, which is missing from our journey. Although people are not perfect, it is enough if we do the best we can, and in the end, God will forgive us because of Christ. This view that mixes law and grace, and faith and merit with each other, comes apparent in Mormon’s third article of faith:

 

We believe that everyone can be saved by being obedient to the laws of gospel and ceremonies thanks to the atonement of Christ.

 

Likewise, Luther has explained in his Galatians account the view, where people first do what they can and then God will give them His grace:

 

The correct way to receive righteousness isn’t that you do what you can; this phrase is used by sophists and scholastics. They say that if a man does what he can then God will definitely give His grace to him. This saying is one of the most important of the sophists and quite fitting to the article of faith. However, to clearly demonstrate that they do not understand a smidgen about Paul’s teachings and his gospel, they mollify the statement as follows: A man doing all that he can, should not be understood in definitely in a mathematical sense, but rather as harmoniously with the human nature, in other words, it will be enough if a man does what righteous men consider acceptable; it is not about an implicit manner, because it cannot exist; it is enough to border on that implicit, in other words, it is enough to do just that – to fast or to do something similar – so that according to righteous men it passes as good; then the result must be grace, however, not one that is based on fairness per se, but the one based on God’s infallible goodness: He is so good and righteous that He cannot restrain Himself from rewarding sincerity with having mercy. This has created the proverb: Ultra posse viri non vult Deus ulla requiri (God gives the shoulder according to the burden).

 

This is an authentic Christian teaching: we will become righteous through our faith in God and not through our actions abiding by the law. You shall not be distraught in the slightest by the sacrilegious comments by the sophists in this matter, as they say that faith is righteousness only then, when it is followed by love and good actions. With this harmful comment they have darkened and ruined all the most important Bible passages. ...This must be then avoided like hellish poison and it must be concluded with Paul the Apostle: we become righteous solely from faith, not from faith expressed by love. Thus the power of becoming righteous is not inscribed to that manifestation, which makes one suitable, but to faith, which grips onto Savior, Christ and owns Him in his heart. This faith makes one righteous without and before love.

 

When we begin to investigate the former views, we find a plethora of issues. Here, the following aspects should be taken into consideration:

 

Salvation is a gift. Firstly, salvation is a gift, meaning that you cannot confuse merits with gifts. If there are any merits involved and a requirement to first do one’s best, it will no longer be a gift but an earning. Moreover, as it is a gift, it will not take years, months, weeks or even hours to receive, because you can receive it in one instant, just as you would any other present.

 

- (Eph 2:8-9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

 

- (Rom 3:24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

 

- (Rev 21:6) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.

 

Past tense. Law-oriented reverted believers consider salvation to be a process. This is where they confuse sanctification with salvation, however. Sanctification, indeed, is a life-long process, but salvation and becoming a child of God will happen in an instant. It happens in that moment, when a person in their heart turns to Jesus Christ and welcomes Him as their Savior and Lord:

 

- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 

In the next passages you should especially pay attention to how the past tense is used with believers in the context of salvation, rebirth and receiving grace. It means that they were already saved, reborn, and had received grace earlier. This is also the case today. Anyone can experience these wonders at the moment they in their heart turn to Jesus Christ:

 

 - (1 John 5:11) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

 

- (Tit 3:5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

 

 - (2 Tim 1:9) Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

 

- (Col 1:13) Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

 

 - (1 Peter 2:10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

 - (1 Peter 1:23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and stays for ever.

 

- (Jam 1:18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

 

One cannot lower the requirements of the law. In his previous quotation, Luther told how law-oriented reverted believers might lower the standards of the law. They might compromise it and set their objective low enough for it to be easily attainable. This might naturally lead to complacency, self-righteousness and having false confidence.

These people do not understand, however, that the law expresses the perfect, holy and sinless essence of God. The law shows us, how far we are from perfection and sinlessness. The law does not give life, as its purpose is to silence every mouth and point out our guiltiness, as noted earlier (Room 3:19,20 and Gal 3:19-22). The law shows us how we, in ourselves, are lost and separated from God:

 

- (Jam 2:10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

 

- (Gal 3:10,11) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

 

How can God save us, if none of us fulfill the law? This question holds a simple answer. We must believe and put our faith in that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came under the law and fulfilled it for us. God used the law in Jesus, who lived a perfect sinless life for us and then died for us. He was our substitute in everything. When we put our faith in this act of God in Jesus Christ alone, and not in our own merits, we can be saved:

 

- (Matt 5:17) Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

 

- (Gal 4:4,5) But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

 

- (Gal 3:13) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree

 

- (Rom 8:3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

 

In the following passages one should pay attention to the words ‘for’ and ‘on our behalf’. Jesus became a substitute for us and fulfilled the requirements of God’s law for us. When we believe (i.e. put our faith in this substitution), we can receive salvation:

 

- (Rom 5:6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

 

- (Rom 5:8) But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

- (Rom 8:32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

 

- (Gal 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

- (Gal 3:13) Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree

 

- (1 Thess 5:10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

 

- (Tit 2:14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

 

- (1 John 3:16) Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

 

- (1 Tim 2:6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

 

- (1 Peter 3:18) For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

 

- (Hebr 6:20) Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

 

- (Isa 53:5-6) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 

- (Rom 4:25) Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.

 

Where do we need acts? When reading the New Testament, you can find, e.g., in the following passages, how we are saved without acts:

 

- (Rom 3:28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

 

- (Rom 4:5,6) But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

6 Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, to whom God imputes righteousness without works,

 

- (Eph 2:8-9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

 

- (Gal 2:16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

 

- (Tit 3:5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

 

Where are acts needed then? It is important to emphasize that acts are not a condition for salvation, but a consequence of having received salvation. The books that talk about acts in the New Testament were written for believers. They must practice acts, not to be saved, but because they have been saved. They are acts affected by faith. This will always be the order, and if we reverse it, no one will find peace nor assurance of salvation. For example, Paul, who emphasized salvation through faith alone the most, also talked about good acts the most. Good acts will follow with faith:

 

 - (2 Thess 1:11) Why also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power

 

- (Rom 1:5) By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name

 

He has a theoretical belief. Reverted believer possesses a theoretical belief. He might be accustomed to Christian teachings and does not doubt the Bible teachings and their historicalness, but he lacks a personal relationship with God. He might consider everything in the Bible as true, including the atonement and resurrection of Jesus, because his parents have also done so, but he has never been converted himself. A few examples will better illustrate this kind of intellectual and theoretical belief. We find our examples in the words of well-known religious influencers, Charles G. Finney and Niilo Yli-Vainio:

 

Charles G. Finney: I’ve been faced with this faulty view of Christian belief’s nature often after I have received permission to preach. I noted, especially during my earlier years of service, that believing in “articles of faith” were heavily emphasized, and it was claimed that the belief was believing doctrines related to the Christ with firm conviction. This is why people demanded that one could not be in faith before having to accept doctrines, doctrines, DOCTRINES of the Gospel as a precondition for faith. But I had been guided to accept these doctrines rationally and firmly before my conversion. I was also told that I had to believe, and I answered that I do believe – and any claim or speech could not convince me that I did not believe the Gospel. And I was not and neither could be convinced of my mistake up to the moment of my conversion.

   At the moment of my conversion or when I first time practiced faith, I saw my disastrous mistake. I noticed that faith is not a rational conviction of that the truths about Christ in the Bible are true but it is trust of heart in the person of Christ. I learned that God’s witness of Christ had to lead me to trust in Christ, to believe in Him as my Saviour, and that mere believing in the doctrines of Christ was a fateful mistake, which unavoidably left me to my sins. (...) Besides firm rational conviction being directed to His willingness and abilities, it would also be of utmost importance to go to Him, turn to Him and trust Him… (13)

 

Niilo Yli-Vainio: I was saved at 25 years old, but as long as I can remember, I had believed in God. I had believed everything that was said about Him. I believed that Jesus had died on the cross and that He had resurrected. I believed there is heaven and hell. On top of that, I had been a member of church for 25 years and attended holy communion and even tried to be serious about it. I respected God more than anything. And despite all this “faith” that I had, I was not saved like demons.

What was wrong with this “faith” of mine? It was rational, intellectual faith, which was in my head but not in my heart. (14)

 

What is living faith? It is not only rational believing, but also a person turning to God and Jesus Christ, and surrendering themselves and their whole life to God. That is when one goes to Jesus Christ, as He has said:

 

- (Matt 11:28) Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 

- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.

 

Furthermore, living faith is putting all your trust in Jesus Christ alone in terms of salvation, instead of relying on yourself. You stop looking at yourself and your own actions, and instead look to Jesus, who has already carried all your sins and made it right between you and God:

 

- (John 1:29) The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.

 

- (Acts 16:30,31) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.

 

Therefore, you with a theoretical belief, do not leave it as it is, turn to Jesus Christ, surrender yourself to Him and accept salvation. According to the Bible if you have welcomed Jesus and turned to Him, you have God’s loving kindness and an eternal life:

 

- (John 5:40) And you will not come to me, that you might have life.

 

- (John 1:12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 

- (1 Joh 5:11-13) And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

12 He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.

13 These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.

 

The prayer of salvation. Lord Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and I have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I believe that my sins have been forgiven by Your atonement work and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation You have given me. Amen.

 

Important questions. I’ve included some essential questions here at the end which you can ask yourself. They’ll give you some idea of your current spiritual state.

 

1. How do you understand rebirth? Have you been reborn yourself and when did it happen? If you have not been reborn, according to the words of Jesus, you cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

In terms of rebirth, it is important to understand that it does not mean a new lifestyle, such as exterior Christian manners and attempts to save oneself. Rebirth is also not a process but an inner realization that happens in one instant, like the natural birth. Rebirth takes place, when a person in their heart decides to turn to Jesus Christ, surrender themselves to God and welcome and accept Jesus in their life.

 

- (John 3:2,3,7) The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

7 Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.

 

2. Do you see Christianity as people doing their best and God then giving His mercy because of Jesus Christ? If you think this way, you have misunderstood Christianity and salvation. Salvation is received as a gift; it is not an earning granted to you after a long sanctification battle. Acts and sanctification are important, but they are positive outcomes from receiving the gift of salvation.

 

3. Have you been wanting a change in your life, like Jesus said? Or are you satisfied with your current spirituality, as was described the state of the Laodiceans’ congregation to be in the Book of Revelations? One of the most visible signs of spiritual death is that a person no longer wants a change in their life.

 

- (Matt 5:2,3,6) And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

- (Rev 3:14-19) And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.

16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

 

4. Do you want to do the will of God? This is one of the clearer signs of genuine conversion. A person might not always be able to abide by the will of God and they might struggle with it, but if they don’t have any interest in it, they have not received salvation yet:

 

- (Rom 7:22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

 

- (Rom 6:17) But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

 

5. Do you wish that other people were saved, like was strongly wished by Paul? Do you pray for other people’s salvation? Concern for other people’s salvation is one of the most important signs of being saved. When a person has been saved, they’ll notice a concern rising from within for the fate of other souls as well. If we do not worry about the fate of others, we must not have received salvation yet:

 

- (Rom 9:1-3) I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

 

- (Rom 10:1) Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

 

6. If you died today, would you be one hundred percent sure that God has forgiven all your sins and that He’ll welcome you into His kingdom? If you are one hundred percent sure, how do you justify it? Or if you are not sure, how do you explain that? The only way to have assurance is to turn to Jesus Christ and put your faith in Him and the promises of the Word, which tell us about His atonement.

 

7. Where do you find comfort in spiritual sense in front of God? Are you happy that you are not as bad as others, that you occasionally attend spiritual meetings, or that you have done some good deeds? If you find comfort in things like these and not from what God did for us through Jesus, you have misguided places of comfort. No one will be assured through acts, by attending spiritual meetings or by the fact that that they might be better than others:

 

8. Do you ever pray? If so, what do you pray for? Have you prayed for the salvation of other people’s souls and seeing God’s work proceed, or what have you prayed for? A reverted and theoretical believer often only prays for their own gain, not for the salvation of other souls, nor for God’s work.

 

- (Matt 9:37,38) Then said he to his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few;

38 Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.

 

- (2 Thess 3:1) Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

 

- (Rom 10:1) Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

 

9. What is your attitude towards the Bible? Do you think it is a reflection of people’s thoughts about God, or God’s announcement for us? A need to read the Bible and considering it as the word of God are a part of genuine conversion. We might receive a sort of inner understanding about it, even though we might have thought differently in the past. We might also have concerns about people undermining the prestige of the Bible and the will of God not being realized in society:

 

- (Ps 119:103-105) How sweet are your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 Through your precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.

 

- (1 Thess 2:9,13) For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.

 

- (1 John 2:14) I have written to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God stays in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

 

10. Have you donated at least a tenth of your proceeds to spiritual work? Jesus, for example, urged us to do so.

 

- (Matt 23:23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

 

11. Have you recognized your wickedness and how thoroughly bad and selfish you are, as Paul described his own state in the seventh chapter of the Romans? If you have not experienced anything like this, you likely have not received salvation yet. Whenever a person connects with God, they notice more and more flaws and wrong attitudes within themselves.

 

- (Isa 6:5) 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the middle of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

 

- (Hebr 4:12,13) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

 

- (Rom 7:14-24) For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

 

12. According to the teaching of Jesus the greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbor with all your heart and strength (Matt 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31). Do you think you have followed this rule during every second of your life? That is if the greatest commandment is following the former, wouldn’t it mean that the greatest sin is not having followed it?

People with reverted and theoretical beliefs struggle with not seeing the sins they have done and with comparing themselves to others, but according to Jesus they are guilty of breaking the greatest commandment, and by that guilty of committing the greatest sin. If a person does not love God and their neighbors with all that they have in every moment of their lives, they keep living in this great sin. Only those, who have recognized the critical state that they’re in and their separation from God, realize to seek forgiveness for their sins.

 

- (Matt 22:35-40) Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

 

Lastly, we are going to look at John Bevere’s vision, which closely relates to our topic. His vision shows how people can consider themselves to be Christian and saved but still be without salvation and left outside the gates of heaven. The reason for these people’s state must be that they have never repented their sins and never wanted to change from within. They have not allowed God to impact their lives, or, maybe, they have at some point grown apart from Him.

Another reason why people might think they are Christian and saved, despite not having received salvation and being outside the gates of heaven, could also be due to false proclamations. It means that our preaches today are very much concentrated on God’s love – “God loves you as you are” – but not on His righteousness and holiness. People are being told how God loves them (which is true, of course, because Jesus came to our world), but His hate for sin and how sin separates us from Him is being left out. People are not being told about His perfection and holiness and that we are going to be held accountable for our actions one day if we stay unrepentant. People are led to believe that they are saved and loved by God, even when they have never been under the light of God’s law and never having seen their state. That is why they might think they are saved, when they are not.

Next, a little snippet from John Bevere’s vision. The snippet tells about countless of people who expect to be accepted in God’s kingdom but have not changed their hearts. The vision is similar to the words of Jesus that were mentioned in the beginning of this text (e.g., the allegory of the ten virgins):

 

I received a breathtaking spiritual vision in prayer. It changed my life and my service work. I saw a large group of people, countless of people, a group so large I had never seen such before. These people were gathered outside the gates of Heaven, waiting to be let in and hear the Master say, ”Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matt 25:34). Instead, they heard Him say, ”Depart from me, you cursed.” I saw their horrible shock, anguish and horror. They actually believed they would go to Heaven because they confessed the faith and Jesus as their Lord. However, they had not understood the true meaning of sin. Even though they wanted to get to Heaven, they lacked a burning desire to be obedient to our Father’s will. (15)

 

Finally, if you are uncertain about your own spiritual state, turn to God and ask Him to be understanding of your state. You can tell God that you want to find Him and understand salvation. The following promises of the Word relate to our topic:

 

- (Matt 7:8-10) For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

 

- (John 7:17) If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

 

 

 

                                                                

REFERENCES

 

1. Olav Valen-Sendstad: Sovinto Jumalan kanssa (Forsonet Med Gud), s. 31

2. Niilo Yli-Vainio: Kristitty vai käännynnäinen, s. 21

3. Lauri Hokkanen: mikä usko on oikea?, s. 4

4. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Terve usko, Raamatun apu masennukseen (Spiritual Depression. Its Causes and Cure), s. 45

5. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Terve usko, Raamatun apu masennukseen (Spiritual Depression. Its Causes and Cure), s. 45,46

6. Aksel Valen-Sendstad: Jäähyväiset uskonnolle (FARVEL TIL RELIGIONEN), s. 125,126

7. David Pawson: Vanhurskas Jumala ja vanhurskauden evankeliumi (The God and the Gospel of Righteousness), s. 50,51

8. C.O. Rosenius, Tie rauhaan (Vägledning till frid), s. 30

9. Niilo Yli-Vainio: Kristitty vai käännynnäinen, s. 101,102

10. Charles H. Spurgeon: Sielujenvoittaja (The Soul-Winner), s. 20,21

11. C.O. Rosenius: Tie rauhaan (Vägledning till frid), s. 62

12. C.O. Rosenius: Vanhurskaana Jeesuksessa (Rättfärdig i Jesus), s. 10

13. Charles G. Finney: Voima korkeudesta (Power from on High), s. 126, 127

14. Niilo Yli-Vainio: Miten voisin pelastua, s. 34

15. John Bevere: Turvapaikka (Under Cover), s. 47,48

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life

 

 

  

 

Grap to eternal life!