The gospel that is believed and saves

by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB)

The churchianity that most of us  grew up with is confused with genuine Christianity by many people. It is actually a set of beliefs or values  laid out in our minds’ decision grid. It becomes a value system in the heart that reckons salvation to be based on religious acts such as saying a certain prayer in a certain order while holding to a certain frame of mind. When doubt comes, and it always does, we are told to look back on “that day” when we said that prayer. Some even go so far as to say that they doubt if a person is really a Christian if they cannot remember the exact moment when they prayed that prayer. 

I remember in my days as a new believer reading passages such as Matthew 16:24-26 (see below) and having a huge problem reconciling the churchianity view that my salvation was based on my decision with what our Lord said here.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

Then I would read Acts and the rest of the New Testament and become even more confused. The Christianity that was presented there bore little resemblance to what we were teaching and living. My brethren, this did not really go away for me. Even though I did grow spiritually over time, my walk, my spirituality, my maturity was just a shadow of the Christianity of the Bible. It was a poor imitation. That is not to say that I did not have a few high points, but those were preceded and followed by mostly a fleshly struggle.

That all changed in 2004. I have shared this a few times before so I will be brief. Over the first eight months of 2004 I was drawn closer and closer to my Lord. By the middle of August 2004 I was in some form of prayer, worship, Bible study, or meditation all day every day. After one Friday night of some very deep prayer and worship I woke up early that Saturday morning rejoicing. As my feet hit the floor and I walked to the bathroom to shower, I remember suddenly becoming aware, as I worshipped my Lord, that everything had changed. I knew at that moment that my salvation was based on nothing I had done. It was all God’s work and that He was drawing me closer to Him for His purpose. I remember telling Him that whatever He desired for me to do I would do it. If I was to lay my life down then so be it. The Gospel was no longer a set of facts. It was alive to this heart because it was living in me.

Since that day I have been aware of Christ’s character becoming more and more manifest in me. I rebel at times then find myself being self-focused or selfish or impatient. However, repentance comes swiftly now. I no longer look at my circumstances with bitterness because I’m not getting my way. No, now I am getting much better at surrendering to my Lord within my circumstances. Why? My focus is eternal rather than temporal when I am where God wants me to be and when I struggle I find myself temporally focused and realize that God is using my circumstances to teach me something.

Since I have become a writer and blogger I have found that the truth is not always a welcome commodity with most professing Christians. Also, there are some non-believers out there who hate genuine Christianity. The buffeting from these things is not pleasant. Let us look at a Biblical example of how we are supposed to live this Christian life in the midst of the fire.

Paul was much buffeted and persecuted. However, he was sustained in the fire by faith and by a sense of personal security in Jesus Christ.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB)

Paul tells us that the Gospel God had deposited with him was able to keep his soul until the judgment because it is safe in the care of our Lord Jesus Christ. This gave Paul great comfort because his soul was committed to Jesus. Remember, in churchianity people are taught and are convinced that it is their own decision that has saved them and that is what holds them. That was not Paul’s understanding at all. What had Paul done? Because of our Lord drawing Paul to Himself the apostle had placed his trust, his soul, in the hands of the Lord. He understood that he could not save himself. He knew that he could not be trusted to keep his soul from destruction. No, He knew that it was safe only in the Lord’s hands. Our Lord held his soul for healing as his physician. His soul called out to the Lord in needs, which were supplied by Him as his soul’s shepherd. He soul’s course was being directed by Jesus as a pilot guided a ship. His soul’s cause was there to be pleaded by Jesus, his and our advocate. His soul’s care was there to be guarded by our Lord as his protector.  Paul had committed his soul to Jesus by an act of faith, which act he persevered in continually.

Paul knew whom he had believed. Paul spoke not of believing “in” our Lord, but of believing Him. There is a huge difference between the two. Paul had a personal faith in a personal Saviour. He knew whom He trusted. This is no different for us my brethren. Genuine Christians know and believe the Lord. They know that it is not their religiosity that holds them. No, it is their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ in which they persevere. Paul first met our Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul was changed forever. He dug into Sacred Scripture, meditating thereon as guided by the Holy Spirit. Through this he learned the truth of our Saviour spoken of in what we call the Old Testament. He came to know Him even deeper through communion with Him. He prayed my brethren. This is open to us all. His trust in our Saviour became rooted even deeper through experiencing the trials in which his faith was proven. Through this our Lord’s love and faithfulness became even more evident to him. Paul’s Rabbinical education made him familiar with Scripture, but his practical education through tests and trials was the medium through which he was made to know his Lord by entering into the fellowship of His sufferings and death.

Do you see it now my brethren? This is what those mired in churchianity are missing. Those who truly know Jesus Christ as Lord gladly commit their all to Him. They do not do so to some religious acts, but to their personal Saviour. Paul knew our Lord and was sure that He was able to keep or guard what had been entrusted to him until the day of judgment, the Eschaton. His assurance was reasonable and deliberate. He was sure of the ability of Jesus to keep all souls committed to Him who belong to Him. Afterall, Jesus is God and, therefore, omnipotent to save. Our Lord confessed in His dying breath on the cross, “It is finished!” Yes, His work is done, the demands of the Law have been met in Him. Our Lord’s wisdom is perfect and is never surprised by anything. As our Advocate He is always working to preserve His own. Paul was convinced that our Lord Jesus had the ability to keep his own soul even under the heavy trials which constantly pressed upon him.

Paul was convinced and we must be as well. Those reading this who are still holding on to the concept that you are held in Christ by your own decision please make that a matter of deep and long prayer. Ask God to show you the truth. Ask Him to reveal to your heart the depth of His hold on your soul and the ways and means in which He holds you. When these truths become apparent to our hearts it changes everything. Since we are not depending on our own ability to hold ourselves in Christ, we can become thoroughly happy and content. In this we become confident because we are being held by our omnipotent Saviour. Even when we are sorely tempted to be ashamed of our faith, we can confidently proclaim the veracity of it. We become very thankful. I know that I find myself constantly thanking my Lord throughout the day as I am reminded that my tests and trials are only preparing me for the glory of the Eschaton.

Justyn Martyr was asked ironically by the Roman prefect if he believed that after his decapitation he would ascend to heaven. He replied: “I am so sure of the grace which Jesus Christ hath obtained for me that not a shadow of doubt can enter my mind.”

My brethren, let us turn our hearts to our Lord and away from our own dismal pursuits. If we are seeking fulfillment from any other source but our Lord then we are wasting our time. When we are mired in self-focus we will not have the confidence of Paul. In fact, we will be the opposite. I have that found some of the harshest, most belligerent people are those whose religiosity is challenged by Biblical truth. They are in a comfort zone of churchianity and their confidence is in the religiosity they are holding tightly to in their hearts. It is a mirage my brethren. It is a house of cards. It is not a confidence that is based in a trust in our Lord Jesus Christ to keep and hold, but in a misplaced faith in one’s own decision. Therefore, I adjure you to turn your hearts to our Lord and obey what He shows you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The gospel that is believed and saves

  1. Reblogged this on Just Walking Together and commented:
    Great sentences….so often today we focus on the temporal and ignore the eternal….”My focus is eternal rather than temporal when I am where God wants me to be and when I struggle I find myself temporally focused and realize that God is using my circumstances to teach me something.”

    Jesus said..Matthew 10:28  And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    And I can just imagine Paul out there in the desert 🐫 🌵 rereading the Scriptures and realizing…..

    Luk 24:44  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
    Luk 24:45  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
    Luk 24:46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
    Luk 24:47  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
    Luk 24:48  And ye are witnesses of these things.

    Btw, I also recommend this earlier post of Mike’s.

    https://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/no-one-can-come-to-me-unless-the-father-who-sent-me-draws-him/

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