Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually” (Psa.105:4). Salvation is not a one-time event in our life where we receive forgiveness of our sins from God after which we look forward to being with the Lord in heaven through eternity! It begins with forgiveness, and God’s aim is to free us from living under the power of sin and to transform us increasingly into the nature (character) of Christ (Rom.6:14;8:29). As this happens, our fellowship with God becomes more and more intimate, as also that with our fellow Christians (1Jn.1:3). But many Christians have never been told about this part of salvation, and as a result, once they receive forgiveness they assume that now everything is fine with them, and they focus on having a nice life on earth to the best possible extent! In the process, they miss experiencing the greatest part of salvation.

One of the tragedies in Christendom is that a lot of preaching tends to make people comfortable in their sin, immaturity and bondages. This is because the truth is not preached in its fullness, but in a way that does not offend or hurt any of the listeners. Without informing the hearers about the righteous and just character of God that will not tolerate any sin, but will punish all sin, an exaggerated emphasis is given on the love, mercy and grace of God. While pointing out the spiritual position God accords to His children because they are ‘in Christ’, hardly anything gets mentioned about how they have to deal with their sinful flesh in daily life so that their actual experience becomes conformed to their position in Christ. Most damaging of all is when, with an aim not to cause anyone to doubt their salvation and get into condemnation, preachers talk in a reassuring way, giving the impression that ‘it is well with their souls’ when many are not even born again (Jn.3:3,5) or when people are living only for the world (1Jn.2:15).

As the consequences of such a complacent attitude towards preaching, there are so many people in churches who are headed for hell while they assume they are going to heaven. Then there are many others who have experienced forgiveness of sins, but are now stuck with lives that are not growing into Christ-likeness, but remain really no different from unbelievers.

We can notice some disturbing characteristics among such people. One serious aspect is their unwillingness or hesitation to forgive others, because they have not seen clearly what they themselves deserved and how God has forgiven them in grace. Even for many who have received God’s forgiveness, the idea about what ‘grace’ really means has not sunk into them. They don’t seem to be bothered much about ‘common’ sins and are not in any hurry to get over them. One wonders if any regeneration has actually taken place in their hearts.

Some of them ‘go to church’ as a sense of duty, and instead of worshipping God in their heart, they are only engaged in giving marks for the choir and the sermon. There is virtually no desire to serve in the church, but only to obtain recognition and position there.

Many of them seem to have an inflated sense of entitlement as ‘children of the King’. Without ever having seen themselves as sinners who deserve hell, they lay claim to the position they have been told God has given them. Instead of seeing that this position is only something God has granted to them by grace, and then taking a humble and thankful stance before God and men, they expect a privileged treatment from everyone. Not realising that God primarily wants to save them from their sins, some of them think only of ‘blessings’ in their earthly life. Some of them cannot tolerate any hindrance to their wishes, but expect that God is there to answer their prayers so that they can live without want or discomfort. Some even think that, since they are under grace, they are eligible to indulge themselves in some areas.

An extension of this attitude is that they want every prayer granted instantly! When they pray, they don’t bother to find out what the will of God is, or how He deals with people. They have been told that all they have to do is to ask and they will get it! When they find out that sometimes God takes time to do what they want, they walk away from the church blaming God for the problem. Listening to God and hearing what He has to tell them, examining their hearts to see if there is anything wrong there (Psa.66:18), searching God’s word to understand more exactly what His will for them is (1Jn.5:14), etc., do not occur to their mind at all.

Another characteristic is an expectation that since God has come looking for them, He will do everything for them – God does not require anything from them, they just have to be still and receive everything freely from God! Any preacher who talks of obedience will be shunned as a legalist or someone who is against the free grace of God!

If someone is given admission to a prestigious school or college because of an unmerited favour shown by the principal, isn’t it expected that he will show his appreciation by working hard to demonstrate that the principal had not made a mistake in his case? But if he assumes that since he didn’t have to show good marks for his admission, he can expect the principal to give him high marks in his exams too, we would say that the boy has not understood his situation! But what about the Christian who assumes that it is God’s duty to take care of all his needs and meet all his expectations while he enjoys himself in the world? If we realise that we truly deserved hell for our sins and it was only God’s grace that redeemed us from that destiny, the Bible says that we should determine not to live for ourselves anymore but to focus every part of our life to live for Him who gave Himself for us (2Cor.5:15).

All this goes to show that many who presume to be Christians have not really entered through the door of grace. When preachers follow, knowingly or unknowingly, a humanistic philosophy that believes we are intrinsically good, with all the potential within ourselves to make anything of ourselves that we want, they tell us that all we have to do is to have positive thoughts and words and everything will be fine. But that is entirely in the opposite direction from the Bible. The Bible tells us that even after we are born again, we carry with us our sinful flesh. The lusts and desires in our flesh tempt us to go against the Holy Spirit working in us (Gal.5:17;Jas.1:14,15). When we go seriously into the battle on the side of the Holy Spirit, we find that we do not have within ourselves the strength we need for victory. Then we learn to seek God earnestly for strength to put to death these desires from our flesh (Rom.8:13). What happens to those who look only at the promises of God when it comes to the spiritual part of their life and live to enjoy their life to the most part?

Can we afford to stop seeking after God once we have found Him (or rather, He has found us)? Some churches try to make themselves ‘seeker friendly’, meaning they want to be a place which unbelieving ‘seekers’ find attractive. But what about making the church also a place where believers are encouraged to seek after God to become what God wants them to be and to fulfil the ministry God has called each of them to? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer.29:13).

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, August 2018

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