Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thank God for “One More Year”

I accepted Christ as my savior at age 11 and called him my Lord. However, my heart was not completely surrendered and circumcised. Although it was not necessarily outwardly apparent to most (since I was a good church boy), I still primarily lived for myself, my flesh, my comfort, and my pride. Looking back I guess you could say I had accepted Christ as my savior but had not truly made him my Lord.

I thank God for his patience. I am grateful that he gave me time to come to true repentance. In addition to the book of Romans, God used the following parable found in Luke 13 to wake me out of my spiritual coma:
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "
God was speaking very clearly to me three years ago through this parable. He was telling me that it was either time to submit to him fully and begin producing good fruit or he was ready to move on.

While he had been extremely patient with me, his patience was just about to run out and the soil put to better use. I knew that I had to either (1) completely submit my life to God through repentance, service to only him, and begin to bear pure and holy fruit or else (2) I would be “cut down”. But wait, I saw God’s grace and patience in this message in the form of giving me “one more year” and his willingness to continue to work my soil and fertilize me (giving me everything I needed to begin to produce fruit). Praise God for his patience, his clear calling, and his incredibly fast-working transforming power. That year was filled with incredible growth and much fruit. It was the beginning of a new life filled with true love for Christ lived out in sincere faith and repentance.

Is this message for you? Are you anything like I was for so many years: lukewarm, producing little fruit, and lacking full commitment? Have you fully made Christ your Lord or are you still the real lord of your life? Remember, “He (God) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The key is that we must come. We must give up, turn, and follow God completely. Is this your “one more year”? Repent, fertilize your mind with the Word of God, and allow God to begin to transform you, really begin to use you for his kingdom, and produce good fruit. Then, there will be no need for cutting down.

15 comments:

aztexan said...

Point of clarification: Through the use of the parable, you seem to be insinuating that you were not, in fact, "saved" until your recent spiritual re-dedication/awakening. Do you feel you were truly "lost" (hell-bound) until three years ago, or do you mean that you were saved, but that the LORD was close to choosing another vessel to serve in your "appointed capacity" unless you re-dedicated yourself to "bearing fruit"? This is core theology. And I apologize for all the "quotation marks."

Eric Jones said...

This is definately core theology. I think scriptures point out the critical components of salvation which are encapsulated in justification and sanctification. Both must be present in a person who is "saved" or a follower of Christ. It is not one or the other. It is both-and. Too many grasp onto justification and consider sanctification optional or do not aggresively allow its work. Complete and true repentance is a key component that is rather missing in many Christians lives too. This leaves alot of "lukewarm" and halfway committed Chrisitans who never let go of the world and actively give their hearts to God in word and deed. Christ himself talks very clearly about the lukewarm Christian when he says he will spit them out of his mouth and would rather that they even be cold versus lukewarm. He also pointed out to the the rich young ruler that if you are not willing to give it all (not just most of your life) then you will not see salvation. Was I lost and hellbound? Well, let me answer that by saying that I was a lukewarm Christian with one foot in God's camp and one foot in my own camp. But again, praise God for his patience and incredible grace. When I did give it all up and truly repent (became hot), his transforming work was radical and extreme.

aztexan said...

So you believe that carnality is an unpardonable sin, even for believers. Interesting.

aztexan said...

So you believe carnality is a mortal sin, even for believers. Interesting.

Eric Jones said...

I beleive that it is all about the heart. An unrepentant heart that will not submit to God and actively allow for the process of sanctification is a heart not turned to God. So someone who continues to live in the same sins and is characterized by those sin has "neither seen God or has known him". That can be found in 1 John 3.

Eric Jones said...

AZTEXAN,

Would you counsel someone that they can be actively carnal, deliberately continuing in sin, and still call themselves a follower of Christ who will glorify him for all eternity?

aztexan said...

First of all, sorry for the duplicate response; I thought the first one hadn't gone through, so I re-submitted.

Now, let me point you back to the entry you wrote before this one, and Romans 10:9. I believe it is possible for those who are saved -- who have truly believed in their hearts and accepted salvation -- to exist in a state even of perpetual carnality and still be saved by grace. For true believers, Christ's blood covers all sin: past, present and future. Once we belong to the Father, nothing can separate us from Him.

Now, is a life of rebellion and carnality advisable? Of course not. To answer your question directly and succinctly, I would counsel the believer that while his carnality will not ruin his salvation, it will most assuredly ruin his life on this earth by making him subject to God's increasingly painful discipline, in addition to blocking the generous blessings God desires to bestow in his life. Christ wants His flock to live life "to the full" in Him, and we make that fullness impossible when we choose to go our own way.

To sum up: Once a man is truly saved and receives the Holy Spirit, it becomes a question of spiritual maturity, not one of salvation. Will he choose to remain in spiritual infancy, thereby cheating himself out of God's perfect plan for his life and bringing upon himself constant punishment; or will he choose to take the steps necessary to grow and mature in Christ, claiming every believer's right to live life in the fullness of God's purpose?

Brian said...

So do you believe you were NOT saved up until 3 years ago?

I think we all can aspire to be "all in" in surrendering our lives to God. However, we are all a "work in progress" and will continue to fall short. Only Christ was righteous. My senior pastor has said that if we are "honest with ourselves, we'd realize how much we ALL need God's continual mercy on a daily basis." But God continues to refine us in our sin/imperfections as we surrender to Him. And it is out of "fear" that alot of ministers/pastors don't tell the truth about God's grace because they are afraid that their flock/disciples will take God's grace for granted. God's grace is a "scandal." Let's be honest about that.

Eric, only you know your own heart, but I bet you knew Christ before 3 years ago and I bet you were being sanctified back then. But maybe he really took you to that next level over the past 3 three years. What do you think?

Eric Jones said...

AZTEXAN,
So you believe that an unrepentant person is a "true believer"? You believe that someone who continues in sin and is characterized by sin is a "true believer"? You believe that someone can know Christ (the Son of Almighty God who died a brutal death for because of our sinfulness), call themselves a believer, and yet deliberately go on sinning - mocking God? I am interested to hear your reasoning (Biblically) for this view.

I will defer to the Word of God:
1 John 3:6 "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him."

Hebrews 10:26-29 "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?"

These verses (just a couple of examples) are not about someone having to earn his salvation. They are talking about the mandatory need for a repentant heart and life. Here's the deal, "God's grace that brings salvation teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions ..." It starts with grace (justification), lives by grace (sanctification), and ends with grace (glorification). I say and firmly believe that God's grace is enough for all of these to be realized fully.

Eric Jones said...

Brian,
We all need God's grace and we are definitely all works in progress. The important thing to point out is the word PROGRESS. If we stop the progress and say "that's enough God, you can't touch this area of my life, I won't go any further, I will not let go of that sin right now, or you can't have that part of me" then we are no longer works in progress; nor are we truly followers of Christ. We sat down and said we aren't going to follow any longer.

Remember, it's not about dos and don'ts. It is about a circumcised heart that is willing to follow Christ the whole way. He went the whole way. We have not suffered to the point of shedding our blood for him. However, he does "demand our hearts, our lives, our all".

Following Christ is not a halfway proposition. You’re either in or you’re out. Does this mean instant perfection is required? No. But, it does mean instant surrender and repentance. If you are convicted that a sin exists in your life then you call on God's grace and fight the good fight. If you don't fight how can you say you have a repentant heart that is given to Christ? That is the heart of the matter.

The scandal of God’s grace is that it not only justifies us, but it is also so powerful and amazing that when we grab hold of it in faith and use it, we can experience real transformation and freedom from sin right here and right now. Now that’s PROGRESS.

Just something to chew on.

aztexan said...

Chew on this:

I KNOW a believer's relationship with God is no one's business, save for God and that believer.

Countless well-meaning
"on fire" Christians philosophize and tinker with the MIRACLE of Salvation, "leanin[ing] on [their] own understanding," which is directly contrary to the Word.

Miracles (e.g., Grace, Repentance, Sanctification, etc.), by definition, are NOT for man to understand.

And if you believe Sanctification through Christ is a "process" rather than a divine MIRACLE of God's Grace...then perhaps these past three years haven't been as revelatory as you think they have been, Eric.

Look, this is a topic too complex and IMPORTANT to adequately address on another's blog. Perhaps I shall launch my own blog someday, God willing.

Whatever might come, PRAY. And "acknowledge HIM in all things."

And be like the Boreans, for thaluvva Pete!

Brian said...

When the prodigal son left to squander his father's wealth on wild living, was he not the father's son anymore? Of course he was! When he returned home did he have to repent before his father ran to him and had compassion on him? Of course not! This is like our Father in heaven. How would you respond if it was one of your sons? What a loving and merciful God we have! The true meaning of the grace of God turns the worldy influenced Christian view of "attainment" updside down. And it's so "scandalous" to alot of the religious leaders of our day.

Eric Jones said...

Brian,
The prodigal son did repent - in the pig sty. That is why he went home to his father again. He finally turned from his own way of life to return to his father. He had a contrite heart and also confessed his sins to his father.

Additionally, the father's own words give us insight into the condition of the son while he was off doing his own thing and willfully living apart from the father. The father said his son was "dead” and “lost”.

Yes, the father still loved his son, but the son chose to leave the father and was then considered dead by the father. The father didn't desire or create the son's condition of being lost and dead. However, that is exactly the condition of the son because of his choice to leave the father and live his life gratifying himself in defiance of his father’s will.

AZTEXAN:
1. I disagree that a believer's relationship with God is no one's business, save for God and that believer. Paul obviously didn’t either – he wrote many letters to believers about their relationship with God. I pray that my family, friends, and fellow Christians would love me enough to care about my relationship with God. We are the body and we must care for and love each other.
2. The Word of God gives us very clear explanations and pictures of the “miracles” (e.g., Grace, Repentance, Sanctification, etc.). It doesn’t have to be a big mystery. In fact, Hebrews 6:1-3 states that some of these, like repentance, are elementary truths and we should go on to maturity. “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”
3. Would that we all be like the Bereans for the love of God!
4. When you launch your blog, please let me know.

Brian said...

It indicates that the prodigal son was "dead" and "lost"? But do interpretations of scripture indicate that the son was unsaved? Or is this open for debate?

aztexan said...

1. It's good for us to exchange ideas and have concern for each other. I simply meant that, as you yourself stated, "it's all about the heart," and the heart is something which God alone knows and judges. Many Christians like to think there are hard-and-fast ways to judge whether others are "truly saved"; they go on about rebellion and carnality and repentance and "by their fruit you will know them." This, in my opinion, is a trap -- a silly game Christians play because they feel they have sufficient insight into the mind of God Almighty to know, in virtually every circumstance, how Salvation "works."

2. Here you seem to be echoing my previous sentiments about maturity! Once a person truly believes and accepts salvation (a very personal miracle that cannot always be judged by outward appearances; only that person and God know for sure), that person is saved. That Christian's walk with God is as unique as the person himself, and some will reach greater maturity and higher understanding than others. But it's now a question of maturity, not of salvation.

3. Sure. You got me there!

4. I've been thinking about launching a blog for a while. The main thing holding me back has been the long and hectic hours I work in a typical week. It's tough to find time to do much of anything, let alone maintain a blog. I certainly respect all the work you put into your site; it's not easy! If I get a blog going any time soon, I will surely notify you. Perhaps you can give me some pointers?