This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We’re continuing now with the theme “Complete Salvation and How To Receive It.” In the previous session I explained that salvation is not just having your sins forgiven, though that’s marvelous. It’s not even just being born again but it’s a full ongoing process. The word used in New Testament Greek for “to save” also is used for all the other benefits that come to us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. For healing, for deliverance from demons, for raising the dead and, for keeping us through this world and to life eternal in the next.
I pointed out that the Bible is the only book that reveals the real cause of human problems and it’s the only book which offers a solution. The cause is sin and the remedy is a sacrifice. There’s no other remedy for sin but a sacrifice. But the final all sufficient sacrifice for sin took place when Jesus died on the cross. When He cried, “It is finished,” it was finished. From then on it is perfect. Perfectly perfect, completely complete.
I pointed out that one way to view and understand what was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross is contained in the word exchange. On the cross a divinely ordained exchange took place in this sense, that God visited upon Jesus all the evil that was due by justice to us, that in return God might make available to us all the good that was due to the perfect sinless obedience of Jesus. Or, more simply, the evil came upon Jesus that the good might be offered to us.
And then we worked through briefly eight aspects of this exchange. I think it would help us to recapitulate them briefly before we go further. I don’t know whether you appreciate fully the benefits of repeating out loud the things that you want to believe. We’ll come to this later on in this message. But it’s an interesting fact that where English says “to learn by heart,” Hebrew says “to learn by mouth.” Each is true. You see, if you want a thing in your heart, keep saying it with your mouth. If you have something in your heart it will come out in what you say in your mouth. The two go together, each is one part of the total process. So that if you do believe something, the more you affirm it the more you believe it. And the more you believe it the more you’ll affirm it.
On the other hand, unfortunately the opposite is true. If you don’t affirm it you’ll cease to believe it. And if you cease to believe it you’ll soon cease to affirm it. So, we’re caught up in one or other of two spirals. Either the positive spiral of believing and affirming or the negative spiral of not affirming and ceasing to believe.
So let’s be in the positive spiral again and let’s go through the eight aspects of the exchange. I’m going to ask you to be good enough to use your hands. All right? Again, this seems childish but Jesus said you have to become like a little child to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And even the fact that we make an action is significant. That great evangelist of the previous generation, Smith Wigglesworth, used to say faith is an act. If you believe you’ve got to do something. As a matter of fact, being a Yorkshireman he didn’t say faith is an act, he said faith is a hact. There was a situation—I always like to tell this story—when he was preaching and pressing this truth home to the people. They weren’t responding so there was another minister there who happened to be a teacher of elocution. He said to this other brother, “Brother, they’re not hearing it, they need to hear it twice. So whatever I say on this side of the platform, you say on that side of the platform.” So Smith Wigglesworth said, “Faith is a hact.” And this man said, “Faith is an act.” You see, they got it both ways. So, there is an act that expresses faith.
Now, we’re going to use the left hand for the evil, the right hand for the good. I think if I say the first half you’ll be able to say the second half with me. If you can say the first half, that’s good.
- “Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.”
- “Jesus was wounded that we might be healed.”
- “Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.”
- “Jesus died our death that we might share His life.”
- “Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing.”
- “Jesus endured our poverty that we might share His abundance.”
- “Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory.”
- “Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance.”
Now I want to go on with another word which I have found helps people to lay hold of this sacrifice of Jesus. We’ve looked at the word exchange, now I want to offer you the word identification. To identify with somebody means to make yourself one with somebody, to put yourself in that person’s place. I believe that on the cross a double identification took place with two aspects. First of all, Jesus as the last Adam identified Himself with the whole Adamic race and took every evil that was due to us, and died to pay the penalty for our sins. That’s one side of the identification. Salvation comes when we respond with another identification. We identify ourselves with Jesus in His death, His burial, His being made alive, His being resurrected, and His being enthroned. That’s when we enter into what He’s provided. He has made the identification, that’s finished. But we appropriate as we identify ourselves with everything that came to Him from death onwards.
Let’s look, first of all, at this glorious two titles that were given to Him in 1 Corinthians 15:45. Now these are often misquoted by Christians. It’s important to get them right. In verse 45 Paul says:
“So it is written, the first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
And then in verse 47:
“...the first man was of the earth made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
Now, the two titles there are “the last Adam” and then “the second man.” I’ve often heard people call Jesus the second Adam. That’s not what He’s called. He’s called the last Adam. And then He’s called the second man.
On the cross He died as the last Adam. Not last in time but last in the sense that the total evil inheritance of the entire Adamic race came upon Him and was exhausted by Him when He died. And when He was buried, it was put away. And then when He rose the third day, He rose as the second man, a new kind of man. A kind of race that had never existed before, the God/man race, the Emmanuel race. He was the head of the body, the first born from the dead, and through the new birth we are identified with Him in His resurrection and all that follows.
In 1 Peter 1:3, the apostle Peter says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
So, through the resurrection of Jesus, when we identify ourselves with Him we are begotten again, we are born into the new race, the God/man race. It says that the Lord will do a new thing in the earth. This new thing is a new race, a race in which the nature of God and man are perfectly united forever and ever.
Now let’s look at some aspects of the identification. Jesus died as the last Adam. Paul amplifies this in Romans 6:6 and verse 11. This is the middle of one of Paul’s long sentences.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him [Jesus], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
Now that’s a very important statement. And Paul says “knowing this.” I have to comment that I think many Christians don’t really know it. This is a historical fact. When Jesus died on the cross our old man, our rebellious fallen Adamic nature was crucified in Him. You see, the old man is incorrigible. God doesn’t try to improve him, He doesn’t sent him to church or teach him scripture. He’s got only one solution. The solution is execution, that’s right. Let’s say that together. “The solution is execution.” The message of mercy is the execution took place more than 19 centuries ago when Jesus died on the cross, my old man, your old man, our old man was crucified in Him.
And then Paul goes on in verse 11 with reference to this:
“Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now, What God did on the cross is a finished historical fact. It’s true whether we know it or whether we believe it. But when we know it and believe it, it works in us. So we have to say just as Jesus was executed on the cross, so I believe my old, fallen, rebellious, corrupt nature was executed and put to death. That’s the way out. Death is the only way out of the old fallen Adamic nature. But we take the way through the death of Jesus on the cross.
And Paul says “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin.” This has become very vivid to me. What does it mean to be dead to sin. I always give this little imaginary incident about this very bad man. I mean, by the standards of religious people he was terrible. He drank whiskey, he swore, he cursed his wife and children, he watched all sorts of bad programs on television; he was a bad man. But his wife and children were believers. They used to sneak out on Sunday evenings to the local gospel service. He would always curse them as they left. So one night they sneaked out and there he was in his armchair with a cigar in his mouth, glass of whiskey on the table, watching something he oughtn’t have been watching on television.
They had a glorious night at the gospel service. They got sort of high in the Spirit and they came back and they were still singing choruses. They walked into the room and suddenly realized, they stopped dead and waited for the curse to come. No curse came. Then they looked. The cigar was in the ashtray, the smoke was curling up but he wasn’t smoking. The whiskey glass was there but he wasn’t drinking. There was no motion. Do you know what had happened? He’d died, he had a heart attack and died. Do you know what he was? He was dead to sin, see? Sin had no more attraction for him. Sin had no more power over him. Sin produced no more reaction from him. He was dead to sin.
Paul says reckon yourselves likewise to be dead to sin. Sin has no more power over you, sin has no more attraction for you, sin produces no more reaction from you. That’s through identification, you understand. We realize that when Jesus died on the cross, this old corrupt, sinful nature died in Him. See, I meet people who travel around the world to get away from their problems. But the real problem goes with them because it’s the old man. You can’t escape from him by traveling. There’s only one escape, it’s by death, the death of Jesus on our behalf.
The second side of identification is we identify ourselves with Jesus. This we do by faith. We do it because the Bible says it’s true. Here are the five steps of identification. First of all, we died with Him. That’s a simple past tense. You remember I was speaking about them? It’s an event that took place at a certain moment in time. In Colossians 3:3, Paul writing to Christians says:
“For you died...”
They were still living on the earth but he said you died. When did they die? When Jesus died on the cross.
“For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
And then in 2 Timothy 2:11, Paul brings out the implications.
“This is a faithful saying: for is we died with him, we shall also live with him...”
So we’re identified with Him in death. His death was our death.
Then we are identified with Him in what followed death. What followed death? Burial, that’s right. And this is very important. We must be identified with Him in burial. How are we identified with Him in burial, by what? Baptism, that’s right. That’s why baptism is so important. The identification with His death in inward but the identification with Him in burial is outward, it’s a visible identification with the Lord. And in countries where there is an anti Christian force, baptism is the decisive cutoff point both amongst Jews, Moslems and others. You can say you believe in Jesus, they’ll get angry. But when you’re baptized all hell turns loose because that’s where you escape from their territory. So we are identified with Him in burial by baptism. Let’s look at two passages. Romans 6:4:
“Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
So we are identified with Him in burial by baptism. Actually, every baptismal service should be a double service. It should be a burial followed by a resurrection, that’s right. But only if we’ve been buried can we be resurrected. See?
And then in Colossians 2:12, Paul says the same thing again:
“Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised [or resurrected] with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
So when we are buried with Him in baptism, then we have the right to follow Him in everything that followed His burial.
And there are three more stages. They’re all stated in Ephesians 2. Let me say there are other passages in the New Testament but we will just look at Ephesians 2:4–6.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses [notice we’re dead], made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved;) raised us [or resurrected us] together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Notice the word together three times. We’re made alive. Because, Jesus didn’t come out of the tomb dead, He was alive before He came out of the tomb. We’re made alive, we’re resurrected, but we don’t stop there. We’re made to sit with Him in heavenly places. What is He sitting on in heaven? A throne, that’s right. The New English Bible says we are enthroned with Him. So we’re dead, buried, made alive, resurrected and enthroned.
Suppose we, for a moment, use our fingers this way. Shall we do that? Dead with Him, buried with Him, made alive with Him, resurrected with Him, enthroned with Him. That’s totally outside our power to achieve. It’s obvious. There’s no way we can work for it. There’s no way we can be good enough for it. There’s no way we deserve it. There’s only one way we can receive, by faith. It’s solely by faith. If we realize the scope of this salvation, it would be foolish, it would be ridiculous to try and earn it or to try to do something to deserve it.
One problem with many professing Christians is they have an uneasy feeling they ought to do something to earn it. The result is they never really enjoy it because if you think you are earning it, God will not give it to you. Because, it would be on a false basis. That’s why it’s usually easier for the worst sinners to get saved than churchgoers. Have you ever noticed that? I was one of the worst sinners and I got saved about the same time as a man who was very religious but unsaved. I just plunged into everything and began to swim, you know. I got baptized in the Spirit, began to receive gifts of the Spirit. He was months going through the same process because somewhere in the back of his mind he thought he had to be earning it.
All right. I want to share with you a beautiful thought which is there in Ephesians 2, the next verse. After it speaks about being made alive, resurrected, enthroned, it says in Ephesians 2:7 it reveals God’s purpose. Why did God do it?
“That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
That’s a staggering thought. In the ages to come. Not just in this life but forever and ever in eternity we are to be for the whole universe the demonstration of the riches of the grace of God. So that whenever God wants to show any created being the extent of His grace, He’ll say in effect, “Look at these people. See, they’re close to me, they’re worshiping me, they’re my children. And they were sinners, rebels, cast out, unprofitable, useless, enemies of mine. And yet I’ve brought them near to me for eternity.” So, I hope you’re prepared for that. I hope you realize that all through eternity you’re going to be God’s demonstration of His grace.
Remember what I said? Grace cannot be earned. There’s many things in the eternal council that we don’t fully understand but I think, in a certain sense, God had to let sin happen in order to have something to demonstrate His grace with. See? I’m not saying God approved sin but when sin took place, instead of saying, “It’s finished,” He said, “Here is the real opportunity for me to show the whole universe my grace.” Up to that time He’d shown many aspects of His character but I don’t think He ever fully demonstrated His grace. So we are His opportunity, if you’d like to look at it that way. We’re the person in whom God is going to show the universe the real nature of grace. Wonderful!
And then just a little further on in the same second chapter of Ephesians, Paul says:
“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Not only are we the demonstration of His grace but Paul says we are His workmanship. You don’t fully appreciate that but the Greek word is poeima, from which we get the English word poem. It suggests an artistic masterpiece. So we are God’s creative masterpiece. When He wants to show the universe the full extent of His creative genius, we’re the demonstration piece. That’s exciting, isn’t it? That’s wonderful. What blesses me is just to prove what He could do, for the material for His masterpiece do you know where He went? To the scrap heap. Do you realize that? “I can do anything with anything. Created the stars and the sun and all that, the seas and the trees. But to demonstrate what I can really create,” God says, “I’m going to take these broken pieces of humanity and I’m going to mold them into my masterpiece.”
There’s a song that I can’t sing, I won’t even try to but it says “ruined lives, broken pieces, that is why you died on Calvary.” He died to create His masterpiece out of the broken lives of men and women. What a message, what a revelation.
You know, if you’re not excited about salvation I don’t know how much salvation you really have. People say we’re fanatical if we jump up and down and clap our hands. I was a logician before I became a Christian. I’d have to say that’s the logical response to the revelation of scripture. If we really believe the things I’ve been saying, just to sit there and say that’s good is totally unrealistic. What about doing a little of it for a moment? Why don’t we stand up and bless the Lord and tell Him we really believe what He says about us. [praise and thanksgiving]
Turn to your neighbor and say, “I’m saved by grace. I never could earn it. I’m saved by grace, I couldn’t deserve it.” All right, sit down and collect yourself!
What I’ve described is what God has done, the provision He’s made. I’ve told you already it’s perfectly perfect, it’s completely complete. But, it still remains for us to know how to appropriate it. I could just close this message at this point and you’d have a tantalizing vision of something glorious but many of you wouldn’t know how to take the steps to come into it. So I’m going to do my best to describe the steps by which we can appropriate what God has done. In my thinking there are four simple steps. Number one, to repent. Number two, to believe. Number three, to confess. And number four, to act out what you believe. I’ll say that again. Number one, to repent. Number two, to believe. Number three, to confess. And number four, to act out what you believe.
Let’s look at a few scriptures. The first essential step which no one can ever bypass is to repent. The whole of the New Testament, in fact, the whole of the Bible makes it clear that no one can ever be reconciled to God out of sin and rebellion without repentance. I see today that the teaching of repentance is very weak and ineffective in many areas of the church. I think the church suffers greatly. Like many people who’ve been a pastor, a counselor and so on, over the years I’ve counseled multitudes of people. I don’t do much of that now. I discovered there aren’t many Christians who don’t have problems. My conclusion after spend a lot of time with Christians with problems was this, that 50% of their problems were due to lack of repentance. In other words, had they really repented their problems wouldn’t be there. You see, there’s no way around repentance. I think it’s important to emphasize this because I believe there’s some teaching that repentance is negative and we don’t need it. Repentance may be negative but we certainly need it.
Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Mark 1:15. This is the beginning of His public ministry.
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”
God never tells anybody in the New Testament to believe without first telling them to repent. I believe it’s impossible. You cannot really believe unless you’ve really repented. You can go through all the outward motions and forms of believing but the reality isn’t there.
What is repenting? Repenting is not an emotion, it’s a decision. The Greek word that’s used in secular Greek is almost invariably translated “to change your mind.” So repenting is changing your mind. You’ve been living one way, you decide to live another way. You’ve been pleasing yourself, living by your own standards, doing your own thing. You decide I’m going to submit to God, I’m going to live God’s way, God’s going to tell me what to do and I’m going to do it. A person who has truly repented does not argue with God. See, I’ve had letters even since I’ve been here from people with problems. And some of them are people who’ve had problems a long while and are almost despairing of a solution. I think, in a way, at least in some cases, those people have not really repented. Because they want their problem solved in order to be able to do what they want. See? They have their plan for what they’d like to do and be in life. But that’s not repentance. Repentance says here I am, God, do with me what you want. I won’t make my own plan. I’ll lay aside my ambitions. You may have totally different plans for me. I lay down my own plans, my own desires and God, I’m open to what you tell me to do, whatever it may be. That’s repentance. I don’t say that to criticize those people but I don’t think they realize.
Let’s look at a few passages where this is emphasized. After the resurrection in Luke 24, Jesus explained to His disciples the scriptures about His death and resurrection. He said in verse 46:
“Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name.”
What’s preached first? Not forgiveness but repentance. We have no right to leave out repentance and offer people forgiveness. I was in a meeting in Southeast Asia where an American minister was preaching. He preached an excellent message on healing. He pointed out how we can receive healing through the word of God. The message blessed me. But at the end he said to this mixed multitude, most of whom were Chinese, if you want this wonderful life and all these blessings, come forward and receive. He didn’t mention the word repentance once in the whole message. Well, a lot of people came forward who were idol worshipers and all sorts of other things and they wanted but they didn’t get. See? The result, in a sense, was confusion at that point.
Ruth and I found ourselves trying to minister to people, we couldn’t speak their language, they didn’t understand us. It was very clear to us they hadn’t met the conditions. But it wasn’t their fault because the condition hadn’t been stated. We with a background of Biblical knowledge, we can sometimes assume that people know they have to repent. Although, I think it’s a rash assumption. But you go to another culture and another background, they have no concept of what repentance is. For many people repentance is inflicting suffering on yourself, climbing the steps of Saint Peter’s on your knees and so on. All sorts of things, flagellating yourself. Amongst the Moslems there are those people who actually flagellate themselves amongst professing Christians. Repentance is not inflicting suffering on yourself. Jesus has endured all the suffering. Repentance is making up your mind to change or to be changed, letting go of everything you hold onto, saying, “God, I’m at your disposal.”
You look in Acts 2, the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had fallen, a multitude of people were convicted of their sins. They didn’t know what to do. In verse 37 they said to the apostles:
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
And out comes Peter with the three step answer.
“Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.”
What’s the first requirement? Repent, that’s right. I believe that’s God’s answer today. I don’t believe that’s a sort of installment deal, I believe it’s a package deal. You should get them all at one time. Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.
And let me just show you the ministry and the message of Paul in Acts 20. Paul is speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, reminding them of his ministry in Ephesus and he says in verse 20:
“I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed to you and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It didn’t matter whether they were Jews or Greeks or who they were. The order was first repentance, then faith.
Then we come to believe and confess. As I made my outline I didn’t know whether to put confess before believe or believe before confess. In actual fact, in the New Testament really they’re not separated. Let’s look in this key passage in Romans 10 where Paul describes the conditions for New Testament salvation. Romans 10, and I want you to notice the order. He talked about two things, the mouth and the heart. He mentions them in each verse. The first two times he puts the mouth before the heart. The third time he puts the heart before the mouth. We don’t think that way but in actual fact, in a way, you get faith from saying it. Some people say I don’t believe it so I can’t say it. I say you say it and you’ll discover you’ll begin to believe it.
Now let me say about confession for a moment, it’s a key word. It means literally “to say the same as.” It’s from a little Latin verb, confeiteor. And confession is saying the same as God has said in His word about you. It’s making the words of your mouth agree with the word of God. And it’s absolutely essential in the process of salvation. You cannot really experience salvation without right confession.
Let’s look at what Paul says, Romans 10:8–10:
“The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart...”
Where is it first? In the mouth, that’s right.
“...that is, the word of faith, which we preach. That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus [or Jesus as Lord],and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
What do you do first? Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart. See, that isn’t the way we thing but it’s actually true to experience. And then the 10th verse, the third time he says:
“With the heart one believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”
So, when you’ve done it twice with your mouth then you have it in your heart. And when you have it in your heart you say it with your mouth because Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. But the way to get it into your heart is to accept it as the word of God and start to say it. The more you say it the more you’ll believe it. The more you believe it the more you say it. But there’s a kind of tradition, I think especially among churchgoers, that you don’t talk about your faith.
I know, I grew up in Britain amongst people who were good churchgoers. And some of them undoubtedly were real saved Christians. But no one ever told me what it was to be saved. See? For people in those days, religion was something personal you didn’t talk about. Well, that’s not the way it is with the gospel. You talk about it. You believe, you confess. You confess, you believe. And you will discover when it comes to making the right confession there’s a dark evil force that stands right in front of you and wants to keep your mouth shut. And you have to use your will to open your mouth and say the right thing.
I want to show you the position of Jesus as high priest in relationship to our confession. I want to take you through three passages of Hebrews. Hebrews 3:1:
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.”
Jesus was the apostle sent out by God to provide redemption. Having provided redemption He returned to God to be our high priest in the presence of God. But He’s the high priest of our confession. That is radical. No confession, no high priest. If you close your lips on earth, you silence the lips of your advocate in heaven. Bear that in mind, the high priest of our confession. The more you confess, the more you release His high priestly ministry on your behalf.
Then in Hebrews 4:14 it says:
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold fast our confession.”
Notice every time it speaks about Him as a high priest it’s related to our confession. Chapter 3, verse 1 days He’s the high priest of our confession. Chapter 4:14 says let us hold fast our confession. What does that mean? Say it and keep on saying it. Don’t back off. Don’t get discouraged.
And then in Hebrews 10:21 and 23, the writer returns to the same theme.
“Having a high priest over the house of God... [verse 23:] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promises is faithful.”
Now, notice the change there. It’s not the confession of our faith, it’s the confession of our hope because if you confess faith long enough it becomes hope. You understand? Faith is the substance of things hoped for. When you’ve built a substance on that comes hope. My definition of hope in the Bible is a confident expectation of good.
But, it says, let us hold fast the profession or confession without wavering. Notice first of all He’s the high priest of our confession. Then we’re to hold fast our confession. And then we’re to hold it fast without wavering. Why do you think it says without wavering? What does that imply? Well, let me put it to you this way. If you’re traveling in an airplane and the sign goes on “fasten your seat belt,” what does that tell you? Expect turbulence. What does without wavering tell you? Expect opposition. Here is where the battle is fought out in maintaining your confession.
I want to illustrate this from a book that I read recently that impressed me deeply. It’s called Fear No Evil. It’s the story of a Jewish refusenik and how he was treated in the Soviet Union, how eventually he got out. His name was Natan Sharansky. It’s a long book, it’s a 600 page book. He was not a Christian but the KGB, that’s the secret police of the Soviet Union, arrested him and put him through nine years of misery. He was in solitary confinement for as much as 40 days on end. He was in a hunger fast in which they forcibly fed him day after day after day. But as I read this story it spoke to me. I saw in the KGB the most vivid demonstration of Satan and his tactics. I mean, it was like Satan embodied. I saw in Natan Sharansky the way to win. He was a chess player, a very highly qualified chess player. He made up his mind that he was going to deal with the KGB like a chess opponent and he was always going to stay one move ahead of them. The book is very interesting.
As I say, he didn’t have a real faith in a personal God but he had the kind of Jewish general picture of God somewhere, perhaps. Nearly all Jewish prayers begin with “O Lord, our God, king of the universe.” And so, he was teaching himself Hebrew and he decided that he would write out a prayer in Hebrew that he would repeat whenever he needed it. He wrote out this prayer in Hebrew which was asking God to be with him, to protect his family and to bring him safely to the land of Israel. It would take about one minute to repeat that prayer. And whenever he was under pressure, for instance, if he was on the way to be examined or questioned or interrogated, he would repeat the prayer maybe a couple of times between the cell and the room of interrogation. As I say, he was there nine years. My guess is he probably said that prayer an average of ten times a day, which is 3,650 times a year. Which in nine years becomes approximately 30,000 times. I want to ask you Christians how many of you would go on praying 30,000 times? And the one aim of the KGB summed up on one phrase was to get him to make the wrong confession. If he would just say I was guilty, I’d been a traitor, they would have released him and let him go. But he refused to do that. And the battle raged for nine years around his confession. By making the right confession and reiterating the right prayer, even as an unbeliever—and there were many people praying for him—he won. He came out totally victorious. He’s in Israel today in Jerusalem near where we live. But oh, how that has impressed me, the tactics of Satan. He’ll use every kind of pressure, every kind of inducement. He’ll use every kind of lie, whatever he can. He’s got one aim. What is it? To get you to make the wrong confession. How can we defeat him? By maintaining the right confession. Oh, how vivid that is!
When you have repented, when you are believing, when you are confessing, there’s one more thing you have to do. You have to act out your faith. James 2:26 says:
“Faith without works is dead.”
Faith that is not expressed in appropriate actions is a dead faith. I want to suggest to you three appropriate actions that express our faith. Number one, be baptized. That’s your first opportunity to identify yourself openly with Jesus as your savior. And Mark 16:16, Jesus said:
“Go and preach the gospel in the whole world to every creature, and he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
I don’t believe you are entitled to claim salvation until you’re baptized. You remember I made a distinction between the new birth and salvation? You can be born again but you haven’t entered into salvation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. And if you study the book of Acts, no one in the book of Acts ever claimed salvation without being baptized. They attached urgent importance to it. Philip led the eunuch to the Lord on the road to Gaza and there was a pool of water by the road. The eunuch said, not Philip—so you see, Philip had already made clear to him the necessity of baptism. It doesn’t say that. The eunuch said, “What hinders me from being baptized?” He went down into the water and baptized him.
You remember in Philippi, Paul and Silas were in jail, there was an earthquake, everybody was set free, the jailer got saved. What happened? He and all his household were baptized the same hour of the night. They didn’t wait for the morning. I’ve heard so many pastors say we have a baptismal service in three weeks, put your name down. That is not New Testament. It is believe and be baptized.
I have seen some of the most exciting meetings of my spiritual career when people have believed and been baptized. There was one we held years ago. I mean, all sorts of people got baptized. The funny thing was there was a group of Baptists that came just to watch and it was taking place, as I remember, in a swimming pool. There was such a presence of God that people were just going down under the power of God on the edge of the pool. Those dear Baptists said we wish we could have had it this way.
You see, just making baptism a kind of ceremony in the church calendar is like making salvation something that happens if you come to church on Easter. You understand? It’s detaching it from its real significance. So the first thing you should do when you’ve believed is be baptized. Find somebody, anybody. I was teaching on this in university of Youth With a Mission just a few weeks ago. I was very careful not to be controversial. I simply said what I’ve been saying tonight. Believe and be baptized. I didn’t talk about anything of the method of that. People started to come up to me after and say, “I want to be baptized.” I hadn’t said a thing. So one of the professors there said this is your problem, you take them. They marched off to the swimming pool and got baptized the same hour of the night, you see? That was exciting.
I think when the gospel isn’t exciting we’ve lost something. When we don’t have action I think there’s not much faith.
What’s the first thing you do? Be baptized. What’s the second thing? I mean, you can do them in the opposite order. Give thanks. The purest expression of faith is saying thank you to God. If you really believe what I’ve been teaching you, you’ll have to go out of here this evening thanking God. I mean, otherwise you’re either an unbeliever or you’re the most ungrateful person in the city here tonight. The truth is you’re not ungrateful but you are slow to believe.
Some of Jesus’ miracles were achieved only by giving thanks. The feeding of the 5,000, all Jesus did was say thank you. And five loaves and two fishes became enough for a crowd of perhaps 10,000 people. There is almost limitless power in giving thanks. Jonah was, you know, three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. He didn’t come out when he prayed, he did a lot of praying. But in Jonah 2:9, when he started to give thanks the fish couldn’t hold him any longer. So if you’re in the belly of the fish tonight, start to give thanks.
Then to conclude this on the actions, I turn people to Romans 8:14:
“As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.”
So God doesn’t have one single program for every believer. You take the first step, be baptized, and after that the Holy Spirit will show you God’s plan for your life. Don’t pattern yourself on some other believer because God has an individual plan for every believer.
Now, I want to say something in closing which is important because if you only heard what I’ve been saying up to now you might go out of here and you might be saying to yourself, “Well, there’s something wrong with me because he made it sound so easy and it isn’t easy for me.” There’s nobody here like that this evening but if there were, I want to help you. My comment on that is it’s simple but not easy. You see the difference? I’m going to give you three reasons why it is not easy. You have three enemies that will do everything in their power to make it difficult.
Number one, you have an enemy within and the Bible calls it the carnal mind, the unrenewed mind. And in Romans 8:7–8, Paul says:
“The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be.”
So in our minds we have within us an enemy of God that’s going to resist the things that God wants us to do. We have to bring that mind into subjection to the will of God. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we must take our thoughts captive. Interestingly, the word for captive is not a civil prisoner but a prisoner of war. In other words, your thoughts are at war with God and you have to take them prisoners of war and bring them into subjection to God.
Most Christians, the main battles that they fight are in their minds. Is that right? Don’t be surprised, it’s part of the total deal.
And then we have an enemy without who resists us. What’s his name? Satan, that’s right. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:6–7:
“Your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may destroy...”
And then it says:
“....resist him, steadfast in the faith.”
That’s a continuing present tense. There’s another tense which just means do it once and that’s it. Doing it once with the devil is not sufficient. You have to keep on resisting him. He’ll keep on pressuring you, you have to keep on resisting him. James says submit to God first, then resist the devil and what will happen? He will what? Flee from you, that’s right. But he’s pretty stubborn. He’s got to be convinced you really mean it. He’ll try four or five different approaches and tactics before he gives up.
And then finally, we live in a hostile environment which is called the world. Jesus said to His disciples, “Don’t be surprised that the world hates you because it hated me before it hated you.” And in John 15:19 he uses the phrase “the world” five times. He says:
“Do not be surprised that the world hates you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own but because you are not of the world, that I’ve chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Five times in one verse. We need to understand just briefly in closing what is the world. The world is people and systems that are not subject to the righteous government of God in the person of Jesus Christ. So, anybody who is not willing to submit to God’s righteous kingdom and government in the person of Jesus is in the category of the world. And the world and the church are two completely distinct groups. The greatest problem for the church is when the world gets into the church. That’s where our problems begin.
So let me just close by pointing out to you the three forces we have to meet with. They’re old theology. The world, the flesh and the devil. That’s why it’s simple but not easy.