Followers of Christ follow Christ. People who don’t follow Christ aren’t His followers. That was the message that Pastor Brian Kohout, our student life director, brought to our students in chapel yesterday. This was the message that Jesus constantly preached. When people came to Him seeking salvation, Jesus never reduced eternal life to a formulaic prayer. He said that if we want to be saved, we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses (which means die to living for ourselves), and give up being our own bosses to follow Him instead (Matthew 16:24). Salvation is a free gift, but it is costly in that we must be willing to let go of anything in our lives that would prevent us from receiving it.
I (Mr. Reel) know that I am saved because Jesus has changed my life. I’ve given things up to follow Him. When I accepted Christ in college, I had a lot of pride and selfishness and anger (and many other sins) that God broke me of. There was a change of direction and purpose in my life. I experienced joy and love and peace for the first time. I became compassionate towards other people and wanted to see them experience the same salvation that I had just received. I hurt when I saw the pain in the sin-hardened hearts of my lost family, friends, and coworkers (I had a night job at that time at the sports desk of the local newspaper). My salvation prayer to God had been, “I surrender.” It didn’t follow the formula of the “Sinner’s Prayer,” but it came from my sincere heart’s desire to repent and put my faith in Jesus and not myself. And God heard that prayer and came into my life and took control.
Then when I really started getting got back on track with God about three years ago, I again had a lot of pride and selfishness and anger (and other sins) that God broke me of. Like before, I knew that I was now right with God because I could tell that the Holy Spirit had changed and was changing my heart. I became sensitive again to my conscience and started to really hate sin again and instead love what was good and pure and noble. To be very clear, I had not lost my salvation. I do not believe that the Bible teaches that is possible. We receive the Holy Spirit the moment we first trust in Christ, and He will never leave us or forsake us. He is the seal from God that proves that we belong to God forever (Ephesians 1:13-14). However, if we quench or ignore the voice of the Spirit in our lives for a long time, then it can feel like God is not there. The way back to experiencing God’s love, joy, and peace again is the same as the first time we came to Christ – repentance (turning from sin) and faith (turning to God). And I do believe that people who truly belong to Christ will eventually come back to following Him if they have fallen away. Because real followers of Christ follow Christ.
So how about you? Are you following Christ? The Bible tells us that, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). So we ask you, “Are you a new creation?” As Jesus said in the passage we heard yesterday that I have also included below, your answers to these questions have eternal significance for your soul. Don’t ignore what the Spirit is saying to you today. As always, we encourage you to seek out a teacher as soon as possible if you want to talk about your relationship with Christ. We are always available for that conversation. Leading students to follow Jesus is the most important thing that we can do as a Christian school.
The Text (Matthew 16:24-28)
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Questions to Think About
1. How can you tell if you are following Christ or not?
2. If Jesus never mentioned a simple prayer as the way to be saved, why do you think that so many Christian adults try so hard to get children to say the “Sinner’s Prayer” before they really understand what it means to follow Christ?
3. If just saying a prayer is not the real goal of evangelism, what might be a better way to explain the gospel and salvation to a lost friend or family member?