Across the entire earth, this past Sunday, Easter was celebrated as one of the largest events on the Christian calendar. We celebrate what glorious victory our King has won for us!
There are lots people who only darken the church doorway on occasions such as this. They go to Easter services out of obligation to a loved one, out of tradition, or for the sake of the kids. Our culture has made Easter a big deal, (marketing in stores, on t.v., etc.), so church is at the forefront of people's minds more during Easter and Christmas than at any other time.
In many churches, it is a day when the salvation message is boldly proclaimed, and preachers and pastors go for broke. They attempt to reach people who are desperate for change and longing for relief from the burdens they have carried for too long. Countless numbers of people took the giant leap of faith to receive Jesus as their Savior last weekend. (Yay God!)
I watched it happen in my church. I saw many tears. I recognized the familiar elation and joy experienced by so many at the altars that day. Salvation is a miracle when stubborn human beings recognize their need for a Savior. It's a sign in itself, when people feel the presence of God for the first time. His unconditional love washing over them is almost too much to take. When shame and fear of judgment are cast aside and nothing is left but peace, it's crazy! It's a wonder!
For the last couple of days, I have been replaying our Sunday altar scene in my head, and wondering what about Monday? What about Tuesday? What happens to all those people after they say "Yes"? What about next week? I mean, salvation is miraculous, but it's not instant sunshine and roses. That one time commitment to Jesus doesn't suddenly make life easy. All the pieces don't fall in place immediately for most of us. There is a lengthy process to it. The habits and choices that created the mess in our life, or caused us to carry heavy burdens don't disappear in an instant. It took a long time to get in that position, and it will take some time to untangle the unhealthy knots we have gotten into.
If expectations of the newly saved are out of whack, perhaps it is because of the way the gospel message is presented in some churches. I don't think pastors intentionally make promises they can't deliver, but in their zeal to see transformation in people's lives, maybe they do present the precious gift of eternal life as a magic pill that will solve all their issues. "With 3 easy monthly payments of $19.99 you will have smooth sailing from here to eternity!" We long for people to say "Yes" to Jesus, and we try to remove the obstacles or roadblocks that are in the way.
A one time commitment to Christ isn't all their is! As my husband so eloquently teaches, salvation is two fold. Step one is conversion; the vertical relationship with Jesus begins when we commit our lives to Him. Then step two, is sanctification, this is working our salvation out daily, which of course, is the horizontal relationship we commit to within a body of believers. We need both steps to complete the salvation process.
But many preachers only give the first part! So people "get saved", then we wait a whole year to see them again, they have no foundation, no Christian friends, no accountability, and they pick up the same habits and patterns that they just laid down at the altar again!
And I just want to yell, "But wait, there's MORE!" There are things that happen in church life that don't happen any other place! The rough edges get smoothed off. Faith is stretched. Capacity is grown. Friends become family. Hope is restored. And growth is unlimited.
2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (NASB)
Our Christian life is supposed to go from glory to glory until eventually, we look, act, respond and love like Jesus himself! Somehow people have been made to think that the one time cleansing of the conversion experience is all there is. But wait, there's more!
You might have taken a shower this morning but that one shower won't be the last one you ever need. To stay healthy and in good condition, and to not offend others around us, bathing is something we must do frequently. In the same way, our commitment to Jesus at the time of conversion made us clean, but we have to come back to Him frequently, and connect with others on the same journey to work out our relationship with God in community.
Perhaps Philippians 2:12 explains it best, "So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]." (Amp.)
Conversion is the start of a beautiful journey of freedom. But wait, there's more! We have the opportunity to grow in wisdom, so we will make better decisions. We get to grow in love, and perfect love casts out fear, which means we can become brave! We get to experience true, deep and lasting peace. The kind of peace that the world is longing for.
If you have a friend who has told you they "got saved" but they are continually struggling with life, encourage them about the 2 step process. They need the strength and security that intentional growing provides. If you go to C5, get them to come to Connect U with you. Maybe this describes what you have been wrestling with understanding. If so, get yourself connected to a healthy church full of people you can relate to, get committed and see how your life with expand in ways you didn't even know possible.
Don't allow discouragement or doubt to creep in and rob you of what God has initiated in your life. Your conversion was a great start, but it's not all there is. But wait, there's more! Abundant life is actually available.
So the next time you feel like you are up against a wall, don't give up. Don't settle for good enough. Jesus paid for you to have freedom, deliverance, health, stability, hope, joy, love, and peace. But wait, there's more!