I feel an urgent calling within my spirit to keep following the path of self-examination. I am putting on my rappelling equipment, helmet, ropes, harness, descenders, carabiners and lights and I will continue down the dark abyss until I discover what down there, how it became a part of me and then on to allowing for its removal. I am determined; no I am desperate, to become that man of integrity and sincerity that God longs to see manifest. I desire to be the person Jesus died for me to be no matter what it cost me. Now brother relax, when we are saved we automatically become transformed and a brand new creation. Yes, this is true, our spirit is changed from being hopelessly lost into a new redeemed spirit BUT there is still much work to do in order to renew our mind and there is little time for “relaxing” in the life of a remnant disciple. We cannot afford to sit around and watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island while many in our network (including many in the church world) are lost and deceived. What can we do? We can allow Jesus to shine so brightly within us that we become like a city set on a hill.

The born-again experience is an offer of grace from a loving God and is the most wonderful gift that has ever been given to the human race but there is also much confusion as to exactly what this means. As a minister that spends every day talking and listening, I have discerned over the years that many church members realize that Jesus has given them a free ticket to go to heaven but do not have a clue as to what their responsibility is when it comes to walking with Him on earth. This is because our human nature loves words like free, grace, ransomed, eternal security, saved and forgiveness. However, the crowds begin to thin out when the topic turns to our responsibility with words like, sacrifice, accountability, transformation, sanctification, covenant vow, yielding our will and self-discipline. Salvation is a free gift from God but it is not cheap in the sense that it will cost us everything we have. I have heard hundreds of salvation messages in my life and rarely do I ever hear both sides of the agreement. It is common to hear a sermon that tells all about what God has done to rescue us from hell because of His great love and mercy (which is true) but seldom is it included that within this transition we are to lay down our life and take up our cross and follow Him. I believe ministers are afraid to tell the whole story because they know people are more likely to reach out for the free offer but may feel the price is too steep and turn away if they are told this will require a complete change in the way they think, speak, act and live. So what do people accept when they respond to an altar call? They accept the invitation to believe in God and in turn receive a free ticket to heaven. Now brother, what in the world is wrong with that? Well, if anyone goes down front just because they want some fire insurance – they may be doing it for the wrong intention. We ask Jesus to come into our heart for one reason and that is because we love Him. Deception is deadly and to say that it has not become an evil plague which is also drastically affecting the churches is to be deceived already. We should be very heartbroken from the reality that we have a vast multitude of church members that are going through the motions of religious activity but have never truly been born-again. Will we sit around and act like everything is fine or will we begin to pray for God to pour out His convicting power and open the eyes of those who are blind? And we wonder why there is so much sin in the church. “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble and humble themselves for the day of the Lord is coming and is close at hand.” (Joel 2:1)

As many of you know I am in and out of nursing homes every week and I truly enjoy being with the elderly. I not only sing and teach in these places but have also developed friendships with many and try to spend time with them. One of my friends is a lovely lady who after a devastating stroke was not able to be independent so she now lives in a comfortable setting where she is well taken of. I love talking with her as she has shared about her life and how committed she has been to her church through the years and all the wonderful memories of being a choir member and soloist since she was a young girl. She had never married and lived a simple life of working and being involved with church activities. She is almost 80 but still has her mental capacities and has a clever sense of humor. Recently there has been a life-changing event that has happened in her life that has caused me to do much meditating. In all of our conversations about the Lord, the thought had not crossed my mind to worry about her spiritual condition but rather had always presumed that she was a daughter of the King and was ready to go and meet Him. However, about a week ago, another minister who also has a weekly Bible study in this facility, taught about salvation and asked the residents if they had been born-again. She was raised in the Presbyterian Church and could not remember anyone ever mentioning this experience. She was sprinkled (baptized) when she was 12 years old and brought into the church with more of a traditional formality instead of a spiritual encounter from hearing the Word and had never felt the Holy Spirit convicting of her need to accept Jesus into her heart. A couple of days ago at 78 years old, she responded to the gospel and by faith accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She had spent a lifetime of faithfulness to a CHURCH, pleasing people, and serving programs and rituals without never really experiencing a personal relationship with Christ. This is a very exciting miracle and I definitely rejoice with her but at the same time – I wonder how many individuals are living the same emotional pretense? We read over and over about the Pharisees and can see clearly that they were aggressive and arrogant. It is sad how they were recognized as the religious presence in the world then and the sorrow continues as this same deceptive spirit is operating today. The flesh loves attention and applause for being a decent and moral but has no intention of surrendering the will which is what Jesus being our LORD is all about. It is sad but true that the majority of those who declare that they believe in God – have never met Him, and many of the ones that have asked Him into their heart are evidently convinced it does not matter how they LIVE as long as they are holding on to the ticket. I do not want puffed-up knowledge without a personal relationship. I do not want to be deceived by pride or to become calloused and blinded from religious legalism. I want to live in HIS divine reality of peace, wisdom and love and be able to walk out under a star lit night and look up and know that all is well with my soul.

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