Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 8, 2015
Takes more than crying at an altar
I am an Auburn man. I bleed orange and blue. I want the Tigers to win every game. I love winning. I hate losing. I know the Tigers hate losing. I know they want to win. And I will continue to encourage the Tigers to do whatever it takes to start winning again on the gridiron.
Life is about winning and losing. And evidently our Creator has put within each of us the desire to be a winner. Nobody with a grain of sense wakes up in the morning wanting to be a loser. God has put the urge to win in our DNA.
That explains why Christians love to sing about victory. For example one of the most beloved hymns today is the song “Victory in Jesus.” The melody lingers in your heart; it sticks in your brain. The words summarize the central teaching of the New Testament about Jesus: O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him; He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
There is victory in Jesus. That is what the Bible is all about. Wherever you turn in the New Testament, you read about this victory. I especially like the way the Apostle John wrote about this victory in his three New Testament letters. John says plainly that unless we embrace Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins, we are losers. And it is a big loss because we cut ourselves off from God and his gift of eternal life.
God is the author of life. He is life. He gives life. But eternal life he gives only to those who trust Jesus and believe that he is the Son of God. Jesus declared himself to be the way, the truth and the life. And John says this life is in Jesus the Son. No one can come to the Father except through the Son. This is John’s testimony verified by the testimony of the Spirit. We are losers without Jesus. With him, in him, and through him, we become winners.
John says “the victory that conquers the world” is our faith. We know that our “flesh” is at war with the spirit. We experience that every day. The lusts of the flesh have the power to defeat us – unless we can overcome them through victory in Jesus. So John asks, who can conquer the world? His emphatic answer: The winner is “the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”!
John says there is singing going on in heaven. The countless voices of the redeemed sound, John says, like “the roar of rushing waters” and like “peals of thunder.” If you don’t like singing, you won’t like heaven!
Heaven must be close by so I bet the Apostle John and the other apostles love hearing us sing this victory hymn. I can see John clapping his hands, patting his foot, and saying “Amen” with a big smile.
For many years I believed that the best way to be “born again” was to come to an altar, at the end of a persuasive gospel sermon, and in tears accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Spirit enlarged my understanding. I began to realize that it takes more than crying at an altar to get right with God and become a winner.
Guilt about our sins can cause us to cry at an altar. But God wants more than regret over the mess we have made of our lives. To be truly born again one must surrender the will and the mind to God. The emotional response of the heart is not enough.
True repentance requires that we turn away from our sins and begin walking in a different direction. We must become willing for God to change us; to do this we must give up trying to change ourselves. God cannot change us as long we believe we can change ourselves through self-improvement.
John makes it crystal clear how to recognize those who are truly born of God: 1) they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; 2) they love God and one another; and 3) they obey the commands of God. These are the essential characteristics of winners or true believers.
Everything hinges on what we believe about Jesus and how we are related to him. Refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and you call God a liar. God has given us his own testimony: that He has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son Jesus. We receive eternal life only one way – by trusting Jesus as the Son, receiving Jesus into our hearts, and surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus.
It all boils down to the question, “Who’s the Boss?” For true believers Jesus is the Boss. When Jesus becomes everything to us, he shares the power of God with us, the power to conquer the temptations of the world. We are able to grow in our capacity to love God and one another.
Our love for things diminishes. Our love for God increases. Obeying the commands of God becomes a delight where before it had been a duty. We want to please God more and more, relinquishing our desire to be center stage.
How thankful we should be that God’s underserved gift of life in Jesus begins now and continues forever. Without that precious gift we are cut off forever from the life of God – and forever is a very long time!
I have wept over my sins at many altars. But God was patient. He waited for me to do more than cry at an altar. He gave me a chance to find life in his Son and share in the only victory that really matters – victory in Jesus. + + +