Matthew 7:21-23 is pretty scary. I am worried about many people who consider themselves Christians. Jesus clearly says that there will be some people who consider themselves Christ-followers who will spend eternity in hell. The actual quote is “Not everyone who says to be ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (v.21).
Then He follows that with this statement, “Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and perform many miracles? Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!” (v.22-23).
Those verses should cause any Christ-follower to pause and consider their eternity. Jesus also makes it clear who gets to spend eternity in heaven when He said, “but only he who does the will of my Father” (v.21).
Scripture is consistent throughout; obedience as evidence of the indwelling saving work of the Holy Spirit is the primary test for loving God and having a relationship with Christ (John 14:15-21).
Praying a prayer, being baptized, attending church faithfully, giving money, going through confirmation, nor any other work or deed alone can save a person. The greatest evidence of a personal relationship with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit in you evidenced by an obedient heart.
Obedience seems to be a key defining mark of a Christ-follower. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The word “only” is deafening! “Only” the person who obeys God will be in heaven.
Plastic Christians are killing the church. There are two disturbing issues; first, people who have a personal relationship with Christ, but are so bogged down with religion they are not authentic Christ-followers, and secondly, those who claim to know Christ, have been through all the motions of religion, but in reality they do not know Christ.
The second is much worse than the first. The first group is killing the redemptive potential of the local church, but they will go to heaven.
The second group are not only killing they redemptive potential of the local church, but they will know spend eternity in heaven. Knowing the facts about Christ is different than actually “knowing” Christ. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”.
In other words, if you have a personal relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will indwell you, and He will work in you to want to obey and to actual follow-through with obeying God. Therefore, if you find yourself not wanting to obey, or unwilling to obey God, Paul would say “with fear and trembling” you had better figure out if you truly have experienced the life-change that comes with a personal relationship with Christ.
Because, you see, the real question is not, “Do you know Christ?”, but rather “Does Christ know you?”
There is a difference between being exposed to the gospel and experiencing the gospel. The point is that being a “Christ-follower” is much more than merely calling your self a “Christian” or attending church, or adhering to some religious code. Being a true Christ-follower implies you are actually following Christ, embracing His attitude, and committed to carrying out His mission.
So many people have been exposed to the gospel; they know the details, can repeat the story, know the lingo, know the songs, etc. But, being exposed to the information of the gospel is much different than actually experiencing the gospel.
Jesus said, “If anyone believes on me, as Scripture has said, then streams of living water with flow from within him. And by this, he meant the Holy Spirit, who was yet to come.” (John 7:38) Is that how you would describe your spiritual life; as a spring of living water that flows from within you?
There is a war raging between our flesh and the Holy Spirit that indwells the follower of Christ (Gal 5:16-23). The Holy Spirit wants to give us life to the fullest by guiding us along a journey of discovering and experiencing God. Our flesh is self-serving, self-centered, and is a tool Satan uses to rob us of the life that God wants to give us.
Christians seem to think that operating in their “good” flesh is good enough. If I don’t do “bad things”, go to church, volunteer, give some money, etc… then I’m good. That is not a biblical concept. According to Scripture, our flesh, good or bad, is opposed to God and his activity in and through us. That is what “good Christians” struggle with issues like surrender and obedience.
I’d even go as far as saying one of the biggest problems facing the church in America is people calling themselves Christians but not evidencing their faith by walking out what they say they believe. The greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ is Christians and churches! Not Satan. Not the culture. Not drugs. Not porn. Not gambling. The average church and folks who call themselves “Christians” but who do not live a life as a biblical Christ-follower are the greatest hindrance to the cause of Christ in America.
Churches have become organized and religious, even “Pharisee-ic”, instead of being the place of hope and restoration God intended for them to be. The reason people sit through worship services bored and disengaged, then leave with no intention of applying anything they heard, is because pastors and church leaders are boring, disengaged, and not applying it themselves.
My basic point is that there is a major discrepancy between the what the Bible says about the church and what the average church actually is, because there is a major discrepancy between what the Bible says about Christ-following and what the average church attendee is in reality. Read you Bible and see if I am right.
(a picture of Billy Graham’s official decision card is at the end of the article)
Here are my points for this post (then the longer story behind these points will follow)
Children’s Ministry & Student Ministry are some of the most important things a person or a church can generously invest its resources into year after year.
85% of people, who do not accept Christ by age 18, never will. Only 4% of people give their lives to Christ after the age of 30. (CrossChurch is one of the rare churches that year after year, regularly sees many adults giving their lives to Christ)
We NEVER know the end-result or the lifetime impact we will have simply because we are willing to invest our lives in people. Talk about Jesus. Explain the gospel. Speak life. Give hope.
The church is a volunteer-powered organization, yet most the time, volunteers never think about the potential impact their time, energy, sacrifice, and willingness to invest their lives in a person can produce over a lifetime.
For decades church leaders have made comments like “The children and youth are our future”, while investing very little to reach, develop, grow, and mature “their future”.
Children and youth need to experience encounters with Christ, not just be entertained. Flashy ministry is a horrible substitute for the power of the living God.
You can count the apples on the tree, you can even count the seeds in an apple, but none of us can count the apples in a seed. You never know the impact your one life can have over time. Only God knows the number of apples one seed can produce.
Now the Back Story to this Post & the Picture
At the end of this article is a picture of Billy Graham’s decision card from 1934! How cool is that!! If you know who Billy Graham is, then you probably think it is very cool. If you have no idea who Billy Graham is, then you probably don’t think it is all that cool. hahahahahhaa IF you don’t know who Billy Graham is, then please google it.
Short version; Billy Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, is in the neighborhood of 2.5 billion people. He gave his life to Christ in 1934 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, which were led by evangelist, Mordecai Ham. Billy Graham has shared the gospel with more people than anyone else in history, but do you know who shared the gospel with him? It actually is a series of events that has been traced over the years and starts out with one Children’s Ministry volunteer named Edward Kimball.
I’m fairly sure you have never heard of Edward Kimball, just like most people have never heard of you or me. Kimball was just the ordinary Children’s Ministry volunteer “trying to manage the rowdy boys in his Sunday School class”. He prayed for each of his students and sought to lead each one of them to believe in Christ as their Savior. If you have ever taught the Bible to young boys, you know that the experience can often be like herding cats with almost zero attention spans. hahahhaaha
One young man, in particular, didn’t seem to understand or even care about the gospel, so Kimball went to the shoe store where he was stocking shelves to talk to him in the stock room with the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That young man was Dwight L. Moody. In the stockroom on that Saturday, he received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Later, he became an evangelist who proclaimed the gospel and impacted two continents for God, with untold thousands coming to faith in Jesus Christ, in his lifetime. That’s a great story, but I’m not done.
One of the people who came to Christ through Dwight L. Moody’s ministry was Wilbur Chapman. Then Chapman became the evangelist who preached to thousands. One day, a gifted professional baseball player for the National League’s Chicago White Stockings named Billy Sunday, had a day off and decided to attend a service where Chapman was speaking. That night he gave his life to Christ.
Billy Sunday quit baseball and became part of Chapman’s traveling evangelistic team. When Chapman accepted the pastorate of a large church, Billy Sunday began traveling and holding his own evangelistic crusades. Through Billy Sunday’s ministry another young man named Mordecai Ham gave his life to Christ.
In 1934, Mordecai Ham came to Charlotte, North Carolina, to hold some evangelistic church services. Billy Graham was a sandy-haired, lanky high school student who vowed that he wouldn’t go hear him preach, but eventually, Billy decided to go to a service because he had heard a group of students intended to interrupt the service after Mordecai Ham announced that he “knew for a fact that a house of ill repute was located across the street from the local high school and that male students were skipping lunch to visit the house across the street”. Billy decided to attend the service just went to see what would happen.
At that time, Billy’s hero was Babe Ruth. So far as he was concerned, “nobody ever attended revivals services except a old, effeminate men and crazy women and children”. But that night Billy and his friend, Grady Wilson, went and “were intrigued by what he heard. Billy was impressed by the size of crowd, and the preacher’s communication skill, but soon had heard all he could take” because Billy “didn’t like being told that he was lost and going to hell”. They “felt as if the preacher was talking directly to them”.
They got out as soon as they could and Billy said, “I am through,” but he was miserable all night and all the next day and later said, “I couldn’t get there soon enough the next night!”
However, since they thought the preacher was talking directly to them, they “decided to sit in the choir the second night, so the preacher couldn’t point his finger at them”. They didn’t pretend to be singers. They “just wanted to be behind the preacher so he couldn’t see them”.
During that series of revival services, Billy responded to the invitation to give his life to Christ, and Grady dedicated his life to Christ and ministry as well. Billy changed his hero from Babe Ruth to Jesus Christ.
Billy eventually became known as Billy Graham, the evangelist who preached to more people than any other person who ever lived. Million of people have believed in Christ as their Savior because a Children’s Ministry volunteer was simply concerned for his rowdy boys and their eternity. The actions of this unknown man triggered a fascinating chain of events that has changed the eternity for millions.
If you are like most people, you have served in some capacity and wondered at times if you were making a real difference or not. Maybe you’ve thought about quitting because you didn’t think you were making any difference.
Next time you are tempted to give up, please remember Edward Kimball, whose persistence and faithfulness was tremendously honored by the Lord. The story would have looked very differently if Edward Kimball did not take his Saturday to seek out young Dwight Moody to talk to him about Christ.
As I said earlier, you can count the apples on a tree, and even the number of seeds in an apple, but only God knows how many apples are in a single seed.
Only God could know the journey of the gospel from a kids ministry volunteer named Edward Kimball through Dwight L. Moody, through Wilbur Chapman, through Billy Sunday, through Mordecai Ham, and eventually through Billy Graham into millions of people.