Christ-following, at is most basic level, is simply coming to grips with God truly being “God”, with Jesus truly being “Lord”, and with the Holy Spirit truly being the controlling factor of your life. God’s crystal clear intention is that ”You shall have no other gods before me”. Even Jesus had to make a choice to surrender to God’s will and purpose for His life.
We want Jesus to be our Savior and Forgiver….but we often struggle with the Lord and Leader stuff. The two concepts go hand in hand. The only way Jesus can truly be our Savior and Forgiver is if He truly is Lord and Leader.
Salvation without lordship is merely fire insurance. We want a “policy” that keeps us out of hell without the requirements like surrender, obedience, and sacrifice. Salvation is not about merely going to church, praying prayers, and getting baptized. Salvation is about living a changed life evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit and the kind of fruit that accompanies a changed life.
Biblically speaking, this is a pretty simple concept. There is only one way to heaven and that is through a person relationship with one person….Jesus. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” He made some outrageous claims, including that He would die, and resurrect on the third day. Those outrageous claims make it impossible for Jesus to be just a good teacher or just another prophet.
Jesus could be a liar…if He made those claims knowing they were not true. Jesus could be a crazy lunatic…if He made those outrageous claims really thinking they were true, but they ended up not being true. If Jesus is a liar or crazy either how can He also be a good teacher or great prophet as some have tried to picture Him? On the other hand, if Jesus made those outrageous claims, then backed them up He can be nothing less than Lord.
Jesus is Lord. Not just our Savior….not just our Forgiver….but our Lord and Leader. With Jesus, our job as Christ-followers is to surrender to His Lordship….truly allowing Him to be our leader. God has delegated everything to Jesus due to “His obedience even unto death”. Jesus came as the “author and finisher of our faith”. He is our example of how we are to live. Jesus demonstrated surrender, obedience, and sacrifice to God. Like Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-6 the Bible says that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus is Lord because He fulfilled all of those outrageous claims. Jesus is much more than just a Savior. Surrender your heart and will to Him so that He can be immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine.
Do you have a relationship with a religion, or do you have a real relationship with a real person named Jesus? That really is the question of all eternity.
Many people “go to church”, but as the adage goes, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christ-follower any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac” (unless of course you subscribe to the “you are what you eat” theory). Attending church, even faithfully, simply does not guarantee a person a personal relationship Christ.
Understanding a personal relationship with Christ begins with understanding that a real God sent His real Son to die on a real cross for my and your very real sin. Three days later, God raised His real Son from a real death through a real resurrection so that He could be the one and only real Savior of all mankind. A personal relationship with Christ begins with acknowledging your need for a Savior, then verbalizing a real desire and decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior….your leader and forgiver; then inviting Him to change you from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit indwells a person or begins living in a person (Titus 3:3-7, John 7:37-39). Salvation is the result of “believing IN YOUR HEART (not your merely with your head – James 2:19), and confessing or declaring with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
Religion is a relationship with a system of beliefs, rules, and traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus is a life changing interaction through a real relationship with a real Savior named Jesus Christ. The bottom line defining factor is the activity of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Once a person truly has a personal relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells them. The Holy Spirit’s bottom line delegated task from God is to make a difference in a person so He can make a difference through them. Do you recognize the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life?
2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes people with a “form of godliness”, which in the original language indicates a structured religion, “but denying it’s power”, which in the original language means “the powerful one of God” or the Holy Spirit. The description is not very flattering, but it does clearly describe our culture.
It’s all about relationship. Forget religion…it’s dead and it leads to spiritual death. Religion does not save…religion does not truly change lives… all religion does is complicate, confuse, and bore. Only a personal relationship with a real Savior changes one’s life.
How’s your relationship with God? Does it make a difference or is it just what you do because you are suppose to? Are you bored in your spiritual journey? Do yourself a favor, quit chasing “stuff”, and start chasing after a life changing relationship with God. He is real, and He really does make a difference! You will never be the same.
(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.