Every week in church, at least in those churches committed to New Testament teaching, the pastor will offer a prayer for salvation for anyone wanting to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Only a small number of congregants, if any, find their way to the front of the church or commit silently to salvation.
Either everyone else has made that journey or, more likely, many stay rooted to their seats, unwilling to lay down their pride or else falsely assuming they’re good enough to merit salvation on their own. Jesus assures us that decision is eternally disastrous.
- HEBREWS 4:2 (NKJV): “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”
- 1 CORINTHIANS 6:11 (ESV): “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
- MATTHEW 11:15 (NASB20): “The one who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
SOME LISTEN BUT DON’T HEAR
MARK AND SUSAN DRESSED to impress as they dutifully made their way to church that Sunday morning. He wore a smart-looking suit with crisp shirt and tie; she wore a stylish dress that modestly dropped below-the-knee.
When the altar call came at service’s end, they remained in their seats, head bowed and eyes closed, wondering who, if anyone, was foolish enough to participate.
They knew their place in life. He was a rising star at work, at mid-40s a regional vice president, on the fast track to a corporate-wide assignment; she was department chair at the local high school. Their children were “generally” orderly, maintaining good grades, popular, and active in school clubs.
What they weren’t were like the hopeless “losers” who threw their worthless lives onto the altar of forgiveness, seeking mercy for the garbage that littered their path.
No way. They were upstanding citizens. Suburban, well-off. Paid their taxes, kept their lawn neat, enjoyed a comfortable home, and entertained dinner guests.
They knew who they were: Good People Who Lived The American Dream.
THE LORD IS CALLING
SOMEWHERE IN THE DISTANCE the voice of Jesus Christ called to them, saying that “today” was the day of their salvation, that He was knocking on the door of their hearts, wanting an invitation to come in and enjoy life with them.
Somewhere in the distance the voice of Jesus Christ told them that unless they believed that He was, is, and will be the Lord and Messiah, they would die in their sins.
Somewhere in the distance the voice of Jesus Christ told them that without their confession of faith, when their earthly lives ended, they would be met with a closed door to Heaven and He would tell them to depart from Him. He never knew them.
Those words should not have been in the distance for Mark and Sally. Were they not listening to the pastor as he read from the Bible every week? Were they not reading their Bibles at home during the week?
Maybe they were; maybe they weren’t. Either way, they didn’t think the words applied to them.
Here’s some of what they may have missed over time:
- HEBREWS 4:1 (NIV): “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”
- MATTHEW 7:23 (CSB): “Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’”
- REVELATION 3:20 (NLT): “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
- JOHN 8:24 (NET) “Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
NOT THAT RELEVANT
MARK AND SALLY took comfort in knowing they were not alone. They were convinced that most people took their religion the same way they did — in small doses, kept in its place, without intruding on their personal lives.
“Religion,” as they called it, was their “Sunday thing.” Once church let out, they got busy with their regular lives. Back to home, shuck the tie and stockings, walk the dog, remove the roast from the oven, gather for a meal, and then spend the day relaxing, getting ready for Monday and the “real world.”
After all, they reason, the Bible is a nice repository of interesting tales and fables, but apart from some of the Psalms, and maybe the Christmas story in Luke 2, not overly relevant to their lives.
Besides, there’s no way a reasonably intelligent, well-educated person in today’s world could actually take the whole of it literally as God’s Word, but just the writings of some long-dead Jewish men who wrote whatever they wanted to write to proclaim whatever point they wanted to make at the time they wrote.
SO, WEEK AFTER WEEK, month after month, and year after year, Mark and Sally dutifully made their way to church, knowing they were pleasing their Moms in old age and making a “good showing” in the community.
Whatever it was that Jesus is saying, regardless of how accurately it may have been recorded, they were sure it had little to say to either of them or to their children.
So, week after week, month after month, and year after year, they half-listened to the pastor’s altar call, wondering to their eternal peril, how anyone could take this ceremony seriously.
Dear Mark and Sally, here’s what the Lord Jesus says about you, and, yes, He is speaking directly to you:
- MATTHEW 7:24, 26 (NKJV): “Therefore, whoever hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. … But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
- HEBREWS 5:11 (NLT): “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.”
MARK AND SALLY, PLEASE HEED THE MASTER’S VOICE.
GET OUT OF YOUR SEATS, LEAVE YOUR PRIDE BEHIND, AND HUMBLY RECEIVE HIS GRACE.
HE TOLD YOU — HE TOLD ALL OF US IN JOHN 3:3 NCV — THAT “UNLESS YOU ARE BORN AGAIN, YOU CANNOT BE IN GOD’S KINGDOM.”
DON’T MISS OUT.
LISTEN FOR GOD’S VOICE … AND HEAR HIM …
REALLY …THIS TIME … HEAR HIM.
FATHER GOD, WE KNOW the hardest group in church to reach for the Gospel are those “cultural Christians” who don’t take the Bible’s call for rebirth seriously, who assume their goodness will get them into Heaven, who believe whatever Hell exists is for “those people” who, they imagine, are so much worse than they are.
Lord, that is not what the Bible teaches, and many of our loved ones (family and friends) are lukewarm Christians, possibly unsaved. We pray for a convicting spirit to soften their hearts to bring about a humility that leads them to repentance.
In Jesus’ name we lift this prayer to the throne of Grace, AMEN