Josh lingered near his seat anxiously as the rest of the Sunday bible class filed out toward the two doors. The room held about eighty people and was always full. It was a double room actually, with a heavy curtain that could be drawn across the middle of the room to separate it into two separate rooms, each with it’s own entry door. During bible class the curtain was left open and both sides filled the stackable plastic chairs to hear Pastor Howard Bishop teach directly from the Bible. People ranging in age from twenty to eighty years old came to listen to him break down individual chapters of a book, and explain the deeper meaning of each individual verse.
Josh flashed smiles and hellos to the steady stream of people who passed his seat in the front row on their way out to the chapel. Several people paused to ask Pastor Bishop a question, and satisfied with his answer, continued out. Soon, only Josh remained in the room with him as he gathered his research notes for today’s chapter. Seeing that the young man in his mid-twenties had a question, he smiled and extended his hand.
“What’s on your mind,” Howard asked as they shook hands vigorously.
“I have a question about Salvation,” Josh replied uncertainly.
“I’ll do my best to answer it, or find an answer for you.”
“Well, I know an older lady, who is a friend of our family, and well…she wonders about her son’s Salvation.”
“What makes her wonder?”
“Well, her son is older than I am, and has never really changed. In fact, he’s gotten to be more of a lowlife type as he’s gotten older. I met him last week, and I wouldn’t trust him to mow my lawn.”
“So he says he’s a Christian, but he doesn’t act like it?”
“Yeah, I didn’t get the impression this guy really cared what God thought about his life, but he swears he’s been saved.”
“Well an altar call and a few words don’t make you saved, son.”
Josh’s eyes widened in alarm at this, wondering what else you had to do. Seeing this, Howard put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“It takes a sincere heart, and a genuine desire to lay down your old life and start a new one for Christ through faith in him.”
Josh nodded, and his shoulders sagged in relief.
“If a person says the words to invite Jesus in, but just wants Salvation without wanting to change, then they don't get it. Jesus isn't the UPS man, and Salvation isn't a package you can just sign for and take, then slam the door on Jesus with a 'thanks for stopping by with my Salvation'.”
“The Lord calls the Elect in his own time, and when he calls, the only choice is to obey or disobey. The Lord didn’t ask anyone to follow him, he commanded them to.”
“Jesus said in Matthew 16:24 that ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ Now notice the words must deny himself. That’s not an option, and it’s going to link up with Romans.”
Howard opened his NIV Bible to the Book of Romans and held it out so that both could read it together.
“Read what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6, verses one through four.”
Josh looked at the start of chapter 6 and began reading.
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
“Now what does Paul say when asked if we should go on sinning?”
“Well, he says that we died to it, and that we can’t go on living in sin.”
“And why does he say that?”
“So that ‘we too may live a new life’,” Howard answered for him.
“Now look down here at verse 21.”
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
“Notice that last part, that you are now ashamed of.”
“When we become a new life in Christ through a sincere desire to obey and pick up our cross to follow him, we are ashamed of the old sinful life we led.”
“Is that woman’s son ashamed of his life?”
“Well, he sure doesn’t act like he is. He brags about it.”
“So he came up to the altar, said a prayer, maybe cried a little, and then the next day went back to life as usual. He didn’t deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow the Lord. He didn’t die to his old life and start a new life. He’s not even ashamed of his sin.
“That’s not Salvation son, and I’m sorry to say that man is not saved.”
Howard flipped the page to chapter 8.
“Now read verse 9,” he said as he placed his finger by it.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
“Does it seem like that man is controlled by the sinful nature, or by the Holy Spirit?”
“Well, definitely not the Spirit, nobody that had the Holy Spirit would live like that and be proud of it.”
“And the second part of the verse says that if you don’t have the Spirit of Christ, you don’t belong to Christ. If a person doesn’t belong to Christ, are they saved?”
“That’s right. Now someday if this man truly accepts the Lord with a heart of love and obedience, his mother will see a new life begin that wants to please God, not rebel against him. For now, the best thing is to pray for this man and witness to him.”
Josh nodded, finally understanding.
They bowed their heads in prayer together, and asked the Lord to reap the harvest they would try to sow, knowing that no man can save another. Only the Lord can save.