Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grace Walk Ministries

On the radio in my truck, I tune in to AFR and listen for as long as my stomach will allow me. The theology is so bad that it literally makes my stomach hurt and I have to change the dial to something else. But I listen almost every day.

One of the frequent blurbs is Steve McVey’s 2 minute devotional. Today I heard him address the matter of a man’s concern over whether or not he had truly accepted Christ into his heart and whether or not his prayer of acceptance was genuine. The answer that Steve gave to this hurting fellow was that the only thing that he needs to do or must do is to believe in Jesus.

This message is repeated in all of Steve’s devotionals and in all of the Grace Walk Ministries materials. Over and over again people are told that the only thing that they must do is to believe in Jesus.

I am bewildered by this. People cry out under the burden of their inability to believe and they are told to take comfort in knowing that the one thing that they are completely unable to do for themselves is the only thing that they must do!

In another devotional the scenario is presented where a hurting man approaches his pastor asking for a receipt that would prove to him that he was really a believer. The pastor flippantly scribbles a receipt on a piece of scrap paper and says “Here you go.” Then he tells the man that all that he must do to be certain that he is really a believer is to trust in Jesus.

How I wish that Grace Walk was the only group with such inherent deafness! But it pervades Christendom.

As I listened to the scenario with the man asking for a receipt, I desperately wanted to shout to him over the radio that God has provided a receipt. Yes! It is declared in Acts 2:38-39, 1 Peter 3:21, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-27, Titus 3:4-7, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 4:30, Colossians 2:6-15, 2 Timothy 2:11-19, and Acts 19:4-6.

In case you somehow overlooked God’s receipt, or seal, it is the Holy Spirit poured out in Baptism. Yes, God has given Baptism for the remission of sins and the seal of faith, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit. By this means God gives us His mark and seal for our assurance that faith is His work and not ours and therefore it can be trusted as completely genuine and effective. Since as St. Paul assures us in Ephesians 2, faith is the work of God and not of ourselves, we know that the faith that we receive in connection with Baptism is not only valid but absolutely trustworthy. The pure faith that we cannot produce for ourselves is given freely by God, poured over us in connection with the pronouncement of His holy name connected to the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

This is the source of our faith. This is the receipt to which the Scriptures direct our hearts and minds and spirits. God HAS provided us with a receipt. He has commanded Baptism so that we would know beyond any doubt that our salvation is not dependent upon our work of believing, but rather, that our existence as believers is dependent upon the regeneration that the Holy Spirit works through Baptism.

Since the Scriptures are replete with references that plainly declare the efficacious nature of the gift of Baptism, how is it that so many completely ignore and in many cases even openly argue against it? How is it that when God has given us this clear sign of His grace that preachers and people turn it into yet another work of men and into a ritual of one’s own devotion and commitment?

It seems that people simply cannot believe that grace is really grace. There always arises the idolatrous question of, “Well, I must believe, mustn’t I?”

Even when a person reads that faith is not of ourselves but it is the gift of God, still people come back with the same tired old response: “Well, I must believe, mustn’t I?”

If a person Must Do anything, then salvation is by works of the Law and not by Grace.

That is why the Scriptures repeatedly declare that faith is the gift of God. The Holy Spirit made certain that it is recorded for us so that we can see it in black and white.

God does not want us to be in doubt of our salvation on account of thinking that we must do something to be a Christian. He has taken care of it all. Yes, even faith is God’s work.

So the next time that your heart begins to doubt whether or not you can be certain that you are a believer, turn to God’s receipt. Return to your Baptism and rejoice in what God has done, knowing that His work is without flaw and without deficiency. Your baptism is God’s seal of a good conscience in connection with the resurrection. The Holy Supper is the ongoing renewal of God’s Holy Communion into which He has sealed you through Baptism.

These are God’s means of grace through which He has sealed you as His beloved child and through which He continues to sustain you in His grace. Because of these, even in your weakest moments you can be sure of your place in His kingdom.

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