They reason that because I care for the poor and vulnerable I must believe I am saved by my good works and not by the work of Jesus on the cross.
They reason that because I plead for Christians to heal and feed and educate impoverished children I must believe Jesus was a social worker and not a sacrifice.
They reason that because I want to see God’s will done on earth, I probably don’t believe in heaven…or hell.
So, for the record…
What I Believe
I believe I was born a sinner: Incapable of understanding and doing God’s will with God’s power for God’s purpose.
What I deserve is to be separated from God in this life and forever. I deserve to suffer physical and spiritual torment in a place called hell for all of eternity without hope of release.
But God so loved me that He chose not to give me what I deserve.
But God is not only love. He is just, therefore someone had to be punished for my sin. So God sent His only Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life I could not and to take my punishment – to be the perfect sacrifice no one else could be.
He died in my place on the cross, becoming my sin and putting it to death. He descended into hell where he was separated from God the Father for three days, taking my place. Then He rose from hell, from His tomb, defeating my death.
The apostle Paul says that if Jesus is my Lord (king, the one in charge of my entire life) and I believe (trust, rely upon) that God raised Him from the dead, then I am no longer an enemy of God but his boy, no longer punished but forgiven, no longer separated from God but united with Him forever and no matter what.
Now God is sanctifying me – giving me a makeover into the image of Jesus. Slowly but certainly my King is overthrowing my character, my finances, my marriage, my ambitions, my shame and…
All in an effort to make me obedient to His command to love Him with all I am and to love all people the way He has loved me.
If you see me living anything like Jesus you are seeing Jesus living through me.
The King who left perfection for poverty sold my big house. The Miracle Man who fed five thousand volunteers at the food pantry every week. The Friend who forgave Peter’s betrayal has forgiven those who hurt me. The Servant who washed his friends’ feet is taking out the trash and doing the dishes in my house.
There is no good in me but Jesus. And because He is in me I do good.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
Just As I Am (I Come)
The choir sang three stanzas of “Just As I Am” the day I walked the aisle of our country church at a revival when I was six. They left a couple out. The third, for instance, where Jesus is hailed as not only the Savior of my soul but as Provider in poverty and Healer in sickness.
My next record – Third World Symphony – is an attempt to connect two theologies that unfortunately have become rivals in America’s churches: One says Jesus died to take you to heaven forever someday. The other says Jesus died to take care of people on earth today. I believe both are true. In fact, I believe one without the other is like a hymn that’s missing a stanza.
You’ve got nine days left to pre-order your copy of Third World Symphony, which will include a recording of “Just As I Am” for the special bargain price of only $5. Click here to do just that. And thanks.