Everyone in Christ’s church—the true New Testament church—is saved. However, many who are members of churches and religious groups are not saved. If “by their fruit you will know them” is true, and it is, most do not know Jesus. We were told not to judge, and we must not; but all who observe are “fruit inspectors.”
The church of the New Testament is comprised of those who have been born again. These individuals have received Christ who was born of a virgin; who delivered God’s truth, even as He demonstrated its liberating power; and who died on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of those who trust Him as the “mediator between God and men.” He is the “way [to the Father], and the truth, and the life.” In fact, unless one is born again, he cannot “see the kingdom of God.”
The Scriptures make it clear that religion and the traditions of men, however sacred a person may consider them to be, will not lead to salvation apart from a personal relationship with the Christ who was crucified, raised from the grave, is alive forever, and seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus warned concerning the futility of tradition and worship without hearts transformed by a personal relationship with God through faith. He said, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Christ declared, “Many are on the road to destruction, and the way to life is narrow.” He made it clear He is that narrow way. In that same passage, He made a statement that should break the heart of every caring person: “Many will say I have done certain things in Your name, and I will answer, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me.’” He said those who really know Him, who are the sheep of His pasture will have legitimate love and concern—true compassion for the poor, downtrodden, thirsty, hungry; those who are in bondage or imprisoned. He said those who reach out to the “least of these” are, in fact, the sheep of His pasture and inherit eternal life.
Church buildings of every denomination, tribe, race, and nationality are filled with people void of God’s Spirit who worship in vain because they know about Jesus but do not know Him personally. Millions say they believe in God and Jesus, but it is obvious they have never trusted Him with their life or lost their life in His kingdom purpose to truly find it. Perhaps many have met Him, even trusted Him, but have failed to do what Paul the apostle did: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
Many churches are filled with empty people. There are church-goers who know about God, Jesus, and His Word, but do not have a relationship that inspires them to speak the things they have seen and heard because, unlike Simon Peter, they have not “become eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Among those who may know Him, some have left their first love and need a fresh touch of God to stir up the gift that is in them. I personally experienced the loss of “first love,” and I missed the fellowship I had known with Jesus. I was most anxious to regain that intimate first love relationship because I missed Him.
Sadly, the fact remains that many Protestant church members, including those known as evangelicals, do not know the living Christ personally. They have not been born from above. Likewise, many Catholic churches are also filled with people who do not know Christ and are not born again to become members of His body—the Church. Just as with Protestants, many are merely members of a popular traditional institution. Pope Francis recently said priests who failed miserably in moral improprieties do not know Christ—and clearly, there are those sitting in church pews who do not know Christ. In other words, they are not saved. Many Catholics have been christened and confirmed, but not converted. Many Protestants have been baptized but have not been “born of the water and the Spirit.” They are still lost without Christ. I am praying for Protestants and Catholics to come to know Christ personally, experiencing the power of the cross that many wear but few bear, to surrender to the Christ who died for us and live their lives, yielded in faith and trust to His will.
Paul challenged the Corinthians to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” In other words, do you really know Him? As a young boy, I was christened in the Episcopal church. I did not receive Christ. There was no commitment, no trust, no change…it was just a church tradition. Later, I gave my broken, fatherless, 14-year-old heart to Jesus, and I was born again by the power of the cross and the living Christ. So real was the change that the sweetest little Baptist, Protestant church girl, choir member, and Sunday school teacher said after seeing the change in my life: “Jesus isn’t real to me like that. He’s just someone I’ve heard about. I joined the church because others in my family did.”
As a result of the transformation in the life of a boy without a father from a dysfunctional family, Betty—now my wife of nearly 51 years—came out of the choir to publicly commit her life to Christ…to trust Him, not some religion but Jesus; and He came into her heart and life in transforming power. She was born again into a newness of life and has been a faithful witness and example of the transforming power of the gospel.
What happened to us must happen to all who say they believe. The church needs Jesus. Church folks, as do all people, need to come to Jesus and lose their life in Him to truly find it and experience it in all the fullness He promises and makes possible. Pray for the church to be saved. What a glorious day that will be if those who profess to believe are suddenly possessed by what they claim to believe and are filled to overflowing with His Spirit!
Consider the profound impact that would be made if the millions of Protestants and Catholics who say they believe in Jesus actually came to know Him, fell in love with Him, and became bold witnesses for Him. To say the political landscape and national direction would change abruptly would be a gross understatement. The discussion and excitement would not be just about winning elections, but rather winning hearts and minds through the transforming power of the gospel. Please, dear Lord, may it happen!