by Jeremy Walker/
Read all the posts published to date in this 16-part series.
In the previous two posts we examined two kinds of evidence affirming the innate fallen nature of man: the testimony of Scripture and the testimony of the world. So, what do we take from all this?
WHO NEEDS TO BE SAVED? – PART 3
What shall we make of all we have seen in the previous two posts? Given that Scripture and experience speak with one voice regarding our innate spiritual fallenness, what inferences and conclusions must we draw?
1: Realism. First of all, there should be realism about those who are, at this point in time, unconverted—those who are not true Christians. Such men and women, boys and girls, must be born again: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5–7 NKJV). This is not the language of obligation (it is not a command) but of an absolute spiritual necessity. No one moves to God, or even desires to move toward God, without God moving first to draw that one to himself. We may and should mourn over the hardness of men’s hearts, but it should not surprise us. In fact, we are told to expect it. When believers take the gospel into the world, they take it to those who are utterly dead in themselves. We must be realistic about that and about what it means for the hostile reception that the unregenerate heart will give to both the message and messengers of the cross. We must be realistic, no less, about our own children, if we are Christians. We cannot excuse or ameliorate their sin. All their privileges growing up under the gospel, all the healthful influences brought to bear upon them, do not in themselves render our children less sinful.
2: Honesty. Furthermore, there must be honesty concerning our own condition. It may be that even now the Holy Spirit is using this blog post to give some reader, perhaps for the first time, a clearer understanding of the evil of your nature, the criminality of your record, the rebellion of your heart. Have you grasped that, as you are or were, there is no good thing in you or from you? That might be a dawning realization for a Christian who has never considered these things before. It might even be a revelation of your present utter lostness and your deadness to your own dead state. If that is so, do you see that you need a Savior? Do you now understand that from the womb you have gone astray? We must face the facts.
3: Soberness. It should mean soberness regarding the sanctification of a Christian. I am referring to the gradual process by which a saved sinner is made more and more like Jesus Christ. When we are saved there is radical change—the root of our humanity is made new. In Christ, we are new creations: the old has passed away, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). In Christ, the whole tenor and direction of the Christian’s life changes. This is a wonder of divine grace. But our whole humanity needs addressing. That new life at the core of our being needs to be increasingly worked out in all our faculties and capacities. That means a battle on every front, for sin has had a more or less free rein on every front, and now needs to be reined in, ridden down, and rooted out. Where sin reigned, righteousness must replace it, being cultivated in thought and word and deed. Everywhere that sin had its expression, a holy counterpart must now be established and advanced. Let there be no illusions about the extent and degree of the work required and of the time and effort that may—under God—be required to advance the believer’s real holiness.
4: Conviction. Faced with this reality, there should be a conviction that nothing less than divine power and wisdom are required to bring life from death. Only the almightiness of God can bring light into such darkness. Only the Lord can change our nature and reverse our spiritual polarity. There is no remedy for sinners dead in their trespasses and sins other than the power and wisdom of God as they are revealed in Jesus Christ and him crucified.
5: Humility. There must, then, be humility concerning our salvation. There is no mere human being who can make any contribution toward our right standing with God. In its initial acts, salvation is all of the divine prerogative. In its subsequent processes, even our actions depend on and respond to God’s prior acts. The renewed heart, with all its gracious operations, finds its origin in the sovereign grace of God. Salvation is accomplished outside of us and granted and applied to us. Salvation is given to us as those who are dead and desperate. All the glory and honor of salvation therefore belong to its Giver. Believers are blessed, and God alone is the Benefactor.
6: Earnestness. This ought to lead to earnestness in prayer for the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit. If men are indeed so dead in themselves, and if any and all believers made alive are so entirely dependent upon God, then how much ought we to be in prayer to the Spirit of God, who grants life in Christ! How much should we be pleading that he would come in sweet and saving power to open the eyes of the inwardly blind, to unstop the ears of the spiritually deaf, to give life to those who are dead in sin. Salvation is of the Lord. We must therefore look to him to give it, and plead with him to grant it.
7: Thankfulness. Finally, let there be abundant thankfulness for divine grace. Salvation is of the Lord! That being so, all honor and glory belong to him alone. If anyone is saved—if you or I are saved—then the origin of the whole and the source of every part is found ultimately in God who redeems. The accomplishment of salvation and the application of salvation are acts and works of free and sovereign grace. Praise the God of our salvation, Father, Son, and Spirit!
Next time, we begin a 3-part section on the theme, “On What Basis Are We Saved?”
This has been Part 4 of a 16-part series drawn from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.
Jeremy Walker serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has written several books and has blogged at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.