One of my all-time favorite songs is “Desperado” by the Eagles. The first stanza came to my mind this morning. Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? You been out ridin’ fences for so long now; Oh, you’re a hard one; But I know that you got your reasons. These things that are pleasin’ you, Can hurt you somehow.
My heart is heavy for those who remain on the fence. The gospel is clear, salvation is yielding our lives to the lordship of Christ. His name is not to be used as a good-luck charm to save us from the eternal fires of hell, and then go about our sinful lifestyles, where we are comfortable in our sin. Christ is Lord of all, or not Lord at all. “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Rom 10:8-10)
The first requirement is to believe in your heart that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23); that we are unable to save ourselves no matter how much good we do here on earth (Eph 2:8); to believe in our hearts that Jesus paid the ransom for our sins in order to make us righteous before the Father (1 Cor 1:30-31), and we needed Him to do this for us. This belief must cause godly sorrow and lead us to repent (2 Cor 7:10). Our salvation is a free gift, for which Jesus, the Son of God, paid the ultimate price. Saying words that we want Jesus to save us, doesn’t save us. We must believe by faith in our hearts. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Prov 21:2)
How will you know if Jesus is truly your Lord and Savior? Jesus gave His answer to new believers: “If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) True disciples are believers and followers of Jesus’s teaching, and He draws a line in the sand here by getting to the truth. There is belief that is merely outward, and discipleship that goes down to the root (heart). Why does Jesus make this distinction? In the previous verse, we read, “many came to believe in Him”. Whenever there’s a large response, Jesus knew some were carried along by the crowd in an emotional (head) response.
The Gospel was not only written to awaken faith in non-believers, but also to wake up people who think they are disciples but aren’t. “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
Jesus is clear that we must choose salvation or wrath: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Who is He? “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) And how did He do that? “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
THE question we must ask ourselves is “does Jesus know us”? Churches are filled with those professing to know Jesus, but who don’t have a personal relationship with Him. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:21-23) [emphasis added]
Knowing Jesus is a relationship, not a religion. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) The relationship is built on faith, trust and love. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Those who have a relationship with Jesus “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” resulting in the “hope of the glory of God”. This produces in us perseverance, proven character, and hope that “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:1-5).
Can others see the light and love of Jesus in us, or do we act like non-believers? Is the Holy Spirit in us performing His sanctifying ministry? Professing believers are to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness”, because apart from God’s sanctifying work in us, “no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). If we are truly His disciples, we turn away from sin to the Lord. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)
If there is no outward difference in how we relate to others, we are sitting on a fence. No matter what we think, the fence is owned by Satan, and it’s his deception that we can be friendly with the world and still get to heaven; he is a liar! “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Jesus says we are either with Him, or we are in Satan’s camp; there’s no safe fence space. “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Matt 12:30)
Remember the last line of the first stanza? These things that are pleasin’ you, Can hurt you somehow. How will it hurt us? If we don’t believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior in our hearts, then we remain in God’s wrath; and Jesus will say He never knew us. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
I urge you if you are not a true disciple of Jesus, to believe in your heart today. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:12-13)
You don’t know if you have a tomorrow, so tomorrow may be too late. Even if you have a tomorrow, at some point God will turn you over to the sinful life you love. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Rom 1:28).
You can’t stay on the fence. The choice is not Christ and the world, it is Christ or the world. We cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24); we must “choose for ourselves today whom we will serve” (Josh 24:14-15). Charles H. Spurgeon put it this way: If the convert declares that he knows the Lord’s will but doesn’t mean to attend to it, it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Don’t imagine that the Gospel is magnified, or God glorified, by going to worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment simply by accepting Christ as their Savior, while they are wedded to their idols with their hearts, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so, I tell them a lie, I pervert the Gospel, I insult Christ, I turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.