Common Myths About Life Transformation
How you may be missing the power of the cross
Christians speak loudly about their faith. You’ve seen them – the fish symbols on the trunks of cars, the signs that say “repent or burn in hell,” the anti-abortion rallies, license plate slogans, cute T-shirts, bumper stickers, and TV preachers condemning homosexuality. God does clearly call Christians to combat evil in our society. But this kind of Christian activism could also be covering up the very heart of the Christian message itself – the wonderful and powerful story of the cross.
During my 19 years as an unbeliever, I do not remember ever hearing an explanation of why Jesus died on the cross. Of course, I had watched a few Christian TV programs (though after seven seconds I would switch to the Brady Bunch), attended church services, listened to preachers, and was told by a friend that I would go to hell if I didn’t repent. Their message to me was that if I prayed hard, loved God, and committed myself to following Jesus every day of my life, then I would be saved. I tried, but it was very hard to do.
True change in my life did not come until I understood the meaning of the cross. From my reading of Scripture, I realized that God came to earth as a man, Jesus Christ, to endure beatings and torture for my sake. He was whipped with leather cords tipped with bits of bone and metal that tore into His back. He dragged His cross as far as He could until He fell from exhaustion. Then, without any pain killers, the guards hammered six to eight inch nails into His palms and his feet, and propped up the cross so that His body weight stretched the holes around the nails. After He died, He rose from the dead to prove that this death was no accident.
The Bible explains why He endured death: God demonstrates His love for us in this – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10). He is the atoning [human] sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). In other words, I could imagine Christ whispering as He hung in agony, “Randy, I did this for you.” Jesus died for me! He took upon Himself the punishment and condemnation that I deserved. I was supposed to be punished in hell, but Christ took that torture instead. Oh joy! He freed me from tyranny of sin!
When I finally understood the depth of God’s love as demonstrated through Christ’s death, I could not help but want to live a godly life. I had a greater motivation to study the Bible, pray, and serve God than ever before. The Bible describes this miraculous change after a believer truly understands the meaning of the cross: In view of God’s mercy [Christ’s death to take away sins], offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God… (Rom. 12:1). The Bible then goes on to explain how God continues to change those who believe: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… (Gal. 5:22)
Do you desire life-transformation? Then you must understand the cross. You will never grasp the depth of God’s love until you understand the cross. You will never desire to live for God until you understand the cross. You will never see change in your neighborhood, until they understand the cross. Paul, the greatest preacher of the early church, underlined the power of the cross: for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
myth #1: It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you believe in God
It is not enough for one to say “I believe in God.” All Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and New-Agers say “I believe in God.” According to the Scriptures, …even the demons believe that – and shudder. (James 2:19) If going to heaven depended only on one’s belief in God, then why did Jesus need to die on a cross?
myth #2: If we Americans would repent and pray, our country would be great again
Again, if one’s salvation, let alone the rescue of an entire country, depended on one’s sorrow for sins and fervent prayer, then why did Jesus come here to earth to die? Of course, God certainly wants Christians to repent and pray. But if God had to wait for us to repent and pray sufficiently, then it will never happen – we could never pray fervently enough or repent earnestly enough to merit God’s favor. Have you ever prayed and your mind wandered? Have you ever repented of your sins, yet committed a sin the next day? See, our ability to repent and pray is not enough.
myth #3: If you just make a commitment to Jesus Christ, you will be saved
If our entrance into heaven depended on our ability to make a commitment to Jesus Christ, none of us would get in. If you have made such a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, then disobeyed one of God’s commandments (e.g. lust, hatred), then you have momentarily broken your commitment. We cannot make and keep commitments perfectly enough to earn our salvation. Although God wants all Christians to strengthen their commitment to Him, our salvation does not depend on our ability to keep commitments.
myth #4: Jesus is waiting for your decision, then he will save you
John 1:13 says, “…to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision…” In other words, even your decision-making power isn’t enough. How many times have you given into temptation after having made a “decision” for Christ? At that moment of weakness, whether it be dishonesty, greed, or a white lie, you have decided at that moment not to follow Christ. If our salvation depended on our ability to decide for Jesus Christ, we would frequently lose our salvation and we could never have hope and security in life. The Bible in fact says that people are born incapable of deciding for Jesus Christ on their own. Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…” In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” If we cannot decide for Jesus on our own, then how do people turn to Jesus Christ? The answer is that there must be an enormous power working way beyond what we feel our feeble minds doing.
myth #5: You can lose your salvation because of certain horrible sins
Not true. Jesus’ death on the cross earned the believer such extensive forgiveness that all sins are covered. 1 John 2:1 says, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Temporary lapses into sinful habits do not necessarily negate our salvation. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…” In other words, Christ’s death is so powerful that it earned us God’s forgiveness for all sins – past, present, and future.
Rev. Randal K. Young