What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity/Part 1
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Bill Gillham; ©2004|
|Is there more to Christianity than just the Cross? Why do so many Christians lack assurance of their salvation?|
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity—Part 1
Introduction: Why is it that the normal Christian life is not the normal Christian’s experience? And why is it that many Christians have been robbed of the assurance of their salvation? My guest is Dr. Bill Gillham, author of the book, “What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity.” He is a former professor at Oklahoma State University and host of the radio program, “Lifetime Guarantee.”
Dr. John Ankerberg: Do you think that the normal Christian life is not your normal everyday experience? Well, that’s how my guest, Dr. Bill Gillham, felt the first few years he was a Christian. He says he was sincere but didn’t have a clue as to how to live the Christian life. He talks about the many mistakes that he made and what God came to show him. Listen:
Dr. Bill Gillham: Well, John, unfortunately, the normal Christian life is not the normal Christian’s experience. Would you agree with that? And that’s pretty sad, actually, because, boy, God has done so much for us in Jesus Christ that we don’t understand. And not to say that I’ve got the market cornered on truth, but I think that there definitely are some things about Christianity that the devil has managed to stuff through the cracks along the way—two things, primarily, and that is, our true identity in Christ, who we really are, that we’re saints who sin instead of sinners saved by grace. And secondly, that God never intended that we live the overcoming life. There’s only one person who has lived the overcoming life on this planet and that’s Jesus Christ. And He put His Spirit within us to express the overcoming life through us by faith.
Now let me tell you what I mean here. I was a very committed Christian—still am, obviously. But, man, the way I say it, if you tied the average Christian to me, I’d have dragged him to death. I was really going for it! I was the leading soul-winner in the church and Annabelle, my wife, was the president of the women’s work and we were really going. But at home I was a tyrant. I could not overcome. It wasn’t a temper problem, John, it was more just being critical and sarcastic and a destroyer. I carried a red pencil, you might say, around and just checked Annabelle all the time. I’m being facetious, obviously, but I just checked things she was doing wrong and brought these to her attention. And bless her heart, she was trying so hard to be a good wife but I would just tear her down.
Now, that was because I wasn’t understanding how to let Jesus Christ live through me. Once I began to understand how to let Him express life through me by faith and I started acting life Christ was living through me, man, my marriage just began to change. It’s a no-brainer. If I could understand how to let Christ live through me, how would I be treating Annabelle? Finally, she would be delighted to live with a guy like this. And that’s what’s happened in our marriage.
Ankerberg: Next, Bill tells us that in order to experience the normal Christian life, we need to learn what God says the problem is and His answer to it. Bill explains that, number one, we have an identity problem with God–that is, we were born as sinners. How could God change the status of sinful men into saints? Then, second, we had a performance problem. We have committed sins and are committing sins. God not only had to overcome the actual sinful deeds of our life, but He also had to provide for those who would believe a way for us to start living victorious over our sin problems. Do you know what God did for us? Bill tells us.
Gillham: Let me use an illustration here about how we’ve got two problems with God as a lost person. We’ve got two problems with God. Let’s say that you were in Iraq and you ran a red light and you killed an Iraqi citizen. Now, you’ve got two problems, not one. Two.
First of all, you are an American in Iraq. And in addition to that, you’ve got a performance problem: you have killed an Iraqi citizen. Now, you’re in big trouble, man. The Lord is getting ready to call you home! Right? So I believe that man, on planet Earth, has two problems with God and I think that a lot of Christians don’t understand that: that we, too, had an identity problem with God. We were sinners. We were born as “sinner men” on planet Earth and God needed to change us into saints.
Secondly, we had a performance problem—our sins that we have committed. But in addition to that, now that we’re born again, we need an overcoming life. We need to understand how to let Christ live through us to cut way back on this sin problem that we’ve got. I’m not teaching sinless perfection, now, but I’m definitely saying that we can cut our sinning back to about 5 percent of what it is before we understand how to let Christ live through us. I’m a living example of this and I know thousands of other people who are also living examples of it.
Now let’s talk about how God has solved these two problems for us through Jesus Christ. I think the Gospel is kind of like a coin. It’s got a head side and a tail side. Now, the head side, I’m going to say, is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” Now, I’m sure Christ is in me for many reasons but the thing we’re going to emphasize today is twofold. First of all, He is in there so I can have an intimate, warm, love relationship with Him. I didn’t understand that, brother, when I first got saved. I didn’t understand that for years. And Christ may as well have been on Mars as far as I was concerned in terms of me using Him or benefiting from Him–would be a better way to say it.
Now, what we’re going to emphasize mainly today is Christ is in me, as my life. God had no plans for making something beautiful of my life. The plan is, “Kill him and start over again.” So we were crucified with Christ and He got rid of that old Adamic life that I was born with on planet Earth, and He replaced it with Christ as life. Now, I don’t understand how Christ can be my life. I don’t think anybody can understand that. How can a Person be my life? But it’s not necessarily all that important that I understand it and how it happens but that I believe it and act like it’s true.
My Sunday School teacher says that “faith is acting like God tells the truth.” I think he’s really on to something there. Faith is acting like God tells the truth. So Christ, then, is life as the head side.
Now, the tail side of this salvation coin is not Christ in me but “I am in Christ.” And here’s where we’re going to get our identity changed because you see, God took us as a sinner man, placed us into Christ, crucified us, buried us—we’re buried therefore a baptism into His death and then raised to walk in newness of life. In Christ’s resurrection we were born anew and God gave us Christ as life and also gave us a new identity. It tells all about who you are in Christ— you’re righteous, you’re holy, you’re blameless, you’re forgiven, you’re accepted, you’re partaker to divine nature. These wonderful, wonderful truths of our identity in Christ.
But you may say, “Now, Bill, that may be a great little item for the Bible trivia game, but so what?”
Gang, the “so what” is, you will “life out” whatever you believe about yourself to keep from feeling like a phony. So believe you’re a sorry, no good, wretched sinner saved by grace and that’s exactly the way you’ll live. Believe that you’re the very righteousness of Christ in God, and that’ll be a highly motivating thing to you.
Ankerberg: Next, Dr. Gillham answers the question of, “How could God forgive your sins 2,000 years ago before you were born?” He talks about the amazing attributes of God and what Christ did at the cross in laymen’s language. I want you to listen:
Gillham: Hey, here’s another way to look at it. Now, here we have a time line and “TB” for time begins, and “TE” for Time Ends. And then there is your slice of the pie: “B” for birth and “D”–that’s when you’re going to eject out of your earth-suit.
All right. Now, then, you’re a time-dimensional critter. God made you that way. And you tend to think of “P” for present, in other words, right now. And everything from “P” backwards you think of as the past. That’s because you’re a time critter. And everything from “T” forward you think of as future–and that’s because you’re a time-dimensional critter.
But God is NOT time-dimensional. God, you see, is kind of like a man in a helicopter who is looking down on the entire time dimension. So He can see forever into what you and I think of as the future. But it’s all present tense to Him. This is how He can dictate the Revelation and all these prophecies. It’s all very contemporary from the helicopter.
Now, not only can He see forever into what we call future, but He can see forever into what we call past.
Now, let’s put the cross in there and then let’s get you saved. There is “S” for salvation.
All right now, gang, how many of your sins did Jesus Christ carry to the cross? Now, answer me: All of them. Right.
Now, how many of your sins had you committed 2,000 years ago? Answer: None of them.
Now, how you are going to do the math on that? Answer: Helicopter. Isn’t that great? I love it, man! The helicopter answers it.
Okay, this is going to answer so many questions. When God showed this to me, it just answered so many questions. Look, God said you were crucified in Christ. Well, that sounds ridiculous that I was crucified in Christ, but that’s what He says: that we were crucified in Christ.
Now, look, the Scriptures say in Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in him [in Christ] before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
You see, the way He did this, gang, is He put you into Christ and when Christ was crucified, you were crucified. When Christ was buried, you were buried. And when Christ was raised, you were raised as a brand new righteous spirit critter in Christ Jesus. Wow!
Ankerberg: If Jesus died for all of your sins—past, present and future—and you’ve put your total trust and faith in Him and His saving work, why is it that some people do not feel saved? Well, Bill felt that way himself but tells us what God showed him about assurance. Listen:
Gillham: Now then, Satan, I think, has robbed a lot of people from getting an assurance that they really have been saved. And I think the technique that he has used is he’s capitalizing on the number of testimonies that we hear from people who got a zippy feeling when they got saved. Now, I don’t doubt that. But take, for instance, in my own life, when I was seeking God, I was watching Billy Graham on the tube one time—a hundred years ago. I was a principal of a school and one of my teachers—she meant well, a godly woman—but she told me all about how to get saved. And she said that when she got saved she was squeezing the sawdust out of the back of the pew in front of her and she said she had no memory of floating down the aisle to the front. And the preacher’s shirt turned silver and the lights turned to gold and she was gloriously saved.
Well, I went home and I tried to get those lights to turn to gold. I wanted all the bells and whistles. I’d hear Billy teaching about how to invite Christ to come into you and he would go off the air (it came on once a week back in that day). I would get down on my knees by my bed and I’d invite Christ to come in. Then I’d wait for the bells and whistles. Nothing. And I finally said, “God, I believe!” Do you grit your teeth? Is that the way you get saved? So I was looking for the big feeling. Now, gang, I have discovered that there are many, many definitely born again people who didn’t get the zippy feeling. But even if you do get the zippy feeling, gang, it comes with a 30-day warranty, doesn’t it? It has to. Because if it didn’t, you’d begin to walk by feel, walk by feel, walk by feel.
Now, there are many of you out there, you have invited Christ to come in and then you’ve waited until you could “feel” saved. Gang, the Bible doesn’t say one word about “feeling saved.” It says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will BE saved.” That may come with a feeling; it may not come with a feeling. But if you’ve got your teeth gritted, you understand what I mean. If you’ve repented and turned toward Jesus and invited Him to come in to take over, then He’s just dying to come in. Boy, there’s a good line. He has died to earn the right to come into you and save you and He definitely will come in.
Ankerberg: Now, because so many of you struggle with your feelings in your walk with Jesus Christ and you wonder if God has really accepted you, I’ve asked Bill to talk about this a little bit more. What he says next is very important and will help many of you, so please listen:
Gillham: Now, there are some of you out there and your number is legion, as the Bible says, and you had a really rough time in childhood–maybe a lot of rejection or maybe your dad left and you never even knew him, or he died or whatever. And you’ve had a lot of trauma in your childhood. Now, what happens to a little kid, as I understand it, is that because of all of this trauma, his “feeler”–I call your emotions your “feeler”—on a one to ten scale, his feeler stays up in the upper echelon. You know, up near the 8, 9, and 10 range a lot because of the pain, the emotional pain that he’s experiencing in childhood. I believe that his feeler can stay up there for so long that as the years go by, by the time he’s four or five years old, the feeler has lost its elasticity and it doesn’t ever go back down to one. It bottoms out at about a 7 or an 8, along in there somewhere. And so he goes through the game of life, you might say, with only two or three points on his Richter scale. Now, as a result of this, because there’s so much pain there he keeps his mind set on how bad he feels all the time. And so Satan does a spin on this thing then and tries to convince the mind that “feeler” is the main barometer of reality for this person.
Now then, let’s subject him to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so the man comes up and he gives a testimony about how he was gloriously saved and he felt a great load taken off him, so on and so forth. And so this person with the stuck feeler is sitting here listening to this and so his idea of how you can know he’s really saved is if he feels something different. And so his mind is set on how he feels, waiting for when he invites Christ in, waiting for that feeler to change.
Gang, it may change; it may not change.
But his feeler is not the barometer of reality of whether he gets saved or not. This love letter from God is the barometer of reality. God says that if you will invite Jesus Christ to come into you, He will come in and He is sufficient to save you. In fact, He’s the only One who is sufficient to save you. It’s Jesus Christ + Zero! That’s how you get saved. Strictly by faith. Inviting God’s provision to come into you and change you on the inside and make you into a new person, make you into the new person that you want to be.
Ankerberg: Bill was right. Your feelings should not be the barometer of reality, of whether you are saved or not. The Word of God should be the barometer of reality. His promises should be the gauge of reality. Now, Bill has come up with a unique, fun illustration to help you understand what it means to put your faith in Christ and to trust God that He has saved you. Listen:
Gillham: Now, I want to show you something that I think will help you really nail this thing down so you can know that you know that you know that you have invited Christ to come in and you really did mean business. As I say it, you had your teeth gritted. You really turned away from this business of living life like there was no God and you repented of that and you turned to God and invited Christ to come into you and change you.
So here’s how we’re going to do it. I want you to go get a helium balloon. I picked up one at Wal-Mart. And then get a rock, preferably a pretty heavy rock, like about the size of a half a brick. I want you to write your name on this balloon. Now, go out in the boonies somewhere so you won’t be near trees, like in the middle of a football field or something, because we’ve got to release this balloon and we don’t want to catch it in the trees.
All right, now then, you go out to this place and I want you to stretch your arm straight out and you’re going to give yourself to God. Now, the whole idea is that you’re going to hold this rock and the balloon and the rock is going to begin to make your arm get tired with the weight, the burden of your sins, you see. And when you finally get so tired that you can’t stand this thing, you’re going to release the rock and the balloon. The balloon is going to float up into the heavens and I want you to imagine God catching you up and embracing you and holding you to His bosom. And the Scriptures say that “no man can take you out of my Father’s hands.” Jesus said that. And so the trick is for you to give yourself completely to God as best you understand how to do it and then believe by faith that God has taken you at your word.
Friends, God can’t lie. There are some things God can’t do: one of them is, He can’t lie. Another one is, He can’t mistreat you. He always treats us with agape love, the most redemptive, constructive thing He can do. That’s agape love.
All right, so you go out there and now you’re praying, “Oh, Lord, I’ve tried so many times to get saved and I just can’t get any sensing that I really have got Jesus in me. I want to do this, Sir. I want this to be the last time. And you stay in this position until your arm feels like it’s about to break off. Now, no cheating, no bending your elbow. Keep that thing stiff. Finally, when you absolutely can’t stand it any longer, you say, “Sir, you told me that you would come into me, Jesus, and save me. Come in right now.” And you release the rock and the balloon. And oh, man, my arm is already feeling pretty good for getting out of that strained position.
Now, then, get a card, like a half of a business card or something, and write on there the time. Let’s say it was 4:15 p.m. and let’s say it was February 8, 20__. And right that on there. And that will be the date and the time when you gave yourself to Christ and He took you up on it. He came into you and saved you. And that will be your stake that you’ve driven in the ground.