It has been said by some that our salvation experiences are the result of a crisis. Some even say [heretically] that there are two crises required to achieve a higher, second experience with God. What does that mean, however? If by crisis we mean a turning point, then yes. Absolutely. Our salvation is the moment of Spiritual birth, when we begin walking in obedience to the Lord and abiding in the Holy Spirit. A major change happens the moment that we are saved.
If, however, by crisis we mean that something major or tragic must happen in order to turn us to God, then I fear we gravely misunderstand salvation, God and the nature of man, and we turn well meaning evangelists into Spiritual ambulance chasers.
Jesus is not a Spiritual band-aid or medicine to fix our problems.
When Jesus came to the Earth and began His ministry, He met the people’s physical needs. In fact, we are told regularly that He healed all who came to Him (Matt 4.24). He gave sight to blind people, He healed sick people and He even raised people from the dead. He was concerned about people’s situational maladies. He also preached to the crowds who came to Him for healing! And while He promised to meet all of our needs to the end of our Spiritual maturity and God’s glory, He never promised that the Christian life would be easy, or would relieve us from worldly suffering. Quite the opposite, in fact. He promised that in the same way people hated Him, they will hate us (John 15.18-20), and we should consider ourselves blessed when we are persecuted for His name’s sake (Matt 5.12). Jesus never intended to remove believers from the world, but to empower them to live righteously in the world:
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
– John 17.15
Jesus is also not a supplement, He demands our entire life. If we wish to find our lives in Him, we must lose them to ourselves (Matt 16.25). He is not a Spiritual genie that we call upon when the going gets tough, He is our Lord, our boss, our authority as we wade through the trials and temptations of this life. Life will get more complicated and hairy for those who turn their lives to Jesus, not easier.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
– Matt 10.34-36
Mankind is Spiritually dead apart from Jesus.
People regularly say that “there is a God-sized hole in each of us”, and that “we are all searching for something”. Now, considering the fact that God is infinite and everywhere, to have a void of that size would mean we are, in fact, infinite black holes. If we understood the magnitude of God we would never make such a claim. We are not beings which God must complete, we are nothing which God must create. We are Spiritually dead, needing God’s life-breath.
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
– Eph 2.1-2
Nothing can help dead people. Only a supernatural miracle can give life to the dust. Salvation is not Jesus coming in and healing a disease, or filling in a hole, salvation is Jesus giving us life, breathing air into dry, dead bones. Making something out of nothing. He takes our hearts of stone away and gives us a heart of flesh, completely making us new, Spiritual, God-inclined creatures:
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
– Ez 36.26
Such a worldview implies that we are fundamentally good and we just need a boost to get us through this crisis and into eternity. It implies that we are all on a Spiritual journey and we just need direction, we are searching for the light and Jesus is that light. We are doing it. However Scripture teaches us that not only are we Spiritually dead, there are none who seek after God, there are none who are righteous, and we are all naturally born enemies of God.
“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”
– Rom 3.10-12
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
– Rom 5.10
Spiritual Ambulance Chasers
People have observed that it is often in a moment of crisis that people come to faith. A child is terminally ill and the parents are desperate to find an answer and a cure. A man has lost his job and is unable to provide for his wife and family. A woman is so overwhelmed by depression that she cannot even get herself out of bed in the mornings. These weak and hurting people are prime for the picking, because they need an answer.
Unfortunately, it is often the reality that this type of conversion is not genuine. Why? Because us ambulance chasers are looking for the quick fix. We promise that God has the answer – a perfect plan for their lives – and once the crisis is over, there is no longer a need for God. Sure, they might continue to go to Church, they might fix up their behavior so they can call out on God during the next crisis, but they have not understood the promise of salvation.
If we are all born without Spiritual life, if we are all separated from God, and if we all deserve an eternity of damnation because of our sin (Rom 3.23, 6.23,) then our greatest need is not someone to walk us through trials: heal a sick child, provide a job, or cure depression. Our greatest need is a savior who can intervene and change the entire course of our lives. We need Spiritual life. And when we find Spiritual life, we find our joy and pleasure in Jesus Christ.
Yes, when we are walking with and abiding in Jesus Christ, He will give us the wisdom and strength to walk through unimaginable trials, but if all we want out of Jesus is to get through trials, then we are not saved. Do you want Jesus? Or do you just want His benefits and help?
The irony of being a Spiritual ambulance chaser is that we have come to believe that people need to be searching for help because of a trial in order to come to faith. But then, when we encounter someone walking through great difficulty, we are afraid to tell them about Jesus because we might sound insensitive, or we think that they may be hurting too badly. This is an ingenious tactic of the enemy to keep us silent.
There are no Biblical examples of people being called to salvation in the midst of or because of a great tragedy in their lives. Yes, countless people came to Jesus for help, but they turned on Him continually throughout His ministry. They received help and got through their tragedy, but then could not handle the requirement of His calling. All of the apostles were busy about their jobs and Jesus simply called them. Paul was zealously persecuting the Church and Jesus knocked him off his feet. Literally. Peter was sent to Cornelius – the first non-Jewish believer – because the Holy Spirit was already working in His life and He was ready to hear the Truth of the Gospel. God calls people when He is ready. God breathes Spiritual life into dead bones at His perfect timing. We cannot generate or predict a conversion based on someone’s life circumstances.
So what? What does this all mean? Jesus promised us that the harvest is plentiful. There are many people out there in whom He is already working (like Cornelius), and they need only to hear the Gospel. Some of them might be in the midst of suffering. Most of them are simply going about their daily lives like the apostles were. And there may even be some who are out trying to kill us – like Paul. Our fundamental need, and their fundamental need is not a crutch to get through life, it is a savior to redeem us from our sins. Salvation has to start with a recognition of our sins. The wrath of God is and will be poured out from Heaven against all ungodliness and sin, and if we have not settled our repentance with God, we have no hope.
We must make sure that our Spirituality is not crisis-based, that we do not only turn to God in our moment of need, and that we do not only desire God’s benefits, but that we desire God. When we preach the Gospel, we must make sure that we do not promise God’s benefits without explaining God’s expectations. We must explain new, Spiritual life – not just an answer to a felt need.
And the beauty of all of this is that it is only our responsibility to share. God breathes the life. God causes the growth. If you have shared the true Gospel, then you have done your part! And we can leave the rest up to God. If the hearer rejects this salvation, they are rejecting God and not us!
“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
– 1 Cor 3.7