“You asked for it”, follow-up 1

In November I taught a three-week series yesterday called “You Asked for It” at Oak Tree Community Church. We asked our congregation to submit questions that they wanted me to answer during the series. Their questions could be about a Bible passage they don’t understand, a Biblical topic they want more information about, or something in the culture they wonder if the Bible addresses.

However, there were several questions I couldn’t get to during the services, so I’ll post answers here over the next couple of weeks. Here’s a great place to start:

I accepted God into my life, but I haven’t really changed. How do I know I have salvation? I’ve prayed over and over, but I still can’t change. What am I doing wrong?

Salvation is really only the first step in a life-long process called sanctification. The word means “to be set apart.” At salvation God forgives all of your sin, declares you to be completely perfect and righteous in your standing with him, and gives you a new built-in nature that wants to serve him; you’re called a saint. From then on he takes you through the process that actually turns you into that person.

Unlike salvation – for which you can’t do anything – sanctification has a lot to do with you. Your choices directly affect whether or not you become righteous, and praying “over and over” doesn’t really accomplish anything. Like Andy Stanley said in his book, The Principle of the Path, “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” Praying for change, intending to change, but not actually doing anything to change will create no change.

Paul’s answer to the question is called the “put off / put on principle.” In Ephesians 4:22-24 he lays out the principle (“get rid of the old self and replace it with the new self”) and then gives four specific examples:

  1. stop lying, but speak the truth
  2. stop stealing, but work hard and give stuff away
  3. stop using unwholesome words, but start building up people with your words
  4. stop being bitter, but forgive others the way God forgave you

In Romans 6 Paul teaches that you will serve one of your natures: your sinful nature that leads you away from God or your spiritual nature that leads you toward him. Romans 6:13 tells us that our choices of how we use our bodies will show who we’re obeying.

Real change is possible only after salvation, then it requires a change of choices and a change of actions. You won’t experience real change without both.

If you still have questions, we’re still taking them. Just comment below or email them to questions@oaktreechurch.com.