"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." ~ 1 Timothy 4:16
Because it does matter how we live, how we walk, once we're saved. I didn't realize it then, because my reading of the Bible started with John 3:16 and ended with John 3:16. I thought that was all I needed, my ticket to Heaven. But I realize now, that verse isn't enough. At least it's not enough the way I interpreted it.
You see, I didn't read more to know that James said belief, as I defined it, the way I understood it, wasn't enough. As he pointed out, even Satan believes, but he's certainly not spending eternity in Heaven. What I didn't understand then was that belief, a true belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Gospel, and God's plan of salvation, is more than just standing before a crowd, saying a few words, and getting wet.
Because if we truly believe all the Bible says that Jesus was and did, it MUST change us! Once we truly accept that God loved us SO MUCH that He sent His Son to suffer and die, to take all the burden of our sins on His shoulders, we have to change. We have to want to reciprocate, to love Him like He loves us, to honor and glorify Him.
Once we truly believe and really place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, it's not so much about us anymore. We'll want to please Him. We'll want to do what's right because it's right, because it glorifies Him. We won't be perfect. We can't be perfect. If we could, there would have been no need for God to send Jesus. But once we're saved, we'll WANT to be perfect. And that's why I believe now that I wasn't really saved at 13 when I checked all the boxes on the list the Baptist Church said I had to check to become saved.
Now don't misunderstand me. This transformation doesn't take place overnight, and it might not take place without some interruptions that take up some significant time, maybe even years of straying from what's right. But there should be a real desire to change that eats at us all the time when we're not on the right path if we're true believers in all that Jesus is and did for us. Satan's going to work to knock us off the straight and narrow path. He'll work and work and work to lead us astray.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to always be wary, because Satan is never far away and always seeking opportunities to "devour" us. But it's not just us he's after, it's also all those people watching us, looking up to us, and using us for an example. A good example, or a bad example. An excuse to turn to Christ, or an excuse to turn away.
In the verse above, Paul tells Timothy to persevere in the faith, to always strive to do what he knows is right, even when it's not the easy choice to make, even if it's not popular, or even if it causes some temporary inconvenience. We're to persevere, not just to save our own selves, but our "hearers." Those people watching us, especially those who don't yet know Christ as their Savior, need to see Him in us.
It's not only about us that we make the right choices, that we do what's right even when it's hard. It's also about being a good example, a lantern through which the light of Jesus Christ can shine to lead others to Him. So persevere in the faith. Read, study, learn and grow. Make yourself that lamp through which Jesus Christ can shine!
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.