Summary: What prepares a person to have a life-changing transformation through the gospel? This message addresses four awakenings that need to happen in preparation for a person receiving the good news of Jesus.
1 Tim. 1:8
In an interview on October 15, 2013 Billy Graham said, “There are two basic needs that all people have: the need for hope and the need for salvation. It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil’s lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you.” That’s pretty strong language. Dr. Graham said that before his conversion he thought he was a Christian. But his life changed on November 1, 1934 when he repented and turned his life over to God. Listen to the comment that he then makes in the interview. “If there is no change in a person's life, he or she must question whether or not they possess the salvation that the gospel proclaims. Many who go to church have not had a life-changing transformation in Christ.”i
What prepares a person to have a life-changing transformation in Christ? Has everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” really surrendered their lives to Christ?ii Have all the people in our churches been transformed by a supernatural encounter with God? Or is there an easy believism that is robbing people of the real thing? And if that is the case, what do we do about it?
I want to begin responding to that question by sharing four awakenings that prepare people to receive the gospel and have a life-changing transformation. Notice the progressive nature of these awakenings as I share them.
I. An Awakening to God’s existence.
Heb. 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is….”iii The NIV says, “…must believe that He exists….” That’s a pretty basic belief. Polls indicate that 9 out of 10 Americans believe there is a God.iv Of course, polls simply reflect what people say they believe. When the Bible talks about belief, it is referring to something deeper and more significant than intellectual accent.v You can tell what people really believe by what they actually do. People behave according to their real belief system. James confronts that in his epistle when he says, “…Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18-21). There is a lot of dead faith out there concerning the existence of God.
Ps 53:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" The fool sees the evidence of God all around him. All of creation declares the glory of God. Every insect crawling on the ground is evidence of God, because man cannot duplicate even that level of life. The billions of stars and galaxies indicate something bigger than you and me made all that. The design and complexity of human life is more than a product of chance. The Bible doesn’t even argue God’s existence. Genesis 1:1 simply opens with this statement, “In the beginning God…” God has revealed Himself through creation and this leaves every human being accountable for that revelation. Rom 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”vi But even with all the evidence the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” He has to work at it; but in his heart he convinces himself that God is not there. That’s not where most people are. Most people think He’s there; they just try to shape Him into something He is not.
There are levels of awareness in people’s lives. Some people accept the existence of God; but don’t think much about it. Others go deeper in their thoughts and consider the implications of such a reality. If there is no God; then we’re pretty much on our own and history tells us that’s not a very good scenario. Man has a tendency to kill and self-destruct. On the other hand, if there is a God, then wouldn’t that be the most important subject there is? If there is a Being out there somewhere who created me, maybe I should find out more about Him, perhaps get in touch with Him somehow? Maybe I should find out what He wants me to do and what He doesn’t want me doing? If God is, then that becomes highly significant! The more I realize the significance of that, the greater is this first awakening is in my life.