One of the core beliefs of Christianity is:
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons: (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart, (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart, (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person and (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us. Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God. (I)
- The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11):
- (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15),
- (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20),
- (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and
- (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).
- Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).
The grace of God that comes before salvation is called prevenient grace. Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man. God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience. Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9). Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).
The third bullet item states: Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev 3:20). How is that possible?
The human soul may be thought of as a large mansion with many wings, many stories and thousands of rooms. The intellect encompasses a large wing in the mansion where logic, reason and abstract thought take place. The "will" is a single command and control center where moral decisions are made; information from other rooms is sent to the "will" for the decision making process. The "heart" comprises thousands of rooms; each room represents one or more attributes given to us by God when He made us in His image. These include patience, perseverance, discipline, prudence, discernment, courage, meekness, humility, gentleness, obedience, forbearance, commitment, love, integrity, purity, morality, ethics, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, peace, joy, hope, comfort, strength, honesty and a myriad of others. Each room in the "heart" complex has the name of an attribute above the door; sometimes a room has several names since attributes can overlap. The rooms of the heart complex are more or less grouped in wings but these wings are not independent; they intersect and wander from story to story. The holiness wing, for example, comprises the ground floor with extensions into all other wings.
Only you and the spirits you choose to invite are present in a given room. A white board hangs on one wall of each room with the words "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself" but the boards are not well illuminated and are easy to ignore. The rooms are interconnected by an intercom system and a quiet but disquieting voice seems to periodically inject advice concerning how the affairs of a particular room should be conducted. But the rooms are large and it's easy to get far enough away from the intercom to ignore this disturbing, disquieting voice. Also, an annoying intermittent knock can be heard coming from an outside door, perhaps the front door or maybe a side door. But if you have a sufficient number of distractions – the burdens and bitterness of life or perhaps a loud party with some invited spirits – the writing on the white board, the voice on the intercom and the annoying knock can be ignored with relative ease.
One day you are alone in your thoughts and feel the overwhelming presence of sin. It's like a heavy weight on your chest that keeps you from breathing. What is wrong? You were always able to suppress these feelings and convince yourself that all your actions were justified. Then you realize the voice on all the intercoms is saying some things that pierce your heart like an ice pick. What can you do? Is there no escape from the suffocating power of sin? You run from one room to another to no avail. The voice becomes louder and suddenly blurts out, "Open the door where God is knocking!" You search for the door; it takes a while. Finally you locate a side door that you thought was a broom closet. As you peer through a dingy glass, you see a man knocking. The door has no doorknob on his side so he can't open it. There is an intercom right next to the door. The disquieting voice from the intercom becomes something like a wind or strange breath urging you open the door.
Your palms sweat and you fear the consequences but you open the door. The man says, "May I come in?" He is an ordinary looking, quiet man, not at all threatening, so you invite him in. He then startles you by abruptly asking, "Do you confess your sins with remorse in your heart; want to repent; ask for God's forgiveness and mercy; believe you can receive peace in your life only by faith in Jesus Christ, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement; and promise to seek the path of obedience?" You don't really know what he is talking about but, somehow, his words give you a measure of peace so you abruptly answer, "Yes" having only a rudimentary understanding of what you have just accepted. Yet, as soon as you respond, the great heavy weight of sin is lifted off your chest. The man then says, "I have a gift for you" and hands you a box with the word salvation on the lid. You remove the lid and find a collection of certificates inside the box; each one has your name on it. The certificates say things like:
- You have been redeemed from the bondage of sin.
- You have been forgiven all sins committed from birth to this point in time.
- You have been justified as sinless before a holy God.
- You have been adopted into the family of God.
- You have been regenerated from the bondage of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.
- You will be guided along the path of sanctification.
- You have been reconciled with fellow believers.
- You have been united with all believers in the church of Jesus Christ.
- You can look forward to glorification.
You say, "What do these certificates mean, for example the one about being regenerated?" The man says, "I am Jesus Christ. I have paid the price for your salvation. I am giving you the Holy Spirit who will make known to you the will of God and help you discern the truth. He will occupy and purify all the rooms of your heart into which he is invited." At that instant the disquieting voice from the intercom comes through the door like a wind. You realize a person is the source of that voice and that person takes up residence in your will and intellect as an advisor. He also occupies and purifies all those rooms of your heart which you permit him to enter. He illuminates the white board in each of these rooms and says, "It is the requirement of God's law that you love God and love your neighbor as yourself." If any evil spirits have been residing in those rooms, they are shown to the door. You have been saved! You have been reborn as a Christian and this is the first day of your new life.
As the days turn into months and months into years, you grow closer to God and make more rooms of your heart accessible to the Holy Spirit. Progress is not steady, however. Sometimes you deliberately sin and sometimes you even tell the Holy Spirit to get out of a room which He had previously occupied and purified. You stumble along the path toward Christian maturity with some rooms holy and some not. Only those rooms in which the Holy Spirit resides are holy. A state of sin exists in those rooms where the Holy Spirit is absent and deliberate acts of sin flow from those rooms.
Perhaps one day you open all the rooms of your heart to the Holy Spirit. On that day, the state of your entire heart is holy and, for the first time, your relationship with the Holy Spirit is unimpaired. Your heart is filled with Christian love. The deliberate acts which flow from your will, intellect and heart are Holy. You have been entirely sanctified. However, you are still tempted to sin. Subsequently, you will often succumb to temptation and ask the Holy Spirit to vacate one or more rooms. He will comply and your relationship with Him will be broken. You will not lose your salvation each time you are overwhelmed by temptation; but your entire sanctification will have to be restored by confession of sin, repentance and the forgiveness and mercy of God. There is no such thing as sinless perfection in this life.
Given all the snares and pitfalls of life, the power of Satan and the weakness of the human soul, the best path for a Christian is one of daily confession and renewal. Even the full reception of sanctifying grace does not imply that one needs no longer to ask forgiveness or seek the intercession of Christ. The Christian life is precisely the daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness that constitutes a life of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed. Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin." especially in connection with human infirmities, sins of surprise, errors of judgment and moral misperceptions? There are no liturgies of classical Christianity that fail to offer confession of sin. This does not place the way of holiness out of reach for believers, but puts believers constantly on the path of daily confession and renewal.