This is a transcript of an open-air outreach.
We live in the United States of America, which is generally considered by the whole world to be a “Christian nation.” We’re as much a Christian nation in the eyes of the world as Saudi Arabia is a Muslim nation. And there’s a bit of a fear in that, because when that happens to a society, everyone becomes in a sense convinced of the fact that they are a genuine Christian, according to the definition that Jesus Christ gave. But there’s a passage of Scripture that has really struck a chord of sobriety in my own heart. It’s Matthew 7:21–23, where Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
“Many of us think that what we do on the outside—in terms of Christian rituals, duties, and obligations—is what genuinely makes us a Christian. But that’s not the case.”
In other words, what Jesus is saying is that there will be a group of people who will have lived their lives on earth, the whole time having thought that they were genuinely Christians, but in the end they will die realizing that God never even knew them. I mean, that’s really sobering. The reason is that many of us think that what we do on the outside—in terms of Christian rituals, duties, and obligations—is what genuinely makes us a Christian. But that’s not the case.
A Pig at Heart
Imagine you and I go down to the local Oscar Mayer pig farm and pick up a nice little pig. We take it home, stick it in our bathtub, pull out the Bic razor and shave it down, pour gallons of cologne on this little pig, take it to the local tuxedo shop to get it a custom-made pig tuxedo with a bowtie, a top hat, the whole deal. Next, we take it for some reconstructive plastic surgery, as well as to the dentist to get it some nice dentures. Then we take this pig home and put it in front of a banquet table filled with all the greatest delicacies you can imagine.
Let me ask you a question: When you let that pig go, what’s the first thing that the pig will do? Is it going to be concerned about being adorned with the products of fluff? The first thing that pig is going to do, if you give it a chance, is to run right back to the pigpen. The reason is that it’s a pig at heart. It doesn’t matter what you do to its outside. It doesn’t matter how you change it and reconstruct its face and make it look like a person—it’s a pig at heart. And that’s kind of what it’s like with many of us who are trying to live the Christian life, but who haven’t had a change of heart. It doesn’t matter how much we sit in church, how much we pray, how much we try to look like a Christian—until our heart has been changed, it doesn’t make a difference. We’re going to always go right back to the pigpen because that’s where our heart is.
“It doesn’t matter how much we sit in church, how much we pray, how much we try to look like a Christian—until our heart has been changed, it doesn’t make a difference.”
Some of you may be saying, “You know what? I’ve tried this Christian thing—I’ve gone to church, I’ve gone to these big events where I’ve said a prayer and whatnot. But you don’t understand—that’s just not me. I don’t appreciate or really enjoy the things of Christianity.” Well, my answer to you is, “Don’t be surprised.”
A New Nature
Imagine you and I find a little caterpillar crawling around in the grass, and we stick it in a little caterpillar box, complete with all the great features that a caterpillar would enjoy. We get a plane ticket to fly to New York, take a cab downtown to the Empire State Building, ride the elevator to the top, take out our jetlagged little caterpillar, and put a tiny tight blue suit on it with a red cape, stick a little “S” on its chest. Then we dangle it over the edge of the Empire State Building and—just in case any of you are Insects’ Rights Activists—“accidentally” let it go, then we go down to ground level to what’s now splat all over the sidewalk. If we could raise this caterpillar from the dead and ask it if it had a pleasurable experience being tossed from the top of the Empire State Building, what would it say? It’s a ridiculous question. Of course not!
But consider that same creature after it’s been transformed into a butterfly. You take it to the top of the Empire State Building and let it go, then interview it afterward and ask it if it had a pleasurable experience, and you’re going to get an entirely different response. Of course it did! It’s the same creature, the same entity, but something has happened. After it went through that metamorphosis and was transformed, what at one time was unnatural for it has become the most natural and enjoyable thing.
And that’s why Jesus Christ said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). He told Nicodemus, a very religious man, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3). That means you must be born from above. You must receive a new nature. Your heart must change, and that happens through repentance—by acknowledging that you’ve sinned against a holy God, you’ve offended Him, and realizing the seriousness of your sin, and then understanding the love of God that was demonstrated through the crucifixion and the resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
“I know that many of us gamble in our hearts and minds and we think that we’re going to live another day, and maybe we’ll get an opportunity to make it right with God. We’re not promised tomorrow, my friends.”
I know that many of us gamble in our hearts and minds and we think that we’re going to live another day, and maybe we’ll get an opportunity to make it right with God. We’re not promised tomorrow, my friends. If you haven’t already received it, I want to urge you to recognize the grace that God is extending to you today—that He wants to give you the free gift of everlasting life. You can’t earn it, you can’t work for it, you don’t deserve it, but He’s willing to give it to you freely if you humble yourself and repent and turn from your sin.
*This article is an adapted transcript from an open-air evangelism session E.Z. shared.