Church Matters: Encountering God

Most of us grew up with some semblance of religious faith in our household. Perhaps it was church service on Sunday, a Bible on the coffee table, or a crucifix on the wall. But for the vast majority, these were less the fabric of our lives than they were a last resort—something to reach for when all else had failed, a place of retreat in the face of cancer, death, unplanned pregnancy, or financial crisis. How many of us can personally recall being driven to our knees not by genuine faith, but by desperation?

Faith draws aside the veil to a life lived intimately with God the Father, and opens the storehouse of heaven to the believer


But let’s lay our cards on the table, shall we? I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for a dusty Bible encased in its plastic, for a preacher who performs ceremony but fails to proclaim the power of God for daily living, or for a religious relic that we pray to as a cheap imitation of authentic faith. For all our times of temporary desperation, there can be no substitute for a life lived each moment by genuine faith in the Living God. It is your faith, and not your suffering, that causes God’s head to turn. Jesus—God in the flesh—walked the earth and encountered many a weary and downtrodden soul. Some He healed; others He did not. What was the determinant? Matthew 13:58 reveals that it was the people’s lack of faith that prohibited Him from healing the many, even in His own hometown. Faith draws aside the veil to a life lived intimately with God the Father, and opens the storehouse of heaven to the believer.

But faith in what? The Bible is very specific that forgiveness of sin, eternal life, and even answers to prayer are not the product of a generic concept of faith, but only by believing in the One whom God sent to take upon Himself the penalty for our sins through the cross, Christ Jesus. One of Jesus’ bold identity claims is recorded in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That is an exclusive statement, liberating to the one who is believing Christ for forgiveness of sins, but terrifying to the one who is not.

Perhaps the primary deception of this age is in the false belief that there are many pathways to heaven. To be sure, Hinduism, Islam, Scientology, and self-help gurus may make you feel empowered, lift your spirits, and even garner for you a sense of wisdom and self-worth. But according to God’s Word and the testimony of Christ Himself, these are false paths, seemingly beneficial, but powerless to reconcile the sin gap that has fixed a chasm between you and the eternal God, a span that you are hopeless to bridge for yourself by trying to be good or even attending religious functions or belonging to a church. If a man were capable of saving himself from hell simply by being good, why would God need to become a man, live sinlessly, yet suffer a sinner’s death upon a cross? His death was not to pay for His own sins, but ours! He opens the free gift of eternal life for any and all who believe on Christ’s death as the only restitution for sin . . . the event in which God’s loving will to forgive harmonized with His perfect justice which demanded payment for sin. We were helpless to do that for ourselves, so He did it for us!

This perfect forgiveness that God pronounces over our sins, justly paid for by Jesus, is called God’s grace. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Every man must determine for himself concerning the Son of God, Jesus, because every man must stand before Him at the close of his life. In that moment, the good works you were trusting in and your church membership will mean nothing. You either die in Christ or apart from Him. Better stated, you either lived your life in Christ or apart from Him.

Are you living ‘in Christ’ or ‘apart from Him’?


Only the substance of your faith will matter in that moment, and that faith being your personal response to a grace encounter with the living God. That is why we call the salvation message of Jesus Christ “the Gospel,” literally meaning “good news!” And that “good news” is that we must no longer bear the penalty for our own sin. Christ, the sin-bearer, waives that penalty for us if we respond to Him with trusting, genuine belief!

What are you ultimately trusting in? Are you living “in Christ” or “apart from Him?” If your life were to end today, do you have certainty that your sins would be forgiven? If not, then cry out in faith, not in desperation. He will be faithful to hear.

  • Pastor Michael Warner
  • Michael Warner serves as Pastor of Worship & Community at Wyoming Valley Church in Wilkes-Barre. Contact Michael at

No Comments Yet.

leave a comment