For the next few blogs, I want to spend some time unpacking my ideas about what I think God’s intent for the church is. In this process I want to ask questions that maybe are challenging, some that may make me uncomfortable, and some that will in the end, through conformation with scripture, lead me to change. This first time I think I want to talk about one my presuppositions. This blog and few after words will deal with the simple problem of my generation, one raised in church, yet living for themselves.
I begin my journey in looking to myself, my friends, and those I have shared church pews with. I am astounded when I look to my peers and see how many of them who were active in church but now are dead in their faith. I grew up in a healthy church. My church had every children’s program and youth program available. My childhood consisted of racing pine wood derbies and singing in choirs and ensembles. It included attending every Disciple Now, church camping retreat, mission trip, work project, and summer camp. Trust me — if it has existed in the church, I have done it. Alongside of me were probably 20+ people in my grade who also did each of these activities. I saw each of my friends make emotional decisions with me as the praise band played and invitation was given.
For me I want to ask the question, if all of these people shared these experiences with me, claimed to be Christians, and were raised with the same programs, why do some of these people follow Christ, while most have fallen away? I can see the footprints of God where He broke me, changed me, and made me dependant on Him. I am a firm believer in the perseverance of the saints. This is the simple idea that once a person is saved by the grace of God, God’s grace makes a difference. I have many friends who have hung their eternal security on a prayer prayed or a church membership, but I believe that if you genuinely follow Christ by grace through faith, that your desires are changed. You can’t follow Christ and still live for yourself. I think in an attempt to make evangelism accessible to all people, we have dumped it down from life change to reciting some magical words.
My first presupposition is simply that we have gone away from a biblical faith to an easy faith. In the history of Christianity there have been countless moves by every group to make salvation something it is not. We have seen works as a false measure of grace time and again, and we must be wary that we are not falling into the same trap. In every move away from grace most people had pure intentions. For some panicky moms who worried about their infants passing away, salvation moved from grace to baptism. Others tried to give believers tools to enter the kingdom so salvation moved from grace to works. For us in our time, we saw God work in the great revivals of our time and tried to catch lightning in a bottle. We took what God did naturally and changed it to what we do unintentionally. Salvation is not found in walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or joining a church. It’s possible that there are many who are on our church rolls living with full confidence in eternity waiting to go to hell. I think many of my friends have prayed “The Prayer” yet are void of Christ. We must move away from works based salvation and move to grace centered salvation.
I remember the first time I ever heard that a prayer doesn’t save me. It rattled me. My whole life growing up in a Baptist church and going to church camps I heard “If you pray this prayer with me you will be saved.” Every time I questioned my self- did I pray the prayer right the first time? Every time the prayer was offered I prayed it again so that I could make sure my salvation was secure. The only problem with that was, in me stressing out over whether or not I prayed a prayer right, I showed who my salvation was founded in- me. If “I” prayed it right God would save me. I have searched through scripture, and there is no sinner’s prayer. What the Bible teaches is “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) What makes grace so hard is that it is completely divorced from us. It is a complete trust in God alone for salvation.
I guess I want to leave you with a challenge- do you trust in God alone for salvation, or do you trust in yourself?