A week ago, I wrote a post I called “The Moral Majority?” In it, I outlined two misperceptions I believe are hampering efforts to turn around the culture. The first misperception is that too many of us think we still live in a majority Judeo-Christian society. We think we’ll just eventually come to our senses and everything will be alright. The second misperception is that we can live a Christian life without holiness. We blend too easily into our culture and don’t want to embrace God’s righteous standards. I’d like to follow up on those thoughts.
One of the key reasons, in my view, that we don’t live righteously is the message that the church too often proclaims—a message that doesn’t really require a change of heart and action on our part. We are told continually that God’s love is unconditional, and that He will accept us just as we are. There certainly is truth in those statements, but the implications we attach to them undercut what I would consider real salvation.
Yes, God’s love is unconditional. He loves us in spite of what we have done and what we are. But that’s not the same as saying salvation is unconditional. There are very specific conditions before we can enter into a relationship with the One who unconditionally loves us. First, we need to grasp the nature of sin, the utter selfishness behind it, and how it destroys all that God intends for His creation. Only when we come to grips with the evil that not only infests the world, but permeates us as well, can we take the next step, which is a deep and genuine repentance over the sin that we have allowed to control our lives.
Far too many evangelists, pastors, and para-church organizations skip these steps. They are eager to make converts, so eager at times that they just want people to come forward to the altar without first leading them into an understanding of their sin and the need for repentance. Without these two vital components, though, there can be no salvation. Why? Because the basic problem that separates man from God has not been addressed.
We tell these potential converts that all they have to do is accept what Jesus did for them, and then we assure them they are saved. Those whose hearts were prepared for the message are genuine converts, but I believe the majority have simply given an intellectual assent to the need for a savior and want to have what has sometimes been called “fire insurance.” I mean, who wants to go to hell?
The problem is then compounded when we declare that they can never expect to live up to God’s standards since His demands are too onerous for any of us to achieve. We solemnly assert they will probably keep on sinning as they have done before, but not to worry because they’re going to heaven anyway. We lower the expectations to where they’re already met.
This theology has its manifestation in a bumper sticker I used to see on cars that stated categorically, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven.” It’s almost like saying, “Hey, I’m just as bad as you, but I get to go to heaven.” What a great salvation—I can continue to sin as much as I used to, but I don’t have to bear the consequences.
No, that’s not salvation. And the reason we are a weak church, and the reason we are fuzzy over moral issues like homosexuality, can be traced to the prevalence of this diluted theology.
I am prepared to be called judgmental because of these comments. That’s fine. God has called us to be righteous judges, as long as we cleanse ourselves of hypocrisy and we offer our judgments along with the message of reconciliation. The glorious thing is that God says we can be set free from the power of sin in our lives, but we must begin with a proper recognition of the pernicious nature of that sin and earnestly desire a changed heart. That’s when the atonement of Jesus can flood our hearts with His love, all our past sins can be forgiven, and we can walk in newness of life. The only reason I’m “judgmental” is because I want people to experience victory in their daily lives.