The Mavericks played the absolutely best game they possibly could have Saturday night and still lost to the Thunder in OKC. Durant and his boys are going to take it in five games. Last night Derek Holland looked overmatched, Josh Hamilton pulled something in his back, Ron Washington got tossed out of the game on his 60th birthday, and the Rangers lost their first series since last fall. And the Cowboys used their top draft pick on a guy who just set the record for the lowest score on the Wonderlic intelligence exam in NFL draft history. Tough weekend.
Let’s resume our chapter-by-chapter look at Leroy Garrett’s “What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved?” The book is a compilation of suggestions Garrett makes for us if the Church of Christ is to have a redemptive role and an effective ministry in our rapidly changing world. We reach the halfway point of the book today with suggestion number ten:
Have an assurance of our own salvation.
Garrett claims that our members “do not know we are saved; we hope we are.” I know what he’s talking about. I hear it all the time. My own brothers and sisters in Christ talk about their eternal salvation in hesitant, halting, uncertain terms. “I hope I am.” “I pray that I am.” “If God will just give me a tiny back corner in the basement of heaven, I’ll be happy.” “I’m trying as hard as I can.”
The by-product of such uncertainty is a lack of joy. One thing Church of Christ people aren’t, in spite of many noble qualities, is a joyous people. We have little joy because we have little assurance. We don’t talk like people who are assured of their salvation. We don’t sing that way. We don’t pray that way. That is why our singing is unexciting, our prayers dull, and our services generally boring. Take a look at our Sunday morning service at most any of our churches. Is it a funeral? Where is the spontaneity? Where is the joyous excitement of being a Christian? Who would seek solace from a troubled world among folk who go at their religion with a yawn and a sigh?
Garrett says Church of Christ people are scared to live and afraid to die. We have no joy because we’re not really one hundred percent sure we’re good with God. Despite the clear teachings of Holy Scripture, our people have doubts and fears about their standing with God. They’re uncertain. They wonder if they’re doing enough. They wonder if they’re good enough. They wonder if they’ve loved enough or served enough or worked enough. (By the way, the answer to those questions is “No, no, no, no, and no.”)
Garrett’s dead-on analysis is that we really don’t believe in the grace of God. We would never say it, but the reality is that, for the most part, Church of Christ folks actually believe in salvation by works. We’re taught this at an early age. We think and talk this way. We practice this way. It’s been unambiguously modeled for us and by us for decades. Seriously.
We are saved by being baptized in exactly the correct way for exactly the right reasons. We stay saved by taking communion on exactly the correct day — and only on that correct day — in exactly the correct way. We keep ourselves saved and we save others by studying our Bibles and reaching the exact same correct conclusions about all the exact same doctrines. This is what makes us unique. This is what makes us distinctive. This is what sets us apart from all the others. We’ve got it down right. And since we know so much about God’s plan and God’s will, we’d better be about doing it exactly right.
No wonder we’re so uncertain and nervous! Who could possibly measure up to all that? If I’ve misunderstood a part of that doctrine or I’ve misinterpreted part of God’s will or I’ve done something in a worship service that’s not entirely in the proper order, then my salvation must be in jeopardy. I’d better figure things out and get right with God.
We must start believing in the Gospel of the grace of God, the basis of which is that salvation is his free gift to us. There is no work that we can perform to attain it. There is no way for us to buy it. We can’t be good enough to deserve it. There is no power that can wrest it. It is a gift, a free gift, that is ours only because of God’s philanthropy. In short, we must come to see what has been in holy Scripture all along: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
“[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” ~2 Timothy 1:9
“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” ~2 Timothy 1:12
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” ~Titus 3:5
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy!” ~Jude 24
Look, I don’t believe in “once saved, always saved;” but I sure don’t believe either in “once saved, barely saved.” We are saved by God’s grace. We are redeemed by his mercy. It’s a free gift from our Father. And if we can ever all get our brains and our hearts and our souls around that, we’ll be freed from our own hangups to live and praise and worship and serve with great gladness and joy. Finally, we’ll be able to forgive people we haven’t been able to forgive before because we’ll be drawing on God’s goodness instead of our own. Finally, we’ll be able to accept those we’ve never been able to accept before because we’ll be depending on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own. We’ll be able to love every man, woman, and child on this planet in ways we’ve never been able to love before because we’ll be experiencing God’s unconditional love in our lives and not applying our own very conditional love to others.
It’ll be a huge shift for us. Huge. Radical. Dramatic. It’ll change us. It’ll mature us and grow us up. And it will have an eternal impact on those around us who just might see Christ in the Church of Christ for the very first time.