THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Saved by GraceBy Mark King
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I asked them if they really did keep His commandments. They answered that this was the reason they were out spreading the good news. I mentioned that it might not be very good news as it seems impossible to keep all of Christ's commandments. This was more like bad news.
They were ready with what they thought would be a reassuring answer: "But, God knows our hearts."
Now if you really think about what that means, it is not at all reassuring. The fact that God knows our hearts should terrify us beyond measure. I would much rather be judged by my actions because there is some ambiguity there. But if God knows my heart, there is no escape. What I said to them was, "If that doesn't sign our death warrants, I don't know what does."
We talked about this some more. Their position was tenable only if they underestimate the holiness of God and overestimate their own righteousness.
So finally I asked them, "Who does God justify — the righteous or unrighteous?" Their answer was quick and confident: "God justifies the righteous."
And that is where I got excited about our differences. "NO! God justifies the unrighteous!" Romans 4:5 says, "However, to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."
They could not get over that. They said, "Do you mean that it doesn't matter what you do?" I answered, "Not one bit!" (Now I know that a Christian's behavior does matter, but in this context it does not. John Piper says if you don't get this objection when you are talking about grace, you are probably not talking about it the right way. Paul got that objection in Romans 6.)
Then I tried to turn the tables. "So, you think you can have a relationship with Christ by keeping his commands. Do you keep His commands? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? And do you really love your neighbor as yourself?"
They hesitated for a moment, and then one of them said, "We really try."
I reminded them that He didn't say try to do it, He said to do it.
I looked one of the ladies in the eye and said, "Can you tell me you do it?"
After a moment's hesitation she answered, "Yes, I think I can."
At this point the conversation had been going on for about 15 minutes and it was clear we were getting nowhere, so I ended it with, "Then you are too good to be talking to someone like me!" and we parted amiably.
While we used some of the same terms, the key difference is what was meant by them. Every version and perversion of Christianity talks about grace and a relationship with Christ. But for some, you access the grace of Christ and you enter and maintain a relationship with Christ by your attempt at obedience, hoping that God will cut you some slack. Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg say that the difference between Christianity and every other religion is found in the spelling. Every other religion is spelled D-O. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. Christ has done it all, we simply rely on his righteousness by faith and when we do, our sin is credited to Him and His righteousness is credited to us in a once-for-all transaction.
When you are speaking to someone about the gospel and they seem to agree with everything you say, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. I am afraid that often you will find that even many who attend evangelical churches still have the idea that their salvation is based in some part on what they do. I hope this blog may help you explain it to them differently.
Image Credit: joel; "Knocking on the door of Raphael's childhood home"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | False-Teaching | Other-Religions | Personal-Life | Witnessing-Evangelism
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