Monday, July 09, 2007

Lordship Salvation

At my church there is a tiny debate going. I say tiny because I only heard about it from one person. I trust the debate isn't getting out of hand. First let me say that my church is a congregation brought together by keeping the main thing the main thing. Whenever individuals forget that, our differences are highlighted. From the family values to what we think about church to worship styles to even doctrine, our church holds a variety of opinions. That's the Baptist joke; whenever you have five baptists together, you'll have ten opinions on a subject.

The recent disagreement has had me thinking, though. Since we got a new pastor at the beginning of the year, there have been changes to our weekly bulletin. It still has contact information for the church, announcements, and the schedule for the week. An addition was made of the gospel on the back. It is a four point tract, using Scripture prominently. I read it once just to see what was being said. Apparently some who read it want there to be a fifth point.

Number 4 currently reads "Pray and receive Christ by personally inviting Him into your life." And then it quotes John 1:12: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Why do my brothers and sisters at church object? They believe it is important to let potential believers know what they're getting into. The doctrine "missing" is that of lordship. It is necessary for a person to acknowledge God as lord, or boss, at the decision for conversion as well. That's what they say, and that's what some of the leadership in our church teaches.

My first explanation for the lordship doctrine is that truly trusting Jesus' sacrifice to save you from hell, entrusting God with the end of your life, cannot be separated from - goes necessarily along with - the idea that God is entrusted with your life now. If one is really accepting God's grace for eternity, is he going to turn down grace right away? If a man recognizes that sin is evil, will he want to keep sinning? Is not repentance, a turning from sin, part of seeing your need for a Savior?

Secondly, Ephesians talks about salvation in the present tense. Every human since Adam and Eve have been born spiritually dead. Belief in Christ quickens the spirit, gives it life it never had before. The spirit is made alive immediately at salvation. It doesn't remain dead until the body dies. Christianity, salvation, is about a relationship with God, a life everlasting, not so much about a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Third, and most recent, I have contemplated my own testimony in light of the question. As a six year old, no one told me that Jesus had to be the boss of my life for me to trust Him. I knew I was a sinner. I knew Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins. So I decided to ask Him to forgive me and make me His child. As I grew, with the Holy Spirit indwelling me, I gained understanding of what Jesus did, of what my sin meant, and of how to live now. The more you know God, the more you hate sin. The more you spend time with God, the more you mourn when your sin separates you from fellowship with Him.

So what I'm saying is that we don't see a formula for the gospel in the Bible. The tract on my bulletin has verses from two books of the Bible, four different places in those books. Different accounts in Acts of people becoming saved are expressed different ways. Depending on their level of understanding, the missionary picked up and told them the facts. The only requirement was an affirmative response. Accept the gift.

Theologians for centuries have studied the Bible for what is going on spiritually, and on God's part, when someone gets saved. The Holy Spirit is preparing the heart, wooing it to God. It is not the missionary's excellent evangelism that wins a sinner's heart. In Romans there are much-debated verses about calling and predestination and election. Whatever the case, when a person is making a sincere decision for the truth, the Holy Spirit is active in their lives. He is convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. God's is the power that saves.

Is Jesus Lord? In truth, God is the boss of everyone saved and unsaved, and nothing I do or say can make Him more so. Would anyone at my church tell me that I wasn't saved because I didn't ask Jesus to be my boss when I prayed the sinner's prayer? I knew I needed God's forgiveness through Jesus' atonement. God knew that He was the boss. He had every intention of teaching me the fact.

To insist that a non-believer give God the rights to his life in order to receive salvation detracts from grace. Salvation is a FREE gift. Nothing we can do or feel, no amount of sincerity, can save us. But God gives it to those who accept it. If you believe, in fact, that you are giving to God your life in exchange for eternal life in heaven, it isn't grace. Whoever loses his life will find it. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

To God be all glory.

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