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Recently I published a series of studies called "For God So Loved The World". In these papers I raised several controversial topics such as "does God hate?", election, and eternal security. I received two responses from the publications, one positive from a Presbyterian Youth Pastor, and one negative from a "non-denominational" Youth Pastor. It is in regards to the negative response that I write this paper today. Not because my feelings are hurt, or I want to defend my position, but because I feel it is important that we look honestly at some issues that seem to be overlooked in the church today. Let me start by asking you to take a quick quiz...

Question One

If you, as a Christian, went out today and sinned up a storm-whether that be drinking, drugs, sex, gambling, you name it-and you went to bed that night unrepentant-do you think you would go to heaven?

Question Two

If you, as a Christian, went to bed after going to a full days activities of church, praying and feeding the homeless, would you at that point feel like you're going to heaven?

Chances are most of you answered "No" to the first question and "Yes" to the second. Why is that? Because we are trained in America to think it terms of performance and output, as opposed to the deeper issues of sin and salvation. Let me explain... Are you any less of a sinner when you attend church, then if you were out doing drugs or robbing a bank? Of course not. The Bible says that even as Christians our best deeds are tainted and mixed with sin.

So the next question to ask is this, if even our best deeds on this earth are tainted with sin, what is it that gets us into heaven? People will reply, Jesus' death and forgiveness. That is true. But is that redemption limited only to the time we live on this earth before we are Christians? What happens after we are saved? Is it then not only what Jesus did for us, but what we do in addition to that work? If you answer yes, the Bible would call you a heretic. Yes, my friends, go back and read Galatians. What was Paul criticizing the Galatian church for? They were trying to add something to the perfect work of Christ(circumcision). We in the USA try to do the same thing in 1997, but we don't have the guts to call it what it is-works righteousness.

This type of thinking is deeply ingrained in many of our churches today. You see it in the Altar Call, which calls on man to add to the finished work of Christ. If our Lord has indeed died, and has chosen His elect for salvation, He will also call them, bring them into the church, and keep them there. I am not trying to write off evangelism, for Christ commissioned us to preach to all nations. But I challenge you to find an Altar Call in the Bible. That is an invention of 1800's revivalism. But as with much of Christianity today, our churches seem to look no further back than that for examples and models of ministry. Let me give you another example...

Many evangelical churches today are Catholic bashers. The sad thing is they don't see that they are more Catholic in their doctrine than the Roman church itself. You don't think so? What do the Catholics believe about salvation? That God does His part, and they have to earn their part. The two go together. Add a little intervention from Mary and the saints, some time in purgatory, and you will eventually get to heaven. Now the evangelical church will change the slogans slightly-"God helps those who help themselves", "Jesus is my co-pilot", etc. The same philosophy is at work here. What the underlying theme is comes through loud and clear-the work of Jesus on the cross was not sufficient, we have to help Him out. We who are sinful have to add to the work of the perfect, holy Son of God. Anyone getting angry yet? Think it through and ask yourself if this is not the modus operandi of most churches in the U.S. today.

This paper is only intended as a brief introduction. Depending upon the response I receive, I will publish more in-depth studies with Scripture references. But as I close, let me state clearly that I don't preach antinomianism, or living carelessly as a Christian. I believe that we should strive to keep the Ten Commandments(how many of you know all ten of them?) and live a life that is in accord with the Bible. But not out of obligation, but out of gratitude. Let me explain the difference.

Obligation assumes that if I don't do this, or if I do that, then my salvation is at risk and my eternal life depends upon my actions. My eternal life depends upon what Jesus did 2000 years ago outside of Jerusalem. On that cross, the Savior died for me because I couldnt meet the demands of the Law of God and the justice of God demanded death for the transgression. Jesus paid that price for me. But another great thing happened as a result of Jesus' death. In the same bargain, I received the righteousness of Christ credited to my account. So when God sees me, He sees me as if I have NEVER sinned, and as if I earned this great holiness myself. What an incredible act on God's part. Not only does He show remarkable love and mercy, but His justice stays intact as well.

So how am I to react to this great gift? What can I do to pay Him back? Nothing. If I could repay Him, then it wouldn't be a gift, would it? But when the Spirit regenerates the new Christian his nature changes and he has a new found desire to actually obey the law of God. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. This, my friends, is gratitude. A changed heart overflowing in love, wanting to express that love in good works.

Please contact me and let me know what you think so far. I see many hits on my studies but no one ever seems to respond or dialogue in any way about them. Even if you disagree and think I'm a nut, let's share our thoughts with each other. There's always room for debate in the family of God, and I'm sure we can do it without any feelings being hurt. Who knows, we might learn something we didn't know before. I'm always open to that, and I hope you are too. God bless.

Pastor Tim Shultz