Monday, November 16, 2009

Salvation is by Works

There are so many religions in the world, it is hard to imagine that they would all have something in common. But they do. Every single one presents a list of things one is to do in order to please God. Of course, the list varies radically from the mundane to the miraculous. Some religions believe that "sainthood" is only applied to those who have worked a miracle during their religious lifetime. Some believe that to die fighting for their religion automatically produces eternal life. Others see the need to die to the fleshly desires daily in order to be pious and holy. Still others believe that helping the homeless, nursing the sick, and feeding the hungry is all it takes. The variety is nearly endless as is eternity. But, they are all wrong!

I admit that I am narrow minded, opinionated, and maybe even a little argumentative. I admit that my way is right, much to the consternation of the "political correctness police." I certainly sound arrogant, and for that I make no apologies. After all, if one truly believes that they have a relationship with the Creator of the universe, why wouldn't he or she believe everyone who disagrees is wrong. To the atheist, everyone who believes anything at all is wrong, but the world does not condemn that attitude, even though it is exactly the same thing. There is a great deal of tolerance for everyone except for those, like me, who know they are right. But doesn't everyone believe his or her religion is right? If not, why adhere to it?

I am a child of God. I have been forgiven my sins. I am being made into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I believe the Bible is the only true revelation of God's plan for His creation. Someone might suggest that many different religions/denominations believe the Bible, and my response would be that if they disagree with me, they are only believing selected parts of the Bible. Oh, the arrogance! I am almost embarrassing myself; my conditioning by society makes me shudder at what certainly must appear as pride. But is it pride that accepts God's word found in the Bible as truth? I didn't write it. For the most part, I don't understand it. And yet, I know beyond a reasonable doubt that it is entirely true. There was a time that I hated people like me. There was a time that I thought the Bible was myth and that God was a crutch. I was an atheist.

On January 31st, 1971, all that changed. I was miraculously given the faith to believe in God because the Spirit of God convinced me that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. It was a gift. I didn't do anything! There it was: faith. My wife and the base chaplain both though I had lost my mind. After all, when I went to bed Saturday night, I didn't believe God existed, and the following morning, all I could talk about was the peace I had and tremendous hunger I had to discover everything I possibly could about the Lord. Ephesians 2:8 says that I became saved by grace (the unmerited favor of God). It says that my salvation did not result in my doing anything, but that I was given the gift of faith (the ability to believe). Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages (compensation, entitled payment for work performed) of sin is death, but that the gift of God is eternal life. Ephesians 2:9 says that salvation is not of works, because then I could brag about what I had done. I guess God knows us pretty well.

But wait! Didn't the title of this entry say that salvation is by works? Yes it did. Is it contradictory? You would certainly think so, especially if you had never experience God "calling for you to come to Him." As the world would see this, they would say, "See, Christians are preaching out of both sides of their mouth. They don't even know what they believe." To the natural man, Christians are fools. Up to this point, I am sure that even Christians reading this see me as a heretic, or at best, mentally challenged. I would!

Hear me out. There is a work that is required for salvation. However, the work is accomplished for us by the gift of faith from God. John 6:28-29 says, "Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." Notice the play on words? The work of God could mean that it is the requirement necessary for everlasting life, or it could be the result of God's action in the salvation of the soul. If God draws us to Himself through the death of His Son, if He gives us the faith to believe, if He grants us a new birth, the work is His! He has done the work of saving us. There is no pride in accepting a gift. There is no boasting in acknowledging His love for us. In fact, the one thing that makes God greater than us is that He knows our every thought and action, yet He loves us! I believe the unbelievable! He loves us!

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