01/05/10 Steven, Anita, Darryl, all about 40
At an all black south side grocery store I had separate conversations with 3 middle-aged shoppers, all of whom had almost the same answers to my questions. All three grew up in churchgoing families, claimed to attend church now, believe in God, believe in heaven, and believe they are good enough to make it there. When I questioned this last belief, they each agreed they aren't perfect, but still maintained they are "good enough". When I used a few commandments to test this belief and personalize their sins, they each admitted that, while they may not be "good enough", at least they had confessed and repented - surely God would forgive them on this basis. But our faith can't be in our own goodness OR the sincerity of our repentance. There is a reason Jesus died on the cross - to pay the penalty for our sins and once I explained this, each of these three easily agreed. Yet at first they were "good enough" for heaven! What is it that causes church people to so easily put their faith in their own goodness rather than the finished work of Christ on the cross? 2 Cor.13:5 says "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves." to see if Christ is in us. It is biblical to point to the changes God brings in our lives as evidence of faith in Jesus, but I think there is much confusion between "cause' and "effect" - our good works don't cause salvation but rather salvation results in the effect of good works and repentance. Do these three people have saving faith in Jesus? It's not for me to decide but I do know one thing - they won't be able to clearly share the gospel with others if they aren't clear on it themselves.