12/10/16 John about 50
He described himself as being like the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable. But he forgot about the rest of the story…
Yesterday I had initiated a gospel conversation at our grocery store’s coffee shop with a man named John, about 50, by asking him what he thought happens after we die. He told me he is “working on his salvation with fear and trembling” like it says in Corinthians. He told me that although he believes Jesus died for our sins, we need to keep up our end of the bargain. If we don't do our part in this life then we will pay for it after death in purgatory.
John said he simply can't believe that someone can just pray to receive Christ and be saved without also doing good works. Citing the passage in James that reads “faith without works is dead”, he asked what I thought of that passage. “Well, it talks about two kinds of faith - living faith or what I would call saving faith and dead faith. Living faith, works! It's not the good works we do that saves us, but the kind of faith that saves us does result in good works. When we are born again the Holy Spirit is sealed within us and He won't live there very long without motivating us towards good works.”
John couldn't accept this. He kept focusing on people who put their faith in Christ and then go on living their lives just as worldly as they did before. I told him the Bible speaks a lot about false converts. But if we insist that people are saved by faith and works, rather than faith in Christ that results in works, we are basically saying that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross wasn't enough to pay for our sins.
John kept insisting on the addition of good works for salvation. It seems he has switched roles from being the prodigal son to the older brother. The Father had welcomed him home with open arms, saying “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” But now John has become the older brother who believes the younger brother must earn his place in the family, saying “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”
John could relate to the Prodigal Son. But this parable is also about the self-righteous older brother. John needed to be reminded of the rest of the story. Maybe we do too.