The Preacher Says....  
  Earning Salvation  
     
  In life we work and for that work we are rewarded. Does this maxim hold true in our relationship with God? That is, if we work He will reward us. There is no truth to such specious thinking. Eternal life is, without equivocation, the gift of God. It is unrelated in any way to our ability to earn it. We no more have the power to make ourselves immortal than we can turn ourselves into elephants. God has told us the absolute truth; the imperfect cannot make itself perfect. The idea that we can work and earn the reward is a notion that has been a plague to millions, i.e., the Pharisees, the Puritans, fundamental Christians. This has resulted in a sham and hypocrisy as each of us tries to show the other a way of life he thinks is holy.

Having talked of grace amazing grace many times in the past, I ask if it is a preoccupation by me. First of all, without Godís grace Christianity is meaningless. Further, the medieval concept of God is wrong where fire, flood, famine, and plague are the results of the wrath of God being visited specifically on sinners. We fail to understand what Job is saying, that God is a mystery, His ways past finding out, that cause and effect as we know them are not the same between God and man.

Grace is a reality, everywhere evident in the Bible. Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that are heavily laden, and I will give you rest." By grace are ye saved by faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Paul says that we are justified freely by His grace. What could be plainer? (Read Romans 4. 4 - 8.) But truth is multifaceted. One needs peripheral vision to see it all. Like cataracts words play tricks on us: words become impressions, impressions become ideas, and ideas can become obsessions. It is an easy step for an obsession about Godís grace, inherently good, to cause us to take a step we ought not to take. A step taken by many, saying, "I have accepted Jesus, Godís grace is boundless, I am saved." Once this happens, life is on automatic pilot. And people behave in all sorts of ways. "Iíll come to see you if the Lord leads me there" or "Something good is going to happen to you today"; "What was that stock tip?"; the perfect people; everybody is saved. There is a phrase for all such nonsense: phoney baloney.

Everyone should receive and accept the grace of God not only as a haven, but as a challenge. We are required to do so. By a semantic trick we now arrive at the proposition that we must earn salvation. So those who have not been wooed by soft and easy phrases about grace, perhaps will be stirred by rougher words, accept grace as a challenge. When Paul tells us not to receive the grace of God in vain, a reasonable inference is that it could be lost. Peruse the parables in Matthew of the wise and foolish virgins, the talents, the sower, to see what is required. The church at Laodicea spoken of in Revelation were neither hot nor cold, an unacceptable response to Godís grace. Our role is one of obligation instead of earning. Call it worship, if you will, but there is no doubt we are told to:

ē give diligence to make our calling and election sure

ē fight a good fight

ē enter the race for eternal life

ē having grasped the plow, to not look back

ē redeem the time for the days are evil

ē faith without works is dead

ē subject body; train mind as an athlete

ē endure much tribulation to enter kingdom of God

Tribulation for the Christian during his life may be harder than for the non-Christian. Not from without, but from within. We must always be conscious of the enemy within. There remains for the Christian a constant tension within, with a duty to try to combat our actions by the standard of what is holy, just and good, not merely what is legal and illegal.

We worship God by joining in the struggle that is life. If you are part of the body of Christ and not struggling, you are dead and donít know it. Life is, and will continue to be full of peaks and valleys. If you donít think so, read the Psalms. Someone once told me that David sounded like a manic depressive; but that was his life: his bed wet with tears one minute, and exalting over the triumph of his enemies the next. Life is like that, and thereís no guarantee of surcease in Christ. All things work together for good for them that love God and keep His commandments. And so it is, but it is often like taking medicine.

The fruits of the spirit are there to be worked for. They are ideals rarely achieved, but they can be goals. If you struggle and work in the way we are admonished and still donít get anywhere, you may very well cry out with Paul who said, "Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But if you have indeed struggled, you will have the right through grace to say, "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."