If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard the preacher or other attenders confess that we’ve all been saved by grace. In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to find a Christian that tells you that there is any other way to receive salvation, except through grace.
But there’s a problem. All too often, the minute that a person believes in Jesus as their personal Savior, we as the church pull on them the old “bait and switch”.
Picture with me this scene: The pastor has just preached a moving and powerful sermon. Then the organ player begins to play the faithful hymn, “Just as I Am”. You can sense that the presence of God is in the room, inviting those who are lost and broken to come down to the altar and receive the free gift of forgiveness and grace from God. Susie comes down and in all sincerity in her heart reaches out to Jesus, asking Him to come into her heart and life. Everyone in the room feels a release of love, grace and forgiveness as well all rejoice over Susie joining the family of Jesus. She has been told that God loves and receives her just as she is, because she has confessed her belief in Jesus. You can literally see the relief and rest on Susie’s faces, and she now has a glow about her that she didn’t have before.
Fast forward to the following week…
Susie comes to church again, excited to learn more about this Jesus who died for her sins and who loves her beyond measure. She is greeted by one of the “mothers” of the church who gently pulls her aside to let her know that the skirt she is wearing is too tight and too short. The mother explains to her that now that she is a part of God’s family, God expects more from her. Embarrassed, Susie finds her way into the sanctuary, still hoping to relive that joy that she felt the previous week. But she becomes more discouraged when the pastor’s sermon outlines all of the things that we as Christians must stop doing right now. Along with this list of wrongs that must be stopped, Susie writes down all of the things that she should be doing. Susie is feeling overwhelmed.
After the service, Susie is greeted by a few well-intending church-goers, who remember that she received Christ the week before. They are happy that she is back in church.
As they walk out of the church doors together, Susie lights up a cigarette. Her new church friends are appalled, explaining to her that her body is the temple of God. “How could you defile God’s temple like that, Susie?”, they ask. Susie drops her cigarette, puts it out with the new shoes she bought for church, smiles, and gets in her car.
The next week, a few people at church notice that Susie is not in the service. One of them tries to give her a call to check on her, but instead gets forwarded to her voicemail. They never hear from Susie again.
Unfortunately, I think that this scenario happens all to often in many churches. God’s grace is all about receiving undeserved, unmerited favor from Jesus, “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
To bring people to Jesus, we confess grace to the lost. But once they have come to believe in Him, we take them back to trying to gain God’s approval and blessing through performance.
There was absolutely nothing we could ever have done to earn the gift of salvation that Jesus paid for on the cross. So, why do we think that we could ever possibly do enough to KEEP it? As Christians, it is time that we stop with the bait and switch, and instead decide which side of the line we are going to live on…the side of trying to earn God’s approval, or the side of grace?
I only wish that we could keep our eyes on Jesus, instead of on ourselves and our behavior. If we as a church would be so bold as to focus only on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do His job of changing us, not only would we see Susie show up at church again, but she would bring her entire neighborhood block with her to hear the good news of the gospel!