“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (NIV)
I have a dear pastor friend who is like a brother to me. At one time some years ago, he was told he was not a “real Christian” because of his theological beliefs on predestination and predeterminism.
I myself have experienced lengthy discussions on some of the songs we play on Kinship Radio where the other party considered me an absolute heretic for believing the Holy Spirit could move through such a song.
Just a few days ago, I was quoting Scripture to a dearly-loved relative and totally and unintentionally alienated her from Christ when my objective was exactly and precisely the opposite. After a day or two, we both apologized and I think our relationship is better for it, but I did not see that kind of conflict coming from what I thought I was saying in love.
And then those two verses up there got me in very much the same way slicing the tip of your thumb gets you when you’re making pickles.
If you say “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
It doesn’t say you have to have your politics or your music or even your lifestyle right.
So, why do we spend so much time making sure we all agree on every last detail of politics or music or even theology when not one of us shares exactly the very same theology about every little detail of every aspect of theology? From what that verse says, I’m going to be standing in heaven someday right next to people who believed the Earth is flat and selling indulgences to fund cathedrals was God’s will.
Now, before you start composing an angry response to this blog, let me make it very clear that I am familiar with those lists of “gotcha” verses of people who will not get into heaven in 1 Corinthians 6:9&10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelations 21:8, and more.
But we’ve all been on one of those lists at one time or another. Paul himself laments his wretched inability to overcome his own sin in Romans 7:14-24, then declares in verse 25:
“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (NLT)
Which is then immediately followed by the verse I would have tattooed on myself if I suddenly woke up one morning and somehow, inexplicably could not resist getting an inky needle poked into my skin hundreds and hundreds of times. Romans 8:1:
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
No condemnation. None. Zero. Nada.
Which then brings us to the point where (At the cutting edge of irony after just posting that particular verse.) I need to clearly state that my preference for not having a tattoo is absolutely, positively, NOT meant as a condemnation of any of my Christian brothers and sisters who do choose to get a tattoo honoring God.
Whew. That was a close shave.
See, when we start wielding the Bible like the sword that it is, there’s a very present danger of getting cut ourselves. In Romans 1: 28-32, Paul lists some very nasty people indeed. There are backstabbers and liars and people who invent new ways of sinning. They hate their parents and are heartless, merciless, cruel, insolent, proud, cocky, arrogant, and even encourage others to sin, too! These are clearly some bad dudes.
But then, in the very next verse, (Romans 2:1) Paul writes:
“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.” NLT.
Ouch. Double ouch. I think I need a styptic pencil after that one.
Make it a tourniquet.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sin is still bad. God still hates sin because sin kills the people He loves. And make no mistake, God is holy! That is why we have a loving and holy Savior in Jesus who was willing to die for our sins. But I don’t think He’s overly pleased with people who claim to love Him marching around with signs like the folks from Westboro Baptist Church. (If you have to do an internet search to figure out what I’m talking about there, let me know so I can raise a HALLELUJAH that these people have finally passed into obscurity.)
Yes, sinners should repent of their sins. Yes, we observe the law because the law is good and it is given for our benefit.
And yes, Jesus should change your life forever.
Jesus is indeed LORD, as we proclaim every day on Kinship Radio. And because He is LORD, He is LORD of all and He can change even the worst sinner into a child of love adopted into the family of God, loved beyond anyone’s ability to fully comprehend. And yes, through his mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
But sanctification is a process. It takes time for most of us.
Let us not forget that when confronted with the conundrum of great hordes of uncircumcised heathens coming to Christ, the early church fathers called a huge meeting in Jerusalem, concluded that these Gentiles had received the same Holy Spirit as they had when they were saved and pared down all that Levitical law they couldn’t keep themselves into the manageable essentials. (See Acts 15)
Let’s try not to dice the sinners into a puree before they can get near the table.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)