I’m sure you’ve heard of the term, “counterintuitive.” It is defined as, “contrary to expectations: not in accordance with what would naturally be assumed or expected.”
Things that are counterintuitive confuse us. They make things that seem right, wrong; and things that seem wrong, right. Things like:
- The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west, but it’s actually the earth that orbits the sun. That messed with people for centuries.
- Guinness Stout has only 15 more calories than Bud Lite. Who knew?
- If you have a room of 23 people, there is a 50% chance that 2 of them will have the same birthday. That can’t be right.
- Maine is the closest state to Africa.
- You should always face and move towards an angry dog, not turn away.
- We say, “The fire alarm went off.” But it was off and went on.
- Dark roast coffee has less caffeine than light roasts.
- You sail into a storm to be safe, not away from it.
- And my personal favorite; to hit a golf ball high, you strike down on it. To make it go right you hit it left, to make it go left you hit it right.
- Then there is this: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Saved by grace through faith alone? That’s just wrong. If I’ve done wrong, I have to make up for it. I need to make it right? I need to do penance. At the very least, I need to apologize. Don’t I need to repent? Shouldn’t I be told to “do something?”
God understands your confusion. Salvation by grace through faith in SOMEONE ELSE is counterintuitive. (Proverbs 14:12) If I’ve done wrong, the logical assumption is, “I must do right.” That’s how it works, right? But even the Bible warns against wrong assumptions. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Doing right won’t make you perfect. You have history. You have a record. Perfection in the past, present and future is required and you’ve spoiled that. The absolute only way you can ever be perfect is if you are given a complete pardon, i.e. “righteousness.” Paul understood this when he wrote,
“Whatever was to my credit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
Yes, the Bible says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repenting and being baptized are “DOING SOMETHING!” So it is on me, right? Wrong! Before Peter gave this instruction the Bible says, “When the people heard Peter’s message (the gospel), they were cut to the heart.” God first brought them to faith by the gospel, and then they responded with obedience.
It seems reasonable to demand, “You must be repentant of your sin to be saved.” Christians should be careful of that statement. Any time you make a person’s behavior a condition of salvation, it is no longer grace alone, is it?
Even repentance is not an action I can force anyone to do or give credit to good judgment. True repentance is caused by an act of God. I like the way the old hymn puts it; “T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.”
If a Christian does not repent of wrong can they be still be saved? That’s the million $ question. Let me answer it in three ways.
- Repentance assumes acceptance. For instance, Christians with aberrant views on infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the authority of the pope, saints, spiritual gifts, predestination and creation will not repent of a belief they hold to be true. We certainly believe they are wrong; but are they unrepentant if they have a different interpretation of Scripture? Are they saved? Yes, we consider them saved because they are squared-away on Jesus. Is it possible some accept behavior we consider immoral because of a different understanding of Scripture? We believe they are wrong, but are they saved? People are not saved by their level of biblical understanding. People are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
- There are those who agree with our belief on immorality, but lapse for lack of spiritual strength to resist temptation. I don’t believe they are lost because they are weak. The Bible says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 43:3) It always creates havoc in their lives and the lives of those who love them, but it does not always mean they have lost all faith in Jesus. It is faith that saves, not our ability to resist temptation.
- Lastly there are those who are unrepentant because they reject the Christian faith, its truth, and its message of salvation. They are offended by the Christian message. Denial of faith puts them outside of God’s saving grace. As the Bible says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
This is confusing stuff. Once, when remembering his own sinful past and the sinfulness of his present life; Paul threw his hands up and asked, “Who can save me from my wretched life?” Then he answered, “Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ, my Lord.” (Romans 7) Amen.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15,16)
- What are sins of omission? Sin of commission?
- Do you suppose you commit sins without knowing it? What should be your attitude towards sin, other sinners, towards God?
- Do you have to know and remember all your sins to be forgiven?
Christians are portrayed in film as dorks or self-righteous bigots. Why?
A. Many are dorks and self-righteous.
B. There is prejudice against Christians in America.
C. That’s a perception, not reality.
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If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, it is available on our website. Growing Deeper, a Bible study written to accompany the message series, is also available to download.
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“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his Word I put my hope.” Amen. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy as our trust is in You. (Psalm 130)
4th of July: Enjoy our FREE event from 6:00pm-10:00pm. Bring your friends and family. Want more details or do you want to volunteer? All the information is on our website.
Global Leadership Summit: There’s still time to register for this two-day event.
Cambodia Urban Forum: You may have read or heard about changes surrounding the Angel Dormitory Project due to changes in policy in Cambodia. Our Missions Director, Jen Dotson, is currently in Cambodia working through these issues. We want to be totally transparent in all of this, so we’re holding an Open Forum on July 2 at 6pm in the Ministry Center. If you want to learn more or have questions you’d like answered, be sure to attend.
Stephen Hower, Pastor
Challenging the status quo to awaken an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:13,14
(and to lower my golf score)
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