Could I Belong….?

A few weeks ago I asked a friend if he could attend an Arminian church, as long as they didn't "push" the differences; could he worship and learn and teach and fellowship in a congregation that believes so differently than he does?

I got a taste of that question last weekend. I visted a church that is outside my demonination, one with a different understanding of how God works.

The associate pastor was the one who gave the message on Sunday; the text was Ephesians 2. We were dead in trespasses and sin...the speaker consistently used the present tense: "we are dead"

Question: What does this teach us about Christ, and His finished work of redemption on the cross? If those who claim Him are taught that they are still dead, what does that say?

He told a story about some men during the beginning of the civil rights fight. Two of the men were ministers, the other was an atheist (Petey Greene). The atheist ended up asking one of the ministers to sum up Christianity in ten words or less and he did it this way: "we are all illegitimate children, but God loves us anyway."

To make a long story short, the other minister ended up getting shot and killed by a police officer - the first minister "used every word he could think of" to describe how he felt about the man who killed his friend. The athiest asked him about his words about Christianity and the minister had to say about that police officer, "he is an illegitimate child, but God loves him anyway." Going on to ask about the man that was killed, the minister used the same words about his friend (a minister), "he is an illegitimate child, but God loves him anyway."

Stop the tape! I believe that when we are saved, we are adopted through Jesus Christ. If we are in Christ, we are illegitimate no longer!

At what point does the speaker of the sermon last Sunday get to claim God as his Father? When we belong to Christ, we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. We are His children; He is our Father.

What does this story tell us about Christ and His finished work on the cross? If those who belong to Him are taught that they have no different standing than those who do not, what does that tell them about Christ?
I have a friend who uses the phrase about those who believe that you can lose your salvation: "You get it by grace, but you keep it by works." After the fact works-based salvation. I kept trying to tell him that isn't the way it is taught...

but then...

Sunday, during Sunday school (the text was 1 John 2), the woman who was presenting the material said very clearly (I wrote it down), "Our assurance does not come from our experience or our feelings; our assurance comes from our actions."

Okay. If "actions" are not "works-based", I don't know what other description to use.

How does this point us to Christ? If we are striving to "behave" in order to have assurance, how are we continually being pointed to Christ?

If it is our behavior that keeps us saved, how "finished" is Christ's work?

The short story is: I won't ask again whether he/I would fit in an Arminian church. If I cling to Christ on the cross as my only assurance, if I see myself as an adopted child, no longer a bastard, if i read Ephesians 2 in the past tense...

No, I couldn't belong

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8 thoughts on “Could I Belong….?

  1. ellen,
    You know I'm all about feelings. If I’m standing in a shelter feeding the poor but thinking this will get me in Heaven, while it’s a good thing to feed the poor, it isn’t the way to Heaven. I don’t give blood for the t-shirt, cookies, juice, and a map to Heaven. I do it because, as my brother point out, it was there when he needed it. There is no punch card of good works that gets us past the feeling part we must hold fast to Jesus with all our hearts.

    Good post. Looking for a new church home will make finding one so sweet.

  2. But it's not about "feelings" at all, which are very fickle. I know many strong Christians that doubt their own faith. I know many people who don't believe that it is Christ that saves, yet they "feel" that they are "ok".

    It's about pointing to Christ and His relationship with His church.

  3. gina

    Ok, I am still scratching my head over the part about being still dead. If we're still dead, we've got major problems! 🙂

    On the second part, I wonder if the woman was trying to illustrate that faith without works is dead. Take for example, this passage from 2 Corinthians:

    "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? --unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

    I don't understand the passage from James or 2 Corinthians to mean that your actions save you in any way. But, if actions are the fruit of genuine faith, then a person who doesn't exhibit any of the things that are supposed to accompany faith they should probably be concerned. Another example is from 1 John 3:14:

    "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death."

  4. This was in the context of "what can I do" - a time of silent reflection. I agree that we need to do "stuff" and that faith without works is dead.

    But in this context, it was not that our works were the proof of assurance, the works were the way to assurance.

    There was a time of "silent reflection" so that we could ask God what we could do so that we could have assurance.

    My belief is that we have assurance and doing works proves it. This is the opposite way: we do works and so we have assurance.

  5. Milly, then the people who believe that God was a created being who did enough works to become a god, who had two spirit children (Jesus and Satan), who believe that Jesus is not divine and spent the time between His appearance shortly after his resurrection and His ascension in Mexico; and who strive to become gods themselves, to rule over another world like earth - they're saved too, because they "feel it".

    They were at your house, you could have asked them.

    (addition by Ellen - you can have all kinds of feelings, it doesn't mean that you have right doctrine.  Do you have "feelings"?  Of course.  But if you base your assurance on feelings, then you are basing your assurance on something very fallible and very human.)

  6. gina


    "But in this context, it was not that our works were the proof of assurance, the works were the way to assurance."

    I see what you mean. That is bad.

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