Only Two Places
The other night, we were at a ballgame and my husband was sharing with our pastor about his severe back pain and the next step in trying to fix it. The man in front of him turned around and shared that God could heal him. This led to a bit of a theological conversation where it soon was made clear that this man was confused. Finally, our pastor asked: If you were to die tonight what reason would you give for God to let you into heaven?
His answer started with “I”. I did this, I have done that…He was following the rules he believed were going to merit his ticket to heaven.
But rules and good works won’t give you a ticket to heaven.
If you aren’t saved by faith alone in grace alone by Christ alone there are really only two places to land: Legalism or Licentiousness. Living by rules or self-seeking. While there are extremes in both places, all unsaved people land somewhere on the spectrum of one of these. And sometimes –perhaps often– they move from one to another. Because neither gives lasting satisfaction.
Have you ever watched someone leave legalism to living a self-seeking life? We wonder how can this be? How could they look so good and righteous and then turn their back on God so completely to live for self? I believe there are as many answers to that question as there are situations. Each person probably has their own personal reason as to why they gave up on legalism. And it’s probably a pretty good one.
But, honestly, is it that much different than seeing someone living for self turn to legalism in order to please God? We see that, too, don’t we? Someone who has lived a dissolute or worldly life turn to religion to make them happy? It can be any religion. But in that religious worldview, they are given a set of rules to follow in order to please God and reach heaven. This gives them some semblance of peace, although if they are honest, they don’t really know if they are going to heaven and they wonder if their good works will outweigh the bad. This person has simply gone from living in self-denial about eternity to trying really hard now to do something about it.
But both places are lost places. One is full of man-made rules and the other is full of self-seeking but neither leads anyone to peace with the One, True God. That is because God tells us in His Word that there is only one way. John 14:6 puts it this way–
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
If you aren’t saved by faith alone in grace alone by Christ alone then there is no true faith. There is no true Holy Spirit; no eternity in heaven; no steadfast love or mercy; there is no “peace that passeth understanding”; nor is there true joy.
If you don’t believe this is true, then you may as well toss out the Bible. This is what true Christianity is. It is also TRUE for every person in the world. It is why so many have given their lives–sometimes even unto death–to share the Gospel through the years.
More and more, we hear of people who would call themselves Christians living licentious lives. They believe they can do whatever they want whenever they want and that God will approve. They love the world passionately and fully, filling themselves with the entertainment that God hates and by turning to vain and humanistic philosophies (most often fed to them by “Christian” therapists) rather than to the Bible.
Less often now we see the typical legalism based on rules (although it is still alive and well!). We also see a new legalism is rising. The one that says that in order to be close to God you must have visions, or speak in tongues, or hear from Him audibly.
But none of these things are to be found in the Word. Anywhere. It is all delusions and deceptions and man-made methods from the Father of Lies himself. I suggest that you take some time to read and study Romans 6, Colossians 3, James 4, and Jude to understand why both legalism and licentiousness are places of considerable spiritual danger.
These places can be tempting to lean towards, even for those of us who are genuinely saved. It is so much easier to just follow a set of rules than to be worried about my heart and my attitudes. And it’s a lot more fun to follow after my desires and chase my dreams.
I am reminded of two verses I am currently memorizing. They remind us of our need to lay aside those things that would trip us up and to look to Jesus as we run our race. I hope these encourage my fellow believers as they have encouraged me–
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the [a]author and [b]finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
And, this morning, if you don’t know if you are going to heaven but would like to, then I encourage you to call upon the name of the Lord. Romans 10:13 tells us that all who call upon the Lord will be saved. No one will be turned away. No sin is too great, no past is too ugly. Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine. And salvation is a free gift for all. I pray that you will turn to God today. (You can start by turning to the book of John in the Bible to get to know who Jesus really is. If I can help feel free to contact me. I’d love to talk with you about this.)
Life lived with Jesus may be hard but it is always worthwhile. And the message of the Bible may not be popular but it is true. May we be courageous and bold to point people to the truth and to share the hope that is within us in the midst of the great delusions of legalism and licentiousness.