Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why a transformed life is not proof of salvation

A Must Read - Entire article here: Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation


False assumption 3: A transformed life is proof of salvation
Many religions transform lives. Mormonism has produced zealous clean-living converts who would put most evangelicals to shame in their general moral conduct. And radical Islam certainly transforms the lives of those who decide to become suicide bombers – and those of their victims.

Self-help books transform lives. Here’s one not atypical comment of many concerning Stephen R. Covey’s bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

This book changed my life. After reading this book back in 1997 my whole thinking about myself and others changed. I wish they teach this book in high school in every country in the world. Since 97 I buy this book and give it as gift to anyone I come across, especially to young people. You read it and judge it.

The religion of the Pharisees transformed lives. Yet Jesus said of them:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15, NKJV)

Clearly, Jesus didn’t approve of that particular sort of life transformation.

We should be concerned that Pharisaism, which was really all about making God’s law doable, is alive and well in far too many of today’s churches. Whenever anyone gives you five simple steps to keep God’s law (whether it is to stay out of debt, or have healthy relationships, etc.), understand that Pharisaism is the religion being offered. Likewise, when someone preaches the law and tells you to just go out and do it. But the Bible tells us that God’s law exists primarily to show us our sin – it does not have the power to make us righteous:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20, ESV)

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. (Galatians 2:21, NKJV)

The gospel is not a formula by which we can obey God’s law and thereby become righteous. No, it is the Good News that, even though we do not obey the law, Christ kept it for us. That His perfect righteousness is put to our account, and that the wrath of God that we deserved for our sin was instead poured out upon Christ on the cross:

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26, NKJV)

6 comments:

Jonathan said...

"The gospel is not a formula by which we can obey God’s law and thereby become righteous. No, it is the Good News that, even though we do not obey the law, Christ kept it for us. That His perfect righteousness is put to our account, and that the wrath of God that we deserved for our sin was instead poured out upon Christ on the cross"

Amen!

Mark said...

Hi Jonathan,
Nice to see you again. What do you think is the importance of obedience for specifically believers?

Blessings

Dennis said...

Mark: Great post reminding us of such a simple yet I fear overlooked truth. I fear we have gone back to a gospel of doing as opposed to being: a gospel of obedience to prove instead of obedience as a result of what God has already done.

Mark said...

Dennis - well said. If obedience isn't the result of gratitude for what Christ has accomplished for us, it is no gospel at all and is joyless.

Dennis said...

After taking a day to think about your post I find myself wondering if this is in part what is turning today's youth away from the faith. By measuring salvation by how life has changed we turn Christianity into one big social engineering experiment making it no different from what we see the government attempting in our schools. As you point out this is no different than other religions or from self-help books. The impression given is empty leaving our kids looking for something real, not a manufactured change which is often proven false.

Jonathan said...

Hiya Mark,

I think obedience is of utmost importance (My utmost for His highest, and what not) in that it reflects the Spirit's operation in our lives. Without that Spirit and Christ's righteousness imputed to my account, I am a wholly wretched creature. My obedience, of course, is not merited or somehow added to my account, but is simply a reflection of the grace I have recieved and that faith is recieved with a great deal of joy. But I don't need to tell you that, brother.

I think the Puritan's had it right, in as much as they stated that obedience can only happen for those truly changed by the Spirit's working upon and renewing our hearts and minds. Now, of course, we stumble and are beset by our varied and numerous imperfections but in the end we are assured of our salvation by the faith we have recieved; a faith anchored in the work and resurrection of Christ our Lord and not in our own vain strivings and paltry works. See Galatians 3 for the skinny on that. ;o)

I know doubt and uncertainty are 'en vogue' in much of "PoMo Xtianity" which tends to permeate the lives of those in my generation, but I see no warrant for such thought anywhere in the teaching of Christ or His apostles. I see nothing but joy and assurance taught in the text of the New Testament.