Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Do You Measure Salvation?



We attended a funeral yesterday. The deceased did not live his life as I would. He was, shall we say, a little rougher around the edges than I am. Looking in on his life one might doubt the presence of God. One might assume his eternal destiny did not include streets of gold. He was taught Christian principles as a young person, but did not live by them as an adult. He was a good guy, a good dad, a good friend, but a faithful servant of Christ?

How can you tell?

He didn't attend church. He didn't read his Bible. He drank and smoked and cussed. He made choices I wouldn't as a follower of Jesus Christ. But he was a generous neighbor, a gracious host, a loving man. Aren't these fruits of the spirit? Does that reveal the Spirit of God within him, sealing him for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)?

Do we Christians place our own ideas of what a follower of Jesus should look like? If we don't see certain "characteristics," do we write people off as unsaved? I know I'm guilty. I did it with my own father, questioning his salvation because his actions did not fit my ideas of a committed believer. How and why do we elevate ourselves to this position of judgment?

Who do we think we are?

There's no way for us to know the heart of another person. We have a responsibility to display God, to draw others to Him, but only God turns on the light bulb. How do we reconcile the eternal resting place of those whose lives we question? Can we determine where they are? Is there any comfort in the passing of those whose lives we wonder about?

As I struggled through my questions concerning my dad, God gave me an unexpected epiphany. The only thing we can do is trust God and His Word. The Bible says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31), "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9), and "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). I had conversations with my dad where he agreed with every one of those statements. Who am I to say he didn't live them out correctly? Who am I to say it wasn't enough to enter heaven?

How do you measure salvation?

We can't. We do our best to make our God visible in a hurting, dying world. We speak His Word. We share the hope within us and when people we love die, people whose lives have not fit our mold, we leave their salvation up to Him.

Do you agree? Do you differ? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this tough subject. What do you think?

6 comments:

Norma said...

Good questions---but I don't know that we have the answers---like you said, God is the judge not us.

Isaiah 11:3-4
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

I have done the same thing when looking at my parents lives and that of my younger brother. My brother went to church, was a great father and husband---but he, too, didn't live like I thought a christian should.

But then, do others look at my life and think the same thing about me?

Tami Boesiger said...

Oooh, Norma, your last question hurts. I wonder the same thing.

Tracy said...

Why do I want so badly to play judge is these situations? Thank you for the great reminder that it is my job to walk with Jesus hear on this earth so that others will call on the name of the Lord and be saved. But it is not my job to judge if they are with Jesus or not. Thank you Tami for this reminder, it is both convicting and encouraging.

Tami Boesiger said...

Tracy,

I wondered what your family was thinking the other day. I think our error in judging comes from pure motives. We want assurance that those we love are in heaven. Behavior that follows God's precepts gives us that, but when we don't see it, we're left to wonder. TOUGH STUFF. Don't be too hard on yourself.

Love you, babe. So good to see you.

Ben Klar said...

Tami,

You've focused this post more toward the end of a person's life and how it is difficult to look back on a person's life and actions and make a claim regarding their salvation. Yet, I'm wondering how this might play out as we live with those who are very much alive.

You say, "There's no way for us to know the heart of another person." This true. However, without being condescending, I've never walked under a tree that is in season and had any question as to what type of tree it might be. Apples, pears, cherries--you don't mistake these things. Yes, Matthew 7:1 commands us not to judge. But is it judgmental to call an apple tree an apple tree? Of course not, we are simply stating that tremendous evidence (and scientific fact) give way to the reality that it is an apple tree. I would submit that we are told to refrain from judging but we are free (and commanded) to make distinctions.

We are not saved by works but by grace. Christ condemns those with bad fruit (Matt 7:15-20) and also condemns those with good works (and who call Jesus "Lord") but no faith (Matt 7:21-23).

The question is to determine how to best speak with discernment and wisdom into the lives of those who are around us. How should we rebuke those who claim faith but live like the devil? How should we warn those who have works ("He's a good guy") but no thriving faith? How should we edify and encourage someone who is despairing of both their works and their faith? Some questions to think about.

Last word: I'm very uncomfortable saying that works (or the lack thereof) offer little help in making distinctions about a person's spiritual condition. Without a doubt we are saved by grace alone and not works, but that same grace that justifies completely also sanctifies "to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Tami Boesiger said...

Thanks for chiming in, Ben, with your thoughtful insights! I love it!

You make a good point about the people we live with. And I love your questions in your fourth paragraph. All come back to the same question, really--What is the best way to point others to God? This is a constant burden and highlights my need to stay in close communication with God.

And I keep asking myself another question. Is it necessary to judge (or make a distinction about) another's spiritual condition when relating to them? I know we need to be on guard against false teachers, but shouldn't we be showing the love of Christ, proclaiming His name to everyone at all times? Other than trying to protect ourselves from evil, what is the benefit of trying to figure out where others are spiritually? Does the message change depending on who we're talking to?

Thanks again for taking the time to comment. You gave me lots to think about. Much love to you and your fabulous wife. I pray you're adjusting well in your new community. Love you!