If I had 10 pesos for every time I heard this, I'd never lack for money to buy my favorite cappuccino. I say that in a joking manner, but in reality, it’s no laughing matter.
The following is just of one of many similar conversations I have had:
Amanda (accusingly): “Sandra’s a Christian?” (knowing that Sandra made a profession of faith a year ago)
Sandra (embarrassed): “No.”
Me: “You’re not a Christian? Why?”
Sandra: “I’m not a Christian anymore because they listen to worldly music in my house.”
Me (confused look on my face): “And….?”
Sandra: “And I like it. I can’t help myself. I dance to it.”
Me: “So you’re not a Christian anymore because you dance to bad music?”
Sandra (sheepishly): “Yes”
In each conversation, the reason why one is no longer a Christian varies, ranging from things like listening to worldly music to saying bad words to wearing immodest clothing. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I am not saying those things are ok for a Christian to do, nor am I in any way trying to condone sin by what I write in this post. I firmly believe that a believer in Jesus will be drastically different from the world in the way they talk, the clothes they wear, the places they go, and the music they listen to (it may not happen all at once, but true faith will change those things). However, what concerns me is the fact that my kids/teens in the batey think they are losing their salvation over these things.
I realize that, as believers, we may have different viewpoints on the eternal security of salvation. However, for me this issue goes much deeper than this one teaching. For me, it reflects a lack of understanding of salvation - of the Gospel.
Allow me to explain.
The Gospel tells us that we are sinners, separated from God.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 KJV)
Kids instinctively know this. I have yet to meet a kid who told me they weren’t a sinner (if they understood my question and answered seriously). Every one of these kids/teens who has made a profession of faith has had no problem admitting they are a sinner and that that sin deserves the punishment of hell. They know! (unlike us adults who compare ourselves and think we aren’t so bad or we don’t deserve a punishment quite so severe)
The Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Son of God sent to take the punishment for our sins, give us righteousness that we couldn’t manufacture, and bring us to God.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)
…for us also…[righteousness] shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25 KJV)
If the child has been in church for any amount of time, believing on Jesus and what He did is no stretch for them. Obviously, they don’t understand all the ins and outs, but they do trust Him and believe that He died for their sins and rose again.
The Gospel tells us that the way to receive God’s gift to us is by faith –believing what Jesus has done for us and putting our trust in Him. God’s gift of grace to us is that it’s all by faith in Jesus, not by what I do for Him.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
“For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any many should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The faith of a child is so simple: from just about the first time I share what Jesus did for them, they believe it. They almost instinctively know that they can’t get closer to God on their own. I have yet to have a child tell me what many adults say – that they want to become a Christian but they need to "get their life in order first" or "draw closer to God first." Kids just know they can’t.
All that remains, then, is for them to choose to receive this grace-gift by faith when the Holy Spirit convicts their heart and shows them their need of Him.
“But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)
So when one of these who has made a profession of faith in Jesus tells me months or weeks later that they lost their salvation because of what they have DONE, it makes me wonder if they are truly understanding that salvation is by faith and not by works. If I can lose my salvation by works, then that must mean that I have gained it by my works. If I gained salvation through faith (not based on what I do/don’t do) then how could I lose it by what I do/don’t do?
What I am trying to say is that there is some kind of disconnect. Some understanding of the Gospel that is lacking. Either these kids are tender to the Lord but have not truly placed their faith in Christ alone because they haven't understood the Gospel that salvation comes by faith alone, or they have placed their faith in Him for salvation but are now trying to keep it on the basis of their works.
To some degree, all believers have this disconnect (maybe not in our stated theology but in our actions). There is a part of us that thinks that we must work to earn God’s favor. It just makes sense to our human nature: you get what you earn. I receive salvation by faith, but I am constantly trying to make sure I keep God’s love and favor by what I do/don’t do. That's one reason why we must constantly “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord” and learn to “live by faith.”
So, the question remains, what are these kids trusting in? Do they truly understand that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works? Or are they trying to both trust in Jesus and earn His favor by their good works? What I have been learning is that, as much as I would love to be able to see into their hearts and know exactly what they are thinking, what they are trusting in, it’s not my job to determine whether they are true believers or not. My job is simply to point them in the right direction and leave the work of faith to the Holy Spirit. To point them to God the Father who is so kind, merciful, and loving that He devised this amazing plan called the Gospel. To show them that this God who went to such lengths to rescue them, isn’t sitting around looking for a reason to take away their salvation. And, above all, to point them to Jesus – to the incredible Man and Savior that He is – and to faithfully teach all the incredible benefits we receive because of His death and resurrection.
The only solution is Jesus! Seeing Jesus, savoring Him, understanding what He did for me (that I couldn’t do for myself nor even knew that I needed done). Letting His grace break down this religious idea of a salvation that “converts me to a Christian so that I can be really good” and replacing it with a Biblical salvation that causes me to cling to Jesus and His goodness, to rest in and follow Him. The former is based on my performance and dependent on me, the latter on the work of Jesus. If I only accomplish one thing in the time that God has me here, may it be this: “to preach Christ and Him crucified” – to point to Him in every Bible story, every conversation, every song, every action. The only solution to all this confusion and self-reliance is to see and rest in Jesus.
I'm sure that many of you have had similar experiences. It is not a “cultural” thing, it is something common to all of our depraved human hearts that seek a formula to get to God rather than clinging to Jesus.
In the next blogpost, I plan to write about some specific aspects of batey culture that compound the situation for these kids. Thanks for reading!