Monday, May 28, 2007

"I'm Damned"

In his sermon two weeks ago, my pastor described a hypothetical situation where God asked him why He should let him into Heaven. My pastor said his response would be Jesus, that he believed God had showed us through His Word that belief in Jesus Christ, and that alone, made us righteous. Nothing real new here except for the increased emotion with which my pastor spoke.

And then he said something that shook me, yeah it shook me, all night long.

"If Jesus isn't who he said he is, if Jesus isn't the correct response, I'm damned."


I must admit, beloved readers, this stunned me. Not often do I hear anyone utter those two words, much less the man who instructs me in the Word every Sunday.

Once paralysis passed, I began to recoil and revolt from his statement. Certainly not! It must not be! There could be other ways. I mean, he's not a bad guy. I'm not a bad guy. Certainly there are other. . . .

And yet, the Bible does not allow this. One must work over the biblical text real good to make a case that anything besides Christ offers us a chance at Heaven. My thoughts wreaked of a works-based salvation at worst and a meet-God-halfway salvation at best. Both positions remain biblically untenable, though many throughout history have tried to hold them.

My pastor's statment merely stated what I, and what historic Christianity, believe but in a "what if we're wrong" fashion. I do not often think in this mode which perhaps explains my stunned response. I do not think this a bad thing because if we always lived as it we were wrong, we would never actually live as if we believed. Accordingly, one could wonder if we did, in fact, actually believe.

What's more though, I found myself trying to discover how I could enter Heaven if Jesus turns out to be a liar. Have I done enough good? Should I go give away more money? Maybe I could join the religious pluralism crowd so that whichever God is real, I've got my ass covered.

I often cling to these thoughts subconsciously, not really wanting to place all my marbles in the basket of Christ. Deep inside, and sometimes in more shallow waters, lurks a hideous unbelief.

In the midst of all this stands Peter exhorting us to "fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Next to him, the great hymn proclaims that "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." Even our modern-day Christianese, which I despiseth so, speaks of "selling out to God" and "totally surrendering to him."

In our abuse of language, we no longer love words and tend to ignore what they actually mean. In this case, words such as "completely," "nothing," and "totally" lose their literalism and their power. We make them to mean "a lot, but not everything, you know, just in case. . . but still a lot!." We are, after all, taught in early grade school that if you ever see extreme words such as "every" or "all" on a true/false question, the answer is always false.

If we are to believe as Jesus demands that we do, we must totally, completely, desperately believe in him. His words and his actions do not allow for partial belief. We can take all of Jesus or we can take none.

This scares me because it is a risk and a radical one at that. I want to hold on to everything that may justify me, so that I have no risk. I want all my bases covered. I want my eternity secure no matter what. In doing so though, I would reject Christ and the extreme language he uses.

At some point in life, the Lord revealed himself to me, and I decided to follow him. To do so requires a total commitment, that I fix my hope COMPLETELY on the grace of God the Father manifested through the work of Jesus Christ. If I claim this, I must claim it all. I have no other hope than this, and I mean that "no" as literally as Webster's defines it. Not in myself. Not in my works. Not in my pastor or church.

"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand."

If not, I'm damned. This is what I claim when I say I'm a Christian.

Oh, what a joyous song to sing!


Bradley said...

Mwahahaha...amen, amen. The stunning thing to me as I reflect on my own life and my frequent irritation with others in this area is that we are williing to trade what we proclaim to be the CERTAINTY of salvation in Christ for a glimmer of hope that we can save ourselves in pluralism. It's ridiculous, but we do it...if nothing else, it reaffirms for me the incredible vanity and presumption of man, that he should prefer to try desparately (or, to be honest, somewhat less-than-desparately) to save himself rather than simply bowing the knee to Christ. It would appear that the writer of Ecclesiastes had something right...

Anonymous said...

dat's good stuff ben

but i think the title should be "why, I'll be damned..."

Tasha said...

AMEN brother!