Summary: We should never elevate any salvation event or ritual to the point where people feel they have been issued a ticket to heaven because of this event or ritual.
THE SALVATION TAPESTRY
Last Sunday, Christians all over America celebrated Easter or as some prefer to call it: Resurrection Sunday. I had the opportunity to enjoy a Baptist Sunrise service, complete with a good breakfast; and then, I fellowshipped at a Pentecostal church. At one place I made a joyful noise by singing classical hymns and in the other place I really made a lot of joyful noise. At one place, I listened to an excellent classical Easter sermon about the sacrifice of Jesus and in the other place I got to hear a loud and powerful message about the blood of Jesus. All in all, it was one of the best Easter Sundays I have experienced in a long time. Kind of makes me wonder why both churches think the other is lost and going to hell … they love and honor the same risen savior.
DOCTRINE AND TRADITIONS
Now … to be truthful, I neither fully embrace the doctrine and traditions of the Baptist church nor the Pentecostal church. But that is irrelevant; there is nothing in scripture that demands I be in full agreement with the doctrine and traditions of another church before I can fellowship with them. I will admit that sometimes I have to bite my tongue to keep from offering what I think is correction. Heck, sometimes I almost have to chew on my tongue until it bleeds. Please understand that I am not advocating we ignore errant doctrine and traditions; but I do believe there is the proper time and place to express our opinions. After all, if we are honest, I think we can all admit to entertaining questionable opinions at one time or the other. I am not talking about heresy; I am talking about ideas and beliefs that are closer to being pharisaical burdens than they are to being solid gospel doctrine. For example, I personally do not find any scripture that makes it blasphemy to have a piano in church; or to use a computer projector; or to have a band; or to take communion once a month; or to baptize in the name of Jesus; or to have fellowship meals in the church; or to have pictures of Jesus on the wall. Yet, there are those who would not be caught dead in a church that had a piano in it or what have you. Just because issues, such as these, may deeply stir an individual it is never justification for our avoiding or shunning those who think differently. There is no place in scripture that says we have to agree with every point of doctrine or tradition to enjoy being around people who claim Jesus as their savior and bow to His sovereign deity.
THE SALVATION TICKET
As much as I love being around folks, who have taken Jesus as their Savior and Lord, there is one bit of doctrine I do find very disturbing. This is doctrine that underpins the increasing tendency for preachers to offer the people a salvation ticket: some form of salvation assurance. It really bothers me to hear a preacher say: “you were saved the very day you ‘_____’. Now, you can fill in the blank with: believed, were baptize, joined the church, spoke in tongues, said the sinner’s pray, or the fact you performed some other so-called “salvation thing.” Yes, I am vexed by this doctrine because, in spite of our best intentions, there is a very strong probability that people will jump to the assumption that we have just awarded them a salvation ticket for their performance of some salvation ritual. Once they have got this ‘I am saved’ ticket in their hot little hands they think they are done. In their minds they know they believe in Jesus and thus they also believe: “I have completed the ritual and now I am headed for heaven: regardless of how I live the rest of my life.” By doing this one little thing, by performing some salvation ritual, people think they are saved and they can now throw the bible away, or at least never bother to study it again.
As a minister of the message of reconciliation, we should be sensitive to the nature of people; we should be alert to the fact people want instant gratification: a ticket to heaven. I ask you: is a minister not frequently asked questions like: what do I have to do to get saved; when was I saved; how do I know I was saved; and can I lose my salvation? People worry about these things, and they want a rock solid easy to accomplish answer. Thus, people want to gather about them preachers who will tell them that the performance of some ritual will save them. What the people really want to hear is that some ritual has not only instantly saved them; they also want to hear that they will stay saved for ever. Please understand, I am not disputing the remarkable spiritual power of any salvation factor nor am I disputing the fact that we have eternal security in the word of God. I am, however, proclaiming that these are tremendously dangerous doctrines when preached only in part. The faithful servant of Christ will be sensitive to the probability that most people will only hear: “this thing will save your right now and you will be saved forever … no matter what you do tomorrow.