In a recent sermon the preacher talked about the prevalence of conflict in the life of the Christian. He identified three sources of such conflict: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
I want to focus my attention on what he said about the conflict with the flesh, which generally is understood to mean our flawed human nature, our propensity to sin and violate God’s law. As part of the conflict with the flesh this preacher said that many in the church deal with doubts about their salvation, about whether they are in good standing with God. This is of paramount significance since it points to what I consider to be the most important reason why salvation by personal doing cannot be God’s way. When salvation depends on me and what I did, then countless issues are unavoidably raised, any one of which can cause me to wonder if I am really saved or not. Was my faith real? Was it based on head knowledge or heart knowledge as many preachers want to differentiate? Was my confession true or was it contrived or insincere. Did I entertain some kind of subconscious reservations about relinquishing all my hidden sins? Was my sinner’s prayer properly worded? Was it fervent and honest enough? Was my baptism proper and acceptable? Is sprinkling adequate? Was my body totally submerged or did a part stick up from the water? Did I come to a decision about Jesus honestly or was I simply mimicking others or doing what I thought my family and friends wanted and expected?
When it all depends on a process, a formula, a procedure, a methodology, a doctrine, the whole business of salvation can get pretty dicey. The paranoia in the church to which the preacher alluded is the inevitable result of this concept of salvation. I know it too well, because I have experienced it personally.