Okay, I will admit the title was to get your attention…a bait and switch if you will. I will also admit, for the bulk of my life I have lived in a theological echo chamber. I would venture to say this is common for most of us, in that we trend toward surrounding ourselves with people of similar theology and likemindedness. I don’t necessarily believe this is a horrible practice, however within most idea vacuums there are a few blind spots, or at the least blurred spots. With that said, I may make a few stereotypical statements that are more or less a caricature (exaggerated interpretation of a reality) of the theological ideas of my Baptist brothers and sisters. I do so only to point out that our response to those caricatures through the years may have created some of the aforementioned blurred spots.
I grew up with the understanding that there are two fundamental differences between “Baptist Theology” and “Pentecostal Theology”. First, “we” talk in tongues and “they” don’t believe in that. Second, the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer…aka “Once saved, always saved.” It is this second difference I want to spend a few lines discussing.
I want to go on record that I remain firmly camped in the school of thought that a believer can indeed forfeit his/her redemption. However, my observations through the years along with the theological journey the Lord has had me on for quite some time now, leads me to the conclusion that at times our response to “Once saved, always saved” has caused us to perpetuate a paper thin Gospel. I fear as pentecostals we at times paint ourselves into a corner that diminishes the potency of the cross and the empty grave. We passionately celebrate the power of the cross to redeem the desperate sinner, all the while diminishing the glory of the empty grave’s capability of keeping us in our weakness. In our efforts to modify the behavior of believers and admonish the saints to a life of holiness, we at times usurp the power of the gospel and put it in our own hands. For a good percentage of my life, sure the Gospel was good news, but it was also stressful news. So much of the onus was on me and my ability to “live right” that my gaze all too often left the splendor of Jesus and fixated itself on all of my deficiencies.
Don’t misread this as a softening on holy, upright living. Instead interpret it this way…The Father is not as fickle as we may have first believed…Jesus’ efforts were strong and mighty…Holy Spirit operates in the fruit of patience with us as we are processed deeper into our faith…
I have spent many years in my faith with the strain in my soul that my eternal hope was insecure, subject predominantly to my performance. The irony is that all the focus given to hold tightly to my salvation often made it difficult for me to receive grace…the pressure becomes a breeding ground for the expanding of our weaknesses…the subtle uncertainty of God’s love and the angst of disappointing the Lord feeds the flesh. The tighter I squeezed the more my flesh gloried not just in action sin but in pride, fear, ambition and worry. I type today living with a deeper degree of consecration, a more rich holiness and an increased measure of the fruit of Holy Spirit all because I have learned to rely on the power of the cross and resurrection as opposed to my own strength.
This weekend we will celebrate the oxymoronic beauty of the cross, and the splendid victory of the rolled away stone. Let us not strip it of its glory in our fear that people will feel a license to do wrong. Fear and control are illegitimate catalysts. The wild, unceasing as a river love of Jesus expressed on calvary, is the ultimate deterrent to sin and the most legitimate motivator to purity and rich faith.
So, am I becoming Baptist? No…that Acts 2 thing has so captivated my soul I will just have to agree to disagree. However, I would hate to think I spent my life lessening the power of what we celebrate on Easter weekend…I would hate to think I lived with unnecessary unrest in my soul…I would hate to think I caused strain in those who listen to me preach and teach because I deemphasized the patience and kindness of God out of fear that others would assume a license to sin. Sin is sin and I will always call it such. However, pointing out sin does not break its bondage…that was accomplished 2000 years ago, and that’s where I will point.
**Note: This topic is so broad and deep I have no misgivings that I filled in every blank and covered every angle. I am aware balancing statements probably need to be made and counter thoughts are aplenty. However, I write to provoke thought and dialogue with Holy Spirit…not give all the answers.