When I was in school, everybody had to join something or be an outsider. If you were a part of 4-H, Glee Club, Latin Club, Varsity Letter, the band or even the Leave it to Beaver Fan Club, you were acceptable. This was not written in stone, but attendance was the measure of success. But let's be honest with ourselves. There were always a large group of students who, as hard as they tried, never seemed — at least if we recognize some pretty acceptable studies — that the facts indicate many people have yet to realize what salvation means. The research boils down to this basic statement, "While I have gone to church most of my life, while I recognize Jesus Christ, while I know a fair bit about my religion, I still feel very uncertain about my relationship with God."
The conclusion? "I'm saved, maybe!"
I read a church bulletin recently that had a sub section on page three entitled, "How to become a member of this church."
A candidate must be verified by the Diaconate that he/she has the following:
1. Baptism by immersion and a certificate stating this to be true.
2. Letter of transfer
3. Make a public profession of faith
4. One year of required study taught by selected members of this church.
It didn't add — but should have — if you don't meet these requirements, go see the Presbyterians or the Methodists. Did we miss out somewhere because the Bible states the only requirement for being acceptable to God is belief in Jesus Christ? I don't mean to be overly facetious, but what does it take to be in God's great Book of Life?
"I believe, but surely there must be more than that!"
Referring back to that church bulletin, their rules were pretty cut and dried, but does God follow the same rules? The reason I say this is because I still remember shaking hands after a morning worship, and a solid sermon on salvation by grace when a lady whispered in my ear, "Are you serious about 'only belief' and 'death-bed confessions'? I have worked hard to be a good Christian and people who haven't done squat are still acceptable to God?"
I said, "Yep."
She raised her voice, "Then I'll find a church that expects a lifetime of showing God how hard I've worked! I earned my home in heaven!"
Does God put us on trial for a while to see if we measure up to His expectations? Do we have to wear coats and ties, cotton dresses with white gloves? Does God sneer at the seedy, the unclean, the doubter and does He condemn forever the moviegoer, dancer, Sunday golfer, paperback reader and when we miss church does He deduct points?
I wish I had the space to write a book on the love of God that overcomes every doubt, every sin and every shortcoming. Let me close with a story I was told a very long time ago.
A man died and found himself outside the gates of heaven and talking with old St. Peter. St. Peter told the man that he needed a thousand points to enter. A thousand points!
"Let's see. I have been a faithful church member all my life, taught Sunday school and was a deacon and an elder."
"Very good!" said St. Peter, "That's worth one point."
"Well, I was a good father, husband, employee and always tried hard to be a good citizen who loved his country and live its values."
"Excellent! That's another point!"
The man sat down and he thought and thought. He finally looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "There is nothing more. I can't think of a thing. All I can do is trust in the grace of God."
"That's 1,000 points!" replied St. Peter. "With those two points of yours and the 1,000 points from God, you have more than enough! Come on in!"