I clearly remember this thought when I was a young preacher is my mid-twenties. I remember where I was, the circumstances, and the occasion that produced this thought. When this particular thought occurred, I had preached full time for over five years. As I walked down a sidewalk, an eighteen wheeled truck passed me. The truck came from behind me, and it was close to the curb. No, the truck did not almost hit me, but it startled me. I clearly remember silently thinking, "What if an eighteen wheeler killed me instantly as I was thinking an evil thought, and I died so quickly I could not even say, 'I'm sorry!' to God."
At that time my understanding of God's accomplishments in Jesus Christ's death were not the result of intense study of biblical concepts. At that time my concept of God focused more on His intent to condemn me than on His intent to save me. At that time I thought my salvation depended on me, not on God and Christ. My concept involved more the concept of earning than serving, more the concept of faith in human efforts than faith in God's accomplishments in Jesus' death. For several reasons, I felt certain my salvation depended on my behavior being perfect and my thoughts being ideal.
The immediate sensation that flooded my thoughts and emotions was the overwhelming unfairness of the situation. "I am trying! Genuinely, sincerely trying! My behavior is far from perfect, and my thoughts are far from ideal, but I am trying! How horrible to be eternally lost because of a moment's wayward thought! How urgent it is to die at just the right moment when everything is ideal in your life!"
No, this incident did not produce an incredible moment of personal transition. After that thought my understanding of God's accomplishments in Jesus' death was no better than before that thought. I share the experience and thought for one reason. It illustrates an all too common concept of God's salvation that I call the "grasshopper attitude."
In the grasshopper attitude, a Christian hops in and out of a saved relationship with God every day each day of his or her life. Salvation is not a matter of relationship. It is a matter of performance. In this concept, when a Christian does something ungodly or thinks something ungodly, he or she "hops out" of a saved relationship with God. When he or she realizes what he or she did and tells God, "I am sorry!" he or she "hops in" a saved relationship with God. Thus each day every Christian is "in" and "out" of a saved relationship with God several times.
There are many unbiblical concepts reflected in the grasshopper attitude. Those concepts include an inadequate understanding of the meaning of "being saved"; a misguided understanding of temptation; a poorly defined concept of sin; a flawed concept of repentance; an inaccurate understanding of redemption and justification; a rejection of the concept of continuing forgiveness; the false conviction that human sinlessness based on human behavior and thinking is possible; and the false belief that it is humanly possible to know every form of evil. The foundation of the grasshopper attitude is that salvation is primarily the result of human endeavor, not primarily the result of God's benefits extended through Jesus Christ. Salvation is viewed as a human accomplishment, not God's gift. The contrast between earning and serving is blurred.
Consider today's text (Romans 8:31-39). Romans 8:1 is a summary statement to the personal conflict discussed in chapter 7: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Following was an emphasis on the lifestyle of the person in whom the Spirit lives. Devotion to a lifestyle led by the Spirit rather than a lifestyle controlled by the flesh resulted in suffering. When a life in rebellion to God became a life that accepted God's sovereignty, that life defied a rebellious creation by surrendering to God.
Two basic forms of suffering exist. First is the suffering produced by living in the "now" age or "present time." That suffering is the result of the "now" age's defiance of God and devotion to evil. Second is the suffering produced by allegiance to the age "to come." It is produced because surrender to God by accepting His sovereignty rejects the rebellious "now" age. A lifestyle that rejects rebellion and evil in the age of rebellion and evil results in suffering. Question: if surrender to God results in suffering now, why surrender to God?
Paul gave them these reasons for surrendering to God even though it resulted in suffering. (1) Surrendering to God is worth the price of suffering in the "now" age! The sufferings in the "now" age cannot compare to the glory one will receive in the age "to come" (Romans 8:18). (2) Age "to come" suffering in this physical life produces good in the age "to come" for those who love God (8:28). (3) In spite of suffering now for age "to come" reasons, God is for us. No "now" age force is superior to God (8:31). (4) The God who gave the ultimate sacrifice [the death of His son] for us proved He will do whatever is necessary to assure our spiritual victory (8:32). (5) Those who belong to God cannot be successfully accused by Satan. Such is impossible because God justified the Christian. The resurrected Jesus Christ is the Christian's intercessor (8:33-34). (6) No external force which produces "now" age suffering has the power to rip a Christian from God's love expressed in Jesus Christ (8:35-39).
The Christian who chooses to live in God's love cannot be ripped from God's love. What God did and does in Jesus Christ makes that impossible. It is not possible for a Christian who loves God to be taken from God by any force that opposes God. Only if love for God dies in a Christian can he or she be removed from the protection of God's love.
In context, God could keep securely in His love any Jew converted to Christ and any former idol worshipper converted to Christ. Some Jewish Christians in Rome had and expressed doubts about God's ability to save the former idol worshippers. They were not confident that God's love and "those people's" faith in Jesus Christ was adequate to save them. Some converted former idol worshippers in Rome were convinced God had rejected Jews. They had grave questions about the saved status of Jewish Christians. Paul said they both were mistaken. Even though both groups of converts were significantly different, what God did in Jesus Christ was more than adequate to save all of them.
What God did in Jesus Christ is more than adequate to save us and anyone else who enters God's love by entering Jesus Christ. At issue is not God's power. At issue is the convert's faith in God's power.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 11
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