Do I HAVE To? (No!)

to do listI was talking with someone about universal salvation.  As I’ve said and written before, the idea that everyone gets saved at The End appeals to me, but I don’t think that’s what the Bible as a whole teaches.  If I’m wrong and we get to Eternity and everyone is there, I’m not going be disappointed . . . I’m going to rejoice!

The reaction of the person I was talking to was much more negative.  “I don’t think it would be fair.  After all, we (Christians) have to do all this stuff.  It wouldn’t be fair if atheists and Muslims and everybody else just walked right into heaven.”

Where did we ever get this sense that being a Christian is a burden?  That following God is more about what you give up than what you get to do?

For too many folks, Christianity is just the Eternity Insurance Association, Incorporated.  Pay your premiums now – not just monetarily by throwing something in the offering plate, but by giving up all the “fun” stuff God doesn’t like – and when you die you can “collect” your payoff: heaven!

Christianity is then  just a bunch of rules you have to follow so  you can get into heaven.

But if we really believe we are saved by grace, then following Jesus is not about what you have to do, it’s about what you get to do.  Because salvation is a gift, because it was finished on the Cross, then there is nothing we have to do!  But there is much that we get to do in response.  We get to live our lives in ways that love and honor God and our neighbors.

Embracing this attitude can enhance not just our personal faith lives but also our evangelism.

When I was a young unChristian, I wasn’t worried about eternal life.   I was concerned about my life RIGHT NOW.  Someone spouting off to me about hell and damnation and the State of My Eternal Soul was about as relevant to me in my 20’s as phone calls from the Happy Acres Memorial Garden about the special they had on burial plots.

To be more effective in our witness, especially to young people, we have to better articulate the “get to do” reality of our faith.  Following Jesus is not about following rules “or else.”  It’s about things like getting to love and serve others in Jesus’ name, to be forgiven and to forgive, to participate in a fellowship of believers.

Here’s an example:  Have you ever been invited to do something on Sunday morning and responded, “I can’t.  I have to go to church.”  Or, if you’re a parent, have you dragged your kids out of bed on Sunday saying, “We have to go to church?”

The reality is that we don’t have to go to church.  The salvation Jesus secured on the cross is not impacted one iota by whether we sit in a pew on Sunday morning.

But . . . as Christians we get to gather together as God’s people.  We get to worship the God who made us and who is always making us new.  We get to hear the salvation story again and be reminded of its relevance and power in our lives.  We get to encourage each other and to be encouraged.  We get to meet Jesus in the Word and in the bread and wine of communion.

Sometimes, even as a pastor, I struggle with keeping a get to do attitude.  The key is remembering that Jesus has already done everything that had to be done.  Everything else in my walk of faith is stuff I get to do.

What are some things you get to do because you are a follower of Christ? (If you are indeed a follower of Christ.)

And if you’re an unChristian like I used to be, how have you gotten that impression from Christians that faith is all about stuff you have to do?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

About pastordavesimpson

I'm an unexpected pastor. Why unexpected? Because no one is more surprised than me that I'm a pastor. See the "About" page on my blog for more info.
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13 Responses to Do I HAVE To? (No!)

  1. Karen says:

    I get to be married to a fun & loving husband. I get a new loving family of Christ! And our daughter gets to live in an eternity with no illness!

  2. Pam Winnie says:

    Love this! I think everyone needs a re-focus now and again! Thanks!!

  3. Nicholas Condon says:

    Growing up an agnostic/atheist, all I heard from religious people was rules. The had go to church, they had to go to bible study, they couldn’t eat meat on Friday, they couldn’t drink caffeine, etc. I also heard, over and over again, that the requirements of religion and the threat of eternal punishment were the only things that made people behave decently. (Even as a small child, this one struck me as odd.) Further on, I heard about Pascal’s Wager, which is the ultimate example of religion as the “Eternity Insurance Association.” I was probably in my twenties before I heard a defense of religion more coherent than “It’s comforting.”

    I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about religion in the last decade, and while I have no intention of changing my unChristian beliefs, I really like hearing about and understanding what positive and meaningful things people get from their faith. Too many nonbelievers spend all their time and energy attacking the metaphysics of religion or the evils perpetrated by deeply misguided adherents. Neither of those things promotes understanding and respectful coexistence.

    So, thank you again, Pastor Dave, for giving this unChristian something to think about.

    • Thank you Nicholas for your thoughtful comments. A primary hope I have for this blog is that it can indeed promote dialogue between people of different beliefs. Writing it, and reading many of the comments, helps me to think more deeply about faith and life.

  4. Caryl says:

    What do I GET to do?….where do I begin? I get to spend quality quiet time every day with God and to know him better with every moment I spend. I get to spend much of my time with fellow members of His family in worship, in ministries and in social events. I come to realize that these fellow Christians who also love the Lord are loving and compassionate and kind to me and to others with whom they work and play and communicate. I get to share with them special time studying and searching His word, discovering His promises and sharing understanding with each other as we grow in love and service.

    I get to recognize His continual presence in my life every waking moment of my day – in the strength He gives to face problems and struggles, in the forgiveness He offers when I so often fail in my attempts to love others as He loves, in the victories he provides when I tackle my battles wearing His spiritual armor; in the joy that floods my soul at the sight of a rainbow in the stormy sky or a whole flock of chickadees settling in the tree by my deck for my morning meditations. He opens my eyes to notice the myriad of little delights that He pours into my life every day, and then I feel His delight that I noticed!

    Yes, like all of His other children, I frequently fall and even wallow in the mud. I am too often selfish, lazy, judgmental, etc. Too often, I fail to take advantage of the opportunities He gives me to serve. But He never fails to forgive me, to pick me up, wash me off and set my feet back on the track. I GET to TRY AGAIN! And no matter how often I fail, no matter how little I seem to resemble my Creator – I get to know that I am still His child, that He still loves me, and I WANT to be more like Him!

  5. I get to worship freely and hear one of your great sermons every Sunday!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Pastor Dave, thank-you for bringing the pertinent issues that the church faces to light in a discussion such as this. This whole topic of who is… and who is not saved or given the gift of Faith is to me…like trying to understand and comprehend the Trinity…Paul said the following:

    “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

    “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25)”

    In the end, it appears from the words above that God himself makes this decision of granting repentance…I just can’t get my head around this topic of free will… is his granting of repentance allowing us to understand the Truth and believe? All I know.. is that once I was blind… but now I see…

    God Bless.

    • Thanks for the comment – read “On the Bondage of the Will” by Martin Luther. That will clear things right up. Or not.

      Seriously, even pastors struggle with the whole free will thing. For somebody who thinks he’s so smart and who wants to have all the answers – like me – it’s difficult to accept that there are some things we just aren’t going to figure out in this life. Trusting in God means accepting paradox; there are things we can’t get our heads around because we are limited by the finitude (if that’s a word) of our perception.

      If we could understand everything, we wouldn’t need faith, would we?

  7. Joyce says:

    God has given you the wonderful gift of being able to reach people. Agree or disagree you always get your point across. I know that I am so glad God is in my life. I always feel Him near me. How sad for the unbeliever. They are missing out on so much!

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