I live in a small, rural county in the so-called “Bible belt.” It’s the kind of place where there is a church on every corner, down every side road, and up every holler. Consequently, it can be hard to find someone who has no qualms about admitting to not knowing Christ as Savior. What I mean is, it seems like just about everyone I meet was baptized as a kid, has their name on a church roll, claims to attend somewhere, knows pastor so-and-so as a friend, etc. You get the idea. We’ve got religion, church, the Bible, and prayer running out our noses.
But what bothers me about our little county (approximately 15,000 in number) is how easily we blur the line between authentic Christian conduct and rank worldliness. Some of the same people who go to church every Sunday morning don’t mind doing a good deal of drinking and carousing on Saturday night. Some of the ones who rant and rave about the sexual sin of homosexuality evidently don’t understand that adultery falls in that same category. Some of the ones who are quick to request prayer for themselves or their families are also far too well versed in backbiting, gossiping, and rumor spreading.
My point is that a lot of people love to hear about Christ, the Bible, forgiveness, grace, and salvation, but the numbers dwindle significantly when the topics become repentance, godly conduct, separation from the world, and personal holiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting a works-based plan of salvation here. I myself sin every day and have to spend more time than I should asking the Lord for forgiveness of those sins. But with me sin is the exception, not the rule. It occurs outside the norm. It’s the uncommon, not the common. That’s what salvation has done to me (or better yet for me).
Perhaps an illustration will help me say what I’m trying to say. Little Billy was dressed for church in his Sunday best, but his mother wasn’t quite ready to go. So he went out in the back yard and started playing in the dirt. In just a few minutes his clothes were absolutely filthy. When his mother saw him she was furious. Passionately, Billy said, “Mom, I’m real sorry. Please forgive me.” She replied, “Okay, you’re forgiven but go change.” But Billy didn’t want to go back in the house and go to the trouble of dressing again. So he said, “No, I’ll just go as I am.” You see, he wanted forgiveness but not change. And, unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of Billys running around out there these days.