Trying out new churches and hearing other people's perspectives on what they do or do not like about a particular church's sermon, music, doctrine, or overall style makes me truly appreciate how personal it is finding a church that "fits" and how challenging the church shopping process can be.
Today, the pastor started a sermon called "The Undead," which addresses big issues such as death, Heaven, and Hell, but more specifically: what happens to us after we die (depending on whether you're a believe or non-believer) and how we're to conduct ourselves during our lifetime. One thing that really spoke to me, even though I've heard it preached about many times in my life, was the discussion of salvation at the moment you accept Christ as your savior. In the past, I think I've had a hard time remedying the relationship between salvation given by Christ and how our deeds/acts/conduct as Christians affect salvation. Because if I'm saved what difference does it make if I sin or not? I'm saved, but I'm always going to sin due to my human (fallen) nature, and thus fall short of performance that would warrant my salvation.
The pastor cited the well-known verse, among many other passages throughout the sermon, John 3:16-18. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life....Whoever believes in Him is not condemned (judged)..." The pastor explained that judgment that was to be passed on us is whipped away at the moment that we accepted Christ as our savior. Only through my belief of Christ's sacrifice and belief in His existence, can I be saved and my condemnation spared. Once that moment of accepting my salvation through my belief in Christ has taken place, my salvation can never be stripped from me or whipped away from any reason. And actions alone can NEVER secure my redemption/salvation. However, the part that I hadn't remedied in mind is the idea of our acts as Christians. Basically, what I learned today is that we have salvation unconditionally at the moment we've asked for it, but what I believe about eternity should and will inevitably determine the way I live my life, even though the way I live my life will not change my salvation if I have received it.
When I ascend after death, my actions will be looked at, but only for the bestowing of a crown (apparently there's 5 different crowns...and I missed the sermon a couple months back teaching about them), rewarding my acts as a "good and faithful servant." I should desire to live in such a way that is pleasing to my Lord. The pastor spoke about this in the context of non-believers being judged before the Great White Throne (Revelations 20: 11-15) and believers coming before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Non-believers ("the dead") are judged in order to determine their fate in Hell (sorry no other way to put that gently) and believers appear before the judgment seat to receive what is due to him/her for the things they have done on Earth. So believers received a sort of reward or recognition for the good they have done in their life.
Bottome line: The good and bad we have done in our lives by no means affects the salvation we have been given through our belief in Christ Jesus, but our actions as believers should be affected and compelled by the fact that we're saved, know Jesus, and know about eternity. And I would add, that the love we receive in our hearts from Jesus should ultimately inspire our words and actions.
Hopefully, this makes the slightest bit of sense. My understanding of some of this stuff is new, but I just felt like sharing. So there you go.
If you're interested in listening to the sermon from today or any others given at this church the mp3 and video are on the homepage: http://www.rivchurch.com/