Years ago, an elderly gentleman shared with me his fear he would not be accepted in heaven because of a recurring battle with one sin he had fought his entire life. This sin, he noted, kept him from volunteering to serve in positions in the church because he felt he wasn't worthy; and it also kept him from sharing his faith for fear of being labeled a hypocrite. Nearing death, his conversation with me was about whether or not God would accept him in heaven.
His sin? He couldn't stop swearing. This incident isn't a one-time experience.
Often as people near death, the quality of God's mercy becomes an urgent question in their minds. (See John the Baptist ask...)
Some wonder about God's forgiveness because they were unable to fully forgive someone; others wondered if God might punish them for the sins in their lives no one knew about.
Parents fear for their children who have drifted from their faith.
New Christians, fresh from their encounter with God's complete forgiveness, run into legalistic believers and begin to doubt their understanding of God's mercy and grace.
People who once held on to faith and church and even Scripture, but left it behind over a hurt or loss.
Why? Why so many hurting people among the believers? Why are so many of us the cause of such hurt in others?
It's because we've forgotten this fundamental reality: Salvation is a one-time event whereby we accept the grace and mercy of God made possible by the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus Christ. Living life as a follower of Jesus, however, is a journey that only begins at salvation, and it's a journey that is unique to each believer.
This means when we're saved we're made whole again in God's eyes, but in our eyes there is still much assembly required. So while God accepts us where we are in our journey---including waiting for us during rebellious periods as the father waited the return of the Prodigal Son in Scripture---we often find it hard to accept ourselves---or others---because we see the pieces aren't all fitting together smoothly yet.
What God wants from us is our answer about His Son and our decision on salvation. After that, He wants to begin to walk us down a path that prepares us for what we have left to face "down here", and what we are promised when He greets us in eternity.
Are you a disassembled believer; or a believer whose faith has been shaken by your own doubts and guilt or that of others imposed on you? Remember this: Once you make your way to the love of Christ, nothing can separate you from that love. Not you; not others; and not even the rebellion and anger you may be feeling right now. Hear the apostle Paul, who before his conversion persecuted Christians and who speaks himself of a thorn in the flesh of his own faith, when he wrote these words:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. --Romans 8:37-39
Let the miracle of grace and the marvel of God's patience be the focus of our journey, and the gift we give each other.