Monday, February 28, 2011

Salvation is Messy, Part Deux

I'm exhausted. I've been dragged from pillar to post while trying to help some new converts in our church. Life would have been lots easier if they had been customized into the Christian subculture already. Nope, these people are as green as they come - no church background whatever.
And baggage? Can you say "fly the friendly skies?"Every day is a new revelation, a continual soap opera of recurring problems from a seedy past. Earlier this month, I wrote "Salvation is messy," and the Lord added His exclamation point.
The intriguing and unknown factor is when "enough" is going to be enough. That is, when are these people going to be capable of standing on their own feet without the pastor (or another church member) coming to rescue them from yet another unforeseen predicament? The answer may only be known in hindsight. Like the experience of rearing our own children, we may not come to an exact point where we can say our job is done - ever.
But as a government official reminded me just a week ago, this experience, and the responsibility that comes with it, is all part of the job. When we ask the Lord for new people in church and souls being saved, He is under no obligation to provide them all shiny and new. New converts are new on the inside but the exterior can remain quite rough.
So what's the preacher to do in cases like this? Do a lot of praying, and then do the best you can. Remember the Lord is keeping watch, and your labor is not in vain.
It only looks that way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Salvation is Messy

Two people were saved today following our services. I say that with the understanding that only God really knows their hearts and I am making a statement by faith. Their professions seemed genuine enough and quite emphatic. We'll see. After thirty-five years in the ministry, I've been fooled more often than not. There's not a preacher under the sun that doesn't want every profession of faith in Christ to bear real and lasting fruit. I've come to the point that I almost hold my breath to see what will be the outcome of each profession.
But there is another element with these people in particular. They come will baggage. Tons of it. I find myself always having to undo some emergency, some unforeseen problem their past has dumped on us.
Why is it we always seem to find the really messy sinners? Why can't we convert all the nice "clean" sinners? Why do people always seem to come with baggage? The truth is, we all come with baggage. No one is really clean.
Salvation is messy. Sometimes it's more messy than usual because that's the kind of public we are dealing with these days. We who inhabit the pulpit have to be prepared and committed to getting our hands dirty with the kind of people who need salvation most - the profoundly lost.
Sure, it's a messy proposition. But then again, only the profoundly lost are likely to become the profoundly saved. And when you get right down to it, it is the really bad cases who are our greatest trophies of grace, the ones we really wouldn't regret if we could because they represent our greatest victories.
We really don't need "neat" conversions. We need God's people who are willing to get a little messy. Winning the lost is hard work. Changing lives and habits from a sordid past to a life of grace requires hefty amounts of time, patience and money. And the only way to do it is to jump in.
It's time to get our hands a little dirty.