“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
NONE OF THE INHABITANTS OF HEAVEN WILL DESERVE TO BE THERE. Having sinned, we deserve to be punished, and if mere justice were allowed to run its course, we would all be lost. But the wonder of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ we may hope to receive what we do not deserve to receive: forgiveness. By His grace God has made it possible for us to be restored to His fellowship — and to enjoy eternity with Him in a perfect relationship.
But sometimes we leave the wrong impression. When we are emphasizing our undeservedness and the graciousness of God’s forgiveness, we lead people to believe that salvation has nothing to do with our conduct. But, in fact, it has very much to do with our conduct, and I want to mention one way in which that is true.
When we obey the initial terms of the gospel and come into a forgiven relationship with God, God begins at that point to renovate our character and make our hearts those which will be in perfect tune with His heart in eternity. We are required to participate in this process of character rehabilitation. It calls for choice and decision on our part, not to mention diligence and sacrifice.
If we don’t enter into this process of spiritual growth (or if having entered into it in the past, we’ve quit growing in the present), we begin to decline. On nearly every page of the New Testament, we see warnings about this (Acts 20:31; 2 Peter 3:14,17; etc.). There is no question that those to whom these warnings were written were actually Christians. They were “in Christ” and saved by His grace. But in many cases, they were in danger of forfeiting their salvation by complacency, neglect, and apostasy.
To the church in Ephesus, for example, the Lord communicated this warning: “You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4,5). The fact is, we are never in greater danger than when we — presuming upon God’s grace — think we don’t need to be warned.
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (C. S. Lewis).