Friday, February 17, 2012

Saved By Grace

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 3:21-23, NIV

Ever since entertainer Whitney Houston passed away, almost one week ago, rumor-filled stories of the way she died and gossipy tales of how she lived abound in the news.  

At the grocery store yesterday, my eye caught the Newark Star Ledger touting headlines something along the lines of: 'The Sacred Being Made Into A Circus.'   

And today, that same newspaper's online headlines announced: 'Whitney Houston Funeral To Be A Star Studded Event.'

Yes, no matter where you go -- television, online news feeds, newspapers, magazines, Facebook, blogs -- you can't get away from the media feeding frenzy. EVERYBODY has something to say about Whitney, be it good, bad or indifferent. And I guess you can say that now, I'm just adding to the 'noise' with my two cents.

Fans and local pastors are in an uproar because they cannot attend Whitney's funeral service at her childhood, hometown church in Newark, New Jersey, due to her family's decision to make it an 'invitation only' event.   Folks who serve or have served in the military are appalled that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has designated that American flags throughout our state be flown at half staff tomorrow, February 18, the day of her funeral, in honor of Whitney.  I can certainly understand their indignation over this, although I do not share in it.  

But I'm not here to address any of that.  I'm here to address something that someone wrote about Whitney Houston which I believe is just absolutely WRONG.

I'm not certain of where I read this.  Again, there is so much out there right now about Whitney, it may have been on someone's blog (no one's blog I actually follow, just one I happened upon) or I might have read it as a post that someone shared on Facebook.  That is unimportant.  What is important is that someone actually believes this and is spreading this lie.  Perhaps they heard it preached in their church.  

This person was questioning people (family, fans and such) who are consoling themselves with the fact that Whitney is at peace and in the presence of her Heavenly Father.  This person stated that they should NOT be doing so because more than likely, Whitney is not in God's presence at all.  They declared that she had lost her salvation because she had turned her back on God by choosing drugs over Him.  

Ok, whoa, WHOA, WHOA!!!  Stop right there, someone hit the Rewind button!!!!

SAY WHAT????!!!!

I make no apologies for stating that this is SUCH a load of malarkey!!! To me, this is appalling.    Really!!! 

Appalling because, if this is so for Whitney, then it stands to reason it is true for everyone. True for me.  True for you.

Again, I have no clue as to where this person came by such a belief; perhaps, as I said, they heard it preached at their church.  But this is a false teaching!

Now, I didn't know Whitney Houston personally, so I have no idea if she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ.  I've learned that just because someone goes to church and sings in the church choir doesn't necessarily mean they are followers of Christ.  I can say this because I lived this way for many years. I grew up singing in the choir and was a pew warmer extraordinaire for over half my life.  

But, for the sake of argument, let's say that Whitney had surrendered all to Jesus and she was His follower, despite the fact that she battled a drug addiction for some years (and let's 'judge not, lest ye be judged' here because believe me -- everyone is battling something).  She was offered and accepted the free gift of salvation -- free to her (and to us), but at great cost to Jesus: purchased with the shedding of His precious blood on the cross.  If this is so, we would consider Whitney Houston 'saved.'   Saved by grace.  The apostle Paul makes it ever so clear in Ephesians 2:4-8 ~

'But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God....'

We are saved by grace, a gift from God.  Yet are we to believe that if we 'mess up' in life -- as Whitney we all do -- our loving, Abba, about Whom James says 'does not change like shifting shadows' (James 1:17), about Whom Balaam declares in the Book of Numbers ' not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind' (Numbers 23:19),  and Who Himself says in the Book of Malachi "For I the LORD do not change," (Malachi 3:6)  -- are we to believe God will change His mind and snatch back that awesome gift??  I just cannot wrap my brain around this mindset. 

Because really, if we are honest with ourselves -- we will admit that we all 'mess up' in life, many of us on a regular basis.  And that's why there are Christian counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists available to us; that's why there are Christian support groups like 'Celebrate Recovery' popping up in so many churches.  Because we are a fallen, flawed people, saved by grace, yet still in a battle with some temptation, some addiction, some sin in our lives, threatening to take us down.  

'Calvary,' by Stephen Sawyer
The enemy of our souls would love for us to believe that our salvation can be taken away. 

I want to believe that Whitney Houston gave her life to Christ and called Him her Lord and Savior somewhere along the way in life, so despite the fact that her addiction to drugs ended her life, she found herself in the arms of Jesus.  Truly, I do. So I cannot speak the following truth to her.

But -- perhaps there is someone reading this today who believes or knows and loves someone who believes that their salvation can be taken away.  That in the midst of their battle with some sin or addiction, God will come along and snatch back His gift of salvation, His gift of amazing grace and unending, everlasting love. That in essence, God is what they used to call back in my day 'an Indian giver.' 

I am no learned preacher or educated theologian, but I am here to say:

Please DO NOT believe the lie!!!

My pastor has preached and taught on this subject many, many times. And interestingly enough, I recently heard a sermon podcast which addressed this very subject!  I'd like to share some of what I learned from it:

*For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, NOTHING can hijack their salvation.  Grace always triumphs!  

*Jesus's death paid for our sins.  Sins we could never pay for ourselves.

*Don't cheapen grace.  Our sins cannot undo Jesus's work by His death on the cross at Calvary and His resurrection from the grave three days later. Because if that were so, then NONE of  us has ANY guarantee of eternal life with our Savior.

And finally, this statement:

*Jesus's death either pays for ALL sin, or it doesn't pay for ANY sin.  

So, regarding the above statement, let me ask you now:

Which do YOU believe?

Believe that you are saved by grace.  That you are safely in the hand of God and NOTHING can snatch you out of His hand.  Nothing.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace ~ Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), by Chris Tomlin


  1. AMEN! One may lose their way in this life, but never will Jesus lose that soul that was entrusted to His care. How dare we criticize someone else's addiction. How hard it is for me to stay away from something sweet for one day/one week. God Loved Whitney through the HELL that was her life; He will surely comfort her now and has given her the peace that eluded her in her lifetime. We can't fall that far that God's love cannot reach down and still call us His very own. Thanks for setting the record straight Pam. Diane I

  2. As you said, everyone is battling something, and I believe that. This life is one big battle.

    And no one knows what was going on between Whitney and the Lord days before she passed. I have read accounts of her spending a lot of time reading her Bible and talking about the Lord. The last song she publicly sang was "Jesus loves me" Personally, I believe she was truly saved. And listen to her song "I Look to You" where she talks about her struggles and looking to the Lord.

    You said "so despite the fact that her addiction to drugs ended her life," Has that even been proven yet? DID drugs end her life? A person who has given their life to the Lord, yet has an eating habit that causes them to have diabetes, which eventually causes their demise...does that keep them from entering the kingdom because of that?

    I know people, who truly love and serve the Lord, yet struggle with substance abuse. It is so unfortunate that they opened that door in the first place, and I'm sure if most had known what satan had in store for them with that, they would not have opened the door. And I've seen them slip in their struggles. But they truly want to quit. and they continue to get back up after falling down.

    We don't know if a person's is crying out to God in their secret place. I don't believe her problems,addictions, etc,kept her from heaven. with all that going on, still her heart seemed truly for the Lord. And since none of us here have died and crossed over to never return, we really don't know what happens at that time. Do we, who profess Christ, have a sudden 'awakening' where if there are sins that we need to repent of, the Holy Spirit does his job in convicting us?

    Is God truly waiting for someone to mess up so he can send them to hell? Heaven forbid! I see a God who wants people with him, not away from him.

    I will say I don't believe that "once saved, always saved." because a person can accept Christ and decide not to surrender their life to him, and return to the world. And then the question is ..was it a true conversion?

  3. I so agree with you. A broken Spirit and a contrite heart He will not deny. Pam, I am so glad you shared this truth. The issues of life and death belong to Him alone. Salvation cannot be undone because we don't do it. He alone is the bearer of spiritual children, not by the will of man or the works of flesh. You have spoken to the heart of the matter. Amen, Sister! As always, With You-In His Grace, Dawn

  4. Thanks Pam for this; very moving and dealt with so sensitively.

    In honesty, I'm sometimes so pained by teachings from the pulpit I could weep. This is one of those types. Personally, I'm of the belief that only God knows our hearts, and that even if we don't take charge of our addictions, I believe it is His grace and our heart towards Him that are the ultimate. We can be do-good Christians but maybe we don't even reference God in our daily lives. In the position she was in, Whitney still sang "Jesus loves me this I know" without being ashamed to declare Jesus loves her.

    So I went off track, but what I'm trying to say is that I really agree with you, my sister in Christ. And if only Christians stop being so judgmental and understand the power of addiction, then we could better help drug addicts and alcoholics. We could be bold enough to go into the depths of darkness and out of our comfort zones, into the sex clubs, gang-infested areas etc. and manifest the LOVE of Christ and bring His peace into their lives. It's not all done in a day, it's a life-long battle.

    Sorry if this made no sense, Pam. I just long to see addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, liars, adulterers fill up the Church and be renewed and reformed by Christ, without having to face prejudice.

    As always, with love from Rebekah :-)

  5. Anonymous,

    First, thanks so much for your comment. I agree, in that we don't know if Whitney was crying out to the Lord in her secret place. We don't know that about anybody who loves Jesus and who is struggling with any type of addiction, be it drugs, alcohol, food, sex, spending, gambling. Nor do we know when someone says they have given their life to Christ if it is a true conversion. We can only hope and pray that it is true. Again, these are the deep things that only God alone knows about us. And that's as it should be. Also, I agree that for sure, God wants us with Him. All of us. His Word says, in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." So when you said, "Do we, who profess Christ, have a sudden 'awakening' where if there are sins that we need to repent of, the Holy Spirit does his job in convicting us?", I would like to think perhaps that is so. One final thing -- I did have no business saying that Whitney's drug addiction ended her life. No, nothing has been proven yet. Thanks for calling me into account for my words.

  6. Diane,

    Thanks for commenting, friend. No, we cannot fall so far from God that His love cannot reach us. If that were so, we'd ALL be in a world of trouble.

    Watching Whitney's homegoing service a bit ago, Tyler Perry reminded everyone, from God's Word, that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God -- neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth. No, NOTHING else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!

  7. Rebekah,

    Your comment made total sense to me. You have such a sweet and sincere heart, my dear.

    Two quotes came to my mind upon reading your comment. The first one is attributed to Gandhi: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Ouch! But sadly, that is so often the case.

    The other quote I cannot attribute to any one person, and I've heard so many different versions of it, but it goes something like this:

    "The church should be a hospital for the hurting & broken, not a country club for the elite."

    That is what we, the body of Christ -- the church -- are supposed to be all about. Love and grace, not criticism and judgement.

    1. For some reason the 'comment' button appeared and disappeared on here, so I'm doing this through 'reply' instead. Just to echo what you've said in a slightly different way, if we believe that we can do something to lose our salvation, it is indicative that we've done something to cause salvation in the first place which of course is completely untrue. He tells us we can't be plucked out of his hand. I saw the earlier comment about not believing 'once saved always saved' because if someone goes 'backward' we don't know if it was a true conversion. But I think that assumption is a given in the 'once saved' statement...if you're truly saved - and only God knows the real status of our hearts - then you are always saved regardless of what we may mess up along the way. God's grace and mercy is unfathomable, and we cannot try to reason it with human minds. I once heard it said that we want justice when someone else messes up, but mercy when it's our mistake. So we may look at someone's downward spiral and not be able to comprehend how someone saved could sink so low, but we are not God. His thoughts are higher than ours. Glad he's the one making the call :)

  8. Dawn,

    Love that: 'Salvation cannot be undone because we don't do it.' AMEN!!! Simply put, yet so profound. Wish more folks got that. Thanks, my dear!


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