I’m reading through Tim Keller’s new devotional commentary, called “Galatians for You.” In today’s reading, he speaks of the struggle we have in keeping the Gospel message clear. He gives three examples of how contemporary evangelical churches can get it wrong (and thereby be “cursed” according to Paul’s strong language in Gal. 1:8-9.) The first example he gives is the one I most surely struggle with. I quote at length here:
In some churches, it is implicitly or explicitly taught that you are saved through your “surrender” to Christ, plus right beliefs and behavior. This is a fairly typical mistake in evangelical churches. People are challenged to “give your life to Jesus” and/or to “ask Him into your life.” This sounds very biblical, but it can still reject the grace-first principle very easily. People think that we are saved by a strong belief and trust in and love for God, along with a life committed to Him. Therefore, they feel they must begin by generating a high degree of spiritual sorrow, hunger and love in order to get Christ’s presence. Then they must somehow maintain this if they are going to “stay saved.” So functionally — that is, in actual reality — a church is teaching that we are saved because of the level of our faith. But the gospel says that we are saved through our faith. The first approach really makes our performance the savior, and the second makes Christ’s performance the Savior. It is not the level but the object of our faith that saves us.
Timothy Keller, Galatians for You (The Good Book Company, 2013), p. 19.