Evangelical commentators from Ron Sider to George Barna have bemoaned the apparent disconnect between Christian beliefs and practice. Robert Jeffress, minister at First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, looks at the problem from a pastoral perspective in Grace Gone Wild: Getting a Grip on God's Amazing Gift (WaterBrook, 2005). Stan Guthrie, a CT senior associate editor, sat down with him.
Why did you write the book?
There is little to no discernable lifestyle difference between Christians and non-Christians. I believe we're using grace as a cover, as a license for sin.
How does this work out?
There's great confusion on the relationship between grace and works. In the 1990s, Chuck Swindoll and Philip Yancey and others wrote some wonderful books on graceThe Grace Awakening, What's So Amazing About Grace?and they did a valuable service rescuing the doctrine of grace from the legalists who say that we must earn our salvation. But the pendulum has gone in the other direction, and we've unwittingly taken grace out of the hands of the legalists and delivered it into the hands of the libertarians.
Have you seen this issue at work in your church?
Absolutely. There are probably more unsaved people in my pews than I want to acknowledge. And as a Southern Baptist, as an evangelical, as a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, certainly I have preached all of my life the eternal security of the believer or, as Baptists have popularized it, Once saved, always saved. But of course, the key part in that phrase is once saved.
In the past, I've made the mistake as a pastor of trying to assure people of their salvation when they never possessed it to begin with. Here are people who profess to be Christians, but they have no interest ...