**I'm closing my old website and transferring any articles to this blog. So, if you've ever visited the website, some of the entries over the next few days might be a re-run.
The Value of Salvation
A good friend asked a good question during an email conversation we were having. The questions was basically this: "What is more of a testimony - or more touching: someone commiting their life to Christ in the midst of hardship (a death row inmate, a man whose wife just left him, etc.) or someone committing their life to Christ in the midst of success and prosperity. I might slightly rephrase the question, by saying, "Which brings God more glory?"
I have a few thoughts...
First, a passage comes to mind:
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Matt 19:16-29, Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:25-30
So here are words straight from Jesus basically saying that it's very difficult (impossible?) for one with wealth (or just prosperity in general, maybe) to be saved, probably because he's trusting in his own accomplishments.
Jesus also gives in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, some "criteria" some might say that are typical of those seeking God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit (spiritually bankrupt)...blessed are those who mourn (over their sinful condition)...blessed are the meek...blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...etc. (Click here for some expositions of these passages)
This brings me to a second thought...
Regardless of one's success in life or failures in life...the reason genuine "seekers" come to Christ is first theological: Because God is actually seeking them (Romans 3:11 says that there is "no one who seeks [the true] God", cf. John 15:16 (Jesus speaking) "You did not choose me, but I chose you...")
Second, it is a bit more practical (yet still theological): people come to Christ because the Spirit of God convicts their hearts of sin and it's violation toward a holy God and God then grants them faith and repentance to believe (Acts 16:14, Eph 2:8).
So back to the original question - which is more commendable/impressive/etc...the well-to-do man or the down-and-out man....I'd say in one sense neither, since both are works of God.
However, it is also true that it is a greater sacrifice to give up everything to follow Christ (unlike the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-31 - when challenged by Jesus to sell all his possessions and follow Him, he walked away sad). The guy who has nothing - the death row inmate, the man/woman who's family has walked out on them...has nowhere else to go. That's not to say that God doesn't save people in all of these types of situations... He can and will. (Chuck Colson was saved while in prison, and some say that Ted Bundy might have been converted before his execution).
So, certainly, from a human perspective, the effectiveness of one's testimony to God's salvation could be viewed as more or less "dramatic" depending on the circumstances out of which one came. But if we remember that it's a testimony to GOD'S SALVATION, then the praise and glory goes to Him since He ordained it (one's salvation) before the foundation of the world, accomplished it through Christ's death on the cross and applied it to the life of the saved sinner by His Spirit and His Word - all for the praise of His glorious grace! (Eph 1:3-14) Click here for a good sermon on this great passage.
Charles Spurgeon has said, "The unsaved sinner loves a salvation from hell. The true Christian loves a salvation from sin." Meaning this: One who is genuinely saved should not only be glad that he's saved from Hell (after all, why would we be told about Hell in the Scripture if it wasn't some sort of motivation for us to flee to God's mercy from God's wrath), but even more importantly, a genuine believer (whether it's a Donald Trump or a Ted Bundy) should want a salvation from that wrath of God against our sin since it violates His holiness. I.e., I need Christ's "cross work" on my behalf because I've offended a holy God, not just because I don't want to go to Hell. (See Romans 1:16ff, note verse 18)
If one "comes to Christ" for any reason other than a godly sorrow and repentant heart over sin...it's difficult to not always keep that as the reason one came to Christ. I.e., I came to Christ when the stock market crashed and I lost everything...or...when my wife left me with the kids...or...when I was sentenced to life in prison. If this is the main or only reason they wanted the Lord in their life, it's more based on how Jesus can meet my needs than the above mentioned remorse over sin. And let it certainly be said, Jesus can supply our physical needs, restore our families, and comfort us in prison, but that never needs to be the REASON we come to Christ. Those are the RESULTS of coming to Christ.
There are and will always be the human elements to this whole thing - after all, we are human! But we should always remember Psalm 3:8 "Salvation belongs to the Lord" (cf. Psalm 13:5, 35:3, 40:16, 51:12, 67:2, 69:13, 69:27, 29, 71:15, 85:7, 119:41, 155, 166, etc.)