I'm going to own something here...I started this thread, and have probably been more involved in it than any other. So I want to share a couple of things.
I spent my formative years in/and affected by a church community environment of, if you get saved, OK, but guess what? Now you have to; stop smoking (or go to hell), not take one sip of beer or wine (or go to hell), men not wear your hair over your ears (or go to hell), women don't wear pants (or go to hell), don't say darn, much less, you know, the other 'd' word (or go to hell), don't listen to rock n roll (or go to hell), don't watch TV (or go to hell), absolutely don't go to a movie (or go to hell), don't dance (or go to hell), pray often enough or (lose your salvation and, you guess it, go to hell), stay as close to God "as you're supposed to" (or go to hell), don't think like that (or go to hell), read your Bible enough, love God enough, or "stay on fire for God enough" (or you'll be spewed out of His mouth and...go to hell), get baptized by immersion and with the correct words said over you (or go to hell), get saved at an altar on your knees, crying..there has to be crying or you're not saved (or go to hell)...
You probably get the picture. Sparing some details, God led me into a loving, supportive, forgiving, grace-teaching Baptist fellowship and dear old pastor, and married to a precious wife (of which I am unworthy) of the same persuasion. He did a lot of healing of my wounded heart and spirit while sitting in that Baptist pew. I began to learn and believe that maybe, just maybe, God really did love me. Maybe, just maybe, I didn't have to fear that any move, any thought, any mis-step wouldn't cause Him to hate me and rain down His wrath upon me. That maybe, even when I failed Him and my dear wife miserably, that He wouldn't cut me off forever and send me to Hell..that He wouldn't punish me by taking the life of my child...that maybe, I could really believe that He could forgive me and still accept me. That He wouldn't destroy me in His anger and burn me forever. Based on...guess what? Not my good works. Not all those things I'd been taught I had to do exactly right, exactly all the time.
But..because..He..loved me..because..He..did..something..on..the..cross..I..was..and..am..unable..to..do..myself. Because He is good and righteous...because He's big enough, and powerful enough, and sufficient enough, and worthy enough..to lift me up; to set me in His presence, to begin to heal me again, to reassure me that even when I failed Him, He still loves me. And that He'll pick me up, brush me off, take my hand, and say "come on son, this way...I've got you...I'm holding onto you...I won't let you, any man, any devil, take you out of My hand. I didn't save you so that would happen. I have plans for you, and they are good. I'm strong enough, and I know how to finish in you what I've started". Thank you, Jesus.
So if I seem to struggle with this topic, I do. If I seem to be very on guard of even thinking I'm being told I have to somehow work hard enough, be good enough, measure up enough, to please Him and be accepted by Him and not cut off from and tortured by Him...then please forgive me, as I try to be obedient to His will...while knowing I must lean on and depend on Him for every breath...because I've lived being unable to "measure up" and having to learn (still learning) to lean on, count on, depend on Him.
This is my walk with Him, and He knows how to finish my salvation. Your walk may be different, but He also knows exactly what to do with yours. He knows your name.
I just felt I wanted to share this tonight.
God's blessing, James.