The first error of lordship salvation is thinking that God won’t save you (or hasn’t saved you) if you have a rotten life. Entry into heaven goes with a good life (conditionally or inevitably), and if you examine your life and see that it’s not good, you’re not going to heaven.
The second, and more subtle, error of lordship salvation is thinking that Yahweh is the sort of god who would send you to hell if He could.
I’m finding that there are an awful lot of people who have halfway repented from lordship salvation. They no longer believe that Yahweh requires sanctification in order to enter heaven. However, in their heart of hearts, they still believe in a furious god who would send them to hell if he could.
So they invest themselves in the Free Grace gospel: Jesus saves us on the sole condition of faith alone, with no works before, during, or after the moment of faith required. No front-loading the gospel; no back-loading either. Just belief in the proper content. God won’t weigh your works at heaven’s gate to determine your eternal destiny; He will ask a simple question about your soteriology. Pass that theology test, just once, at any point in your life, and you’re golden. That done, you can forever fend off the vengeful deity: you have already done all that is required of you, and he can’t send you to hell, no matter how he might want to. This would, in fact, be good news…if Yahweh were even remotely like the god they’re describing.
Do you see that there’s a lot of self-effort going into passing the theology test? That the good news of the freeness of God’s grace is being turned into a weapon to hold a (fictitious) angry deity at bay?
Do you see that when we do this, we don’t actually trust God at all? That if we did, we could just trust Him to guide us into whatever content we need to know?
To the people I’ve just described, I have a message. I didn’t think of it myself; I inherited it from someone who lived five centuries ago. He was a Roman Catholic, confessor to a neurotic Augustinian friar named Martin Luther. Luther was so obsessed with his sins that he would be in the confessional for six hours at a time, trying to get forgiveness for everything, lest he be damned.
Finally–so the story goes–his confessor shouted at him, “God doesn’t hate you; you hate Him! Don’t you know the Scriptures command you to hope?”
God doesn’t hate you. And if you’re trying to hold Him at bay, be it with a stack of good deeds, a saving proposition, or with the very words of John 3:16, then the problem is that you hate Him.
But you don’t believe the very first words of the verse. “God so loved the world…”
The solution is simple: trust Him. He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.