Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is There Room in the Middle for Me?


                A question that often arises is, “Can a person lose their salvation?” That is an important question to consider. The way that we answer that question will shape our relationship with Christ. On the one end of the spectrum is the perspective that, yes, a person can lose their salvation. If this is taken to an extreme, it leads to a life lived in fear and anxiety.  On the other end of the spectrum is the perspective that, no, a person cannot lose their salvation. If this is taken to the extreme, it leads to an apathetic life. I believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I believe that once a person is saved they cannot lose their salvation. I also believe that how we live our lives matters to God. We are not free to live however we wish and expect God’s grace to cover our sins. So let’s take a look at a few scriptures that can guide us on this exploration.
                There is a powerful passage in John 10 that speaks to this issue. Jesus refers to those who are his true disciples as his sheep. This is what he says. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. [John 10:27-29 (NIV)]
                Jesus declares that those who are his disciples are given eternal life and they shall never perish. When a person puts their faith in Christ they are infused with the very life of God. That life is never ending. A true believer cannot perish. Jesus was not talking about physical life but of spiritual. This physical life is temporary and will come to an end. Our life in Christ will not. Now here is the significant image that Jesus gives us, which speaks to our security in him. He says it twice so that we won’t miss it. He says that no one can snatch them out of his hand. He takes it one step farther and says no one can snatch them out of his Father’s hand. Then verse 30 says “I and the Father are one.”
                I have three children. When they were young, whenever we were in a public place, I made them hold my hand. I did it for their safety and security. Sometimes they would want to chase after something and so they would try to let go of my hand, but I would tighten my grip. Their safety was not dependent upon the strength of their grip but of mine.
                This is the image that Jesus is using here. We are saved by God’s grace and we are held secure by God’s grace. The security of my salvation is not dependent upon the strength of my hold on God, but of His hold on me. In fact, we are held doubly secure by the Father and the Son. It is like a child walking between his parents, with each parent holding a hand. The child may try to escape but his chances are slim. We are held secure in the firm and sure grip of our Lord and Savior.
                There is another passage that speaks to the security of our salvation. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! This passage speaks of the transformation that takes place when a person puts their faith in Christ. Paul tells us that we are recreated in Christ. Our old nature is taken away and replaced with a new nature.
                We are all familiar with the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The caterpillar begins life as a fat, slug-like creature that is confined to crawling on the plants as it seeks food. At the right time the caterpillar attaches itself to a branch of a plant and encases itself in a fine silk robe. For a time it seems like nothing is happening. The fine silk is battered by the elements and become dull and dirty. Then one day the case splits open and out emerges something very different, a butterfly. It has a slender body with delicate legs and beautiful wings. Within minutes the butterfly is airborne and experiencing a whole new life. There has never been a case where a butterfly has turned back into a caterpillar. It is impossible. The old is gone and the new has come.
                So it is with our spiritual transformation. We still must battle the effects of sin. We still struggle to do what is right. But an inner transformation has taken place that cannot be reversed. We have been given a new heart. In the book of Ezekiel, God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a new heart of flesh.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. [Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)]
                Let’s look at one more passage that speaks of the security of our salvation. This passage also speaks to the importance of what we do with our lives. Christ gives us eternal life, but he also calls us to make the most of our life here on earth. Paul writes about that in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
                By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
                Paul teaches us a couple of very important truths. First, once the foundation of faith is laid it is secure. Because we are saved by grace and not by our works, the foundation of our lives is guaranteed by God. He is the Master Craftsman who built a perfect foundation for each one of us. Second, we are expected to build upon that foundation. In fact we spend our lives building. Every action, every decision, every word combine to create our spiritual house. When we respond to God’s leading and faithfully follow His direction, we build with enduring materials. When we choose to go our own way, we build with temporary materials. On the Day of Judgment our spiritual house will be put to the test. All that is enduring will survive and all that is temporary with disappear. I’m afraid most of us will have some major holes in our structure. The good news is that even if it all collapses the foundation will remain.
                We dare not take these truths for granted. How we live our lives matters to God. God wants to use us to further His Kingdom and His glory in our world. We only have a short time to do that. Every day counts in light of eternity. God values what we do so much that Jesus promised that He will reward us for our faithful service. When we presume upon God’s grace we forfeit the rewards God has planned for us.
                Someone pictured it this way. When we get to heaven Jesus is going to take us to a special room set aside for us. In that room will be a large table and upon that table will be many gifts. He will bring us to the table and joyfully present us with our rewards. Also in that room will be a series of shelves that are out of our reach. Upon those shelves will be sealed boxes. Out of curiosity will we ask Jesus what is in those boxes? He will reply, “Those are the rewards you could have had.” It is a fanciful way of looking at heaven, but it makes the point.
                For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)]
                There is one last thought I must interject at this point. Jesus does not want us to live in fear. In fact Jesus came to deliver us from fear. One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is “do not be afraid.” When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, through faith, we experience his love and grace. His love is perfect and 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. If we are living under a cloud of fear that we might lose our salvation then we are not experiencing Jesus’ perfect love.
                The Scriptures teach us that we cannot work for our salvation; it is a gift from God. Therefore I believe we also cannot work ourselves out of our salvation. Yet we are responsible to work within our salvation to the glory of God.
                Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. [Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)]

1 comment:

  1. Pastor Dave... thanks for writing with biblical clarity, bold conviction and relevant constructs. Much appreciated! Doug