Friday, May 23, 2008

Once saved always saved?

There is a very big issue in Christianity that profoundly impacts the way people think about nearly everything. It is the question: Once saved am I always saved? If I accept Jesus can I turn around and reject him, or will I be with him forever no matter what?

To be sure, there are a good number of verses that can make this issue look very confusing:

John 15:3 - He who continues in my love will be saved.
Romans 11:22 - Continue in his kindness lest you be cut off
(plenty more like this)

And on the other hand..

Hebrews 6:4-6 -impossible to be brought back, as they would be crucifying Christ again
John 10:28 - Nobody can snatch you out of God's hand
Romans 8:38 - I am convinced nothing can separate us from the love of Christ
(and plenty more like this too)

John 10:34 clearly says the scriptures cannot be broken (or contradict themselves). What to do?
Firstly, put the two choices to the test. Go on and see what happens when you accept that you can lose your salvation. You will begin to wonder when exactly can salvation be lost- how much sin does it take? Why did God set the bar and then not tell me where that dang bar is? Why does God say salvation is a gift when clearly I am earning it for myself? How do I go about losing my salvation officially? This last question will typically be answered "The only sin that works to erase your salvation is to deny Christ." Try telling that to Peter.
Saying my free will is in control of my destiny sounds okay until you start practicing it, at which point you will start taking on all kinds of weird ideas. You can't save yourself at first, but get over that initial hump by having God give you a little grace, and it's more than possible to keep your own salvation from then on out. Nobody can stop me or help me, my power to sin and die is greater than Gods power to save and keep me safe. I am stronger than God. Sin is stronger than forgiveness, death stronger than life. I will never disown my earthly son, no matter what he does he will always be my son, but God doesn't work like that.
See? Weird. But it's more than absurd- it's harmful. It leaves you nervous, looking over your shoulder, fearful of God's justice poised to strike. You better see a priest and take confession, just to be sure, because if you die with sin on your conscience it could go ill for you. This thinking goes back and pollutes your view of salvation, it puts your heart back in prison, it robs you of trust in God. It's actually legalism and Judaism packaged up in nice Christian wrapping paper deceiving you. Belief in yourself like this doesn't let you experience the bottomless endless powerful love of Christ. As a result you will read the parable of the prodigal son and get angry on behalf of the older brother rather than awe at the fathers mercy for the unrighteous. You will judge others, trying to stamp out their belief in security because you don't feel it yourself. You will flog yourself for not meeting the standard. You may even acknowledge the idea of grace with your mind, but never let it into your heart.
On the other hand eternal security makes you eternally secure. As a result you never worry about displeasing or hurting God, you don't fear he will take his love away from you. You know he loved you even when you were his enemy, that leaves you free to ponder how much more will he loves you as his son. After all, God is not like man that he would change his mind, his love isn't here today gone today- it's everlasting. The trust and joy and peace and comfort that is found in eternal security cannot be described, it can only be felt. It's like marriage, or being a parent, or being in love, you can read about it understand it mentally, but you must see it for yourself. It is pure joy beyond all comparison to know that in the whole world God picked you, formed you, planned you, and takes great pride in you. When you accept this truth for yourself you will feel like you have never really lived before.
One ideology leads to joy, the other leads to... grumpiness. Hopefully it is clear now that the fruit of 'doing it my way' is fear, and that since perfect love drives out fear and God is love this theological idea is not from God. We see that we can never lose our salvation.
Now all that's left to do is reconcile the apparent discrepancy between the bible passages. The contradiction comes in that the bible teaches you that you need to continue in salvation to be saved, so naturally people think that means you have to persevere until the end. But where did it say you have to do this alone? Or do it yourself, or by your own power? I am convinced that God who has begun a good work in me will see it to the end. For not I but Christ lives in me. The verses that teach you will be saved in the future mean what they say and no more: you are not in Gods heaven yet, you do not behold him face to face yet, you see things as though through a dirty window yet one day you will see clearly, and that day has not come. Yet. All this will happen in time. God will complete the work he has started in you in the future, you are his masterpiece unfolding before every ones eyes, his flower blossoming for everyone to see, and he has something more in store for you. He has adopted you, assured you, secured you, and when he is finished his work on earth in you, he will call you home to him in glory with words of affirmation: well done good and faithful one. See how those verses, those arguments that inspired dread now overflow with promise and love? This is the power and promise of Christ - never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.
Oh how indescribably wonderful it is to believe that with your whole heart!

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