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Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Mystery of Salvation

I know that I know Jesus. I know that He knows me. I know I was saved over forty years ago. I know I am being saved right now. I know I will be saved when I see Jesus face to face.

How does that make me different from others? I am no different from many who have given their hearts to Christ. I am different from many who have merely gotten close to giving their hearts to Christ.

Many people exhibit many of the the characteristics of a believer but do not truly possess it. The author of Hebrews describes them:

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV)
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

They have every evidence of faith but lack something that holds onto them. They are doomed to never come to repentance again.  They have gotten incredible close but have "fallen away."

There must be some degree of faith which is very hard to establish objectively. The Holy Spirit guards the salvation of those who truly believe. We are kept safe and, yet, we must also keep believing. I have a hard time explaining this. I cannot tell you why I still believe. I know that it is not because I am superior to others. I know that it is not because I work so hard at it. I know that it is because I have become a new creation that speaks the language of God in faith. I know I have the mind of Christ. I know all these things but cannot attribute them to my own fortitude of belief that stands against the doubt.

I have this because He holds onto me.

Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

And, yet, I know I also hold onto Him. I can't help believe that is because of His influence in me. Jesus told us that those who hold on until the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:21-22 (ESV)
21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

When I gave my life to Christ, something happened inside me. I crossed a line that I could not retreat across. I have become His and cannot make myself not His. He holds onto me and I hold onto Him. But I cannot help but hold on. Neither side of the equation fully describes the solution. It takes both to know it. My spirit unites with the Spirit to bring me to salvation.

I believe a lot of people get very close and pretend that they have made it. They are like the people who laugh at the joke they do not understand. They are like those who claim they understand the riddle but have no real clue to what it means. They are like those who look at great art and think they understand it but have no real understanding of what it means.

Unfortunately, they can act the part without being who they really are. They can even convince themselves that their pretending is no different from the pretending of others.

On one hand I do not believe that you can come to know Christ, renounce your faith in Him and then come back to Him again. The words in Hebrews prevents that scenario. Yet, on the other hand, I do not believe that you can lose your relationship with God. If He is your father, He remains your father. And still yet, I know that I cannot simply ignore my Lord and believe I have salvation either.

Salvation is a faith that crosses the line which holds onto us no matter how faithless we become. It calls us back to repentance. It continues to remind us that we are His even when we do not act like we belong to Him.

I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. I gave my heart to Him. He is my Lord. My willing obedience is an assurance to me that I am saved. Praise God Almighty for this amazing grace.


Anthony Chia said...

Indeed salvation is a mystery; and by that, it means we cannot fully understand or appreciate it all - the everything, that goes into getting (a specific) one eventually glorified in Heaven. The Salvation Covenant or New Covenant is the same for everyone (sorry, you cannot vary it! You cannot have it any different from me or any other!), yet in the run or performance of the covenant, the detailed play-out for each individual can be very different, for one individual is different from another; the circumstances of one, in life, are different from those of another. The country can be different, the culture different, the family he/she is with, different, friends and associates are different, pressures and expectations of his/her immediate society, different, and the time and seasons are different. But because the Covenant is the same, and the one who offered the Covenant is same God, and NOT another man, we can rest assured that at least one of the two parties to the covenant is able to bring to completion that which is started.

In 2 Tim 2:13, we read it said, even when we are unfaithful, God is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. What this means is that God stakes His all into the Covenant. When it is all of God, it is a mystery, is it NOT! Some of God, we may understand or appreciate, but NOT all of God.

Ps Prentis has, and gives the correct understanding, in that, salvation is NOT completed the moment one accepts Jesus as his Savior. If there it were so, there is no need of a covenant to be performed, no need of talk of bringing to completion, no need of any faithfulness, no need of perseverance, no need to give all the elaborate instructions for life, not to mention, precepts, commands and laws of God, given us. Those who gave the idea that salvation is like a 2 or 5 minutes thing of just saying the Sinner's Prayer (or equivalent), or that once converted or born-again, glorification cannot be missed, they are wrong. Just that Heb 6:4-6 text that Ps Prentis quoted is support enough that it is possible to fall away and not reach the end-goal of our salvation hope - glorification or eternal life IN HEAVEN.

Make no mistake that the Apostle Paul understood that salvation is a process. In Romans 8:30, Paul included in the salvation process, these: be called, justification, sanctification (implied in the call) and eventually glorification. Also, Paul was the one who kept reminding about the HOPE of salvation; He even said that no one hope for what he already has - that is NOT hope – Romans 8:24-25. If salvation cannot be lost, then, there should NOT be talk of the salvation hope – what cannot be missed or lost cannot be the substance of a hope. This too, Paul said, "the 3 things faith, hope and love" remain (1 Cor 13:13).

About perseverance, which Ps Prentis did emphasize in his entry, NOT only the Matt 10:22 (Mk 13:13) text stated that we need to endure to the end to be saved, Matt 24:12-13 also has it – 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Apart from the Gospel Books, other books also contained texts about perseverance required. One text using the OT as a foreshadow of what is required of us, is Hebrew 3; you can go read the whole chapter, I will give here vv 14-18 –

14 We have come to share in Christ if WE HOLD FIRMLY TILL THE END the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ?


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

This Hebrew chapter clearly indicates the Exodus of the people of God, led by Moses, to the Promised Land is metaphorical of us on our journey to our Eternal Promised Land, Heaven, by our Commander of Host, the Spirit of Christ (or the Holy Spirit). The people who fell in the wilderness were NOT non-people of God; there were the very children of God. And so, too, the text points to us, believers, on a journey to our Promised Land, and we too, need to hold firmly till the end, our faith, hope and love. If we do NOT endure to the end, in our faith, salvation hope, and be loving God, and so, fellow brethren and men generally, we may NOT enter His rest, for the call of God is that we are to endure to the end (just as it was expected of the children of God who left Egypt for the Promised Land; they did NOT; they fell into grave sins), and if we do that NOT, we have disobeyed.

Also there were repeated calls by the Lord for persevering or overcoming or winning to the end, in messages to the 7 Churches in the first section of the Book of Revelation –

Rev 2:7 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Rev 2:11 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Rev 2:17 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
Rev 2:26-28 - 26To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations--27'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery -- just as I have received authority from my Father.28I will also give him the morning star.
Rev 3:5 - He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
Rev 3:12 - Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
Rev 3:21 - To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

There are 4 tendencies, wrong ones, on the part of men, concerning how the Salvation Covenant is to play out, vizly:

1. It is all God’s part. This is the tendency of men pushing all the buck back to God. In fact, such men argue, it is all done – finished; with only “passage of time”, left – when the time is up, one gets glorified, regardless of what happens in the intervening period (between entry into salvation and glorification). Typically, these are OSAS (once saved, always saved) believers. The overly grace believers are in here, too.
2. Doubting God to perform the Covenant, that God can bring us to our end-goal – glorification. These are like the adult generation of the Jews who left Egypt for the Promised Land. When we cannot trust God to be knowing what He is to do, and do them in real-time, depending on how things play out, we are doubting God. What is wrong with this attitude? It includes this: when you doubt God, you would NOT be doing solely, your part, and rest on God to do His part. You are assuming “burden” NOT yours to assume, and neglecting that which are yours to do, ending up with things NOT playing well!
3. Refusing to be a follower of God. When one is NOT a follower of another, he is unwilling to submit, and he wants to lead. Putting it in another way, he thinks he can merit and wants to merit. Please, the one you covenant with, is the Omni God.


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from above

4. Salvation is solely driven by the unconditional love of God, and nothing else. When such is being held, the expectation becomes: God is to be accommodative to one, instead of one is to give priority to God’s desire or what would please Him. It is NOT that there is NOT unconditional love or the Father’s love is NOT at work, but the love of God for men is love unto righteousness (`ahab love). That is why it is NOT surprising that definition of love in Scripture is in terms of obedience – John 14:15 – He who loves me, obeys my commands; and John 14:21a – He who obeys my commands are the ones who love me!

What is the point of me saying these? While I subscribe to Ps Prentis’ “either side of the equation does NOT describe fully the solution”, and it is indeed a performance of a covenant by both parties to the covenant; unless otherwise sensed as imperative to emphasize, I believe the emphasis of preachers in this area, should be (1) we are to work with God, be led by Him through His Spirit, and (2) the part we are to play.

God’s part, we needn’t be worrying about; God does NOT need to be taught or shown what He must do. There is a colloquial saying, “Be smart, but don’t be a smart aleck!” The simple directive should be: Just go do what God said to do; or at least try your best.

What if my best is NOT good enough? Brother Anthony, this way there is no certainty, you-know?! Stop listening to preachers who tell you that there must be a certainty! Certainty is fact, NOT faith; certainty is NOT hope. Hope is NOT a certainty. Do your best (including getting up after you fall down – 1 John 1:9), and let God be God, let Him judge!

Although, it is never like it is a fact; it is my faith and my hope that give me my belief that if I die now, I go to be with the Lord, in Heaven. What assures me? My knowledge of Omni God, including His faithfulness, and my willing obedience (to borrow the words of Ps Prentis) or my love for God are my assurances. If there is only one word to describe what the “Just go do what God said to do”, it will be this (for me) – love Him.

Ps 91:14-16 - 14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."

Anthony Chia, high.expressions