2020-02-26 Can We Have Hope for Hope?

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,”
2 Corinthians 5:10

We’re continuing a topic that we started to look at Monday, namely that of our children who seem to walk away from the faith. Last time, we looked at the very nature of salvation, particularly the question of who seeks whom. God or man. In it, I believe the evidence is clear that it is God who initiates mercy, forgiveness, and salvation to only those whom he chooses, and our positive response of repentance, faith, and proclamation of Jesus as Lord is our natural response to his divine intervention in our lives. Apart from that, we are rightfully dead in our sin due to our own willful actions and subject to the punishment that God has long ago established for sin.

Now, the question that arises out of this, that which my friend grieves over, is whether or not one can “lose” that faith. Well, let’s take a look first at the possibilities. There are four categories to look at. First, we have the unrepentant who is fully aware of their status and is unwilling to consider reconciliation with God. We have another group who ARE repentant and are secure in their salvation. Another is those who THINK they are right with God but aren’t. Lastly, there are those who do not yet know or perhaps know but don’t fully comprehend that they are indeed saved.

The first category is one that we understand. Those of us who are willing to accept the bible as true, as written, know that the unrepentant will eventually face eternal punishment in the lake of fire. We also realize that apart from God’s grace, this would have been our fate as well. We also understand the repentant will inherit the kingdom of God, an undeserved, unearned, and unmerited gift of God. We kind of understand the group that THINKS they are right with God but aren’t. Here are verses that should terrify all of us.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We can spend a lot of time on this. Let’s suffice it to say that the bible exhorts us to make sure of our election and gives us plenty of tests so that we may be confident of our salvation (1John 5:13). God is very straightforward about this. He wants us to be absolutely sure that we are saved. There are plenty of “religious” people who will disregard all sorts of warning and thus be “surprised” at judgement day. In reality, they won’t be surprised, but they will instead blame God as unjust (Matthew 19:44). Jesus also explains this in the parable of the sower (Matthew 12:46-50; 13:1-23). In this, only the seed that lands on good soil will bear fruit. All the others will fit into either of our first two categories here.

Finally, we have those who either do not yet know they are saved or who don’t fully comprehend the assuredness of their salvation. For all, salvation is at a moment of time. Some of us clearly know this as if it were a lightning bolt. Others become aware gradually as the light slowly brightens a morning sky. However it may happen, one thing is sure: not one of God’s elect will die in their sin before that moment of salvation. None. Now, perhaps they don’t fully appreciate it in either awareness or reaction, but they are saved, nonetheless. Outsiders might not even have a clue. God may save someone who takes their life even as the bullet is traveling down the barrel. Remember, it is God who saves whom he chooses. When, how, and why are His business, not ours.

Think of the two men on the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion. One man joined Jesus in paradise that day. The other, assumedly, didn’t. We credit the one man’s words and actions as that which saved him, but was it? Or did God have mercy and the man simply responded to it? I believe the bible teaches us that it indeed was a response to God’s initiative. Otherwise, how are we to explain two seemingly equal men with similar situations yet have drastically different responses? Honestly, apart from God’s determination, we can only surmise that it is random luck. Yet, we know that is not how God operates. Besides, we have plenty of scripture to demonstrate that God chose his elect before the foundation of the world.

Having said all that, yesterday and today, we are ready to dive into how I deal with the thought of my own loved ones who once proclaimed faith and no longer do. You might wonder how I have hope. Indeed, some or all of them may be like two that Jesus described in the sower parable:

Matthew 13:20-22 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for awhile, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Indeed, this is dreadful to think about. Yet, somehow, someway, I am to reconcile myself to praise God in this and rejoice in all circumstances. I’ll address that further as this series progresses.

However, there is yet one more possibility, the one I hang my hope on. Stay tuned.

Father, wow. I’m not sure what to say right now. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

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