2020-05-18 Rest Assured, My Friends!

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent
to confirm your calling and election,”
2 Peter 1:10a

Last week, I told you how terrified I was as a child when hearing the priest talk about following God’s calling. The idea that the disciples simply dropped everything and followed Jesus troubled me to no end because if Jesus called them, he just might call me. Then what? The fact was, I didn’t want to go. Yet how could say no? But, how could I honestly say yes? I knew Jesus didn’t approve of liars, so I was in quite a dilemma.

I might have been more willing to go along with the idea of following Jesus if it hadn’t been a forever and ever commitment. You see, it was clear in my mind there was no turning back from this. What if I didn’t like it? The biggest hang-up I had was that I thought “God’s calling” was the priesthood. Right or wrong, that’s the way I saw it.

That particular priest was right in that God calls some. He was also right in that it was a choice. He was also right in that there was no turning back. (John 6:44, Romans 10:13, Luke 9:62)

But he also said that one can disqualify himself after enlistment because of sin, particularly mortal sin. Now, all that got very complicated because he didn’t have any cut-and-dried definitions. If I remember all this correctly, venial sin was the small stuff and was covered by baptism. Mortal sin was serious and needed repentance, penance, and absolution by a priest. Mortal sin cancels out God’s grace. This is very serious because one then is faced with eternity in hell. It needs to be fixed.

All the explaining I heard never left me with any comfort. I knew how easy it was to sin. I knew how easy it was to completely deny God and willfully embrace sin. The fact is that as a young child, I knew I would NEVER be able to do what was necessary to ensure my salvation. The best I could hope for was to be struck by lightning while in the confessional booth JUST AS the priest finished saying, “Your sins are forgiven, my son.” Otherwise, forget it. I’m toast.

Then they come with this business of purgatory, that one really doesn’t go to hell but rather to a place to get scrubbed up for heaven. It turns out that no one goes directly to heaven, either, but ends up in this holding tank. There was also something about the need for us who are still alive to pray for the souls of the dead, but I never really paid much attention to that because there wasn’t a chance someone would pray enough to cancel all the wicked thoughts that go through my head.

Well, something big happened to me on June 13, 2007 that changed the way I look at things. God, in effect, struck me with lightning. In a moment of time, I became a new man. Suddenly, my eyes were opened, and I could see. Everything was different. I could read the bible, and it now started to make sense.

John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The change was radical in many ways. So many of the beliefs I had that gave me so much grief, shame, and doubt left me and were replace by confidence, security, and joy. Oh, and genuine peace as well. Then I started to run into passages like this one:

John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

My salvation is secure. It has to be. Why? First, because Jesus said so, like right in this passage. Not only that, but it is logical. Look, there isn’t a person alive that doesn’t have trouble with serious sin. Furthermore, given the right circumstances, you would be surprised about what awful sin you are capable of. Just read your bibles, and you see lots of examples. You probably have seen others around you act in ways that surprise you. Perhaps you are one of them yourself. Christians are NOT exempt from temptation nor are we immune to it.

You see, our very nature is to deny God and go our own way, doing our own thing, worshiping stuff of our choosing and making. Try as we might, we can’t make up for the harm we do. That’s a fact of life. It’s also clearly spelled out in Romans 1-3. That’s why we need a savior, and we have one in Jesus Christ.

Most Christian denominations agree on that, but most also say that one can mess up a good thing. They don’t all agree on what it takes, but most say you can walk away from your faith and therefore reject your salvation. That is absolutely terrifying to me because I don’t see any cut and dried answers to that problem in scripture. Folks, at the end of all me examination, I find that I willfully and knowingly sin in many ways even when I KNOW the Lord’s presence is telling me not to. There is no way around it. If I am brutally honest with myself, at times I prefer sin over God’s promises. I doubt him. I don’t trust him. I don’t believe him.

That sounds like someone with no faith. That’s a problem because “by grace you have been save through faith,” (Ephesians 2:8). No faith means no salvation.

But that’s momentary, you say, it’s not like I made a declaration or anything. I’m not so sure about that. I don’t need to have sex to commit adultery, so I probably don’t need to sign a piece of paper to walk away from the faith.

Look, no matter how I examine it, I can never be good enough to get into heaven. Some will say that all this is nonsense, that God doesn’t have rules like this. You can be simply baptized as an infant, and that’ll cover you. Or, that there is no hell and that God brings everyone to heaven. You know, Jesus’ blood was enough to cover everyone’s sin. But all that is merely speculation.

To be honest, so is my way of looking at things. I put my trust in the bible, and close study of that shows that salvation is by faith alone, through grace alone, through Christ alone, through Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Why can I believe this? Because Jesus rose from the dead, and the bible lays it all out. Perfectly.

That’s a good thing, a very good thing, because my salvation is secure. Rock solid. I can’t lose it. Heaven is my inheritance. Of that I can be sure.

1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

You don’t have to belief in the perseverance of the saints in order to be saved, but I would strongly recommend you check it out. Why? Because you want truth, don’t you? You also want peace about your salvation, right? Think about these things. This assurance is a great gift of God’s. Why miss out?

Father, the events of my day ahead may be uncertain, but I thank you for your assurance that my salvation is certain. Truly, nothing else matters. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

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