Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Always Saved?

A friend of mine posed a good question about salvation: "Can a person who has been truly 'born again' lose (or throw away) their salvation?"

I do not believe that someone who is truly saved can walk away from Christ. If God is the one who did all the work (Ephesians 2:8-9), how can we UNDO that work?

In John 10:27-30, we read about how Jesus Christ holds His sheep in His hands, and how God the Father holds His sheep in His hands. God holds on to us, not the other way around.

In Ephesians 1 we have some wonderful teaching about what God has done in bringing us into a relationship with Him. The whole chapter is helpful to read, but I would especially point to verses 11-14.

In Philippians 1:6 we read about how the Lord will be faithful to complete what He started in us. In Romans 8:38-39, we read that nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Still, we have a very sticky problem whenever we see someone who has seemed to walk faithfully with Christ for a long time, but now is not living at all for Him. What do we do with that?

Let me turn the coin over and show the other side for a moment. Yes, the Lord holds us firmly in His hand. But as Christians we also have a responsibility to follow the Lord in daily obedience.

In John 14:15, we read Jesus' words: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He repeats and expands this teaching just a few verses later, in John 14:21-24. If we love the Lord, then obedience to Him will come naturally. And it is by our obedience that we show we truly love the Lord, as we read clearly in 1 John 5:3.

We have a duty as His disciples to take up our cross DAILY and follow Him (Luke 9:23) and to abide in Christ (John 15:1-17).

If we have been truly saved, then God holds on to us, and we are always His. But if a person can comfortably walk away from the Lord and not feel the convicting work of His Holy Spirit drawing him or her back, then I doubt that person has ever been truly saved. (Even Judas appeared to be a good follower of Jesus for more than three years, but Jesus said that Judas never truly belonged to Him.)

If someone has walked in long-term disobedience to Christ, I would take them back to the Cross. Whether they belong to Jesus but got involved in a sinful pattern, or they never belonged to Jesus in the first place - the Cross is still the place to go when anyone is ready to repent. And God is faithful to forgive (see 1 John 1:9)!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The "C" Word

In 2011 I traveled to South Sudan to work with some dear friends who are church leaders there. As part of our training sessions, we wanted to help the church leaders understand and fulfill their biblical roles as elders in their churches.

Along with one of my team members, I carefully went through the Bible passages about elders. We were assisted by one of the best translators. But after almost an hour of teaching, I realized that the men in the room were not really getting it. I saw blank stares and shuffling feet. Almost nobody was taking notes anymore.

I prayed, and the Lord helped me understand the problem. All morning we had been using the word "elder." The men in the room understood this to mean "tribal elder" (chief) or "village elder" (older man in the village that is considered wise because of his age). So the men in the room - none of which were tribal elders or village elders - didn't realize that these Bible passages applied to them!

Communication - the "C" word. I love it and I hate it. I am a communicator by vocation. Most of the time I communicate fairly well. But occasionally I manage to communicate something so poorly that I end up conveying the opposite of what I actually mean. Sometimes I write, then edit, then edit again - only to have someone else help me realize that my words have obscured the message instead of clarifying it.

In stark contrast, the Lord has communicated Himself clearly and faithfully to us in His Word - the Bible. Even more, He has given us - as believers in Christ - His Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding His Word.

We read these words of Jesus in John 16:13: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…." God didn't just give us His Word and then leave us on our own to understand it. He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply what He wrote in His Word!

Thank you, Lord! You are an awesome Communicator!