Friday, September 7, 2012
You're Not Holy Yet, Trust Me
You know what I loved about being a born again Christian? Eternal security, that's what. What a fantastic doctrine that is. I figured that if my choices were between getting a ticket to ride on the highway to Hell, or an eternal passport to Heaven, well, there wasn't much to think about - I wanted my passport stamped by the Holy Spirit himself, with the promise that it would never, ever expire or be revoked.
I was young, kind of awkward (and when I say kind of I mean totally) and wanted to feel...well...secure - eternally secure even. I wanted God to give me the big thumbs up and to know that there was nothing I could do that would make me lose my salvation.
I was sure my eternal passport was valid, as I had gone through the necessary administrative process to obtain it: Sinner's prayer - check, Believer's baptism - check, Holy Spirit - stamp, stamp, stamp and check. I was good to go.
Yet I was not good to go. I was far from good and, spiritually speaking, the only place I was going was in circles.
It would have helped me to know that people are not dipped in an impenetrable holiness coating when they confess faith in Christ and that there is (sadly) no such thing as an eternal passport.
Oh, well, some will argue with me on that, but hear me out for a minute. Our salvation comes through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and this relationship is one of healing and restoration. Christ became our salvation on the cross - he became cursed to heal our curse; he died to defeat death and free us from its grip and he rose from the dead to bring us triumphant life. All this is true. At the same time, we who decide to be in a relationship with God are still sinful beings.
Trust me, if being healed was simply a matter of making a heartfelt decision, I would be the first one to declare "I don't have a debilitating illness - I'm FINE" and start enjoying my life as a completely healthy person. But that doesn't work (trust me, I tried it...at least twice). The same thing goes for being healed from the disease of sin. We may decide most heartily to stop sinning, but recovery from sinfulness is a long and usually painfully slow process, which even the Apostle Paul attested to in his writings.
I have been corrected before for calling myself "a sinner." A family member once told me "you are not a sinner; you are a saint who sins sometimes!" I might have agreed with her if by "sometimes" she had meant "constantly" and if by "saint" she had meant "pathetic-wretch-who-is-doing-her-best-but-continually-fails."
I don't mean to be such a downer, but frankly, this is our situation. Look around and ask yourself what is causing the majority of the pain in the world. It's people - sinful people who keep hurting others either intentionally or unintentionally. And let's not kid ourselves: professing Christians do their fair share of hurting people in this world.
Thanks to the writers of the NIV conveniently translating the word "flesh" as "sinful nature" there is a popular notion that Christians are saints who have this extra component called "the sinful nature" (whatever that is). I mean, it's convenient, I'll give you that. It makes it so that we can disassociate ourselves from our own sinful behaviour. What, that? That wasn't me, I am a saint! That was simply my "sinful nature" flaring up again. That darn thing.
Let's get real Christian people: the person doing the sinning is YOU; it's ME. God forgive us, especially for making excuses, rationalizations and flat out being in denial of our sinfulness.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
God didn't make us to be sinners, of course. Yet we fell ill. We fell seriously ill, that is. We are shadows of what God made us to be. We suffer from a condition that brings about sickly thoughts, actions, words and emotions. We harm each other without hardly thinking about it. Sometimes it just seems to happen and we are left wondering how everything went so horribly wrong. We are lost and blind in a world full of ditches.
Christ came to rescue us from ourselves and to give us the choice to take up his cross and follow Him - so that as we walk with Him our suffering will turn into salvation. This requires several things on our part: a will to get up and follow Him, humility to confess our sins and reject them, and a conscious yielding to God and participation with Him, as suffering and death turn into life and salvation in us.
So, it's not so much an eternal passport that Jesus Christ gives us; it's much more like an eternal road map. The Way is clearly marked and the destination is sure, but we must pick up the map and we must follow it without straying until we have finished travelling this earth.
Eternal security is not something I claim any more. There was no eternal passport, but I did discover that since salvation is something I participate in, something I have to choose each day, my faith means so much more to me. I am less aimless because I know that all I need to do is follow "the Way" and I'll be right on track. I am also less delusional about myself and far less shocked when I find myself sinning - yet again. I will be judged according to what I have done in the flesh, whether good or evil, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I no longer have a false sense of eternal security; I have a real sense of God's incredible mercy - that while we are still sinners, Christ saves us.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ Jeremiah 7:23
Read my follow up to this post: Clothed in God