Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Am I Eternally Secure?"

Some folk in Kevin’s fellowship group believe that Christians can lose their salvation if they fall away from God. Others there say that even if a Christian seems to have “backslidden” terribly, that God will still save them because they had believed in Christ before. What is the deal with “eternal security?”

Dear Kevin, what has divided Theologians since Arminius and Calvin in the early 1600s, I shall now set perfectly straight. Ha! Right!

What “eternal security” critics dub “once saved, always saved,” John Calvin called “The Preservation of the Saints.” Arminius taught that it is possible for a Christian to repudiate their faith, and thus be disqualified from the salvation they once had. This Calvin-Arminian difference shouldn’t hinder Christian fellowship. Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that nobody can be saved, without God’s making salvation possible. Both support that faith in Christ is essential for salvation.

Their differences seem more to do with a philosophical definition of man’s “free will.” Calvinists see free will as the freedom to choose according to one’s deepest desires. We choose what we really want most. The Calvinist would say that its absurd (impossible) to choose what one doesn’t want. Arminians see free will as the freedom to choose other than we chose.

Imagine a couple pieces of cake. At first glance, I might want the bigger piece. Choosing the smaller piece indicates a desire that’s deeper than my sweet tooth. Maybe I wanted you to have the bigger piece. So, while the Calvinist might say that my godly heart wanted you to have the bigger piece, the Arminian might say that though I really wanted the cake myself, I chose what I didn’t want, for your sake. If I gobbled down the cake, the Calvinist might then say that my fleshly desires outweighed what I knew was nobler. I chose according to my greatest desire: eating cake. The Arminian would counter that I chose it freely, though it wasn’t what I knew to be best, and now I would have to suffer the consequence of chubby cheeks. But it doesn’t matter what they think. Kevin didn’t ask Calvin or Arminius, he asked me, and Tom would say, “Hey Calvin and Arminius, if neither of you guys are gonna eat that cake…..”

Jacobus Arminius’ and John Calvin’s adherents, have been debating whether or not Christians could lose their salvation, since 1603. We still don’t know which of them is now saying, “toldjyaso!” If you want more on this argument, complete with tons of Bible verses that support and give struggle to both sides of the issue, you might start clicking around here:

or here is a nutshell version:

Kevin’s really saying, “I want to be sure that I’m going to heaven.” That is a very good thing to want to know! Scripture does not encourage us to look to other Christians for the answer to this important question. We are rather instructed to examine ourselves and to listen for God. First we are to look to our hearts:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine your beliefs. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died for your sins, and that being sinless Himself, He was raised from the dead, and that upon belief and the confession of your faith, that He has sent you the Holy Spirit, as a deposit now, evidence that you are sealed by God for that day when you will leave your earthly body, and be present with Him? Theologians can’t settle this for you. You have to examine yourself honestly. Secondly then, turn to God, and listen.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Romans 8:14

“Yet to all who receive Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."
John 1:12,13

Are you a child of God? Ask God to let you know. There is no shame in wanting assurance that you belong to God. We are to hear from Him.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby wrote such hymns as, “Redeemed,” “To God Be the Glory,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “I Am Thine O Lord,” and many more. For some time, she ached to have personal assurance from God, wanting to know if she were His.

We are not always going to feel the presence of God in this world. There will be times when thoughts of “Am I really His?” come in, and that can be hard. John Calvin and Jacob Arminius’ debate for sure is mentally stimulating. But the soul wants personal evidence, a testimony from God, that we are His.

At such times it’s good to reflect upon the things God has done to show you that He is your God. Like the Israelites were instructed to do, retelling acts of God’s faithfulness to us over the years helps. These dry times pass, and we find God is still with us.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalm 43:5

Miss Crosby was already famous for her poetry, and Christian lyrics. Yet she wanted to know for sure that she was saved. Then one week she attended some revival meetings in New York. Though she’d gone forward to pray the two previous nights, and was still unsure, when the congregation sang, “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,” God broke through and spoke to her. She now knew that He was hers and she His. Miss Crosby wrote: “My very soul was flooded with celestial light. For the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.” One of her most famous hymns that she later wrote, was, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine.” She'd known her scriptures, but she'd longed for that “blessed assurance” from God. There’s nothing wrong with that. Quoting the prophet Joel, Peter said:

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Acts 2:21

We’ve gone from scripture-sighting theologians, to subjective songwriters. It takes more than just knowing verses to back up our personal beliefs. And it’s not about just having a good cry, and feeling better. Our security lies in knowing God, and being known by Him. Eternal security is being in Christ. Jesus said,

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
John 17:3

Knowing Jesus Christ is eternal life! Do you know Jesus? Does He know you? How do we know? What do we do when we doubt? There is one passage of scripture that used to cause me concern this way. Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did not we prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
Matthew 7:21-23

These verses scared me! I didn’t always do God’s will. Would I be among these? So I first examined myself to make sure that I was in the faith. I believed what the Bible says about Jesus. Check. And then I cried out to Jesus, expressing strongly how I did not want to be rejected by Him. “I’m Yours aren’t I, Lord?” In time, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart. And I was comforted.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is talking about false prophets; wolves in sheep’s clothing. He wasn’t talking about Christians who mess up. He is talking about people who call themselves His prophets, but who aren’t His. They are religious, and they are in the church. But they are not in Christ. He says, “I never knew you.” Earlier in Matthew, Jesus talks about there being both wheat and weeds (tares) all sown in the same field. (Matthew 13:24-29) Joining a church is good; but it doesn’t save your soul. You need to know, and to be known by God.

When the disciples went out to minister, they came back amazed at what they were able to do in Jesus’ name. While Jesus acknowledged that their work had indeed been powerful, He said:

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:20

Does God know you? Do you know Him? If so, both Calvin and Arminius are your brothers in Christ. If you are concerned about your standing with God, first ask yourself what you believe. Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Then talk to God, and wait for His Spirit to speak to your spirit. That will be your blessed assurance. Then please, let us hear the hymns that you write after that!

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