These thoughts are adaptations from the principles described in my book, The Grand Spiritual Assumption.
It is probably the universal belief among Christians that Jesus is their safety net. Faith placed in Him will keep that “believer” out of the fires below. As a result of this guaranteed deliverance after death, some Christians are openly rebellious while others seem to be indifferent to spiritual things on a daily basis. I have even had the opportunity of ministering to some Christians who were taught not to worry about sinning because they can always confess it and know that God will forgive it. In other words, they don’t need to stop sinning; they just need to confess it on a regular basis. If they do, God is almost obligated to forgive all the sins that are confessed, or at least that is the impression that some folks have from the teaching that they have received.
Every repentant person (notice that I didn’t add the word “truly!” God knows every man’s heart and can’t be conned in any way), whether he is a Christian or not, will be forgiven. God wants to forgive more than most people want to be forgiven. But He doesn’t forgive the insincere or the manipulative. He sees right through such dark motivations. He is infinitely more knowledgeable than the evil Queen’s mirror on the wall! He knows what is fair, what is fake, and what is flawed. He simply knows it all.
But wait! What about this wonderful thing called grace? Isn’t heaven a gift given by God’s absolutely free grace (Rom. 6:23)? Isn’t heaven unmerited (Eph. 2:8-9)? Isn’t it beyond every man’s reach (Matt. 19:23-26)? Isn’t it given freely apart from any work at all (Rom. 4:4-5)? And, on top of all that, isn’t it a permanent possession once it is gained? Haven’t we all been taught that once a person is saved, he is always saved? And isn’t it true that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29)? Hasn’t our tradition of orthodoxy formulated all these issues into two, relatively simple doctrines: the assurance of salvation and the eternal security of the believer?
Many people have bet the farm on these statements being true. Both the stock market and the racetrack, along with many other speculative ventures, are two-edged swords: a person can either hit a home run or lose his shirt. While most people don’t jump into speculative ventures without a lot of research, yet there are plenty who are very foolish in this matter. That is the reason God gave this guideline in the Book of Proverbs:
“He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.” (Prov. 28:19)
Is it wise, do you think, to handle spiritual matters in this same winner-takes-all and loser-forfeits-all manner?
While one branch of orthodox Christianity has emphasized God’s sovereignty almost to the exclusion of man’s responsibility, yet all of the tree of orthodox Christianity have sunk its roots into one underlying hope: that the supposed deliverance by Christ through His death on the cross keeps a person from hell.
But this conclusion is based upon so many assumptions that the actual text of the Bible has been lost from view.
And it is also true that nearly all theologies (at least all those that I am acquainted with) hedge on the sufficiency of Christ’s death by adding the word “truly” at every turn in the discussion of what it takes to get to heaven. So, it is only the person who truly believes that can be truly saved because true faith always truly perseveres to the very end of a person’s life (and that perseverance is needed to truly gain heaven in the end).
Hence, no one can truly be assured of heaven until he has truly persevered. But his eternal security is absolutely guaranteed provided that he has truly believed, truly been saved, and has truly persevered, truly manifesting true spiritual fruit.
But there is no need to allow this psychologically dependent theology to lead anyone to despair, we are urged. Everything is certain from God’s side. It only looks uncertain to us from our vantage point.
Even if that is true, how does that really help those who are concerned about where they stand?
Those who teach that heaven is gained by grace through faith alone apart from works may think they have dodged the bullet of criticism. I used to think that.
But when it finally comes to light that making it to heaven is not the issue of the Bible, this grace-through-faith-alone-apart-from-works position is no more helpful than the other one. While it is true that salvation is assuredly by grace through faith apart from works as Eph. 2:8-9 clearly declares, nevertheless, since salvation is not about reaching heaven in the first place, it cannot relieve the anxiety of a person about whether he has qualified for heaven or not.
So those who take Eph. 2:8-9 at face value and believe in Jesus to save them from hell will be just as thoroughly shocked at the Judgment Seat of God as those who believe that works are needed to obtain a heavenly destiny. Think through the Scriptures without a preconceived bias and the matter will be clear.
Jesus never once offered heaven as a free gift. Salvation yes; heaven no.
He didn’t offer a place in heaven if a person truly believes.
He didn’t offer a place in heaven if a person is truly saved?
He didn’t offer a place in heaven if a person truly obeys his whole life.
So there is no cause to become introspective in order to see if you are truly saved and, with that salvation, have qualified for heaven. Since heaven was never offered as a gift or in any other way as well, no one can have it.
Jesus offered to give a certain kind of life and the Holy Spirit that together can overcome all obstacles to an intimate walk with the God of heaven. And even apart from these resources, a life lived by faith still produces the righteousness that is acceptable to God. But the struggles and hardships of everyday life are all the more daunting without the resources available in Jesus.
Jesus did not come to provide a safety net for the afterlife. He came to provide an indestructible, unconquerable life to take us through every day that has been ordained for us (Ps. 139:16). Since God knew that He was going to allow the spiritual battle to intensify against His people, He provided in Jesus the resources needed to engage successfully in that intense battle on a daily basis. To experience His life is far better than any obedience performed in faith. I wonder if you know the difference?
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