Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

The Father is Chasing You!

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20, NLT

There’s a specific moment of time when the Prodigal stands up–looks around, and then decides it’s time to return home.  But he is no longer a ‘rich man’s son’, the pig-pen completely crushed that idea.  He comes home, thinking that he can at least be a slave.

The devastated prodigal now understands.

And it’s that which gives him the propulsion to leave the pigs behind, and return home. The trip is a long one, lots of walking, and it’s hard–he’s far from where he’s supposed to be. He is tired, ragged and worn.

But please dear one, you must understand this about Jesus’ parable–the story isn’t as much about the prodigal son– the focus should be on the father–Jesus is teaching us that the love of God is a searching/seeking kind of love, and it cannot be shut down, or go away over time.

It is a 24/7/365 day kind of love.

Think of it like high intensity radar that sweeps over extreme distances, it is always looking,  and it won’t be denied.  The Father is seeking for His sons and daughters.  He intends to find them. If we refuse we will continue to feed pigs, and starve.

The compassion of the Father is an aggressive and reaching kind of mercy

The Father never sits on His butt, watching us from His throne, He reaches out and penetrates through a whole lot of sin. He runs, not sits. He is far from passive, or ‘ho-hum’ toward His son. And God is fully into reclaiming His lost sons and daughters. He continues to find me, even in my darkness and sin.

Sin disfigures
Sin disfigures, a meth addict’s mug shots over time

The Father recognizes His prodigal son.  Gross sin has a way that disfigures a person’s countenance. Look at the wino or meth addict on the street.

The boy who abruptly left home is not the son who returns.  There has been damage done.  His face has changed.  The Father understands this, and yes, it has been terribly hard and brutal.

I believe that this parable is the greatest of them all. 

It shows the deep love the Father has for prodigals like us. This story is so revealing, in it we see that the Father is always running, and toward other rascals who are very much like us. We must know this. We must internalize it and understand that passionate love He has–we will stall in our discipleship if we don’t grip this!

This amounts to nothing less than a revolution. 

It’s very possible that the Church will falter and be confused over the presence of the prodigal at our door. The trick for us is being the younger son without becoming the elder.

There seems to be very few people who understand a running God.

When we see love like the Fathers, we are full of doubt. There isn’t anything like it. It’s far far removed by logical reasoning. It’s lavished on wasted men and women, and we can grow skeptical about this.

But if the Church can keep pace, understanding who He really is–if we can accept the massive love of the Father toward ‘prodigals–no matter what the sin, we will finally understand His M.O.

And the Church will finally be doing His will in the world. Finally.

1brobry-sig4

 

The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

Please bear with me. This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines,

Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.”

And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying. It seems that that hard book of Job is finally starting to make sense.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must cling to Him. I must let this darkness go. He’ll need to work this out.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me. I know He does love me.

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