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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saints and Ain’ts

“The Father loves the Son.”
(John 3:35 and 5:20)
Are there any better words in all of Scripture than this? Personally, I don’t think so.

Many people have a fondness for John 3:16, or Romans 8:35, or Ephesians 2:8-9 … all very great passages, I’ll admit; but for me, nothing anywhere comes close to the freedom, joy and consolation of the words above. Maybe today I can tell you why.

The Need

We’ve all played the game with ourselves. It’s called “Am I really saved?” Maybe we can remember making a profession of faith in a moment of intense earnestness some time ago, but some new happening has thrown us for a loop, and caused us to doubt. The terror of judgment falls upon us.

It’s a scary game. We see sin around us, among us and even within us. We want to be sure we’re on the right side, so we go over and over our past commitments or present circumstances, looking for some kind of confirmation or certainty.

Of course, if you’ve played the game, you know it doesn’t work. You don’t feel better; you feel worse.

Two Causes

Some Christians look to the strength of their personal faith commitment to assure them of their salvation. “Did I do it?” “Did I mean it?” “Was I sincere enough?” “Maybe I should do it again …”

Let’s call this Faith Anxiety. Lots of Christians have it.

Others look to the arbitrary choice of God in eternity past. But since these same people believe that choice was secret and is known only to God himself, they have to wonder what He decided. So they also end up filled with fear. “Am I elect?” “Am I predestined?” “Did God choose me, or am I fooling myself?”

Because of this fear, they rely on an idea called “The Perseverance of the Saints” (the fifth point in the acronym TULIP). They think they will only ever be sure of their salvation if they “persevere”, meaning that they must keep living holy, consistent Christian lives to the very end or they could discover they have been disqualified from salvation.

They look to their own works and goodness for assurance. Thus they nervously examine their own life patterns, and impose rigorous legal requirements upon themselves in a desperate attempt to, as they say, “make [their] calling and election sure” to themselves. And yet this always leaves them uncertain that at the last moment they won’t be disqualified and fall short.

Let’s call this the Calvinist Anxiety.

The Real Problem

Now, we know that Biblically speaking, one cannot lose one’s salvation once one has genuinely obtained it. This is called the Doctrine of Eternal Security, and it’s well established by Scripture. We are not saved by our own goodness, but by the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. There’s no serious question there.

But all of that doesn’t necessarily satisfy the anxiety of our hearts. For whether or not we are actually saved, it’s the assurance of our salvation that we are lacking; and assurance is different from reality. We want to have what the Scripture promises us we can have: “… that you may know that you have eternal life ...”. 

So how can we know?

The Real Answer

The Father loves the Son. Surprisingly, this is the essential answer we have been looking for.

How is that? It begins with the fundamental fact of the universe — that is, it was created by the Triune God … a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existing in mutual delight and sufficiency in eternity past. Unlike in Buddhism or Hinduism, we know that the world was not created as an act of necessity, but as an act of love from the Father to the Son.

A funny thing about love: it is generous, and always wants to extend its joys. When a man and a woman marry and experience joyful relationship, it’s not long until one of them says, “Shouldn’t we think about children?” They want to welcome others into the warmth of the love they have come to know. Likewise, God desired to welcome other beings into the joy of His Son, and in an act of pure generosity made the world.

It was always His plan that this place would be populated with beings who would enter into relationship with Him, and come to share in the joy He had with the Son before the world was. All things in the world were made by Him and for Him, and indeed hold together only by His creative power. 

The Son is the Alpha and Omega of it all. He has been appointed by the Father the ultimate Judge of its worth, and all things have their value only in their relation to Him. Indeed, the Father Himself only values things as they relate to His Son.

And the Father loves the Son. He never stops loving the Son. His love for the Son never even flickers. He is always the Father’s beloved Son in whom He is fully pleased.

The Son is everything. And God the Father only made the world in the first place so that sentient beings like you and me could enter into the love He has for the Son. A place is prepared for us.

In Him

So the real question is, “Are you in?”

I mean, “Are you in the Son?” Are you trusting in the strength of your own faith, or in some arbitrary decree issued by God in eternity past? You’re wasting your time. But are you giving up on yourself? Are you believing that the Son is Who He said He is, and are you sharing God’s opinion of His Son? Are you clinging to His greatness, not your own strength of conviction or your enrolment on a secret list? Are you saying to the Father, “The Son is everything you say He is; and I love Him too”?

Here is what Jesus says about that:
“… the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:27)
Those who are “in the Son” already have eternal life. The wrath of God is past for you. You cannot be accused of sin, because He has none, and you are “in Him”. God only ever sees us “in Him”. And God will never give you up, because now He sees you only “in His Son”.

If you are “in Christ”, then you are a saint — a holy one of God. You cannot be lost, you cannot be abandoned, and here’s the reason why: because you’ve been bought by the blood of Christ, and for God to fail to take delivery of the goods would be an insult against His Son.

It says this in Romans 8:32, remember? “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Now think: having poured out the blood of His Beloved Son for you, will He hold back and say, “Well, I was thinking of saving you, but now I see you’re a little grubbier than I thought”? Or will He say, “When you asked for salvation, I said ‘Okay’, but now that you’re asking for sanctification, you’re asking too much”? Will He say, “Well, I gave my Son, but I’m not going to give you my Holy Spirit”? Or “Well, I saved you at unspeakable cost, but I don’t know if I want to spend any more time with you”?

No. Because to do so would be an insult against the Price paid for you. Having paid so much, God is certain to take delivery of the goods. In fact, “in Him” you now have a host of blessings guaranteed, showing that God is not only going to save you but keep working with you until Christ receives all the glory from you that He has paid for.

The Old Guys Get It Right

An old hymn writer caught onto this idea when he wrote the following challenge to any who would accuse us:
“Reach my blest Saviour first,
Take Him from God’s esteem,
Prove Jesus bears one spot of sin,
Then tell me I’m unclean.”
From Christ’s Grave is Vacant Now (1883)
This is why even today we also sing:
“Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”
From Before the Throne of God Above (1863)
Hey, those old guys were really onto something.

In Short

If you are trusting in Christ, you are a saint. Stop worrying that you ain’t. It ain’t about who you are, it’s about who Christ is to the Father. Get on with joyfully serving the Lord, pressing on to know Him more, and cooperating with the Spirit of God in transforming you into His likeness. Neither your power of belief nor your confidence of election matter. They don’t hold a candle to what really secures your salvation:

The Father loves the Son.

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