Can we lose our salvation?

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Treasure

2 Cor 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Many Christians (regarding whom, I have NO doubt that they are authentic believers) fight the fear that they are just fooling themselves when it comes to the status of their eternal salvation.

Like a radio with antennae continually seeking strong signals, so too do I search out scriptural truth to bolster the hope and assurance of struggling brothers and sisters I love.

So when I heard John Piper talk about desire being the key to authentic Christianity, I saw something true and comforting that I might be able to pass on.

When we are born again through the Spirit of God it’s like we are given a new set of eyes. We begin to see clearly just what IS treasure and what is trash.  New desires germinate and start to flourish.  Yes, growth can be slow and seem irregular in direction and pace.  But the overall trajectory has been changed.

But what do we do when doubts like these below plague us?  (who do you think ‘might’ be behind these doubts? – not God!)

  • What if the Bible and how one is saved isn’t true?
  • What if I really haven’t believed?
  • What if I’m not a TRUE believer?
  • What does it mean that I don’t seem to feel as enthusiastic or sure as other Christians?

What do we do?  We look at the treasure!

Think about the man who stumbled upon buried gold or silver in that field (Matthew 13:44). Quickly reburying it, he sold everything he had (fields, house, furnishings, livestock) to put together enough money to buy the entire pasture.  Once he possessed the plot of land, do you think he moved on to other pursuits, ignoring the treasure?  No!  I can picture him digging it up and handling it, savoring it, thinking about what it meant to his future.  His imagination easily filled in the blanks.  He might have used some of it for the present, but the rest he protected as his inheritance or retirement fund.

His joy would have remained and been stoked and even grown with every re-imagining and glorying in this treasure.  Had he started to doubt whether he actually possessed this wealth, he would have wasted no time pulling it out and savoring all that it represented.

That’s what we have to do with OUR most precious possession. As believers in Christ, we have:

  • forgiveness and peace with God
  • a new Spirit in us – no longer of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind
  • Christ’s continual presence THROUGH this indwelling holy Spirit
  • and a bright future to be lived in His presence where ‘fullness of joy’ is promised.

So what do we do either to ward off the doubts or deal with them?

We just need to ‘visit’ and ‘revisit’ our treasure every day, holding fast to it.

Whatever it takes to hold on to our faith, we must do.  Faith is our most valuable possession.  John Piper exhorts fellow believers to STRENGTHEN the gift by realizing that:

Little faith = Little joy

Stoked faith = MORE joy!

How do we fan the fires that heat up our faith?  By reading about this great gift in God’s Word and learning what it means for us to be partakers and heirs of God’s kingdom. Remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).  I need to hear God’s truth every day, throughout the day.  And it’s MY voice rehearsing God’s promises out loud that help me most to HEAR.

LOVE the Treasure!

PONDER the Treasure!

PRAISE the Giver or the Treasure!

GET TO KNOW the Giver!

Look at this concrete advice to early Christians battling unbelief:

Hebrews 3:14

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first.

Pop Quiz!

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Mexican Impasse

 

 

Ephesians 4:32  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you

Why did he bring up that old sin of mine?

I’m not often caught off guard, but his comment blind-sided me. It definitely related to the movie we were watching, but I hadn’t thought of that shameful chapter from my past for years.

My stunned silence in turn took him back. He hadn’t meant any – it was just a remark. My unexpected reaction so took him back and left him not knowing how to process what was happening.

A chilly distance and awkwardness descended upon us both.

We each felt put upon by the other. We each wanted the other to lay aside their feelings and make the effort to understand our surprise and hurt. It was a Mexican impasse.

Words weren’t adequate to work through the weight of feelings. I sat down to read the paper and he made his way to the ‘man-cave’ to smoke his post-prandial cigar.

Slowly there came over me a sense that I was being offered a pop quiz to plumb the genuineness of my verbal proclamations of love for my husband. Here was an occasion to put my money where my mouth was.

Do I truly love my husband as much as I tell him and others? If so, then aren’t his feelings important to me, even more so than MY own feelings?

And there he was, down in that cold place, next to the propane heater, trying to enjoy a cigar, but feeling UN-loved and MIS-understood and probably maligned.

Soft feelings of compassion replaced my desire first to be understood. A texting conversation began and after a flurry, I knew that offering him grace instead of holding out for what I thought I wanted (to be understood) was more satisfying. I went to bed in peace.

How did I know it was a pop quiz? Because the chapter in my book I picked up after our electronic back and forth addressed GIVING versus TAKING.   And John Piper’s devotional for the day was about forgiveness.

 

Stay in your boundary!

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A night at Cousin Terry’s home gifted us with more than good fellowship and food. We were also blessed with a powerful word-picture or image to remind us of how to live the Christian life, with peace and rest.  The picture below is what I’m calling a ‘boundary circle.’  I’ll explain in a few.

Heart Shaped boundary

 

 

 

 

Christians, by definition, are new creations.  They have been rescued from the futile, darkened kingdom of self & death (run by the Father of Lies) and transferred into the Kingdom of Light & Life, where the Triune God reigns.

Paul explains this to the believers in Colossae,

  • For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son (Col 1:13)

As freed prisoners, now owing our allegiance to our Rescuer, everything is different:

  • I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Although a Christian for the past 33 years, I’m a slow learner.  What I’ve found to be true in my life, and it probably is so with you, is this: to the extent that we take in knowledge about God, we grow more like Jesus.  If we don’t EAT spiritual food, we imbibe worldly food. Think Junk Food, ‘and there is no health in us’ as the Book of Common Prayer says in a morning confession.

From the moment of ‘transfer’ new believers belong to God as His adopted children, with full rights and privileges, to include a future, guaranteed inheritance. However, I’ve learned that unless I call myself back to present reality, I can revert back to that former, but still very comfortable way of thinking, that of a ‘slave to sin’.

Slavery

 

 

Here’s the rub.  Life is hard, whether you’re a ‘Christ-ling’ or a ‘World-ling’.  But as an adopted child of God, an heir with Christ, I have full access to the love, the power and the promises of God.  I’m not meant to live, dependent on my own resources.  I am a new creation: ‘Christus-Maria’ 

All that being said, despite having been a Christian since the age of 24, I still battle unbelief.  I find myself frequently imagining, worrying and fearing this or that. Our cousin Terry is a mature and wise Christian woman who has learned to trust God by trial and error (aka falling into sin and then repenting) through prayer and nourishment from God’s word.  She is also very real, the kind of Christian with whom you can feel SAFE in admitting your struggles.

So when I shared with her, during our overnight the content of the worries and fears that plague me, she passed on the advice gleaned from a wise Christian man who lovingly admonishes his fearful wife each time she shares a worry:

‘Honey, you’ve stepped out of the boundary of grace for the moment, for the day!  There’s no grace NOW for where you’re hanging out – the future. There’s only grace for the present. Get back inside the boundary!’

So back to the protective circle of love at the top of this post.  I picture myself yoked with Christ, WITHIN THAT CIRCLE OF LOVE.  As long as I keep step with Him, then all is well.  The strength and direction come easily as I walk, moment by moment, in conscious communion WITH Him.  It’s only when I run ahead in my thoughts to the future hypothetical ‘what-ifs’, that I find myself in the scary ‘badlands’ of possible dangers, outside of my boundary of love.

Yoked

 

 

How senseless to run on ahead, alone, as a weak and defenseless little donkey, leaving behind my supernatural Older Brother and Redeemer!

I find comfort in this image of a protective circle of love and grace surrounding the new me, harnessed to a comfortable restraint permanently linking me with Jesus. More and more, I am learning to ‘harness’ my thoughts, to rein them in, back to the HERE and NOW where Grace is King.

Question: Where are you running ahead of your provision?

 

When measuring is a snare

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Get out of jail free

Romans 6:14 uses words to describe our ‘freedom’ card.

The first translation is from the NIV and the second is the Message

 

 

  • For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

I’m reading a book that Graham gave me for Mothers’ Day.   Here’s the link  –  Punch Fear in the Face – Start

Jon Acuff Bk Punch Fear...
One of the author’s premises is that people have these internal voices that authoritatively talk to us in messages that are anything but positive.  And…(here is the kicker)..we BELIEVE them!  They are particularly active anytime we entertain a new direction like:

 

 

  • start an exercise program
  • go back to school
  • research a possible business idea
  • ask for a raise
  • confront another person who has hurt us
  • stop a bad habit
  • ask someone out for a date
  • audition for a part
  • apply for a job
  • dust off a dream
  • change churches

His remedy is to articulate out loud what the voices say, think about the message in the light of day and speak truth back to them, thereby quenching their power……for the time being. I actually had the courage, yesterday, to do just that and it was liberating. woman in the shower       I don’t like washing my hair because it means staying in the shower longer than normal which means I have to confront what I think is a poofy tummy (I know…TMI!).  For the first time, however, I recognized this thought as ONE OF THOSE INSIDIOUS VOICES!!.  So I talked back to it and said – “Wait a second.  A tummy is NOT a shoulder bone.  Shoulders are hard, tummies are round and soft – that’s just how they are made.  So what if it feels poofy?” And that was that – the voice went back into hiding and I was left feeling free!

I had read the above verse in Romans the other day and suddenly made the connection.  Anytime I MEASURE myself vis-à-vis others using an imaginary standard in my mind, I EITHER feel superior or inferior.  And what I have done for that moment is to step back INTO the prison cell of the Kingdom of Darkness where Law reigns and sin is the norm.

Measuring and comparing oneself to others is to forget that we have already been sprung from the World’s Way.  We have been transferred into the Kingdom of Light, by Grace.  We didn’t collect enough brownie points to EARN our way into it. We were liberated from our dark prison cell.  The door swung wide and we walked out into the Light where we have

  • value because God chose us and paid for our release
  • an inheritance we don’t have to earn
  • freedom NOT to play the ‘measurement’ game

In essence – we now live in OPEN space in the LIGHT under a completely different system that uses the currency of grace, not merit.

And….we find ourselves frequently running back to that dark prison of measuring ourselves in comparison to others, a system familiar to the point that it’s almost comforting.

prison bars

The good news is that the door stays open and we can turn around (repent) and walk back into the light.

Knowing that is like sticking your hand in your pocket and finding that Get Out of Jail Free card!

One New Year’s Resolution –

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As we approach January 1, I’m prayerfully thinking through where I am spiritually and where I want to be.

To that end, I turn again to John Piper. This 67-year old pastor and teacher is probably my # 1 hero in the faith.  He has shaped my theology the most through his sermons and writing by teaching me:

  • That no sparrow falls unless God has willed it
  • That God wants us to be glad and joy-filled

(a link to his website is to the right)   John Piper’s ministry

A brief explanation of the two points is in order:

First – the fact that God controls the details about sparrows is to say that He is sovereign over every thing that happens in the entire universe, whether invisible or visible.  And He controls all in a way that doesn’t change His nature of GOOD, HOLY, LOVING, JUST and CREATIVE God (to name only 5 of His myriad of attributes).

Second – God created us to be filled to overflowing with gladness, joy and happiness about the right things – HIM, His actions, His saving grace, His promises and His plans for us.

Being happy in God is another way of saying ‘glorifying’ God.

John Piper explains that the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s very FIRST Q and A to be:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever

 

Piper explains that since only ONE end is mentioned (not two), changing the AND to BY does not alter the meaning.

that our chief purpose in life is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever. 

It seems that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.  And the corollary is that our degree of satisfaction in God increases when we let others know how happy in Him we are. 

My goal, therefore, for this New Year is to practice glorifying God by enjoying Him as well as His gifts.

Obviously, this is easier said than done.  Why is that?  Because I live on a diet of junk.  Just like one’s taste for vegetables has to be nurtured and developed, so, too, must I cultivate a ‘taste’ for God-things, for holiness. 

 

Far too often I’d rather –

  • Check the internet than pray
  • Read the paper instead of my Bible
  • Think about how I’m going to lose 3 lbs and NOT how I could invite a lonely person to dinner

What’s a self-absorbed tech-preferring gal going to do? 

Well, I only have one idea – perhaps you can suggest others:

In the vein of Ann Voskamp, I’m going to keep thanking God for all His wonders.  That implies that I am going to notice and catch these marvels, these gifts, and the myriad of God-sent little pleasures. To that end, I will pray daily for Holy Spirit help to prod me, to remind me, to get me out of myself and look up and around.

A link to her book

Taste and see that the Lord is good – Psalm 34:8

 

 

 

 

Pity, Pride and Promises

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Several of my dear friends have been struggling with the very real and insidious satanic snare of: 

  • self pity – look at how terrible my circumstances are!
  • pride – these circumstances should not be happening to me!

The trick of Satan is to mask his role in promoting these depressing and self-righteous feelings!  Instead, we think they are OUR true assessment of reality.

One friend is struggling with her marriage and wishing it were otherwise.

The other friend is struggling with his vocation and wishing it were otherwise.

Who can rescue them (and us when we are so attacked) from this downward spiral that seems unending?

One version of an endless cycle

Thank God that He exists and has come that we might have life.

The other day I, TOO, felt that descent into murky grayness as I was meditating on some difficult circumstances. But before I hit dark despair, the Holy Spirit brought to mind God’s promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Then I recalled

  • the FACT that God is sovereignly controlling all my circumstances
  • the FACT that God is always doing 10,000 plus things in every circumstance that touches me
  • the FACT that God predestined me to work, to help, to pray, to give, to worship, to trust in activities and projects of His own choosing
  • the FACT that God chose to give me life today for His purposes
  • the FACT that I can trust God of all ‘people’ to be consistent and true to His Word

All those thoughts got my mind OFF of my circumstance and reversed the trend of my feelings.

So dear friends, I am praying that the Holy Spirit will remind you hourly:

  • that you can trust God
  • that God is close to the broken-hearted
  • that He is allowing this circumstance, at the moment, because He has good in mind for you, for those involved and others about whose situation you might not know

So……relax, trust and remember how He has come through in the past and what He promises for your future.

1 Cor 2:9

What is your ‘One Thing’?

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You’ve heard of Double A batteries?  How about Double C Idols?

That would be the twin gods of comfort and certainty.  I was stopped short in my thoughts the other day by a quote attributed to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  Quoted in the excerpt at the bottom of this essay* she asks her listeners to, “Finish what King David wrote by filling in YOUR one thing: ‘One thing I have asked of the Lord, this one thing I seek_____________________’.”  (Psalm 27:4)

Pausing to reflect, I had to confess that I couldn’t even narrow down all my prayer requests and heart longings to ONE THING. But I remember saying to myself, ‘what a great idea!’

Pretty soon, in less than 24 hours, I realized that ALL my prayers pretty much center around wanting MY comfort and certainty in the details of my life and the lives of those I care about.

In other words it’s all about me. Yet…that is not wrong in and of itself.  God KNOWS that we operate in our own best interests. He wired us that way.  He just KNOWS that which is in our best interests – a life fed, fueled, and instructed by Him.

Even yesterday on our hike up the Art Loeb Trail to Ivestor Gap,

Art Loeb Trail plaque and Mike - 31 Aug

I saw how much we crave certainty. Mike was navigating by topographical map. He is a typical mission-oriented male, just the way God made men to be.  He had scoped out a hike and this was our 3rd attempt to complete it.  The first Saturday, because we weren’t used to how long it takes to hike this kind of hilly terrain, we had taken a wrong turn.  Then last Saturday, I casually mentioned that 4 hours of hiking was probably what I had in mind for a typical Saturday field trip.  That information, shared with my husband for the first time, caused him to change our day’s goals.  We successfully completed half of his planned hike. Yesterday our goal was to finish it.

As we ran into those inevitable decision points (how come THIS trail fork isn’t showing up on the map?), I realized how much we CRAVE certainty and how it eludes our grasp most of the time.  What a futile passion, then, to want to KNOW that things will turn out the way we imagine them in the beginning.  What a waste of emotional energy to angst, to stress, to push to ENSURE those pictured circumstances turn out ‘our way’!

God doesn’t promise us THAT KIND of assurance.  (He DOES assure us of our salvation, if we have trusted in His forgiveness applied to us based on Christ’s work.)

Back to David and Psalm 27: As we hiked in the lush hills of Western NC, I meditated on my ONE THING while…

·         passing locals gathering  blueberries

·         smiling at families tenting for the weekend

·         chatting with a young couple & their daughter the age of our grandson. They were hiking up and down the hills, acclimating her to their lifestyle.

Art Loeb Trail from FR 816

By the time we reached our parked car, I had formulated what I am NOW going to pray to God about and continue to order my life around;

·         that I may KNOW moment by moment  that I ‘live and move and have my being’  (Acts 17:28) IN Christ

·         that I RE-MEMBER that I have a new ontology, a new nature thanks to the Holy Spirit in me

Why that request?

·         I forget….daily..hourly

But if I can stay aware that ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me..’(Gal 2:20), then why stress over ANYthing?  Logic and common sense say that if I don’t have a crystal ball, if I don’t control the universe, than I cannot possibly know exactly what IS BEST for me or my loved ones.  But the One who created the universe and all that is in it DOES know.  And united to Him is the safest place to be.

What is your One Thing?

*

How would you finish [this] sentence?  “One thing have I desired of the Lord; that will I seek after _________.”  What is the greatest desire and longing of your heart? In the answer to that question lies the explanation for much of what we do – our choices, our priorities, our use of time, the way we spend money, the way we respond to pressure, whom or what we love. [King] David’s answer (see Psm. 27:4) reveals why God could say, “This man’s heart beats like mine.”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss  (30 Aug 2013 Quote of the Day, Grace Tabernacle Church

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