“Jesus didn’t carry you 80% of the way to drop you off close to the finish line and say, ‘Run–and you’d better hurry: hell’s right behind you!’ And neither did Jesus carry you 99.9% of the way to drop you off right in front of the finish line and say, ‘Jump!’ No, Jesus carried you all the way across that finish line, and He dropped you off on the other side. The work’s been done; your salvation has been accomplished 100% by Jesus, and all that you needed to do was believe.”
Isn’t that awesome? Our pastor last Sunday continued a series on Galatians we’re working through, and this was one of the points he made.
I know there’s controversy over whether “once saved, always saved” is biblical. I believe it is. Here’s one reason why it makes sense to me: Our works couldn’t save us in the first place, so how can our works un-save us once we’ve put our faith in Christ, since salvation is not by works? We agree that no amount of good works can undo the bad we’ve done; only Jesus’ blood shed as a sacrifice for our sins can do that. But once we’ve come to believe in Jesus, then we want to go back and make it all about works, saying that we must do good works in order to preserve the salvation that Christ won for us with His perfect life and unjust death!
I think we’re setting ourselves up for a lifetime of perfectionism and doubt, if we don’t believe in “once saved, always saved.”
And I’m not condoning sin. I’m simply saying that we elevate ourselves over Christ if we think that we can maintain our salvation, if our puny efforts couldn’t even accomplish our salvation to begin with.
“The gospel isn’t just a door that you walk through to get saved–the gospel is something that should permeate our whole life as believers.”
Another great quote from our pastor.
You know, this has been really hard for me, this grace thing. Most testimonies I read are about people who live horrible lives before knowing Christ, and after they “get saved” change dramatically. But what about me? I’ve always believed in Jesus, since I was a child. Then I did some bad stuff. That shouldn’t happen, right? Is grace big enough to cover the sins that I committed while already a Christian?
The Bible says,
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
I think the last part is crucial; if we start with “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God” and leave it there, then where’s the hope for us? ALL of us are unrighteous! But, if we notice that “you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” then there is a sense of great relief which follows. Oh, then it’s not all up to me to try to be perfect. There’s a way to be cleansed from the bad stuff. But here’s what I’ve struggled with: what if you do the bad stuff after you have been washed? What then?
Some people say that means you never were a true Christian to begin with. I acknowledge that can sometimes be the case. But it wasn’t mine. I can honestly say that I loved Jesus. And then, something happened. I was “overtaken in [a] trespass” (Galatians 6:1), but where did that leave me, salvation-wise?
I think we have the answer here:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21
So, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” I associate the idea of “practicing” something with “living a lifestyle,” “establishing a pattern of conduct.” Who of us Christians have not had “selfish ambitions” (mentioned in the list) at some point? Are there any of us who have not had “outbursts of wrath”? Do we never experience “envy”? I think the condemnation comes not because we occasionally fail in those things, but because some people make them a habit and never repent of them. And in that case, I do think they must not have been true believers in the first place.
Finally, I’ve come face-to-face with the fact that I don’t really believe God.
He says that I’m clean, and I call Him a liar; I bring up all my shortcomings and say, “What about this, what about that?” No. All my sins were forgiven at the moment I understood, as a child, what it meant to believe in Jesus for salvation–all my childish sins already committed and all my future sins that would be committed later on. It was all washed clean, and I was made righteous before God, no matter how many times I might fail to live up to what I knew to be right.
There is no burden in that!–only freedom to get over my mistakes and begin each day with a clean conscience. Yes, repentance has to happen if there has been sin. Confessions and apologies must be made, along with a determination to not repeat the sin. In all of that, God has to be relied upon to give a steady hand to our weak efforts, to stabilize us and keep us from stumbling again. However, there is no condemnation.
If a true Christian sins, her sin is already covered. That doesn’t mean she gets a free pass to sin all she wants. If she’s a true Christian, she wouldn’t want to do that anyway. It does mean she gets to rejoice in the fullness and completeness of Christ’s atonement for her sin!
God’s grace coupled with our faith in Jesus is what we needed to cross the line from “not-saved” into “saved.” Now we need to keep trusting God that what He’s done for us is lasting and permanent! Are we going to stop having faith and begin to doubt God now that we’re already saved? Are we going to say, “Thanks for saving me, now I’ll take it from here,” only to be devastated when we don’t live like we should, because we think there could be a chance God’s forgiveness might not have extended that far? Do we have to keep saying, “I’m sorry for my sins, please save me,” over and over? Or was once enough?
This has the potential to be a life changer! I’ve been dragging along, questioning the extent of God’s grace for me. No more. With God’s help, I will believe Him in what He says: He says I’m clean, so I am. Guilt, after I’ve already repented, is a dart from Satan, which only faith can quench. My debt was paid on a cross 2,000 years ago, and the faith I had beginning when I was a child completed the transaction. Now, if anybody wants to come along and make me pay something that’s already been paid, too bad! No person has the right to hold my wrongs over my head my whole life. I’m sorry for the ways I hurt them. But, that was then, and this is now. I confessed my sin, which was already forgiven at salvation, and I came back into a right relationship with God. Now, if they want to argue about it, they should take it up with God. As for me, I’m going to live my life in the fullness of joy that God always meant for me to have. With His help.