Friday, March 21, 2014

The Alarm Bells in my Heart

95% of our posts here at Maidservants are over topics most Christians can agree on.  This is one of the exceptions.  We welcome all comments, whether you agree or not, but please be kind either way.

I grew up in a congregation that believed that once you were saved, you could NEVER lose that salvation, no matter what you did.  If someone who had been a "Christian" began to live a life of unrepentant sin, well that person must not have been saved in the first place.  A true Christian would not be able to ignore God so fully as to live that way for long.  Despite the arguments I had with people who tried to tell me differently, this was a very comfortable belief to have. 

When I went to a Christian college, my future husband and his family challenged me to take a closer look at this belief.  It was my own study of John that convinced me I had been wrong.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing . If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:4-6)

Jesus's words convinced me that a branch once grafted into the vine of Jesus could still be cast into the fire.  I thought this could only happen to someone who deliberately and knowingly turned their back on God and started living in sin.  Of course, I would never do such a thing, so I had no need to be diligent.  Then I read 2 Peter 1.

2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:2-11).

As I began reading this, I got a little uncomfortable when I read the list of qualities in verses 5-7.  You see, I had been recently come face to face with an appalling lack of self-control in my own life.  These verses read like fruit of the Spirit, traits that we need to have.  I started to squirm.

As I continued to read, I realized that a lack of any of these qualities should cause much more than a little discomfort.  No, this is not a time to to feel aching toes.  This is a time to hear alarm bells.  Peter says that if we don't have faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, we have forgotten our salvation, and we are useless and unfruitful.  That sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it?  It gets worse.

Emergency LightPeter then tells us that we need to make certain about Jesus's calling and choosing us.  How do we do that?  By practicing these things.  He goes on to say that the way to have entrance into the kingdom of heaven is to practice these traits.  Now those alarm bells turned into klaxons.   Time to get on my knees!

Peter is telling us what is required to enter the kingdom.  While we can never be good enough to earn salvation, that doesn't mean we don't have to do anything. "Doing" is not the same as "earning."  Peter says we do have responsibilities, and they go beyond "don't do the really bad sins."   Instead, he tells us that our task is to live out those qualities he mentioned.  It's such a serious thing that he later says he will always be ready to remind his Christian family of these things.

Klaxons were going off in my head because I knew I had not been living a life of self-control. I was afraid because of how far off track I had already gone.  However, that doesn't mean I have to live a life of fear.  Peter doesn't say, "Be scared all the time so that you'll live right."  In fact, he begins this passage with a message of grace and peace.  How can he start a message with such comfort and then give such a stern warning?  Because of what he says in between.  God has already given us everything we need to have life and godliness.  He's given us the knowledge of Jesus. How do we access that knowledge?  First and foremost through the Bible.

It is no coincidence that I hit a slump in my Bible reading and study at the very time that my self-control began to slip.  Diligence in staying in the Word of God is the cure for the fear of living in sin. When I stopped reading and studying the Scriptures, sin was able to creep in quickly and quietly.  When I began to study again, God showed me my error and we were able to correct it together.

I've come a long way from the teenager who argued in the schoolyard about the "security of the believer."  Through the scripture, I've learned that Christians can lose their salvation, and not just by practicing the obvious sins every day.  I'm susceptible too, but I've also learned that I don't have to live in fear.  In his Word, God has given me what I need to avoid being tangled in the lusts of sin again. 


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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