Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somewhere Between Eternal and Non-eternal Secuity

I can agree that today’s gospel preaching misses the element of deep conversion brought about by repentance, which is metanoia, changing one’s mind about sin. True repentance will always involve a change of opinion about sin, seeing it as an evil and hateful thing in and of itself, not because it will get us in trouble, etc..., false repentance is a sorrow for sin that is only circumstantial, like, we’re sorry we were caught, or we’re sorry about the consequences of sin, but not about sin itself.

We also have to differentiate between belief as a phenomenon of the rational mind, v.s. belief as a phenomenon of will. As we know, the devils believe and tremble (Jas 2:19). Their belief is a mental assent that God is true, but their wills are still locked onto selfishness, and so their belief is not one of will. Many people are of this kind of mental assent toward the Gospel, and yet their beliefs do not affect their hearts, or their wills.

Here we have to be careful. And this is no small trifle: True Salvation is not something we either possess or don’t possess. But, True Salvation is Christ Jesus Himself.

The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation Ex 15:2

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Isa 12:2

This is important, because if we view salvation as a thing to have, be, or obtain, and hold onto, it becomes an impersonal thing, something we have to strive to have, and not lose, etc... But, as it is, God is our Salvation, as such, its more of a relationship, more personal, more based on interpersonal covenant, and He will not break His end of it. And, He knew what He was doing when He chose to enter covenant with us. He knows our weaknesses, and He works with us mercifully, becoming our strength as well.

While what you say here is true enough, it doesn’t account for the fact that the believer will sometimes struggle. Being a careless sinner is definitely not the hallmark of a believer who has Salvation. But, having sometimes moral issues over which he/she must overcome is a general experience of believers. There is the besetting sin acknowledged by the author of Hebrews (Heb 12:1). And he says to believers, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Heb 12:4-10. This situation is that, while we are sons and daughters of the most High, there may be a besetting sin over which we must become the eventual victors through Christ. The resisting unto the shedding of blood should be our attitude toward our own moral failings, and sins. Not a self-hatred, nor self-condemnation, but a hatred for the sin itself, which will lead to true repentance. You’re right about repentance, and this is true generally when there’s a true conversion to Christ, yet there may be a temptation, a sin, or moral weakness that we have a predilection for, which we’ll have to dig deep down into our hearts to find the moral strength and fortitude, and frankly, the willingness to be able to repent of that sin, to find ourselves come to a place where we hate that sin for its own sake, because we see its evil, and perniciousness. Now, in this place of struggle, are we saved or unsaved? Hebrew’s author says we may be children who so struggle, and receive the Father’s parentage, and discipline. If we’re unwilling to be disciplined by the Father in our moral struggles, are we then children? There may be times of rebellion on our part, and no one can say when, or how long, only God can on an individual basis. Its not so cut and dry. But God knows the heart, whether it be willing, or evil. God will not be mocked, but neither is He austere, and unfeeling. Our God is very merciful.

Its true that obedience to the moral law of God must be entire, to breach one command is to break the spirit of the entire Law. This is borne out in James, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Jas 2:10. And so it is, when we come to truly believe on Christ, we’ve made an ultimate decision to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. This decision changes us deep inside, and affects all our decisions. And yet, there is still the flesh, which hasn’t gone anywhere. There is still a mind that must be renewed daily, and sometimes is not. And we can fall back into selfishness, and this breaks the spirit of the law, which is love. And, yet, because we’ve made an ultimate decision to love, God still honors our covenant, and will deal with us on a point by point basis about areas of selfishness we need to deal with. All selfishness will lead to, or manifest as sin. But does God cast us out? Not necessarily. My child is still my child, even if she’s lied, disobeyed a "direct order", or not. Will I deal with her about her moral infractions, and moments of selfishness? You bet! But, while being firm, I will also be loving. While dishing out some punishment, she’s still my daughter, and I still love her. Parents know what I’m talking about. Even if there’s an area we need to "work on", a continued issue with lying, or what not, we don’t disown our kids. What would have to happen for us to tell our dear children, "O.K., That’s it!!! I’m fed up with you!!! You are no longer my child!!!" ??? A loving parent can scarcely imagine such an event, and if we being evil feel this natural affection toward our children, how much more God our Father?

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isa 49:15-16

Legalism, and an unbelief toward the Lord’s love, and compassion is no less a dangerous pitfall we should be instructed to avoid. Being serious about sin? Sure, we need to dig down deep to find true repentance if there’s an area of sinfulness in our hearts, but to not believe that God loves us in this process of repentance, is to enter dangerous waters of self-condemnation, self-hatred, and forsaking of the hope that is in Christ’s cross. We need to be circumspect, we need to be diligent in our own attitudes, and state of heart before God, I agree. Yet, we do not wish to fall from grace by entering into a performance based Christianity, which puts God as some score keeper Who’s just waiting for that "one more time" you fall, so He can say, "That’s it!! You’re now no longer saved, now you’re unsaved again!!!" As if Christianity is some revolving door, some Tyrannical Turnstile. God forbid! And I’m not saying these things as an adherent of OSAS!! Nor will I commit to that illusory debate, because God 1) Has a nature that is Love; 2) He is sovereign; and 3) He relates to us all on an individual, and interpersonal basis based on His Word, based on the finished work of the cross.

God as our Salvation is unconditional, as He is immutable in Himself, in His Holy nature. We are wishy-washy, and are mutable, But God will work with us according to the points above. Nor should we forget that the agape love of God is unconditional. He loves us first, saves us first, then works out those flaws in us which we need to be rid of. Thank God.

Amen, I can agree that the purpose of grace is to help us in overcoming our sins, its true. People confuse mercy and grace, but both are necessary.

Different churches and denominations have differing approaches on this issue. Yet, if the believers therein, including the ministers whatever their doctrinal position is on this "debate", if they love the Lord, they will preach against sin. Though to understand what sin is will help us to repent better, and change, its true. But, while one side may stress God’s unfailing love, and so help the struggling honest believer to believe in God’s love while he’s trying to deal with himself, and the other side that says that sin is sin, and God hates sin (though not the sinner), will help the struggling believer to deal more honestly with his sin, and see it as something God hates, and a serious thing to deal with in the depths of his/her heart. I think a balance between the two views would better help the Body of Christ, and that’s what we ultimately want to do, right? If we’re just interested in promoting a doctrinal stand, be it OSAS, or OSNAS (once-saved-not-always-saved), would not help anyone, except for the arguer’s ego. Instead, let’s love each other, love God, and cease loving the world, as we express a merciful God’s love to it.