Staci Eastin, a woman who has blessed many women through her book, The Organized Heart, shares with us today about a wonderful doctrine: Eternal Security.
Staci, thank you for being in the kitchen today, thank you for preparing something that will be indeed a feast for our souls.
As a child, nothing struck fear in my heart like the well-known bedtime prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
If I should die before I wake… I knew from my earliest awareness that there are no guarantees in life. Tragedies may come. And while I had no reason to believe my life was in any danger, I also knew no one could predict the future. Any goodbye had the potential for being one’s last.
I also knew I was a sinner. I had been taught that God would forgive our sins and that it was important to repent and seek forgiveness, but in my mind I began to believe that it was the strength and sincerity of my repentance that purchased my forgiveness, not Christ’s work on the cross. I ended each day in prayer, listing as many sins as I possibly could, and asking God to forgive “anything I’d forgotten to repent of.” I hoped it would be enough, but I wasn’t sure. But even at that, I was only covered until I sinned again. I hoped I could make it to heaven, but I wasn’t sure that I would. I didn’t think anyone could really know for sure.
It wasn’t until my college years that I began to understand that it was Christ dying on the cross and rising again that secured my salvation, not my ability (or actually, my inability), to live the Christian life. I remember sitting in my college apartment reading the third chapter in the Gospel of John, specifically John 3:36:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal eternal life; but whoever rejects the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
As I pondered this, my eyes fell to the note in my study Bible: “Eternal life is not only a future hope but the present possession of everyone who believes in Christ.”
A present possession. Not a faint hope, not a vague inkling, but a present possession. The pre-requisite for eternal life was believing in the Son. It was not believing in the Son AND not messing up. It was not believing in the Son AND being detailed in daily repentance.
I have since learned that this truth is written all over the pages of the Bible. John 10:27-30, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:37-38, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and 1 Peter 1:3-5 are just a few examples of this glorious truth.
Christ’s death on the cross completed the sacrifice needed to purchase my salvation. In fact, Jesus’ final words before his death were “It is finished.” I can’t add to it by doing anything else. Christ paid the penalty for all my sins by his death and resurrection — not just the sins in the past, but all my future sins as well. In the book, The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, Arthur Pink sums it up well:
“It is finished.” What was “finished”? The work of atonement. What is the value of that to us? This: to the sinner it is a message of glad tidings. All that a holy God required has been done. Nothing is left for the sinner to add. No works from us are demanded as the price of our salvation. All that is necessary for the sinner is to rest now by faith upon what Christ did. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Sadly, this glorious truth has been abused by some. Accepting Christ as one’s savior assumes that you are striving to live for him, even though your walk with Christ will be marred by continual imperfections and sins. Some, however, have reduced salvation to repeating a set of scripted words or signing a card, only to send the the person off to continue to live however he pleases. This is not the Christian walk outlined in the book of 1 John:
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” ~ 1 John 1:6-10
Notice that it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from sin, not some behavior or ritual of ours. While confession is still important, it is not means to God’s grace, but a result of it. As John MacArthur says in the MacArthur Study Bible:
“Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsook it (Psalm 32:3-5; Proverbs 28:13). The term “confess” means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge His perspective about sin.”
I think some shy away from the teaching of eternal security for fear that it will be used to justify and excuse sinful behavior. While this would seem to be a logical conclusion, it does not hold true for the genuine believer. When one truly believes, and has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the work of salvation is finished spurs one on to genuine love and service like nothing else possibly can. In my own experience, the more I lean on Christ’s finished work on the cross, the more joyfully I am able to live for him. In his book, Holiness, J.C. Ryle reflects on this phenomenon:
“A believer who lacks an assured hope will spend much of his time in inward searchings of heart about his own state. Like a nervous, hypochondriacal person, he will be full of his own ailments, his own doubtings and questionings, his own conflicts and corruptions. In short, you will often find he is so taken up with his internal warfare that he has little leisure for other things, and little time to work for God.
But a believer, who has, like Paul, an assured hope, is free from these harassing distractions. He does not vex his soul with doubts about his own pardon and acceptance. He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work, and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing. And thus he is able to give an undivided attention to the work of the Lord, and so in the long run to do more.”
The Word of God is and infinitely deep well of truth and wisdom. I am daily trying to search its depths, and am continually learning more of God’s love and goodness. But understanding that salvation is a gift (Romans 6:23) that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4) was the first step in a walk of endless joy and learning. I pray that you can know such joy as well.
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