Friday, October 17, 2008

The Deep Dark Woods

A man was walking in the woods one day. As he walked further and further he started to notice that the wood was darker and darker. Soon very little light was able to penetrate through the dense canopy of limbs and leaves. The trail was plenty wide for him to walk and had a nice downward pitch. Not so steep that it was hard on his joints but just enough so that he was helped along by gravity. He wasn't really sure where the trail lead but he decided to push on because even though it was dark the way was fairly easy.
There were signs along the way but they were too badly damaged to be read and some of them seemed charred as with fire. He tried to make them out but it was no use. After a while longer he found himself at a place where another path merged with his own and he could see footprints of someone who had gone on before him. There was no other sign of the other person just their footprints leading him onward.
The next thing the man came across was a small stream of running water. Though he could not tell how deep or what the condition of the water was, he was thirsty. In fact, he realized that he had not had a drop of water in some time and was very thirsty. Then as he knelt down to draw some water from the stream a piercing light broke through the darkness of the woods. As the light shined from where he had journeyed from he was stunned at the scene that surrounded him. He could see along the edges of the path the charred remains of trees, shrubs and underbrush. He could see just off the path the remains of other travelers and the eerie forms of creatures in the shadows. Not only that but he could see clearly the putrid water that he was about to drink in and the poisonous nature of it. He knew that he had to turn around.
The man did not know exactly where he was but he knew that he was deep in these terrifying woods. At that moment he set his mind at making his way back out of this place. The path seemed much steeper now that he had turned back. Though the light illuminated his way he still became tangled in some briers. As he rushed away from the danger he found himself slipping and falling but clawing his way up. With each step that he took the mud and mire became thicker and he could hear the vile shrieks of the creatures and they swarmed in the shadows around him. He tripped falling face first in the wretched muck and collapsed. He felt he could not move and could sense the creatures drawing closer, coming to reclaim him. They came nearer and nearer and just as he believed they were upon him they could come no closer.
Suddenly he felt a wave of life surge through his body and it was as if a hand reached down a plucked him from the oozing filth and a voice proclaiming to the darkness, "This one is mine, you may not take him." The light shown brighter and the creatures retreated to the shadows from whence they came. He felt a renewed sense of energy and purpose. He knew that he was not alone in these dark places and that the light that guided him would also uphold and protect him. The man did not know how much further he had to journey but he knew that he would not turn back and that, in time, he would reach the source of the light and find his way out of the deep dark woods.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Draw Close to Me"

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus Philippians 2:5

I would like to take just a brief moment and share something that the Lord brought to my attention this morning in my quiet time. I was meditating on some quotes from Charles Spurgeon and John Wesley about the nature of revival and evangelism and I found myself asking God for that compassionate heart that hurts for the lost. Now, I don't want to see people go to Hell but these great men of faith seem to have had an exceptional passion for the lost and this is where I want my own heart to be. So I found myself asking God for that kind of heart. As He so often does, and I so often forget, the Lord reminded me that if I draw near to Him and seek His face then a deep compassion for the lost will follow (I have preached this before and still I manage to forget).
The Bible is filled with this very same advice. The passage at the beginning of this entry from Philippians, your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. This is rich and applies, as the book I'm currently reading by Nancy Pearcy suggests, to all of life. Not only that but we know that Jesus' own description of His mission was to seek and save the lost (John 19:10). Why was this Christ's mission? It was His mission because that was the will of the Father, that was the heart and mind of the Father, to redeem His creation.
As a prelude to this friendly reminder in my reading in My Utmost for His Highest this morning Oswald Chambers was encouraging us to "be in stride with God." He tells us that God has a different way of doing things and that it takes discipline and effort to get in that stride. This turned out to be the other very clear thing that God pointed out to me, this is going to take time. I, not unlike many others, like for things to happen "tout suite." If the Lord could only do to me like they do in The Matrix and simply download all of this instantly I would be okay with that. I know better than that though. I know that, if I could use the immortal words of Aerosmith, "life's a journey not a destination." The spiritual journey that we find ourselves in is a process that only ends, or perhaps begins, with death. I know that the lessons learned along the way come with effort not instantaneously.
So in the end, as He has so many times before, God whispered to me and said simply, "draw close to me." How many requests is that the answer for? Most of them I would wager.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Does God's pencil have an eraser?

Can someone loose their salvation?

From the sixth grade until my graduation from High School I attended a Christian school. This was a fantastic experience for which I am very grateful to my parents. Now, in that I did not attend a public school during this time I am not certain as to what sort of things were debated around the proverbial water cooler. However, at this fine Christian institution I often witnessed debates amongst perfectly qualified middle-schoolers as to whether or not someone might become unsaved. Truthfully the question never bothered me. I thought it was perfectly logical that if one could become saved then it was equally possible for them to reverse the situation. Now, in my twenty-seventh year of life, and for some time leading up to it, I have changed my position and would like to offer some reasons why. Please note that much more learned men than myself have exhausted themselves over this subject so please don't think this is definitive, nor is it comprehensive.

#1 Grace alone

I believe, as the scriptures clearly indicate, that it is by grace alone that a person receives salvation. It is by no action or effort on my own part but only a willing acceptance of a gift. I receive Christmas gifts by no action or effort of my own but simply by the generosity of the giver. I must only open and accept the gift. It is the complete power of God that offers and carries out the work of salvation, no work of my own. Unlike ill-fitting Christmas gifts that I may return of my own accord the gift of salvation is not so easily rejected once accepted. Primarily, it would be an utter fool who returns such a gift and the scriptures are equally clear on this matter. We are told that one who has seen the gift and turns from it is in no way able to regain it. Why would one taste of the glory of God and experience the gift of salvation and turn from it? It would be senseless. Thus the age old statement, if you loose your salvation you never had it to begin with. More on this later.

#2 Russian Roulette

How many sins does it take to exclude one from Heaven? I submit, only one. Now, does one stop sinning after they have become saved? I am proof that this is not the case. Even saved folks have the remnants of the sin nature and are bound to slip and fall. Look no further than Paul who wondered out loud why he did what he did not want to do and did not do what he wanted to do. Let me give a short scenario. I, who am saved, get up in the morning and go to work. At some point during the day I sin in some manner. On my way home I am in a horrific accident and die. Because I did not repent for that sin of the day am I cast into Hell? Did I lose my salvation at that moment? If this is the case then not only can we lose our salvation, we do several times each and every day! Suddenly our salvation comes not by the grace of God but by our adherence to the Law that we claim to be freed from. This, my friends, smells suspiciously like works salvation. Granted, this would keep the streets of Heaven conveniently uncrowded. Luther would say that it is much the same as the man who finds himself accosted by thieves in the woods on his evening walk.

#3 God's pencil does not have an eraser.

In my own theology, and that of many other Christians, God is omniscient. God knows everything. Thus, if a person approaches God for salvation that God knows will eventually be rejected would God give it on a temporary basis? The image is used of the "Book of Life" in which God inscribes the names of His children, the saved. Why would God write someone's name in this book if He knew, because He is all knowing, that He would end up erasing it? If one is falsely converted then God can look into that person's heart and see that it is false, He can see that it is only temporary. A person cannot lose their salvation because God knows if a person is truly saved and He knows if a person will become "unsaved" therefore they never were to begin with. We may not be able to tell if someone is honestly saved but God can and that is what matters.

All that being said, we can know that we are saved. This comes not from a feeling that we are saved but a knowledge from God, His Word, and the Holy Spirit. So many people get caught up in feeling like they are saved and as soon as this feeling leaves then they are left wondering about their eternal destination. This is dead wrong. What about those times when you find yourself in the dry, arid places or those "dark nights of the soul" when there is the feeling that even God has abandoned you? To be sure, as Christians we should be in a constant state of repentance for the sins that we do commit on a daily basis. However, as I've heard it said, faith is trust that God has saved you, cleansed you of your sins, and forgiven you. It is a peace that passes all understanding. God's work on the cross is greater than our sin and nothing, I mean nothing, can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.