13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Our salvation does not come overnight. It does not magically appear in the instant we accept the sacrifice of Christ by saying a few words at an altar, or wherever we are. There are some who say that once we are saved, we are always saved. Nothing can change that, they say. I disagree. Let me share my thoughts on this today.
I came to Christ through the fervent prayers of a friend. He prayed for me, sent me scripture verses in letters, and gently urged me closer and closer to the cross. I was living a despicable lifestyle of drugs, sex and booze to go along with my foul mouth and corrupt speech. I was happy in my sin, and really did not want Christ, or any type of religion in my life. When I came to visit my friend in Iowa and he took me to his church, God grabbed my heart. I confessed my sin later that week and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I was saved that night. My sins were washed away and I was made a new creature in Christ. There is no doubt, and no disputing that fact. I never spoke another swear word, I started going to church and reading the Bible, I changed my lifestyle to some extent, and I started walking with God and seeking His counsel. Two years later, I visited Iowa again and met the women who would be my wife. God definitely had a plan, and I moved to Iowa a couple months later, married that girl and now we have been married for 44 years. Tomorrow, I will share the story of how we met, so tune in. It was surely by the grace of God.
So, now I am saved. I am walking with the Lord and trying my best to put all my past failures behind me. I am trusting in His Word that His love will never leave me (Romans 8:35-38) and I know he has forgiven me. I am a completely different man than the one that first came to Iowa. I have changed and there is no way anyone can deny that. My life is full of God now, and I am learning more about Him every day. There is a zeal that surpasses any zeal I have had for anything in the past. But as time goes on, that zeal subsides a little, and I start to drift away from Him. He never moves, but I do. I stop reading so much in His word, and some of my worldly ways start to invade my life again. I find myself like Paul in Romans 7:19-25 where he talks about doing the things he doesn’t want to do and not doing the things he does want to do. His is a perplexing place to be, and one we can all associate with (I think). It is in these moments I am in danger of losing that salvation that I once enjoyed.
In yesterday’s post, I talked about the prodigal son. When he was feeding the pigs, and only hoped to have the husks of the ears of corn to eat because he was so broke, he was outside the love of his father. Not because His father ever stopped loving him, but because he walked away from that love. He decided there were better things in life than his father’s love. It is true that God will never stop loving us, and that He is always there, waiting for us, to take us back in if we return to Him. But we can walk away from that love and move outside its protection. We can come to the place where we are no longer doing the will of the Father, but doing our own thing. We can reject the salvation we have received and walk back into the world of sin we came out of. We can be saying Lord, Lord, and still not be known of God (Matthew 7:21-24).
This is where patient endurance comes in. We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). When we are saved by accepting Christs atoning sacrifice, we are saved in our innermost being. The Holy Spirit coms in and starts to clean up our heart and mind. But that all takes a lifetime to work itself out to the rest of our flesh. It takes a lifetime of following Him to truly bring our salvation to fruition. We don’t just go to the altar, accept Christ, and then walk away and do whatever we want. We are not saved so that grace may abound toward us (Romans 6:1-2). We are saved so that we can then present ourselves to God a living sacrifice and be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:1-2). This is not a passive salvation; it is an active salvation. God is continually drawing each of us closer and closer to Himself, and we must be willing to be drawn. Despite all the trials we face, He is still working within us to bring about our salvation.
Seven times in the book of Revelation, God makes a promise to those that overcome. Overcome what? Jesus said that he overcame the world (John 16:33). What is there left for us to overcome then? We have to overcome ourselves, with His help. We have to allow God to change us, renew us, transform us, sanctify us into the perfection He desires for us. Not a perfection that never does anything wrong (although wouldn’t that be nice), but a perfection that knows all things work together for good and that He is always working within us to bring about our salvation. I have not arrived until I walk through those pearly gates. My salvation becomes complete when I cast off this corruptible body and put on incorruption (1 Cor 15:31-33). Until then, I am a work in progress. And to get there, I must have patient endurance. Patient with God to bring me to that place, and patient with myself to allow God to give me the strength to work out my salvation within me. Only He can provide that kind of strength. Remember what James says? I shared this yesterday, but it bears sharing again today. James 1:4 says we must let patience have its perfect work, so that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 sums it up nicely also “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” It is so essential that, once we are saved, we continue in His word, learning, growing and changing so that we too can be thoroughly furnished, which means fully equipped, to do the works that God has intended for each of us. These works are the way our salvation is worked out – by doing for others as we discussed yesterday. It is a process, not one isolated incident. And, although that one incident is life-changing, it is nothing compared to the magnificent changes God desires for us (Psalm 37:4). But it all hinges on us continually working out that salvation that began with our repentance. Day after day after day, it never ceases, and we must always be diligent and practice that patient endurance that will lead us to the promise of God, just like it did Abraham.