Thursday, August 16, 2012

Once (But Not Always) Saved

There should be no argument among Christians that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. Simply put, you can't have salvation without having Jesus.

However, many Christians emphasize that salvation is a gift from God, but you can't have that gift without also having Christ. In other words, the gift metaphor works up to a point – it’s free and you didn’t deserve it – but it breaks down when you try to push the metaphor any further, and some people have done just that. They suggest that it’s possible for someone to have the gift of salvation apart from having an ongoing relationship with Christ. That’s not true, according to scripture, and it’s dangerous to teach people this lie.

Dallas Willard sometimes refers to these sorts of Christians as “Vampire Christians” because the only want enough of Jesus’ blood to get them out of hell, but they don’t have any intention whatsoever of actually obeying Jesus or following His teachings in their daily life. This kind of faith isn’t true faith at all, and anyone who embraces this shouldn’t call themselves a Christian. Why? Because a Christian by definition is follower of Jesus. Those who hope to say a prayer and invoke its power like a magic incantation to escape judgment are the same who will stand before Christ on that Day and hear the bone-chilling words, “Depart from me, I never knew you,” from the mouth of the Jesus they refused to follow.

The fact that I would even have to write an article to correct this error is evidence enough that the Church in America is under a delusion. She needs to wake up and return to the Truth.

As long as my kidney is in me it has life. If you take it out of me it has no life. The life is in me, not in my kidney. 

If we are in Christ we have life. Without Christ we have no life in us. If you leave Christ, you leave salvation behind.

For years I believed, and taught others to believe, that once someone said that magic “sinner’s prayer” they were forever, eternally, saved. In fact, one could stray off into sin, convert to Hinduism, or any other faith, and live completely contrary to the will of God, apart from Jesus, and still wind up in the eternal presence of Jesus simply because of that one magic prayer. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. Not even close.

Over and over again, Jesus and His Apostles warn us to keep the faith, to remain in Christ, to avoid temptation, to repent daily, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Because following Jesus is a daily decision.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” - John 15:4-5

 The statement that Jesus makes is to His disciples, not to the average bystander. He's warning them that they could possibly become detached from Himself. As Paul alludes to when he returns to this same metaphor of vine and branches being grafted in:

“You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they (the unbelieving Jews) were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” – Romans 11: 19-21Paul's point is that the Jews were cut off from the Vine (Salvation in Christ) because of unbelief. He warns us that just because we have been grafted into the Vine, we can still be cut off from Christ if we also cease to trust in Christ.

So, if we remain in Christ we have life. What happens if we don’t remain in Christ?

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” – John 15:6

Jesus echoes this by sharing four different Parables in Matthew 24 and 25, all of which emphasize this same essential truth: The Master expects that his servants will bear fruit and remain faithful to him while he is away. When he returns he will reward the faithful and punish the unfaithful. The punishment? The same that Jesus outlines in John 15:6 and elsewhere - to be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping an gnashing of teeth.

So, if we put our faith in some bumper sticker slogan and think that we are safe just because we’re in the household of God and are counted among his servants, we're in for an unwelcome surprise.

Jesus warns us many times in the Gospels to be like the wise man who hears his words and puts them into practice. He warns us to remain in Him or we'll be cast out. He warns us to be faithful servants who demonstrate their love through simple obedience to their Lord.

Again, this is not about doing works to be saved, but about being saved people who respond in obedience and who are transformed by the undeserved Grace of God into humble, willing servants of Christ.

As James and Paul say:

“You believe in god? Good! Even the demons believe and they shake with fear.“ - James 2:19

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

So, in summary, whoever is in Christ has life, and that’s why staying close to Him and learning from Him and listening to Him and talking to Him and worshipping Him is so important.

“And this is the testimony: god has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son. Whoever has the son has life; whoever does not have the son of god does not have life.” - 1 john 5:11-12

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:3-4

Life is in Christ, not in you. We have the gift of life in Christ and nowhere else.

Seek His face. Cling to Jesus. For He is the Chosen one and if we are found in Him, we will be saved because of Him.



Eli said...

well the question comes up because plenty of people have peddled a message of fear, convincing people that its easier to be lost eternally than saved.
Our assurance of salvation should override our fear of being lost.
I would say that fear and insecurity has pushed many people away from christ even if outwardly they appear faithful.
Honestly how does anyone objectively know if they or anyone else is lost or saved... nigh impossible hence the church has stepped into the gap to sell certainty with each sect having their own measures and tests.
Thankfully He remains faithful even if we are not and I'll my faith in His strength not my relative weakness. As if the reach and scope and depths of my weakness eclipses the magnitude of His love, shudder the thought. Yes reaping what I sow and judgement in this life is to be avoided so clinging to Jesus is a must but thats worlds away from dilluting the love and hold of Christ down to the fickle nature of mans will.

Brett said...

So it's saved, lost, saved, lost, etc., etc.? Once a person is "Born Again", he is always a Child of God. See John 5:24. We have the Spirit as a guarantee! True - many people saying a "sinner's prayer" are not born again, and cease following Christ.

Keith Giles said...

Brett: How many married couples do you know of who get divorced and remarried and divorced and remarried over and over again? I know theoretically we could all do this, but practically no one does.

It's the same in our relationship with Jesus. If we love and trust Him then we are in Christ and we have life.

If we stop loving and trusting Him then we are not in Christ and no one who is not in Christ can have life in them.

Douglas McCall said...

Maybe we are looking at this from the wrong angle, we are looking at this from our standpoint. Not God's. He is,was,going to be with us no matter what. All we have to do is for example is look at Israel(us), or His People, He is going to redeem them no matter what. We are HIS People. This will not change.