DAY 26 - Persevering To the End

Am I retaining and persevering in the truth of God’s word that I have already heard?

11  "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13  Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

INSIGHT:  There is no Biblical reason to believe that any of the first three seeds make it to heaven.  My seed was sown among the thorns, and has since been set free.  It is the theme of my story—a man trapped between his love for God and his love for success, because he is so driven to find the love and acceptance that he didn’t feel as a child.

I believe the majority of us living in the Western world are those who have received the seed among the thorns. Materialism is winning and the evidence is overwhelming.   I meet too many Christians who cannot even identify with the walk I am now enjoying with Jesus, other than to label it “radical”.  Today, I feel alone (not lonely) even among the majority of “Christians”.   At first, I even wondered if there was something wrong with me, until God blessed me to read a chapter by A.W. Tozer entitled, “The Saint Must Walk Alone.” The first time I read it, I balled for several minutes because Tozer had just explained everything I was experiencing, yet didn’t understand.

I'm convinced because of the implications in v. 13 that this parable is not set in stone, such that we have no ability to affect our seed’s outcome.  If the outcomes were set in stone, what would be the need for testing?  I believe Christ is admonishing us to pay attention to this danger, and to avoid allowing our spiritual life to be choked off.  In v.15, we read the three simple (but not easy) actions we must take in order to produce a crop (produce fruit).  We must hear the word, retain it (through repetition, meditation, and practice), and never give up.

DAY 25 - Losing Your Salvation

Am I aware of my need to stand firm in my faith, so that I don’t fall away?

6  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

INSIGHT:  There are those who believe we cannot fall away from grace in Christ (lose salvation), those that believe we can, and those that believe if you fall away, you were never really a true believer to begin with.  I really wanted to believe that I could never fall away, but I had to ask myself, “If it were not possible, or if I have no responsibility in it, then why did Jesus warn us about it?” And, if it could only happen to false believers, then why is there over 60 other passages warning us to hold firmly, so that we don’t fall away?   If these do not apply, then why are they in the Bible?

In Christ, I have a future inheritance for salvation”(Col 3:24, 1 Pet 1:3-9), by God’s free gift of grace alone (Eph 2:8), which makes me “saved”.  However, I really have an inheritance, not actual salvation yet (Rom 8:24-25). I am sealed with His Holy Spirit, and salvation is now reserved for me, but I don’t actually attain it, until I have stood firm to the end (Mat 24:13, 2 Tim 2:12, Rev 3:11). Then Jesus allows me to eat from the tree of life (Rev 2:7).  My inheritance is His gift, and I did nothing to earn it.  However, I still believe I can fall away from the faith, through neglect, false teaching, disowning Jesus, or my pride, and that I have a responsibility to work out my salvation (Phi 2:12).   Like Paul, I do not presume to have taken hold of it yet (Phi 3:13), and like Paul, I believe it would be arrogant of me to say I could never fall away (Rom 11:20-21, 1 Cor 10:11-12).  But, does that mean I’m now earning my future salvation, if it’s dependent on me in some way to keep it?  No!

Let’s say Bill Gates grafts you into his will and says you will inherit his $10 M second home when he dies, as a free gift.  He lets you go ahead and move in now, and all he asks in return is that you maintain it.  He even gives you a cleaning, maintenance, and improvement budget as well.  He then promises that no one will take the home, or sell it out from under you, as long as you care for it.   If you agree to the maintenance terms, are you now earning the free gift?  No, you are maintaining the gift, and you can’t even take credit for that, because he gave you the money for it.  But suppose you become complacent, and start leaving the doors open when you leave, and having questionable individuals over, or spending the maintenance money and your time on other things, at the neglect of caring for the house.  Would Bill not be justified in taking back your inheritance since you lost respect for it and you didn’t do his will in the agreement?  Yes, he would.

The truth is that while we did nothing to earn the gift of salvation, we do still have an obligation to maintain the gift, with the grace He has given us (Rom 8:12).  
We need to get over this erroneous idea that we have nothing to do, and that if we dare do anything, we are “earning” our salvation.  The Bible says that only those that do God’s will make it to heaven (Mat 7:21, 1 Jn 2:17).  The way I see it, if you take that “do” out, you don’t make it to heaven.  But remember, no one can do God’s will apart from God’s enabling (grace), so at no time can it be said that we earned anything by our doing.  However, if we don’t do our part, empowered by His grace, the time will come when it will be said that we squandered or trampled His gift and grace.

The salvation gift (saving grace Rom 3:23-24) comes first, then our obligation to maintain that gift is met with His second gift (enabling grace Col 1:29).  So what happens if we neglect this gift of salvation, or if we squander His grace?  See Heb 10:26-31

The 6 verses below say no one or nothing can take us out of Jesus hand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t remove ourselves.  These verses are true, but they presume our humble dependence on God’s grace, and our need to hold firmly to the faith and remain in His love (See Jn 15:5-7, Jud 1:21).  John 6:39, 10:28-29,  Romans 8:38-39, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13-14, Jude 1:24

I can’t say I have attained salvation until I stand firm to the very end.  I don’t know what tests of my faith lay ahead.  If ISIS knocks on my door, or the government turns against me, and I renounce my faith in Christ, I lose my inheritance.   This calls for deep humility and dependence on God, not the arrogance of saying, “I could never fall away” (1 Cor 10:12, Rom 11:19-22).

The 66 verses below (10 x as many as above) show that standing firm is truly a teamwork effort, between us and Christ in us.  Paul never said, “Jesus did it all, and I had not part, or I’m covered under grace so I’m good regardless”…he had a vital role (1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Tim 4:7).  We have to believe what the Bible teaches, not just what we suppose or want to believe! 

66 WARNINGS about holding firmly to our faith:

Psalm 125:4-5, Ezekiel 18:24, 33:12-13, Matthew 10:33, 13:21, 25:44-46, Luke 8:13, 12:46, 14:34-35, John 6:39, 10:29, 15:1-8, 16:1, Acts 14:22, Romans 8:13, 11:19-22, 1 Corinthians 9:27, 10:12, 15:2, Galatians 5:4, 5:21, Philippians 2:12, Colossians 1:23, 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Timothy 1:19, 3:13, 4:16, 6:20, 2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews 2:1, 3:6,12,14,19, 4:1,11,14, 6:4-6,7-8,11-12, 10:26-29, 38-39, 12:14-17,25, James 1:12, 1 Peter 2:8, 4:17-18, 2 Peter 1:10, 2:1-2,20, 3:11,14,16,17, 1 John 2:24-25, 28, 2 John 8,9, Jude 1:21, Revelation 2:5,7, 3:11, 10,11, 3:4,10