He has loved us with an everlasting love. He draws us to Himself with loving kindness. Whoever will come, may. No one who comes to Him will be cast out. He wants us in His kingdom: “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” He tells His angels, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
We belong to Him because He made us.
We belong to Him because He bought us.
We belong to Him because He adopted us.
We belong to Him because He married us.
What does it take to convince us He loves us and wants to share our lives, that it gives Him pleasure to give us pleasure?
What kind of marriage would it be if the memories and photographs of our wedding were not enough for us to believe we were really married? If we refused to be convinced by the official wedding certificate that the marriage “took”? Are we married now? Are we married now? Have I blown the relationship? Have you kicked me out? How can I make it up to you so we are married again?
As His bride, “saving faith” (that faith that produces good works) is like a marriage. How we must grieve Him when we don’t believe His assurances that nothing can come between us and His love: “– neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We say, “But we can take ourselves out of the relationship.” Aren’t we included in “any other creature (created being)”? Even we cannot destroy that love.
If we believe in Him, we have a relationship with God, a relationship that can never be severed, because He initiated and accomplished the ceremony Himself, the Holy Spirit sealed it, and He takes responsibility for preserving it!
We don’t have to wait and wonder and worry until the moment we die physically whether we’ve done enough to make it into His kingdom or whether on our deathbed we will commit some mortal sin and be forever banished from His presence.
In John 5:24 Jesus says we pass from death to eternal life at the point that we hear His voice and believe in the One who sent Him. At the point when we step from unbelief to belief, that’s when we enter His family.
By definition, eternal life is eternal. That relationship doesn’t stop and start when you sin and repent. You can’t hop in and out of it.
But you can affect the quality of that relationship.
Salvation has three tenses in Scripture. We were saved when we exchanged our sins for His righteousness. We are being saved (sanctified) as we learn more about Him, obey Him and become more like Him. And we will be saved when we reach the finish line and claim the salvation sealed and “reserved in heaven for you,” (where we can’t get our hands on it and destroy it, as Dr. John Mitchell at Multnomah Bible College used to say).
The past event is sure. The future event is sure. It is just the middle where we can botch it up–not the relationship itself but the quality of it. That’s where we build with gold, silver and precious stones which will survive the testing fire or with wood, hay, and stubble which won’t.
That guilt we feel when we stray or rebel reminds us that we have erected a barrier between us and our Father. It has already been taken care of by the death of Jesus Christ. When he died for our sins, we had not committed a single one of them yet. Every sin was future. His death covered them all–and didn’t just cover them temporarily, as the blood of animals did, but it took them away forever. They are forgiven!
So what do we have to do to restore the relationship when we disobey? Nothing. The relationship is solid. Just like a child who flaunts his parents’ authority, we are still in the family. But there is a strain on the relationship which affects the quality of it.
What then do we have to do to restore the quality of the relationship, fellowship, communication? I John 1:9 says we have to confess, that is, agree with God that we have sinned. It may be accompanied by remorse, tears, shame, groveling. But God doesn’t require that. If we agree with God that we have sinned (a sin covered by Jesus on the cross–and in fact before the foundation of the world), He forgives us and cleanses us from our unrighteousness. As simple and as profound as that.
We cannot buy or earn or bring about forgiveness by atoning for our sins in some way. Jesus already did all that. Only He could. But we can have it by asking. We can have it by acknowledging what Jesus already did, coming into agreement with the Father that that payment is sufficient. We can have it by thanking Him for that fact. The forgiveness He bought for us by His blood is appropriated again–out of an inexhaustible fund, a well deeper than any sin we could conceivably commit. And we get right back on the path of focusing on and pleasing Him.
God wants us to KNOW you are in His family forever. It is only once you know you’re safe and secure, when you know where you are headed and trust the One taking you there, that you can start moving ahead. There isn’t any special virtue to remaining in the dark, in fear and doubt and trying to cover all the bases, hoping that sincerity will be in your favor even if it turns out you’re dead wrong.
If we want to know where we stand with God, we can. He wants us to know: I John 5:11-13, especially verse 13. If you believe, you can know. And that knowledge is the basis, the only legitimate basis, for works. Works are the outflow of a settled salvation: gratitude and obedience.
All of this is based on specific verses in Scripture. Some of these are: Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 3; Revelation 22:17b (last half of verse); St. John 6:37; Luke 12:32; Luke 14:23; Romans 8:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; St. John 5:24; I John 5:11-13; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; I Peter 1:3-5; St. John 10:27-29; Philippians 1:6; St. John 6:37; Jude 24, 25; Psalm 23:6; St. John 6:27.