No Fear (Part 3)
The second question has to do with the nature of our salvation: How can we have assurance in the face of our failure to live up to the fulness of what God has given to us in Christ? How easy is it to lose our salvation and can we keep bouncing in and out of God’s eternal kingdom based on how well we’re doing at honouring God with our lives?
I notice that Jesus quite often spoke those words to His disciples: “Don’t be afraid!” Usually it happened when they were in situations where they had every right to be terrified, such as in the storm on the Sea of Galilee or witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus. But there are some other examples which speak to the fears of falling outside of God’s care.[quote]
Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to Him than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
Do not be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)[/quote]
But our doctrines are defended more from the letters of the key leaders of the early church than from our study of the gospels. It is in these letters that we learn what Jesus taught His disciples, the truths that He instilled in them and the collective understanding with which the early church moved forward.[quote]
All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. (1 John 4:15,16)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God (1 John 5:1)
This is His commandment: We must believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us. (1 John 3:23,24)
If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong . . . If you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ the One who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 1:9; 2:1b,2a)[/quote]
John was dealing with opponents to the gospel within the church, some who claimed to be “perfected” but who didn’t demonstrate love for others, others who claimed that Jesus hadn’t come in a physical body. John affirms again and again in his letters that the true believers are those who believe that Jesus came in the flesh and who take seriously His command that we love one another. Although John calls for obedience as a sign of true conversion, he doesn’t expect perfection, recognizing both the need for confession (or agreement with God about our sin) and the presence of our advocate in heaven – Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s look at a length passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians:[quote]
I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.
Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Christ’s death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ.
Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? (Galatians 2:20-3:3)[/quote]
Paul clearly doesn’t expect believers to gain their salvation through their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and then maintain their salvation by becoming excellent in keeping the law. We are not to switch from the joy that faith and forgiveness bring, to the heartache and frustration that trying to be “good enough” consistently produces in our lives. Rather, we are to maintain our faith by valuing and nurturing our life in the Spirit. It is this dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit that keeps us moving in the direction of conformity to the image of Christ. If we turn our focus away from things like prayer and worship and faith, towards things like frustration with ourselves or embracing a shame-based relationship with our Saviour, the progress towards being conformed to be like Jesus is derailed.
The writer to the Hebrews also encourages us to stand firm in God’s grace:[quote]
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to Him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (4:14-16)[/quote]
Which of us has no need of the grace of the Lord to help us in our time of need? We recognize, as God does, that we are weak and subject to temptation, but we also confess our faith in Christ and our strong desire to live in a way that brings honour to Him. Rather than go into ourselves and wrestle with guilt and shame at our failures, we should confess them quickly and then heed the advice of this verse: “Let us cling to Him and never stop trusting Him.”
Peter also affirms that it is our faith that brings salvation:[quote]
If your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him, you trust Him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls. (1:7-9)[/quote]
Trusting in Jesus through the trials of life includes the willingness to trust Him when we are assaulted with doubts about our salvation or fears about our future. If we can learn to trust His grace, His mercy, in the midst of the enemy’s attack on our mind or on our heart, we will be rewarded eternally.
In the book of Romans Paul explains the purpose of the law (to keep people from having excuses and to bring the entire world into judgment – 3:19), the principle of being justified with God by faith rather than works, and how God’s grace breaks both the power of the sin and bondage to the law. In chapter 8, Paul then describes the confidence of people who have come to faith and who have received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit:[quote]
What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? Will God? No! He is the One who has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Jesus Christ? No, for He is the One who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honour next to God, pleading for us. (8:31-34)
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:38,39)[/quote]
In behind all of these texts is the knowledge that we can choose to reject God’s grace and live for ourselves. But it will not be an accident, or a poor decision on a bad day, or a struggle with an addiction or a failure to do all we feel we should be doing for others. God’s love is powerful and His desire to see every person come to faith and to know His love is the greatest hope for our world. He’s not seeking high and low to save the lost and then kicking us out the back door when He finds out we’re not worthy of His love. No, it’s God Himself who is glorious and who is worthy of the praise of the nations. “Let us cling to Him and never stop trusting Him.”
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’] https://silvervalleycommunitychurch.com/wp-content/uploads/dave_king_sm.jpg [/author_image] Dave King is the founding Pastor of Silver Valley Community Church. Dave studied at Regent College in Vancouver and completed a Master of Divinity degree in 1989. He has pastored in the Lower Mainland for nearly 30 years and started Silver Valley Community Church with a group of friends in 2003. Read more