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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Salvation 101 - Part III - Started and completed

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! 
(Romans 8:31-32)

The rest of the passage that follows these two verses ends with a statement of fact:  I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  Nothing and nobody - nothing in heaven, nor in hell - can remove us from the love of God!  Woohoo!  Now if that doesn't make your heart swell in ecstatic joy, nothing will!

Whenever we begin to allow thoughts to enter into our mind that we can "lose our salvation", we are really not considering the context of these verses.  What is happening when we are doing this "questioning" of our salvation is to begin to doubt OURSELVES.  We have already established in the past two lessons that no act of salvation is based on anything good in ourselves, any good deed our "self" can perform, so why do we allow the doubts we have about ourselves to be those that we focus upon?  

God has declared us worthy of his love.  That is something that many struggle with - a sense of worthiness.  This is because we equate worth with what someone has done or is doing.  God insists that we do NOT determine our worthiness because he knows whenever we do that, we are getting into the realm of religious efforts and not intimate relationship with him.  Whenever we feel we have to "prove" ourselves worthy of someone's love, we work overtime to convince them that we are worth loving.  The simple fact is that we are intensely loved JUST THE WAY WE ARE!

Romans 8:29-30 goes on to say that God knew what he was doing from the very beginning - deciding from the outset to shape our lives along the same lines of the life of his Son, Jesus.  The fact is, Jesus is our "mirror".  This passage says that we see the original and intended shape of our lives IN HIM. It was all God's work that set us on a solid foundation - his intense love for us is the basis of that foundation.  The fact is, God not only STARTS the project of restoring us to wholeness, he COMPLETES it!  That means we can be assured that what has been declared "worthy" by God (that is you and me) will stand that way forever!

The part we play in the salvation experience is pretty limited.  God calls, we listen.  Our part is hearing - he does the rest.  Don't miss what I am saying here - we don't even seek - he seeks us, calling out to us so that we can find him in the midst of our chaotic mess of life!  Our part is to just "hear"!  It is in hearing that we come to a place of acceptance - we are no longer bound to our sin nature - there is an exchange of nature.  We call that step "justification".  Now, the next steps are in us being glorified - made into the image we see in Christ.  

Someone once asked me the question, "Which one of your sins did Jesus take to the cross that day on Calvary?"  You know how we are, we begin to list off this sin, and maybe that one!  The fact is, Jesus took ALL our sins to the cross - those we had already committed and all that we might commit down the road.  He didn't just die for the sins of our past - he knew there would still be struggles with sin in our future and he died for those, too.  Our salvation is through a repeated gift of grace in our lives.  Grace can never be added to - we don't add works to grace!

When I was a little girl playing on the playground with my friends at recess, we'd play a game called "four-square".  We'd bounce the ball around the square, each taking a turn at trying to keep our opponent from being able to retrieve the ball and pass it on.  Whenever we'd have a particularly bad start to the game, we'd be able to call "do-over" and serve the ball again.  That is actually what grace allows - do-overs!  His grace pursues us until we get it right!  So, don't think of your salvation experience as a point in time, but as a progressive act of grace upon grace in your lives.  It is in the extended grace that we become the image of the one we behold!