Friday, April 13, 2007

Sitting by the Cab

The key is not found in trying read these things in certain kinds of philosophic categories (ontological vs. covenantal), but to read it straight through. Romans 8 tells us that those who have been chosen by God cannot fall away from his pleasure (28-35). Then in Romans 9 we are told that not all Israel is Israel (6). And in Romans 11 we are told that those who were not truly Israel were cut off from the tree of life, or removed from the Kingdom of God (7-10).

What this means is that the true nation of Israel was always to be defined by those who had faith, not simply those who were descended from Abraham. The bible says this everywhere, even in the warnings of the Old Testament. And the same goes for the Christian church which according to Romans 11, again, is simply the tree of God containing both faithful Jews and believing Gentiles.

We put all of this together by saying that not all Christianity is Christianity, or the whole church is not the whole church. Those whom God has chosen for salvation and who he has granted faith and a changed life will be saved eternally in the end. They cannot fall away, they've been saved to the uttermost.

These faithful members, who are faithful because of God's faithfulness to them, join together in small clusters called local churches. These churches attract both other true believers and those who falsely claim faith. Now the small cluster is made up of both true Christians who cannot lose their salvation and false Christians who never had salvation.

Then, when the false Christians live out their natural proclivities, they are removed from the church and we are able to recognize them as false believers. But until then, we are called to bring all men to the throne of God in Christ and not to make distinctions between men. We cannot see into their heart to see if they are truly saved, members of the eschatological church, or not.

You're right that only God really knows the difference. But he has said several places in the bible how we can know if we have salvation. The book of 1 John is full of assurances of our salvation. For example, we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments (2:3), ...anyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (2:29), we know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers (3:14), we know that we know love if we lay down our lives for our brothers (3:16), everyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (4:8), etc.

The problem is that we want to have some kind of solid assurance like a certificate of ownership or something that makes it a requirement for God to save us unconditionally. We want salvation no matter what we do. But life doesn't work that way. God calls us to live a life of faith trusting in him for our every movement and our very lives. This trust does not allow us to do whatever we want with impunity. We are Christians, we are owned by Christ and that makes our lives different, if we have true faith. The funny thing is why would anyone want to live for eternity in Heaven with God if they don't want to live with God now? Actually, they don't want God for eternity, they want not to spend eternity in Hell. They are their own god and they simply want what they want.

There is a story of a father who told his 3 young sons they were going to go for a trip to visit grandma in the pick-up. They were taking a bunch of gifts and so the boys would have to sit in the back. They were excited about this because they could see everything from there and it was thrilling to have the wind blow and feel the bouncing.

The father realized as they were loading up that the tail gate had fallen off the week before and he hadn't had time to fix it yet. So he told the boys to make sure that they sat way up by the cab so they wouldn't fall out. The boys all assured the father that they would do just as he said and would be careful to sit up front.

Pretty soon the trip was under way and the boys, thrilled with the adventure, forgot what their father had said and soon they were all sitting on the of the bed with their feet dangling off the end. The soon had a contest going to see who could sit closest to the end without falling off. One boy put his feet on the edge, one hung his legs off to the knees and not to be outdone the last boy sat with all of his legs hanging off into space.

When the other boys saw how daring the last boy was and how safe he appeared to be, they too scooted down until they were just hanging by their tushes. As you might guess, as they neared their grandmother's turn-off the road got bumpy and at the first big bump, all the boys fell off the truck and splatted on the hard road.

The Bible tells us that if we want to live in Christ we need to walk with Christ—to sit up by the cab. If we sit by the cab there will be no doubt about our salvation. Doubt comes as we ignore the commands and start sliding toward the back of the bed. We have lots of Christians in our churches who are dangling their feet off the end of the bed, trusting in their own devices for their eternal safety. But God says to walk with him, to trust him, to rejoice in him, to sit up by the cab.

Those who dangle their legs off the end have no reason to believe that when the bumps of life come they will stay in the bed of the truck. We know that true Christians forget what they are doing and in the excitement of the moment slide back to the end of the truck, but because they are truly saved, they will be brought back to their senses and will work their way back to the cab. The others will just fall off the truck into the ditch.

Having said all of this does not mean that God is not involved in keeping his sons in the truck. He does and he will not let any of his own fall out. But we know that we are his if we continue to sit up by the cab. When we sit there we know that we are living by faith in the Son of God and are assured of his keeping us safe until the last day.

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