Monday, August 15, 2016

A Thought for Monday 15 August 2016

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation; ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lewdness, and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Jude 1-4 NKJV

Clearly the salvation “to revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5), the salvation reserved for those who “persevere to the every end” (Matthew 10:22), is indeed the very salvation which is upon us in the present age – that is, to those who trust in Christ Jesus by the witness of the Holy Spirit.  It is the salvation by which the strength of the Holy Church – the faithful congregation – is measured.  It is the salvation which gives us a reason to hope, a reason to persevere, a reason to cast aside those things we once found value in but were only things which can rust, fade, or be taken from us.  In short, it seems to be the salvation that, once embraced, can never fade.

Yet Jude (among others) maintains this salvation must be embraced, protected, and attended to for a reason.  It must be developed and perfected as in the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctifying grace.  Salvation is not simply a thing that is, a thing we acknowledge and then move on from.  Rather it is a state of active engagement when we “practice the Presence of The Lord” (Kenneth Carder, “Living our beliefs”) as we “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). 

Why is this important?  Why can’t we simply let it be?  Why can’t we accept an eternal Promise and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest so we can just go about our business?  Will The Lord ever turn His back on His people?  Consider Ezekiel 15:7-8:  I will turn My back on them (Jerusalem). Even though they may survive the fire, another fire will nonetheless consume them.  And when I turn My back on them and oppose them, you will know I am the Eternal One.  I will transform this land into a wasteland because of their faithlessness.”

Yet The Lord turning His back on His own people, bad as this is, is not the worst and is not what Jude and other biblical writers warn us about.  It is surviving one fire only to be consumed by another!  That is, if we do not engage our salvation as the present reality which leads us forward but choose instead all the things we once took comfort in while still claiming to be “saved”, we put ourselves at great spiritual risk.  This means we must be aware of these “certain persons” Jude and the prophets warn us about who “turn the grace of our God into lewdness” because they are bona fide threats to our spiritual safety and well-being.  That is, if we neglect our salvation and deny our calling.

It is not always easy to consider the hard biblical truths we are constantly faced with, but these writers faced real danger in their own times and warned their “beloved”, the brothers and sisters of the ekklesia (the congregation of the faithful), who would eventually be forced to choose between the perversion which masks itself as “good news” but is really what Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed “cheap grace” - void of any real meaning - and the Good News, the Gospel of The Lord, which calls The Lord’s people away from the perversions of this world and the twisting of biblical truth to suit the culture’s own objectives. 

The hard biblical truth is only unsettling for most of us because it is a “chastening” coming from The Lord Himself; the very One who will only bother Himself with “chastening those whom He loves”.  If that hard biblical truth is not sitting well with us, it could be because it is a truth we need to hear in the midst of spiritual risk.  Sort of like the punishment we received from our parents when we went aside from what they tried to teach us, that punishment was given in love, not spite.

There is much at stake in our salvation.  This is why it is extremely important that we attend to this salvation which is upon us AND which is to come to “those who persevere to the end”.  We must never assume all is well; but by faithful and diligent engagement, we are assured of a place on our Holy Father’s lap in the Kingdom which is to come! 

The Lord is great, is He not?


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