Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Facing the Cross

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right.  But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”   Genesis 4:6-7(NLT)
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this journey of following Christ. 
For me, that spans most of my life.  Most of the doctrinal understanding I came to accept was in a church that believed strongly in the eternal security of the believer.  From that church’s perspective, once you have accepted Christ, there was nothing anyone could do – including you – to end that relationship; once saved…always saved!
Ten years ago a crisis in ministry brought me to a crossroad-choice to become part of my current denomination.  But not before considering – no, make that agonizing – over this doctrine.  This is because the church I now serve holds the Wesleyan (Arminian) view that one CAN indeed “lose” salvation by choosing to turn from Christ, backsliding as it were, and exiting out of the house of faith.  Polar opposites; I had to make up my mind!
Now, if you are reading this and you’re part of my earlier history, please don’t write me off…just yet.  I still believe in eternal security; just not as a simple “security lock” so I can’t mess-up.  I still believe that the Lord Jesus Christ holds me by his blood and righteousness, and he is able to keep me from falling.  I still believe in assurance of salvation, more strongly than ever…but my perspective is somewhat different about free will. 
All people are granted free will by the Father.  And I do not believe free will ends when a person accepts Christ as savior.  Adam and Eve’s son Cain is a premier example.  God warned Cain to “choose” well.  If he did not choose obedience, sin was crouching at the door, eager to control [him].   The rest of the story is well-known; Cain chose to thumb his nose at God and he killed his brother in anger.  Thus Cain walked away from relationship with God and into his lifelong punishment.  Free will chose badly.
Preachers often use the illustration and phrase “turn to the cross” when encouraging hearers to come to Christ.  That illustration is magnificent in shedding light on the eternal security question. 
Because of God’s gift of free will and the invitation of saving grace at the cross, we can come to Christ, accepting eternal life.  I chose to face the cross.  But, because free will is ours forever, it is also my prerogative whether I choose to continue to follow Jesus.  In my free will I can turn away from the cross and, in my arrogance, freely walk away from the grace of that cross. 
Free will then is just that, freedom to choose, even if it is against the will of God.  God saves no person against their will; neither does he keep anyone that way.
All that “said and done” – I would like to add that I don’t think either the Calvinistically-bent eternal security of “once-saved-always-saved”, nor Joseph Arminias and John Wesley’s doctrine of falling from grace are game-breakers for the personal confession and salvation of anyone.  They are simply what we think about what effect our personal behavior has on our relationship with God following being saved.
One further thought – If my Baptist brothers and sisters are right – that nothing about your eternal salvation can change after being saved – then my thinking is just so much beating the air. 
On the other hand, if my conviction is right, and loose living after being saved means the possibility of backsliding out the front door of salvation’s house – well, I’d rather stick with the Wesleyan way; it reminds me how precious salvation is, and how following Christ is not at all about avoiding that line where you can “lose it”.  It’s all about finding my way closer to Christ, and thereby getting as far from that line as to make it disappear from sight!

For You Today

Are you saved?  Good!  Find ways to honor God in all you do.
Face the cross with all that’s in you and you’ll never walk away from Him.

[1] Title Image: By Eugène Delacroix, via Wikimedia Commons

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