“Because we all make mistakes sometimes, and we’ve all stepped across that line, nothing better than the day we find, we find, forgiveness…”
That’s a brilliant lyric from a new song by my favorite artist. I love TobyMac’s music…good stuff. Always a fitting and appropriate subject but more so this week than many others.
For the third time this year our God has called another Home from within my sphere. Not from my inner circle, but a member of my extended family none-the-less. This was a man with a genuinely good heart who ultimately succumbed to the same daemons that snatched breath from my dad all those years ago. It was a painful road for him and for his family but I pray that the same Source that gives me hope for the joyful reunion planned for the future will likewise bring his family peace in the days and months ahead.
Hence the reason for this post. Thoughts that have been brewing in my mind over this past week I figured would spill out in ink when the time was right. I don’t have much time these days to write, but as today caps day 1 of my vacation, now’s a great time.
Paul wrote these words, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Following a few verses later, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation is an interesting thing. It means a lot of things to different people but there’s certainly a time element involved. If the Christian life should be thought of as a progressive walk with God, there is an initial step that puts us on that pathway with Him. In technical terms this is what we mean by Justification, or the moment that we are “made right” with God. Now of-course to walk with God you must know where this path begins, and that pathway is illuminated by God Himself. There’s another technical term for that as well and some call that Prevenient Grace. You may have heard the term “Calling” before…that’s it. God calls us to a path and we can accept or reject this offer – free of charge. It’s our choice and it’s not by coercion but by election.
But the path doesn’t stop the moment we’re called. While it’s true that at that moment we’re signed, sealed and delivered for God, we’re not called and immediately zapped up to heaven. Ironically I struggled with this in my youth until the moment I realized this life is not about me, but all about Him. Truly there’s something liberating in that…but that’s another story. Back to the pathway – we must choose to continue to walk. Life is designed for us, prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) to be lived abundantly. It doesn’t matter your profession, experiences, influence or income. Our purpose for being created was designed, foreordained, and while many might find the objectionable, I simply find it comforting.
So what about those that clearly step off the path? What about those that don’t finish well…don’t fight the good fight or finish the race? Choosing to walk the path is a daily one. Again another technical term is helpful here – Santification – or to be set apart for the designed purpose. Keep in mind that the entire pathway is metaphorical for salvation so it’s appropriate for the Christian to say that I was saved, that I am saved, and that I will be saved. It’s this last part that I think can become quite the stumbling block for some. Many good men and women, Christian men and women, fail to keep their eyes on the prize and ultimately succumb to the temptation to regress to a life that’s lived for themselves and not for others. While they not only miss out on the abundant life promised by Christ (John 10:10), they can spiral into a self-promoting state that blinds them to the events, people and witness to which they were originally called. This doesn’t mean they go without influence. It simply means they miss out. By their own choice and to their own determent.
It’s interesting to me that Paul writes that “…neither death nor life…can separate us from the love of God.” In the same chapter in Romans (chapter 8:30) he writes, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Glorified is the last step. It’s the moment when our bodies die and we are made complete as we transition from earthly form into eternal being. There’s the last technical term in salvation – glorification. It is the point in time that is instantaneous with death. We go from here to there. Put plainly we put on immortality or we are glorified. But if you look back at v 30 there’s something missing. Notice that the stages of salvation are past-tense in that they already happened. We are called, justified and glorified. Once we are saved we are always saved. Eternally sealed and destined to spend eternity in the presence of our King.
But there’s something absent from the verse. Although we are instantaneously both justified and glorified, we’re most certainly not sanctified. To be sanctified we must live and more specifically, we must choose to live daily for Christ. The more we do this the better we get at it, but we’re never completely successful and we’re always tempted to regress. We’re not less sanctified, as if we could ever be less Christian, we’re just not living to the standard to which we have been called and make no mistake, we suffer for it. The moment we get out of step with the path that God prepared for us is the moment we start to live for ourselves and not for others.
To the question then – is it essential? I think the answer is that it depends. To me there is great comfort in knowing that the man I knew – whose heart was genuine – is eternally secure in a place where he finally knows peace. His salvation was never in question from the moment he said yes to God’s free offer. But it matters profoundly if you consider the influence that he had on the world. No doubt I’m a better man for having known him, but I doubt in the final months / weeks / moments of his life did he feel as if he was walking with God. It matters because you could not look at the last few years of his life and say – yes, I see the abundant life that Christ promised for him. You can see someone not living to his potential and for that I feel great empathy. All I can say today is that I love you friend, that I’ll miss you but rest assured, I’ll see you soon.