Does Calvinism Bring Peace of Mind?
DOES THE "ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED" DOCTRINE BRING SECURITY TO STRUGGLING CHRISTIANS?
By Charles Slagle
Does the "once saved always saved" doctrine bring security to struggling Christians? For me, it did. For a few months after I first embraced it, it seemed to give me a sense of security in God's love I had never known before. I first invited Jesus into my heart when I was six years old. However, I had struggled with debilitating addictions that caused me to live in chronic despair and paranoia since I was molested at age twelve. I spent many years of wrestling and searching for healing and understanding. Then, at age thirty-eight I came to believe in the doctrine of "Once saved always saved."
Wow..! What a relief, and what a discovery! Or so it seemed. I felt that God REALLY did love me and was guarding all my tomorrows. So for awhile I experienced a love for Him I had never known. Of course I also discovered some measurable degrees of freedom from my bondages, which I had never experienced. That was because-for a season-believing in "once saved always saved" helped me to cease focusing on MY performance. For awhile I could focus instead on resting and rejoicing in God's grace.
I will admit that to embrace the doctrine of eternal security I had to blur my eyes a bit when I fell across certain passages of Scripture and skim quickly over them. (For example, see Col.1:21-22, 2 Pet.2:20, Rev. 3:5) However, blurring my eyes seemed a worthwhile trade off. Why? Clinging to "once saved always saved" helped me to feel that God (Who is called Unfailing Holy Love) was COMMITTED. At least He was committed to a few people, and it encouraged me to think I was one of them.
I had been brought up in a tradition of harsh, legalistic Pentecostalism. In that tradition I had been taught, in so many words, "once saved hardly saved". In short, I was taught, "God loves you, but unless you find Christ in this lifetime AND remain consistently obedient, He will send you to hell--forever!"
That legalistic ideology had become deeply entrenched in my brain. But would you believe it had softened to a large degree over the years? Yep. I had actually reached the place where I knew God's grace somehow HAD TO BE the governing factor in our relationship with Him. By the time I had reached my late thirties I was inclined to believe it was "next to impossible" to be lost forever if one had been born again.
Problem was, I could find NO BIBLICAL BASIS for my more mellowed out version of "God loves you, but, bottom line, it's up to you." I was caught in a quagmire of contradictions.
Have a look--
"He saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy...that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7) And again, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the children of God-who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God." (Jn.1:12-13) And again, "For by grace are you saved through faith, and THAT not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph.2:8-9) And again, "So then, it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace." (Rom.9:16; 11:5-6)
On the other hand, THESE Scriptures would not go away-
"Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Gal. 6:7-8) And again, "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation..?" (Heb.2:1-3) And again, "...But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? ...You see then, that a man is justified by works and not by faith only." (Jas. 2:14-26) Then again, hear our Lord's own words, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is CAST OUT as a branch-into the fire-and BURNED." Yet again, in a similar fig tree and branches analogy Paul warns, "...do not be haughty, but fear! For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF YOU CONTINUE in His goodness. Otherwise YOU ALSO will be cut off!" (Rom.11:20-22)
So at last I made a big leap of "faith" (actually, desperation) and just CHOSE to believe that once a person has been born again he or she is secure for ALL ETERNITY--period!
What did I do about all of the Scriptures that seemed to contradict my position? All I could do was try to lock the "salvation by works" passages into my mental back-files and try to keep focusing on the "salvation by grace" ones. I never could explain that one about the branch being cast out from the Vine and burned. In fact, I have yet to hear ANY Calvinist offer a plausible explanation of it. There were many more Scriptures that made my "once saved always saved" security blanket feel like a moth eaten garment. For a few examples, check out these passages written to CHRISTIANS: 1 Cor. 6: 9-10, Rom.2:5-16, Heb.6:4-8, 10:26-29!
However, despite all of these Scriptures that scrambled my Calvinism, I STILL had no choice but to cling desperately to the doctrine of "once saved always saved". Why? If I could not trust God with my tomorrows, I had no way of trusting Him with my todays--or even with my yesterdays. Yet that comforting doctrine of eternal security packs one big "IF" in it that was seldom talked about, but which all of us Calvinists believed. Over the years that big "if" kept looming larger and larger, and here it is--
Yes, once you are saved, you are always saved--IF--you have been TRULY saved?
"Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The LORD knows those who are His," and, "let everyone who names the name of Christ DEPART from iniquity!" (2 Tim. 2:19)
Not a comforting thought, that one. Not if you have struggled for decades UNSUCCESSFULLY as I did with mind-binding and highly stigmatized iniquity patterns!
Then there were two more passages that constantly tormented me, and they were these: "Many (Jesus warns us) will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matt. 7:22-23)
Horrors! Apparently there will be not a few, but many, who will THINK they belong to Christ (perhaps for most of their years on earth!) only to find out in the end that HE has never thought so. Also, there was that haunting passage in 2 Peter 1:5-11 that lists many virtues we must add to our lives. Moreover, it tells us we must abound in those virtues! Then it concludes by saying, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting (aionian) kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Here Peter makes it clear that even if we ARE elected and we ARE (perhaps!) once saved always saved, even so, we must make our election--sure. But how could a basket case and miserable failure like yours truly KNOW if I was doing ENOUGH so as to eventually prove out as being one who had been truly elected? One who had been truly saved and born again? How much resting in God's grace was enough? How much was too much? How much adding virtue to virtue was enough? How much was too little? How much obedience to add virtue upon virtue was too much, so that it became legalism that nullified the work of the cross? Hadn't Paul expressed fear that he might have labored FOR NAUGHT among the Galatians who were nullifying the cross by legalistic self-effort? (Gal.4:11) That would mean, according to Calvinism, that they might not have ever been truly saved. Would it not?
(In passing, I now realize that the truth is, apart from the assurance that Christ eventually will--literally draw--ALL men to Himself there is NO ADEQUATE BIBLICAL FOUNDATION for any coherent teaching on resting in God's grace. Jn. 12:23-32; Rom.11:10-16, 25-27, 32-26, 1 Cor.15:20-22, 1 Tim.4:9-11. If there is no solid hope that Christ's salvation is literally a free gift that has come to everyone, how can there be any solid hope for anyone? That is if one takes his or her sinful condition "seriously" Rom.3:11-18; 5:17-21)
Tracking with me in all of this you can see how Calvinism's eternal security frayed around the edges more and more, as time wore on. It just had no practical bearing on MY life. The time finally came when I wound up in a psychiatric hospital because (though I believed it had to be true for some people) once saved always saved had ceased to bring me any comfort whatever.
The often hidden, yet huge "if" proviso had pulled the plug on my hope. How could I possibly be certain I had truly been saved? In my earlier days of believing "once saved hardly saved" I'd had at least 200 born again experiences. Which one was the authentic one? Given all of the deeply entrenched sin-patterns that persisted in my life (both internally and externally)--what stupidity, what ARROGANCE to imagine that my election was valid!
The Lord had never given me a Damascus Road encounter with Himself as He had done for the apostle Paul. I had never even seen Him in a vision! Despite all efforts and prayers, I could see NO indication that I was adding virtue upon virtue so as to make my calling and election sure. (Calling and election to escape endless hell fire, as I then supposed.)
Further, bear in mind with me that Calvinism teaches that our Heavenly Father whose tender mercies are over all (!?) His works has "foreordained" from eternity past to save only a few people. Calvinism assures us that most of His beloved (?) offspring whom He mysteriously "desires" to save, He actually hates! (Acts 17:28, 1 Tim.2:4; Rom. 9:13) Therefore He has chosen to consign most of earth's innumerable human populations to imprisonment in the grip of demonic forces and fiery agony for all eternity. That is because God is NOT just "love.'' He is also HOLY! (To quote many a Calvinistic preacher.) In other words, God's holiness requires that He foreordain that most of His own offspring (Acts 17:28) shall be UNHOLY and miserable--forever.
(What!? See Gen.1:26, Rev. 4:11, Tim.1:4, Eph.1:9-11;3:14, Acts 15:14-18 )
By the way, Calvinism had caused my mind to become schizophrenic. But can you see why? According to my doctrinal understanding, GOD was schizoid! His holiness was a quality in His nature that was entirely different--and foreign--to His love. But compare this warped ideology with what Paul says in Eph. 4:17-32; 5:1 about putting on the new man created in "true holiness" so that as dear children we thus can emulate our Holy Father.
Therefore, in light of all of the aforementioned truths, so-called, how was I to know that my born again experience and all seeming confirmations thereof were not actually demonic delusions? Again, let's bear in mind that God has allegedly foreordained that evil will exercise dominion over most hearts "forever and ever." Don't forget that Calvinism interprets our Lord as saying, "Many are called, but few EVER WILL BE chosen!" Furthermore, John Calvin taught that (logically, most) infants will burn in hell.
Think about it. If all of this is true, and if you are a Calvinist, how can you know your experiences of God have not been satanic deceptions? How can you be certain that there is sufficient fruit of virtue manifesting in your life to indicate that your own salvation experience was authentic? I know many good people who say they are not Christians, but they have overcome many bad habits through various behavioral modification programs. One certainly can embrace religion--even religion that hypes Jesus Christ--and experience notable lifestyle improvements and still not be truly born again. Right? So how can one know with absolute certainty that one is in the elect? Especially, if one takes his or her own wretched sinfulness seriously? The heart is desperately wicked, and who (but God) can know it? (Jer.17:9) Furthermore, only a fool trusts in his own heart. (Pr. 28:26) I know of a famous evangelical preacher (who was noted for his grace and spiritual sensitivity) who died--cursing God! This happened only recently.
How can you know that you may not die the same way? How can you be certain that YOU will prove out to be in the elect?
If one is a Calvinist Christian, there are only two ways he can THINK he knows his election is valid beyond question. Some people imagine they know because it just has not ever occurred to them to think the issue through. Others think they know because self-righteous has blinded them. I know some wonderful, self-sacrificing and down-to-earth people who fall under the first category. However, I have known the other kind too. These folks have no problem with thinking that God is forgiving and kind toward THEMSELVES. However, they can hotly argue and furiously justify the idea that He plans to write off most of the human race--and five minutes later--these same "born again" Christians can be talking about the new computer they are planning to buy!
Hmmm? These folks don't indicate having any memory of the warning: "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor.10:12)
Even Paul knew he could be disqualified. (1 Cor.9:26-27) It isn't everyone who says "Lord, Lord," who will enter into the kingdom, but those who DO the will of the Father. (Matt. 7:21) (Incidentally, if entering into the kingdom is talking about finally being saved, or as some put it, "going to heaven"--then, one cannot be too careful, can one? Don't forget! Even those who COVET to disobey the Lord will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:10)
Then, the self-centered appeal of John Calvin's grim tidings increasingly revolted me. How was I supposed to look forward to going to heaven? The doctrine I held to informs us that in heaven the elect will either no longer know---or worse---they will know, but they will no longer care about their friends and loved ones who are agonizing in a raging hell. Many Calvinist theologians tell us that the redeemed will actually DELIGHT in beholding the agonies of the (so-called) eternally dammed!
So why should I want to go to heaven? Why be turned into a heartless religious zombie that worships blissfully on streets of gold while billions of people suffer never-ending horrors that defy the power of words to describe?
So a big part of me DID NOT WANT to be saved. That was simply because I felt no attraction to becoming one of Calvinism's zombiefied saints who would supposedly inherit "pie in the sky" while most of earth's families would eternally fry. (What!? Gen.12:3, Rom.4:13, Gal.3:8, Eph.3:14; 1:9-11, Ps.22:27-28) I was already corrupt and selfish enough as it was. It seemed unbearable to imagine myself becoming THAT hardened and callused. Yet that is exactly the kind of heartless zombies Jonathan Edwards and others have thundered that the saints are destined to become, is it not? No matter how foolish or wicked the (so-called) "non-elect" may have been, I shuddered to contemplate such a horror as being eternally hardened to the agonies of other human beings--some of my own loved ones included.
Something dawns on me, even as I write these words. Small wonder I had become reduced to a quivering basket case! Small wonder my personality had become a hopeless hodgepodge of contradictions! Think about it - I wanted to be saved, (restored and healed) yet I didn't. I wanted to see the fruit of holiness in my life, yet I didn't. I couldn't! Part of me just could not bear the thought of becoming "holy." Why? My Calvinistic programming. It had rendered the prospect of my being conformed to Christ's HOLY likeness--horrifying.
My God-given conscience was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. To yield to the flesh was to become a monster. To pursue holiness was to become worse than a monster. Such is the damage that Calvinism (when it is seriously believed!) inflicts on Christians who wrestle with debilitating addictions. They cannot deeply contemplate the "beauty" of the Lord's holiness and desire it. (Ps.96:9) That is what happens when the dark veil of Calvinism covers the eyes of our heart. That veil renders it impossible to behold God's true glory! The result? It becomes impossible for us experience healing and transformation, for it is in beholding His glory that we are changed. (2 Cor.3:18)
So I eventually found it impossible to love or admire or worship this "God" of Calvinism--even a little. The more I thought about him the more I despised him. Trusting him was out of the question! How could I trust him? Calvinism's god-caricature (which I later discovered this dark phantom deity to be) was NOT trustworthy. Calvinism's god was worse--far worse--than the stereotypical windbag of a used car salesman we hear about. He talked in grandiose terms of loving the "world." Worse yet, he even called himself "love." He called himself "the savior of the world" out of one side of his mouth. Then, out of the other, He declared he had never had any intention of saving the world! He promised unconditional love and security. He assured us that we are kept by HIS power. Then He listed all the conditions by which we could expect His power to keep us--FROM AN ENDLESS, BURNING HELL.
So at last--
I simply found myself unable to rely on a so-called "Heavenly Father" who was a double-talker that hated almost everyone and loved almost no one. Nor did I desire to relate to a heavenly father that "loved" me and had chosen to hate most other people--including at least some of my (now deceased) family and friends .
Nope. And I still don't. And I don't even have to try to relate to such a being, for he (it!) does not exist. Praise the Lord! Overnight on April 30, 1996 the Holy Spirit filled my exhausted and religion-abused heart with the revelation that God is Holy Love, and Holy Love means COMMITMENT. I woke up singing the chorus from Rev. 4:11, "Thou art worthy to receive glory, honor and power, for Thou hast created ALL things for Thy pleasure!" Immediately, my life turned around 180 degrees. My heart began exploding with love for my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Chronic suicidal depression disappeared. Alcoholism vanished. My marriage was healed. All this came about because my perverted concept of who I had been taught God to be was replaced by the reality of who He REALLY was!
Desire to follow the Lord in obedience increased one hundred-fold. How could that be? Here is how: Our Heavenly Father is not giving up on you or myself or on anyone else. So that REALLY gives me incentive to hang in there and trust and obey Him. If He is not giving up, then why should I? He has already hauled me out of the ditch countless times. Why dive into it again, when I will only have to come out again? Walking with My Heavenly Father, with all of its challenges, is far better than being repeatedly hauled out of the ditch, cleaned up, stitched up and bandaged, and then starting all over again. Whaddaythink? I am by no means perfected, of course. But I have experienced healing that is beyond anything I ever imagined would happen in my life.
Healing is still happening, too! It is happening because I now know My Heavenly Father is a Restorer at heart, and He is NOT a rubbisher of people. That deep and settled knowledge has freed me to focus on Him, to focus on learning how to hear His still, small voice and on learning what pleases Him. My focus is no longer fixed on whether or not I am "truly" in the elect--or if my loved ones are truly in the elect. Like David of old, I now can sing of God's judgments, and I can hope in them, too. I KNOW His judgments are rooted in His mercy, and that His tender mercies are over ALL of His works, and all of His works shall praise Him. (Ps.62:12; 145:9-10) Paul is right. It is in "this" hope of universal salvation that I definitely am being saved, restored and healed. (Rom.8:19-24)
I realize that some people have experienced powerful healing in their personalities without having (yet) received the revelation of the restoration of all things, spoken of by all God's holy prophets. But I have yet to meet any Christians who have experienced such miracles while they were living under the constant threat and fear of God's hopeless abandonment to hell. I've spent over twenty-five years ministering in "grace-oriented" churches that supposedly believe that most of humanity is destined for eternal punishment. But do they ACTUALLY believe it? Nope. Not in real life and practice, they don't. In fact, if people come into their midst who emphasize the subject of hell, these grace-oriented Christians label such ones as "legalists" or "spiritual flakes." Why is this? If there IS an eternal hell in which most human beings are destined to perish, how could these grace-oriented churches be so heartless as to say ALMOST NOTHING about it? Why do they emphasize anything and everything except the most important issue that supposedly confronts the human race? I'm convinced that--
A DEEPLY ENTRENCHED HABIT OF MENTAL "BACK-FILING" IS THE CULPRIT.
Experience, talking here! Under Calvinism, how can one maintain any semblance of a grace message--and at the same time--retain a belief in endless hell? The ONLY way to do that is to emphasize the grace and love passages of Scripture and to de-emphasize the judgment and "everlasting" fire passages. This is what I mean by mental back-filing. Many people have somehow learned to give mental assent to the doctrine of eternal punishment so that they "believe" in it--but only as a point of "orthodoxy." When I believed in eternal punishment, the only way I ever found any measure of peace was to mentally back-file the negatives of my belief system. At least I TRIED to do so, as much as was possible. Problem is, I don't have the kind of personality that easily performs that mental gymnastic. So I was not able to keep the data in my mental back-files from seeping through into my front-files for very long.
Are you good at mental back-filing? If you are, and you are a Calvinist (or even a free-willist) Christian, the following quiz may deeply disturb you--or even anger you. If you are NOT a good mental back-filer, you'll probably feel greatly relieved that you are not alone!
Before we start the quiz, first remember that the Bible commands to "give thanks in ALL things." In fact, this is God's will concerning you! (1Thess.5:18) Also bear in mind that the Bible tells us to MEDITATE on whatever things are noble, true, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report. (Phil.4:7-8) That surely includes all of the foundational truths of the good news of the gospel, does it not? Remember too that Christ tells us that His words are "spirit (breath!) and life." (Jn.6:63) Bear in mind also that "the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." (Ps.19:8) Furthermore, the command is that we are not to live by bread only, but by "every word" that proceeds from God's mouth. (Duet.8:3, Matt.4:4)
Now here is the quiz-
- Meditate on and rejoice in the truth that Christ loves you with all of His heart, and He laid down His life for you. At the same time, keep "looking unto Jesus" (Heb. 12:2) and meditate on and give heartfelt thanks for the truth, so-called, "as it is in Jesus" (Eph.4:21) that eternity MAY prove that you were never truly saved.
- Meditate on and rejoice in the truth that you are saved by grace through faith, and that (faith) is not of yourself. At the same time meditate on and give sincere thanks for the truth (so-called) that God plans (in His infinite wisdom and sterling justice) to consign billions of people to never-ending fiery torture. And why? He plans to do so BECAUSE they did not exercise the faith, which He Himself had never chosen to give them. (Don't forget to give thanks that this may well include some of your loved ones.)
- Meditate on and offer highest praise for the truth that the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. At the same time meditate on and give deepest thanks for the truth (so-called by PURE Calvinists) that one of His PRIMARY statutes is never-ending punishment for babies and children. If not for babies, it is certainly true for children who have reached the (so-called) "age of accountability." (So our "milder" Calvinist theologians assure us even though there isn't even a hint of such a doctrine in the Bible.)
- Meditate on the truth that millions of infants are being aborted and how this tragedy grieves the heart of God, and repent if you have been too passive as regards taking a stand on this issue. Give thanks for His forgiveness, and rejoice that He will enable you by His grace to combat this evil more effectively. At the same time bear in mind and give sincere thanks for the truth that God (Who is Unfailing Holy Love) wants most babies preserved alive so that as adults they will burn in agony "forever and ever." (I know it sounds blasphemous, but don't forget that Calvinism tells us that God HATES the non-elect, so THAT is the source of the blasphemy.)
- Rejoice in and meditate on the truth that, as one of the saints, your destiny is to judge the world. (1 Cor.6:2) At the same time meditate on and rejoice in the truth (so-called) that in some way you will probably be helping your "Good Shepherd" consign most of the world's myriad of human populations to hell for all eternity. This may well include some of your family, neighbors and friends.
- Meditate on and rejoice in the truth that Christ came to fulfill the law and the prophets. (Matt.5:17) The law and the prophets are summed up in, "Whatever you would have others do to you, you do also to them." (Matt.7:11-12) At the same time meditate on and rejoice in the (so-called) truth that Christ will fail to fulfill the law and the prophets. Actually, He has never intended to fulfill the law and the prophets! Nevertheless, He sure expects YOU to fulfill them. How so? Your Loving Savior has already planned to treat most of His created human beings as He will NOT EVER be treated--He will consign them to be burned alive "forever and ever."
- Meditate on the beauty of God's holiness. Rejoice that you are destined to be conformed to His holy likeness. At the same time meditate on the (so-called) truth that your Heavenly Father's holiness has caused Him to "foreordain" from eternity past that most of His own offspring will be UNHOLY and miserable "forever."
- Meditate on and rejoice in the fact that God is Love, and Love never fails, and authentic love must reveal itself, not in words only, but in DEEDS done in truth--reality. (1 Jn.3:18; 4:16, 1 Cor.13:8) At the same time, meditate on and give thanks for the (so-called) truth that God is NOT just "Love." He is also HOLY. So that means YOUR love must never fail, and YOU must do to others as you would be done by, and YOUR love must reveal itself in deeds done in reality. But not so with God! When it comes to the virtue of "love" He expects you to be more faithful than He is able to be (according to the "traditions of men.").
- Meditate on and give thanks for the fact that our Lord's commands are not burdensome. (1 Jn.5:3) Therefore He bids you not to worry about tomorrow, and He assures you that His yoke is easy and His burden is light and that He will give you rest for your soul. (Matt.6:34; 11:28,29) At the same time meditate on the truth (according to Calvinism) that many will THINK they have come to Christ and have found rest for their souls. However, time will eventually prove that their turning to Christ was not authentic, and they had entered into a false "rest." Therefore He will say to such ones, "Depart from Me! ('Forever!', according to Calvinism.) I never knew you." While you're at it, don't forget to meditate on Judas.
- Meditate on and rejoice in the truth that the greatest command is that you love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength--in other words, with TOTAL COMMITMENT. (Duet.6:5) At the same time bear in mind and give thanks to God with deepest gratitude for this so-called truth: His commitment to you is CONDITIONAL on whether or not you show all diligence to make your calling and election--sure. Also meditate deeply and give thanks for the so-called truth that He may NOT have chosen to save some of your dearest friends and loved ones. Not ever!
If this little quiz has deeply disturbed or angered you, then it is quite possible you are an expert at mental back-filing. If that is so, the way you survive spiritually and emotionally is by keeping the all the data you have been taught to believe--compartmentalized. I'm not at all condemning you for this. That is only the natural response of a sensitive human conscience that cannot cope on a daily basis with all it has been programmed to retain as "truth." But the point is that if you are a good back-filer, you never meditate on or give thanks for the "austere" aspects of your belief system. Yet the Scriptures DO command that you do so. For example, if you never meditate on and rejoice in the beauty of the Lord's holiness, how can you expect to see it manifested in your own character? If you feel disturbed by this quiz, could it be because having all of your beliefs suddenly brought forward to your mental front-files has threatened your emotional survival system? Perhaps it has threatened a coping device which has evolved inside you over many years. If so, that device is what has enabled you to maintain a fair level of serenity and "balance" in your life.
I promise, it is not my intention to cause you emotional stress. However, I must also tell you the Lord loves you too much to leave you in your comfort zone. (Join the club! He is constantly challenging my comfort zones, too.) What you believe about God--sooner or later--WILL affect your life and all of your relationships. I'm praying our Heavenly Father will quickly replace that old coping device of mental back-filing with something far better: a profound revelation of His UNFAILING AND UNCONDITIONALLY COMMITTED LOVE. It's time that you savor REAL serenity. Your mental back-filing mechanism has trained you to focus away from your own needs and pain--but to an unhealthy extreme. Yet there is an "upside" to that cruel syndrome in the cases of many people. Our Heavenly Father shapes all of us in various furnaces of affliction, doesn't He? So by now you may well have become and excellent organizer and nurturer and caregiver. I believe you'll be amazed by how much more strength and stamina you'll have in your ministry in days to come, the more open your heart to embrace the fullness of your Heavenly Father's love.
If this quiz has not deeply disturbed or angered you, that is probably because you are NOT a very good mental back-filer. You could well be laughing and saying, to yourself, "Wow! I didn't know there were others who have struggled as I have." Yep. Join the club! You have been cursed/blessed (?) with a mind that simply DOES NOT KNOW HOW to "believe" in something while not actually believing it. Your personality is such that you cannot help constantly mulling over and living out ALL that you believe on a fairly regular basis. Or at least, you try to live it all out. Oops! That means that as a Christian you probably oscillate back and forth between total paganism and harsh religious legalism. (At least inside of yourself you do.) I'm praying that God will reveal His UNFAILING AND UNCONDITIONALLY COMMITTED love to you, if He has not already. It's time that you savor serenity without having to be asleep, drunk, or knocked out cold to do it! Meditate deeply on Matt.11:27-30 and John 6:37-39; 12:23-32,47, Psalm 22 and Eph.1:9-11 and enter into--rest! The Father has delivered "all things" (all creation) into your Good Shepherd's hands, and YOU have not been excluded.
My prayer is that God will stir up an even greater passion and thirst for truth in all who read this message. Our Lord has promised, "You SHALL know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jn 8:32,36) I can't think of any greater freedom than that which comes from knowing the heart of our wonderful God, and as a result, loving Him with all of our MIND--as well as with all of our heart, soul and strength.
Finally, before closing out-
I do believe God calls out an elect people. However, He doesn't elect them so they can be a silly and exclusive "Us Four and No More Going to Heaven Club." He does not call them out so they alone will be eternally blessed and all others will be trashed and burned forever. No, our Good Father has called out a holy nation, a royal priesthood people for a far higher purpose than that. He has called them to help fulfill the role of the firstborn kinsman redeemer son we read about in Gen. 27:28-29, 38, Duet. 21:17; 19:4-12, 25:5-10, Numbers 3, and all that is taught in the book of Ruth.
Heb. 12:23 tells us of "the general assembly of the firstborn whose names are written in Heaven." And we read in Col. 1:15-18 that Christ is not only called "the Firstborn from among the dead." He is called the "Firstborn of every creature." What does all of this mean? In Old Testament times the firstborn son of a Hebrew family was to--
- receive his father's blessing and be given supremacy (authority) over his other brothers and sisters.
- receive a double portion of his father's inheritance.
- serve the rest of the family as their "domestic priest."
These are the wonderful privileges of the firstborn son. But what are his responsibilities, which sadly, much of today's church of the firstborn has forgotten?
Here they are-
- The firstborn son was to redeem a lost inheritance within the family. (Meditate on all this involves!)
- The firstborn son was to redeem a poor brother who would otherwise be sold into slavery--asking NO questions! (That means that no judgment or even any implied criticisms are allowed!)
- The firstborn son was to raise up seed to a brother who had died without a male child. (Today that would mean providing healing care to those in the world who are widowed and orphaned--nurturing them--so they, in turn, will bear spiritual children.)
- The firstborn son was to avenge the blood of a brother who had been murdered. (That is what Christ did when He destroyed Satan's death-trap and raised us all back to life through His death and resurrection. He facilitates the actualization of this by the intercessions of the "church of the firstborn"--the body of Christ. (1 Tim.2:1-6, 2 Tim.1:10, Rev.1:18)
So again, let's remember that Christ, God's Eternal Son, is called the Firstborn of "every creature." It is with that premise in mind that Paul outlines the good news in Col.1:15 that God is reconciling ALL to Himself through our Lord's cross. Then Paul warns us in verses twenty-two and three not to be removed from the HOPE of that good news. Is it possible to be removed from the hope of the good news that God is reconciling ALL CREATION to Himself- Absolutely! If we listen to those who say God only plans to help those who help themselves--or only an elect few--paranoia and despair will dog our tracks. That will cause us to revert to hoping in OURSELVES to fulfill "touch not, taste not, handle not" to accomplish our own salvation.
We dare not get on that religious treadmill. If we do, it will kill us! That is because when we're huffing and puffing on that treadmill our hope is no longer rooted in what God has accomplished through His Firstborn Kinsman Redeemer Son. Our hope is in OUR will power, which is bound to fail us. As long as we seek to appear holy and blameless in our own sight (or that of brownie-point religion promoters) we deny our Good Father the joy of presenting us as pure and blameless before HIMSELF. (Col.2:18-23)
Now think about it- Christ is the Kinsman Redeemer Elder Brother that our Father has sent to redeem us all from Satan's captivity. That captivity is the result of his illusions and deceptions. However, our Elder Brother has come to destroy the lying works that have alienated us from God. (Col.1:21, 1 Jn.3:8) So what does our Lord tell us when He arrives on earth? He tells us He has come to seek and to save "that" (not merely some of that) which was lost. He assures us that His Father has given Him "all things" and that He will lose nothing of all His Father has given Him. (Matt.11:27; Jn.3:35, 6:37,39, 17:2)
Therefore He tells us His purpose in coming is to save the WORLD. (Jn. 12:47)
Furthermore He declares that He will take away the strong man's (Satan's) armor and will CONFISCATE his booty. (Lk.11:21-22) That is because our Elder Brother Kinsman Redeemer has come to set the captives free in fulfillment of Isa. 61. He is a "Covenant to THE Gentiles" (all of the spiritually unenlightened) according to Isa. 42. See also Lk. 1:78-79; 2:10-11,32; 3:5-6.
Hmmm? Have only the elect AMONG the Gentiles been held captive by Satan? If so, that would lead to the absurd conclusion that the rest of the human race is already righteous, would it not? What total nonsense! All have sinned! Christ is God's covenant with ALL of earth's families. Wow--that is indeed a sure anchor for our soul, isn't it? (Rom.3:23; 4:13; 11:32; 15:4-13, Gal.3:8, Heb.6:13-20)
However, God does have a good purpose for choosing an elect people.
Bear in mind that the nation of Israel was originally elected and called out to be the Lord's firstborn son company of co-laborers. (Ex. 4:22) Although as a whole, they have rejected Jesus Christ, they WILL eventually fulfill their call according to Romans 11.
Our Lord came 2,000 years ago to "His own", the "lost sheep of the house of Israel". (Matt.15:24) He came to call them to repentance. Israel had grown corrupt, worldlier than the world. God's holy nation had become salt that had lost its savor, to say nothing of its preserving power. They were not shining as Heaven's "light set on a hill" to guide a lost world home to the Father of us all. As a nation (not necessarily as individuals) they were anything BUT the "joy of the whole earth," (Ps.48) Even when Israel's promised Messiah came among them, working mind-boggling signs and miracles, they (most of them) did not receive Him. However, to as many as did receive Him, He gave them the authority to become the sons of God. (Jn.1:11-12)
But what kind of sons is being talked about? The word "authority" is a key to understanding here. The Bible demonstrates that God is now electing FIRST-born sons. These will co-labor with THE Firstborn Son, Christ, as His "body" though which He eventually will fill all in all. Everything in everyone in all creation. Listen to what the Lord says to His earliest firstborn co-heirs: "You shall receive AUTHORITY when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses-unto the ENDS OF THE EARTH." (Acts 1:8)
Do you remember God's call, "Look to Me all you ends of the earth and be saved!"? (Isa. 45:22) THAT is why God calls out an elect people. They are called out as Christ's co-laborers in His world harvest field. Through their labors of love and intercessions, eventually they are to FACILITATE the desired world-wide response to God's call, "Look to Me all you ends of the earth and be saved!" (I Tim.2:1-6) For "to the Lord who hears prayer all flesh shall come." (Ps.65:2) So Christ teaches us to pray to our Father, "...Thy will be done in earth, just as it is in Heaven." (Matt.6:10)
Hear God speaking again to His elect in Isa. 49: 6? "I will give you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be My SALVATION to the ENDS OF THE EARTH." There is that "ends of the earth" phrase yet again!
Once more, that is because God has issued the call, "Look to Me all you ends of the earth and be saved!" That call cannot be revoked. (Rom.11:29, 32) Therefore, He has promised that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear to Him an oath of allegiance. All shall say, "Surely in the Lord, I have righteousness and strength!" (Isa.45:23-24) We see again in the New Testament that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess (The Greek says, "give thanks"!) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)
Do you remember Paul tells us that no one can confess Jesus as Lord apart from the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor.12:3) So this will NOT be a forced bowing and giving thanks as many theologians would have us to believe. God forbid! Our Heavenly Father is seeking TRUE worshippers! The Lord lets us know in no uncertain terms that our Father of all compassion is NOT glorified with mere lip service that is rendered while hearts are far removed from Him. (Jn.4:23, Matt.15:8 See also Ps.66, 67)
So God has called out His firstborn sons and daughters to continue Christ's work in the world. The Lord told His first called out co-heirs, "As My Father has sent Me, so I also send you." Further, He told them to teach others all the things He had taught them. (Jn. 20:21; Matt.28:20) Then we read in 1 Jn.4:17 of Christ and our calling to co-labor with Him, "...as He is, so are we in this world." God has called out a body of co-world-liberators, and these elected co-heirs have been called "according to His purpose". (Jn.14:12, Rom.8:28)
Let's look a bit further into the purpose for which we have been called out.
Paul tells us God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and has set us in heavenly places with Christ. He has granted us redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, and by His grace, He has lavished us (the church of the firstborn) with all wisdom and prudence. (1 Cor.2:16, Col.2:2-3) Furthermore, God has made known to us the mystery of His will. This is in accordance with his good pleasure, which He PURPOSED in Himself.
What is God's good pleasure which He has purposed?
He has purposed that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He will gather into unity ALL THINGS (All creation--Rev.4:11) in Christ. Will God perform all of His purpose and accomplish all of His good pleasure and desire?
(See Isa.14:24; 46:10-11; 55:11 for starters. Don't forget Eph. 1:11.)
Read all of Eph.1 and you will see clearly that the elect have been called out as Christ's (extended) body so that He may FILL "all things." He lived, died and rose again to fill all creation--to become Lord of both the dead and the living! (Eph.4:10; Rom.14:9; Jn.12:23-32) In fact, Paul tells us that the called out body of Christ is the fullness of him that fills all in ALL. (Eph.1:22-23)
So we are not the only born of God's people. Christ, Who is the Firstborn of EVERY creature is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the WORLD. He will save HIS people from their sins by putting away sin! In fact, He has already done that by the sacrifice of Himself. (Matt.1:21, Lk.2:11, 2Cor.5:14-21, Heb.9:26, Isa.25:8; 52:10, Rev.5:13, Ps.24:1) "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord ALL THE EARTH, for we are His people, the sheep of His pasture..." (Ps.100)
So I repeat--we are not the only born of Our Lord's reborn and new creation. We are the FIRST-born. We are also a "kind of firstfruits" of His creation, according to James 1:18. Moreover, in accordance with all the teaching of the Old Testament on the subject, Paul assures us that "if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump." (Rom.11:16) That is because we have been given AUTHORITY to become God's firstborn sons to co-labor with Christ to bring about the restoration of ALL THINGS. Our Heavenly Father has promised that all of earth's families will be blessed--IN Christ. Verse twenty six of Acts 3 says that God has "raised up His Servant Jesus Christ to BLESS you, in turning EVERY ONE OF YOU AWAY FROM YOUR SINS." (Gen.12:3, Acts 3:21-26, Gal.3:8)
The nature of the blessing? It is being turned from sin. Hence all of earth's families will remember and turn to the Lord and worship Him. (Ps.22:22) Don't forget that the Greek language says "every family" in heaven and earth--and thus, all the pagan world--is named after our Heavenly Father. (Eph.3:14) We are ALL His offspring. (Acts 17:28, Gen. 1:26) Furthermore, Christ has tasted death for EVERYONE and will inherit us all, for all was made by our Firstborn Kinsman Redeemer, and ALL was made FOR Him. So His name will be great among the heathen and in "every place" incense shall be offered in His Name. His kingdom shall be great (here comes that phrase again) "to the ends of the earth." (Heb.2:8-10; 1:2, Col.1:15-20, Mal.1:11, Zech.9:10)
Therefore, God is now electing and "calling out a people for His name" from both Jews and Gentiles--so that--they will become His healing agents to the rest of the world.
Listen to James talking at the first general church council in Jerusalem: "Simon (Peter) has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his Name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: "After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up so that THE REST OF MANKIND may seek (inquire of) the Lord, even ALL THE GENTILES who are called by My Name, says the Lord who does all these things.'" (Rom.11:5; Acts 15:14-17; Amos 9:11-12)
Again, bear in mind that "every family" in heaven and earth is named after our Heavenly Father. (Eph.3:14)
So Paul tells us in Col.1:15 that the church is "the beginning"--so that--in ALL THINGS (all creation) Christ may have the supremacy! The church is a "royal priesthood" and a "holy nation", called out for His Name. That is, this holy priesthood is called out to reveal the excellencies of God's NATURE to a world, filled with His lost children who grope in spiritual darkness. (I Pet.2:9) The Firstborns' names are now WRITTEN in Heaven, yes. But that does NOT mean God's elect priesthood people have been called to "go to heaven" to the everlasting exclusion of billions of their latter born brothers and sisters.
Christ's co-restorers have NOT been called out to enjoy non-stop celestial worship services while watching their Father of tender mercies torch and trash all of His latter born children whom Satan has taken captive to do his will. Isn't that wonderful to know? Christ is a COVENANT--He is Unfailing Holy Love's Solemn Promise--to confiscate the evil one's booty and set the prisoners free. Praise the Lord! (2 Tim.2:26, Isa.42, Lk.4:16-19; 11:21-22)
Are you aware that there are only two reasons why Christ would come and die on the cross, and yet most people would perish forever? Here they are-
- God loves only an exclusive few of His offspring and hates all the rest. Therefore He WILL NOT save the world. (Calvinism)
- God loves all of His offspring and has sent His Son to die on the cross to save them. Yet He has known all along that He CANNOT save the world. He can only save those who are lucky enough to hear of Christ in this lifetime. Even among those He can save only a few: those who are sufficiently clever and diligent to make timely and wise choices before they die. In other words--those who are lucky and astute enough to perform correctly, for "God helps only those who help themselves."
The only thing that could make any of us imagine God loves us more than He loves most other people is--pride. Pride is the only thing that could cause us to imagine we can (and will!) perform better than most of the human race. Don't you agree? However, if we don't understand that Christ will literally draw all mankind to Himself, here are the options-
- We can embrace Calvinism's glad tidings: You can count on God, IF you can be certain you are part of an elect few.
- We can embrace the glad tidings of free-willism: You can count on God, IF He can count on you.
THESE ARE THE ONLY OPTIONS.
Can you see how pride lurks at the root of both belief systems? One system demands certainty that God loves us more than He loves most people. So it appeals to our fleshly tendency toward pride of exclusivity. The other system demands certainty (or at least a strong hope) in ourselves. So it appeals to our fleshly tendency toward pride of performance.
There just is no getting around it. To adopt either paradigm is to elevate one's self over the majority of the human race. (Don't forget that traditional theology teaches that only a few EVER WILL find the narrow way. Thus, Calvinism and free-willism confuse Christ's call to self-denying discipleship in this church era with His ultimate plan of salvation in the ages to come.)
Wonder what spirit fostered these dark ideologies in the name of "Jesus"? Antichrist is his name. The only way that Christians who embrace these ideologies can survive morally, emotionally, and spiritually is to mentally back-file the horrors of their belief system and try to focus on grace and love.
God so loved the world - Beautiful words, aren't they? We Christians are no better, and we are no wiser than all our latterborn brothers and sisters. We just happened to be born--first. Before God Himself "brought us forth by His Word of Truth" we also were by nature, "children of wrath", just as the others. It was God who is rich in mercy that made us alive in Christ. It is His unrelenting kindness and enabling grace that has fostered and nurtured our faith, not we ourselves. (Eph.2:1-9) If He had not made Himself believable to us, we would still be living in unbelief and darkness. Love Himself CAUSED us to trust Him. Our faith now FUNCTIONS by Love. Any parent knows that trust must be EARNED. The only reason any of us have faith in our Heavenly Father today is because--
HE HAS EARNED OUR TRUST.
That is the ONLY reason. (Gal.5:6)
I read a book by J.B. Phillips, "Ring of Truth", and it blessed me--bigtime. The author said his research revealed something awe-inspiring about the phrase, "fear and trembling." He pointed out that the Corinthian believers received, Titus, Paul's young apprentice with "fear and trembling." (2 Cor.7:15) Through his research J.B. Phillips discovered that "fear and trembling" has been much misunderstood.
Are you ready? Brace yourself-
In the first century Greek language that austere sounding phrase, "fear and trembling" actually meant EXHUBERANT JOY.
With that in mind, lets have a look at Phil.2:5-13--
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself a Servant. And coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. THEREFORE God has highly exalted Him and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at (the Greek says, 'in') the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Christ Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with EXHUBERANT JOY. (And why?) BECAUSE it is God Who works in YOU both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (My emphasis, parenthetical question, etc., punctuation.)
Seen with exuberant joy, that passage is awesome, huh?
Our calling as Christians is not to threaten the world-weary with endless hell-fire because of their unbelief. We are NOT called to tell our latterborn brothers and sisters by word or by IMPLICATION, "I'm elected to be saved, but I'm not so sure about you!" No, no, a thousand times--no. That mindset is what provoked the indignation of our Lord with the "elect" of first century Israel: "God I thank you that I am not as other men..." Ponder prayerfully Luke 18:9-14. We have NOT been elected to abuse or to scorn a pain wracked world. Our calling is to live so richly in our Heavenly Father's nurture and Presence that our lives of self-giving love MAKE HIM BELIEVABLE.
Our commission is to put on the mind of Christ, the humility of a guileless, self-emptying, self-giving servant. We are to love our neighbors, both friends and foes, as we love ourselves. We who have been privileged (by no merit of our own) to act as firstborn priests in our Good Father's household must ALSO remember our responsibilities. In all things we are called to adopt the same mindset as that of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ--especially when it comes to loving our lost brothers and sisters. What is our Lord's mindset? "He will not fail or become discouraged until He has established justice (salvation!) in the EARTH." (Not in bits of the earth! Isa.42)
We CAN adopt that mindset when we know beyond all question that our Savior is committed to us. We can do it with exuberant joy! That is because we know God is working His good pleasure and grand purpose for TOTAL UNIVERSAL VICTORY in and though us. That is how "all things" are working together for our good! (Rom.8:28) What could be for our highest good--and honor!--other than to be Christ's healing hands extended until ALL CREATION adores Him?
Tragedy that it would be, even if we fail to make our calling and election sure, (to reign with Christ as world-reconcilers) God's word gives us assurance that our Good Shepherd and Elder Brother will restore us again in due season, just as He restored Peter who denied Him. He is no respecter of persons! So He will restore us just as faithfully as He will restore Israel, which has VEHEMENTLY denied Him for twenty centuries. For He works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His will. (Jer.50:5, Rom.11:26-29, Ezk.37, Eph.1:11, Dan.4:34-35 Note what this amazing promise says of Judas: Matt.19:28)
Heavenly Father, I love You. I am overcome with joy when I think of your pure and holy heart. I ask that You will cause all who read this message to know and EXPERIENCE the length, the width, the height and the depth of Your love as they never have known it before. I pray You will comfort every sorrowful and discouraged heart. Heal those who have been wounded by harsh religious traditions that subvert Your character and erode hope. Break through to your called out co-heirs--all around the world--with a life-changing revelation of Your heart and good purpose. Illuminate our lives with the radiance of Your Light. Light up our lives, dear Father! Cause us to shine as lights of Your true glory. Cause us to be the firstborn co-heirs and--co-world-restorers--with Christ that You have called us to be. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done IN EARTH just as it is done in Heaven. In the Name of our Strong Deliverer, Jesus Christ. Amen.