“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.”Daniel 9:4
(cf. Ephesians 1-10) All Christians (myself included), at one point in their lives have had doubts about the assurance of their salvation. All of us are worried, “Am i really going to heaven?”, “are my kids going to get in?”, “How can i know i really am saved?” What we really want is a signed Eternal Life insurance policy to put in our pockets, and say, “see, i got it, here it is”. I realize God doesn’t give that, and so in our desire to have that insurance, what we’ve done is we’ve turned Christianity into an act, or a series of isolated acts; a period of being lost, a period of conviction, a salvation experience, a growing in the Lord, and a maturity in our faith. We have segmented the Christian faith instead of a dynamic relationship with the Lord. There is no way to understand salvation by segmenting it up, because the Bible presents it as a flow; as a oneness, as an experience, as a unity, as a continuum if you please.
We are so fascinated when we get people respond to altar calls, or get them to sign a sheet and have them say a prayer of acceptance. And we focus on this experience. I must admit that a man praying a little prayer one time in his life especially when he’s never nurtured by a believing community, never grows in grace, he never reads the Bible, he doesn’t walk with the Lord, he just prayed this little prayer one time, somewhere; now he might be saved, but he’s not necessarily saved. Because the Christian life is a flow. It starts when we hear the Gospel seed being planted in our hearts > and then it comes to a point of commitment > and the commitment is the sprouting of the seed > and the seed turns into a plant > and the plant continues to grow and it bears fruit. The fruit is the evidence of the validity of the prayer of acceptance. Biblically speaking, the prayer without the fruit is a false profession (the parable of the soils – Matthew 13).
In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is a man who truly accepted Christ, and then never built on it, and he’s saved but everything in his life is destroyed. So there is the picture of a man trusting Christ but never growing. But he is more of the exception than the rule, because Jesus never said to anybody that came to Him, “I have a wonderful plan for your life, God sent Me to die for your that if you’ll trust in Me and Me alone, and pray the Sinner’s Prayer you can go to heaven”. He never said that. What did Jesus say to the people? He said, “BELIEVE IN ME”. Of course if you read through Paul, we could find five other things and say these are the major ones we need to do in order to be saved. But Jesus wants disciples, not decisions. Jesus does not want to see your Sunday School record, nor your denominational tag. Jesus wants someone to walk with Him, and for him to live the life of Christ; through you, whoever you are, wherever you go. The real focus of the Bible is relationship that issues in Christlikeness, and any deviation from that is suspect. The assurance of salvation only comes from a lifestyle of Christlikeness.
The flow of salvation is such that, there is no way that any man has ever come to God by himself. The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray…”, no one is turning to God, and no one can come to God unless God’s draws him (cf. Jn. 6:44). I believe in predestination, and the other term for that is Grace. Grace is the unmerited, undeserved, no-strings-attached love of God for man. It is fully culminated, it is fully flowered, fully matured in the birth, life ministry, teachings, death, resurrection, and coming again of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace. “For by grace you have been saved (perfect passive participle – it happened in the past by an outside agent, and it’s a continuing experience) through faith…” Are we saved by grace or are we saved by faith? We are saved by grace, but there’s no other way to be saved than through faith. By that i mean, man must have a part in it. Faith is not a work. Faith is a response to grace. Faith in Greek can be translated three ways – BELIEVE, TRUST, FAITH. Biblical faith primarily is the word trust, trustworthiness, loyalty. Faith is not something that focuses on man. Faith is is something that relates to God. Faith is the trustworthiness of God demonstrated in the Bible and experienced in a person’s life. We trust God because He has proved Himself to be dependable and trustworthy. Faith is a response in man to the trustworthiness of the promises of God. Faith is not how deep you feel. Faith is not how emotionally high you can get. Faith is not how committed you are. Faith is directed toward God, not toward you. Grace is unconditional, and faith is the condition. But how can something be unconditional and yet conditioned? Think with me, salvation is absolutely 100% free. You can’t earn it, you can’t deserve it, and you can’t merit it. God gives it with no strings attached, but it costs everything that you are. It is the pearl of great price (cf. Matt. 13:45-46) that when a man finds Jesus, everything else becomes insignificant compared to Him. He becomes the consuming desire and motive of human life. Jesus and our response to him is the condition of unconditional love.