“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I’m revisiting a previous post When Was I Saved?. My own salvation story isn’t one in which I retell walking up to an altar and publicly giving my life to the Lord, although I have done that. I’ve always known the Lord as far back as I can recall. But it was when I was in college that he came to me again. Romans 5:8 is so appropriate and relatable to my own story, because you see, I was in willful, active rebellion when Jesus approached me with an invitation I couldn’t refuse. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There were quite a few years of tempertantrums with me kicking and screaming; that’s the best way I can think to describe it. But God’s will, I could not resist forever. His kindness and patience lead me to repentance. Jesus saves; Jesus transforms; I believe in that order.
1 Peter opens with the greeting: “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1-2). Just from Peter’s opening, I hope we can all agree that God foresaw his faithful. But what made these pilgrims faithful in the first place? How, or by whom, did they come about this faithfulness? Let me start by looking at my own experience.
When was I saved? I know it wasn’t when my parents had me baptized. It wasn’t when I celebrated my first communion. It wasn’t even when I was confirmed and publicly acknowledged Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was saved before time began; I was saved by the Father’s righteous decree, and everything else, which has happened in my life, has been me living out that salvation. Remember what Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (John 6:44-47). And what Jesus went on to say a little later in John, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (10:27-29). If my redemption had come by any other means, then I could boast in myself, in my own effort and actions taken, at least a little bit; that’s the shortsightedness of other interpretations, and the credit, the pat on the back, the flesh craves.
1 Corinthians opens with Paul addressing divisions in the church, and in his instruction, Paul reminds them of the reality of who they are in Jesus Christ. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord’” (30-31). What a relief it is to know that my salvation is entirely a work of God. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). Shall the clay question the potter (Isaiah 45:9; Romans 9:20)?
Now, I know, I know, there‘s an avalanche of theological commentary and teaching out there, which express a different interpretation, and that’s fine; this is not a matter I care to debate. After all, there’s an avalanche of scripture proclaiming a Good News much different from theirs; I need not be lured into an unfruitful snare. No wonder we stumble over legalisms. No wonder we struggle with sin as we do. No wonder we constantly put the cart before the horse. No wonder the enemy so easily robs us of our peace. No wonder the apostles often used human analogies to explain divine truths. The mystery I speak of is not an easy one to receive, because it is one that requires absolute surrender to, and trust in, the sovereignty and righteousness of Almighty God (Isaiah 14:27). The Bible isn’t an instruction manual for what we have to do to earn God’s approval; the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears witness to what living out God’s redemption looks like. To God be all the glory, not just some.
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