Monday, May 02, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 23

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Things Pertaining to Salvation

Hebrews 6:9 reads, "But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way." (NASB 95) By "things that accompany salvation" the Writer of Hebrews means that there is a permanent salvation--and it is vital and important for us to know that we have attained such. Peter writes, "so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Chris" (1 Peter 1:7)

I have been in seminars and other teaching events where they ask the question, "How can you be sure that you are saved." Such meetings have good and worthwhile information, but many solve the issue of salvation assurance by what I would call a sign-post. They tell those who are unsure about their salvation to pray the sinner's prayer and ask for Jesus to come into their lives. From then on, when they have doubts, they are told to look back on this date as the day of their salvation--to look back at the sign post that they set.

The Writer of Hebrews has a different idea. Peter has a different idea. Jesus has a different idea.

It is not that a sinner's prayer is not effective. It can genuinely mark and accompany the transition of the soul from death to life and the awakening of the spiritually dead to the spiritually living. However, the sinner's prayer can never be construed as a legal contract of grace. Only to the degree that it reflects the heart of the man is it effective.

Genuine faith is that which overcomes and presses on in the midst of trials. Such trials may be the unfortunate events in life that come our way. They may be the suffering and ridicule that comes from enemies. They may even be--and note this--a persistent sin habit that the Spirit has not yet conquered in us, but against which we keep fighting. It is the shrinking back, walking away, abandoning the faith before it has taken root that is the problem. Note this section in Hebrews:

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:36-39)

This later section again visits the theme of pressing on and pushing through--and a casual reading suggests that salvation could be lost at any time. But it is important to understand these words, "but we are not of those who shrink back, but those who have faith to the preserving of the soul." What I read is that it is possible to know that you have within you a faith that will not shrink back. This assurance comes from the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts--"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). It comes from endurance through trials--"knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." (James 1:3). It comes from grace--"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;" (Ephesians 2:8)

So as you read Hebrews 6:1-12, it can be wise to take stock of your spiritual situation. Do you sense in yourself that things are not quite as they should be? Do you find that you are saying to yourself, "I prayed the prayer, I must be saved?" Then these words from the Writer are possibly for you:

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:10-12)

First, seek God. He is the reward of heaven. Salvation begins with a heart that seeks after God--not a heart that merely seeks heaven. That is what it means to show "love ... Towards His name."

Second, minister to the saints--other believers. Finding within you a heart for service develops character and enables the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in your life--"But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7)

Third, imitate in your life what you see godly people do in theirs.

The bottom line is that we know our faith is genuine when it produces change in our hearts and an ability to persevere in sufferings and trials. We know that it is genuine by the love we have for God and His kingdom and His people. We know that it is genuine when we experience regret for the sins we have committed and have a deep appreciation for the solution.

Salvation is by faith alone. But faith is more than intellectual assent to doctrine. Faith is more than hoping that the words of the sinner's prayer are sufficient. Faith is an active force in the heart that activates change and supplies strength.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

Match this up with Hebrews 6 and the parable of the soils and Peter's admonishment. Any of us can be brought to a place of testing that marks the point of continuing on in the faith or seeing our faith wither. This is sobering, but it is not the end of the matter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don, it is good that I've come across (in writing) what you've often emphasized in our conversations. The written material will help to reinforce... Thank you for continuing the devotionals on these matters.

- Jacob K.

10:37 PM  

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