The Conclusion That Wasn’t

Discipleship

This morning I reversed field rather abruptly at the close to my message about discipleship, defined by me this way: mutual investing by Word and Spirit for growth in Christ-likeness to the glory of God. You can listen to the audio of “A Restoration like Many Others (Part Three)” here.

Battling the clock, as always, I opted to omit a devotional piece by John Piper from Desiring God with which originally I intended to finish. As promised, here it is on the blog:

Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

What about the other ten apostles (not counting Judas)?

Satan was going to sift them too. Did Jesus pray for them?

Yes he did. But he did not ask the Father to guard their faith in the very same way he guarded Peter’s.

God broke the back of Peter’s pride and self-reliance that night in the agony of Satan’s sieve. But he did not let him go. He turned him around and forgave him and restored him and strengthened his faith. And now it was Peter’s mission to strengthen the other ten.

Jesus provided for the ten by providing for Peter. The strengthened becomes the strengthener.

There is a great lesson here for us. Sometimes God will deal with you directly, strengthening your faith alone in the wee hours of the morning. But most of the time (we might say ten-elevenths of the time) God strengthens our faith through another person.

God sends us some Simon Peter who brings just the word of grace we need to keep on in the faith: some testimony about how “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Eternal security is a community project. Whenever God encourages your heart with the promise that in Satan’s sifting your faith will not fail, then take that encouragement and double your joy by using it to strengthen your brothers and sisters.

This pastor calls that discipleship – our priority obligation – if we love Jesus more than life itself.

How Great Is Our God?

Last October Nancy and I visited a church  we’ve never attended before near our mountain retreat during our annual fall vacation.

The pastor preached a message from the book of Hebrews. He concluded from the numerous warning passages in places like Heb. 2:1-3 that believers in Christ can lose their salvation. Controversy notwithstanding and readily admitted, he outright dismissed the doctrine of eternal security placing the responsibility for our future destiny on our own heads.

From there we went immediately to the close of the service with the singing of Chris Tomlin’s tune How Great Is Our God. Normally I sing that song, which I enjoy very much, with passion and energy. After that message however I lacked the usual gusto. The preaching didn’t build my faith in God who keeps His own to the end but rather sought to dampen that faith. Hence my question mark at the end of this blog post title.

I have since recovered by revisiting the rest of Scripture by which we must interpret the warning texts in Hebrews, including chapters six and ten, considering them as means of grace God gives to help Christian’s persevere. For the overwhelming testimony of divine writ is that what God begins He completes (Phil. 1:6). He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). The One predestined, also calls, justifies and glorifies – note the past tense in Rom. 8:30 which speaks of future glorification so certain as if it has already taken place. Jesus refers to His own as doubly secure in His and the Father’s hands from which no one may snatch us (John 10:28-29).

Peter speaks of believers as those who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:5). Jude calls us the kept for Jesus Christ (Jude 1) and ascribes blessing at the conclusion of his letter to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless before the presence of His glory (Jude 24).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith calls this doctrine the perseverance of the saints and states this from the Scriptures about it in paragraph two:

It is on no free will of their own that the saints’ perseverance depends, but on the immutability of the decree of election, which in its turn depends upon the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, the efficacious merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and the saints’ union with Him, the oath of God, the abiding character of the Spirit’s indwelling of the saints, the divine nature of which they are partakers and, lastly, the terms of the covenant of grace.  All these factors guarantee the certainty and infallibility of the saints’ perseverance.

Now if my friend in Idaho had preached something of that nature from the Bible during my visit last fall surely my singing of Tomlin’s tune would have been more robust as it normally is!

This day of days during each year I value the biblical doctrine of perseverance more than ever because I observe my spiritual birthday. Thirty-nine years ago today I professed Christ at age twenty in my Pennsylvania living room. I got up this morning all these years later still believing the gospel, still fighting the good fight, still running the race, still keeping the faith, not because of any resolve that resides in me but because of the keeping power of my great God in which I implicitly trust.

I look forward to declaring the same praise a year from now on my fortieth birthday should the Lord grant length of days.

Suddenly I have a desire to listen to some Chris Tomlin.