Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Perseverance of the Saints

One of my favorite bloggers in the entire blogosphere, the great Daniel recently taught about the great doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints to his Sunday School class. I treasure this doctrine. I am convinced that it is only through the great stamina of the Lord that I will be made safe to the end, and that it is not a matter of my being able to keep myself in grace.

Having said that, I believe that this doctrine is terribly misunderstood. In Baptist circles, it is often referred to as the doctrine of "Once saved, always saved." This is a true statement, but I think that it reflects too much on a "moment" and not a lifetime of discipleship. There is a something essential that comes with the word "perseverance" that we must not lose.

Sunday night, I preached from the text of Mark 10:17-22. (We are making our way through Mark's gospel verse by verse.) I believe that Jesus' words to the rich young ruler in this section is particularly relevant to the discussion.

First, the rich young ruler asks what he must do to "inherit eternal life." Oddly, Jesus actually gives him something to "do". He tells him that he must sell everything that he owns and give it to the poor, then he has to take up his cross and follow Jesus. Can you believe that Jesus said that? I promise that He did. Look it up for yourself.

Now imagine me, as a preacher, saying something like that. I dream of people "running" down the aisle and asking on bended knee, "Good Teacher! What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?!" Of course, like any good Southern Baptist, I would say, "Repeat after me, 'Dear Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am a sinner...'"(end sarcasm).

The answer that Jesus gave was much more difficult than the answer the average pastor gives. Jesus told the man that he had to give up all that he had. Everyone must give up all that they have to inherit eternal life. Every nickel you have, every relationship that you treasure, even your very life is now the property of the King of Kings. It is essential to inheriting eternal life. Jesus tells a man that he must give up all that he has, and then he must come and die.

Here is where perseverance comes in. It is hard to die every single day, but that is just what the Puritans believed that someone had to do. Every day we have to give ourselves to the Lord. Every day we have to face a sinful world with a message that it hates. Every day the things of this world try to grind the gospel out of us with enticing, counterfeit pleasures. Every day we must be faithful to our Lord.

This was driven home to me in India. On a trip to a certain city to spend some time with a pastor and the orphans that he cares for, the local militants threatened our lives. The president of the ministry was accompanying us on this particular trip; he was the one that they really wanted to get. They called in a bomb threat, and basically told him that he wouldn't leave the city alive. This was problematic for me since I was riding with him. Thirty years before in the same city, they had made good on such a threat to the previous pastor.

How does this relate to persevering? Obviously, I made it out of there safely, under police escort. I got to return home to ease and comfort. But that pastor is still there. He lives under those threats every day. Every day he has to be willing to die for the gospel. That is perseverance.

This is a hard teaching. The rich young ruler went away sad, and so do many others who hear the truth about what eternal life costs. It is easy to deride the rich young ruler as foolish, isn't it? But have you given up all that you own? Would you go away sad if Jesus asked you to sell everything you had? Would it bring you joy? Or does your persevering amount to counting on shaking the preacher's hand and repeating a prayer to inherit eternal life?

You may ask, "Wait a minute Brad, are you saying that I have to sell everything I have and give it to the poor?" Answer: Maybe you do. This young man had to. What I can guarantee is that if you and I want to inherit eternal life, we have to obey the voice of the Master, even when He bids us to come and die. Do I believe in Once Saved, Always Saved? Absolutely. I believe that a man or woman is saved forever the moment that they prize Jesus Christ more than life and riches and fame. This is a work of the Holy Spirit; only He can show us the measure of the value of Jesus Christ. Only He can remind us of that value constantly and consistently enough to keep us persevering.


brother terry said...

Are you preaching to me?

I am a preacher myself you know!

I wonder every day if I am really giving myself totally to the Lord, or if I'm holding something back.

Do I have the courage to really follow Jesus, or am I just playing church?

Dang, that IS a hard teaching!


ColinM said...

Post India, you still tha man!

Daniel said...

Amen Brad.

Daniel said...

I just made yet another post on this very thing on my blog...!