Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eternal Life, The Free Gift of God to All Who Accept It

We often hear about salvation being a free gift of God.  That is a true saying, but there are some churches that seem to forget just what it means.  These churches keep their members under tyranny holding their salvation over their heads.  I teach a lot about righteous living in this blog, but please do not mistake the effects of salvation with the gift of salvation.  All I write about is what happens after we receive that free gift and nothing about earning or maintaining that gift.  Today I want to explore what a gift is with the hopes that we can better understand salvation. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
So we know that salvation is a gift, now let us look at what that means.  First of all, for it to truly be a gift, it must be given without the expectation of anything in return.  God did not save us for what we can do for Him.  God saved us out of His own goodness and love for us.  I know we often exchange gifts at holidays, but if you give a gift out of the hopes of receiving something in return, you are not really giving a gift at all.  Some think that considering Jesus died for us, that we owe Him something.  In a sense, we owe Him our eternal lives, but that is something we could never repay.  We should never feel that any work we do is done out of some obligation to God.  That is an attempt to pay God back for our salvation, to try and earn something He already gave us freely.  That should not be the motivation for our works. 

A gift is also something given and not earned.  If it was earned then it is not a gift, but payment.  This is why we can not earn our salvation.  The whole idea of "earning" a gift was something created by parents to try and get their children to behave better.  It teaches a good worldly lesson about the rewards of responsibility and consequences of irresponsibility, but it does not help children lean just what a gift is.  Sometimes it instills a belief in them that gifts (especially good gifts) need to be earned.  Salvation is a gift and one offered to anyone and everyone who would accept that gift, regardless of past behavior.  It is not about making ourselves worthy for that gift or doing some great work to make us more deserving of that gift, otherwise it would not be a gift at all.  If we achieve it by earning it, then it is not a gift at all.  We must never think that we did something to earn our salvation.  The whole reason Jesus had to die for us was because we could not earn it on our own.

A gift is also something that can not be taken back.  This is very important to understand.  When a gift is given, it belongs to whom it was given. If you have ever watched Judge Judy, you would see how this plays out in law.  A gift is freely given and can not come with strings, otherwise it is not a gift.  We can not live in fear of losing our salvation.  That only adds to legalism and living with the heart of having to continuously earn our salvation.  You need to know that God is not going to unsave you.  You were adopted as His child and the Holy Spirit in your heart is His signature on the adoption papers.  If it was given conditionally, meaning it could be taken back at any time, then it would not be a gift at all.  It would be a means of control.  God wants to be Lord of our lives, but that comes through willing submission to His authority and not by force by holding our salvation over our heads. 

Gifts can also be refused.  God offers the free gift of salvation to everyone, but not everyone accepts that gift.  This is a tragic reality as I am sure we all know people we love who have not accepted that gift.  It must be their decision, though, to receive that gift. We can share with them the offer and even show them Jesus by our lives, but ultimately it is their decision.  Even for those in the church, we know that there are some there who are not saved.  These people attend church week after week probably since childhood and they know everything about the gift, but they never made that decision to receive that gift.  I fear for those because those who know the most will be held the most accountable.  Hearing and learning about the gift of salvation will not make us saved, it is only when we make that decision to receive that gift that we are saved.  If salvation were forced upon us, then it would not be a gift at all. 

Another issue I need to address and this is a point of controversy in the church, and, quite honestly, I am not 100% sure of where I stand on this issue.  What I am speaking of is that gifts can be returned.  If a gift is freely given, it can also be freely given up.  There are outspoken atheists who once were ministers of the Gospel.  We also have the sad tale of Demas who forsook the church for the world.  Then we have stories like that of the Prodigal son that seem to indicate that once we reach the end of ourselves, we will repent and come back.  The question is usually centered around whether those who permanently fall away were ever really saved to begin with.  Some say that if they were saved, then they would come back and if they were never saved then they will continue on in their rebellion.  Some say that salvation, as a gift, can be given back.  Personally, I think the consequence is more important than the reason as the end is the same where someone dies outside of Christ knowing His goodness and that is a terrible position to be in.  We may think that we would never stray so far that we would ever come back or that we would love the world so much that we would forsake eternity with Jesus for a few years on earth, but the fact is that it does happen.  We can not be so prideful to ever think that it can not be us.  The Bible is full of warning regarding the issue of knowing and forsaking (or knowing and not truly accepting if you are in that camp),  that I think we need to take it seriously.  Whether you believe a saved person can choose to forfeit their salvation or whether you believe someone can delude themselves into thinking they saved until something new and "better" comes along, the warnings are clear that we must make sure we hold onto the faith in the one who saved us.  Please do not take this as something to fear as God is not going to take our salvation away from us. This is only to serve as a warning to not become so worldly that we wished we were never saved because that wish may just come true if it were not true already. 

Finally, gifts are given with the expectation of gratitude.  We should be thankful to God for what He has done in our lives.  We should be thankful to God that He has given us eternal life.  We should be thankful everyday for everything God is doing in our lives.  I know that some days this is harder than others, but those are the days we need to look ahead to the eternal life God saved us into and not our present life that God is saving us out of.  This now is the motivation for our works.  It is not done to pay for our salvation or to earn our salvation.  It is not something we do to maintain our salvation.  Works are something we do out of love and gratitude for what God has already done for us.  We work because we love God and what He has done for us and it is an expression of love. 

Salvation is a free gift given freely by God to all who call upon the name of the Lord.  It is not something we can earn.  It is not something we have to work to keep.  It is not something that will be taken away from us.  It is something we should be thankful for.  Rejoice in what God has done for you.  Rejoice in that you are saved unto eternal life.  Please understand just how amazing that gift is that you received and by all means share it with others.  This gift is not something we should keep for ourselves, but something we need to share with the rest of the world.  Let them know how wonderful it is, let them know how much it has done in your life, show them the new creation you are by virtue of that free gift, and tell them that that very same amazing wonderful gift is available to them just as it was for you. 
For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"  Romans 10:13-15 NKJV

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