Today was the last Bible study class for the season. We ate a buffet breakfast together and exchanged gifts (they are far too generous to me), and I answered questions (or at least, I tried) and reviewed the major truths we learned this year.
Life is a smorgasboard of events: good ones, bad ones, happy ones, embarrassing ones, exciting ones, tear-jerking ones...all rolled up into one life that God planned for each of us, according to our needs, our idiosyncrasies, our unique paths. I go to Bible study and bask in the love of the Lord. I come home and face a dirty house and a weedy garden, good news about grades, bad news about school discipline, and a tasty homemade meal of Mexican chicken. These are the pieces of life that fit together to make, as one blogger says, "a quilt of grace."
There were really only two questions they had at the end of our study on 1 and 2 Peter. One was about the New Heavens and the New Earth (2 Peter 3:10-13). I am afraid I may have been lacking in compassion about that, because I don't really understand the question. I think it has to do with trying to look at this from a linear time perspective, which you can't do, but it is hard to imagine being outside of time, and so we become troubled about what happens to people who die before the second coming, wondering whether they are in heaven or not. Because if heaven is really a New Heaven and a New Earth, then does it exist yet, or doesn't it? To which I just want to say, "It doesn't matter... it's going to be great, however God works it all out."
I tried to explain that once we are free from our present physical bodies, I believe that we all arrive at The Day of the Lord at the same time, essentially. So people who have died are not in the ground waiting to go to heaven; they are already there, in their new bodies (2 Corinthians 5:2-5). But we are there, too: their present and our future are miraculously combined. I tried to say, "We all leave at different times, but God works it out so we all arrive at once." Which I don't think I explained very well at all, but it was hard for me to get deeply into it, because the exact logistics are not all that important to me. We will be with God in heaven for all eternity. That's what the Bible teaches clearly. The rest is mainly conjecture and, I think, not particularly important.
The other question was about eternal security (2 Peter 3:17--don't fall from your secure position). Augh. Nothing easy!
I, personally, think that much teaching on eternal security lulls many unsaved people into a false sense of security, a false assurance that something is settled and fine when it really isn't at all. This is one of my soapboxes.
At the same time, I do think that those who are foreknown, predestined, called by God (1 Peter 1:1-2, Ephesians 1:5,11), whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 13:8), whom Jesus called His own (John 17) are in no danger of being lost. That's what Jesus was talking about when He said, "...He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice." (John 10:3b-4) This is what eternal security is: to be called by the Lord and to follow Him, the one who is your good shepherd. The good shepherd does not lose sheep! But... the sheep follow Him. This is significant.
Matthew 7:21-23 clearly explains that there are people who think they belong to the Lord and who actually do not. I don't know if there is a huge difference in whether we worry about the question, "Am I at risk of losing my salvation?" or whether the question that plagues us is, "Am I really, truly, genuinely saved?" Either way is basically the same to us (and scary), except for one "slight" difference: The second question trusts in the sovereignty of God more; it depends on Him and not on us, what He has done, not on what we are able to continue to do. It looks to Him for assurance and to His Spirit to work in us, rather than depending on deeds we perform in our own strength. And that is definitely a preferable place to be!
How do I know I am saved? According to 1 and 2 Peter, I know I am saved when I suffer grief in trials and emerge refined. I know I am saved when I love Jesus without seeing Him. I know I am saved when I set aside my former evil desires in order to become holy as He is holy. I know I am saved when I believe with confidence and thanksgiving that God is God, Jesus is His own incarnate Son who died for my sins, and God raised Jesus from the dead so I can share in His glory. I know I am saved when He fills me with love for other believers. I know I am saved when I discover a spiritual gift that God has given me, and I have the privilege of using it to edify the church. I know I am saved when I discover evidence that God is growing me in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverence, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. I know I am saved when I look forward to the day when Jesus returns to take me to heaven to be with Him forever.
If, instead, a person lives a life of craving sin and seeks to see how many questionable adventures he can get by with and still make it into heaven, his heart probably does not belong to God. Just saying. Those who belong to God love God.
That is eternal security. 2 Peter 3:17 says, "...be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position." But Jude 24 says, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy--" My point is that although we need to be on guard (particularly against false teaching), it is ultimately Jesus who keeps us from falling, purifies us, and presents us faultless before the Father. And we can trust Him.
So... just a few "simple" questions to deal with today. And they want to do Revelation next fall. I really need to pray about this. It's rather overwhelming.
So... I will take a breather and post some prom pictures of Laura.
Laura and Zach
Laura and Zach
But she is still really Daddy's girl. For sure.