Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saved All Over Again?

The question comes, concerning whether we must be re-saved everytime we sin. Must we live such a tight rope of behavior that we are in danger of separation from God if we misstep from time to time? While I was growing up, there were some who believed, even if they didn't say it out loud as one sentence, that we in fact were doomed if we died having unrepented sins.

It seems to me that God made Man in His image, to be the kinds of people who would live out of that image. God, through history has expected two primary things:

1) That Man honor God, YHWH, Jehovah, as God – as the God to whom Man is devoted, and
2) That Man’s life of dedication, of understanding, of living out of the image in which he was made, would reflect the values and the views of God

It has always been that God sought Man to be “His people and He would be their God.” When Man forgot God, failed to trust Him, and relied on themselves, or used the promises of God to excuse their own prideful behavior, God disciplined Man in order to have Man (either particularly, or generally) return to Man’s first love. Return to live with and in concert with, the God and His image that resides in all of us.

It also has been that Man (particularly and generally) has failed to remain with God, and God’s reaction has always been to cajole, to plead, to argue, and to discipline Man so that he would return to God. Man's repeated failures and final forgetting of God, not always in ritual, but always in effect, result in God rejecting Man – not all men, and not necessarily for all time. God's forsaking of Man comes after our rejection of God, the blinding of our eyes and the hardening of our hearts.

While Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of God, has revealed God to Man anew, and has paid the sacrifice of a life unto death in obedience to God, and has made a way for forgetful, sinful, and prideful Man to return to God once again, God’s expectation has not changed. There is not any magic in the life or death of Messiah that seals forever any particular person’s standing with God despite that person’s living a life of selfish and neglectful (of God and others) pride.

Christians who taste the goodness of God and return to their pre-Christian-enlightened lives, are no different than Israelites, or even Adamic Man, who had tasted life with God and left His goodness to pursue their own desires. It has been, and remains possible for Man, and individuals, to taste the goodness of God, and return to our own vomit.

God has not called us, or caused us, to slavishly follow His will because we must, as though some force outside us makes us live in certain ways. He has called us to yield ourselves to Him, letting Him transform our lives through that submission and training, so that we grow over time to live from the image in which we were originally created. We come to a place where we “must” live for God from what becomes our very essence, flowering into the life we were made to live. Paul would say that those who have come to the fullness of God, have arrived not because God caused them to be made perfect, but because they have learned the will of God through practice, and have come to know it without thinking about it. They needn’t run to find their Bibles, or weigh the pros and cons of a question, or course of action – they come to know what is correct, what is most right, by living and experiencing the life of God. The motivation to live that life comes from within, from a yielding and a melding of the image of God with ourselves to such an extent that we can do nothing else. The "must" comes from within, not forced from without.

There is little in Scripture to support the idea that once we have yielded to God, we must continue in that path – as though we have lost our will or any susceptibility to temptation or sin. The parable of the soils, and Paul’s frequent exhortations to his children in the Faith to pursue, to not flag, to guard themselves, to ensure their salvation, provide ample evidence that there is some aspect of the Christian life that is open to failure, to misdirection, to burning out. To the abandonment of God.

None of this amounts to the idea however, that one sin, one misstep, means we must be saved all over again. The call, the admonition, is to live a life toward God, in submission to Him as a character of our life. If we live lives characterized by the image in which we were made, we remain in God. Often we act as though the only things written beforehand for our learning are the bad things the Israelites did. "Do this and God will get you!" We miss however, the grace of God evident in the early writings. The evidence is that God does not treat His people in such a arbitrary manner so as to push them aside for one or even several misdeeds as long as they remained committed to Him and lived out of His character. The same is true today. We sin, and yet there is no reason to believe that we must be “saved again.” John is clear that if we continue to live in God (in the direction He would have us go), the blood of Jesus [continuously] cleanses us from our sins.

The statement of John's is really no different than the Old Testament promise that if the Israelites would be God's people, He would be their God and bless them immeasurably - even though they may well sin from day to day. The promise God gave to those who would follow Him - from the very beginning - is still true today.

Oddly enough, God doesn’t look for perfection, He looks for commitment, for dedication, for submission, as characteristics of our lives, not punctiliar pass/fail tests. Imperfection is allowed. Abandonment is not.

So, no being saved all over again for every missing of the mark. Such a life would be anything but characteristic of loving and faithful acceptance by God. But there remains a balance, and an expectation that our missteps are lived within a life dedicated to God.

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