My very dear sister in Christ, Sarah (a pseudonym), responded to the letter that I wrote to her and also published as the Big Religious Families article. She is so full of the love of God that I have to share her response with you. Yet, she remains confused to some extent just because of a lifetime of religious conditioning. I’ll let her speak for herself:
Thank you so much for your kind reply. I have benefited so much from the wisdom and insight with which He has gifted His people. His Word is a precious treasure and it is the greatest privilege to search it. The very act of reading it is His transforming power already at work in our lives. In my younger years that fact was head knowledge, but I didn’t understand it in practice until later in my adult years. Praise be to God, He answered my prayer for a desire for His Word! I perceive that same love and desire in you and gratefully and joyfully call you my brother in Christ. Know that my prayers for the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand will continue as you pursue Him and His calling with faithfulness. What a joy!
I very much see God’s blessing in our family and in my own relationship with my husband because he is the true head of our household. We sought the Lord before we were married and placed Him at the head of our marriage. Over the 27 years that followed, we learned so many lessons of what that submission to one another looks like. It’s a testimony all to itself! Through every turn, mountain and valley, we have see God use everything for our good and for His glory. Anything, and I do mean anything, that resembles Christ is to His credit alone. I give Him praise and deflect all honor to Him Who is the author and finisher of our faith.
I must duly and humbly confess a continued confusion in your points. If I understand you correctly, you are saying anyone who believes it possible to lose their salvation is essentially trusting their own works for salvation and therefore have corrupted their own acceptance of Christ and are not saved? Is this any and all or is it like the Catholic belief in works and faith-where this is literally tandem acts to “get to heaven” and necessary for salvation. I guess my understanding (at least my Nazarene upbringing) is that the salvation for us was delivered at the cross. Our only path of salvation is faith in that work. The by-product of that faith is righteous living. Not the source of our salvation, only the mark and proof of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. If, by our free will we choose to return to our “old man” living and turn away from that free gift of salvation, it is at that point when God gives us what we ask for. Now, I absolutely understand that if it were not for the Holy Spirit’s call in the first place, we wouldn’t even come to Him because of our depraved nature, so therefore retaining our salvation would also have to be an act of the Holy Spirit. I concur with that completely. I guess my confusion in your statements is that those who believe it possible to decline God’s gift are, in essence, not saved at all. I suppose I’ve assumed that they’ve missed out on some peace and joy that assurance gives, but that their faith was ultimately in Jesus’ work and we would one day walk together through the only Door into eternity with God. I was raised that only that faith in Jesus is counted as righteousness, but the fruit of that belief should be seen in our lives as the outward work of an inward grace. If we were not seeing the fruit of righteous living either in our own lives or in the lives of others-that growing from infant to maturity-then we needed to question whether we had indeed accepted Him at all. Works not as part of or in conjunction with faith, only the result of it. Is this not what scripture says?
I don’t mean to belabor anything, it’s genuine seeking for understanding. As I said in my first correspondence, His Word is the foundation and measure of anything. I search His Word with prayer and ask the Lord to reveal the truth according to scripture. I believe He was referring to prophecy, when He said it was the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out (Prov 25:2). I’ve always felt like I’ve received a horde of treasure when I search scripture for an answer to a mystery, though the answer itself was not the reward, He is. After all, that is what God told Abraham-that He Himself would be Abraham’s (or Abram at the time) very great reward (Gen 15:1). Anything He has ever asked me to release, He has given Himself in greater measure. How completely overwhelming and humbling and at the same time gloriously joyful!
Anyway, thank you so much for your very gracious reply and if I have fallen into that category of releasing and no longer conversing, I have so enjoyed having this conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts and so thankful for the time you have given. I think in our angry world in the process of railing against its Creator, we forget that loving, grace-filled people are there and we can ask questions of one another without fear of verbal dismemberment. I so long for the return of my Saviour when He puts an end to sin and fulfills all prophecy. Until that day, I will run the race as to win the prize!
Always in Him,
The problem that I believe Sarah is struggling with is to accept that there are people in her life, beloved to her as I’m sure they are to God, who are pursuing salvation that is based, at least in part, on their works. Only God can judge, and I believe that there are many believers who, though they have accepted the free gift of salvation and are irrevocably and eternally saved, continue to struggle with a ‘works’ mentality.
It is also possible though, that Mamaw and Papaw, beloved grandparents, have never truly accepted the free gift of salvation, pursuing salvation based wholly on works, and are not saved, despite their religious lifestyle and insistence on obeying the Law of God. It can be a very confusing situation to deal with.
The caution that I expressed in the article was that when you encounter contentious people who insist on arguing about the path to salvation, the admonition given us by both the Lord and the Apostle Paul is to withdraw from and avoid such people. The Lord said such encounters amount to casting pearls before swine and that in doing so, you risk being savaged by them.
Here is my response to Sarah’s kind reply to my first letter:
I was so blessed a couple of days ago, to come across your last letter to me when I was cleaning out my inbox. Somehow I missed it when you first sent it, and I believe it was by the will of God. One of the hardest things for me many times is to stand back and let God work. I am always tempted to help His word perform that for which He sent it. I hope you didn’t feel like I was deliberately ignoring you or had abandoned you.
I feel like I know your heart and have absolutely no doubt about the fact that the Holy Spirit has been teaching and ministering to you during the weeks since our last contact. If the words I gave you were from God, they will bear/have borne the fruit for which He sent them. If they were my own opinions, they will have fallen to the earth where they belong.
As you stated early in your message, you were very confused. In reading the message, I became confused too, and the first thing I would say to you is relax… Stop… Stand still and see the power of God to lead you. You do not need to figure this out. I see in your confusion the very things I have struggled with. You don’t have to do the complex math involved in sorting this out. You do not have to figure out who is saved and who isn’t. That’s God’s job. According to Matthew 14, the wheat and the tares must grow together until the harvest, and then it will require divinely guided angelic harvesters to sort them out.
You merely need to put your focus on Him and follow where He leads. If you have a ministry to someone, the Holy Spirit will use you to accomplish the will of God. If He wants you to withdraw from someone, He will show you that. He will make it clear to you. I know you know His voice. Your prayers will have more power in their lives than almost anything you could say to them. Only a word spoken by the leading of the Holy Spirit will have any impact.
A red flag word for me in my struggle is “should.” Anytime you think or hear the word “should,” your antenna should go up. (Oops, now I said “should.”) Should is a word used in legalism. The words that apply to the believer are either “will” or “are.” We will be perfected in our minds and bodies. We are saved. Neither we nor the Holy Spirit are burdened with maintaining our salvation. That is an established fact and can never be changed. Never.
Our salvation is in the hands of God, and the Father and the Son sustain us perfectly in that saved state as our Lord ever lives to make intercession for us before the Father. Our salvation is no longer an issue. Believers who choose to live a profligate life produce no fruit, but are still saved, but ‘as through fire.’
The people in our families are either saved or not saved, regardless of their religious trappings. They either have or will trust completely in the blood of Jesus to save them, or they have rejected that in favor of clinging to a theology of works.
We cannot draw a line regarding their salvation, or even condemn ourselves for the sins of the old man. I was guilty of putting trust in works for many years and shaking off that thinking did not happen overnight. It takes time for the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and hearts as the old man dies and the new creation grows.
Being delivered from legalism takes time, which means that for a time, though perfectly saved, we may still cling to and voice some beliefs that are completely at odds with the truth. None of us will ever be perfect until the Rapture when we achieve that adoption as sons and move into those perfect resurrection bodies. Each one of us is wrong about something until we are perfected.
Be led by the Lord. My articles about forsaking family and friends cannot be seized upon as recipes for anyone to use for sorting out the people in our lives. The Holy Spirit must do that. They merely provide the scriptural framework and foundation for you to withdraw from oppressive people and situations when led by God.
‘Who are my mother and my brothers? Those who do the will of my Father in heaven. They are my mother and my brothers and sisters.’ Matt 13.
Let not your heart be troubled. I suspect that since we last talked, the Holy Spirit has already shown you much of this. The rules no longer apply to us. We are not under the law, but are led by the Spirit. The focus for us is no longer salvation, but growth, and that growth is all about improving our fellowship with God. He is showing us how to remove the weights that encumber us and the oppressive influences that so easily beset us. He always sees us as perfect though. God always sees the righteousness of Christ when He looks at us and can see nothing of our sin, which the Savior took upon Himself.
As an example of how this shift in thinking applies; up until recently, I believed the messages to the seven churches in chapters two and three of Revelation were about judgment; punishment of sinners in the churches. I hope this isn’t too far out for you. Our Lord’s messages to the seven churches were all about things that hindered their fellowship with God. The penalties for those who failed were not death, but the loss of their lamp stand; their status as holy assemblies spreading the Gospel.
Ephesus, the dutiful wife, was laboring away for the Lord, but they had lost their first love; the excitement and romance, the passion in our walk with our Lord that leads us to fall at His feet and will eventually lead us to cast our crowns at His feet. Nothing is more important than our love of God. After that comes our love of our brothers and sisters.
There is no greater gift that God can give us than to make us vessels filled with His love. That love, that living water that flows forth from us, splashes all over those whom we encounter. It is the crazy glue that bonds us through all trials to the people God has put in our lives. That love has been my greatest need from the time I began to walk with God.
Five of the seven churches were rebuked because they had failed in their fellowship with the Lord. Like Israel, the Church on earth has been plagued by the religious spirit that causes us to substitute idols and ritual for a walk with God. In the end, only Jesus remains faithful, infinitely gracious, unfailing in His love for us. We long to be with Him.
As His Bride, we are destined for an eternal relationship with our Lord that could best be described by the word marriage. But it is a marriage where the honeymoon never ends. For now, we bow humbly before Him and work alongside our brethren to bring in the harvest.
I know your heart. I have no fear for you, only compassion as I see you struggling through the religious tangles you have been reared in. I declare to you that you will have the mind of Christ in this dilemma, and His peace, serenely confident in His ability to save and the power of your prayers to change lives.
Our Lord is coming soon. I pray He will watch over you and your family, your entire extended family, until that day. God is able. He is able.
With Christian love, Jerry
- Adapted from #91237724/Jankovoy-adobe stock.com
- #283756559/Syda Productions-adobe stock.com
- Don’t Mess With Israel by Greg Lauer @alittlestrength.com