21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
Colossians 1:23-25 (NASB95)
This passage raises one of the most controversial questions in all of Christian theology, and I am referring to verse 23 and the question of whether a Christian can lose his/her salvation.
Verse 23 states that Christians have been reconciled so Jesus may present us to God “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” Then, as if to make sure we don’t miss what is about to come next, there is a hyphen, followed by an “if”: “—if indeed you continue in the faith.”
To Protestants who have been raised on sermons filled with declarations of God’s grace and great love for us, that hyphen and “if” can seem like a turd in the theological punchbowl. It has caused TULIPS to become TULIS and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write about “cheap grace.” Debate over the “if” has caused Presbyterians to become Baptists, and Baptists to become backslidden. It inevitably leads to a question: “If one must continue in the faith to be saved, does that mean one can lose one’s salvation?”
The answer to that question is, “Why are you asking?”
Last Friday we celebrated my friends 60th birthday. He asked if we would host at our home because our home is large and well-designed for parties. He said he would take care of the rest.
He invited 30 people. Almost everyone he invited came, even those who came from out of state. Because of his background the invite list included a former NFL player, a former NHL player, a pastor, coworkers, his pastors, and his immediate family. It was the most interesting mix of exceptional individuals I had ever seen collected in one place.
He catered food from his favorite restaurants and cooked us tomahawk steaks. He served us. Then, once we were all seated, he went around the room, and for each person present, he said honored them with his word, explaining what they had meant to him. Then he gave them a present. That’s right he gave them a present.
When one of the guests stood up to honor him he said thank you but quickly shut him down and told him this was his party and this was what he wanted to do. He continued going around the room honoring each person and then giving them a gift. I had never seen anything like it.
But the Wife and I were watching a documentary not long ago of an incredibly talented man we both admire, and one of the sound bites of him was talking about how he, now in the latter part of his career, wanted to contribute to world peace.
The Wife, always the fount of common sense, said, “How about start by learning to get along with your wife?” You see, this man, we had learned in the documentary, had been married and divorced three times.
Look, I get it. It takes two to tango, and you can’t control what your spouse does. My best friend’s wife backslid and divorced him; not much he could have done about that and he tried everything. But I don’t think this is the norm. The typical divorce is more consensual, or it is made that way through infidelity.
George Washington Carver was born in 1864, into slavery, but through sheer determination, amplified by the power of God, he became one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. By the time he died in 1943 he was a legend.
Carver spent most of his adult life as a professor at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, as the head of its Agriculture Department. As the boll weevil began to infest cotton crops throughout the Southern United States, people finally began to listen to Carver, who had encouraged farmers to diversify their crops so they were not so dependent upon cotton. At Carver’s insistence, farmers began to plant and harvest the peanut.
After praying and asking the Lord for insight about the universe and about mankind, the Lord encouraged Carver to focus on something smaller. He reminded Carver of Genesis 1:29 and specifically that He had given peanuts and other plants to mankind for their use. So Carver returned to his laboratory with some peanuts in hand and began studying them, breaking them down into their constituent parts and coming up with different uses for them. Carver would eventually come up with more than 300 uses for the peanut.
Carver did not care about money or personal acclaim. He would discover and develop ideas that could be used to start profitable businesses for new products, but instead of patenting those ideas, he made them freely available for the public good. He could have chosen to be a wealthy man by worldly standards, but he chose instead to be an effective man by Kingdom standards.
What led me to study Carver, and to his authorized biography by Rackham Holt, was to understand how Carver worked inspired by the Holy Spirit. He fully attributed his discovery of the many uses of the peanut to inspiration from the Lord, and I wanted to understand how he had gone about obtaining that inspiration.
For the last week, I’ve gone back and begun reading through my journal. I started in October of 2008, and I’m now up to October 2014. It has taken me hours, but it has been worth it. It’s reminded me of the importance of journaling.
I’m not sure why I started journaling. I suspect some Christians journal because they want somewhere to freely express their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams. Others journal because they like writing, and journaling is a way to practice the discipline of writing. Still others journal because they want to record the events of their life for prosperity’s sake.
All these are valid reasons to journal, but there is a more important and more fulfilling reason to journal for Christians, and that is to record the Lord’s work in and through their lives.