When I was a child, I had the distinct impression that someone was always looking over my shoulder. My guardian angel was watching out so I wouldn’t get hurt—and he was also checking off my merits and demerits in some celestial book.
Guilt was used as a tool for guidance and instruction when I was a child, and I must say that it worked. I did not cheat in class when tempted, nor did I walk out of a store with something that I really, really wanted but had not paid for. Guilt worked.
As a child, I also feared that, should I enter some unseemly place like a pool hall, a theater, or a restaurant that served beer, the angels would leave me at the door. I could only imagine what they’d be hurriedly scribbling in that book as they stood out on the sidewalk. My sin would surely be written down in big red letters!
This guilt and the sense of impending abandonment were reinforced by the rejection in my particular belief system of the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. While I still agree that it’s possible for a born-again Christian to reject God and be lost, in my young mind this belief led to the polar opposite belief regarding salvation—once saved, maybe saved. So I had to always be on my guard lest I slip and fall!
As an adult, perfect strangers would sometimes come up to me and ask, “Are you saved?” And I’d hesitate before answering. Let’s see, I’d think, what’s my standing at this moment in God’s book? Is my name there? What have my angels been writing down recently? Oh, yes, there was that man in the car that cut me off. I did have some pretty bad thoughts about him. And what about my feelings about that coworker who took credit for something I did? Have the good things in my life outnumbered the bad things over the past week?
By the time I’d run through this list, the questioner was gone, saddened at the thought of another one “not yet saved.”
A horrible misrepresentation
This concept of “once saved, maybe saved” is a horrible misrepresentation of the character of God. I propose that those who have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord can boldly and immediately answer the question “Are you saved?” with a resounding Yes! We have a great High Priest in heaven, and because of Him we can approach God without fear. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (emphasis supplied). Does this suggest we have to give a hesitant, timid answer to the question “Are you saved?”
I don’t mean to imply that God is unconcerned about sin. But He’s anxious to deal with our sins His way. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “ ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ ” (Isaiah 43:25). Notice that God is blotting out my transgressions for His sake. That seems a curious concept, because from my perspective, the forgiveness of sins would seem to be entirely for my benefit. Not so, according to Isaiah. He reports God as saying, “I blot out your transgressions for My sake.”
That means God is anxious to forgive us our sins. He’s not looking for ways to condemn us. He’s looking for ways to save us. He’s doing everything He can to save us!
Isaiah continues this thought in the next chapter: “ ‘I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you’ ” (Isaiah 44:22). This is not the voice of a God who would have us trembling in fear and insecurity. The idea that God would have a system in place to exclude us from His presence is incompatible with a God who would move heaven and earth and give His only Son in order to be reunited with us.
So while it would be possible for me to turn away from God and be lost, as long as I love Him, desire to serve Him, and trust Him for the forgiveness of my sins, I have the assurance that at this moment I am in a saved relationship with Him. I can know that if I were to be struck down by a car and die the next time I walk out on the street, I would spend eternity with Him in heaven.
The persistent father
Several years ago, a severe earthquake in Japan leveled a large school. From anyone’s cursory visual inspection the building was a total loss, and no official search for survivors was begun or even considered.
One man, however, climbed to the top of the rubble and began digging through it with his hands. He worked day and night. His hands become so bloody that people told him to stop, but their words fell on deaf ears. For, you see, that man’s son was a student at that school.
This man accepted the food and water sympathetic bystanders offered him, but he would not leave. With purpose and determination, he pulled, tugged, and pushed until, with superhuman effort, he removed the last covering over the floor where his son was supposed to be. Looking down through the broken concrete and twisted metal, he saw peering up through the dusty veil not only his son but also other students who had been entombed by the destruction.
His son said, “Dad, I knew you would come.” And the father reached down, took his son’s hand, and pulled him up from the grave.
That’s a picture of the God we serve! He’s not looking for excuses to keep us out of His kingdom. He gave His Son to die a horrible death on a cross so that He could save us! He’s digging furiously through the rubble of sin in our lives to save us.
Are you saved? If you hesitate or cannot yet answer Yes with certainty, you are questioning the capability of Christ’s righteousness to save you. Reach up and grasp your Father’s hand. Feel His strength through His Word in your life. Hang on daily, moment by moment, and be assured of your salvation.