What does it mean to be saved? Can you ever lose your salvation? These are two of the questions Shawna tackles in this week’s Loose Ends sermon.
So many of us have experiences, maybe when we were children, where salvation was taught to us as a, “get out of hell pass”. Some view salvation as a one-time decision we make and then it has no long term bearing on our lives or the way we live.
Shawna shares that this was her experience, but as she grew in her faith she began to view salvation as a covenantal relationship between us and God.
The passages we look at in today’s sermon are two of many passages that seem to communicate that our salvation is at stake or that God desires to take away our salvation if we make a mistake. The problem is, we’re all human and deeply flawed. We’re going to make mistakes and we need to have an understanding of salvation that makes space for this. So when we do sin we run straight to God with it and not away from Him. If we’re not careful we can read these passages with a picture of God ready to take away his love or salvation. But is this the picture of God we see in Jesus? No, and Shawna reminds us to be aware of our picture of God as we’re processing these loose ends.
If we read our loose ends with a stingy and exacting picture of God we are prone to fear God and live in fear as believers. The life of a believer becomes one marked by anxiety, not the freedom that Christ has come to give us. Today’s sermon helps us reframe the way we read these passages in light of the goodness of God, and the reality of our free will.
First, Shawna gives an important description of salvation to help us understand what is going on in these passages. Salvation is an ongoing, life-giving, covenantal relationship with God. One where God commits to us and we commit to God. This relationship is full of grace and love, desire and hope.
We looked at passages that support this picture of salvation:
1 Peter 1: 3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
God never leaves and always wants the best for us, we however can choose to reject God and this is what our loose ends describe. So, Shawna give us some context to the passages in Hebrews and what they see to be warning the church of the potential for falling away.
The Hebrew church was a community of believers who were under great persecution. Many people believed what Jesus did on the cross was shameful and disgraceful and so Jesus-followers were subjected to public ridicule, loss of land, and even life. Under such persecution, there were some who were willfully leaving their faith because life was too hard. Paul, reminds them that in doing so, they are rejecting Jesus and the love she showed on the cross. He also reminds them that they have seen the truth and experienced the Holy Spirit so they are making a willful chose to leave.
Our loose ends describe what is looks like when someone chooses to fall away — not God’s heart or desire to reject someone if they sin. Quite the contrary, God is the one who never leaves or changes. Some may look at the passage and believe God does not want them to come or that it’s impossible to come back, but that’s only if we view salvation as a thing we can loose in an instant.
The passage in Hebrews warn us about ongoing deliberate breech of the covenant of love we have with God. Just as our salvation is on ongoing, life-giving relationships with God, so can our hearts be hardened by on ongoing, deliberate actions to reject God.
When this happens, then we are held accountable and subjected to the effects of our sin. The loss of salvation is not God’s doing, but ours. The judgment described in the passages are what happens when God withdraws from us because we’ve told him time and time again with our actions that we do not want that covenantal love relationship with him.
Shawna ends the sermon asking us if we fall in one of the two camps: believing we cannot return to God because of sin, or afraid that we can lose our sin. She invites us to take heart and not lose hope, God desires for us to choose him and we can do so right now and continue in that life-giving, saving relationship with him.
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