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Some people spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they are "elect." They want to "go to heaven," but are under the impression that if they aren't "elect," nothing they do can change that. However, the Bible tells us that if we want to make sure we are among the "elect," we can!! Two passages will be given below, although this theme exists in many places. (These passages also warn us to not presume we are saved, if the "evidence" speaks to the contrary.)
The first passage is 2 Peter 1:3-15. We will focus on the concept of "striving" (also translated as "to make every effort" and "be all the more eager," in the translation used below). This concept is used three times (shown in italics). Study the passage carefully, for it contains many wonderful promises, as well as instructions on how to live.
His divine power has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, he has given us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption in the world caused by lust.
It is for this reason that you must make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
If these qualities are yours, and increasingly so, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But anyone who lacks these qualities is nearsighted and blind, unable to remember being cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make certain that you were called and chosen by God. For if you do these things, you will never fall away, but you will be richly welcomed into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I intend to constantly remind you of these things, even though you know them, and are well established in the truth you have received. I think it right to stir up your thinking by reminding you of them, as long as I am alive in this "tent" of a body. I know that I will soon be putting aside this "tent," even as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me, and I will strive to make sure that, even after I am gone, you will always be able to remember these things. (2 Peter 1:3-15)
Notice that the concept of "election" (or being "chosen" by God) is connected with the second use of the word "strive" ("to be eager" in the above translation). We are told to "strive" to make sure that we are, indeed, "called" or "elect." And how do we do it? Look at the first use of the word. Peter tells us there!
Remember that this passage is written from the perspective of "human responsibility." This is what you are to do. And if you do your part, the "election" aspect (part of God's perspective) will also be present. If you don't strive to do these things, such will not be the case. [True, there may be some temporary "benefits" experienced by the one who does not have such qualities. He may even experience - at least from the human perspective - some type of "cleansing" from his past sins. But this is not a cleansing of the heart; it is only "external." And like the pig mentioned at the end of chapter 2, he sooner or later goes back to his old ways.]
It was so important to Peter, that we would be able to know for certain that we are saved, that he said he would "strive" (or "make every effort") to do everything possible so that we (the readers) would never be able to forget it!
A second passage is in the sixth chapter of Hebrews:
As for those who were once enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, and who tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come – if they have been exposed to all this and then have rejected it, it is impossible to bring them back to repentance. It is like nailing the Son of God back onto the cross and re-exposing him to public humiliation.
When land drinks in the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whom it was tilled, it receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless. It is in danger of being cursed, and in the end it will be burned.
Dear friends, even though we speak like this, we are convinced of better things in your case - things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown for him, in the way you have helped his people -- and continue to do so. We greatly desire each of you to have this same diligence to the very end, so that the hope you look forward to will be fully realized. We don't want you to be lazy, but to follow the example of those who, through faith and patience, inherited what was promised. (Hebrews 6:4-12)
The author first makes reference to people who had at least some experience of the truth, and then decided to reject it (and cannot, therefore, be brought back to repentance). But then he goes on to talk about individuals of whom he is "sure of better things." And what are those "better things"? Things that accompany salvation! And he encourages his readers to continue - to be "diligent" - in such things. (This is the same concept as is mentioned in 2 Peter - also translated "to strive," "to be eager" or "to make every effort"! And it is contrasted to an attitude of laziness. The two are conflicting opposites!
The people in the first group were not really saved. Their "Christianity" - or "pseudo-salvation" - may have had an effect on them for a while, but it did not have an effect on their hearts. The things that accompany salvation were not present. This passage warns us that non-Christians can look like Christians for a while (though they are not). In the end, however, the difference becomes obvious.
For the genuine Christian, the first group mentioned presents a sobering warning. He will take it to heart: he will not be lazy about his godliness. (See also Hebrews 10:35-39.) Unlike the people described in the first category, the genuine Christian will continue to "persevere." Even if he "backslides," it will be only temporary, for if he is genuinely saved, his "lifestyle" is to do things that accompany salvation. He cannot go against his lifestyle forever, and inevitably he will return.
One may ask the question: " How do I know that I am not in the first group - among those who cannot be brought back to repentance?" The choice is yours. Those who have totally rejected the Word of Truth will not accept the things spoken by it! If you have any concern, then do the things mentioned in 2 Peter. And if you do those things, you can be assured that you do not belong to the first group!
You do not have to "worry" about the "election" aspect of things. God will take care of that. If you take care of your responsibility (and give God the credit he deserves, for any good that occurs within your life), the "election" aspect will coincide. It will become a source of comfort, rather than of fear. But as stated before, the choice is yours.
This passage reminds us that these qualities must exist in us increasingly, in order to have assurance of salvation.
We are not "sinlessly perfect." There is still imperfection in us - or we wouldn't have to "increase" in godliness. This can be a comfort to those who see their imperfections (as we all should).
We need to avoid laziness in our salvation. If there is no increase in our holiness, year after year, we have good reason to wonder if we ever really turned to God in the first place! This should be a warning to those who love their sins more than they love God.
Let us look to God for strength to do what we ought! It is in him that we can do these things.
If you fail in some area of life, do not give-up. Rather, start again (relying on God's strength). The devil may have won a small battle in the war against your soul, but he hasn't won the war! If you give-up, the devil will have the victory. But every time you start again, the victory slips out of his hands.
A willingness to keep on starting again is a good indication that God is working in your heart. So rejoice in him! Look forward to the day that you stand in his presence; for at that time, perfection will be completed in you!
Dennis Hinks © 1993, 1996 (further comments); 2004
Scripture - my own translation
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