By Samuel Parrish
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:12-13
For the individual just rescued by Christ from the kingdom of darkness, and now a part of the saints of light, the future is a bright and wonderful thing. His heart is full of gratitude for the weight of sin that has been lifted. Her soul sings for the freedom given without measure, overflowing. Joy promised now, and for eternity.
And then we fall the first time.
It isn’t the first time we’ve sinned since coming to Christ, but it probably is the first time we’ve given in to that thing that we found freedom from in the first place.
And doubt begins to creep in.
Am I really his?
Was this some religious experience or passing feeling?
If I’m “saved” why do I keep doing the same kinds of things he supposedly saved me from?
Then we see verses like Matthew 10:22, 24:13, James 1:12, and others that seem to say that how we end of this race is just as important as how we began. Sin seems just a big now as it was before and we despair.
The Apostle Paul helps us on both sides of this question as we struggle through what it means to really be in Christ, and the chances we have of “making it.”
In Philippians 2, Paul urges believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. In light of who Christ is and what he has done for us, indwelling sin should cause us discomfort. And gloriously we find out in the very next verse that this discomfort for indwelling sin is in fact a holy one.
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Paul says it even more directly in the chapter before.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
How can Paul say this with such confidence while at the same time writing to Timothy that he is the chief of sinners? Simply, because Paul cherished something about grace that many of us just give a passing nod to: we did not deserve it in the first place. Paul’s confidence in the Philippian church enduring to the end had nothing to do with their ability to do it, and everything to do with God’s faithfulness to keep those that he calls. Our working out of our salvation is not a paying back of God for the gift of salvation, but a deeper and deeper understanding of how the grace that saved us is needed daily to keep us.
So what do we do when what we know about grace doesn’t line up with what we see ourselves doing day to day?
Instead of despairing, take hope in the same way that one of our brothers did almost 600 years ago.
“One day when a certain man who wavered often and anxiously between hope and fear was struck with sadness, he knelt in humble prayer before the altar of a church. While meditating on these things, he said: “Oh if I but knew whether I should persevere to the end!” Instantly he heard within the divine answer: “If you knew this, what would you do? Do now what you would do then and you will be quite secure.” Immediately consoled and comforted, he resigned himself to the divine will and the anxious uncertainty ceased. His curiosity no longer sought to know what the future held for him, and he tried instead to find the perfect, the acceptable will of God in the beginning and end of every good work.”
-Thomas à Kempis “The Imitation of Christ” pg. 25