We’ve been reading through 1 John as a family, and the resounding note in my mind (at least through chapter 1) is the same one that hums away when I read the Sermon on the Mount:
Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned. But a repeated New Testament teaching is that if we do not walk in holiness, if we do not bear Spiritual fruit, we have not received that gift.
The Messiah said this in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
I believe wholeheartedly that the truly born again cannot be lost. Jesus tells us that His sheep can’t be snatched from Him a mere five chapters before telling us this about abiding in Him. But while the truly reborn and redeemed can’t perish, if we do not bear His fruit (some N.T. examples: love of other Christians, joy, peace, sexual purity, and forgiveness), then we are showing that we may not have been born again. And if we have not had our hearts enlightened to that kind of faith (to real faith, in other words), then His wrath remains on us.
We do not work to be saved, but true salvation produces good works. Or, as Paul says it in Ephesians 2: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (emphasis mine).
If you claim Christ, I am encouraging you to fight for holiness in your life; not to earn your election, but to prove it. I’m trying to exhort you (as I need to be exhorted) in the way of the New Testament. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
I should cut off my right hand if it it’d keep me from sinning, so that I enter the Kingdom of God maimed but in joy. I’d be better off never eating and drinking if it’d keep a brother or sister in Christ from stumbling into sin. I should put to death the deeds of the flesh and live forever, so that 10 billion years from now I’ll be just beginning my enjoyment of Christ, and barely remembering the earthly pleasures I was once so giddy over.
If you have believed in Jesus, finish the race: Fight sin by the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Put your sins to death.
Porn is a terrible prize when compared with the beauty of Christ.
The riches that come from greed or scheming or simple American materialism are a moldy, moth-eaten thing when compared with eternal joy of Jesus.
Unmarried sex or lusting after a celebrity is a lousy counterfeit to being intimately known for eternity by the God who fashioned you and knit you together.
The momentary release of surrendering to anger as you scream at your son or punch a wall is a dull, fleeting feeling compared to the heart-stopping, soul-pounding worship of the Creator on His throne, surrounded by angels and saints and holy light.
In short, sin never delivers what it promises, and God always does. So fight for holiness with me, confirming your election and faith, and step into everlasting gladness at the feet of Jesus Christ.