It seems like everybody has an answer for what ails.
A cursory glance at the news reveals a shocking variety of modern snake oils. In parts of Africa, widows are taught that they need and must pay for sex-cleansing by mystical gigolos. Others are convinced by the local “man of God” that all their problems will be solved if they unquestionably follow the unmentionable advice of their charismatic minister.
Grieving family members at many funerals are comforted that grandma is smiling down on them from heaven. Voters are marshaled by the ideology that their party’s candidate will fix everything. News anchors convey their slant on information as fact. Professors at major seminaries flat-out deny Scripture in favor of the newest fad-of-faith. Families are redefined with relationships that can’t even sustain a family beyond one generation. Even Solomon testifies to the belief that “money is the answer for everything.”
There is no shortage of modern-day snake oil; it comes in every imaginable flavor to entice the gullible.
Our latest chapter in Claiming Christ reviewed the question of eternal confidence. The snake oil produced in the Garden of Eden continues to penetrate the veins of many Christians with the heroin of false promises for satisfaction and fulfilled desire. And what oil of desire can compete with the promise of living forever?
Every Christian denomination offers some explanation for how believers ought to grasp the confidence of expected eternity. Some condition eternity on doing good works, others on the faithfulness to fully tithe to their local church, others on simply remaining as a member-in-good-standing of their flavor of religion. The Pharisees thought that they found eternal guarantees in Scripture, but heard Jesus reject such a basis (see Jn 5:39).
Some teach baptism as the key, others that verbalizing “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” becomes the magic potion for unending life. And perhaps the most prevalent potion of deceit is packaged as a predestined guarantee for assured entrance to all those who subscribe to that particular theology.
But the Bible is not quite so cavalier on this topic.
One of the great passages of Scripture on the assurance of salvation is found in Romans chapter 8 which begins with those fantastic words: “there is no further condemnation”. That section has already been addressed on this blog in a previous post, but there is a crescendo that deserves special recognition here.
When it comes to the grand purpose of God in redeeming and restoring mankind into a right relationship with the Father, there is no doubt that such a conclusion would constitute all of what can be called good. It is what several chapters later is identified as knowing the “good, pleasing and perfect will of God”.
That capstone promise in Rom 8, which presents a divine promise of eternal assurance, is found in verse 28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Following this verse, the Spirit describes the assured process from predestination through ultimate glorification. However, in the euphoria of hopeful expectation many have willingly ignored the blatant conditions cited by God in that promise.
Those who desire to drink deeply from the wellspring of Life rather than from the intoxicating drip of snake oil would do well to carefully consider what the word of God actually says.
That promise is presented with two conditions, and in a pattern comparable to the greatest commandment in the law, one is the preeminent condition, and the other is like unto it. Consider the conditional phrases:
- “who have been called according to his purpose”
- “of those who love him”
As our Lord declared: no one can come to salvational faith in Jesus unless God the Father initiates the call. Many weeds are growing along with the chosen wheat in the Church, wolves are masquerading as sheep, and many are forcefully jumping the fence into the sheep-pen, but only those given to Jesus by the Father are assured to never be lost.
Contrary to some popular theologies, Scripture gives no individual assurance to specific Christians beyond those cited in holy writ. That requires that all believers walk humbly in what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord. God alone knows those who are his as well as the reasons for such selection. And yet, confidence is available to individuals.
That secondary condition, identified in point 2, highlights something that initiates from God, but must grow within a believer: godly love. The Bible simply does not teach that God will enforce his chosen to express love in return. Quite on the contrary, all references to love in Scripture demonstrate that it begins with God who first loves us and thereafter must be something that we willingly apply.
It is what Jesus called, at the conclusion to his main recorded sermon, “putting into practice” what one is taught by the Lord within Scripture. In short: trust and obey.
Unlike the writing of some creeds and statements-of-belief, the writers of Scripture taught that loving God is not automatic. It is gifted and then willingly developed.
As defined by God, “this is love for God: to obey his commands.”
Those who fit the conditions presented in Rom 8:28 by the Holy Spirit are told that the evidence of spiritual growth into the fruitful likeness and character of Jesus “proves that your faith is genuine”.
They also are granted the supporting evidence that God’s eternal promise can be rightly embraced by them individually. That is God’s assurance. That is the real anointing oil.
Are you prepared to admit the snake oils you’ve tasted?