So long as I have a sense of uncompleted or failed stewardship of what I’ve been entrusted, an imminent prospect of going home isn’t greeted with contentment and resignation, as I might wish, but pleas for mercy and extension. But let me right here urge that we very carefully distinguish and separate what God has clearly distinguished, that when confused, removes all sound ground for peace and trust in the hour of threatening death.
In order not to be devoured by all the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’s that would overwhelm even the most saintly of saints, Paul warns against looking back: “… but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth …” (Phil 3:13-14). But another, and even more deadly tendency is to look within, in hopes of finding faith sufficient to answer the crisis. That’s not where it’s to be found! It’s only in Him, and His to give. I’m taught of God that faith and peace is not to be found in my reach and power but in His outstretched hand, as when Peter sinking, cried out, and “immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand …” God has deliberately put saving faith beyond human reach and power that to Him might be all the glory when it is given us to miraculously believe and trust and rest.
Our only plea is mercy. There is no other; but we also seek the tender grace of a clear and full assurance that when it is our time to leave this world, we are not occupied with reward or any such thing. Our hope and stay is that our names are written in heaven. Our thought is not reward but mercy. For that assurance, we must put off all hope in ourselves, or any faith that we might produce to stand before infinite holiness. There is no sufficiency in ourselves and we only forsake our own mercies if we imagine otherwise.
With whatever reward we may meet, or whatever higher ground we may have attained, nothing that can be added that can make us anymore righteous or able to stand than the moment we were forever clothed up by the righteousness of another, in ‘the hour we first believed’. There and then and forever, I could never become more righteous than I was at that instant when I was accepted in the Beloved. I think not to appear or presume to appear in any other righteousness than that righteousness that was perfected over 33 1/2 years of Jesus’ active obedience in my behalf.
Not only did He die for me, He lived for me by fulfilling, as He said to John The Baptist, “‘ALL’ righteousness.” It is that righteousness, perfected under the law by a spotless obedience, that is imputed to the least believer, not in the part but the whole. It is not just the act of the cross but His cruciform life, lived under the exacting examination of the law, that covers and clothes us, so that in the matter of justifying righteousness, we thirst no more. Notice that as much as the righteous thirst after righteousness ceaselessly, Jesus speaks of one sense in which they never thirst again. What can that be but in the sense that they will forever have no want of righteousness when called to stand before the Lord? (Jn 4:14; 6:35).
This imputed righteousness is the ‘everlasting righteousness’ of the New / Everlasting covenant. It is NOT a process! It is an accomplished, eternally secure position at the right hand of God in our ascended Lord, whether He is in heaven or on earth. This is something quite distinguishable from even the truest works of the indwelling Holy Spirit in my life. That may factor in my sanctification and reward, but it can have nothing to do with my standing, or the ground of my eternal justification that cannot grow or mature.
The fruits of the Spirit are relative and by degree, but justification is an absolute, relative to nothing but our first and forever acceptance, as based on the righteousness of another, by even a faith born from above that is also, no less a free gift of grace, apart from any working or doing or ‘becoming’.
And that acceptance is also an absolute. It can’t grow; it doesn’t fluctuate. It is NOT a process! It is forever settled in heaven and waits to be revealed at the last day as an already, eternal, irreversible reality, as sure as the very foundation of God, because it has the unshakable seal of His eternal knowledge of His own, even when they, in moments of desperate shaking, fear and doubt, may, God forbid, question their knowledge of Him.
Brother, I have doubted many things to my shame. I have even doubted my own standing in Christ and feared greatly; but I cannot doubt that regeneration, by its very nature, provided it is indeed born from above, CANNOT be reversed. It is as sure as the seal of the foundation of God. I am not speaking of possible fluctuations in my own assurance, which to my shame, I’ve known. I’m speaking of the foundation of God, which is an entirely different matter.
His purpose according to election MUST stand, and in order for it to stand, it must be ‘not of works but of Him who calls’. It has no basis in the willing or running of man (Ro 9:18). He knows His own, so that even if their most hated doubts should rise in unwanted denial of Him, He cannot deny Himself in them, that even if they should doubt of their knowledge of Him, He can never deny His own. They are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh in an indissoluble union that is as sure as the everlasting covenant of righteousness that will stand with all Israel for a thousand years of open demonstration that what God elects, He brings down, and in, and keeps forever.
I long that you could share this conviction with me. I am more sure of it than anything concerning my own spiritual pulse, even if it should go flat-line in my own experience. It is because I know by revelation that it’s true. I know the problems. I know the arguments. I know the fearful warnings of coming short of the straight gate of regeneration. I know how fearfully close a Judas, or an Hymeneaus or Philetus can be, but I cannot doubt of the very foundation of God, which an everlasting covenant, steadfast and sure, well ordered in all things.
All the regrets, all the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’s of this beleaguered and halting life, with all its fits and starts, broken hearts, and set backs, with all its shame and regret, it will melt away in His face, as you become just like Him, perfectly like Him, in the moment that we see Him as He is. That’s a great big, astonishing, almost unimaginable promise.
In the meantime, I personally believe there’s a lot here left for us to walk out, so I expect a battle that will purify and perfect, but could never add one cubit to our complete acceptance in our Lord’s own righteousness. The Lord may show us hard things, but He is the resurrection and the life, and we have a divine, purchased right to a peace that passes all understanding. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”
That’s a peace that doesn’t, or shouldn’t rise and fall with any experience or emotion in all the unexpected vicissitudes of this life. It is something that every believer has a right to every moment, even in the greatest trials that may threaten great discipline but never desertion, even when we may ‘feel’ most deserted. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift, as we know, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.