It has been a while since my last posting to Ministry Minute, my blogs have been involved with the posts from Voyage over on the www.rossriggs.com site dealing with my terminal illness. Current events have taken place though which compel me to return and enter a short piece on the assurance of salvation. For those who follow my post, you would just know that I will start out my writing with a famous movie line. This one brings us the title of this blog and comes to us in the re-release of some of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic roles. This one, his first ‘Dirty Harry’ movie when his lunch is interrupted by a bank robbery in downtown San Francisco. One of the bad guys is injured and trying to escape. He falls to the pavement, his shotgun within a handbreadth away and ‘Harry’ points his S&W Model 29 6 inch revolver at him and says, “I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking “did he fire six shots or only five?” Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?” The ‘punk’ acquiesces and as Harry walks away the would-be bank robber asks him if he had any bullets left… he says “I gotta know” – click Harry’s gun was empty. That’s a long way around to get to my point but I think you’ll find it worth it!
Allow me to set the stage for you. It is the middle of August, a hot day for anyone and this day, hotter and muggier than most, a definite ‘dog-day afternoon’ but that’s a different movie with Al Pacino! I have had the honor of officiating funerals for friends, relatives, and some folks I barely knew. There is one thing the family needs and that is the truth of the Bible and Jesus’ own words that provide a hope for heaven for even His worried and weary followers. On this particular day, however what the family and their friends receive from a pastor who does not believe in the doctrine of grace and those attending instead receive a hodgepodge of a theology not at all based on Scripture. Rather, he shares his belief that there is no way to know for certain if one will go to heaven when they die. Their only hope for heaven is their own good works and maybe, just maybe, if their friend and family member laying in the coffin there in front of them did enough good things and had enough people praying for him, then also to have as a real stroke of luck, someone standing near Jesus when he arrives at the gate to put in a good word for him. Then, maybe Jesus will let him in.
I am so glad that God’s Word makes it clear that there is NO WAY I can ever be good enough for heaven! Whew! That’s settled! I never have to try to work my way into heaven again! I don’t have to because Jesus said that only those who are perfect in their works can get into heaven and that there is no one perfect, not one! There, settled. No sense worrying about that for He said, as Matthew quoted Him, “Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”[i]
Since there is no way my being in heaven is dependent on what I do then obviously it must be based on what someone else has done and I’m not referring to another sinful mortal like myself who is lighting candles or saying mantras over me to try and get me accepted into heaven. The person who has already done everything that needs to be done for me to be in heaven is JESUS. I can lay before you several texts that speak to the issue and persons like that pastor (I use that term loosely) would say I’m ‘proof-texting’ which means just going through and finding Scriptures to back up what I am saying and they would be right if I was taking the verses out of context and twisting their meanings but the meanings in these verses are clear.
Let’s begin with Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” That seems fairly clear that our salvation has little or nothing to do with what we have done. Another important verse comes also from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 1 let’s just glance at verses 4 through 6, 13 and 14. “4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’” Adoptions as sons (daughters). Let me just ask if you know of anyone who was unadopted? Once you are family… you are family. Then in the following verses, “13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Check the part that says, marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit – our guarantee that we are God’s possession.
There is one final set of verses I want you to consider and though the list is very long and could be a long Bible study, which it has been many times before, I’m keeping this one short for your reading pleasure. This comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. He asks the question as to what can possibly separate us from the love of Christ. Here is Romans 8:38-39, Paul writes, “38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I am going to give you one last very short verse which provides me great comfort as I move down the path of this horrific disease that is robbing me of air, the ability to simply breathe. Even now as I sit at my desk in the study where for almost thirty years I’ve been writing and studying, I have to sit here with oxygen being pumped into my nose so I can breathe. Still, as I understand this verse, when I look toward the day when my lungs take their last labored breath of earth’s air and my human eyes with their lenses replaced due to cataracts close in death, I have not reason to fear. Listen to the words of Paul again writing to the church at Corinth concerning his own short time left on earth. He writes in 2 Corinthians 5:8-9, 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” There is no intermediary state, no roaming the earth looking for that one thing we did not complete in this life so we can to on to the next. Immediately, we are ushered from this existence into the very presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. No worries. I am not now, nor will I ever be in this life good enough to merit heaven. That doesn’t mean I quit seeking to grow in faith, that is part of sanctification, growing to be more like Christ each day but I’m doing so because I love Him and want to be like Him. Should any who have been subjected to the false teaching of those who proclaim there is no way to know for certain you or your loved ones will be in heaven upon your death, I encourage you to study not just these few passages but get with a solid Bible teaching church and grow in your faith!