The Joyful Struggle

“To be almost saved is to be totally lost.” I once had that statement displayed on the marquee in my last church. This morning I heard a young preacher preach a message on the same topic. “Almost” does not cut it in the kingdom of God.

The problem is that genuine faith can be easy to fake. There is a Christian veneer that is easily placed over a darkened heart. It is possible to sing praise songs, pray eloquently and have a nice big smile on your face; but at the same time have a heart polluted with sin and unbelief. Our actions don’t always demonstrate the true condition of our heart.

Yet, in every church and throughout time in every generation, there are those who convince themselves they are genuine when they are not.

Ultimately only the Lord knows who belongs to Him. But don’t you want to know that you do belong to Him? Of course you do! The interesting fact is that the Bible creates a tension at this point. We are told that we can have assurance (Eph 1:13-14; John 10:28-29); and we are also told that there are people who have assurance, but are not warranted in doing so (Matt 7:21-23; 25:11-12).

Fear not. There is really no reason to ever doubt your salvation. People who believe they are saved, but who, in fact, are not, don’t think about such things. Their Christianity is skin deep and carefree. They don’t struggle with personal holiness. They don’t wrestle with sin. Repentance is something that is only an intellectual fancy for them, not an experiential reality. They worship only through outward actions, not through an inward, introspective seeking and communion with God. The idea of witnessing about the death and resurrection of Christ sounds great to them, but they have never done it – in fact, that’s what they pay others to do!

In short, if you ever worry about whether or not you are really saved, have no fear. The genuine Christian understands that he/she falls short of God’s glory. As a result, he/she does worry; but it’s a worry generated from a dissatisfaction with worldly living. This dissatisfaction drives the true believer to have a heartfelt desire to excel in the things of God.

For those who are not truly saved, not so much. They have never experienced any dissatisfaction in their spiritual life. They are happy and carefree – but only for a short time.

Genuine Christianity is a struggle. Those who have labored in the struggle are marked by a sense of humility. They know they are saved by faith. In fact, they have come to a point where they really know, both experientially and intellectually, that there is no good in them and that their salvation is all because of Jesus Christ.

Not only is there a sense of humility with the genuine Christian, but there is also a sense of dependency. The genuine Christian has learned to walk with Christ. They have learned the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). They know that everything pertaining to the Christian life – strength, wisdom, faith etc. – all find their source in Christ. They have learned that Jesus alone is sufficient for all their needs (Phil 4:13).

But the genuine Christian is also marked by a stubborn joy. Because they understand that salvation is all the work of Christ, they have learned to enter the Sabbath rest of God. In so doing, they no longer seek to earn God’s approval. They understand what it means to be accepted in the beloved. Further, they are joyful because they have learned be content in whatever state they are. Their joy is stubborn, because the world cannot take it away from them. Because they are content, they no longer worry about tomorrow. Because they are accepted, they are able to enjoy the love and grace of God today.

To be a genuine Christian is to live between two worlds – almost, but not yet. It is to have a dissatisfaction with worldly living while seeking to grow in heavenly graces. It is to understand that too much of the world is in me and not enough of heaven; yet, it is also to recognize that all of heaven is mine – its joys, victories and satisfaction. Praise be to God!

Here’s to the struggle and joy of being a Christian!

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