Friends, I want you to feel comforted. I want you to realize who you are in Christ. I want you to know without a doubt that you are beloved by God, no matter who you are or where you are from or what you have done. God loves you. In fact, He CHOSE you! You have probably read the first part of the following passage, but what about the last?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17, New King James version)
In case there is some lingering doubt, WE are all the world. This passage applies to everyone on earth!
I was raised with a Baptist background, and although I always knew that I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, there was often this doubt that I was really saved. Could I manage to lose my place in Heaven? Was there a sin that would undo everything and lead me down the path to Hell? I would pray what is often called the “Sinner’s Prayer,” that I wanted Jesus to come into my heart so that I can be saved, just in case, and re-affirm my commitment to be a Christian. I imagine that quite a few of you reading this know what I am talking about. There are often doubts, and without a firm understanding of who God is and what He wants, it’s not uncommon. It is beautiful, though, to realize that, as long as we have chosen to accept God’s will and be with Him, there is literally nothing that you or I can do to lose our place in Heaven, our salvation.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39,New King James version)
The idea that God wants everyone to be in Heaven with Him is not new to most Christians, yet this may be a new idea for some. What does it really mean, though? We are told this, and yet, we are also told that people who do not believe are God’s enemies. Then we get to thinking, “What about ‘Aunt Sally,’ who doesn’t believe? She is a nice person. Why doesn’t He want her in Heaven with Him? Why did God choose me, a believer, and not her?”
Rest assured, that what I write here is truth, and I will prove it. Here it is: God’s default position is that He chooses EVERYONE to be in Heaven with Him! That is truly His desire, that all should turn from their sinful way of living and be with Him forever. You are predestined for Him. This is where many Protestant believers diverge from Calvinism and its idea of predestination and the 144,000 who were predestined (or whom God decided before the beginning of time would be with Him in Heaven). I am not talking about this false (and mathematically impossible) idea. What I mean is that God has pre-determined that ALL should be with Him, and once we are His, nothing will change that unless we purposefully make a decision to leave His will.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one. (John 10:27-30, New King James version)
Interestingly, God also gave us free will to say “no” to His gift of eternal life with Him. It is literally up to us to make the decision turn away from God and go our own way, and if that is what ‘Aunt Sally’ has done, then SHE is the one who has decided not to be with God, not the other way around. When we look at family and friends who are unsaved, it has been their choice to remain that way, and we must still pray for them. However, we are not to mourn over their decision if they take that all the way to the grave. THEY decided to refuse the gift that God held out before them in His hands for years. They had many opportunities to believe, repent, and be with God, but they made the decision to go their own way.
He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:18-21, New King James version)
I leave you with the familiar story of the Good Shepherd, found in the book of John. I want you to imagine that all people on earth are sheep, lost and scattered everywhere. The Shepherd loves His sheep and wants to gather them into His fold, where they will be safe, but they have all run away, seeking their own pastures, their own paths. Some have been caught in brambles and injured. Others have drowned and died. Still others are scared, lost, and just want to go home. The Shepherd is looking for them all. He spots each one and holds out His hands. Some will come running to Him in relief, while others, even though they are near a dangerous precipice or there are wolves nearby, actually turn away from the Shepherd’s hands and run another direction to get away from Him, to their own peril. The Shepherd carries each individual sheep back to His fold and goes out to look for the next one. He will repeat this until all who are lost and want to return to Him are safely in the fold.
Now, I want you to answer this question, “Who is doing the searching?” In other words, who is the one doing the work of saving the sheep? Is it up to the sheep to go and find the Shepherd, or has the Shepherd been looking for them all along? It is not up to us to save ourselves through our own faith, or our own works, alone. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has come to each one of us and held out His hand, offering us salvation; once we take that gift, we are safely in His hands, in His fold.
Christian friends, your belief in Jesus, your prayers for forgiveness, and your faith are truly enough, even when you have behaved wickedly (and we all do that, no matter how “good” we think we are), because they are given to you by God. There is nothing you can do to fall out of God’s hands by mistake, for He holds you there and will never let you go. You are safe. You are loved. You are His.