Just like receiving gifts at Christmas, I received salvation as a free gift. It was purchased for me by the unlimited resources of my sinless Savior, Jesus Christ. I unwrapped this gift and made it my own on September 12, 1971. I am grateful that, for all these years since, the maintaining of my salvation hasn’t depended on how tightly I have been able to hold onto it.
Here is an illustration that will clarify my meaning. A father is holding his child’s hand as they walk down the sidewalk. Just as they step off the curb to cross the street, a car comes barreling down the street. The child’s safety has nothing to do with the strength of his or her grip to their dad’s hand. Their safety has everything to do with the strength of the dad’s grip and his ability to pull them from danger. It’s not how tightly I hold on to Jesus’ hand, but how tightly He holds mine.
In no way am I denying that our discipline and efforts to grow in our relationships with Christ have been unimportant. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) It is impossible to grow in Christ without making an intentional effort to do so. But our efforts, or works, are never the source of our assurance that we possess eternal life. Our assurance comes from the strength of God’s promises to us.
My obedience is to be out of gratitude for my salvation, not in an effort to keep my salvation. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28–30). That, my friends, is the two-fisted grip that holds us!
Jude 24–25 says, “To Him who is ABLE TO KEEP you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” It is God’s ability to keep me that is most important!
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 also says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His SEAL OF OWNERSHIP on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” In the same way that cattle ranchers brand their cattle, God has “branded” you with His Holy Spirit. He will never lose track of you.
I’ve never seen a gift left unopened beneath the tree after Christmas. Yet, many people have never taken possession of God’s gift of eternal life; they’ve left it unopened, rejected, unused. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In 1830, a man named George Wilson was arrested for mail theft, the penalty for which was hanging. After a time, President Andrew Jackson gave Wilson a pardon but Mr. Wilson refused to accept it! The authorities were puzzled: should Wilson be freed or hanged? They consulted Chief Justice John Marshall, who handed down this decision: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”
God issued you and me pardons when Jesus died for the world. “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) But each of us must make a conscious choice to repent of sin and receive Jesus in order for the pardon to take effect. If you haven’t done that yet, please don’t wait any longer. Don’t leave God’s gift to you unopened.