III. The Good News of Once Saved, Nearly Always Saved (Calv-Arminianism)
This muddled mixture between Calvinism and Arminianism takes so many forms that books could be (and have been!) written to describe them. This understanding of the gospel is the kindest, yet most inherently self-contradictory, of views generally held. Calv-Arminianism takes on the more attractive (and less despair-inducing) features of each system and tries to blend them together. The most popular form of Calv-Arminianism assures us:
a. that Christ probably died for all mankind.
b. that the Lord is probably no longer angry with the human race.
c. that we are saved only by God's grace. Yet in the end our ultimate salvation probably depends, to some significant degree, on the success of our own effort (but to what degree is uncertain).
d. that once we're (truly) saved we can never be lost. Or at least it's probably next to impossible to be lost—according to whoever happens to be trying to clarify his or her own doctrinal persuasion.
e. it is probable that only the most flagrantly wicked will perish forever. And among Calv-Arminians as a whole, the subject of the fate of those who have never heard of Christ is studiously avoided.
What has given rise to all the above views which turn the Good News of Christ into bad news? NONSENSE!? It is a cruel dogma, found nowhere in the original language of Scripture.
It is a lie. It is the lie that God is Infinite Holy Love, yet in the end, He will consign most or some of His creation to agony forever. In short, it's the illogical idea that God is love—and yet—He creates people whom He plans in advance (already knowing their unwise future choices) to get rid of forever! This is the lie of hate that calls itself "love." The lie of "forgiveness" that practices eternal vindictiveness when the story is over. The lie that All-Powerful Love is either biased or will eventually fail. This is the lie that lurks within the root of all these systems. So, is it any wonder that—despite all heroic efforts of their advocates—these gospel presentations miserably fall short of landing on our ears as "good news"?
Now let's be merciful. If you sincerely believed "God is love/God spawns eternally doomed creatures" was an essential truth taught in the Bible, would you be able to come up with a better message than all the aforementioned?
I couldn't! For thirty desperate years I tried—diligently—to present the Good News of Christ as "Glad Tidings", while trying to preserve the toxic lie mentioned above at the same time. And I did it sincerely. I honestly thought the double-talk "God is love, but" was a foundational truth of the gospel. To my mind, it was a vital point of Scriptural "orthodoxy", sound doctrine! Even so, I did everything in my power to believe and present this contradictory message as "unconditional love."
Is it any wonder I finally fizzled out and became a blithering basket case—and actually was hospitalized? It only takes a little yeast to leaven the whole loaf. So in the end, even my "Calv-Arminian gospel-understanding" rendered it impossible for me to completely trust or love the Lord. I could affirm and voice trust and love for the Lord. Problem was, I couldn't actually do them. How could I? The Good News (!?) message programmed into my poor brain kept telling me that God could not be trusted. For in the end He would lose a good number of people—forever. Thus, I felt compelled to trust in my own strength so as to make my "calling and election sure," which to my mind meant my ultimate salvation. This made it impossible for my heart to rest. Though the Lord had blessed me, often in wonderful ways, deepest serenity evaded me from age twelve until age forty-nine! I did not know how to trust My heavenly Father and—at the same time—believe all His Word, as I then understood it, and to meditate on it. All I could do was try not to think much about those "dark passages" that made me feel afraid. Yet they still thrived beneath the surface of my conscious mind, and often came out in my dreams.
So the deep inner wounds that caused my obsessions and compulsions could never heal. An unconscious undercurrent of terror only intensified my bondage. However, when—through Scripture—the Lord at last assured my heart of His unfailing love, inner transformation rapidly began to happen.
I then could say with the psalmist David, "Lord, I have hoped in Your judgments." I began to rejoice in all of God's words, for His statutes are indeed right, rejoicing the heart! (Ps. 19:8; 119:43). Finally it dawned on me that any true word from God will pass the meditation test. As we mull it over in our minds, a true word from God will impart life and hope. It will build, not sabotage, our trust in the Lord and His unfailing love.
Try meditating on the "truth" (so called by some) that God will abandon any person He has created to misery forever, and see what happens to your trust! Christ tells us that His words are spirit and life. So shouldn't we be able to meditate on all His words and increase our faith? Including all He has to say about judgment and everlasting fire!
That is, provided we do so with a right understanding. Does your present understanding about judgment and hell cause your trust and love toward God to increase as you meditate on it? If not, why would His Spirit communicate a "truth" that only weakens our trust when we think deeply about it? If God's whole agenda is to win our deepest trust, why would He tell us He has created people in the certain and calculated knowledge that they would suffer forever?
He would not, and He has not! His heart and His plan for all His creation is better—by far—than that. Now I'll share the fourth view of the gospel which every human heart knows is the true one. The view that reveals the heart of a Heavenly Father all of us can count on.
IV. The Good News of Christ's Total Victory
Christ bought us ALL back by His own blood shed at Calvary. He came to earth for this purpose: to destroy the devil's deceptive works and to save that which was lost. Eventually our Lord will fulfill His sure purpose and inherit ALL He paid for. That is because:
a. God is Holy Love, and love means commitment.
b. God's commitment is stronger than our weaknesses, our foolish choices, our stubbornness, our SIN. For if God's commitment to us is only as strong as our commitment to Him (perish the thought!) that means He is no better than we are.2
c. God's fires of purifying judgment are unrelenting, though not of endless duration (contrary to tradition but not Scripture). So He persistently and patiently corrects us—until—He succeeds in redeeming us. For our heavenly Father's judgments arise, not from vindictive rage, but from His loving mercy. He loves us too much to let sin and death destroy His dreams for us. Christ's death on the cross demonstrates the depth of God's love as well as His commitment to destroy sin and death. It shows us that, to His own hurt and agony, the Lord is absorbing all the death-dealing abuse of our sin and will "swallow it up" into His life as He saves us.
Acts 3:21 tells us God has promised through all His holy prophets that He will restore ALL things. Furthermore, both Old Testament and New Testament writers and prophets tell us:
· that all earth's families will be blessed through Christ, Abraham's "Seed" (Gen. 12:3, Acts 3:23, Rom. 4:13). Furthermore, according to Galatians 3:8, this promised blessing means that all earth's families will be turned from their sins; justified and set right with God;
· that success or failure at keeping God's law has no bearing on whether or not this promised blessing will finally be bestowed, for the law cannot cancel this covenant (Gal. 3:17-21);
· that all earth's families, therefore, will remember the Lord, turn to Him and worship Him (Ps. 22:27-28);
· that all flesh will bless His name forever and sing His praise (Ps. 145:21; 66:3-4, Rev. 5:13);