Friday, September 28, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: Near and Far

I often find myself tempted to try to "figure out" God's plan for salvation - to try to discern who in my life will next receive God's grace and become "saved."

I remember a few years ago when I first realized the foolishness of this all. To think that there are always signs to indicate where God's spirit is going to move and whose hearts are going to be changed.

Because people are fickle and deceitful and misleading, and God is not.

How many times have you thought you were making progress with someone spiritually, sharing the Gospel with them, looking for signs that their heart was softening, only for them to almost "lead you on" in a spiritual sense? They visit church a few times or maybe even start attending regularly, they read the Bible, or at least talk about intending to explore the Bible, but eventually you realize they are not really changing. They are still hardened.

And how many people know of someone so hard, so hurt, so angry, so evil, who was changed by God instantly? In a moment, the Holy Spirit entered into their unlikely heart and their ungodly life and transformed them forever in the name of Jesus Christ. Think of Paul on the road to Damascus. Think of the friend you know who was literally saved by Jesus while high on drugs, on the brink of suicide, or at a treatment facility for any number of disorders or addictions. Think about those who are saved while serving a life sentence in prison for horrific crimes.

I personally know people who were saved by Jesus in some of those situations above. They did not appear to be seeking the Lord. They were not searching. They might have even openly admitted a hatred or at least a mistrust or an unbelief in God, and yet He invaded their lives at exactly the right time.

This is not to discount that a slowly softening heart is sometimes an indicator of God's grace in someone's life. Sometimes it really does happen in the pretty, predictable way. You invite a friend to church. They might say no at first and then they accept. They are interested. They have questions. They seek your counsel. You point them to the Bible. You might point them to another Christian leader. They are open to God's Word and over the course of days, weeks, months, or maybe years, they learn and trust that Christ is their Savior.

But there are also people who appear to begin this journey to salvation only to harden their hearts repeatedly or more deeply during the process. They might go to church and mock it. They might read the Bible only to scrutinize it in their unbelief. They might ask questions only in a prideful attempt to baffle or argue with believers. Although at first this interest can look like a spiritual awakening of sorts, it is really only a hardened heart actively attacking the church instead of living in apathy like many other unbelievers.

My point to all this is that I have had to destroy the conceptions in my own mind that I can figure out who God is going to save. Sometimes He saves through an invite to church, sometimes He saves in the midst of a drug overdose. I don't know what God is going to do, because He is so powerful and mysterious in a beautiful way.

All I know is this:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved... -Ephesians 2:1-5

We are all dead before Jesus invades our hearts and lives and makes us alive. I once was dead, and God made me alive in Christ. God can save those who seem near to knowing Him and those who seem far, far away from ever loving Him. There are no limits to God's grace. And, really, whether we seem near or far does not change the fact that we are dead without Christ. You can't be more dead than dead, regardless of whether or not you have ever visited a church or read the Bible. So instead of trying to figure out who God might save next, I want to live a life where I passionately share the Gospel with all, because God, in His great mercy, sometimes saves those who seem near and sometimes saves those who seem far away.


Jessi Bridges said...

I really love those verses. Especially where it say "but GOD". Not me or someone else, its all in His timing. This was a really encouraging post. I have friends who I have prayed for their salvation for years, some over a decade. And there were times when I thouht they were so close! But it's not up to me. Its up to the Lord and I know the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts at the proper time.

Anna said...