Summary: Many people claim to have ’made a decision for Christ’. But are they truly converted. Their perseverance will be the test
I’m no carpenter. That’s the understatement of the year! But I understand that in carpentry there’s a term "clinching the nail". If I have it right: In rough work, a nail is driven through several boards so that the point of the nail sticks through the back. Then the workman gives a blow of the hammer to knock it sideways and embed it in the wood. That way the nail can’t work itself out of position.
Jesus said of those who believe I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand (John 10:23) Clinched with two nails if you like. That illustrates a basic Christian teaching, which in theological terms, is called "perseverance of the saints". It’s a very precious truth.
It’s got a different name nowadays. It’s called "eternal security". But that subtle change in language, ’security’ for ’perseverance’ reflects what, I believe, is a dangerous change in emphasis. It reflects a basic change in teaching and a shift in emphasis on experience. Even more, it reflects the fact that the level of Christian commitment is woefully low today. We seem to have all but lost the knowledge of God as a holy God and we call sin by any other name, and so fail to see it for what it really is: an offence against God; an offence against a righteous and sovereign God, So many today call themselves "Christian" on the basis of some poorly understood experience. They decided they would become Christian. They make a once-for-all act of faith and claim themselves as secure.
I want us to look at Hebrews 12:14-29. For I believe the words speak into this situation. Here, I would say, we have words on the crucial work of God in conversion; on our response; then on our security, or better perseverance.
Verses 18 to 24 would, I contend, speak to us of conversion. They make comparison of Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Certainly they are telling us that the Christian need not live in fear; especially in fear of the written law on tablets of stone.
But note they lie between 15 to 17, which warn us not to miss the grace of God, which tell us the lesson of Esau, who could bring about no change of mind (repentance, that is) and verses 28 and 29 which speak of receiving a Kingdom. As I’ve pondered these issues of conversion, commitment and perseverance, the Lord seems to have drawn me again and again to these verses, to what he does when he leads us to conversion. And remember it is he who brings us to conversion, to repentance and faith. By grace you have been saved through faith- and this not of yourselves...For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8,10)
In these verses then we see Mount Zion and Mount Sinai, law and grace. The law came through Moses, grace and truth through Jesus Christ (John 1:17) But I believe that in the conversion process God takes us through law to grace. Thus in Galatians we read the law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (3:24,KJV)- to lead us, to instruct us where, otherwise, we would be ignorant. So God leads us first of all through the law. He shows us the righteous demands of the law. He shows us that we fall so far short of his law that we cannot hope to keep it. He brings us to the point where we fall on our knees, begging for mercy.
For God does nor just bring us to the law. he brings us to Sinai. He brings us to the mountain burning with fire. We hear such a voice speaking that those who (hear) it (beg) that no further word be spoken. We say with Moses "I am trembling with fear" The Lord leads us to the place of which Moses said "I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord , for he was angry enough to destroy you" (Deut 9:19)
That, I would say, is the beginning of our conversion. But thanks and praise to God that he does not leave us there. For he shows us Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. We are shown that dread may be replaced with mighty ecstasy and w e long for it, but it seems to lack assurance and substance.
But God also leads us to the ’church’ (or assembly) of the first born whose names are written in heaven. He leads us to the assembly of true born-again believers. And he shows us Jesus. And what does he show us in Jesus?
Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. He shows us the One who is our surety. Therein lies the ground of our true security. For we have a covenant in the spiritual realm which is eternally and legally binding, in the Name of Jesus. We often actually miss this, but the covenant is between the Father and the Son The Sinai covenant was in these terms: This is the blood (for blood was the sine qua non of a covenant) of the covenant which the Lord has made with you (Exod 24:8) But that covenant was broken on man’s side. At Sinai the people offered the blood of bulls. The new covenant is in the blood offered for us: the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is my blood which is poured out for many (Matt 26:28)