Smelling Like Smoke…
One of the questions that I am frequently asked has to do with whether salvation is something that can be lost based on actions after one has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of his/her life. Certainly, there are various thoughts on this matter, but we are taught in John 3:16, that one need only believe in Jesus to ensure our salvation and an eternal life with God.
There are places in the Bible that say that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one unpardonable sin, but I have yet to meet someone who has chosen this way out of their commitment to Jesus. Certainly, God has given us free will and if a person should decide to renounce their faith and think of their loyalty to Jesus as a burden, it seems to me that God would try to pursue them with the intent that they would re-consider their decision. However, if someone truly doesn’t want to be in heaven with God, I think they could get out of the deal.
But the questions that I get asked about salvation have to to do with inadvertently losing one’s place in heaven unintentionally. So if a person accepts the gift of eternal life, can that person lose their eternal life through their actions here on earth? In short, I don’t think so, but let’s explore the reason why I say that.
The apostle Paul wrote several letters to the church at Corinth. The first letter has been lost to the world, the several others have survived and they constitute the books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Paul implores the believers in Corinth to do the tough work of continuing to bring the Good News of Jesus to those who didn’t know about Him. He challenges the followers of Jesus to build a foundation on gold, silver and precious stones as opposed to hay, straw or wood. These examples are clearly references to things that will last as opposed to things that are more temporary and will not withstand the test of time.
So, working on building a strong foundation of faith and guidance of others will take time – and probably be tough to do, but with greater staying power in the end. Most people wind up taking the easy way – gathering the more common things – wood, straw and hay – the low hanging fruit of faith that is easy to come by. But when all these things are tested by fire, these ordinary items, the easy to come by ones will be destroyed. So does this mean that Paul is telling us that we can lose our salvation if we don’t build our foundations on gold, silver and precious stones?
No, Paul makes it clear that we will still be on the bus bound for eternity with Jesus. One commentator, a famous pastor and theologian, had an interesting way of phrasing his opinion on the matter. He made it clear that all believers will end up in heaven – but some of us may smell like smoke, having had most of our stuff consumed by fire when tested. I almost laughed out loud when I read that and I have used this analogy at least twice already in my Bible lessons about salvation.
Tonight’s verse is that chapter of the book of Corinthians where Paul tries to explain his thoughts on the matter. Paul, the author of the book, tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
In other words, regardless of how each believer builds our foundation, we will all end up in the same place. My encouragement this evening is that it is tough to build a lasting foundation. It gets tiring – and requires dedication and commitment. Jesus wants us to take this tougher route and build something that will survive us – and the test of fire. Some of us may not have that in us – and that’s okay.
My prayer tonight is that each of us will build the strongest and longest lasting foundation of faith that we can. We are entrusted by God to spread the Good News through the command of the Great Commission and that takes perseverance. So, even if we smell like smoke, some day each of us will stand in the presence of God, having the done the best job we could with the gifts each of us has been endowed with. And that is quite good enough! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…