My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
Imagine that you were given the one thing you want more than anything.
What’s the one thing you want most? It doesn’t really matter what it is, but imagine that one thing. Let’s say it’s a brand new top-of-the-line Polaris snowmobile. Now imagine that someone wants to give you this dream of a machine for nothing. They want to give it to you absolutely for free. They want to give it to you as an act of sheer grace and kindness. Good news, right? Amazing news! Now imagine that this gracious giver tells you that there’s just one string attached: If you scratch, dent or ding the snowmobile up, it will be taken away from you forever and you can never ride a snowmobile ever again.
Is the offer still good news? Not really. Sheesh… that one “string” really sucked all the fun and joy and goodness out of that gift, didn’t it? I mean, would you even ride the thing? I doubt I would. If I even accepted it, I’d probably wrap it in bubble wrap, stick it in storage and never ride it. Maybe try to sell it to someone before it depreciates…
That same “string” could have the same effect on the gospel—God’s absolutely free, gracious offer of rescue through Christ the Savior. What if God told you that if you trust in Christ and choose to follow him with your life, you will be adopted as a son or daughter of God, you will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, your life will take on a new and unimaginable significance, that your sins and all the ways you’ve rebelled against God would be erased from the record, and that one day you will be able to enjoy the sheer joy of God in his perfect world?
But then God tells you that there’s one string attached.
If you screw up too much; If you don’t measure up; If you have any serious scratches, dents or dings in your holiness over a long enough timeline, then you’ll loose this gracious gift of rescue. Is the offer still good news? Not really. Again, the “string” sucked all the joy and goodness and peace out of the gift.
This is one of the things that makes the gospel so wonderful. There are no strings attached. In John 10 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will 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” (vv. 27-29).
It is a terrible mistake to think that we receive our salvation by God’s sheer grace, but then we keep our salvation through our own effort and merit.
Many of us think this way. I mean, haven’t you ever wondered if God was at the end of his patience with you? Have you ever wondered if maybe God was so tired of your disobedience that he was ready to end his relationship with you? I certainly have—particularly in the last year. When are you most prone to entertain those thoughts?
Even if we don’t think this way, many of us tend to live this way. We go about our lives believing that if we sin too much, if we don’t give enough, if we don’t share the gospel enough, if we don’t measure up for long enough, eventually God will get sick of our failures and take back his gift of salvation. He’ll cast us off, wash his hands of us, and kick us to the curb. And so we go through life trying not to make any “big” mistakes, and with a paralyzing fear that prevents us from daring anything great for God.
Why would you take risks? Why walk into enemy territory? Why risk dings and dents in our lives? Just stay at home, right? That’s the kind of thinking that believing that we keep our salvation by being good leads to.
Today, let the freedom to fail give you the courage to fight. Today, know that God’s love for you in Christ is everlasting. Today, know that the Cross is greater than your sin and failures. Today, know that God is infinitely patient with those who are united to his Son, and will breathe fresh life into you whenever you turn from your sin and reassert your devotion to his mission and his call on your life. Believe me. I have experienced that very thing.
You are his sheep. The Father has given you to Christ. He is greater than all. And nothing—not even your own failures—can snatch you out of his hand.