I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
2 Timothy 1:3-14 (NIV)
I am more convinced than ever that there are really no stopping points, no finish lines in the kingdom of God, at least this side of heaven! (And I’m more and more convinced that there really aren’t any there, either!)
I think way too many of us have been trained to see our faith journey as a series of destinations, any of which can be acceptable as a final destination, or at least a long-term residence. It’s kind of like our trip back in September – it was planned primarily as a series of intermediate destinations, some of which we stayed at only for a few hours, some for a day or two, and our midpoint, where we lived for 5 days before starting home. As we planned our trip, if we focused at all on the actual “journey,” the hours and miles we would spend on the road, it was only to ensure that we chose the fastest, most logical route. The “destinations” were the important part of the trip.
We can think of our “destinations,” such as salvation, baptism, and sanctification, as the main points of our journey, with any of them serving as valid stopovers or even ultimate destinations. So, once you are saved, you can go one step further (when and if you feel like it) and be baptized, but salvation is the “important part,” so baptism starts to be seen as an extra, not an essential destination to go on to. Then, if we want to at some point, we can pray to be sanctified – but it’s not seen as vital, because salvation is the “important part,” so you can just “hang out” there for the rest of your life.
How vastly different this is than the Bible’s view of our lives. In the biblical worldview, the journey with God, the actual day to day progress, is the vital part of our lives and of our salvation experience, with several so-called destination steps on the way – essential, but not the focus; and certainly not a place to set up residence.
Salvation is a must (there is no entering on the way at all without it), but it is not a destination. It is more like the onramp to the Highway of Holiness. Baptism isn’t an option, but a solid requirement to continue on the journey (see Matthew 28:18-20), much like merging onto the highway instead of just stopping and camping on the shoulder at the onramp. And Entire Sanctification isn’t a bonus feature if you feel like it – it provides the practical, day-to-day holiness without which we cannot see God (Hebrews 12:14), as well as the power to be a witness for the kingdom of heaven and to live our lives in total obedience to our Lord. And from the moment that we receive the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, we start to move along the Highway of Heaven, being led in by the Holy Spirit and growing in grace and love all the way to heaven.
The Christian life is not one of rest and leisure, but of “being about the Master’s business.” We never “arrive” until we arrive at the gates of heaven. We never lay down our armor or our weapons of spiritual warfare until we lay down our bodies. This was what Paul and Peter and a lot of the early Church knew, and what Paul was urging Timothy to remember: that we need to keep our gift(s) ablaze our whole lives. That our lives in Jesus are not about kicking back waiting for Jesus to return, but about using the power, the love, and the sound judgment that the Holy Spirit gives us to consistently and continually change the world, one life at a time.