Feeling Good...Enough

Things that pertain to salvation (3)

For many people today, salvation is regarded as primarily a kind of spiritual benefit, something intended for them, and for their wellbeing. Now salvation certainly does bring benefit and wellbeing to those who receive it. But if the experience of salvation stops there, can we really say that the sense of wellbeing experienced is of a saving nature?

The writer of Hebrews is not so sure. Professing believers who merely linger around the fundamentals of the faith, and never move on to the harder doctrines and solid food that produce discernment and wisdom (5.14), need to be concerned that they may not, in fact, have attained to a true knowledge of God and Christ. For, if they had, that true knowledge would have whetted their appetite for more.

In the same way, some people have experienced something - something comforting, happy, pleasing, satisfying - in conjunction with their professed belief in Jesus, and what they have experienced is good enough for them to assure them that they are truly saved. They have "once been enlightened", have "tasted" the gift of salvation, "shared" in the Spirit's presence (6.4) , and "tasted" the goodness of the Word of God and the coming Kingdom (v. 5).

But there is no evidence of repentance (v. 4) in their lives; they continue living in the world pretty much the way they always have. This may not necessarily mean that they are practicing wickedness overtly, although that could be so. Rather, they use their time like they always have, with little beyond the moments they are in church being carved out for knowing the Lord. They use their resources about the same, so that they are not much better at giving of talents or treasure to the Lord's work. And neither their conversation nor their daily relationships, roles, and responsibilities reflect any significant change in priorities or focus. They've "tasted" of the Lord, but have not truly "fed" on Him, and so they remain the same people they've always been, except that they feel better now. They feel good, good enough, at least.

It will be difficult moving such people along in sanctification. They're quite satisfied with the Christian life they've come to know, and, after all, they've been assurred for years and years that believing in Jesus for salvation and just coming to church are guarantee enough that saving grace has been wrought in them. They may fall away into seasons of non-attendance, or even dalliances with sin (v. 6), but they've come to believe that all they have to do whenever that happens is just remember that they've believed in Jesus, and recall those feelings of assurance. Then all will be well.

But merely feeling "good enough" is no guarantee that saving grace has done its work. Without repentance, without the fruit of the seed of truth and the showers of grace that fall on the soul, such a person must consider whether, instead of being truly saved, his experience might be misleading him, his faith might be "worthless", and he himself might be "near to being cursed" by the Lord (v. 8).

Salvation is not, in the first instance, a matter of how we feel. While it has a subjective aspect, if subjectivity is all one can point to as evidence of being saved, then one should really consider whether those feelings, strong as they may be, are such as truly pertain to salvation (v. 9).

T. M. Moore

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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