“Be untethered to the remembrance of past attainments. Once, they were the unknown future; now they are the unimportant past. “Today is the day of salvation.” Live in the opportunity of today and the hope of tomorrow’s potential.” (Holm)
The preceding quote was formulated on the second day of January 2021, as I embarked on a project to write some devotional thoughts each day of that year. By year’s end, there were 365 quotes, poems, song lyrics, and scripture verses, all culminating in a devotional book entitled, “Mile Markers Through the Desert.”
Yes, that’s a promo for the book (which you’ve probably already been made aware of). But, more importantly, I want us to examine what I believe is a profound and greatly beneficial truth contained in that simple January 2nd quote.
“Today is the day of salvation,” is a familiar portion of text from scripture (2 Corinthians 6:2). It really has a “two-edged sword” application. Salvation is both a one-time gift and also a gift that keeps on giving, if you will.
When we are saved (justified) we are saved from the penalty of sin. This is a past act, a once-for-all transaction. A person who has been saved has been justified, and conversely, a person who has been justified is one who has been saved.
Jesus’ substitutionary, atoning work on the cross, paid the penalty for our sin and when a person trusts in Him for salvation, that person is forgiven and justified before God.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
However, though justified, Christians still struggle with the power of sin in their lives. We have been completely saved and thus, completely forgiven but we continue to struggle, as did Paul, with the war that rages between our flesh and our spirit. (Read Romans 7)
Salvation has set us apart unto God and at the same time continues to keep us set apart unto Him. It is both an act and a process. Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “We work out that which He has worked in.” Scripture agrees with this premise: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
This is not a verse suggesting that salvation is by works (as some suggest). The context of the verse is about humility, obedience, and submission to the lordship of Christ. It does, however, in the very nature of its wording; “work out”, suggest an ongoing cooperative effort, if you will, of having been saved but also being saved daily. You may say, “I think you’re speaking more of sanctification, not salvation.”
I think perhaps we have made too broad a distinction between salvation and sanctification. Salvation is a gift, to be sure, given at a precise moment in time, but inherent in that gift is the setting apart unto God through His sanctifying power.
I believe that the very God who can save us is also willing and able to keep us. However, growth in grace, maturity in Christ, and being conformed to His image have much to do with our perseverance, our obedience, and our effort and desire to work out (“with fear and trembling”) that which He has worked in.
I know there are differing opinions on this doctrinal area, but I offer here my best understanding of what scripture teaches on this.
It really was not my intention to spend so much time and type on this area as it was to explore and challenge us in our understanding of living for Jesus “today”.
My mom had a little plaque that read as follows:
“I have no yesterdays, time took them away. I may not have tomorrow, but I have today.” Toward the end of my mom’s life, spending her days in a nursing facility and with dementia winning a slow battle for her memory, she would quote that poem, repeatedly, not remembering she had just quoted it minutes before.
Her delivery of the poem was often presented with a note of sadness and resignation. I understand then as I do now, that her natural inclination amidst her circumstances and foggy memory was to highlight the yesterdays and tomorrow. However, the real meat and punch of the poem are affirmative, “But I have today!”
We’re probably familiar with a term that speaks of “being in the moment.” Some athlete who just performed some incredible feat, some actor who delivered the “performance of a lifetime,” or perhaps some student who suddenly had a major “breakthrough” in an area of academic pursuit might say, “I was just in the moment!”
I used to not be quite sure what was meant by that, but I suspect it has something to do with blocking out all distractions, past and future, focusing intently on the “right now,” and achieving the full purpose and potential of the moment at hand. This may sound like some sort of New Age Zen practice, but actually, it’s straight from scripture, whether “they” know it or not.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).
Every yesterday is under the sovereign lordship of our eternal God. As Christians, our sins are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, cast away as far as the East is from the West, to be remembered against us no more.
We remember our failures and regrets, but grace transforms even those to become steps upon which we trod to “higher ground.”
So, what of tomorrow? Jesus asks a penetrating question and gives a most succinct response to both the crowd gathered at the famous “sermon on the mount” and to us today.
Q: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span” (Matthew 6:27)?
A: “Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself ” (Matthew 6:34).
We cannot change our yesterdays. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, though I do believe we can have a hope for tomorrow’s potential, should God graciously grant us another day.
It’s kind of like my little Norwegian grandmother used to say: “Plan like you’re going to live forever but live like you’re going to die tomorrow.” (She had a million of em!)
I’m challenging myself this year to put away the past and all its nagging reminders. I’m committing to not project into tomorrow’s frightening world of “what ifs.” I invite you to join me in this challenge, this discipline, and this freeing exercise.
I think, perhaps, there will be more on this in the next Praiseletter, but as for now, that’s all for TODAY.