. . . And the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.—John 6:37Or as Peterson paraphrased it, “Once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go” (John 6:37, The Message).
I remember a sermon when I was just a kid in which a question was asked: Does our relationship with God depend on our holding onto Him or on our believing that He is still holding onto us?
My oldest daughter returned from a ski trip yesterday. I taught her how to ski when she was just a little girl, and she’s loved it ever since. But when she was very small, she once slipped off the ski lift. I think of that experience each time she and I hit the slopes. She had lifted the bar early, and then she forgot it was up; when she fell, I caught her by the hood of her ski coat. I was holding onto the back of the lift chair with one hand and her ski coat with the other. When the ground got close enough, we both counted to three and jumped. We landed, and there were no injuries. Today we laugh about it, but neither of us thought it was too funny then.
I’ve often wondered what would have happened if her safety that day had depended on her holding onto me, rather than on my holding onto her. The story would not have ended the same, I’m quite sure. Yet how many believe that their eternity depends on their holding onto God. I don’t think that’s how it works at all. I think it’s dependent on our believing that He is still holding onto us.
It was taught by the Jews that before God’s love is extended to the sinner, he must first repent. In their view, repentance is a work by which men earn the favor of Heaven. And it was this thought that led the Pharisees to exclaim in astonishment and anger, “This man receiveth sinners.” According to their ideas He should permit none to approach Him but those who had repented. But in the parable of the lost sheep, Christ teaches that salvation does not come through our seeking after God but through God’s seeking after us. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way.” Rom. 3:11, 12. We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent. (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 189)
Certainly I believe that we can take ourselves out of the hands of God. But if any are lost in the end, it will be their choice, not His. On that day, those who enter into life will look into the eyes of God and simply say, “Thy will be done.” But all who are lost will encounter God Himself, Who will look into their eyes and say to them, “Thy will be done,” even though it is against everything He desires for them.
The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring him back to the Father’s house. The prodigal son in his wretchedness “came to himself.” The deceptive power that Satan had exercised over him was broken. He saw that his suffering was the result of his own folly, and he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.” Miserable as he was, the prodigal found hope in the conviction of his father’s love. It was that love which was drawing him toward home. So it is the assurance of God’s love that constrains the sinner to return to God. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Rom. 2:4. A golden chain, the mercy and compassion of divine love, is passed around every imperiled soul. The Lord declares, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Jer. 31:3. (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 202)
I wish you God’s best this week.