When I was young, I received an odd birthday gift. It was odd on two counts. First, it was a book. I did not read unless absolutely necessary. The other odd thing was the subject of the book. It was nothing more than an anthology of people’s failures. The title of the book is The Incomplete Book of Failures. I never understood the point of the book except maybe to help me find someone to laugh at. Little did I know at that time that I was worthy to be numbered among that incomplete list of failures.
During my younger years I quit piano lessons and then later guitar lessons (twice). I quit the Scouts, little league baseball, city league football as well as junior-high school football and soccer. I failed ninth and tenth grade and quit summer school too. I also dropped out of two photography classes. I could continue this list, but it only gets worse. I know what it means to be a failure. Don’t get me wrong; I have completed many things in my short life, but my list of failures testifies to the frailty of my human nature.
Fifteen years ago, I became a Christian. “Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17). I was more than a conqueror basking in the promises of Romans eight. I remember the overwhelming feeling of security I had knowing that nothing could separate me from the love of God (Rom 8:39).
But that all changed when I came to the Arminian doctrine of eternal insecurity. My pastor at that time assured me Jesus is “able to keep [me] from stumbling” (Jude 24), but I must do all that I can do to keep my salvation.
Because I was once a “back-slider,” I knew of my failures in the faith. If my pastor’s theology was right, then how could I have any security? With a track record like mine, how could I ever expect to make it to the end? I couldn’t get to Sunday school on time, never mind heaven.
So I worked. As Jude exhorts us to do, I earnestly contended for the faith in the workplace, with the neighbors, and with people on the street. I was involved in every church activity. I went to every Bible study and prayer meeting. But all I had done was in fear of losing my salvation.
Jude does not give us an argument for eternal security. He simply assumes it. As the called, sanctified, and preserved ones, we are “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (21), depending not on our own striving, but on “Him who is able to keep us from stumbling” (24).