This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.—John 6:35–37
Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm’s length.
Perhaps it isn’t sins so much as sufferings that cause some of us to question the perseverance of the heart of Christ. As pain piles up, as numbness takes over, as the months go by, at some point the conclusion seems obvious: we have been cast out.
Surely this is not what life would feel like for one who has been buried in the heart of a gentle and lowly Savior? But Jesus does not say that those with pain-free lives are never cast out. He says those who come to him are never cast out. It is not what life brings to us but to whom we belong that determines Christ’s heart of love for us.
The only thing required to enjoy such love is to come to him. To ask him to take us in. He does not say, “Whoever comes to me with sufficient contrition,” or “Whoever comes to me feeling bad enough for their sin,” or “Whoever comes to me with redoubled efforts.” He says, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Our strength of resolve is not part of the formula of retaining his good will. When my two-year-old son Benjamin begins to wade into the gentle slope of the zero-entry swimming pool near our home, he instinctively grabs hold of my hand.
He holds on tight as the water gradually gets deeper. But a two-year-old’s grip is not very strong. Before long it is not him holding on to me but me holding on to him. Left to his own strength he will certainly slip out of my hand. But if I have determined that he will not fall out of my grasp, he is secure. He can’t get away from me if he tried.
So with Christ. We cling to him, to be sure. But our grip is that of a two-year-old amid the stormy waves of life. His sure grasp never falters. Psalm 63:8 expresses the double-sided truth: “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
We are talking about something deeper than the doctrine of eternal security, or “once saved, always saved”—a glorious doctrine, a true doctrine—sometimes called the perseverance of the saints.
His sure grasp never falters.
More deeply than the doctrine of eternal security, we have come to the doctrine of the perseverance of the heart of Christ. Yes, professing Christians can fall away, proving that they were never truly in Christ. Yes, once sinners are united to Christ, there is nothing that can dis-unite them.
But within the skeletal structure of these doctrines, what is the beating heart of God, made tangible in Christ? What is most deeply instinctive to him as our sins and sufferings pile up? What keeps him from growing cold? The answer is, his heart. The atoning work of the Son, decreed by the Father and applied by the Spirit, ensures that we are safe eternally.
But a text such as John 6:37 reassures us that this is not only a matter of divine decree but divine desire. This is heaven’s delight. Come to me, says Christ. I will embrace you into my deepest being and never let you go.
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