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RELIGION COLUMN: Can I get a seal on that promise?

Published 4:23pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Jake McCall

If you’ve ever walked down the juice aisle or the condiment aisle in a grocery store, you’ve probably noticed that there are many items on those unrefrigerated aisles that will end up in your refrigerator. Bottles of things that, if exposed to the open air, will spoil in a matter of hours, yet they remain on these grocery aisles for days on end. How can apple juice, jelly, mayonnaise, even fruits and vegetables not spoil without being refrigerated or frozen? You know the answer: because they are sealed. These items are sealed because they are being kept for their purpose.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares that “in Christ” God has blessed us, elected us, redeemed us, forgiven us, united us and given us an inheritance (Ephesians 1:1-11). And these are all great things, as long as we can keep them. If we can lose these things, then they come attached with fear, anxiety and pressure; yet, God does not attach fear, anxiety or pressure to these gifts. Instead, he attaches assurance and promise. This is why when God reveals our promises in Christ, he also reveals how these promises are kept. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” If the above grocery items are not sealed, they will never be able to keep their nutrients or flavor, and they will never fulfill their purpose. If we are not sealed, we will never be able to keep the blessings given to us by God or fulfill our purposes.

There are many people who fear they have lost or will lose their salvation. That fear is completely understandable if there is not an understanding and an awareness of being sealed by God with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, here is the promise: If you are in Christ, then you have been sealed with the Spirit. You are being kept, preserved, protected, surrounded and loved. So the right question is: How do you know that you have been given and are sealed with the Holy Spirit? Thankfully, the Bible gives us great insight that answers this question.

First, to have the Spirit is to begin on the journey of understanding God’s grace. The Spirit convicts us of our sin and shows us Christ dying for our sin. The Spirit reminds us we need a Savior, and then constantly reminds us that we have a Savior in Christ. The Spirit shows us that we are seeking our own glory, and then he shows us the glory of Christ. The Spirit searches our hearts, and then he unites us with the heart of Christ (John 16:14). This is all through grace.

Second, to have the Spirit is to have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). And this isn’t just to identify whether or not you ever exercise love or kindness or patience. Most people do. It is natural to love people who love you and be kind to those who are kind, so we must ask some different questions: Does the Spirit of God dwell in you so that you love those that are un-loving? Does joy remain through suffering? Do you offer peace in the midst of chaos or strife? Are you patient with those who try your patience? Are you faithful to the faithless? Are you gentle with those who are harsh? Do you exercise self-control when you have been pushed beyond your limits? These are the ways of the Spirit, and as these things flow out of your heart, the person of the Spirit is at work revealing the sealed promises of God.

—Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is the pastor at Grace Fellowship Presbyterian Church. His column appears each Thursday.

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