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They looked at each other.

“You mean she’s in remission.” Jordan’s comment was strangely equal parts statement and question.

Paul smiled. “I meant what I said. The doctor said it was almost like she never had it.”

He proceeded to tell the story about the visit to the hospital. They both leaned forward as he went back to explain his night in the hospital religious services area, his prayer, and his current efforts to read and understand Scripture. 

“God could have taken my mom,” Paul said. “He could have let her linger in pain. He could have done anything, but he gave me this. He … he gave me that and so much more—“

Suddenly there were four arms wrapped around him tightly. “That’s cool, man,” Jordan said. 

“I’m so very happy,” Lidia said.

Paul laughed. “Happy?” 

They let him go and took a moment to sit back down. 

“Paul, I want you to figure out teleportation,” Jordan said. “We both want you to find someone, to have happiness like we have. But this, accepting Christ, that’s what we want for all our friends more than anything else.”

“That’s just it,” Paul said. “Am I saved? I don’t feel different? I mean, I’m not … It’s hard to explain.” He took a breath to try and find a way to break it down. “I’m reading the Bible. I know God is in charge of my life, and I want him to be, but … like, is that it? Aren’t I supposed to like, say something or … Maybe I should have started in the New Testament. What’s so funny?”

Jordan needed another minute to calm down. “Listen, ultimately God knows who he’s chosen or who he hasn’t. If you’re asking how to know you’re saved, that’s way more complicated, but there is something critical.”

Paul sat up, waiting to hear what his friend had to say. 

“Do you understand that you’re a sinner?” Jordan asked.

“Of course I am,” Paul’s face screwed up in confusion. “But I’ve given my life to Christ, and because he paid the price for my sins, I’m forgiven.”

Lidia’s jaw fell open. Jordan looked over to her. “He’s a scientist. That’s a process that makes sense.”

“Of course it makes sense,” Paul said. 

“I’m just … That’s the part I struggled with.,” Lidia said. “You just stated it like it was perfectly rational.”

“It is,” Paul said. 

Lidia smiled at him again. “I’m glad.” It sure seemed like she had more to say, but she didn’t.

“But after that, like, there’s more, right? I can’t just sign a card and move on in life. I have to do things? Is there like a checklist or something? Why do you keep laughing? Dude, I’m trying to understand!” Jordan’s chuckles, no matter how enduring, were starting to bother him.

“The same thinking that made the doctrine of justification so simple to you is a problem you’re going to face,” Jordan said. At least he’d stopped laughing. “If you’re asking for what to do, the answer is both simple and complicated. First, if you’re saved, you should be baptized as a demonstration of faith. But the danger is in turning worship of God into a series of checks and tasks instead of a life change, an attitude change. You can’t just pay a tithe and serve in a church and build up some sort of metaphorical Christian credit. What you do is far less important than why you do it, but it is important. You can’t ever sin to honor God, but a guy can give to the church and feed the orphans and pay for widow’s fees for his whole life and never know God.”

“What?” Jordan was right. That made no sense. “If I do everything I’m supposed to do.”

“Were you saved because of anything you did?” Jordan asked.

“No,” Paul said. 

Jordan nodded. “Then you can’t work in that manner. You do what you do to honor God. If your every thought and intention is to act like Christ and honor God, then you’re fine.”

“Then I’m screwed!” Paul flung his hands in the air. “I’m pretty sure I’ve sinned like, four times today. There was this girl I saw jogging on the way over here, and she had on this —“

“That’s enough!” Lidia cut in, raising her own hands in the air. 

“Sorry,  but my point is that didn’t honor God, so I sinned. Does that mean I should like baptize myself every day?” Paul asked.

“That’s the part that will take some time for you, I think,” Jordan answered. “Let me try it this way. Salvation is not equal to sanctification.”

Paul nodded. 

“Salvation occurs the moment you acknowledge Christ as your savior and submit to his rule over your life,” Jordan continued.

Paul nodded again.

“Sanctification is the process by which you continue to live, slowly working to eliminate the sin from your life.”

“Ohhh!” Paul said. 

“Wait,” Lidia asked, “That actually made sense?”

Paul and Jordan looked at her. “Of course,” they said together.

She laughed. “You two are ridiculous.” 

Paul shook his head. “So is there, like, a certain number of sins per year I need to stop? I mean, how do I know? And if you start laughing again, I’m going to sin against you!”

“Also sinful … “ Lidia muttered. 

“Sorry,” Jordan said. “It’s not a checklist. It’s not a list of dos and don’ts. Yes, there are sins, and we should never sin, but we’re human. Our very nature means it’s inevitable. One would have to be fully glorified to be fully free. Our task, is to try to be more like Christ. We never just sin because he’s cool with it. He’s not. We stumble, and we recognize that sin. We repent and ask forgiveness, and we work to never do it again. We call those who sin without ever trying to stop, ‘lost’ because they have simply accepted the pattern of sin in their lives and stopped doing anything to grow. But those who truly repent, those who stop and work to turn from every sin they can find, and they do it because they love Christ, and they never want to do anything to disappoint Him, those are the ones who are blessed.”

“Think of it like having a friend,” Lidia said. “You know it annoys him when you bite your fingernails, but you just keep doing it because you figure he’ll get over it. Why would you ever do anything to annoy your friend?”
“I wouldn’t,” Paul said. “Wait, was I biting my nails just now?” 

Lidia shook her head. “It’s just a hypothetical. If you are the one who’s annoyed by it, you  might try to get over it, but it means more when you see your friend make a genuine effort to stop, and eventually, he does.”

Paul finally leaned back in the recliner and rubbed his head. “I think I was happier when I was studying theoretical physics.”

… to be continued …

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