Saturday, August 22, 2015

Where is God When You Walk Away?



As we have seen in the preceding posts, the born-again child of God (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) cannot lose his salvation and is eternally secure (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39). Jesus promised that He would never cast out any who have come to Him, for it is His Father’s will that He should lose none of His children and that all of them have eternal life (John 6:37-40).

In His prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for every one of us who have trusted Him, for He kept secure every one whom the Father had given Him. Notably, that did not include Judas Iscariot, the “son of perdition,” who outwardly appeared to follow Him but who never had placed his faith in Him (John 17:9-24).

Once we are God’s children (Romans 8:14), He exhorts us to leave evil and wickedness behind (2 Timothy 2:19). But even Paul said he had to "die daily" to his flesh and yield to the Spirit to avoid sinning, a battle he did not always win, for none of us can (Romans 7:14-23). When we do sin (Romans 3:10,23; 1 John 1:8-10), it is our old sin nature winning out, not the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 1:4-7).

If God were to throw us out of His family whenever we sin, or whenever we sin "enough," how could He then chasten us (Hebrews 12:5-11) as a Father chastens His children? What would sinning "enough" to merit expulsion from God’s family even mean? Holy God does not differentiate levels of sin, and cannot tolerate in His presence any sin or any sinner who has not been washed clean in the blood of Christ (Romans 3:25; Revelation 1:5) and taken on His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

If a believer were expelled from God’s family whenever he sinned, even if the sin is so grievous that he tries to convince others of lies and false teachings, it would leave no room for the chastening hand of God to correct and perfect him, leading him back to the truth and to the right path (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Why would any child of God “walk away” from the faith? Reasons could include loss of mental faculties or psychiatric illness, or severe life circumstances causing one to doubt God or to be angry with Him. Or, perhaps most commonly, falling in with the wrong crowd and being influenced by them (2 Peter 3:16-17), or listening to and believing the lies Satan is blasting over the airwaves (Colossians 2:8; 2 Timothy 3:13; 4:3) through his wicked people in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

We should stand firm in our faith (1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 6:11-14), but pride or unbelief may cause us to fall from stedfastness into reproach, temptations, lust or condemnation, meaning disapproval but not damnation (1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 3:17; James 5:12)

Knowing that his time is limited, the devil is working overtime to spread false teachings, to keep people from being saved by the truth and to ruin the fruitfulness and testimony of those who are saved. For this reason, we must constantly be on guard not to believe his lies (1 Peter 5:8-10), by studying God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16), knowing and standing for what we believe (Colossians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58), and putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

But what if we do drift away by turning our path, attention, and affection to the world and away from Him? As the saying goes, if we find ourselves separated from God, it is we who have moved, and not Him. He cannot change or lie (Hebrews 13:8; Titus 1:2), for He is faithful (Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13) and true (James 1:17), and He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

So what does God do with His child who has “walked away” and may even be encouraging others to do the same? First, He speaks with His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), perhaps convicting them of their error through a Bible verse they see or hear (2 Timothy 3:16), or a word from a Godly friend (Proverbs 27:17). If it is not too late and their conscience has not yet been seared (1 Timothy 4:2), He speaks to them through His Spirit.

Then it may take harsher measures, just as a loving earthly father resorts to when his child still disobeys in response to “the look” that means “Don’t even think about doing that again;” the verbal correction, and the “time out.” Then the earthly father may take away the child’s privileges, and God may allow Satan to remove what is important in the life of His child – health, wealth, job, and even family.

We see God allowing Satan this power in the life of Job (Job 1:8-22) even though God considered Job to be His faithful servant, to perfect Job and to glorify God when He restored all to Job (Job 42:10-17).

But what if God allows trials into the life of His child to correct him and to increase his faith, and yet the child still rebels? As our late pastor at our former church used to say, “Sometimes God gets more glory from His child’s death than from his life.” Even within the church, or called-out body of believers, there are vessels which honor the Father and are suitable for His use, and those which dishonor Him (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

If we are dishonoring God by ruining our own testimony and discouraging or deceiving others, God may not only prune us as He would unfruitful branches (John 15:1-2), but He may allow Satan to take our life and destroy our flesh (Ezekiel 18:24-26) before we can do more damage.

Even then, however, our loving Father takes us home to be with Him throughout eternity. We cannot lose our salvation or our relationship to God as His born-again children, even though we can lose the joy of our salvation while on earth (Psalm 51:12), our fellowship with God (1 John 1:3-6), our earthly life itself (Matthew 10:28; Romans 6:23), and the eternal rewards we could have had by fulfilling God’s perfect plan for our lives (2 John 1:8-9).

All of the above applies only to the person who has truly realized that they are a sinner in need of a Savior; that Jesus Christ paid in full for all of their sins (Romans 3:23-26); that He is the Son of God (1 John 5:20) Who rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4); and who has asked Him to be his Lord and Savior (Luke 23:42-43). When we are saved, we become a new creation in Christ, and there should be evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17). As Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

No doubt there are many who have said the “sinner's prayer” without truly repenting or placing their faith in Christ, and without asking Him into their heart (Matthew 7:21-23). They may have done it only to please someone else, to fit in with their peer group, or even to try to go to Heaven without having a relationship with Christ.

These people are still unsaved, and they may subsequently "walk away" or “fall away” from the faith they never really had. But only God knows the hearts (Psalm 44:21; 139:23) and knows whether they have accepted or rejected His Son.

Therefore, I believe that a better way to state "Once Saved, Always Saved" is "Once TRULY Saved, always saved." May we remain stedfast, unmoveable, and continuing in the work He has so graciously appointed to us (1 Corinthians 15:58), always setting Him before us and at our right hand, so that we shall not be moved (Psalm 16:8). Once we are truly saved and born again as a new creation in Christ, may we stand fast and walk with Him in the light, yield to His Holy Spirit guiding us into truth, and may we do all to His glory!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Can You Walk Away from the Faith?

Photo by Liftam 2008


As we saw last week, God’s freely given gift of salvation and eternal life, once received, changes us forever. Born-again believers who have placed their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) cannot return to eternal death, any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar or than a child can return to the egg and sperm from whence he came.

How then can we explain those who say they are saved but then appear to walk away from the faith, as brought up by a dear reader of this blog in her comments on the post, “Who Needs the Law?” If a person trusts Christ but then chooses to walk away from the faith, can they lose their salvation, as some Scripture verses appear to suggest at first glance?

One of these verses is 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

The verse refers to false teachers preaching heresy, perverting the truth of the Gospel and telling lies to delude others without even feeling guilty, because their conscience is seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2)

For example, they preach salvation by works, saying that to be saved, it is necessary not to marry and to follow strict dietary laws, implying wrongly that we are saved not by God’s grace, but by our own self-righteousness in keeping the law (1 Timothy 4:3).

Or, the product of false belief may be a reprobate mind that rebels against God’s authority, not only wanting to sin, but taking pride in it (Romans 1:28).

Even though a born-again believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit within (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13), and hence the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), he still has the sin nature of Adam (Romans 5:12). He may fall prey to these lies, particularly if he neglects Bible study, prayer, and worship. He may have quenched and grieved the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30) within him so many times that he no longer hears His warning against false teaching and against sin.

In this case, some souls who appear to have accepted Christ, to have been born again (John 3:3-8), and even show evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17) suddenly “walk away” from the faith. In the movie Signs, a faithful preacher and man of God “loses” his faith when his wife dies in a car accident.

No doubt we all know of real life examples where someone we thought was a born-again Christian becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, or Mormon and even tries to convert Christian friends to these religions. If they were born again into God’s family, have they now lost the salvation that God gave them (Ephesians 2:4-9) and that only God can keep (John 10:28-29) for them? Have they lost the gift He promised them of “eternal” life? Would not that negate almighty God’s total, complete and perfect power? 

The apostle Paul said it is possible for a believer to “deny the faith” by not providing for his family, making him worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). Does that mean that a Christian father who can no longer earn money because he loses his job or becomes disabled is no longer saved? What about the Christian father who makes bad business decisions motivated by greed, or who falls prey to a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that consumes his earnings?

And Paul added that young widows who were once faithful in serving Christ may “cast off their first faith,” turning to idleness, gossip, and worldly ways, resulting in their “damnation,” meaning not eternal damnation, or loss of salvation, but rather reproach (1 Timothy 5:11-15). The analogy would be to a student getting a demerit on his record, but not getting expelled from school.

Sadly, many who are saved do not live as if they were saved, and sometimes we refer to these as “backslidden” (Jeremiah 2:19; 5:6; 8:5). Yet when the nation of Israel was backsliding, God asked her to return to Him, for He would be merciful and no longer angry, and He would love, heal and provide for her (Jeremiah 3:12,22; Hosea 4:16;14:4)  

If a son walks away from his father; disrespects him, his faith, and his heritage; and squanders his inheritance, as in the parable of the prodigal son, he is still his father’s child, and nothing can change that fact. When the prodigal came to his senses, his father welcomed him back with loving arms, ran to meet him, and celebrated his return  (Luke 15:11-32).

But what if the prodigal had died while he was still in the pig pen? Would that have made him any less the son of his father? In modern times, sadly we hear all too often of a son rebelling against his father, running away, stealing from the family and even murdering his own father. But can all these evil wrongs change the biological fact that the two are inexorably united as flesh and blood?

Once we are saved, we are God’s children (Romans 8:16-21). Just as a father cannot do away with the fact that his son is biologically his, so Our Father does not expel us from His family even if we walk away from Him. Once we are saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), we become His child forever. Similarly, He did not disown His chosen people Israel even when they were repeatedly unfaithful and served false gods.

A loving father would not simply ignore his disobedient or runaway child, but would do all within his power to restore their relationship. Similarly, God will never abandon His rebellious child, but will remain faithful and true as He guides him back to loving fellowship using all measures at His disposal, as we shall see next week!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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