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
children's ministry blogs

Bible
Top 1000
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop

25 comments:

  1. Laurie,

    So grateful for how God doesn't give up on His children even when we wander :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen, Dolly! He will never leave us or forsake us.
      Blessings,
      Laurie

      Delete
  2. Hey Laurie! What a beautifully written and thought provoking post! I am so thankful that God never gave up on me when I was wandering. I know in my heart that no matter what; I am secure in his love. I am so at peace being back on the path that he wants for me. I pray He is glorified in all that I do. Thank you for sharing not only your heart but facts from God's word. What a blessing to me! Have a wonderful Sunday and may God bless you and yours in everything you do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Horace, I am so blessed by your comment and thrilled to hear you enjoyed the post! Praise God for the peace that passes all understanding that comes from knowing that the Creator of all not only loves and saves us but keeps us eternally secure. Thank you so much for following Saved by Grace and for sharing this post, and I look forward to your next visit!
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Denise, and right back at you!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

      Delete
  4. Dear Laurie,
    May I use this occasion to share an experience I had when I was a volunteer at a Christian Conference Centre in Israel, 1994? Since I could not fit well into the group, I was rejected by them, and told to fly back home to the UK. Incidentally, none of the others believed in eternal security, and they say that we are all subject to "the unpardonable sin" and lose our salvation. It was in this matter I disagreed.
    I sat alone on a bed at a backpacker's hostel in Jerusalem, feeling bitter and sorrowful, and had decided that I had enough of this faith, and I will live my life as I please.
    That when I felt the Lord call me ever so gently, his lack of aggression causing me to respond positively. From that day on I never looked back, and continued to walk with the Lord since, although on a daily basis, I'm still far from perfect.
    An excellent post. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Frank,
      It is sad that many doubt eternal security and are in constant fear of losing their salvation. Praise God that He knows exactly what we need to encourage us and that He gives it to us exactly when we need it, and that you listened to His still, small voice calling you back to Himself.

      Thanks as always for sharing your experience and for your words of encouragement. God bless,
      Laurie

      Delete
  5. Hi Laurie,
    I went back to the post you referred to and read Sateigdra's comments. I hadn't read them before. I have to say that I think I know where she is coming from. We can not obtain salvation through keeping the old law, but there are scriptures which show us the danger of wilful sin, and that we have a part to play regarding salvation.

    In Timothy ch. 4, v. 16 Paul says to Timothy:-
    'Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.'

    There are also warnings of what not to do, as in Hebrews ch. 6 vs.4-8: as we 'go on to perfection':-
    ' For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: but that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.'

    God loves us and is very longsuffering but the Good Shepherd uses both the rod and the staff with His sheep in order to keep them from going astray.
    The only verses that contain the phrase 'eternal salvation' state:-

    'Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.' 'Hebrews 5:8-9 ,

    So there is an implication that 'obedience to Him' is required.' Jesus says 'If you love me keep my commands', and I believe that means to do what the Holy Spirit helps us to do as we have our minds renewed in Christ through the enlightened word, all scripture being used, as it states in 2 Timothy ch. 3 v.16 :-

    'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: '

    I love the way that we can share one another's thoughts and discuss scripture in our blogs.
    Thank you Laurie for you welcomed thoughts in your lovely posts. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Brenda,
      In 1 Timothy 4, Paul gives Timothy advice about how to be a good preacher and pastor, as in v. 6:
      6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
      So in verse 16: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" I believe Paul is saying be careful not to believe or teach false doctrine, so that you can save yourself from this trap of the devil, and save your flock from it as well. It is clear from the bulk of Scripture that we cannot save ourselves from eternal damnation any more than we can pull ourselves out of a pit. Salvation is God's freely given gift that we receive only by faith through His grace in sending His Son to accomplish salvation for us by dying on the cross to pay our sin debt in full.

      With regards to Hebrews 6, John MacArthur explains it in his commentary far better than I could:

      "Does Hebrews 6:4-6 teach that a true believer can lose his salvation?

      No. In that passage, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to the unsaved who have heard the truth and acknowledged it, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. The Holy Spirit warns them, “You had better come to Christ now, for if you fall away it will be impossible for you to come again to the point of repentance.” They were at the best point for repentance–full knowledge. To fall back from that would be fatal.

      Because they believe the warning is addressed to Christians, many interpreters hold that the passage teaches that salvation can be lost. If this interpretation were true, however, the passage would also teach that, once lost, salvation could never be regained. There would be no going back and forth, in and out of grace. But Christians are not being addressed, and it is the opportunity for receiving salvation, not salvation itself, that can be lost.

      The believer need never fear he will lose his salvation. He cannot. The Bible is absolutely clear about that. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29; see also Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 1:6; and 1 Pet. 1:4-5).

      If you are in Christ, rejoice. Your salvation is secure forever."

      The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish people, who before Christ were saved by faith (as we all are), with specific heroes of the faith described in Chapter 11. Obedience is the outward evidence of our faith (as James says, faith without works is dead). Our love for Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to want to obey Him. But because we still have our sin nature, we cannot obey perfectly or all the time. If we were in danger of losing our salvation every time we disobeyed, Heaven would be empty except for The Father, Son, and all His angels.

      Praise God that He gave us His Word to enlighten, correct and guide us. I am always blessed by your sharing your lovely writing and ideas on your blog and in response to my posts.

      God bless you too,
      Laurie

      Delete
  6. I believe we have to agree to disagree here Laurie, but in an amicable way, and I believe it is very important to take note of the scriptures that are there to warn us, and dangerous to take them lightly.

    God wants all to be saved, and we can not ignore all the warnings that are everywhere in the word. That is why we are instructed to be not just hearers of that word but doers of it. I believe absolutely that is what it means when in Philippians the believers are encouraged to -'continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling' , meaning that 'salvation' is an on-going two way journey where obedience is required. This does not take away God's love and longsuffering because He understands that we are flesh.


    The people spoken to in Hebrews ch. 6 were believers Laurie, who had already laid the initial foundation of salvation and had ministered and were still ministering to the saints. Those spoken to in Hebrews ch. 5 vs. 11 - 14, where is says:-
    'Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that use milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belong to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.'
    should have been teachers. Yet they had become dull of hearing.

    I agree with you that we can praise God that He gave us His Word to enlighten, correct and guide us, and as long as we allow the rod to correct us as well as the staff to guide us then we shall draw comfort from both.

    I think that we are all called to do different work, Laurie, and we can only share what we are brought to share.

    May we all work in harmony as parts of the body of Christ.

    God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Brenda,
      I believe we both agree that we are saved not our own merits, but by the freely given gift of God's grace, which we don't deserve, through our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son. I also agree with you that salvation is not a matter to be taken lightly, and that it is not just a "get out of hell free" card but should be our primary driving force and motivation. If we are born again yet rebel against God thereafter, we can lose the joy of our salvation, the blessing of fulfilling His perfect plan for our life, eternal rewards based on earthly service, and even our physical life, but the bulk of Scripture supports that we can never lose our salvation. Our will and disobedience cannot be more powerful than His power to keep His children eternally secure.

      We are saved by grace, not by works, but the very next verse says that we are His workmanship in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10). In other words, He saved us for His specific purpose, which we may fail to fulfill if we disobey Him, for without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Looking at the verse you quote in Phil. 2 in context, we see the same theme:

      12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

      May we die to our flesh daily and yield to His Holy Spirit, Who will guide us in obedience, keep us from sin, and show us how to fulfill God's perfect will for our lives.

      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

      Delete
  7. A verse relating to this subject many overlook is I John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." It is very clear they turn their backs on Christ because they are not his children to begin with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Donald, I agree with your interpretation of 1 John 2:19, especially since the preceding verse refers to "many antichrists," who do not profess that Jesus Christ is God, and John is expounding on their actions in v. 19.
      Thanks as always for sharing your knowledge and insights. God bless,
      Laurie.

      Delete
  8. That is right, 1 John 2 v.19 does relate to this subject, but so do vs. 3 - 6 of that chapter which say:-

    'And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.'

    These verses are encouragement, not condemnation, but clearly say that one who says they know Jesus and yet does not keep His commands is a liar, and that the love of God is perfected in us when we keep His word.

    I am reminded as I read these verses of where Jesus prophesies in Mathew ch. 7 vs. 22 and 23

    'Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
    He appears to be talking about those who have received Spiritual gifts, which were only given to the church.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Brenda,
      Thank you for your comment. John says, in 1 John 1:
      8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

      This would seem to be in direct contradiction to 1 John 2:3-6, which you quote above. But we know that God is not the author of confusion but of peace. The only way to reconcile these two radically different statements by the same apostle is to recognize that once we are born again, we have two natures. The "new creature," yielded to the Holy Spirit, cannot sin and keeps His commandments. But the "old man" (sin nature or flesh) still sins, and the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot lie, must acknowledge that. It is a daily battle between the two natures.

      I believe Matthew 7:22-23 is not referring to spiritual gifts given to believers, for Satan and his demons also have supernatural powers. And there are also many charlatans on TV and elsewhere who claim the name of Christ but use trickery in performing "miracles" to deceive viewers into giving them money. I believe the verse refers to those who claim the name of Christ (like Judas Iscariot in that day, or many unsaved churchgoers today) but have never established a personal relationship with Him.

      Thank you again for your thought-provoking comments and discussion. It is a blessing for sisters and bothers in Christ to be able to discuss His Word.

      God bless you,
      Laurie

      Delete
  9. Hi Laurie,
    I love the verses in 1 John 1 vs. 8 and 9:- , and would say that they go together with what Paul is saying in 1 John 2 through encouraging the brethren to 'keep His word'.

    Verses 6 and 7 in 1 John say:-

    'If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin'

    Here we are being shown that 'saying' we are 'in the light' and yet walking in darkness is not 'doing the truth'.

    I see this as encouragement to not walk away from the light because, to God, as a man thinks - so He is. That does not say that He does not understand that we are flesh and make many mistakes. It takes time and experience to change from the fleshly to the Spiritual. However we still have to 'purify ourselves' as we are instructed in 1 John ch. 3 vs. 3:-


    'And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure'

    1 John 2 v. 3:-And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

    Just as it says about Jesus in Hebrews ch. 5 v. 8:-

    'Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.'
    We too have to learn obedience, many times through the things we suffer (as I well know).

    I see no condemnation here Laurie, only God's love for us.

    It is only deliberate, wilful sin, when we fully know what we are doing and choose not to mature in the Lord that we must not do, as stated in Hebrews ch. 19 vs.25 - 27:-

    'not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries…'

    Even here I can see the love of the writer in wanting to encourage the brethren, also encouraging them to encourage one another all the more as the day draws near, and guide them in the right direction

    I too think it is a blessing to discuss His word Laurie, we are told to encourage one another, and thank you for your encouragement.

    God bless you too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brenda,
      Praise God for His self-sacrificing love and patience, mercy and grace! 1 John 1:6-7 urge the believer to "walk the walk," and not just "talk the talk." Obedience has always been a demonstration of man's faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God.

      I believe Hebrews 10:26-31 is referring to the terrible judgment awaiting the person who sits in the pew week after week, calling himself a Christian (usually for social, family or even business reasons) and repeatedly hearing a clear Gospel message, yet rejecting it.

      May we follow Hebrews 10:25 and encourage and uplift one another, as you do so beautifully in your blog and I'm sure in your one-on-one witnessing and ministry as well.

      God bless,
      Laurie

      Delete
  10. Amen to everything you have said here Laurie, and may we all continue to encourage and uplift one another, as you do beautifully in your blog ( your kind words returned to you Laurie)
    We have a God Who loves us
    Glory Hallelujah

    God bless you Laurie

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for sharing these truths, Laurie! There is such a confidence in knowing that we are eternally secure in Him, that no one can snatch us from His hand. It has always intrigued me that some of the saints who were closest to the Lord had great doubts at times, of their salvation--John Bunyan, William Cowper, Adoniram Judson, etc. And though I don't think that the Lord wants us to doubt our salvation, there is a holy caution, a testing of ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. Not "morbid introspection," as Oswald Chambers calls it ,but a carefulness and reverence in His Presence. I love the way that you explained this topic without undermining sin. Praise the Lord for His continual mercy to us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen, Rebekah! Praise God that He keeps His children eternally secure! The fear of the Lord, meaning respect and reverence for Him and wanting to please and obey Him, is the beginning of wisdom. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your insights.
      God bless,
      Laurie

      Delete
  12. Amen Laurie,
    'The fear of the Lord', meaning respect and reverence for Him, and who could not respect and revere Him when they see Him as He really is.. Praise our beautiful God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen, Brenda! Thank you as always for your lovely comments.
      May God richly bless you and your ministry,
      Laurie

      Delete
  13. Hi Laurie,
    Great discussion here the comment section between you and Brenda. To God be the glory. May His word go forth swiftly and be glorified!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen, Sateigdra! I am so blessed by readers like you and Brenda who contribute their insights and Scripture knowledge to the comments on these posts. To God be the glory!
      Laurie

      Delete