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