Monday, 28 March 2016

SHOULD BELIEVERS FOLLOW SIGNS AND WONDERS?

Signs and wonders may follow believers who obey. But are they supposed to follow signs and wonders? 

When believers preached God’s word, signs and wonders accompanied their preaching (Mark 16: 14-20). They did not intentionally seek signs and wonders. But as they obeyed God by preaching the Good News, signs and wonders spontaneously followed them. The purpose of these miracles was to attest to the reality and power of scripture. Signs and wonders were the by-product of their faith and obedience as they worked in partnership with God.

However, today, a different scenario exists. Big names and workers of miracles advertise their “services” and often make good money out of their ability to work miracles. Power, fame and money have become the name of the game. Naturally, crowds would follow them to get healed, be ministered to, and to learn the “art of working miracles”. Thus, miracles, power gifts, signs and wonders have become the main focus for some believers. Judging from the adulation these miracle workers receive, it seems that some have become demi-gods.

What is Jesus’ comment about the pursuit of miracles? Jesus warns: “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).  http://bit.ly/1m0GVre

                                                                        
When believers earnestly seek the gifts rather than the Giver, they may open themselves up to deception by diverse spirits. Mesmerised by miracles, they may even be willing to compromise doctrine. http://bit.ly/1KnmRtZ

While we should earnestly seek the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1), this should not cause us to emphasise the gifts more than love, fruit of the Holy Spirit or the Giver. In our pursuit of spiritual gifts, we must not shut our minds to God's word and stop discerning as we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 12-13, 16b).

When Peter healed the crippled man at the temple gate, did he preplan the act? (Acts 3:1-10). Did he tell the crowds to come and observe him as he healed that man? Were there marketing teams to publicise the event? Did he become rich and famous out of his special anointing? Were there lights, camera, special music and ambience to “prime” people to receive healing?

Today’s pursuit of signs and wonders among believers is different from seeking God, praying and allowing Him to act according to His sovereign will. If miracles are released, we praise Him and give Him the glory. If not, we respect His decision.  We do not, in the flesh, try to “whip up” God’s presence—in a frenzy—like the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. http://bit.ly/1Mmwxp6

In our quest for signs and wonders, we need to ask ourselves:

1. Have we shifted our eyes away from the true finishing line—Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2)?

2. Have we neglected other more important considerations? Such as servanthood (Mark 10:45), self-denial (Luke 9:23), love (John 13:35) and knowing His will (Ephesians 5: 17)? http://bit.ly/1Rw9OtL

3. Are we so fixated on signs and wonders that we forget what is of greater priority? Our eternal destiny, of course, is much more important than ecstatic experiences of miraculous  power—which may or may not be from God.  http://bit.ly/1MQpv1W

  • “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 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!’”

           (Matthew 7:21-23)

  • Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

           (Luke 10:17-20)

                                                                      
So what is the difference between believers who are followed by signs and wonders from those who follow signs and wonders? The primary aim of the former is to seek God and not signs. For the latter, however, signs and wonders are put on a pedestal above other more important considerations.

                                                                             
HAVE MIRACLES CEASED?

It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss, in detail, whether miracles wrought by God have ceased today or not—or they were true only in the days of the early church.

If I may venture an opinion—if God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and the Holy Spirit lives within believershow could miracles ever cease today? Those who think that the age of miracles is over—miracles have vanished completely—are trying to put God in a box. Perhaps they have drawn conclusions merely based on intellectual arguments and their limited experience of the supernatural realm.


That said, the scope, magnitude, quality and impact of the miracles that accounted for the phenomenal growth of the early church—and its resilience amid persecution—will probably not be seen again today. Rather, in these end times, we have to be wary about counterfeits from the dark side: False signs and wonders and false workers of miracles. http://bit.ly/1kLjwYF

                                                                       
To reiterate, miracles certainly have not ceased today though its scale probably cannot match that found in the early church. When we consider miracles today, we have to be vigilant against deception.

Cessationism and “charismania”, both of which are false, are on opposite poles of the ‘signs and wonders’ debate. One is too conservative. The other has gone off its rocker. The truth is to be found in the middle of the spectrum.  http://on.fb.me/1vnyXiK

EXTERNAL LINK

WHO ARE THE BELIEVERS FOLLOWED BY SIGNS IN MARK 16?

MAIN SCRIPTURE TEXT
Mark 16:14-20
Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

RELATED POSTS

CAPTIVATED BY SIGNS AND WONDERS
Unaware that there are counterfeits in the spiritual realm, some believers pursue supernatural experiences. After all, they want to feel good—and discover what it is like to be zapped by power.

OBSESSION WITH THE MIRACULOUS—ITS DANGERS
Excessive preoccupation with signs and wonders has its dangers.

SHOULD WE EMPHASISE EXPERIENCE, DOWNPLAY DOCTRINE?
Some church leaders seem to support this premise: “Experientialism is the way to go; experience it and you will come to know the truth.”

GOING OFF THE MAP
For Bill Johnson and his followers, the presence of signs and wonders is more important than anything else—the more of the miraculous the better. Should believers be willing to “go off the map”—go beyond what is found in the Word—in order to embrace the realm of the miraculous?

WHAT TRULY MATTERS IN THE END
What do you think is the true measure of a believer? Does it rest solely on how much anointing or power he or she has? Or how many spectacular feats he or she can perform?

FIVE MARKS OF AN AUTHENTIC DISCIPLE
How to distinguish between the important, non-negotiable characteristics of a disciple and the less significant traits
http://bit.ly/1Rw9OtL

Friday, 25 March 2016

MUSTARD SEED FAITH

Even if we have seed-sized faith, God can work miracles on our behalf. 


What does Jesus mean when He says, "If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move?"
 
                                                                     
Jesus was summoned by his disciples to meet the needs of a desperate man. The latter had earlier sought the disciples to heal his son who was demon-possessed. But they could not help him (Mark 9:17-29).

The man was desperate as his son had been seized by recurrent episodes of epilepsy since childhood. Which father wouldn't be? Sometimes the demon would drive the boy to commit self–destructive acts such as casting himself into fire and water.

The father cried out, “Please have pity and help us if you can!”

Jesus replied, “Why do you say ‘if you can’? Anything is possible for someone who has faith!”

Right away the boy’s father shouted, “I do have faith! Please help me to have even more.
I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24).

In God’s scheme of working out the miraculous, the order is this: Believe first and then you will see.

Believe first. See later. Your feelings will catch up later with your faith.


                                                                   
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could not we cast him out?” And He said unto them, “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”
(Mark 9: 28-29)

Notice the parallel passage in Matthew which gives us another perspective:
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17: 19-20)

Juxtaposing the above parallel passages in Mark and Matthew, we can infer the following:
  • We need not fret when we just have a little faith to start with.
  • We need to fast and pray to bolster our faith before we can move mountains—see God work miracles through us.
  • Prayer and fasting show that we mean business with God, that we’re willing to persevere as we raise our petition to God (Parable of the widow and the wicked judge in Luke 18:1-8).
  • We may have little faith but it is still faith. Sometimes we feel our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. But, nevertheless, we persist in prayer.
  • Faith is like muscle. Faith has to be exercised, just like muscle. We need to trust God for little things and then move on to the next level of faith—trust God for bigger things.
  • Faith is not something that’s nebulous and mystical. As we begin to exercise our faith in God for little things, we will come to understand the meaning of faith.
Does God ask for perfection from us before answering our prayers? No. Just remember this desperate father’s cry: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Did Jesus require perfect faith from him?

God answers us according to His will and our faith:
  • “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24).
  • “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
  • “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Finally, when we pray, we need to pray with expectancy. Pray believing that what we’re asking for will materialise.

In Acts 12:5, when Peter was imprisoned, the church earnestly prayed for him. But did they pray with expectancy? No. When Peter was miraculously set free from prison and came knocking at the door, only the maid, Rhoda, believed. The believers, despite having prayed from Peter’s release, could not believe that it was Peter at the door. They told the maid, “You are mad. It is his angel” (Acts 12: 15).

If Jesus heard the heart’s cry of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) and that of the centurion (Luke 7:1-10)—both of whom were not in the category of the elect—how will He not hear the cries of His elect?

And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? (Luke 18:7).


                                                                      
RELATED POSTS

OVERCOMING CRISIS
Who or what do we turn to when crisis strikes? Where do we place our hope and trust?

FEAR NOT, STAND FIRM
When we face crisis, we need to realise that the battle belongs to God. We just need to stand firm in faith and act only at the appropriate moment.

EXTERNAL LINKS

A lady lawyer’s amazing recovery from coma shows us that there is hope amid the worst of circumstances. Once again, it underscores the power of faith and intercession. God can do far more than what we might ask or think.

"Not one doctor who treated me while in hospital or subsequently any specialist that I have seen since, either in Hong Kong or later in Singapore, has been able to account for the speed of my recovery or that I was able to come back from that hopeless position at all.”

     - Lawyer Suzanne Chin

For the full storyhttp://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/lawyer-declared-brain-dead-wakes-up-after-calls-to-pull-plug-on-her?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

The above modern-day miracle challenges our notions of assisted dying. It reaffirms the fact that God alone has the prerogative to take life away—just as He is the giver of life—and men should not attempt to be gods.

“The decision to accelerate death is irreversible, and we may find out too late that it was made on the basis of erroneous assumptions—particularly as the full extent of brain damage might not be ascertainable whilst the patient is alive. There remains a lot which is not known about whether recorded mental activity or observable physiological responses can or cannot be equated to consciousness; about the possibility of cognitive recovery; and even about the likelihood of death. One of the landmark cases on accelerated dying in the US involved Karen Ann Quinlan, a 21-year-old woman who slipped into a coma after arriving home from a party. She suffered irreversible brain damage after experiencing an extended period of respiratory failure. The Quinlan family sought a court order for the patient's respirator to be removed, and the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in their favour. It was thought that she would die once the respirator was removed but Karen Ann Quinlan surprised everyone by continuing to breathe unaided. She lived on in a PVS until her death almost a decade later.”
Extract from “Euthanasia: A matter of life or death?”


WHEN YOU BELIEVE

"When You Believe" - Lyrics
Many nights we've prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could

Chorus:

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seemed like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I'm standing here
My heart's so full, I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say

Chorus

They don't always happen when you ask
And it's easy to give in to your fears
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see your way clear through the rain
A small, but still, resilient voice
Says help is very near

Chorus

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

COMPLACENCY VS WATCHFULNESS

Regarding believers’ eternal security, whether they will finally make it to heaven, a friend asked me:

Why do you emphasise personal responsibility, not God’s ability to keep us safe till the end?”

He was responding to my previous post, http://bit.ly/1RiLlKy, where I shared that we have to consider both sides of the coin: KEPT SAFE BY GOD MUST BE BALANCED BY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24).

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 20-23).


                                                                           
Here is my eight-point reply:

1. We need to be balanced in our understanding of the truth as found in the Bible. There is always God’s part, what He has done and can do for us as well as what we need to do if we claim we are His followers. One truth cannot be understood in isolation from another truth of equal weightage. Tozer warns: "Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting.” Let’s not dwell on half-truths or emphasise one truth at the expense of another equally fundamental truth.

2. The current wave of teaching emphasises, “Sit back, relax and take it easy, everything will be alright.” In light of the perilous end times that we are now living in, such complacency would be out of place. Did not Jesus emphasise repeatedly, Watch, in His end time discourse with His followers? Have we allowed our natural human preferences to dictate how we interpret scripture?
                                                                   

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

3. There are those who study the Bible to learn about its truth. There are others who study in a similar fashion except they go one step further: They listen to what the Spirit is speaking to us now. The difference is the latter’s ability to discern the times and seasons and the rhema word of God.


                                                                  
4. Obedience, works, overcoming and perseverance are important concepts the believer needs to acknowledge and embrace. Unfortunately, they have been downplayed and trivialised by "feel good" teachings such as hyper-grace and OSAS. We certainly need to revisit these significant themes and mend the holes in our gospel. 

5. Is God’s ability to keep us safe for eternity unconditional or conditional? http://bit.ly/1MADFyS

  • “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).


  • “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen (Jews), but God's kindness to you (Gentiles), provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off (Romans 11:22).


Thought: Do the expressions cast out, cut off tell us that God's love affair with believers remains forever, no matter how we live our lives?


                                                                              
6. Among believers, who do you think will be more likely to fall away and deny God in times of great distress and persecution?

  • Those who believe in the whole Bible, including the need to endure and overcome


  • Those belonging to the ‘God bless me’ club (hyper-grace and prosperity gospel)


  • Those who think “Once Saved, Always Saved”, so no need to worry


7. Any teaching that puts you at ease without the need to overcome is likely to be a false teaching because only overcomers receive the prize: http://bit.ly/1YEwVIN


8. Those who prefer to adopt the ‘relaxed, take it easy’ view that God will keep them safe till the end might want to check out this post:  http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F

                                                                       
                                                                           
RELATED POSTS

BRACING FOR TOUGH TIMES
Will there be a time when many believers lose faith in God?

WHY BELIEVERS NEED TO OVERCOME
Only overcomers receive the prize

HANG IN THERE, DON'T GIVE UP
Why perseverance is needed

A TALE OF TWO BUDDIES
Those who prefer to adopt the ‘relaxed, take it easy’ view might also want to check out this story. Two Christian friends, Alex and Bob, decide to go on a holiday. While travelling on a treacherous road that cuts through mountainous terrain, their 4WD vehicle fell off the cliff. Both died. What happens next?
http://bit.ly/1PsyvVJ

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

THE TWO SIDES OF A COIN

Though believers are kept safe for eternity, we still need to exercise personal responsibility

Undeniably, we read in Jude 1 and Jude 24 that believers are preserved safe for Christ.

That said, we must also remember that Jude warns of apostasy—examples of believers who forsook God and were destroyed:

  • The exodus generation, delivered from slavery in Egypt, was destroyed because of sin and unbelief and failed to possess the Promised Land (Jude 5, 1 Corinthians 10: 1-12).


  • Balaam, the sorcerer who prophesied out of greed and not out of obedience to God’s command, was later killed (Jude 11, Numbers 22-24, Joshua 13:22).


  • Korah, the priest, greedy for power, rebelled against God’s appointed leader, Moses. The earth opened up and swallowed him alive (Jude 11, Numbers 16:1-35).


The doom of false teachers, greedy for money and power like Balaam and Korah, respectively, is spelled out in Jude 13—the everlasting gloom and darkness of hell.

So whilst God preserves us, it is equally important to build ourselves in the faith, pray and live responsibly and rescue others by snatching them from hell fire (Jude 20-23).

Since we can willfully sin or commit apostasy, as illustrated by so many examples in Jude, it follows that ‘God keeping us safe’ is NOT the only factor that decides whether believers finally land up in heaven.

God wants to preserve us from falling but we have a WILL that can choose to reject God, or decide to continually live in sin, like the fallen angels (Jude 6) and homosexuals (Jude 7).

Thus, we cannot assert that believers are definitely preserved from falling because we ourselves are our own worst enemy. We must not underestimate the degree of corruption of our sinful nature.

Referring to the ugliness of our sinful nature, John R. W. Stott states: “Indeed, an honest and humble acknowledgment of the hopeless evil of our flesh, even after the new birth, is the first step to holiness. To speak quite plainly, some of us are not leading holy lives for the simple reason that we have too high an opinion of ourselves.” John R. W. Stott, Men Made New (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), p. 74.

To reiterate, God keeps us safe for eternity (Jude 24). But we have to build ourselves in the faith and pray (Jude 20).

                                                                      
We have to consider both sides of the coin: KEPT SAFE BY GOD MUST BE BALANCED BY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24).

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 20-23).

Certainly, by studying Jude, we have ample examples to show us that Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) is a lie.

Only the first and last portion of Jude tell us about God’s ability to keep us.

The rest of the book, the BULK of it, focuses on examples of APOSTASY, FALSE TEACHERS and exhortations to keep ourselves in the love of God.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen (Jews), but God's kindness to you (Gentiles), provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).

Thought: Do the expressions cast out , cut off connote that God's love affair with believers remains forever, no matter how we live our lives? Do they lend support to the Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS) premise? 

Believers who are fixated on God’s ability to keep us safe BUT fail to realise the need to be accountable and responsible may well go the way of the exodus generation, Balaam and Korah.

RIGHTS, NOT RESPONSIBILITIES

Any teaching that conveniently ignores or downplays personal responsibility on the part of a believer AND, in contrast, chooses to focus on God's sovereignty alone, puts the onus on God alone to keep him or her faithful, must be viewed with suspicion. No serious student of the whole Bible will come away with the conclusion that the ball is always at the court of God. This "feel good" attitude reflects an utter lack of accountability.
-                      Porridge for the Soul

FAITH: ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE

“If a teacher merely tells you that God will keep you since He has chosen you out of His sovereign plan, and that you do not have to overcome sin, deception and persecution, whether you obey or not is immaterial because OSAS, that teacher is pulling the wool over your eyes. While it is true that faith rests in God's promises (the passive part), faith is also ACTIVE. And this ACTIVE part is what that teacher fails to tell you. Faith requires us to overcome, endure, persevere and be accountable. Why did Paul say, Fight the good fight of faith?"
          Porridge for the Soul

“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”

    Michael L. Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message


ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED?

The challenge I have with this teaching—ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS)—is its failure to interpret individual passages honestly that disagree with this particular system. For example, Hebrews 6:1-8 and 10:24-29 clearly teach that people, after receiving the saving knowledge of Christ, can fall away and lose their salvation. Second Peter 2:20-22 and James 5:19-20 are as clear as tar on snow that a believer can fall away and once again be called sinners who have to be restored.

     Joseph Mattera, Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.

RELATED POSTS

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
The believers’ spiritual status is not static. Though we have been enlightened by the truth and transformed by the Holy Spirit, there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t change. That’s because we are sinful by nature. And, because we have a will, we can choose to remain in God’s favour or reject Him.

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Though believers in Christ are heaven-bound, there are conditions to be fulfilled before we arrive at our final destination and claim our eternal reward. Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Romans 8: 38-39). But has this ever crossed our minds? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango.

EXTERNAL LINKS

CAN BELIEVERS LOSE THEIR SALVATION?
Listen to this balanced seasoned teacher, David Pawson. A must-watch video.
He is able to keep us in the faith AND we are to keep ourselves in His love.
If we keep ourselves in the love of God, He keeps what we have committed to Him.

CAN LUKEWARM BELIEVERS CONTINUE TO ENJOY GOD’S FAVOUR?
http://bit.ly/1M52Mh9

Friday, 18 March 2016

PRESERVED FROM FALLING?

Is there an absolute guarantee that true believers won’t fall away from the faith?

As believers, we are told that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God, no one can pluck us from Jesus’ hands, that God will keep us from falling and that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion when Christ returns (Romans 8:38-39, John 10:28, Jude 24, Philippians 1:6).

If it is true, as some assert, that true believers will perpetually stay fervent, will repent if they should fall into sin and will not fall away because God keeps them faithful, then why do the following passages seem to suggest otherwise?


  • Why does Jesus warn believers about end time persecution, lawlessness and deception and the need to endure to the end in order that they might be saved (Olivet Discourse)?


  • Why does Paul warn believers that they must not be complacent, thinking that they are strong? Why does he warn them about the prospect of falling away, like the exodus generation—who once experienced God’s favour but failed to enter the Promised Land because of sin and unbelief?


  • Why does Paul fear that he might be disqualified from the spiritual race?


  • Why does Paul mention that the great falling away from the faith must happen before Christ’s return?


  • Why does the writer of Hebrews mention the possibility of apostasy?


  • Why does Peter mention that God’s judgment on believers who willfully live in sin, who turn our backs on God, is worse than that on the unsaved?

In all the above instances, the main protagonists of New Testament teachings are addressing believers.

Let us examine these SIX instances in turn:

Why does Jesus warn believers about end-time persecution, lawlessness and deception and the need to endure to the end in order that they might be saved (Olivet Discourse)?

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13).


                                                                       
If believers perpetually remain strong and will not fall away, why does Jesus have to emphatically warn them to stay firm in their faith during the perilous end times? 

Furthermore, Matthew 24:13, implies that only those believers who manage to endure these trials will be saved. It follows, therefore, that there will be believers who fall away and lose their salvation.

Why does Paul warn believers that they must not be complacent, thinking they are strong? Why does he warn them about falling away, like the exodus generation—who once experienced God’s favour but failed to enter the Promised Land because of sin and unbelief?

“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:8-12).

If the possibility of falling away does not exist, why does Paul warn believers not to be complacent—that we should take heed concerning the moral failure of the exodus generation so that we will not be condemned like them (1 Corinthians 10:12)?

Why does Paul fear that he might be disqualified from the spiritual race?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

If every believer successfully crosses the finishing line in the spiritual race, if the possibility of falling away does not exist, why does Paul—the epitome of a faithful disciple—has this fear of being disqualified from the race? Furthermore, if Paul can be disqualified on account of lack of focus and discipline, how much more ordinary believers can be disqualified from the race!

Why does Paul mention that a great falling away from the faith must happen before Christ’s return?

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

It is predicted that before Jesus comes again, two important events must take place. Firstly, many will give up on their faith (apostasy). Secondly, the unveiling of the man of lawlessness (antichrist) will occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3).


                                                                        
Now why does this verse in Thessalonians mention these two events (in red) side by side? It is no coincidence, I believe. For the answer, we will have to turn to Revelation.

The antichrist will unleash his wrath on believers in the Great Tribulation. Many will have to choose between their allegiance to God or their survival. Why? Because no one can buy or sell unless they receive the antichrist’s ordained mark of the beast, a sign which when received would mean everlasting damnation for believers. Pushed to the brink for the sake of self-preservation, many believers will give up on God and allow the mark of the beast on themselves—never mind the eternal consequences (Revelation13:16-17, Revelation 14: 9-10).

Now we can see why, when the antichrist appears, the faith of believers’ will be put to a degree of testing that's unprecedented.

If they choose God and refuse the mark, they might die of starvation or get killed by the antichrist. Conversely, if they choose survival by taking the mark, it will lead them down the path of everlasting damnation. But many whose faith is not strong enough will choose the latter. They would rather give up on God. That’s why there will be such a great falling away from the faith.

Why does the writer of Hebrews mention the possibility of apostasy?

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6: 4-8).

In the above passage, the optimism of inheriting God’s promise of salvation—provided they held fast to their faith—was set against the backdrop of a stern warning against apostasy.

Notice that this passage in Hebrews 6 clearly outlines FIVE characteristics of a true believer: Enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the Word of God and tasted the powers of the age to come.  And, yet, the possibility of falling away from the faith does exist.

Why does Peter mention that God’s judgment on believers who willfully live in sin, who turn our backs on God, is worse than that on the unsaved?

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).

When people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing Christ and then get enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

Now, here is the interesting part: How do we reconcile all the promises of God that He will keep us faithful, set forth in the beginning of this article, with the fact that believers can and will fall away, especially during these perilous end times?

Here is the answer: Our free will is the factor that decides whether we keep ourselves in the love of God or fall away, notwithstanding the fact that God’s desire is always to keep believers faithful and safe in His loving arms.

If God wants to keep us faithful but we refuse to come under His love, favour and authority, what can He possibly do?

If someone gives you a present but you refuse to accept it, how can you get to enjoy the benefits of that gift?

If one fondly admires a member of the opposite sex and wants to get to know him or her better, but the other party gives one the cold shoulder, how can a relationship possibly develop?

                                                                          

Or shall we say, “It takes two to tango.”

                                                                      

The ability to choose is God’s precious gift to us. Even after we become believers, we can choose between pleasing self or obeying God. We can choose between good and evil. Thus, all believers are free moral agents.

Freedom of choice is something that remains with us even after we have become believers. God does not turn us into robots or automatons.

To reiterate, though our ‘spirit man’ has been made new at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17), our will remains neutral. Whether they are men or angels, all of God’s creation can choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. This freedom of choice comes with a catch. Those who rebel against His authority will be held accountable. They will have to face judgment eventually (Jude 1:5-7).

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:5-7).

Finally, this article in no way suggests that we through our own self-effort can stay strong in the faith, except through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as we seek His face (Psalm 84:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Amos 5:4).

Seek Me that you may live” (Amos 5:4).

RELATED POSTS

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
The believers’ spiritual status is not static. Though we have been enlightened by the truth and transformed by the Holy Spirit, there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t change. That’s because we are sinful by nature. And, because we have a will, we can choose to remain in God’s favour or reject Him.

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Though believers in Christ are heaven-bound, there are conditions to be fulfilled before we arrive at our final destination and claim our eternal reward. Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Romans 8: 38-39). But has this ever crossed our minds? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango.

CAN A BELIEVER FALL OUT OF FAVOUR WITH GOD?
Is it possible for Christians to fall out of God’s favour permanently? What can we learn from the exodus generation who failed to enter the Promised Land?
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EXTERNAL LINK

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FALL FROM GRACE?    

It would be very comforting if this doctrineOnce Saved, Always Savedwere true. However, if it is not true, then it would be a very dangerous doctrine because it would give people a false sense of security. People would not be on their guard against sin, and may not see any need to repent of sins, if they thought they would still be saved eternally despite their sins. Surely it is important for us to know what the Bible teaches.

We can all agree that there is security for those who serve God faithfully. If we study God's word diligently and honestly, if we strive to overcome sin in our lives, and if we diligently repent and ask forgiveness for our sins, then we definitely have assurance and security regarding our eternal destiny. The question, however, is whether it is possible for a child of God to cease being faithful, to become disobedient, fail to repent, and so be lost.