Thursday, 20 April 2017

AVOIDING DANGEROUS EXTREMES

In order to understand God as He truly is, we must give equal emphasis to His attributes of love, mercy and grace as well as to His justice and holiness.

Our concept of God must be balanced. God’s love, mercy and grace must be seen in relation to His attributes of justice and holiness.

While the Parable of the Prodigal Son reflects the former, the Parable of the Ten Virgins shows us the latter.


To emphasise the former without the latter (or vice versa) would be disastrous to our soul.
Thus, there are two equally dangerous extremes:

Firstly, it is when we think that God will not be gracious and merciful to us because of the greatness of our sin, forgetting that He will welcome us back to Him with open arms once we come to our senses and repent as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

God loves the sinner and whosoever calls upon His name and believes in Him will be saved (John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 10:9).

Secondly, it is when we think that God will always overlook the sins of believers because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us, that He will not point out our faults, that the Holy Spirit will never convict us of sin, and that sin consciousness is negative and comes from the devil. http://bit.ly/1OczgqH

When we take this second position, we are forgetting the fact that the attribute of God’s justice requires Him to punish us for our sins (Hebrews 10: 26-31).

If we deny God, renounce our faith or continue to willfully sin against God, His mercy will no longer avail for us even though we have been genuine believers once upon a time. Instead, we will be judged (2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

                                                                 
Some people argue that those who deny God, renounce the faith or continue to willfully sin against God were never been really saved in the first place—and that this would never have happened if they were truly born again. Let me give you four reasons with scriptural support, why such thinking is flawed.

Firstly, why did Jesus repeatedly warn believers in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) to stay faithful, be watchful and not fall away?

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

It is clear from the above passage in Mark that Jesus was addressing genuine believers in the Olivet Discourse. Christ was concerned, first and foremost, about their eternal destiny as they might grow cold and fall away due to increased deception, lawlessness and persecution during the end times.

“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)

Now some might argue that these ‘believers’ might be professing believers as well as genuine believers. Well, that is possible. But Jesus’ loving concern and warning in the Olivet Discourse are mainly directed at those who are truly saved—not professing believers.

If believers can take it easy, everything will turn out well—they will invariably be ushered into heaven, no matter what happens—why did Jesus take the trouble to repeatedly warn believers? Would Jesus waste His breath sounding out warnings? Why would Jesus continue to warn believers to pull up their socks, spiritually speaking?

 “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)

And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
(Luke 13:23-24)

Secondly, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the foolish virgins who had all the characteristics of genuine believers slackened in their faith and got complacent and, as a result, were shut out from heaven (Matthew 25:1-13).

This parable highlights the rewards of watchful preparation in contrast to the judgment of careless security. http://bit.ly/1L0vOLy

Thirdly, in Hebrews 10: 26-31, it is clear that God will judge His people—His mercy will not avail for them—if they persist in willful, deliberate sinning.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Fourthly, the passage in Hebrews 6: 4-8 warns us that genuine believers who renounce their faith (commit apostasy) will be judged and condemned:

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.

From the above four instances, we see that even genuine believers can grow spiritually cold and fall away and, as a result, lose out on what they have initially attained when they embraced Jesus by faith.

Can genuine believers grow spiritually cold and fall away? You bet! it is possible.
  • Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard.
               (Colossians 1:22-23)
  • Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
               (Hebrews 3: 12-14)
  • But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
              (Hebrews 10:38-39)

Those who cannot hold fast to their faith, but shrink back, might lose their salvation.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
(1 Timothy 4:16)

                                                                      
The implication is that if our lives do not reflect obedience and holiness or we are deceived by destructive heresy, we might lose our salvation—even though we have placed our trust in Christ once upon a time. This sounds serious. 

While it is true that, at the point of conversion, a believer is justified in Christ, he can fall into sin, harden his heart, deny God and, thus, lose God’s favour. His righteousness is not necessarily permanent but dependent on his will, and susceptibility to deception and temptation.

If justification brings about an unassailable position of permanent righteousness for a believer, why is there a need to overcome temptation and deception? Why are there warnings against falling away and apostasy (Hebrews 6: 4-6)? Where do we get the notion that the Christian life is passive and that victory comes easy (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)? Did not Paul proclaim he was glad he fought the good fight of faith and kept the faith till the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?

It would be sad if we would only see God as the Heavenly Father—epitomised by the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (full of “unconditional” love and ready to forgive)—BUT refuse to acknowledge God as the Judge who shuts out from heaven those who are spiritually cold and complacent as taught in the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Unfortunately, for many believers accustomed to “feel good”, liberal teaching over the pulpit such a tendency reflects a modern-day trend, which has already been predicted long ago by the apostle Paul.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
(2 Timothy 4:3-4)


The whole truth can only be understood when we study and reflect on both these parables. 

Whereas the Parable of the Prodigal Son reflects the love, mercy and grace of God, the Parable of the Ten Virgins shows us His justice and righteousness. http://bit.ly/1L0vOLy

RELATED POSTS

GRACE AND TRUTH
The fact Jesus is the personification of grace and truth—not grace alone—has practical implications in the life of believers.

WATCHFUL AND READY
Will Christ return to earth as a baby or sacrificial lamb? Or will He come again as the Judge and King of Kings?

IS IT TRUE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES NOT CONVICT BELIEVERS OF SIN?
A prominent teacher made a bold statement in his book: “The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He NEVER comes to point out your faults. I challenge you to find a scripture in the Bible that tells you that the Holy Spirit has come to convict you of your sins. You won’t find any.”

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 WE TAKE GOD’S LOVE FOR GRANTED?
God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?

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?

SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT
Five ways believers could possibly jeopardise their eternal destiny

WHY PERSEVERANCE IS NEEDED
Why we have to be steadfast in our journey of faith. What are the possible consequences if we fail to persevere?

REPETITIVE SINNING
What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly?

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
Spiritual decline is characteristic of the end times we are now living in. Will believers be affected by this turning away from the faith?


HOW TO SHARE THIS ARTICLE:
AVOIDING DANGEROUS EXTREMES
There are two equally dangerous extremes:
Firstly, it is when we think that God will not be gracious and merciful to us because of the greatness of our sin, forgetting that He will welcome us back to Him with open arms once we come to our senses and repent as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
God loves the sinner and whosoever calls upon His name and believes in Him will be saved (John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 10:9).
Secondly, it is when we think that God will always overlook the sins of believers because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us, that He will not point out our faults, that the Holy Spirit will never convict us of sin, and that sin consciousness is negative and comes from the devil.
http://bit.ly/2opymNR

REFERENCES

PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
(Luke 15:11-32)    

PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:1-13)

2 comments:

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  2. It is not my intention to add spice, salt and sugar to the truth, which has to be declared in full according to the whole counsel of God's Word. To do otherwise would be tantamount to committing a great injustice to scripture and to spread half-truths, which are nothing but lies.

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