Thursday, 21 March 2019

IMPLICATIONS THAT WE CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE



Many believers cruise along in life, happy in the knowledge that they are saved by grace. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of thinking.

However, we often fail to see the many obstacles and pitfalls we will inevitably encounter in our faith journey, which is by no means an effortless cruise because temptation, deception, spiritual warfare and complacency will inevitably present challenges.

Many are unaware of these threats to their spiritual well-being. Perhaps they hold a very positive outlook—that believers saved by grace will serve God free from various temptations and struggles, ride away into the sunset and thence into a blissful eternity. Or they may be too naïve or stubborn to heed the many warnings in scripture about the dangers posed by the world, flesh and the devil. Probably, they do not study God’s word in depth and, even if they do, they do not meditate on it and consider some of its serious implications.

What are some of these shocking implications (which we hardly hear over the pulpit as it often dishes out seeker sensitive, motivational, entertaining or ear-tickling material)?

“Dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away” (2 Peter 1:10). And if we don't work hard and do these things, does this not suggest that we might just fall away?



He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3:5). Does this not suggest that believers who fail to overcome will be blotted out from the Book of Life?

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:9-13). Does this not suggest that he who fails to endure amid end-time persecution, lawlessness and deception will not be saved?

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sightif indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:21-23). Does this not suggest that unless believers continue to be steadfast in the faith, we will not be ushered into God’s presence one day?


Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Does this not suggest we have to repent and be made righteous first before we can step foot into God’s holy presence (one-off sinner's prayer won’t avail)?


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. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Or, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10: 26-27, Hebrews 10: 36-38). Does this not suggest that it is not enough for believers to start well but finish well, that God will judge His people if they shrink back and choose to willfully live in sin?


For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Does this not tell us one thing—that Paul was using the failure on the part of the wilderness wayfarers to enter the Promised Land as an object lesson to believers today that if we practise idolatry and immorality and persist in unbelief, like them, we will miss out on heaven (even if we are genuine believers)? Notice the last verse: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:12-14). Does this not suggest that in order to receive God’s promise of eternal rest, we need to endure till the end and remain faithful?


The trouble is when we study or read God’s word, we are often in a rush and miss out on these harsh implications. Even if we would for a moment consider them, we will try to explain it away, a process called rationalisation. For example, if you warn someone about the dangers of smoking as it might increase a person’s likelihood of getting heart disease or lung cancer, he might rationalise his behaviour by saying that no one in his family has a history of heart disease or that George Burns puffed away till he was 100.

I hope that, as a believer who studies God’s Word, meditates upon it and desires to follow God, you will take some time to consider some of these serious implications. And, as a result, take action. May you draw strength as you pray and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Postscript

Never be lulled into a false sense of eternal security by the premise, “Once Saved, Always Saved”, which tends to promote complacency.

On one hand, there are professing believers, who have the form of religion but not the substance, the reality of God within their souls. The many warnings in scripture about falling away are not primarily directed at them. You see, you can’t “unsave” a person who is not saved in the first place.

On the other hand, there are countless warnings by Jesus, Paul, Peter and the writer of Hebrews about the real danger of GENUINE BELIEVERS falling away, which we easily brush off because we hold the view that genuine believers will definitely be saved eventually because of the work of the Holy Spirit—a position which is unrealistic as man is basically evil and has a will (volition) which he can exercise to willfully sin or deny God, a factor which Calvinism ignores completely. When we discount man’s corruption and the operation of his will (volition), we will be led to embrace the lie of “Once Saved, Always Saved”.

Not only genuine believers may fall away and lose their salvation but many will do so in these last days. And this falling away in scriptures does not refer to professing believers.

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