Tag Archives: Saved

Is It Easier to Be Saved or Lost?

9 Jan
By Joe Crews
Introduction
It seems very appropriate that the word DYNAMITE is a transliteration of the Greek word DUNAMIS, which means power. The word is not a stranger to those who are students of the Scriptures. It is one of the colorful adjectives used in the Bible to describe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power (DUNAMIS) of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16.
How few Christians have a true understanding of the explosive power of the gospel they so lightly profess! If Paul’s words are true, then everyone who possesses the gospel should also be filled with tremendous power. But is that the case? Unfortunately, the lives of countless church members are flaccid, bland, and miserably compromised. Instead of vibrant power there seems to be discouragement and defeat. What is wrong? Do these people really believe the gospel or not? And why is the dynamite so obviously missing in their lives?
The answer must be that many do not truly believe what they profess. Or else, they have been taught a counterfeit gospel. Some of the greatest spiritual problems of today are rooted in a misunderstanding of the gospel. The sad fact is that millions have no true comprehension of what is afforded through the gospel, and what it is supposed to do for them. Unaware of its full provisions, they stumble along, claiming only what their weak faith is able to encompass. Instead of feasting at the banquet table of the Lord, these people gather crumbs from under the table which barely provides enough strength to survive.
They are very much like the “missing heirs” we have heard so much about. All across America millions of dollars are stacked up in banks waiting for the true owners to take possession of the money. In most cases, the heirs are unaware of the wealth which rightfully belongs to them and which only awaits their demand and reception. But these millions are nothing compared to the spiritual riches which still lie untapped by those Christians who fail to recognize their own unlimited affluence. For no reason, except their own abysmal failure to claim their true possessions, most professed Christians are living in wretched poverty and weakness.
Satan Has No Power Over God’s Children
Do you know why these millionaires are living like paupers? Because they have allowed the devil to intimidate them. He has lied to them about one of their most basic privileges. We need to unmask the evil one and expose the false claims he makes concerning his authority. Satan would like for us to believe that he has unlimited control over this world and all its people. That is not true. He is not the master of God’s children and has no power at all over the saints. Where Christ lives and reigns, Satan trembles and flees for his life. GOD IS STRONGER THAN SATAN. This glorious truth must fill our minds with constant assurance.
Don’t misunderstand me. Satan is powerful. We have all seen the incredible, enslaving influence that he exercises in the life of a sinner. But when Christ banishes the devil from that sinner and controls his life, the power for good is far greater than the evil. If there is more power in Christ than there is in Satan, then there is more power in grace than there is in sin. Jesus is not just as strong as the devil, else the warfare between them might end in a draw or a standoff. But, thank God, Christ has already won the battle and Satan is a defeated foe right now.
This leads us to the joyful conclusion that the Christian has somebody stronger helping him to follow Jesus than the sinner has helping him to follow Satan. This glorious fact should give tremendous comfort to every child of God. It also raises a very interesting question. If we have such a powerful defender on our side, who desires our salvation, is it correct to also conclude that it’s easier to be saved than to be lost? Before any glib response is made to that question, we need to consider the two major aspects of salvation. It is very important to understand whether the question relates to BECOMING a Christian or REMAINING a Christian.
We would like to believe that because Christ is stronger than Satan, He would facilitate the entire process of salvation for His children. Yet, we have experienced first hand the painful struggle with self in making the decision to follow Jesus. There was a titanic battle between the flesh and the Spirit, and Satan exploited every human frailty in seeking to hold us in the bondage of sin. It is doubtful that even one soul would concede that it is easier to surrender fully to Christ than to continue living after the flesh. Satan seems to have hundreds of enticing allurements to make it difficult to break away from the ways of the world.
Furthermore, the devil has one advantage over God in that he can lie, and make things appear exactly opposite of what they really are. He can make sin appear unobjectionable and beautiful. The fallen nature of man, with it’s powerful propensity to sin, has a natural bent toward things which are evil. And even after conversion, that lower nature can be appealed to by the delusions and deceptions of Satan. This means that the Christian must be constantly on the alert for subtle or oblique attacks from a very clever enemy.
The Way of the Transgressor is Hard; Not the Way of the Obedient
Does this mean that it will be discouraging to follow the Christian lifestyle? Will the harrassments of temptation make it miserable to live for Christ? On the contrary we can rest in the settled assurance that we are on the winning side of the great controversy. He that is for us is greater than he that is against us. Isn’t that exciting good news? The conversion experience transforms the mind and will into a veritable spiritual fortress. From that control center the Holy Spirit exercises a subduing influence over the lower fleshly nature. As long as the faculties are yielded to God the Christian finds relief from the burden and guilt of sin.
Is this not what the Master meant when He spoke these words: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me. … and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”? Matthew 11:28-30. Certainly Jesus was not saying that hardships and conflicts would disappear from the lives of His followers. Rather He was describing the joy and peace of mind that would mark the path of the obedient. When Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” The meaning of these words is obvious. He was telling Saul that it was hard to resist the Holy Spirit. The misery and struggle lay in the path of disobedience. The way of the transgressor is hard; not the way of the obedient.
We must stop allowing Satan to brainwash us with the exaggerated claims of his authority. It is true that under the reign of sin it is easier to do wrong than it is to do right, but it is also true that under the reign of grace it is easier to do right than it is to do wrong. Why should we not assert the prerogatives that belong to us as the children of God? The Bible writers did not hesitate to challenge the limited authority of Satan, and neither should we. Paul wrote: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20, 21.
Note the expression, “as sin hath reigned.” How did sin reign? As a controlling power, did it not? Driving back every spiritual impulse, the carnal nature overpowered all the efforts of grace to enter the heart. But notice that grace abounds “much more” than sin, and “as sin hath reigned…even so might grace reign”! Obviously, grace will also be a controlling power which can overpower all the efforts of sin to enter the life. Isn’t that a fantastic assurance? The devil has no dynamite that compares with the shattering dynamite of the gospel in a surrendered life.
So we are brought back to the question again: Is it harder to serve Jesus or Satan? It is undeniable that we have access to more good power than bad. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Someone might answer, “Satan.” And I say, “So what? He flees at the very name of Jesus.” Of course, he wants you to be lost, but God wants you to be saved. You can win every time by being on the side of the stronger. Jesus referred to His mastery of devils in these words: “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him,…he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” Luke 11:21, 22.
The strong man referred to is Satan, of course. He is stronger than the wisest man who ever lived (Solomon), and the strongest man who ever lived (Samson), and the most perfect man who ever lived (Adam). But he is not stronger than Jesus. Christ is that stronger One who “overcame him” and delivers the captives out of his hands. What an exciting reality!
All Will Be Saved Who do Not Resist
Not only does God have the power to save us, but He has the desire to do it. It is His will that all should come to repentance and be saved. What produces repentance in the life? Paul assures us that “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” Romans 2:4. How many does He lead toward repentance? Everyone, of course, since it is His will to save all. Christ said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 12:32. His love does not appeal to a select few only, but to ALL men. His goodness LEADS every soul to repent, and His love DRAWS all men to the cross. If this is true, why are not all men saved? Because they resist the sweet drawing influence of the Holy Spirit. There is absolutely no doubt that God actively seeks the salvation of every soul on planet earth, and He will continue to convict those who have not hardened themselves in unbelief.
What a thought! The difficult thing to do is to fight against salvation. Unless we resist, God will persist in drawing us to Himself. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11. To how many men? ALL men! Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus tasted death “for every man.” Again, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. The only reason all the world is not saved is simply because the great majority resists God’s provision of saving, sanctifying grace.
So the really hard thing about the way of transgression is the binding hold that sin has fastened on the mind and body. This is why it is easier for the unconverted to continue their course than to turn from death to life. There is nothing within them capable of challenging the will of the flesh. But we affirm just as confidently that the born-again Christian will quickly grow to abhor sin, and will find it an absolutely miserable act to compromise the conscience by willful disobedience.
So what is the answer to the question, Is it easier to be saved or to be lost? We must truthfully say that it is difficult to make the initial turn from the self-life, but after the heart is surrendered, the path of the Christian, in every way, is happier and easier to maintain. Let’s consider the theology behind this glorious fact.
The Bible speaks of “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26.
Please notice that only those who “believe in Jesus” will be personally justified, even though the cross provides it for everyone. The text says there must be “faith in his blood.” The utility company provides abundant power and light to my home, but I receive no benefit whatever unless I push the switches in my home. All of God’s saving, cleansing, justifying power is of no benefit to me in salvation unless I accept it in a personal way.
Our text also speaks of “remission of sins that are past” as a part of this justification experience. What really happens in this act of remission or forgiveness of sins? Many believe that this is something which happens outside the life of the believer. They consider that forgiveness changes God’s attitude toward the transgressor because of some celestial accounting carried out billions of light years away. Is it true that forgiveness affects God so that He no longer holds something against me? This is decidedly not the case. Forgiveness does not change God toward us; it changes us toward Him. God didn’t need to change. He was never wrong. Man was the sinner who needed to change. He stood condemned before a broken law that could offer no grace or forgiveness. There was absolutely no righteousness to be drawn from the law. It could not provide any strength for right-doing. The sinner was powerless, condemned and helpless under the scourging of that law.
Paul’s terminology makes condemnation to be the opposite of justification. In Romans 8:1-4 he describes what justification subjectively accomplishes for the individual. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Immediately, we can see that the problem lay in the flesh which was too weak to obey the law. Something had to be done in man to bring him back into harmony with God. The Greek word for RIGHTEOUSNESS in this verse is DIKAIMA, which means JUST REQUIREMENT. How could the weak-flesh problem be remedied so that man could fulfill the requirements of the law?
God provided the full solution when He sent Jesus in the flesh to obey the law perfectly. It was only because Christ lived a perfect life of obedience that He is able to impute justification to each one of us. If that plan of sending Jesus had not taken care of my weakness in the flesh, then the plan would have failed. When Christ moves into the life, the condemnation is removed, the sins are forgiven, and we are empowered to fulfill the requirements of the law through Christ in us. This is the change which forgiveness makes in the life.
Forgiveness does not change God, but us. He justifies the ungodly by taking away the ungodliness. He justifies the rebellious sinner by taking away the rebellion. When He declares us righteous, His self-filling word makes us righteous. He does not declare something which is not true. The One who conquered Satan now moves into the human heart to provide victory over the power of sin. The miracle of the new life is described in the Bible by utterly fantastic expressions. We can have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), and be made free from sin (Romans 6:18). All this is possible as grace begins to rule the life, and under this power, Satan doesn’t have a ghost of a chance.
Christians Need Not Cringe or Cower
All who do not resist the goodness of God will be led to repentance and salvation, and they should not be intimidated by the pretended authority of a defeated foe. We must recognize our position as the sons of God. We should also be unafraid to acknowledge our authority in Christ over Satan. It is time for God’s children to stop trembling before the threats of a conquered enemy. Too often in evangelism we watch in dismay as the devil arranges his competing attractions to take people away from the Word of God. We say, “Oh my, what are we going to do? The circus is coming to town during our crusade.” The truth is that Satan should be worried instead of us. He ought to tremble and say, “What am I going to do? The evangelistic meetings are coming to town.”
God’s Spirit-filled children must learn to be more confident, more aggressive and bold in their assertion of truth in the name of the mighty, conquering Creator God. We are not operating in the strength of the flesh but in the power of the Holy Spirit. He that is for us is greater than he which is against us. Praise be to God for such assurance!
Now let us consider the question, WHY IS IT NOT HARD TO SERVE CHRIST WHEN YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN? Please don’t mistake the language of this question. We are talking about a born-again Christian following Jesus. There is no contention that anyone else will find it easy to live the Christian life. In fact, there is probably no more difficult task in the world than trying to live for Christ in the strength of the flesh. It is quite possible that many of the degenerative diseases and weaknesses of the body have been produced by generations of struggle to please God by human effort. People are wearied and worn out by such futile activity.
I am not saying that there will be no effort or struggle, but for the committed Christian the way of obedience is a joy and delight AND VICTORY IS ASSURED! “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. The great disciple of love declares that it is not hard to obey God’s law when it is the fruitage of a love relationship. The Psalmist wrote, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8. There are two strong reasons why it is not grievous for the true Christian to serve the Lord. First, he is absolutely confident that God loves him and will do only what is good for him. Second, he loves Christ supremely and chooses to run no risk of displeasing Him.
Restrictions Can be a Delight
Someone may raise a question about the demands laid down in the Bible and the penalties attached for transgression. None can deny that they are there. Do these requirements and threatened penalties make obedience a hardship? Let me answer that question with two imaginary interviews. Suppose I have just submitted to a complete medical examination and the doctor is giving me a report of his findings. He says, “Joe, I have bad, bad news for you. Your tests indicate that you are going to die unless you follow my orders exactly. To save your life, you must obey what I’m going to tell you, and you must continue to follow my orders every day for the rest of your life. I’ve found that you will be required to eat two or three times a day in order to save your life. And you must force yourself to do it day after day as long as you live.”
Think about it for a moment. Those are strict rules with heavy penalties attached. I can lose my life by violating the law laid down by the doctor. But will it be difficult for me to follow those orders? Of course not! Why? Simply because there is a higher law leading me to eat every day anyway. The physical laws of my being demand that I eat regularly, and I enjoy doing it. It is for my own good to eat, and I do not have to force myself to comply with the doctor’s rigid requirements.
In the same way there is a law of love operating in every Christian life which is the natural extension of a personal relation with Jesus. The commandments and penalties of the Bible are no threat whatsoever, because the Christian recognizes the higher law leading him to do these same things that are for his best good. He does not obey for fear of the penalty, but because he is happiest obeying the One he loves.
Let’s imagine another conversation that will never actually take place. I am preparing to leave home for a month of evangelism. My wife tells me goodbye and then solemnly holds a paper before my face. “Joe,” she says, “you will be gone for a month, and your check will be mailed out before you return. I just want you to read this paper very carefully. It is a copy of Maryland Statute No. 392, and it states that you will be put in jail if you don’t send me money to operate the home. It’s not very pleasant in that county jail, so I’ll be expecting you to send that money as soon as you get your check.”
What she says is true, but do I need the threat of that law to make me support my family? No, there is a higher law of love which makes me want to take care of my loved ones. Love turns duty into a joyful privilege. I remember walking ten miles in the pouring rain to keep a date with the girl I loved. I had no regrets. My love for her overruled the hardship. We can make anything a burden by the attitude we have toward it and by the way we relate to it. It is a burden to serve Jesus only if the relationship is wrong.
Is the Narrow Road Hard and Unhappy?
I have heard people say, “But Christianity is so restrictive.” True. But marriage is even more restrictive than religion. Does that make it miserable? Do brides and grooms complain about the narrow promises they make to each other? I have performed many marriages and have never seen newlyweds unhappy about their commitments. They are always radiant, even though they have just promised their lives away.
Imagine someone approaching the new bride with these discouraging words: “Oh, my! You really are in a bad situation now. Just think, you’ve got to cook for this guy every day of your life. You’ll be required to clean the house, mend his clothes, and put up with his untidy habits. This marriage thing is bad news.” Do you know how that new young wife would respond? She would say, “Wonderful! I love it!”
Suppose someone should try to discourage a newly baptized Christian, who has just been “married” to Jesus, with these words: “Oh, you’ve got yourself into a miserable mess. Just think, you can’t go to the bars and dances anymore. You can’t go to the ball games on Sabbath, and you won’t be able to eat pork and shrimp anymore.” Without question that beaming newborn Christian would answer, “Wonderful! I love every moment of it!”
The explanation for this response is made in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” Love propels and compels people to do anything and everything to please the One who died for them. No burdensome yoke binds such disciples to the path of service and obedience. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. That word blessed really means happy. The commandments may be restrictive, but it is a joy to be restricted by love.
To the unconverted these thoughts are alien and contradictory. People who are not in love cannot appreciate the selfless involvement of those who are happily married. Some married couples have destroyed their love for each other, and they look upon marriage as a galling bondage. The fault is not with the marriage, but with the attitude. When Christians fall away and lose their relationship with Jesus, they also begin to complain about the burden of religion. The fault lies not in the religion but in the loveless hearts of the complainers.
Does all of this stand in opposition to the teaching of Christ concerning self-denial? Jesus did say, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. Did He mean that the way of obedience would be hard and unhappy? No. He was simply picturing the reality of competing attractions in the life of a Christian. There will always be allurements of the flesh and of the world appealing to self and trying to draw me away from Christ. Without the compelling influence of a higher affection, the emotional appeal of those things might be overpowering. Here is where the lines of love’s authority are revealed. The powerful love of Christ constrains me to cling to Him and say “No” to the incessant invitation of the flesh, the devil, and the world. Those foolish challenges to my relationship with Christ will always be present, but I will always be able to choose to stay with Him for two reasons: I love Him more than anything or anybody else in the world, and I know He will do only what is best for me.
Satan will utilize feeling as one of his most effective weapons against the saints, but a true Christian will recognize that the flesh and feelings cannot be trusted. We must serve God because of right and truth and not because we feel in the mood. Moods have led millions to deny the Lord and live for the flesh. Most of those who serve the devil today are doing so because they have been deceived and blinded by feeling. It is a constant marvel to watch people follow the shallow artificialities of sin in pursuit of happiness. Obviously, they do not derive any true pleasure out of smoking, drinking, and otherwise destroying themselves by indulgent behavior; yet, robot-like, they go through the motions dictated by their carnal desires.
Walter Winchell summed it up when he wrote in his newspaper column: “The saddest people in the world are those sitting in joints making believe they are having a good time. This Broadway Street is full of amusement places trying to make people happy, yet its people are drenched in unhappiness.”
The problem is that those millions have no power of a higher law of spiritual love operating in their lives. With no competing force to oppose it, the flesh holds a controlling influence over the mind and body. Self responds to the emotional appeal of external stimuli and has no choice but to be captured by the flesh. It reminds me of a story I heard about a concentration camp. A man stood looking through the barbed wires of an overcrowded death camp. Inside, the prisoners stood with emaciated bodies, hollow cheeks, and sunken eyes. As the man on the outside gazed at the spectacle of those starving inmates, one of the prisoners called to him and said, “Ha! You can’t come in here, can you?” Immediately, the self-nature reacted to the challenge. “Who says I can’t? I’ll show you.” And the man crawled through the wire to join the other sad-faced internees.
That is probably as close as we can come to explaining the senseless carnival of death that leads millions every year into presumptuous violation of the laws of their being. Incredible as it may seem, self is willing to make itself miserable in order to have its own way, and those in the flesh have no power to resist its dictates. It is much easier for them to do wrong than it is to do right. But let us repeat and reaffirm the glorious truth that for those who are deeply in love with Christ, it is easier to do right than it is to do wrong.
Here is the good news of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, and I hold it out to every reader of these words right now. Jesus came to provide the dynamite power by which we can be both justified and sanctified. We may have deliverance from the guilt of sin and also from the power of sin. By accepting the simple, free provisions of the gospel, salvation is assured in all three tenses of our Christian experience – past, present, and future. May God help us not to be satisfied with a partial understanding or application of His grace. Let us lay hold of the incredible riches and power (DUNAMIS) which have been given to us as the sons and daughters of God.
How to Claim Victory Over Sin
Have you heard about the evolutionary way of getting the victory over bad habits and sins? It is sometimes called the TAPERING method or the TRYING method, but generally, it just doesn’t work. Oh, it partially works, of course, because old age takes care of some temptations and sins, and time settles the rest when death comes. But do you know why TRYING does not work in overcoming the devil?
Why can’t we fight the devil for a few months and finally drive him away? Because the devil is stronger than we are. We could fight him for a year, but he would still be stronger than we are at the end of that year. Trying will never break the power of sin in a single instance because we are facing an enemy who will always be stronger than we are. What, then, is the answer to our weakness and defeat? This question leads us to the sweetest and most sublime secret in the Word of God.
First of all, one must understand that all of Heaven’s gifts are available to us through the promises of the Bible, and we receive them by faith. Peter describes the “exceeding great and precious promises” and assures us that “by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4. Mighty power is stored within the promise to fulfill itself to all who claim it in faith. So few are willing to believe that the promised blessing becomes theirs the very moment they believe it. Why is it so hard to believe implicitly that God will do what He promises?
Now, let us come down to the very heart of victory and consider the four simple scriptural steps that any believer may take in claiming God’s power. Four texts will illuminate the amazing transaction. FIRST: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57. Allow your mind to savor the fantastic message of these words. VICTORY IS A GIFT! We do not earn it by our efforts or deserve it because of any supposed goodness. The only thing we need do is ask for it, and the victory will be given to us freely by Christ. He is the only One who has ever gained the victory over Satan, and if we ever possess the victory, it will have to come as a gift from Him.
Let me ask you something. Do you need victory in your life over some binding, miserable habit of sin? Some are slaves to appetite, to alcohol, or tobacco. Others are struggling helplessly against impurity, anger, or worldliness. The Bible says you may have the victory as a gift through Jesus Christ. Do you believe He will give you that power if you ask Him? How certain can you be that God will answer your prayer for victory immediately? Here is how sure you can be – just as sure as Christ’s words are true!
Our SECOND text is Matthew 7:11, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Is it a good thing when you ask for victory over tobacco or any other fleshly or moral evil? Of course it is! And you don’t even have to ask if it is God’s will! He has already told us in the Bible that it is His will to destroy the works of sin and the devil. If we pray for more money or a better job, we should always ask according to His will, but the victory over sin is promised to everyone who asks in faith.
Will God give the victory when we ask Him? Jesus said He is more willing to give this good thing than we are to feed our children when they are hungry. He is waiting to honor your faith and to “supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. These assurances are so open-ended and unlimited that our minds are staggered by it. Why have we been so reluctant to apply for the provisions of grace? Why is it so hard to believe that God means exactly what He says?
Here is the next question. How do we know we have the victory after we ask Him? Simply because He said we would have it. We know God does not lie. We can believe His promise. The very moment we ask, we should accept the fact of fulfillment, thank Him for the gift, get up and act as if it has been done. No kind of proof-feeling or sign should be demanded or expected. The self-fulfilling power in the promise is released in response to our faith alone.
This brings us to the THIRD text found in Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The word RECKON means to believe, or to consider it done. Every practice of faith should be focused on that one request for victory, and then, it should be accounted as done. Do you remember how Peter walked on the water? He asked Jesus if he could step out of the boat onto the raging sea, and Jesus told Peter to come. But how long did Peter do the impossible by walking on the water? The Bible says, “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:30.
What was Peter afraid of? He was afraid of sinking and drowning. In spite of Christ’s assurance that he could safely walk on the water, Peter began to doubt the word of the Master. That is when he began to sink. As long as he believed the promise of Jesus and acted in faith, he was safe. When he doubted, he sank.
Now, what is the impossible thing as far as you are concerned? It is not walking on water. It is overcoming that tobacco habit or other besetting sin. And Christ says, “Come to me. I will give you victory.” As long as you believe that you have been delivered, you will have the victory. It is as simple as that. The very moment you ask for victory it will be placed in your life as a reservoir of power. You won’t feel it, but it is there. It will remain there as long as you accept it in faith.
For some people the deliverance is so dramatic that they lose even the appetite for the sin. Tobacco addicts have sometimes been delivered from the craving. BUT THIS IS NOT THE USUAL WAY GOD DOES IT. Usually, the desire remains, but in the moment of temptation, the power to walk past the temptation springs forth from within. Faith accepts the fact of deliverance and constantly claims the victory which is in the secure possession of the believer.
The final step to victory is described in our FOURTH text, Romans 13:14, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” So strong is the confidence in the appropriated power of God that no consideration is given to falling under the power of that sin again. Under the old TRYING plan, provision was made to fail in most cases. Cigarettes were placed on a shelf, and the smoker said to himself, “I’m going to try never to smoke again, but if I don’t make it, I know where they are.” But under the TRUSTING plan, we have no reason to fear failure on the grounds of human weakness. Victory does not depend on our strength but on God’s power. We might fail, but He cannot fail. Cigarettes are thrown away. All plans that might involve any degree of compromise are abandoned.
Little Jimmy was in trouble because he had gone swimming against his mother’s orders. When asked why he had disobeyed her, Jimmy answered, “Because I got tempted.” Mother then said, “I noticed that you took your bathing suit with you this morning. Why did you do that?” Jimmy answered, “Because I expected to get tempted.” How typical of those who do not quite trust their own strength to win the victory. They make provision to fail.
Someone might raise the objection that this could be discouraging. Suppose the person does fail? Even Peter began to sink. Would it not shake confidence in God if the victory was not maintained? No. Peter’s sinking had nothing to do with the failure of divine power. It did not change Christ’s will for him to walk on the water. It only pointed up Peter’s need of stronger faith to enable him to obey Christ’s command. Our faith could weaken. We might need to be reminded of our total dependence upon His strength. But this does not diminish from the beautiful plan of God to impart power and victory through “the exceeding great and precious promises” of the Bible. Without faith by the receiver, not even God’s promises can be appropriated. The limits are clearly defined in the words of Jesus, “According to your faith be it unto you.” Matthew 9:29.
There it is, friend, in all of its simplicity. AND IT WORKS! If you are willing to be delivered, it works. Nothing will help the one who is not willing to give up the sin. But if you want it, it is there. VICTORY, POWER, DELIVERANCE – just reach out in faith and it is yours. Believe it and claim it this very moment. God wants you to be free.
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Can a Saved Man Choose to be Lost?

8 Jan
By Joe Crews
Introduction
The power of choice is a wonderful gift from God. Yet there is one choice God never allowed man to exercise. No one can choose whether or not to be born with a sinful nature. The decision which affects our lives the most was made long, long ago by our forefathers. We have absolutely no choice about the kind of nature we possess at birth. It is a sinful nature. If unchanged it will lead to eternal death.
But even though we are born with a fallen nature, God gives us a choice about changing that nature. It is a personal, sovereign choice that no one can take away from us. Without doubt it constitutes the most important decision that any person faces during his lifetime. The choice is whether we yield to that sinful nature and die eternally, or receive a new nature through faith in Christ and live eternally.
Much disagreement exists over the kind of choice offered to each one of us. Millions believe that God opens the door for only a once-in-a-lifetime decision and then closes that door forever. It is as though God says, “I’m going to give you only one decision about changing over from your doomed condition. Once you decide to be saved you can never choose to be lost again. When you accept Jesus as your Saviour, it will be the final choice you will ever make about your eternal destiny. If you change your mind later and repudiate your decision, it will be too late. No matter how deeply and sincerely you desire to be lost and repent of your repentance, you cannot escape from eternal life. No amount of bitter rebellion, deliberate blasphemy, or iniquitous living can change that once-for-all decision to be saved. I will not allow you any further choice after you accept Jesus as your Saviour.”
Basically, this is the belief of a large segment of Christians who advocate the doctrine of eternal security. Another equally sincere group of Christians believes that God leaves the door open for us to change our minds at any time. They believe that salvation is not predicated upon only one irrevocable act or choice of the past, but upon a continuous, personal relationship of the believer with Christ. When the decision to break the love-relationship is made by willful disobedience, the believer ceases to be a true believer and forfeits any assurance of salvation.
Millions of Souls at Stake
The fantastic implications of this issue are overwhelming. If there is an unconditional future security for all believers, it has to be the most wonderful doctrine in existence: but if it is not true, it surely is one of the most dangerous heresies in the world. Millions could be saved or lost over the decision they make on this one point.
Let me give you an example of how it influences the destiny of people day by day. At one of my crusades there were more than one hundred people attending who had been steeped in the belief of eternal security. They were thrilled by the revelation of Bible truth as they listened. The seventh-day Sabbath particularly excited them because they had never before understood it. All were completely convinced that Saturday is the true Sabbath of the Scriptures, and they eagerly accepted the great prophetic doctrines also. But of those hundred people only a very few made any decision to obey the truth. Practically all of them had Sabbath problems connected with their jobs. It would have meant inconvenience, economic hardship, and possible loss of employment for them to follow the truth all the way. Each one who rejected the message gave me the same explanation – “We are already saved,” they said, “and we cannot be lost. Why should we run the risk of losing our jobs by keeping the Sabbath? We would not be any more saved by keeping the Sabbath than we are right now, and we certainly cannot be lost by breaking the Sabbath.”
Do you see how their argument was consistent with their doctrine? To them salvation was not connected with obedience, or advancing in spiritual growth. It all focused on a past moment when they made a decision for Christ. Whether they obeyed or disobeyed any subse- quent revelation of truth could have no influence whatsoever on their final destiny. They could break the fourth commandment, the seventh commandment, or all of them, and still feel eternally secure in the promise they had claimed “when they were saved.” To be sure, these people believed that their disobedience might affect the joy and peace of their relationship, but never the assurance of ultimate salvation.
Obviously, this doctrine needs to be deeply examined. Too many eternal consequences hinge upon its acceptance or rejection. We need to answer questions like these: Can we change our minds about being saved? Do we give up our power of choice when we are converted? Does salvation consist of one grand, holy moment of decision, or must we continue in the saving grace of Christ after that decision? Can God take defiling sins into His holy kingdom? Fortunately, the Bible has hundreds of beautiful, clear texts to answer these questions. We will look at them together, and also examine a few texts which have been interpreted to uphold the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”
No Sin in Heaven
Speaking of the New Jerusalem, John said, “There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth.” Revelation 21:27. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. Paul repeatedly wrote about the exclusion of sinners from heaven. Sin is the only thing that defiles in the sight of God, and no one who willfully practices sin will ever enter into His kingdom. Paul wrote, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, . . . nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Nowhere in the Bible is entrance into God’s kingdom tied to a momentary – or even temporary – faith experience of the past. Salvation is a dynamic, growing relationship with the only One who has eternal life to bestow. It requires continuing contact in order to receive it. The very life of God can be shared with men but NEVER APART FROM A LIVING UNION WITH CHRIST! “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:12.
Just as the constant creative energy of God is necessary to sustain the universe and to hold atoms together, so His divine power is constantly needed to maintain spiritual life in the soul. When a person willfully chooses to separate from God, the contact is broken, and the spiritual life ceases to flow. God will not violate the will of anyone in making that choice either. For proof that Christians can lose their connection with Jesus and be lost, read John 15:1-6. There Christ explains one of the great mysteries of eternal life. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Verses 5, 6.
The Secret of Continued Life is Continued Abiding
Notice that the secret of continued life is continued abiding. If a person does not abide in Christ, he withers, dies, and is finally burned up. This proves that the relation of a believer to Christ is never a static thing based only on a past experience. It is a current, mutual sharing of a common life which is drawn from Him “who is our life” (Colossians 3:4). When the branch is separated from the vine, the source of life is gone, and only death can result. These words of Jesus are too clear to be misconstrued. Even believing, trusting Christians who are connected to the living vine may choose to separate from the vine. When they do, they die and will be cast into the fire and burned. Nothing can wither and die that has not previously been alive.
Security is eternal only for those whose faith is eternally fixed on Jesus, and whose life is connected to the one who is our life. Obviously, we can choose to be lost no matter how saved we once were. Everything depends on maintaining the divine connection with the true vine.
Jesus taught the same solemn truth about losing eternal life in the parable of the sower. In explaining the seed which fell among the thorns and the rocks, Jesus said, “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:12, 13.
There are several things to note about this parable. First, only one class will finally be saved – the ones who brought forth much fruit. The groups represented by the wayside and rocks will not be saved. In verse 12, the wayside hearers did not have a chance to “believe and be saved,” but in the next verse the stony ground hearers do “for a while believe.” What kind of “believing” is this? According to verse 12, it is the kind that saves. So the ones who believed for a while were saved for a while, but in time of temptation they fell away. Eventually, of course, they were lost along with all the others, except the fruit-bearers. Here is an unequivocal teaching of our Lord that people can have a saving faith for a while, and yet lose it and be lost.
Security is Eternal Only for Those Whose Faith is Eternally Fixed on Jesus
Those who read the record of the Gospels carefully will find repeated authority from Jesus to renounce the doctrine of eternal security. In Luke 12:42-46 Christ described in another parable how a faithful servant could turn into an unfaithful one. After asking, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household . . . ?” Jesus answers His own question: “That servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing . . . he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” Then Christ explains how that servant could lose his reward. “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” Verses 45,46.
Here is a perfect example by the Master Teacher as to how a faithful and wise servant can be punished with the unbelievers. Jesus was talking about a man whom He had seen faithful enough to trust with heavy responsibilities. Undoubtedly, this servant represents those who carefully served the Lord as true believers. But what happened? That very faithful servant departed from the path of faithfulness and reaped eternal ruin and death. Does this not also remind us of the words of Hebrews 10:38, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” The servant in the parable, who was a believer, is now punished with the unbelievers. The faithful can draw back to perdition.
Salvation Can Be Forfeited
One more parable of Christ spotlights the fact that continued forgiveness is conditional for the believer. The story is found in Matthew 18:21-35, and revolves around the forgiveness of God. A certain king responded to the pleas of his servant and forgave him a large debt. That servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a small amount and showed no mercy, throwing him in prison because he could not pay. When the king heard what had happened, he rescinded his cancellation of the large debt and had his servant thrown to the tormentors till he paid in full.
No one can deny the obvious teaching of this parable. Even though God graciously forgives those who apply for it, that forgiveness is not without conditions for the future. We can lose that forgiveness by being unmerciful to others. This is in harmony with the words of the Lord in Ezekiel 33:13, “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” The principle is repeated in verse 18, “When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.”
The secret lies in maintaining the righteous relationship with the Source of salvation. Jesus said, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. No one will be saved finally who does not hold out against a course of deliberate sin in the power of God. Those who do not endure to the end will have their names blotted out of the book of life. Advocates of eternal security deny it could ever happen, but read the frightening possibility for yourself in Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh . . . I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.” The implication is clear that those who are not overcomers – who do not endure to the end – will have their names blotted out.
All these verses are really saying the same thing. Willful sin shatters the relationship by which eternal life is obtained. There is an eternal “if” in every consideration of eternal security. “If we walk in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. “If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24. “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch.” John 15:6. “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” John 8:51. “If thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:22. “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” 2 Peter 1:10. “For we are made partakers of Christ, If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3:14. “If we endure, we shall also reign with him: If we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Timothy 2:12 (RSV). “If we sin willfully . . . there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:26. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. “Ye are my friends, If ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Romans 8:13.
Danger of Being a Castaway
Paul recognized the fearful possibility of being cast out of God’s presence in the end unless he curbed the fleshly propensities to sin. Said he, “. . . lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Corinthians 9:27. The word Paul used – castaway – is very interesting. It is the Greek word “adokimos,” which is translated “reprobate” in other places. In fact, 2 Corinthians 13:5 declares that Jesus Christ cannot dwell in the heart that is reprobate (adokimos). Titus 1:16 speaks of the abominable and disobedient who are “unto every good work reprobate (adokimos).” Surely Paul had nothing else in mind but that he could be lost if he allowed sin to recapture his life.
Paul also speaks of the possibility of born-again believers suffering damnation because they receive the Lord’s Supper unworthily. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:29. No one can deny that these people were committed Christians partaking of the symbols of their redemption. Could they fall into damnation and be lost? Paul said they could. What is damnation? The same Greek word (krima) is found in 1 Timothy 5:12. “Having damnation (krima) because they have cast off their first faith.” How plain it is that believers can “cast off their first faith” and go into final damnation.
I have listened many, many times to an explanation of eternal security based upon the analogy of sonship. “My child is born into my family and he will always be my child. He cannot be unborn. Whether obedient or disobedient, he will always be my child.” This reasoning avoids the central issue. The question is not whether a child can be “unborn,” but whether it can sicken and die. No doctor admonishes new parents about the dangers of the baby getting unborn, but he has much to say about proper care to keep it from dying. In fact, if the baby is not fed, it will soon die. In the same way, Jesus said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” John 6:53. What was He talking about? In verse 63 He explained, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Unless the Christian lives by the Word of God, he cannot continue to partake of the spiritual life derived from Him.
Have we clearly established that continued obedience is necessary to ultimate salvation? Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?” Romans 6:16. When a man chooses to obey Christ no longer and obeys the devil instead, he no longer belongs to Christ, but to Satan. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous . . . He that committeth sin is of the devil.” 1 John 3:7, 8.
The writer of the book of Hebrews gives scores of specific admonitions against falling away from the faith. Hebrews 10:23 opens up a line of argument against the once-saved, always-saved position that no one can refute. The passage begins this way: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” And after that, admonition is given those who might be tempted to absent themselves from the assembly of the believers. Apparently, this is one of the first signs of slipping backward. The author of this epistle, and I think it was Paul, includes himself in the warning. He writes, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” That is from verses 26 through 29. The people described herehad been sanctified by the truth, but fell away into willful apostasy.
Now the last few verses of the chapter warn against the casting away of their confidence. Notice this carefully! “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. . . . Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Verses 35 to 39. Now how could anybody state any more clearly the fact that one’s eternal salvation is conditional on his remaining steadfast to the very end? Unless there were a possibility that one might cast away his confidence, that he might draw back unto perdition, why would this man of God sound such a warning as he did?
In Hebrews 6:4-6 we find another striking statement. “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.” Now I think it would be very difficult to describe more fully a person who had been born again but who later rebelled against God and rejected Christ and spurned the Holy Spirit. He has placed himself out of God’s reach by his own actions. Therefore, there is no possibility that such a man can be saved as long as he continues to crucify Christ by his disobedience.
Branches Can Be Cut Off
In the eleventh chapter of Romans, Paul is discussing the fact that many of the physical seed of Israel rejected God’s Son and were thus cut off. The illustration is used of an olive tree. The branches were the children of Israel, but because of their unbelief, they were broken off, as you will read in verses 17 to 20. Then, some wild olive branches were grafted in, which represents the Gentile Christians. Now note this admonition: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, IF THOU CONTINUE IN HIS GOODNESS: OTHERWISE, THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF.” Verses 21 and 22, emphasis added. Please note that any security for those branches depended entirely upon their connection with the tree. The security was conditional.
Let’s see whether Peter agrees with these sentiments of Paul. In his second epistle, the first chapter, are listed a number of virtues which should be manifested in the life of every Christian. These are mentioned in verses 5 to 7, and notice that he is writing to “them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Verse 1. Then they had been given “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Verse 3. It is very apparent that Peter is addressing these remarks to those who have been converted. But notice the warning he gives: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Verses 9 and 10. Surely this indicates that Christians can fall from grace. They can turn back from following Jesus. They can even become apostates in the truest sense of the word.
In the third chapter, Peter goes on to say, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” Verse 14. “Seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” Verse 17. So we see that Peter does agree with Paul that Christians need to be on guard constantly lest they be led astray, and he indicates the sad fate of those who turn back into sin after they are converted.
One of the strongest texts in the Bible that proves a person can turn away from Christ and be lost even after he has made a profession of being saved is 2 Peter 2:20-22: “If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” The lesson here is obvious.
Now, those who take a position for unconditional security say that God’s sons cannot be represented by dogs and sows. Well, maybe they can’t, but Peter did – and it is the most apt of illustrations. The proverb is painfully plain. They had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They had been converted. They had joined Christ on His side. They had turned their lives over to Him, but they remembered the world and the “wallow” of sin. Like the Israelites coming out of Egypt, they remembered the “flesh pots,” the “leeks and onions.” They remembered the pleasures of sin; so, leaving Christ they went back into the world like the hog returns to its wallow in the mire. Certainly no Christian should imitate the habits of a hog, but Peter’s proverb shows that it is possible.
The Spirit of God is not silent on this point. Listen: “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.” 1 Timothy 4:1, emphasis added. When will this happen? When will some depart from the faith? In the latter times. That would be right now, wouldn’t it? That would be the times in which we are living and the times immediately before us. If you haven’t thought of it before, these are dangerous times. And if you are still unconvinced, thoughtfully read the headlines of tomorrow’s newspaper.
On this point “the Spirit speaketh expressly.” Just what does that mean? It means the Spirit speaks plainly, clearly – so clearly it is impossible to misunderstand. All right then, what would some do? Some would depart from the faith. So, it is possible to leave the faith, isn’t it? Some do it. They have been in the faith, they have worshiped with the brethren, they have attended church and prayer meeting. They have been actively promoting the gospel, they have given of their means, they have been pastors, officers of the church, and leading laymen; nevertheless, they leave the faith. They are not steadfast and faithful. In the last days come perilous times, with persecutions and serious difficulties, and some do not stand. They are tempted by the things of the world and are seduced by spirits of devils. Sad to say, they give up their allegiance to the Man of the cross. They were on Christ’s side, but now they side with His enemy.
Please don’t missunderstand. If you want unconditional security, you can have it. It is in Christ, on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis. When you take Christ and stay by, you will persevere. There is, and can be, no failure on Christ’s part. He will not fail; He is faithful. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” Psalm 55:22. He will stand by you as long as you stand by Him. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. And John wrote of the Lord, “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12.
Many non-Christians think they have security. They will tell you they believe God will admit them to heaven. They will say, “I am as good as people in the church,” or “I feel I will be saved without going to church.” But the truth is, no man is saved on the basis of his feelings. He may be sincere, but his sincerity will not save him. He may be honest, truthful, moral, and a first class citizen, but that won’t save him. He may be liberal, a supporter of the church and a giver to the needy, but neither will that save him. No man is saved by his works, good as they may be.
Remember this, and please never forget it: Christ is the Saviour, not your gifts, not your works. He offers you salvation as a free gift. It is in Christ, and when you receive Christ, you have salvation. “He that hath the Son, hath life.” 1 John 5:12. But if you don’t have the Son, you don’t have life, and you cannot have eternal security until you have and keep Christ the Son.
What Does It Mean for the Christian to Leave His “First Love”?
“Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy FIRST LOVE. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:4, 5, emphasis added.
For the Christian to leave his first love, is to backslide, to fall away, to leave the Lord and His service, and to go over to the service of sin, Satan and the world. The Lord calls upon all such to repent and do their first works (the fruits of love), or else – else what? “I will take thy candlestick out of his place.” This is an ultimatum from the Lord. If the sinner responds, repents, returns to his first love, and does his first works, all is well and good – he will be saved. But it is his to choose. If he does not do this, his light is removed, goes out, and the backslider is lost.
Does the Backslider Always Return to the Lord Before Death?
No, far from it. That was the case of the first king of Israel, Saul. It is written of Saul that he was “turned into another man.” “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be TURNED INTO ANOTHER MAN.” 1 Samuel 10:6 emphasis added. Yet Saul backslid from his high and exalted position, disobeyed the Lord, and at last took his own life (1 Samuel 31:1-6). It cannot be said in this case that Saul was not converted, because God says that he was. Yet, he took his own life with no opportunity of repentance.
No Man Can Pluck Out
Finally, let us look at the text which has probably been quoted more than any other to support the doctrine of eternal security. Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:28, 29.
What a tremendous promise this should be for every trusting child of God! At first glance, it does seem to guarantee some sort of immunity against spiritual loss, but we have not read the entire text. Verse 27 is an integral part of the thought, and it lays down a specific condition for the fulfillment of the promise in verses 28 and 29. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life.” Please notice that it is only God’s true followers who nestle safely in His protecting hand. He gives eternal life only to the faithful sheep who hear and follow Him. It is this hearing and following which provides immunity against being plucked away by the devil or his agents. The protection is from enemies without who seek to carry off the sheep, but not from unfaithfulness of the sheep who might choose not to follow any longer. No one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand, but they may choose to jump out at any time. God never even hints that He will interfere with the freedom of choice of His followers. Christians can choose to be lost just as surely as sinners can choose to be saved.
Just think how useless would be all the hundreds of biblical warnings against apostasy if it were impossible to experience it. Why would the Spirit have led Paul, Peter, and all the others to pen such solemn threats and admonitions against eternal loss if they were in no danger of suffering it? And if it is true that the “once saved” are eternally secure, surely the devil would know it. Therefore, he would never waste any time on believers, knowing how impossible it would be to cause them to be lost. Yet, we all know by experience that Satan works even harder to pull away the saints from following Christ.
We have to conclude that salvation does not consist of a single, irrevocable commitment, whether past or present. Being saved is the experience of living Christ’s own life by divine imputation and impartation. It is never a reality except in continual, dynamic relationship with Jesus, the source of eternal life. Being saved must be spoken of in all three tenses of time in order to be completely biblical. It has happened, it is happening, and it will happen. Perhaps, this illustration by Glenn Fillman will help explain it.
Saved – Past, Present and Future
Bill Jones is fishing several miles out in the ocean. His boat capsizes and sinks to the bottom. He is unable to swim to safety. Just then, another fishing boat comes along, but it is so heavily loaded that it is impossible to take on another passenger. Because they want to rescue the doomed man, however, the crew throws him a rope. “Here, take this rope,” they say. “We will tow you to shore.” As he takes the rope, Bill Jones says, “Thank God, I am saved!” And he is saved, as long as he holds on to the rope. Salvation is his, but he has a part to play in it. If he should at any time release his grasp on the rope and refuse to take it again, he would be lost. So it is with a person who has been rescued from sin. He remains saved as long as he holds on to the hand of Christ. If he should decide to release that hand and clasp the hand of the devil, he would be lost. His salvation depends on his decision and his action.
Actually, one can properly speak of salvation in three tenses – past, present, and future. He can say, “I have been saved” when he takes the rope, “I am being saved” as he is being towed to shore; and “I shall be saved” when he plants his feet firmly on shore. A converted person -has been saved- from the penalty of sin. We call that justification. He -is being saved- from the power of sin, and we call that sanctification. He -shall be saved- from the presence of sin when Christ comes, and that will be glorification. All three of these tenses are used in the Bible in connection with being saved.
In Romans 8:24 is the expression, “We are saved by hope.” Weymouth is a more accurate translation. He says, “We have been saved,” past tense. The Revised Standard Version correctly renders the phrase in 1 Corinthians 1:18 as “To us who are being saved.” Then Acts 15:11 states, “that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” So you see past, present, and future.
Now let’s make sure that no one gets the wrong impression from our illustration of the man being rescued from drowning. Does the fact that he must cling to the rope to be saved, mean that we can earn our salvation by our own works? Absolutely not, a thousand times no! Remember that he was being towed by a power other than his own. He was merely cooperating with that power. He was holding on to the rope. He had to do that in order to be pulled to safety. As Christians we must confess our faith in Christ, we must remain steadfast to Him, we must bring forth the fruits of obedience; that is our part in holding on to Christ. He will never let us go. The only way we can separate ourselves from Him is to cut ourselves off deliberately and disconnect ourselves from Him, but we have the power to do that. We are still free moral agents. Our will has not been removed merely because we have become Christians.
At any point in our Christian life we can decide to turn back, to choose the things of the world rather than the things of God and heaven. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. However, we show our faith by our works. It is a manifestation of our love for Him. Keeping God’s commandments and doing right are merely the result of His Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. These are the fruits of the Spirit. We do these things, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved, and as long as we love the Lord with all our heart, we are going to be obedient to Him. We will not let go of the rope. We will continue to cling to Christ as our only hope
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