Because of the length, I divided this message into two parts.
There is only one truth and one way, and we are to seek that with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. If a man is meandering through his spiritual existence like this is some cruise ship on which to be entertained or indulged, then he will forever be falling for deceptions –deceptions that can damn himself or his hearers. God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with ALL your heart” (Jer. 29:13), while Heb. 11:6 says, “He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” And because so many, even those in the church, and church leadership, are absolutely not doing this, they easily accept falsehoods, and even shrug off thinking that to believe false doctrine is of any sobering concern.
Yes, it certainly is in vogue to think that there are many acceptable truths and ways. And the one that I believe to be one of the most dangerous comes straight out of the evangelical church. It is this belief system that states that once a person makes a commitment to follow Jesus, he is forever “saved from Hell” –even if he later forsakes Christ’s path. In fact, I am beginning to think that this heresy coming from mainline churches is going to cause the populating of Hell more than many of the cults combined.
God does not tolerate or accept an unfaithful servant. Yes, HE is always faithful, but if the servant, the child, the espoused “bride of Christ” does not remain faithful, that is called “disowning / forsaking / rebelling / turning away from / deserting” The Covenant of Promise, and “He will [then] disown us.” (2 Tim. 2:12) It is a simple truth: A believer must commit initially to follow Jesus (which means to follow His instructions as found in His Word), AND he must continue to run the whole race. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) Someone who commits to training for and running a marathon cannot stop after the second mile, or the fifth mile, or the tenth mile, and say, “I win!” That defies common sense. His initial sincerity and determination are inconsequential. He didn’t win, and he didn’t even finish. Or maybe he finishes, but if he doesn’t do so according to rules, such a person, as 2 Tim. 2:5 says, will “not receive the victor’s crown”, “win the prize” (Phil. 3:14), or get even an achievement award. In other words, he will not win Heaven.
Let’s say a person who –even in great sincerity and determination– commits to a New Year’s Resolution of forever-after eating healthy, and implementing daily exercise, –yet after a day, or a week, or a month, or even 5 months, quits, and says, “I did it”. Others would just say by the end of the year, “No you didn’t. You’re deceiving yourself. You quit. It’s called ‘Quitting’ –Silly!” Again, the genuineness of the initial commitment is irrelevant.
Our relationship to our God is often in the Scriptures compared to the marriage relationship. Yes, God will always be the faithful partner. But we humans always –every day of our lives– are given freedom of choice. When two people marry are they not (normally) in true sincerity and true love, genuinely committing to the vow “till death do us part”? Of course. So it is with a believer’s commitment to make the decision to follow Christ. As long as we walk this earth, we have free choice to desert Christ and turn back to the world. And just as no one else can force a wife to fall out of love with her (faithful) husband and divorce him, SHE HERSELF can choose to do so at any time during the marriage. And if she does, she was not found faithful “to the end” –was she? Oh, but did she not genuinely commit to him previously…? Of course. So it was a true commitment.
Yes, Jesus is able to hold a soul to Himself, but not if that soul chooses to leave. Why? –Because He has ordained it this way. He has given us the gift of freedom of choice and He will not take that gift back. What spouse, what parent, would want to FORCE being loved by the one they love? Who wants to be loved by a robot that we program to show or speak loving things? It’s not real love. God wants our real love, and to get that, He has to risk giving us all free choice. And free choice during the entire relationship –the choice to continue to stay –or to leave. For preachers to say we can initially exercise our “free will” or “free choice” to accept the salvation extended to us by Jesus, but as soon as we commit to Him we are somehow mystically forced to stay, is just illogical.
And people do forsake their commitments. We are fickle people, prone to change our minds. We tend to always be looking elsewhere at worldly dazzles –for things to accommodate our lives that we think look better… things that maybe we think Jesus should’ve provided for us by now. This is precisely why there are so many warnings in the Bible. We live on a planet belonging to Satan, an enemy who is always seeking to trip us, destroy us; and though we’ve got ahold of the Lifeline, we have certainly not been reeled into shore yet. This is why abiding in the Vine daily is a must. But like the gentleman He is, Jesus does not force us to stay with Him. He woos, He has all power to protect… but only if we STAY in Him. It’s a daily choice.
This free choice –in life, while alive, while having breath, while in the process of living, while running the race– can also be seen in Jesus’ explanation of the seeds and soil in Luke 8:5-15. In v. 13, He says, “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the Word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Again, “fall away” means to turn back from, desert, rebel, forsake, disown… –to not remain IN Christ as John 15:6 speaks of.)
Some believers live for a long time without much testing, so even though they have “no root”, they keep going to church, reading their Bibles, going to Bible studies… And why not? They are of the “in group” of their churchianity culture, and there’s no huge persecutions along with that to make them choose to consciously forsake Christ. Nor are there any “hard sayings” they have to obey, because they are taught one can sin purposefully, daily, and still be found pleasing to God in that they have been justified by what Christ has done for them; and that to be “saved” does not require continuous abiding obedience.
Oh, these servants may have leaves that look lusciously green, but they are like the fig tree in Mark 11:13,14. “…Jesus was hungry. Seeing… a fig tree in leaf, He went to find out if it had any fruit. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. [This teaches us that there are NO excuses for us to not be producing fruit (obedience) constantly.] Then He said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.'” Verses 20 & 21 show us that that cursed tree died. It “withered from the roots”, meaning it must have had some root, and Jesus’ words “May no one ever eat fruit from you AGAIN” implies that that tree actually had at one time produced fruit. Compare this with what Jesus says in John 15:4, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the Vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”
So, unfortunately, these sleepy, non-alert individuals (who Jesus calls “wicked and lazy servants” in Matt. 25:26) do not seem to realize that their lack of fruit already labels them before God as “worthless branches [“worthless servants” –Matt. 25:30] destined for the fire.” (See John 15:1-6) And if they do not “Wake up! [and] Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:2), their stunted growth –their constant (purposeful or ignorant) infantile condition (or adult, but rebellious condition) is going to get for themselves their name erased from the book of life. (See v. 5) For they “have a reputation [even to themselves] of being alive, but are dead.” (See v. 1) And to those who say that a “born-again” individual cannot be “unborn”, well, of course that’d be a silly word to use. How about the word “died”? Or just quote Rev. 3:2 again –“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Friends, something that is alive can die. If there’s been a spiritual birth, there can be a spiritual death. Those who balk at this are those who are not reading their Bibles and have biased lens. …Remember what the Father said of the prodigal son? –“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…” (Luke 15:24)
So, no fruit, but instead tolerance of continued sin in one’s life… Well, this is just none other than gnosticism, which asserts that the body (the flesh) is bad and evil, and that even when the spirit is “saved” or “reborn”, the body (along with its flesh-nature, its sin-nature) can never be made pure. This is why we get so much preaching that “Christians just cannot help but sin.” And preaching that says “Christians will sin daily.” And preaching that says that once a person gets “born again” his spirit is saved –even if his flesh keeps on sinning. These preachers, and their followers, tend to forget verses such as Ezek. 18:26 –“If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it”, (“die” as in spiritual death –eternal death –just like He warned in Eden) and 1 John 3:8 –“He who commits sin is of the devil.” In fact, history tells us that when John wrote 1, 2, and 3 John, gnosticism was rampant… –as it seems to be today. –Even though we are exhorted in 1 Thes. 5:23, “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless…” This is not unachievable as so many preach. No, it is expected of us. And it’s done by constantly abiding in –living with, fellow-shipping with– Christ.
As God says in Hosea 5:1-7, “Hear this, you priests! [Remember, all Christians are now priests as 1 Peter 2:9 tells us.] …This judgement is against YOU… you have now turned to prostitution; Israel [the church] is corrupt. Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart… Israel’s arrogance testifies against them… [they] stumble in their sin… When they go with their flocks and herds [their tithes and service] to seek the LORD, they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children [false “born again” church-goers].”
Old Testament, you say? Romans 11:21 (of the New Testament) will tell us that in this regard, it is no different now for those who pretend to acknowledge God and His commands, but instead have unbelieving hearts. “For if God did not spare the natural branches [–speaking of the nation of Israel], He will not spare you either.” And again in speaking of this unbelief/disobedience of the Israelite nation, Heb. 3:7-19 & 4:1-11 let us know that to God “unbelief” and “disobedience” mean the same thing.
Heb. 5:9 tells us that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” And Acts 5:32 says the Holy Spirit has been “given to those who obey Him.” There must be obedience, and it must be continued obedience. There must be faithfulness in a marriage and it must be continued faithfulness –until death. Any time before that when a person forsakes the covenant of marriage, disowns his promises by failing to abide by them, deserts his wife by unfaithful actions… –it doesn’t matter what he is saying –speaking… for he has still, in reality and fact, DIScontinued the covenant. If there is no true, genuine repentance, and the unfaithfulness continues, a divorce has indeed taken place –whether or not he stays in the same house as his wife or not. No, it has instead become a “pretense of a marriage” and no longer the true thing.
So a “Christian” can keep going to church, can in appearance be growing, can keep praying and “prophesying in His name” (see Matt. 7:22), can keep claiming he is still covenanted with Jesus… But, if in his mind or heart or his private actions, he has turned from following The Truth, from following Jesus and His Word, and is not presently producing fruit, then he simply is no longer “in Christ”. And it can most certainly happen –and does happen to “many” (Matt. 7:13,22)– just as the Scriptures make abundantly clear. For God’s Word –quotes and parables from the mouth of Jesus, and the prophets’ and apostles’ writings– do trump the doctrines and traditions of any pulpit man or denomination.
So let’s be reading God’s Word diligently and honestly. For if we rely on some hireling to teach us, he could lead us straight to a lost and dark eternity. Where there is no prize.