Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The U-Turn to Hell

Today we will continue our examination of our faith.  We have covered forgiveness and proclaiming the Lord before men and today we will be discussing turning back from our walk with God.  I am not talking about the bumps in the road we all go through in life or the times we backslide in our faith, but I am talking about a willful rebellion against our walk with God.  I am not talking about stepping back, but about stepping away.  Jesus warns us of such.
But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Luke 9:62 NKJV
This is a hard saying.  Jesus is telling us that if we look back to our lives in the world, we are not fit for the kingdom to come.  So is Jesus saying that if we look back to our old lives, we can lose our salvation?  Again, the answer is "No."  Is Jesus saying we can give up our salvation?  That is a really interesting question and one that should be addressed in length in its own post perhaps in the future.  For today, we will say what it definitely means and that is if you are in the Lord, you will not look back to your old life.  I realize that the line of never saved and stepping away from the faith is a delicate line to tread.  Then again, I am not sure that line even matters.  In the end, whether you gave up your salvation (if even possible) or gave up the salvation you were offered but never really accepted, the end result is the same.  I am not tackling that issue today, but for our purposes today I do not think it is necessary.  I think the greatest illustration of this wold be with Lot's wife.
But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.  Genesis 19:26 NKJV
We all know the story.  Lot and his family were given a chance to escape the judgment about to befall Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot and his wife fled the city and fire and brimstone began to fall.  Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  By looking back, it does not mean she looked back out of curiosity to see what was happening but out of longing for not wanting her old life to end.  The question we need to answer is whether Lot's wife lost her salvation by longing for her old life in the world.  On one hand, she was saved from judgment.  She was on the road to salvation and she chose to give that all up to long for her old life.  But on the other hand (and for today's post we will take this approach), can we say she was ever really saved?  It is not like God found her at a later date and struck her dead.  She died concurrently with the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah.  She went through the motions of salvation.  She even made some growth in that she followed along with Lot.  She knew God's word to be true.  She had every sign in the world of being saved on the outside, but on the inside she was never redeemed.  She was never saved because she never desired to be saved.  She desired her old life and refused to let go of it and so she was never able to fully commit to her new life free from that judgment. 

In that light, let us address some scary passages in the Bible in how they apply to today's post.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.  Hebrews 6:4-6 NKJV
This is a hard verse to get around.  Please note that falling away in this verse does not mean those times we sin. With God, there is always a chance to repent.  Even of the things we have spoken of this week, we have all had issues where we failed for forgive someone or like Peter we denied Jesus out of fear, but we all had the chance to repent.  This kind of falling away is a profound falling away.  We all know people we were once convinced were on fire for the Lord, but have come to everything but "for the Lord."  We all know people who maybe come to church but never give up their worldly lives or find some "spiritual" excuse to seek that old life they long for once again.  This is especially true in the prosperity movement.  For many of these, their "salvation experience" is an emotional reaction to an idea they like, but something they never submit to.  They are deceived by their own hearts and in turn deceive the rest of us, but, like Lot's wife, they all continue to long for the worldly life.  God will not be patient forever with people such as these.  These people, as said here in Hebrews, are enlightened to the truth of the Gospel (they believe it to be true), the know of Heaven and the kingdom to come, they feel the Holy Spirit working in their hearts and see His effects in the lives of others, and have read and studied the Word of God.  Despite all of that, they reject that gift of salvation for the sake of their worldly lives.  They get to a point where God hardens their hearts against the Gospel and there is no hope for them.  For ones such as these, reading this post or anything else is not going to help them.  They are so hardened they do not even know to care to know they are not saved. 

Peter also addresses this issue.
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."  2 Peter 2:20-22 NKJV
Again, this is a hard passage.  This is similar to Hebrews and is basically saying the same thing in a different way.  These people know the truth.  They know the way of salvation.  They know of the freedom from sin through Jesus Christ.  They heard the Gospel, they know the Gospel, and many think they have accepted the Gospel, but they have not.  They accepted it as true, but rejected it for their lives.  Instead of washing in the Living Water of Jesus Christ, they return to their own vomit of their sinful lives.  They are pigs who choose to wallow in mud instead of being cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  They reject salvation for the sake of the sin they cherish.  It would have been better have they never knew the gospel to reject it.  For those outside of Christ, the severity of judgment is determined by what you do with the Gospel.  One who knows the Gospel and knows the work of God to be true will have a much more severe judgment then one who does not. 
And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! Mark 6:11 NKJV
Sodom and Gomorrah never had Jesus preached to them.  Later, Jesus alludes that if the work of God had been seen there, they would have repented.  In that, their judgment (despite their legendary sin) would be less that those cities that had Jesus preached to them and rejected Him.  How much more severe will judgment be for those who know the Gospel to be true and even spend time under its influence, but reject it for sake of their sinful worldly lives.

We heard some scary things today.  I know there is the debate that those who walk away from the faith will come back if truly saved and not come back if they never were saved, but that really is a moot point.  The fact is that if you walk away from the Gospel, you are in danger of judgment.  You can play semantics about someone just being backslidden, but who are we to know if someone is backslidden or just never accepted Jesus to begin with.  Who are we to even know that for ourselves?  Our hearts are deceitful, and Jesus warns that many who never even walk away from church are never saved to begin with.  How much more should that warning come to those who step away from any semblance of faith in their lives.  This post is for those on that cusp, like Lot's wife, who know the way of salvation but long for the life they once had.  Lot's wife chose poorly and instead of accepted that gift of salvation chose to long for her life in a sinful city.  If you still have that longing for your worldly life and if you continually entertain your desire for that old worldly sinful life that God is calling you out of, you have a real problem.  You really need to ask yourself if you have ever truly given your heart to the Lord.  Walking the walk and talking the talk, as we have seen with Lot's wife, is not enough.  You have to desire Jesus to take Lordship of your life and He will work in your heart to take that desire for the world out of your heart.  The life we look forward to in Christ is far superior to the life we look back to here on earth.  One life is one in the joy and peace of the Lord leading to eternity in paradise and the other is like a dog eating its own vomit or a pig wallowing in its mud leading to eternal judgment.  If you are in the faith and still feel the call of the world, give up those worldly desires for the otherworldly promises through Jesus Christ.  If you are not in the faith, and you feel even the slightest faintest call of the Lord, it is not too late.  I urge you to answer that call and truly make that commitment for the Lord.  You will gain more than you will ever have to lose. 
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.  1 John 2:15-17 NKJV

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