We’re going through John Bevere’s book “Driven by Eternity” in my men’s group. The premise of the book is about how many Christians go around today without eternity in mind. In other words, they live out their lives according to their own wants and needs, only stopping to hear from God on Sunday mornings or when things get a little rough. John’s big question is how many people will be surprised to hear on the day of judgement that God never knew them. That really got me thinking…
There has been some discussion about salvation and judgement within the group and it’s really making us think and talk out our faith. I think that’s good - I think that’s one of the things Bevere hoped to accomplish with this book. One of the discussions we’ve had has to do with how God will never leave or forsake us (that’s a Biblical promise) but He never said we couldn’t walk away from Him. I couldn’t help thinking about this as I read today’s chapter. Take a look:
1 Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. 2 But there is a problem – your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
“Your sins have cut you off from God” echos in my mind. Cut off from God? That’s a hell I do not want. Can our sins cause God to turn away? Can something we do effect whether or not our prayers are heard? Can we walk away from God (salvation)?
Well, this age old debate has been argued by men much wiser and studied than me (but I have the Holy Spirit inside me, too). And, I know that people on both sides of this debate use Scripture to back them up. There are those in the Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) camp, those who believe you can loose your salvation by sinning, and those who believe you can walk away from God (sometimes called “free-will damnation). However, Scripture would never contradict itself – so we must read the Scripture for all it’s worth (to borrow a phrase from Hank Hannagraff).
I’ve really had to seek answers on this question over the last few weeks and meditate and pray. What I’m becoming comfortable with (based on my discussions with trusted God-followers, conversations with God about it and my study) is that:
- God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) – Hell was not created for man, but for Satan and his angels
- God is holy and sin must be punished – and we all sin (Rom 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23)
- God sent Christ to be the payment for our sins (redemption) – this was a gift to us, not something we can earn (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- We need only believe in Him (John 3:16, 11:25-26) and accept the gift of salvation – and repent from our ways (Acts 2:36-38) and follow Him
I guess it all kind of all boils down to your definition of “believer.” There are true-believers, non-believers and those who only claim they believe. I’ve always thought it was kind of a cop-out say of someone who apparently “turned their backs on God” that they were never a true-believer at all. But it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
Have you read the parable of the wheat & tares in Matthew 23? It tells a story of tares (weeds that look like wheat that have no grain in them) that grow up right next to the wheat – eating the same nutrients, looking quite the same on the outside. At harvest time, they are bundled up and thrown into the fire. This talks about people in the church who grow up hearing the same messages, looking just like Christians on the outside, but there’s no Christ within.
These are the same people we see in Matthew 7:21-23 that God will tell He never knew them, in spite of the fact they called him Lord, Lord and prophesied in His name. Or the people in Matthew 25 that are the goats instead of the sheep. Like John Bevere’s character, Deceived, I believe many will be surprised on that day when they find out that all the good they were hoping would outweigh the bad they did really had nothing to do with it.
There are just too many scriptures that indicate that there’s nothing we can do to loose our salvation:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.” (John 6:37)
“And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39)
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish, and not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
” For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Okay – bottom line: If we believe in Jesus Christ, accept His free gift of salvation, repent and follow Him, and our lives are bearing fruit for God’s kingdom – then everything else becomes a moot point. If Christ is in us, the Holy Spirit will convict us to get rid of difficult sins, we won’t return to them. We won’t be able to walk away from God because there’s no way we’d want to. Once you’ve tasted His life, His love, you won’t ever leave.
I question if those who seem to “walk away from God” ever really knew Him – or He them.
I’m stepping down now.