1/15/17 ~ When Love Is Gone

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingIn the very first chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul reminds us that, with God, ignorance is not a defense (verses 18-32). The reason for that is the fact that ignorance of God is a willful choice. The evidence of our Creator and much of what is right or wrong is written for all to see and learn from in the world around us. Those simple facts bring God’s condemnation to those who do not search out and obey His will.

No, there’s nothing new in all that, it is simply the lesson that God has been teaching through His word since man and woman first chose sin over obedience. As hard a lesson as this is for us to accept there is one that’s, if possible, worse. Consider for a moment the horror of those that have once been faithful children of God who chose to turn their backs on Him:

When Love is Gone

Have you ever heard a song and realized that, in spite of the secular intent, there is a spiritual lesson that just demands attention? One such song was pointed out to me by a very dear brother in Christ many years ago. The lyrics to Have I Told You Lately That I Love You serve as a great lesson to God’s people about the relationship that God calls us to and Paul describes so often to congregations.

Another song with a great spiritual lesson is titled When Love is Gone. The song is sung by a young woman who has come to realize that the young man she’s become so close to and planned to marry has changed. He’s now far more interested in wealth and worldly things than he is in her. Even as she pours out her heartbreak, he is seemingly unaffected and will only realize what he has lost many years later.

There was a time when I was sure / That you and I were truly one,

That our future was forever / And would never come undone,

And we came so close to being close / And though you cared for me

There’s distance in your eyes tonight / So we’re not meant to be.

The love is gone, / The love is gone, / The sweetest dream

That you have ever known. / The love is gone, /The love is gone,

I wish you well / But I must leave you now alone.

There comes a moment in your life / Like a window, and you see

The future there before you / And how perfect life can be,

But adventure calls with unknown voices / Pulling you away

Be careful or you may regret / The choice you made someday

The song ends with…

It was almost love, / It was almost always,

It was like a fairytale we’d live out / You and I.

And yes some dreams come true, / And yes some dreams fall through

And yes the time has come / For us to say goodbye.

While it is sad to see those lost ones who do not listen to and obey God, it is in many ways even more poignant when those who once belonged to God turn away. Peter makes this very point in 2 Peter 2:17-22.

The spiritual version of this song plays out repeatedly in the Old Testament and leads to some heartbreaking passages in the New Testament. The early Christians in Acts, for the most part, struggled with threats from outsiders. But as the church continued to grow and spread, just when all seemed to be going so well, the false teachers and inside threats begin to flourish.

The Lord took longer for His final return than some expected. Continuing to live as a Christian became more hard work and less excitement than many wanted. And, what began with loving optimism and joy would deteriorate. Jesus warned about this very thing in Matthew 24:9-12: Then they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

Note carefully Jesus’ last comment there. Because people disobey God their love will grow cold. While we might take that as either their love for God or their love for others, the context actually suggests that Jesus is talking about their love for others will grow cold.

Consider what Jesus is talking about. When problems arise and Christians fall away from the family the ultimate problem, the ultimate cause of their sin is losing their real love.

Have you noted the anguish as Paul, at the close of his life writes of Demas that, because he loved this present world, he has deserted me? Love is gone. And, near the end of the first century, God writes to the Ephesian church and warns them that, even though they were still “going to church” and even doing many things right, their love is growing cold (Revelation 2:2-4).

What a heartbreaking diagnosis! Much like a person bleeding to death even as their heart frantically beats to try and continue circulating blood to keep them alive, death, when it comes, comes to the whole body.

For us, as Christians, we begin to appreciate the urgency as three New Testament writers all urge that we keep our love for one another strong and fervent (1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1 and 1 Peter 1:22).

James would bring the lesson to a pointed reminder as he tells us: My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

Do we get the point? God, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ, never want to see us pulled away by another love. Be careful or you may regret, the choice you made someday.

Will your dreams of an eternal home come true? Or will they fall through? The choice is yours to make. Choose wisely. Choose well. Choose life and love with God and His family!

— Lester P. Bagley

#Love, #Falling, #Changing, #LostLove, #Sin, #ComingBack, #Church, #JesusChrist

5/1/16 ~ Desertion

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingLet’s talk about dirty words for a moment. As children we learn NOT to say them. We may learn them from our friends at school but when we get home we quickly find out that such words are not used in our family. Worse, if we continue to use them there are consequences. Many people to this day cannot stand the taste of soap!

There are all kinds of dirty words and sometimes God uses them to remind us of just exactly how bad our sins really are. Let’s take a moment to consider one of those words that God uses and remember His lesson for our lives:

Desertion

Desertion! Isn’t it an ugly sounding word? It carries a similar sense of shame as do the related concepts of surrender, capitulation and traitor. Those terms are what, when I was a kid, were called fighting words. Nobody wants words like that used about them. Names like Mata Hari, Lord Haw Haw, Benedict Arnold and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) exist in almost every society as symbols of this ugly concept.

In Galatians 1:6-7 the apostle Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (NASB). The word translated here as “deserting” is the Greek word metatithemi which is derived from the military term for laying down one’s shield in surrender. Greek mothers and wives would tell their sons and husbands to come back with their shields or on them as a reminder to never surrender. Any soldier reading Galatians would immediately be struck by the revolting concept of what Paul is saying to these Christians.

Perhaps you have shared Paul’s sense of amazement at a fellow Christian’s desertion and perhaps you have also wondered why and how someone could do such a thing. I find it interesting in comparing notes with others about deserters from the faith that one phrase is most prominent. “My needs are not being met by the church.”

Now, beyond all argument we, the church, need to be meeting each other’s needs and “bearing each other’s burdens.” However, the present popular doctrine of this world is, “It’s not my fault.” When a Christian fails, he or she (just like the people of the world) may be inclined to claim, “It’s not my fault.” The difference with many Christians is that, instead of blaming some other person, we blame God.

God is not Santa. I am not the master, but the servant. My life is not one of God meeting my needs, but rather is one of service to Him. Listen to the selfish words of the deserters: My life is a mess so I’ll quit the church. My wife (or husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brother, sister) doesn’t treat me right so I’ll abandon God. I prayed for the winning lotto ticket and He didn’t give it to me so I’ll show Him.

Do people really say such things and then quit the church, leave the Lord, ignore God? Yes, we do! Isn’t it about time for us to see our sin as sin. No matter how much we sugar coat sin, inside is still death. “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:15) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Where do you stand? Are you with Christ or are you a deserter? “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

In spite of what some deserters might say to defend their actions or entice you to join them, our only real freedom is in Christ, in serving Him, in being concerned for the things that best serve Him. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2) For those who know the real Savior, desertion, surrender, capitulation and traitor are titles they will never hold!

Let’s keep on keeping on and encourage each other to be likewise faithful so that we may never be branded as deserters.

— Lester P. Bagley

2/7/16 ~ Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? What Does the Bible Say?

Many Christians deal with very similar issues and questions as they share the Good News. Among the most difficult problems are those caused by false teaching. Whether it’s a denominational teaching, an ignorant Christian’s personal belief being taught or just plain compromise of God’s word with the world, the problem is a real one. Sadly, God’s people have had to deal with such things since the earliest efforts to reach out with the Gospel. (See the New Testament books of Romans through Jude for numerous examples!)

One question that frequently rears its head was recently dealt with by a fellow preacher. Neither the false teachings nor the truth of the matter are anything new. But it is always important that ask what God says on any matter. So let’s consider:

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

What Does the Bible Say?

Lately, many of the commenters on this blog have boldly asserted that a Christian cannot lose his salvation. In fact, many well-meaning religious folks have built an entire theology around the assumption that it is impossible for a Christian to fall away and lose his salvation. But what if that assumption is false?

Let’s examine what the Bible says about a Christian losing his or her salvation. There are several passages which are often used as proof-texts. But if these verses are examined, they quite definitely do not teach the impossibility of apostasy. Let’s consider a couple of these “once saved, always saved” proof-texts:

Romans 8:35–39 (ESV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This, of course, is a beautiful passage of Scripture and should bring much comfort to Christians. However, it simply does not say what many attempt to make it say. Paul is talking about outside forces separating the Christian from the love of Christ. He never once says anything similar to the idea that Christians cannot choose to walk away from Christ. In other words, Paul says, “No matter what anyone does to you, they cannot take away your salvation.” It is wrong, however, to suggest Paul said a Christian cannot forfeit his salvation if he so chooses.

John 10:27–29 (ESV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Again, it is a great abuse of Jesus’ words to make Him say Christians cannot lose their salvation. In context, Jesus had told the Pharisees multiple times that they had rejected Him because they did not know God or His word. Those who followed Him, however, did so because they recognized His deity. John 10 speaks to Christ’s deity, His power to save, and (like Romans 8) the inability of outside forces to snatch a disciple from Christ’s hand. But it certainly does not teach “once saved, always saved.”

Those are two of the passages many use to prove their premise. But, of course, those passages say nothing of the sort. Let’s look at a few passages of Scripture that most definitely refute the idea of “once saved, always saved.”

John 15:5–6 (ESV) I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Those who teach “once saved, always saved,” say that if someone lives a Christian life and then goes back into the world, that person was never really saved to begin with. However, Jesus clearly teaches in John 15, it is possible for someone to “not abide” in Him. The word “abide” means to stay, continue, or remain. If I said, “Bob didn’t remain in the room, like I told him to do.” You could know for certain that Bob was in the room at one time.

Hebrews 3:12–13 (ESV)Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Again, it is pretty hard to deny that the Hebrew writer is addressing saved people. He begins this statement by saying, “Take care, brothers.” Obviously we are talking about Christians. He warns these Christians, it is possible for an “evil, unbelieving heart” to develop in them which would cause them to “fall away from the living God.”

Galatians 5:1–4 (ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Let us take notice that Paul warns them to “not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” These were people who had been freed from a yoke of slavery, by becoming Christians. Paul warns them not to leave Christ by trying to be justified by obedience to the Old Law. He says to these Christians, if they do so, Christ will be “of no advantage” to them. There were some in those churches who were already doing this and Paul said they had been, “severed from Christ” and they had, “fallen away from grace.” How could these passages be any more clear?

Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV) For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Obviously, the Hebrew writer was addressing those who had received “the knowledge of the truth” (vs. 26) and had been “sanctified” by “the blood of the covenant” (vs. 29). He said, if Christians “go on sinning deliberately” they could expect “judgment,” “punishment,” and “vengeance.”

Please understand, this doesn’t mean a Christian must be perfect, or else he will lose his salvation. John wrote, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin…I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:7, 2:1). As long as a Christian is doing his best to live a life that is pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 5:9) – even though he will likely continue to fall short – the blood of Jesus will continue to wash him clean.

Please hear me, friend. Please study the Scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11). According to God’s word, a Christian is saved so long as he walks in the light; but if he chooses to go back into the world, he is trampling underfoot the Son of God and is throwing away the gift of salvation (see Romans 6:1-7).

— Wes McAdams online at RadicallyChristian.com

Yes, we’ve read these Scriptures before. Yes, we’ve heard this message from the pulpit and in Bible studies. What is vital is that we continue to hear it, learn it, obey it so that we will not give in to the pressure of Satan’s false teaching!

May we, this week and always, remember to listen to God’s word and believe and obey what He says!

— Lester P. Bagley