Who Are We?

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In the church I hear all kinds of different explanations of who and what a Christian is. From the simplistic to the complex, some are accurate and some are not. But what does it mean to be a Christian? How do you know you’re “saved”? What does a Christian think and do? What does a Christian believe? What tenets or doctrines of faith must a Christian adhere to?

The beauty of the Gospel is that it is simple enough for a child to understand and accept, and yet it will take more than a lifetime to fully plumb the depths of its rich meaning and implications.  There are several ways of explaining the difference between the believer and unbeliever throughout the New Testament. But we must take these images and explanations to heart or we will find ourselves in sin because we believe that we are sinners instead of believers.

The word “Christian” has its origins in a persecution of people who followed Jesus. In Acts 11:25-26, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It means “Christ one,” or “one like Christ” (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The apostles describe the change in a Christian as being born again by John, the new life or new creation by Paul, saints by every New Testament author, child of God by John and others, and a host of other terms.

Let’s unpack the significance of these images. “Saints” is the universal term for followers of Jesus throughout the New Testament. Most letters open with this word to describe Christians in different communities. What is a saint? Well, a Saint is a football player from New Orleans… No really, saint means “holy one.”

I sure many Christians often say, especially if they have sinned, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” This saying is true at the moment of salvation. But after salvation, it’s not true anymore. Because of the change in us, it’s better to say, “I was a sinner, but Jesus saved me by his grace.” Calling yourself a center after the transformation by Jesus weakens the power of his sacrifice.

I cringe when I hear well-meaning Christians so easily revert to a previous life of sin with that phrase. It doesn’t forgive stumbling in your walk with Jesus. It doesn’t forgive flirting with sin. All believers momentarily fall into sin. But we are saints trying to live God’s high standards, not sinners with painted faces of holiness.

We are dead to sin and we ignore it. It has no effect on us. We keep our flesh in check and our desires toward God rather than the world. Don’t let sin so easily change your mind about who you are.

Paul uses the image of the new life or new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). The change Jesus makes in each of us is so dramatic that all Paul can do is call us a new creation. God makes everything new. For starters, your mind, body, and spirit have have been completely reconfigured. You were born into a sinful world, and that’s all you knew. But now, your heart only searches for God and is sensitive to his presence and work in your life.

Your mind is renewed daily as you think on the good things of God. Your body is commanded to do God’s works and glorify him in everything. Your spirit has been enlivened by the Holy Spirit and now shares a connection with God (Ephesians 2:1-6).

The new life follows on the heels of the new creation, your whole person and nature new, reacting to him. But we still live in a fallen world. But because we are dead to send, we ignore anything that is not of God. Don’t give sin an open door to reenter. You can choose not to sin. We listen to the Holy Spirit instead of the world.

Another image of our identity in Christ is the metaphor Jesus uses, being born again (John 3:3, 5). Being born again doesn’t make sense to the unspiritual mind. Before we can be a new creation and enjoy our new life in Christ, we must be born again to glorify God.

Finally, Paul and John both describe us as being children of God. I prefer to use this image when I talk to Christians who occasionally sin. They feel so broken and guilty. They question their salvation. But this is why God inspired the image of being one of his children. We are adopted into his family and given full privileges to his inheritance in heaven.

When you are a child in your family, you are tied to that family. You can’t change the family you have. You can’t have someone else’s blood or features. You can legally disown or be disowned by them, but you were still born into that family. You will always be so-and-so’s son or daughter.

The same is true when you become part of God’s family. No matter what you do, you are still one of his children. Jesus’ love goes deeper than anything else in creation, including sin (Romans 8:35-39). If a child breaks a priceless family heirloom, do the parents throw the child out into the street and say, “You’re not my kid anymore”? No. They might punish the child, but they still love him or her.

You have to work very hard at losing that privileged state and relationship with God. He doesn’t let us go so easily. He disciplines us for our sins. But he doesn’t disown us. We never stop being part of his family or reaping the benefits of his grace and love. The world struggles with identity, but our identity and destiny as God’s children is certain. We know our place in Christ. It’s a place of grace and privilege. It’s a place of growth and conforming to Jesus’ image (Romans 8:29). It’s a place of joy, a fun and exciting adventure to know him more fully. Happy trails!

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Driven from Religion

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Why do people shy away from religion? Or even worse, why are some people bitter and angry against religion? Every case of rejection of religion has its own reasons, but one of the most common reasons is that people have been hurt by the church or Christians in their past.

The church is generally seen as a safe place for people to explore their faith. The only problem is that the church is full of people. People can hurt one another, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident, and sometimes without even knowing they have done it.

I’ve known of people who were hurt by the church because of what they interpreted it as saying about them. They became offended without even making sure that it was meant as an offense. Some have been accused of things they did not do. Some have not felt accepted or welcome when they visited.

Most people have very little problems with Jesus and his teachings. The problem is with the people that call themselves Christians or the church as they go to. This should never be! I always pray that I am open with anyone I speak to. I want them to feel like they could talk to me about anything.

If you run into someone who doesn’t want to. Hear what you have to say, or is even combative and angry with you, this may be the reason. We must be prepared for whatever we may face when we begin to speak about Jesus. If someone is angry at you, ask them why. See if they will open up for the first time in a long time.

Because we identify with Christ and his church, we may face the hurt and anger of people who don’t even know us. We must have thick skin and big shoulders. If we don’t try to get to the bottom of other people’s hurts and anger, we lose the opportunity to show them the true love of Jesus. Be gentle, loving, and kind. Be open and genuine. Show them what a Christian should be!

What do you think? What kinds of hurts and anger have you run into when you’ve shared your faith? Leave a comment below and talk about your experiences.

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Calling All Readers!

It’s almost time for another book launch! I am in the final stages of editing my new book, “A Short Guide to Sharing Your Faith.” It’s based off of my recent blog series. I’m building the launch team and there will be awesome benefits to being part of the launch.

A Short Guide to Sharing Your Faith guides Christians through the process of gaining confidence to hurtle every fear and everything that them back from sharing their faith. It provides encouragement through facing those fears and providing helps to get past them. Further, this short guide answers the basic questions anyone would discover when sharing their faith.

My new book will be available on July 29th!

Here’s what you can do to help me prepare the book launch:

  • Get an advanced copy on Friday, July 19 and read the book. It is 50 pages, 13,000 words.
  • Make any small notes on things you like, dislike, don’t understand, and anything else that sticks out to you. You don’t have to worry about grammar.
  • Email those notes to me by Thursday, July 25. Writing a quick three sentence blurb about the book is also very welcome. Keep your notes handy to write a quick review when it comes out.
  • On July 29, the book will go live on Amazon and other venues. I would ask that you would provide a review for the book.
  • Also receive a bonus story never released before!

You can go to my blog website at www.Jonathansrock.com and sign up for my email newsletter to be enrolled in the launch team. You will then receive emails that will guide you through the process of helping me launch this book. You will receive your free story in your email the day of the launch. Thank you ahead of time for supporting the book and me!

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Salvation Pinned Down?

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As Jack walked across the street, cars screeched to a halt. He turned to see a taxi inches away from his legs. The driver laid on his horn, the last straw for Jack. He pounded the hood with both fists and screamed, “Leave me alone!” He walked in a daze to the other side of the street. His mind raced as he considered the doctor’s news that he had cancer. His wife walked out on him last night for a younger version, and he could hear voices his head telling him to throw in the towel.

On his sidewalk, a homeless man flashed a “Turn or Burn” sign in his face, yelling, “Repent or go to Hell! Jesus will save your soul!” Jack muttered under his breath, “My soul’s fine. It’s the rest of me that needs help.” That homeless guy decided his eternal fate without asking anything about him.

Although this fictional story is a characterization, these descriptions might give us a fresh view of salvation. Salvation has been defined and redefined. Groups tend to define it according to their distinctions. It suffers the projection of our own desires.

Every Christian group defines salvation differently. Some widen salvation until it’s almost undefinable while others narrow it almost to impossibility. God’s salvation must reflect his grace and greatness. It can’t be narrowed to legalism, for God’s grace is great. It can’t be too wide, for God’s holiness demands righteousness. There is a robust balance between both views that captures the biblical framework for salvation. Salvation can’t be any wider than Jesus, the narrow gate.

But under Jesus, this narrow gate, there is a wide spectrum. The Greek word used for salvation in the New Testament includes the ideas of rescue, deliverance, and healing. Although most English versions choose “save” most of the time, different contexts demand different words. One paralytic’s four friends lower him before Jesus and Jesus tells him, “Your sins are forgiven. Get up and walk” (Matthew 9:5; Luke 5:23). He both saved and healed the man in one shot!

Biblical salvation works two different ways. We’re not just saved out of sins or from the world. We’re also saved into God’s kingdom, grace, and family. He didn’t just remove you from your bad situation. He also put you in the best situation. Salvation’s power mustn’t be limited.

The Bible uses images to flesh out salvation in our lives. They include being born again (John 3:3, 7), adopted (Romans 8:15, 23), building his temple (Ephesians 2:19-21; 1 Peter 2:4-10), citizens of God’s kingdom (Ephesians 2:19), chosen/predestined (Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:4; Revelation 17:14), to name a few. But the New Testament is clear that:

  • Jesus is the foundation of salvation. We are Jesus’ body collectively (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) and he is the foundation (1 Peter 2:6). He is the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
  • Transformation from the former life. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). For example, Paul used to kill Christians but became an apostle (Acts 9; Galatians 1:13-17). If there is no life change, there is no salvation (Ephesians 2:1-5).
  • Becoming like Jesus. God has a vision, goal, and destiny for us. He is conforming us into Jesus’ image (Romans 8:29). We shun sin and take on godly character. We want to please God instead of ourselves. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Toward the end of the twentieth century, evangelists pushed decision-making for Christ. This isn’t wrong but it’s incomplete. Some did make decisions for Jesus, including the disciples and Zacchaeus. Christians tend to bring people to church, get them to make a decision for Christ, and then leave them to their own devices.

In my opinion, decision-based evangelism is mechanical. Some people in the Bible didn’t choose Christ. The paralytic with the four friends was healed by their faith and saved by Jesus’ word. Nowhere do we hear from him. In responding to the gospel, a person does accept Christ’s sacrifice, but there is also surrender to God’s will. While a person decides to follow Jesus, God has been preparing that person to receive Christ by his Holy Spirit.

Others never ask for a decision or any milestone moment. They invite people to church and consider them belonging to God’s family. Time doesn’t save a person. There must be a commitment to Christ. The Gospel must be preached and the person must confess (Romans 10:9-10, 14-15).

Some people are “saved” tens of times, returning to the altar over and over, especially during times of rebellion. I hear many stories about teenagers constantly making decisions for Christ. Perhaps a good fire and brimstone message scared them into Jesus arms. Maybe they saw the beauty of God’s grace and ran into his arms. They tell me salvation finally “stuck” for them eventually. Then the lifestyle change began.

Some believe, “Once saved, always saved.” Others believe you can lose your salvation and fall away. The former group tends to have trouble with lifestyle change while the latter group have an “eternally insecure” outlook. It becomes a debate about God’s sovereignty versus human free will. I believe God’s salvation is binding and someone falling away must actively pursue it. God puts us in his hand and only we can jump out of it.

I can’t get over the complete, comprehensive, and holistic way that God saves us! I am in awe of his love and grateful for his salvation. I deserve far less. Maybe you feel the same way. He took a monster for the devil and made me a monster for his Kingdom. What do you think? Where does your church fell on this spectrum? Tell me about your experience in the comment below.

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Truth Battles

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Have you ever told someone about Jesus and they said, “That may work for you, but it doesn’t work for me”? If they are not suggesting Jesus only works for certain people, they combat you on every single fact you raise.

Because of secularism, pluralism and relativity, people are generally confused about the issue of truth. Secularists refuse to allow any one religion to be expressed. Pluralists tell you you can have any combination you want, have your cake and eat it too. And relativists couldn’t decide on an issue if their life was at stake.

There was a man in the time of Jesus who had the same problems. Pontius Pilate ruled as governor of Judea only because he was a pragmatist. He chose whatever truth kept him in power. He was always finding compromises between the Romans and the Jews.

This is subjective truth. It’s whatever truth works for you. This truth highlights situations in which one role could be observed, but in a change of environment or circumstance, another rule about the same subject would work. It’s often used by postmoderns.

But most people work with absolute truth. This is the idea that something is always true no matter what the circumstances. Underline morality on this level. One example of absolute truth is the law of gravity. There may be less gravity on the moon then on earth, but there is always gravity.

Christians tend to be proclaiming absolute truth in the Bible while all of the postmoderns and relativists around them are proclaiming subjective truth. There like two ships passing in the night. We are always missing one another on these two issues of truth.

And Christians don’t realize there is a third, more accurate option. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). When Pilate stood in that room with Jesus at his trial, he asked, “What is truth?” But he stormed out of the room before Jesus could answer.

In a world where we can agree on absolute and subjective truth, is there another way to frame the conversation? Absolutely! The third, and ultimate type of truth, is personable truth. All truth finds its proper place in the person of Jesus. All truth was put in place by God. When you know the Author Of Life, the Creator of the Universe, you are in the center of all truth.

Arguments about the truth are not about winning or having a better example of truth. They are about introducing people to the Ultimate Truth, Jesus, the Savior never lies about who we are and what he can do for us. This is the person of truth we aim to share with those around us.

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ANNOUNCING “A SHORT GUIDE TO SHARING YOUR FAITH”!

The last two months I’ve been posting blogs on the subject of “Sharing Your Faith.” The blogs will continue for quite a while yet. They’re still much to cover. But, coming very soon in the month of July, my newest book will be available!

“A Short Guide to Sharing Your Faith” is an expansion of the comments, questions, and content of this blog series. It is a guide to the mechanics of sharing your faith. It will encourage you to do more by challenging you to think through the process. It will also provide information to prepare you for whatever may happen when you reach out and share your faith.

I am also hoping to release it not only in e-book form but also in paperback form through Amazon. Stay tuned for this very exciting book!

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Citizens of Heaven

Dust lept away and soared into the dry air as the apostle’s feet settled in the eye of the storm. The peace inside the bubble silenced the raging whirlwind of the crowds, where they flung dust into the air in protest. Piercing eyes among the Sanhedrin from those who sought to kill him ignored Paul’s claims. The throngs of people chased him out of the Jerusalem Temple that this cold silence was more lethal than the noisy and confused mobs.

He gained a hearing with the people because he was a Jew. The tribune protecting him from the crowds let him speak to them to calm them down. But the opposite happened. He sentenced him to flogging for starting a riot. What a surprise when Paul declared his natural born Roman citizenship! The tribune bought his citizenship. You could hear a pin drop in those barracks! Paul was a citizen of two worlds, the Roman and Jewish nations.

Now these Jewish aristocrats condemned him. Their hearts were stone cold, a shield against the Gospel. The Jew from Tarshish created his own little storm, leaving the Council in disputes about the resurrection after his speech. Theology was a great divider between Sadducees and Pharisees. Citizenship made when the sing about Christ possible for Paul.

And now these Jewish aristocrats sought to further condemn him. But Paul had an ace up his sleeve. The message did not hit its intended target. The hearts of the rulers were stone cold, a great shield against Christ’s gospel. So the Jew from Cilicia decided to create his own little storm and left the council in disputes about the resurrection. Theology was always a great divider between Sadducees and Pharisees. Their limited view condemned them to ignore the gospel yet again, but citizenship made it possible for Paul to witness about His Lord.

This confrontation in Acts 22-23 focused on Paul’s dual citizenship. He used every means available to spread the Gospel. This incident of flogging a Roman citizen would take him to Rome by prison transport, guaranteeing an audience with the most powerful leader in the world, Caesar. He was a Jew born in a Roman province, using his citizenship for Christ’s advantage.

This same apostle highlights the greater citizenship of heaven (Ephesians 2:11-22). This Independence Day, I want to examine the importance of being a dual citizenship in America and God’s Kingdom. Israel’s strong sense of nationalism is everywhere in this passage. He shows the division between the “commonwealth of Israel” and the “aliens and strangers,” the Gentiles. But Jesus changed everything about these dynamics.

The binding agent is Jesus’ death on the cross. He reconciled all people. This passage focuses on his sacrificial death to reconcile everyone. The New Testament speaks of the atonement with imagery from judicial, relational, and social systems. Jesus’ work on the cross goes beyond nationalities. This relational image of atonement shows reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles.

His atonement affects every Christian today because it creates a dual citizenship for each of us. We are both American citizens and citizens of heaven. Heaven is our home. I live and work in America, but it’s for God’s kingdom. If American laws challenge God’s laws, I must follow his laws first.

I love being an American citizen. America has beautiful people and cultures. We all enjoy America’s foundations in freedom. But in unchristian underbelly also permeates our country. America is a greatly blessed nation. But America is not heaven. It’s not perfect. Every nation on earth has its flaws.

As dual citizens of both Heaven and America, we must influence America for God’s Kingdom. We are not evangelists for democracy. I love democracy, but freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom Christians know. But in God’s kingdom, we are rolled by the theocracy of trusting in Jesus.

Psalm 20:7 reminds us to not trust in military might but in the Lord. American money has “In God We Trust” written on it. Do Christian Americans trust in politics, economics, or social “superiority”? When our soldiers defend us with excellence and kill America’s enemies, do we consider the human lives lost that may not know Jesus before they die? Christians look at were differently than the world.

We don’t fight flesh and blood but spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12). Do we encourage physical war knowing this principle? We fully trust in the Lord only, not our own resources personally or nationally (Zechariah 4:6). God accomplishes his will and purposes by the Holy Spirit.

Those are hard words for us to hear. America has many resources and a firm foundation in freedom. Returning to Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul mentions a “dividing wall of hostility.” This is the Temple wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of Israel. Everyone was welcome in the Court of the Gentiles, but only Israelites could get closer to God’s presence. A sign on the wall promised that any Gentile crossing it would be killed. Jesus’ death combined them into one nation, God’s people.

Jesus said God would be worshiped by everyone (John 4:21-24). Every nation and tongue glorifies God in its own way. God’s kingdom is uniquely diverse yet united in Christ. His kingdom is bigger than any nation. We all have access to one Father by one Spirit. We’re all neighbors instead of aliens and strangers.

But we’re more than a new nation; we are his temple of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5). Ephesians 2:21-22 speaks of God’s house as saints, fellow citizens of heaven. Jesus is the Cornerstone of the house, the Stone on which the whole building rests. We belong to America, but also God’s kingdom. We are a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).

This isn’t an anti-American message. We support and pray for politicians, troops, and freedoms, like the freedom of religion to worship Jesus publicly. I am thankful for the freedoms we have in America. But as a dual citizen of heaven and America, I evaluate my culture and nation, prioritizing God’s laws above American laws if they contradict one another. We must obey godly laws and enjoy the godly parts of our culture. But we must not get so caught up in our culture that we don’t realize when they differ from God’s laws. America is great, but its greatness is a gift from God. I am a Christian first, and then an American. I embrace King Jesus and his reign so he may embrace me with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

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What is Apologetics?

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There’s a great need to teach apologetics in the church today. It’s one of the reasons people are afraid of questions when they share their faith with others. They may feel unable to answer them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Apologetics is the study of how to answer the questions others pose about Christianity, God, and the Bible. It comes from the word Peter uses when he talks about giving an explanation why defense of our faith (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Training in apologetics gives us the ability to answer the questions people have about our faith. But it also has the ability to increase our faith. When we research the questions seekers have, it forces us to also know the answers. Not every question can be answered. Sometimes faith is more of an experience than knowing a fact. But facts help seekers to grow closer to accepting Christ.

There are different types of apologetics. Each category focuses on a certain knowledge base. There are probably more than three, but here are the basic ones you may be familiar with:

  1. Logical (Philosophical) Apologetics. This type of apologetics focuses on reasoning and philosophical debate. They explain misconceptions about the Bible, Christianity, and God. Some examples of logical apologists are William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler.
  2. Cultural Apologetics. This type of apologist focuses on cultural and social issues and how Christianity addresses them. They often seek to show how the Bible’s standards deal with today’s issues. One example of a cultural apologist is Ravi Zacharias.
  3. Scientific Apologetics. This type of apologetics focuses on the debates between science and religion. They often deal with how science and Bible mesh or possibly contradict one another. Examples are dealing with creation debates. Frank Turek and Norman Geisler have an excellent book, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” that deals with science and faith. Hank Hanegraaff sometimes deals with scientific apologetics.

These apologists from the infancy of the church to the present have given us a wealth of information to support our faith in Jesus. Although I have named modern apologists, there have been men and women who have defended the faith since the beginning.

Who’s your favorite apologist? Leave a comment below about your experiences with apologetics and answering questions.

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ANNOUNCING “FAR FROM HOME”

I recently entered a summer writing contest with The Write Practice and the online magazine Short Fiction Break at the beginning of June. One of the benefits of joining the contest was that every piece written would be published!

So my piece called “Far From Home” was recently published with Short Fiction Break and I’d like you to read it. There is also a Reader’s Choice Award where you can vote for my story as well.

Far From Home is the story of a family drama and how the parents react to the situation. It takes place in one room and you’ll never guess who the narrator is. Please head over to Short Fiction Break and read “Far From Home”!

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Losing Ground

So often in our lives, we lose things by not doing anything. In relationships, not moving ahead rarely means you’re standing still. So does this principle of needing to move forward in our relationships apply to our relationship with God? When we don’t know God better or love Him more every day of our lives, does that mean that we are beyond hope?

How long does losing just a bit of ground take before we are no longer in a relationship with a spouse, a friend, a family member? We all know that when we don’t keep up in our relationships, there is a point of no return. Sometimes it’s called divorce. Sometimes it’s called “friendly fire.” And sometimes it’s called disowning loved ones. But that point exists in our relationships.

What does the Bible say about the possibility of this happening in our relationship with God? Is it possible to fall away or to disengage ourselves from the wonderful opportunity of walking the road of life with the Creator of life? I believe it is possible, but in the same breath, I would say that it isn’t as easy as some would suggest. Paul reminds us of the strong bond between Christ’s love for us and our relationship with Him in Romans 8:37-39.

The Bible speaks of this possibility using different words like apostasy (the Greek word for falling away) and several other words as well. However, many of the examples I will give as evidence for the possibility of falling away have to do with what surrounds the warnings in the Bible or conditions that bring up the subject of apostasy, not specific words that are only used for this idea.

One of the most popular references is found in the book of Hebrews. When you take into account the whole of the book, you would find that this idea of not making it in the Christian walk is a major concern of the author. Keep in mind that the author is chiding the Jewish church to not use the same doctrines from Judaism and apply them to Christ, such as the Law, the High Priest, the Temple, Sacrifices, and the list goes on.

Hebrews 6:4-6. “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

In this poignant passage the author desires to expound the nature of apostasy. He wants his listeners and readers to know that falling away is dangerous because there is a possibility that they will reach a point of no return and be eternally cut off from the inheritance found in Christ. All of the words describing the actions of this person in verses 4-5 are passive and aorist. An aorist means that the action has taken place in the past at some point. That’s how we know that this person is a full-fledged believer living within the Christian community. They accepted Christ at some point in their past. The passive verbs show that all of these wonderful benefits are given to the believer by God, not earned on the believer’s own merit.

Now the first verb in verse 6, have fallen away, is an active verb. This means that the believer’s own choice has been made to fall away from this relationship and its benefits. It is an active choice. With that choice, the believer crucifies the Son of God all over again. It is as if the person joined in with the crowd on Golgotha demanding with a hoarse throat, “Crucify Him.”

We know that there are other instances in the New Testament of the Church dealing with wayward believers. For instance, Paul describes the importance of helping one another through transgressions and temptations with a strong inference that these have the ability to damage our relationship with God (Galatians 6:1-5). James ends his entire letter by praising those who reconcile believers to the faith and bring them back, covering over their sins with such a ministry (James 5:19-20). Paul speaks of grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), which unchecked can lead to apostasy.

In fact, the Old Testament demonstrates on a large scale the principle that one can fall away from God with eternal consequences. The people of Israel so ingrained sin into their lives that God scattered them and sent them into Exile. Then, only a small remnant of the people returned. Many people fell away and were not recovered. God’s grace and His judgment have not changed because they are part of His character. God does not change.

Although there are other biblical examples, such as the taking of the mark of the beast and the mark of God in Revelation, and the overarching theme of Revelation to stay committed to God through adversity, trial and tribulation, this article cannot contain an exhaustive detail. I would like to quickly entertain the standing of some that these passages are hypothetical. Oftentimes, those against the idea of apostasy in the Bible claim that the author of Hebrews was thinking merely of a possible example or setting up a character to make his point. But this view does not explain other occurrences in Hebrews alone of warnings to not fall away. The author refers to the Jewish Christians as themselves, not as some hypothetical person posed for an example. The context speaks to and of his audience specifically.

People who want to reason away the possibility of apostasy also ignore the conditional statements surrounding salvation passages. Any time there is an “if” in a statement about salvation or growing in God, they ignore it or reason it away. They do this because it does not fit their theological framework, their grid for interpreting and explaining the Bible and God. When the Bible does not fit your framework, either you change the Bible or your framework. These people have changed the Bible to fit their framework.

Such a startling and somber possibility of apostasy demands reasons. I cannot explain why some would give up the relationship and blessings of salvation for the momentary pleasures of sin. I cannot even get into that frame of reference. But it happens. And I wonder why. Possibly some day I may have a closer experience as people who fall away and understand their situation and reasoning better. But from afar, I have noticed some factors that may cause or permit a believer to begin entertaining such a choice.

  • Persecution. Inasmuch as persecution has the ability to engender and strengthen faith in God, it also has the ability to tear down and destroy one’s faith. While its purpose is to build up, some may lack a firm foundation, which enables them to fall when the winds and waves come (James 1:6). Persecution will either increase and strengthen faith, or tear it down to its very roots, dismantling false understanding of God and His Word.
  • Neglect. By far the most common reason for apostasy is a love that grows cold over time (Revelation 2:1-7). We allow the circumstances and situations in our lives to dominate our relationship with God and our discipline gradually. This takes much time and much neglect. Although it is the most common, it is also the most easily repaired. As the Lord said to the church of Ephesus, repent and do the works you did at first. Neglect can be solved with passion and purpose.
  • Evil Desires. Evil desires are baby steps toward sin, which leads to death (James 1:14-15). This is a strong inclination in us to do evil because of its monumental pleasure. But that pleasure is temporary. Once we have begun to listen to our evil desires rather than God’s voice, we have begun to step toward the edge.

To be sure, such a falling away is not instant, but rather gradual. We give in to our evil desires just a bit more, or we decide that we’ve had enough with doing the right thing and not getting ahead, or we simply let our relationship with our Lord stagnate or drop off bit by bit. However, falling away is not easy to do. It is a choice that must be actively made and pursued. But it begins with a passive gradual decline in relationship intimacy between a believer and the Lord.

I am asked by many Christians if what they’re doing could be catalogued as sin and if it would take away their salvation. First, I tell them that I am not God, so I do not catalogue sin. That’s God’s area of expertise and He knows them better than I ever will. He is the Judge. Then I ask them this:

You are driving on a mountain. To your left is a nice big mountainside with plenty of space to pull over, and to your right a steep cliff jettisoning into the valley. If you were speeding, taking 30 mph curves at 75 mph, would you want to be closer to the left or right side? In our relationship with God, we can spend our time seeing how far away from Him we can get and still reap the benefits, or we can wholeheartedly embrace the grace and love of that relationship. But I have a greater image for you. Imagine a believer who is not stifled in zeal for the Lord, who passionately searches the Bible from cover to cover for no other reason than wanting to know Jesus more. Imagine a believer who has no time for stagnant waters, but rushes in ankle deep, then knee deep, and then dives into the flowing currents of God’s love. Imagine what kind of love God can lavish on someone who returns the favor. And this is my image of you right now. There is no need to worry of the possibility of looking back or falling away when we are in the midst of seeking and pleasing our divine Lover.

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