I’ve never written a post like this before. It’s not very often Christians talk about ways to lose your salvation. But I feel this is an important step in understanding holiness. Israel fell away from God, ignored him, turned to idols, lost the Promised Land, were exiled, and had to find their way back.
I don’t ever want to see any Christian fall away from God. Some Christians don’t even teach that it’s possible to fall away. If we don’t know the process of falling away from him, we are susceptible to doing it.
I write this post in hopes that it will show you what it looks like to be going the wrong way in becoming more like Jesus. We can avoid these pitfalls as we follow him. Perhaps you can use these steps to evaluate your walk with God and keep yourself from getting close to the edge.
Quenching and Grieving
There’s a two-step process we can avoid. It involves how we interact with the Spirit of God. Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and we are his temples (1 Corinthians 6:19), much of our interaction with God involves the Holy Spirit.
Scripture teaches that we can quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This happens when we ignore the Spirit or we stop him from working in our lives. It’s often related to practicing the spiritual gifts.
If we don’t follow his prompting when he activates the gift in us, we’re quenching him. Paul tells the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues, one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:39).
To avoid quenching the spirit, always listen and be attentive to him when he speaks to you. Do not ignore him or refuse to do what he says. Obedience quells quenching the Spirit.
If we don’t catch ourselves when we quench the Holy Spirit, the next step goes slightly farther. Grieving the Holy Spirit happens when we do the opposite of what he commands. Scripture mentions grieving the Holy Spirit in both Testaments (Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 63:10-11; Psalm 51:11).
Paul connects it to the seal of the Holy Spirit at salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). We strike a chord with the Spirit when we don’t obey him. Jesus placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives, sealing us with his Name and presence when we followed him.
To disobey the Holy Spirit and quench him should grab and wrench our hearts. We should realize we are stepping on the very foundation of our salvation. Disobedience and rebellion were the sins of Adam and Eve. That’s how they lost that precious friendship in God’s presence in the Garden.
David is a good example of grieving the Spirit. In Psalm 51 we have one of the most elegant confessional prayers in Scripture. David realizes his folly and the possibility of losing relationship with God.
One of the things he prays that may throw off Christians is when he talks about being cast away from God’s presence and the Spirit being taken from him (Psalm 51:11-12). We can’t imagine losing our relationship with the Holy Spirit or him no longer dwelling in us.
But there’s a bit of historical context here. Kings of Israel, along with prophets and priests were anointed with oil. The oil symbolized the Holy Spirit coming upon a person to serve God in that office.
It wasn’t the same as the indwelling presence of the Spirit in believers today. That was prophesied as part of the new covenant, but these people fell under the old covenant where not everyone could receive the Spirit as God’s indwelling presence.
When David realized the sin he committed against God and how it grieved the Spirit, he realized that he could also lose the anointing. He had just watched King Saul, his predecessor, lose the Spirit. In this sense I mean that the Spirit left him because he was disobedient.
As we will see below, it is possible to lose our salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit. But for David, it was different because the Spirit came upon him to serve as king instead of dwelling in him.
But the prayer he prays, his confessional prayer, is still just as important for us to realize the severity of disobeying the Holy Spirit. Quenching the Spirit is a serious offense, but grieving the Holy Spirit goes even further. We must realize what we have done before things get any worse.
Hardening of the Heart
Christians must not flirt with sin or temptation in their lives. We must put away the old self. Our old desires are no longer our desires. Jesus made us a new creature in Christ the moment that we trusted in him (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The problem with sin is that we don’t realize how pervasive it can be. In ancient Israel when they traveled in the wilderness, any sin that showed up in the camp must be dealt with immediately. They were afraid it would spread to other people.
They treated it like a disease, and for good reason. If we flirt with our sin and don’t put it away immediately, it will master us. We died to sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). It has no hold on us because of the freedom of Jesus (Galatians 5:1-2).
Sometimes we hide sin so no one will know about it but we can enjoy it every once in a while. But it so easily entangles us that we find ourselves trapped (Hebrews 12:1-3). Jesus calls us to put away our sin for good. He is our Master, not sin.
The problem is we think that we can flirt with sin and get away with it. But we can’t live in both worlds. Holiness requires us to be pure before the Lord, to not mix his commands with worldly society.
When we don’t treat sin with sorrowful repentance, disgust, and absolute disdain, we let it gain a foothold. Sooner rather than later sin has us in its grip. And the more it grips the more we slip away from God.
We begin to become calloused toward the Holy Spirit. We rationalize our sin instead of repenting of it. We don’t feel the need to confess to feel God’s presence again. Sin separates as its first step, and then it leads to death. That death begins as spiritual death, but physical death finalizes our place with God.
We harden our hearts because we begin to want to do our own thing. When we have a bad habit and remove it, it must be replaced with something. When we don’t stop our sin, we get used to doing it once again. We open the door that gets harder to shut the more we walk through it.
Sin solidifies our hardened hearts against God. We become calloused even toward his presence. It’s not a road any of us should even think of going down. But we must be aware of it. When temptation rears its ugly head, think about how it hurts God’s heart if we were to commit to our temptation instead of our discipline.
There are a number of different denominations, theologies, and Christians that teach that we cannot fall away from God’s grace. They say that it is irresistible. Some teach that once you are saved, you are always saved, and nothing can change that.
However, Israel is the prime historical example of falling away from God. They lost everything and only gained it back through God’s grace after their punishment. The Holy Spirit disciplines us when we are beginning to fall away from God.
But if we don’t listen to his gentle proddings, we will find ourselves in a very dangerous spiritual place. Whether or not you were taught that you could lose your salvation, there is ample evidence for it in Scripture.
One of the strongest places the Bible talks about apostasy, or falling away, is in Hebrews 6:1-4. The author of Hebrews is especially harsh in the way he approaches apostasy. There are different interpretations for this passage, but each of us must realize the danger the author presents.
We treat God as absolute sinners when we are falling away from him. Whether we neglected our sin, the quenching and grieving of the Spirit, or made a conscious choice to turn away from God, we are trampling the grace that God provided.
This is the last step of turning our backs on God. This is where we sever our relationship with him. The effects of our sin and disobedience are so gradual that we don’t even realize where we are.
I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late until you have completely severed your connection with God and turned to the final step, which we’ll discuss next. Please hear my pastoral heart that if you are in this place or any of these places, do not neglect your opportunity to return to the path and walk with Christ.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
This is one of the toughest subjects for a pastor to talk about. I never want to hear or see this happen to anyone. In the same way, and must be taught because many people are either not taught about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit or they think they’ve committed it.
Most often I talk about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit when well-meaning saints tell me they are afraid they have committed the unpardonable sin. It’s called blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because of the way Jesus talks about it (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 5:28-30).
He says that all kinds of sins and blasphemy will be forgiven, even when you blaspheme him, but blaspheming the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. But what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Looking at the context of when Jesus says this, the religious leaders of Israel accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. They claimed he had a demon that gave him the power to do this.
Based on that context, we can define blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as giving credit for the works of the Spirit of God to Satan and his demons. Basically, a person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit says that demons did what the Spirit did instead. They give credit for his marvelous and miraculous works to evil spirits.
This is beyond terminating the relationship with God. This is devil worship. And this is why it will never be forgiven here, or after physical death. We must always acknowledge God for everything that he does.
When these saints tell me that they are afraid they did it, I tell him they don’t have to worry. A person who commits the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit not only doesn’t care that they did, but they did it on purpose. If you think you’ve done it and you are worried, you haven’t done it.
It takes an active and willful determination to commit the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is done from a seared conscience and a hardened heart. But we must be aware of all of these steps so that we can avoid them with every fiber of our being, turn toward God, and never look back.
All of these steps can be avoided if we notice them and change course. We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit at all times. This is the key to monitoring our hearts and making sure we don’t step toward the edge, but follow hard after God in desperation to know him more.
When we begin to ignore any of these little things in the first couple of steps, we take steps in the wrong direction. We must evaluate ourselves regularly. The goal is not to figure out how close we can get to falling over the edge but to never even come close.
We want to know God more. We want to be more holy. We want to be like Jesus. Anytime you follow this path, you have nothing to worry about. Being sensitive to the Spirit when he addresses anything in our lives that doesn’t please him keeps us from stepping away from him.
The key is to realize the gradual steps away from God and immediately go to him in repentance and confession. One of the best ways to avoid this is to have an accountability partner, a fellow believer who is more mature than you. He or she can be used by the Holy Spirit to notice the little things you may not see.
If we don’t know the steps to fall away from God, we won’t be able to evaluate our lives to stay on the path of walking closer to him. Keep your heart soft and tender before the Lord. Address anything the Spirit addresses. Don’t let sin linger. Don’t play with it.
Leave a comment and let me know if you think there are other ways we can fall away from God. May none of us ever find ourselves anywhere close to these issues. Follow hard after God with your whole being!