Monday, July 30, 2012

The Keeping Power of God

I'd like to share some Scriptures that strengthen and encourage believers in our faith in Jesus Christ.

But first let me share some comments on this painting to the left, by Thomas Blackshear II, called Forgiven.  

"The picture Forgiven reveals the heart of God toward you. As you look at the painting you see not only Jesus wrapping His arms around a fallen man, you see Him wrapping His arms of mercy around you. Your eyes say, 'Jesus is holding a broken sinner.' Your heart says, 'Jesus is holding me.' When you look at the cross you will never need to question if He loves you. He came for you -- He died for you -- He lives for you. What a tremendous price has been paid -- more than all the riches in the entire world. This price was paid so that you could know the joy of being forgiven." -- Roy Lessin

"The scene of Forgiven is Mt. Calvary. A despairing man has a mallet in one hand and a large spike in the other . Both symbolize that each of us is responsible for Christ's death on the cross. Jesus Christ is holding up this broken man; at Christ's feet are broken chains, representing the sin that was to overcome at Calvary. There is a trace of blood on Christ's hands, and in the place where blood has fallen, lilies have grown." -- Thomas Blackshear II, artist.

Now for the Scriptures about God's keeping power:

  • It is never the will of God for a saved person to be lost. John 6:39
  • Jesus will establish you to the end, so you will be blameless 1 Co 1:8-9
  • You are preserved unto the heavenly kingdom. II Timothy 4:18
  • You are kept by the power of God. I Peter 1:5
  • You are kept because the Lord Jesus has prayed that you would be. John 17:11
  • Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Romans 8:35-39
  • Your salvation is dependent upon God's ability. II Timothy 1:12
  • God promises that you shall not come into judgment. John 5:24
  • No one shall snatch you from Jesus’ hand or the Father’s hand. John 10:28
  • You are in the hand of Christ. John 10:28
  • You are in the hand of God the Father. John 10:29,30
  • Saving mercy is the basis of our salvation. Titus 3:5
  • The Lord always lives to make intercession for you. Hebrews 7:25
  • God will finish what He has started in you. Philippians 1:6
  • God's covenant with you everlasting. Hebrews 13:20, Jeremiah 32:40
  • The Lord Jesus is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless. Jude 24
  • The Lord Jesus is the author and the finisher of your faith. Hebrews 12:2

Christ's Atonement Covering is Everlasting
I really like what the Lord showed brother Roland Buck about the atonement covering of Christ, which he wrote about in chapter 8 of his book, Angels on Assignment.  He says that it's like this photo.














Brother Buck explained it like this:

"Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, which was the atonement for our sins, God can look down at us and upon all that happens in the normal course of this life, and our sins are hidden from him...."

He gave me a reference in Colossians 1:21-22 where he said God has wrapped up this message in a brief verse just as he showed me on the atonement diagram. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable IN HIS SIGHT:" Look back at the atonement diagram - from God's viewpoint. Then God lists the conditions for this to be so IN HIS SIGHT. Colossians 1:23: "IF you continue in the FAITH (in his covering) grounded and settled (confident), and be not moved away from the HOPE OF THE GOSPEL (this Good News) ..."

"We also need to remember that God is not only a God of love, but he is also a God of wrath. Sometimes people are looking for a license or excuse to sin because they have no real desire to turn from evil. However, they still want to have the safety of the covering and are trying to pull it over themselves. God wants people to know that while he has provided a place of safety, there is also an edge beyond which the covering does not reach...

"God explained to me that rebellion and idolatry are the two things which will take man out from under the covering. It is not that God removes the covering, it is not that God goes down and looks under it, but man removes himself. Look at the life of Israel and you will find that whenever God smote them and punished them, it was because of rebellion and idolatry.

When people put their faith in anything other than what Jesus has done, they voluntarily choose to be out from under his protective covering. When this is their decision, they are exposed to God's eyes, and he sees their sins, faults, and failures.

Our sins were all washed away by the blood of the lamb, and the only way God looks at us is through the cleansing blood of Jesus. Then he sees: Holiness instead of sin. Blamelessness instead of fault. Unreproveable (perfection) instead of failure.

We GET UNDER the covering by repenting of our sins. We STAY UNDER the covering by wanting to please God, and by obeying him even to the thoughts and intents of our heart. We GET OUT FROM UNDER the covering by rebellion or idolatry. 'AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!' (Joshua 24:19)."

Warning Signals of Rebellion and Idolatry
So the two things that will take you out from under the atonement arch are rebellion and idolatry.  So be very careful not to let that happen in your life.  Beware of the warning signals the Lord gives you if those begin to creep into your life.  Brother Buck says in chapter 9 what the warning signals are.  Here are some excerpts:

God loves us so much that he offers us everything in heaven and earth, even making us joint-heirs with Jesus. However, some individuals still choose to voluntarily walk out from under the atonement (the covering, or the blood of Jesus) through REBELLION and IDOLATRY.

To rebel is to refuse allegiance to or resist the authority of someone or some authority over you. God is our authority. To rebel against him is to turn our backs on that which he offers: the protection, the blessings, the love and the promises. Throughout the Bible, God plainly spells out the overwhelming blessings which come when we submit to his absolute control, and the curses which come when we resist or rebel against him.

Idolatry is excessive attachment or veneration (reverence) for some person or thing; admiration which borders on adoration. Idolatry is not just worshiping a god or image other than God, it is lusting after our own desires and pleasures, instead of doing what he wants us to do for him.

The message of rebellion and idolatry are divine warning signals for us to heed so that we may be protected from slipping away from God. Gabriel referred me to 1 Corinthians 10, and let me look at Moses and the children of Israel, who were God's chosen people, to see what took them out from under the cloud covering which is a illustration of the blood covering God places over us today. Verse 1 says, "Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea." 

WARNING! "So be careful. If you are thinking, 'Oh, I would never behave like that' - let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin.

WARNING! There are some definite warning signals in the Word where God highlights his plan, his acceptance and his covering for his people. He is not deleting the warnings and the call to his people to walk with him and to live for him. The warnings that he has given are just as sure as ever, but he wants them to be put in their proper perspective. He wants people who love him and desire to live for him to know how safe they are. But he wants people to know that the path they are on could lead to real trouble if they are not taking him seriously.

WARNING: Beware of a loss of a sense of the importance of spiritual things! There are many, many believers on the road of lethargy. Lethargy is a sense of lack of importance; a drowsy dullness to God; a lack of spiritual energy; sluggish in activity. Lethargy speaks forth from our inner being when we say, "It's easier to stay home. It's hard to generate excitement and zeal for the things of God. I have a few other things I want to do today, so I just won't go to church!"

WARNING! UNBELIEF! God wants us to have an alive awareness of what he is doing. He wants us to believe in the supernatural, because he is the God of the supernatural. If in your heart you are standing aloof, beware!

You might have had a real interest in church and working for God, but there has crept into your thinking a spirit of skepticism. You stand aloof with unbelief or doubt, both of which are enemies of God. If you say you believe in the supernatural and give one reason why you do and nine why you don't, your words are just hollow echoes. The warning says that you don't really believe in the supernatural, and without even realizing it, you find yourself questioning God's ways in your mind.

It is so easy to be lulled into becoming an observer who stands aloof saying, "I can't get too involved; I'm more or less neutral." There is no neutral ground - you are either pulling one way or another.

WARNING: "The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways;" (Proverbs 14:14). When you begin drifting back, long before you get totally away from God, you are interested only in those things that pertain to you, not the things of God. This is a warning sign.

WARNING! "What will we say then? Will we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1). The grace of God is a beautiful covering, but it is not a license to sin.

WARNING! "... Receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1). God's grace is a gift and should not be received in vain.
All of these signals are good, and so are God's warning signs. They are just as effective to keep us from getting killed (spiritually) as the flashing lights at a railroad crossing are to keep us from getting killed physically! God loves us so much he has posted warning signs all along the lake of joy, just for our protection!

Putting it All Together
God is able to save us forever, complete the work He began in us, and keep us by His mighty power.  We should consider the kindness of God for us in these promises. But we must always consider the severity of God as well.  He will show kindness if we continue in His kindness, and severity if we fall away.

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”  (Rom 11:22).  We've got to avoid rebellion and idolatry.

Those who fall away will be cut off.  That’s why we must keep the faith to the very end, living obediently, lest we receive this grace of God in vain.  We must never use these promises as an excuse to live disorderly and disobedient lives, for without holiness no one will see the Lord.  Rather abide in him, praying that He will keep you from falling, and trusting Him to do so.  And He will be faithful to do it!

Appended Additional Scriptures to encourage you:
  • The Lord will uphold you with His righteous right hand - Isaiah 41:10
  • The Lord will hold your hand and watch over you - Isaiah 42:6
  • Return to the Lord and He will abundantly pardon - Isaiah 55:7
  • He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life - John 3:36
  • He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment - John 5:24
  • Jesus keeps us in His Name, guarding us, so that not one of us perishes - John 17:11-12
  • Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him - Romans 5:9
  • For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace - Rom 6:14
  • There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus    Romans 8:1
  • Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us    Romans 8:33-34
  • No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  1 Co 10:13
  • But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Co 1:31-32
  • God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ - I Thessalonians 5:9-10
  • Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.1Th 5:23
  • I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day –2 Tim 1:12
  • The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (2Ti 4:18)
  • For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.  (Heb 2:18)
  • For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)
  • For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Heb 10:14)
  • The Lord said, “Never will I leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”    Hebrews 13:5
  • We are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time I Peter 1:5
Photo credit: The painting is called Forgiven, by Thomas Blackshear II

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I also recommend Drifting Away.  You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Drifting Away


Apostasy (a-POS’-te-see) means an abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion. It’s a turning away or going away from the truth. Can a true Christian become apostate?

Let’s see what the Scriptures have to say on this matter. There are many Scriptures about apostasy, especially in the book of Hebrews. In the following passages, I’ve marked the key words with bold letters and footnotes (in parentheses), so that you can refer to the definitions of the original Greek words used, which I've listed at the bottom in the section called Greek word definition footnotes.

Drifting Away
The writer of Hebrews wrote: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away(c) from it.” (Heb 2:1). It is possible to drift or slip away from the Lord like a boat gradually drifts from shore, when it’s not anchored. That’s why we must pay much closer attention to the message of Christ that we have heard than the Jews paid to the Law and the Prophets.

Salvation can be Neglected
“How will we escape if we neglect(j) so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (Heb 2:3). It is possible to neglect your salvation, which means to reject, deny, or refuse it. And since the Jews were punished for their disobedience, how shall we escape if we do so?
  
Conditional promise based on holding fast our confidence

There promises are conditional ones, based on our holding fast our confidence. Notice the word “if” in these passages.

“but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Heb 3:6)

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (Heb 3:14)

Our confidence, our assurance, and our hope are all connected with the trust we had in Jesus at the beginning of our walk with Him. We must maintain these until the very end.

Falling, Straying or Turning Away from the Living God
It is possible to fall away or turn away from the living God.

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away(b) from the living God.” (Heb 3:12)

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away(a), it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away(d) from Him who warns from heaven.” (Heb 12:25)

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” (Heb 6:9)

“Some (younger widows) have in fact turned away(e) to follow Satan.” (1 Tim 5:15)

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away(b) from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” (1Tim 4:1-3)

“Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray(f) from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” (2Tim 2:17-18)

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"-- which some have professed and thus gone astray(f) from the faith. Grace be with you.” (1Tim 6:20-21)

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away(h) from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Tim 6:10)

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside(e) to fruitless discussion,” (1Tim 1:5-6)

My brethren, if any among you strays(o) 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.  (Jam 5:19-20)

In these last two verses of James, he is writing to believers, whom he calls “brothers.” And he indicates that it is possible for his fellow brethren in Christ to stray or wander from the truth into error. He then indicates that such a person’s soul is in danger of death, even using the term "sinner."  When this happens, the only way such a sinner’s soul can be saved is if he turns from the error of his way.  That’s why James indicates that the brothers should seek to turn such a person back, in other words “convert” him. 

Some may say that no true believer would ever fall away. However, the Scripture indicates it is indeed possible.  The only way a person can fall away, turn aside, wander away, or go astray, is if they were once in a personal relationship with the Lord.  You cannot wander away from someone you were never following or turn aside from a path you were never on.

Falling Away 
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, regarding these last days, "At that time many will fall away (s) and will betray one another and hate one another." (Mat 24:10). We are now living in the days He once spoke about, when it has become common for people to "fall away."  Just as the Lord predicted, such people betray one another and hate one another.  Do you suppose that a person who calls himself a Christian and lives like that will inherit the kingdom of heaven?  Certainly not! "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1Jn 2:9-11)

The Lord used this expression "fall away" many times, and He made it clear that those who "fall away" without repentance before they die will be thrown into hell.

He said, "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble (s), cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. "If your eye causes you to stumble (s), pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell." (Mat 18:8-9; cf., 5:29-30; Mk 9:43,45,47)

He also said that when people hear and receive the Word in their hearts, one possible outcome that does happen to some of them is that they "fall away" in time of temptation, such as when affliction and persecution arises because of the Word.

He said, "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away (s)." (Mat 13:20-21)

These words of Jesus were recorded a bit differently by Luke, yet with the same meaning: "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away(b).” (Luk 8:13).  In fact, Luke used a different and even stronger Greek word for "fall away" (see footnote b) than the one Matthew and Mark used (see footnote s).  Since these inspired gospel writers used these two different words (footnotes b and s) in quoting the same sentence spoken by our Lord about "falling away", we know that they are essentially synonymous terms.

Furthermore, it is important to note that Jesus said this about the man who hears the word and receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself. In other words, he was speaking about those who initially receive the gospel with joy.  As I have already mentioned, it is certainly impossible to fall away from something you have never experienced.  Many people, after having been born again, have lost value.  According to our Lord, if during their lifetime on earth they do not repent for doing so, they will perish in hell.

Falling through disobedience or pride
Many scholars believe that the devil and one-third of the angels fell through disobedience. Whether one-third or some other number of angels fells with him, we know they were holy at one time and fell through disobedience.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;” (2Pe 2:4)

“Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” (Rev 12:3-4)

“And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Rev 12:7-9)

Likewise, an overseer or elder can become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.

Paul warned Timothy about recent converts who may otherwise qualify to be elders. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6)

The Jews who fell through disobedience are an example for us. They did not enter the rest that God promised. “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall(g), through following the same example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:11)

Becoming hardened by sin’s deceitfulness
It’s possible for your tender heart to become hardened by sin, which is so deceitful. A person who is deceived does not know he is deceived or he would not remain that way. This is a very real danger. That’s why we need to encourage one another. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened(n) by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13)

Unbelief
The reason so many Jews were not able to enter the Promised Land was because of their unbelief. They did not combine the message they heard with faith. “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb 3:19). Likewise, Jesus said we must be doers and not only hearers of His Word.

Coming short of entering His rest
It is possible to come short of entering His rest. The writer of Hebrews was addressing true believers in Christ. He wrote, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short (l) of it.” (Heb 4:1). He indicated that even though there remains for us a promise of entering His rest, we should fear the possibility that any one of us may fall short of it.

Coming short of the grace of God
Just as we can come short of entering His rest, we can come short of God’s grace. “See to it that no one comes short( l) of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb 12:15-17)

As I mentioned earlier, the danger is that when you come short of God’s grace by abusing it, you may not be able to find a place for repentance ever again. This is what happened to Esau. Therefore, see to it that no one comes short of God’s grace.

Going on sinning willfully
It is possible to go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the Truth. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.” (Heb 10:26-27).

Sadly, many people do this. They receive the knowledge of the Truth. But afterward, they continue in a lifestyle of willful sin, in which they choose to remain.

Before I knew Christ, one of my favorite songs was Carry on My Wayward Son, by Kansas. In this song, a son is encouraged to continue in his wayward lifestyle. He is assured that there will be peace when he is done, at the end of his life. That’s a recipe for sure disaster. There’s only one acceptable sacrifice for sins, and if a wayward son carries on in sin, after receiving the Truth, no other sacrifice remains. The only thing remaining is not peace, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery fury from God.

Regarding the blood of Jesus as unclean
Anyone who set aside the Law of Moses died without mercy under the Old Covenant, as long as there were two or three witnesses. Under the New Covenant, it is possible to regard as unclean the blood by which you are sanctified. “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29).

In order to do this, you first have to be sanctified, which means to be made holy. The only way to be sanctified is through the blood of Jesus. Yet some people trample the Son of God under foot after they’ve been sanctified, and this insults the Holy Spirit. According to the Scripture, such people deserve a more severe punishment that those who died without mercy in the Old Covenant.

Shrinking back to destruction
It is possible to withdraw from your faith in Jesus Christ. But the Lord will have no pleasure in the one who does this. “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back(m), my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back(m) to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Heb 10:37-39).

The Lord’s righteous one must live by faith. However, if he cowers, pulls back, or shuns the Lord, he will ultimately be destroyed. I hope that everyone reading this is of those who has the kind of enduring faith that preserves the soul.

Being cut off and thrown into the fire
As long as you remain in Christ, you’re safe. But for those who do not, they cannot bear any good fruit, and they will be cut off.

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (Joh 15:6)

"Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luk 3:9; Mat 3:10)

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mat 7:19)

The Lord’s remedy for such people is to cut them off and throw them into the fire. It’s impossible to be cut off from Christ the Vine, unless you were at one time connected to Him. The key to avoid this terrible fate is to continue to abide in Him, bearing good fruit.

Being cut off, if we do not continue in His kindness
Paul wrote to the Romans about the Jews, who were a natural part of God’s original tree. Those who fell were cut off, demonstrating the severity of God. And we who believe in Christ were like wild branches grafted into God’s tree, demonstrating the kindness of God.

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell(g), severity, but to you, God's kindness, IF you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Rom 11:22). God’s kindness remains toward us as long as we continue in His kindness. Those who fall will be cut off, according to God’s Word. If He did so to the natural branches, why should He spare the wild branches that were grafted in?

Denying or rejecting the faith
It’s possible to deny the faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied(i) the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)

Paul warned Timothy about the need to struggle against sin, keep the faith and a good conscience. He wrote, “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected(k) and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” (1Tim 1:18-20) These people, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, once had faith and a good conscience. But they have rejected these, rather than keeping them. In doing so they blaspheme and will be handed over to Satan.

Leaving the straight way and wandering off
Peter wrote about people who were walking on the straight way of Jesus, but then wandered off of that way. “They have left(t) the straight way and wandered off(o) to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.” (2 Pet 2:15) You cannot leave the straight way unless you were once on it. They left the straight way and wandered off for one purpose, which was to follow the wicked way of Balaam. They forsook the straight and narrow path and went astray.  These are the people Peter is writing about throughout the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2. Read verse 15 first. Then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is whom he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness. This passage teaches us that it is possible to be on the straight way following Jesus Christ, and then leave the straight way.

“The Lord knows how to…hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (2 Pet 2:9). What is the fate of such people? Peter declares, “Like beasts, they too will perish.” (2 Pet 2:12).

Being entangled in the world and overcome by it
Just like a bird can become entangled in a net and be trapped in it, it is possible for a sincere believer to become entangled in the world and overcome by it.

Peter wrote, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled(p) in it and overcome(q), they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Pet 2:20). These people once escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! When you know Jesus Christ, you are saved. Yet they again became entangled in corruption and overcome by the world.

As I already mentioned, these are the people Peter is writing about throughout the entire chapter 2 Peter 2. Read verse 20 first. Then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is who he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness. He said they are "Bringing swift destruction upon themselves" (2 Pet 2:1b) and “Their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Pet 2:3)

Turning your back on the sacred commandment
It is possible to turn your back on the sacred commandment. And that is what the people whom Peter wrote about did. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs(r) on the sacred commandment passed on to them.” (2 Pet 2:21).

These people knew the way of righteousness and later turned their backs on the sacred commandment. These are the people Peter is writing about in 2 Peter 2 throughout the entire chapter. Read this verse first and then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is who he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness.

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Pet 2:22). It is possible for a person who has been washed to go back to wallowing in the mud, and their end is clearly described in verses 3-10, and verse 13, as well as verse 17. “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.” (2 Pet 2:13) Finally, “Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” (2 Pet 2:17).

My friend, these are harsh words, but they serve as a warning for us. I’m not writing to you self-righteously, as one who has never fallen, but as one who has fallen away before and returned to the Lord.

The prodigal son
Twenty-nine years ago, I was serving in the US Army, and had recently committed my life to Christ (Read my testimony here). As a young, nineteen year-old infantryman, I had been delivered from alcohol and substance abuse, as well as the sinful lifestyle that goes with all of that.

He radically saved me. I was on fire for Jesus in the beginning, sharing the Lord with the people in my life. I had a genuine personal relationship with the Lord. Day and night, I read the Word of God, prayed, had fellowship with other believers, and shared the gospel.

But about three months later, I was transferred for temporary duty overseas. I soon found myself serving in Berlin, Germany. I had brought my Bible and my Christian music, sincerely intending to stay close to the Lord.

However, when I went to the military chapel, I did not like the way they conducted the services. Since I knew of no other place where I could worship with fellow believers, I decided that I would just follow the Lord on my own, without being connected with the Body of Christ. It’s not that I didn’t want fellowship. I prayed for God to provide Christian friends, and I tried to be a witness to those around me. I really thought I could do it alone, but this was a foolish mistake.

I was lonely and wanted to find a wife. So I began going to places where single women could be found, such as the nightclub on post. At first, I just drank cola. It seemed innocent. I knew the Lord was with me, even in that place. But then I began to allow myself one beer or hard drink. Soon it was two, then three, and eventually six in one evening. I slowly slipped right back into my old lifestyle and found myself one night at 2:00 AM, laying in a gutter along the side of the street.

This pattern of falling away from the Lord continued for about six months. But on New Years Eve, I went back to the Protestant military chapel that I had rejected when I first arrived in Germany. They were having a “watch night service,” bringing in the New Year with prayer, worship, and fellowship. I felt so unworthy to be there, so dirty and ashamed of the way I had been living. I sat in the back, away from others.

They happened to be showing a video of a Vietnam veteran named David Roevers, who was awarded the Purple Heart. He gave a testimony about how the Lord saved him from an accidental explosion of a phosphorus grenade. About eighty five percent of his body had been severely burned, but he continued to serve the Lord. At the end of the video, the chaplain gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to commit his or her life to Jesus. I went forward, responding to his invitation with repentance, asking God to forgive me. The Lord’s mercy was so great. He forgave me completely and took me back.

It was like the story of the prodigal son. Like him, I had squandered what the Lord gave me. I spent everything on my own selfish desires until I hit rock bottom. But I came to my senses just like him.

He said, “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'” So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:18-24)

If you have fallen away from the Lord, or are beginning to do so, then return to Him with all your heart. Just as the father ran to meet his prodigal son, our Heavenly Father will run to you as soon as you repent and set your heart to return to Him.

Safeguards to keep you
Not everyone who falls away returns to the Lord. The saying is true that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. It’s very dangerous to play with sin. Once you harden your heart to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, it will become very difficult to sense it at all again. So you will no longer hear the warning indicator inside of you.

There are some safeguards that you should implement in your life to ensure you don’t fall away like that.

First of all, seek the Lord. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:6-7)

Aim to love with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:4).

And just as many of the Scriptures about falling away come from the book of Hebrews, many of the safeguards are also found in the same book. Keep on loving each other (Heb 13:1). Do not forsake the assembling of yourself with other true believers (Heb 10:25). In other words, stay in fellowship with the Body of Christ, where you can worship, pray, serve, and be accountable. Encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13). Hold firmly to the faith we profess (Heb 4:14). Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22). Hold fast our confidence (Heb 10:35). Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Heb 12:1). Run the race with perseverance (Heb 12:1). Fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2). Keep striving against sin (Heb 12:4). Strive to enter the kingdom (Luk 13:24). Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline or grow weary from it (Heb 12:5). Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy (Heb 12:14). Avoid sexual immorality (Heb 12:16). Let your hearts be strengthened by grace (Heb 13:9). Continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise through Jesus (Heb 13:15). Obey your leaders and submit to their authority (Heb 13:17).

Lastly, you should bear good fruit for the Lord’s glory (John 15:6; Luke 3:9; Mat 7:19), and continue in God’s kindness (Rom 11:22)

Greek word definition footnotes
As you review all of these Greek words used in the New Testament for the various aspects of apostasy, please bear in mind that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to use these words. This is not an isolated topic, but one that is thoroughly treated in Scripture. Those who deny that it is possible for a true believer to fall away must reckon with all of these words. And those who falsely teach on this topic must one day give an account to God.

a. parapito – to fall aside, that is, (figuratively) to apostatize: - fall away.

b. aphistemi - to desist, desert, etc.: - depart, draw (fall) away, refrain, withdraw self.

c. pararrhueo - to flow by, that is, (figuratively) carelessly pass (miss): - let slip.

d. apostrepho - to turn away or back (lit. or fig.): - bring again, pervert, turn away (from).

e. ektrepo – to deflect, that is, turn away (lit. or fig.): - avoid, turn (aside, out of the way).

f. astocheo - to miss the mark, that is, (figuratively) deviate from truth: - err, swerve.

g. pipto, peto - to fall (literally of figuratively): - fail, fall (down)

h. apoplanao - to lead astray (figuratively); passively to stray (from truth): - err, seduce.

i. arneomai - to contradict, that is, disavow, reject, abnegate: - deny, refuse.

j. ameleo - to be careless of: - make light of, neglect, be negligent, not regard.

k. apotheomai, apothomai - (to shove); to push off, (fig.) to reject: - cast away, put away (from), thrust way (from)

l. hustereo - to be later, to be inferior; to fall short; be destitute, fall, lack, suffer need

m. hupostello - to withhold under, to cower or shrink, to draw back, shun, withdraw.

n. skleruno - to indurate, that is, (figuratively) render stubborn: - harden.

o. planao - to (properly cause to) roam (from safety, truth, or virtue): - go astray, deceive, err, seduce, wander, be out of the way.

p. empleko - to entwine, that is, (figuratively) involve with: - entangle (in, self with).

q. hettao - to make worse, that is, vanquish (literally or figuratively); be inferior, overcome.

r. hupostrepho - to turn under (behind), come again, return (again, back again), turn back (again).

s. skandalizo - to "scandalize"; from the word skandalon, which means to entrap, that is, trip up (figuratively stumble [transitively] or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure): - (make to) offend.

t. kataleipo - to leave down, that is, behind; by implication to abandon, have remaining: - forsake, leave, reserve.

Putting it All Together
It’s clear from God’s Word that there is such a thing as abandoning one’s faith, drifting away, turning aside from the truth, forsaking the straight way, straying, wandering, and falling away from the Lord. It doesn't happen overnight. You don't go from being "on fire" for Jesus one day, and then wake up the next morning as an apostate. It happens gradually and almost imperceptibly, like a boat drifting out to sea. Knowing that this is in fact possible serves as a warning to every true believer.

When a brother or sister strays from the truth, they once again become a sinner.  Such a person's soul is in danger of death, and the only way to be saved is to turn back (i.e., convert) to Christ once again.

If you have fallen away from the Lord, or are beginning to do so, you need to hear the Lord's voice calling out to you tenderly, "Come on home." Then return to Him with all your heart. Just as the father ran to meet his prodigal son, our Heavenly Father will run to you as soon as you repent and set your heart to return to Him.

If you have not fallen away from the Lord, I’d like to admonish you from Scripture to stay close to the Lord Jesus. There are some safeguards you need to put in place in your life to ensure that you don’t fall away from the Lord. Be sure those are in place in your own life, and encourage others to do the same.

Whether your life comes to an end or the Lord returns, you’ve got to be prepared to meet Him. I pray the Lord will enable you to stand before Him in that day.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note I realize this post is a very severe word. I am simply saying what Scripture says. In fact, the The Apostasy Parables also carry the same message.  Don't miss Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian and Holding Fast the Faithful Word.  I also recommend The Origin of Sin, Satan, and Secular Music and The Rise and Fall of Lucifer the Musician. Let me encourage you to read my blogs about Election and Predestination and the Keeping Power of God. You can access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jesus Knows

To be with Jesus is a wonderful thing. He knows everything. When I read the gospels, I can see this in His interactions with people. And Jesus told us that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father, since He is the exact representation of the Father in heaven. Let’s look at some examples:

Jesus knew what people were thinking
And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He *said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home. (Mat 9:2-7)

You see how He knew their thoughts and what they were saying to themselves silently?

Since Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is ruined. And every city or household divided against itself will not last. (Mat 12:25)

At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, "Why do you have these thoughts? (Mar 2:8)

Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he said to them, "What are you thinking? (Luk 5:22)

But Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man with the paralyzed hand, "Get up, and stand in the center of the synagogue!" The man got up and stood there. (Luk 6:8)

Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he took a little child and had him stand beside him. (Luk 9:47)

The Lord knows what you are thinking before you even say a word. So when you go to the Father in prayer, don’t worry about finding the right words to say. Just say it! He already knows what you’re thinking anyway.

Jesus knew what people had heard
Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. (Joh 4:1). When I used to read this, I just figured someone had informed Jesus that the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples than John. But it doesn’t say that in the Scriptures. No one had to tell Jesus what the Pharisees had heard about Him. He just knew it in his spirit.

So when you hear about something, the Lord knows it. If you find out about something, whether good or bad news, no matter what it is you learn about, He knows it. So go ahead and discuss it with the Lord in prayer. It’s no surprise to Him that you know it.

Jesus knew who would believe and who would betray Him
But some of you don't believe." Jesus knew from the beginning those who wouldn't believe and the one who would betray him. (Joh 6:64).

(Jesus knew who was going to betray him. That's why he said, "All of you, except for one, are clean.") (Joh 13:11)

Isn’t that amazing! From the beginning, even when he chose Judas, He knew that Judas would betray Him. It was never a surprise to Him.

The Lord knows who will believe and who will betray Him.

But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." (Mat 26:33-34)

Jesus even knows who will deny Him. He knew in advance that Peter would do so. And no matter what you have done, the Lord already knows about it. He knew you would do it before it even happened. But He tells us to repent, which means to change your mind. He tells us to come to the Father and ask for His forgiveness for our sins. Nothing you have done will surprise Him, so don’t be afraid to bring it before Him.

Jesus knew when His time had come to leave this world
Before the Passover festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus loved his own who were in the world, and he loved them to the end. (Joh 13:1)

At any given time, Jesus knew what was about to happen next. The same is true for you. The Lord always knows what is about to happen next in your life. And when your time comes to leave this world, the heavenly Father knows it. That’s why it’s so important to stay close to Him. He might give you a clue that it’s about to happen, just like He did to Peter and to Elijah.

Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going
The Father had put everything in Jesus' control. Jesus knew that. He also knew that he had come from God and was going back to God. (Joh 13:3).

He was never just assuming or guessing about His identity or where He came from or where He was going. And when He lives in your heart, you don’t have to guess about it either.

When I ask people sometimes if they know where they are going when they die, many people often say, “Well, I hope I’m going to heaven.” But you don’t have to just hope. You can know for sure, just as Jesus did.

Jesus knew when they wanted to ask Him something
Jesus knew they wanted to ask him something. So he said to them, "Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you won't see me, and in a little while you will see me again'? (Joh 16:19)

Before they even asked Him a question, even when they were still just wanting to ask him the question, Jesus already knew about it. In fact, He knew exactly what the question was before they asked it! When you go to the Father in prayer, He already knows what you want to ask Him.

Jesus knew all men
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (Joh 2:23-25)

You see, Jesus knows all men. He knows you, and He knows what’s inside your heart.


Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to Him
Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him. So he went to meet them and asked, "Who are you looking for?" (Joh 18:4)

Nothing they did to Jesus caught him by surprise. He knew everything that was going to happen to Him. And He knows everything that is going to happen to you and me, too. Just as the psalmist wrote: “Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place.” (Psa 139:16)

Jesus knew when His work on earth was finished
After this, when Jesus knew that everything had now been finished, he said, "I'm thirsty." He said this so that Scripture could finally be concluded. (Joh 19:28).

There comes a point in everyone’s life when his or her purpose on earth has been fulfilled. Jesus knew when He had finished His work on earth. There will come a point when your work is finished, too, if you are faithful. The heavenly Father will know when that time comes, and He may let you know also.

Putting it All Together

When you know the Lord, it’s such a joy! He knows everything about you, including what you are thinking, what you want to ask Him, and what you have heard. No matter what you have heard, you can bring it before Him in prayer.

He knows the mistakes you will make, who will deny Him, and who will fall. No matter what you have done, you should simply repent and ask for His forgiveness. He’s waiting for you. Then stop doing whatever it is you did wrong.

He knows all men, women, and children. He knows what's in each person.

He knows everything that is about to happen to you next. Nothing will be a surprise to Him, although it may be a complete surprise to you. Rest in the awareness that He knows your future – the next five minutes, as well as the rest of your life.

He knows when your work on earth is completed. He already knows in advance the day and hour it will occur. If you walk closely with Him, I believe He gives some people the blessing of allowing them to sense when they have completed their work and fulfilled their purpose in life. Until then, continue to labor in His vineyard with whatever He tells you to do.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to also read my previous post called Election and Predestination.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Election and Predestination


When we hear or see the word "election", we are so accustomed to thinking of dirty politics, mudslinging, and voting corrupt people out of office . But I want to talk to you about an election that is completely perfect in every way and free of politics. It's the most important election ever and it has eternal outcomes, which impact you and me in a very personal way.


Let’s take a look at the topic of election and predestination and see what God’s Word has to say about it.

Election is based on God’s gracious choice
The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened." (Rom 11:5-7)

When Paul wrote here about those who were chosen, he used the Greek word εκλογή - ekloge - ek-log-ay', meaning (divine) selection (abstractly or concretely): - chosen, election. When we elect someone, we have a choice. Otherwise, it would not be considered an election if we only had one option. Likewise, God had a choice, and he chose a remnant.

A remnant is a small portion of the whole. When we have a remnant of a piece of carpet, it’s a small piece. Likewise, there is a remnant chosen by God’s grace. Not all Jews and not all who call themselves Christians are chosen. Some people who seek God’s righteousness are seeking it by works, and they don’t obtain it. Then there are those who were not seeking it, and they obtain it. Those who obtained it without seeking it are the chosen ones.

Paul also wrote: “And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Rom 9:10-13)

Normally in Jewish tradition, the younger children serve the one who was born first. This is even true of twins, since one is born before the other. It’s amazing how God made His choice of Jacob while he was still in the womb, before either he or his twin brother had ever done anything good or bad. God had already decided that even though Jacob would be born second, his older brother Esau would serve him.

It’s difficult for us to fathom this with our finite minds. Maybe to us it seems like God is unfair to do this. But Paul anticipated this when he wrote: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Rom 9:14-16)

God’s choice is always perfect. It’s always wise. It’s always just.

It’s extremely important to understand that when God chose the elect, it was based entirely on His grace. Grace is unmerited favor, which means you cannot earn it.

Paul wrote to Timothy saying that God "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." (2Ti 1:9). He taught that God did not save us because He knew in advance the good works we would do. Do you see that? God did not choose us based on our works. He saved us and chose us from all eternity, before the beginning of time, according to His grace. This way we cannot get the glory. All the glory belongs to the Lord.

The elect were known beforehand
The apostle Paul said, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Rom 8:29-30)

This word “foreknew” comes from the Greek word προγινώσκω – proginosko- prog-in-oce'-ko - to know beforehand, that is, foresee: - foreknow (ordain), know (before).

The Lord knew the elect beforehand. This is an amazing aspect about our relationship with the Lord that He actually knew us beforehand. Even our own parents didn’t know us until we were born. So we often think that God only began to know us once we were born. But as He said to Jeremiah the prophet: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jer 1:5)

According to God’s Word, this is true of all those who are chosen. The apostle Peter puts it like this: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” (1Pe 1:1-2)

That word foreknowledge comes from the Greek word πρόγνωσις – prognosis - prog'-no-sis, which means forethought or foreknowledge. This is where we get our English word prognosis, which is a forecast or prediction. We say, “There is a gloomy prognosis for economic recovery.” Or we may ask the doctor, “What is your prognosis for this patient?” Yet even our human predictions about the economy or about a patient’s health are only educated guesses. That’s all we can offer, since we as humans don’t know the future. But God actually knows in advance. This is His foreknowledge.

The psalmist said, "Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all." (Psa 139:4). The Lord is so amazingly wonderful that He even knows what we are going to say before we say it.

Another example of something that happened according to God’s foreknowledge was the death of His own Son on the cross. The apostle Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost: "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Act 2:22-23)

So the point here is as the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states: “The Church existed in the mind of God eternally, before it existed in creation.” That’s right. Before there was even one Christian alive on earth, God had already made His choice. He already had in mind those whom He had chosen.

The elect were destined beforehand
Now that we understand that God foreknew the elect, let’s see what else he did beforehand. The apostle Paul stated: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

Again, as with Jeremiah, the Lord not only knows the elect beforehand, but He predestines us. The word predestined comes from the Greek word προορίζω – proorizo - pro-or-id'-zo - to limit in advance, that is, (figuratively) predetermine: - determine before, ordain, predestinate. That means the Lord has already ordained or determined the purpose for our lives before we are born.

The psalmist speaks of the Lord's plan for his life while he was still in the womb. He says, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." (Psa 139:16). The prophet Jeremiah is another example. In his case, the Lord told him that He appointed him a prophet to the nations before he was even conceived in His mother’s womb. That was his destiny!

God had a purpose in choosing the elect
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Eph 1:11)

We have clearly been predestined according to God’s purpose. When God predestined the elect, He had a definite goal or intention. So what was God’s purpose? We’ll look at that next.

God’s purpose was that the elect go and bear fruit that would remain
Jesus said to the disciples, "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (Joh 15:16)

As the disciples saw it, Jesus had approached them one day and said, "Come follow Me." From their limited, human perspective, they chose Jesus. But He made it clear to them that it was He who chose them before they ever met Him.

Jesus explained that the reason He chose the disciples was that they would go and bear fruit that would remain. His purpose was that the Father would give them whatever they ask in Jesus’ Name. And this is His purpose for all those He has chosen.

God’s purpose was that the elect be conformed to the image of His Son
If you have ever seen a professional sculptor at work, it’s amazing to watch. While looking at his subject, he conforms the clay material with his hands into something that closely resembles his subject. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

The Lord has a definite purpose in His calling us to Himself, and that means we were predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. The word conformed comes from the Greek word συμμορφός - summorphos - soom-mor-fos'. It means conformed to, or fashioned like unto. This means God’s plan and purpose has always been that we be fashioned like unto Jesus Christ. God is fashioning the heart and character of His chosen ones to be like His Son Jesus, similar to the way a sculptor fashions the clay to resemble his subject.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (Eph 1:5). So again, when the Lord predestined the elect, the kind intention of His will was to adopt us as sons through Jesus Christ.

Conversely the vessels of wrath were not chosen
When we consider the election of God, we also need to understand that just as He chose beforehand those on whom He would have mercy, those who were not chosen were created for a specific purpose also.

If God made His choice before creating us, then when He created people who were not chosen, for what purpose did He create them?

Pharaoh is a great example to help us understand this. As Paul wrote: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raise you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that My Name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. (Rom 9:17-18)

You see what this is saying? It’s saying that God raised up Pharaoh to demonstrate His divine power in him. How did God demonstrate His divine power in Pharaoh? He did it by giving Pharaoh over to the hardness of his own heart, by enduring him with much patience, and by eventually pouring out wrath and judgment on him.

Paul goes on to write about this further, saying: “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.” (Rom 9:22-24)

So we can see God had at least a two-fold purpose for those whom He did not choose – Paul calls them vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Another term would be objects of wrath. He created these objects of wrath to make His divine power known, and also to make known the riches of His glory upon the objects of His mercy.

Few are chosen
Jesus taught about God’s choice in election also. In order to illustrate the kingdom of heaven, He told a parable about a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The king called for everyone to attend the wedding. But very few came. In the end, when he did hold the wedding feast, he spotted someone who was not wearing the wedding garment, and that person was thrown out.

He said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22:14). There are two key words we need to pay attention to here. The first one is “called”. It comes from the Greek word κλητός - kletos - klay-tos', meaning invited, that is, appointed, or (specifically) called. The second word is “chosen”. It comes from the Greek word εκλεκτός – eklektos - ek-lek-tos', meaning select; by implication favorite: - chosen, elect.

If you've ever planned a wedding reception, you know that you cannot invite everyone, unless you have an unlimited budget. Usually the size of the room where the wedding reception is held and the cost of food and beverages is a limiting factor that determines how many people you can invite.

Of course, the king who held a wedding feast in this parable had vast riches and gave a large feast. So he invited many people, but most did not come. This represents how many people hear the gospel and receive an invitation to give their lives to Jesus. But most do not accept the invitation. And in the parable, even those who came to the wedding feast needed to be dressed in the proper wedding garment. Being dressed in the proper wedding garment represents wearing the robe of God's righteousness, which we receive as a gift when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. When the king discovered one person at the feast without the wedding garment, he was thrown out. So Jesus was saying, many are invited or called, but few are selected or chosen.

Savior to All
Maybe someone might think that all of this means that Jesus only died for some people. There are actually people who teach this kind of limited atonement doctrine. Yet we understand from God’s Word that it is not God's will that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:4). And Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1Ti 4:10; 1Jo 2:2).

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16). So God gave His only son, because He loved the world, and the good news is for whoever believes. He is the Savior to all who believe. So let me ask you a very important and personal question: Do you believe in Jesus? This is perhaps one of the most important questions you will ever answer. This is the key to having eternal life.

Here's another question that's less personal, but still very important: will all believe and be saved, since this is God’s will?

Free will
The Scripture does teach us that we must make our calling and election sure though (2 Pet 1:10). Not ALL will be saved, but only the remnant. So we do have a part.  God treats us as responsible, capable of will and choice. We must put our faith in Jesus. We need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).  I've covered this in my post Salvation with Fear and Trembling.

We can drift away and shrink back, and we can treat as an unholy thing the blood of Jesus that once sanctified us (Heb 10:29). Those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, can and do fall away to the point where they can no longer be brought back to repentance (Heb 6:4-6; 1 Tim 4:1; 6:10). I've covered this more fully in my post called "Drifting Away."

No One Can Snatch Us from Jesus’ Hand
So does this mean that believers need to go through life always worrying that they are going to fall away from the Lord? Not necessarily. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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. I and the Father are one.” (Joh 10:27-30). So we don’t need to worry about anyone snatching us out of the Lord’s hand.

But we do need to remember that God’s chosen people have been broken off before because of unbelief. Paul wrote to the Romans about the Jews being cut off like branches from the olive tree, and Gentiles being grafted into the olive tree like wild branches. He went on to warn them: "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” (Rom 11:19-21) The message here is that you must not relax into an attitude of conceit, false security and complacency.  This is why Jesus told The Apostasy Parables, in order to warn us against falling away.

Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He removes; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (Joh 15:1-2). This should leave no question in our minds that the Father removes branches that don’t bear fruit.

In this same passage, Jesus laid great emphasis on maintaining intimacy in our relationship to Him. He said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (Joh 15:4) If it were impossible for a believer to do anything else besides abide in Jesus, there would have been no need for Jesus to say this. But it is an act of our will. We must do our part to abide in Him. This means continuing in our relationship with the Lord, trusting Him daily is key.

We need to trust not in ourselves, but in Jesus to keep us to the end. Jude wrote: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jud 1:24-25) Jesus Christ is able to keep you, and make you stand before God blameless!

Putting it All Together
So we need to understand very clearly that election is based on God’s gracious choice. The elect were known beforehand and destined beforehand, which is called predestination. God’s purpose in choosing the elect was that they go and bear fruit that would remain, that the Father would give them whatever they ask in Jesus’ Name, that the elect be conformed to the image of His Son, and to make his glory known upon the vessels of His mercy.

Conversely the vessels of wrath were not chosen. We cannot accuse God of being unjust or unwise in His choice. God’s purpose in creating the vessels of wrath was to make His divine power known.

God does not want any to perish. Jesus is the Savior to all who believe, and the gospel is for everyone who will listen. But while many are called, few are chosen.

And we cannot forget that God has given man a free will. He did not create a bunch of robots that do exactly what has been programmed into them. The eternal security doctrine of "once saved always saved" is a doctrine of demons, and is not found in the Bible. We can drift away and shrink back. The partakers of the Holy Spirit can and sometimes do fall away beyond repentance. The Father does remove branches from the vine. This means we must put our faith in Jesus, we must make our calling and election sure, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We need to maintain our close relationship with the Lord on a daily basis, trusting Him, abiding in Him and bearing fruit for His glory. We need to completely and continually trust Him to keep us to the end, and to make us stand before God blameless.

I hope that this study has helped you better understand the healthy tension between election, predestination, and free will. Who can truly understand and adequately explain how these three things can be true simultaneously? It should cause you to stand in awe of the Lord's wisdom and knowledge. And it should also help instill a humility and healthy fear of the Lord, regarding the matter of election and predestination.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:33-36)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend Drifting Away, Salvation with Fear and TremblingKeeping Power of God, Michael Thomas Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and Hell, Few will be saved, The Apostasy Parables, and Angelica Zambrano Hell and Heaven. You may access my complete blog director at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.