Christ’s sacrifice does not make apostasy impossible, but even more horrible. The Lord healed apostasy under the Old Covenant (Hosea 14:4), but under the New Covenant, “just think how much worse the punishment will be ….” (Hebrews 10:29)

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The Lord made a covenant with Abraham and his children. Though he loved them with an everlasting love, they continually refused to walk in his ways. The Lord severely punished Abraham’s children for their disobedience and promised he would one day restore them and establish a new covenant. His instructions would be written on their hearts, not just in stone. They would not need to be taught, for everyone would know him already. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

In spite of their continual rebellion, the Father would never disown his sons and daughters. “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Jeremiah 31:36-37 NLT)

The Lord promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) The Bible promises that nothing in all creation can separate you from God’s love in Christ. (Romans 8:38-39)

That does not speak, however, to the ability of the beloved to separate herself from the one who loves her. “If we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT)

“For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened — those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come — and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance ….” (Hebrews 6:4-6a NLT)

Under this new covenant, “all people will die for their own sins,” not the sins of their fathers. (Jeremiah 31:30).

Let those who have ears ….

We believe apostasy is no longer possible because of Christ. Yet Abraham was saved by faith, just as we are, and God’s faithless people were judged no longer his people.

‘So this is what the Lord says to his people: “You love to wander far from me and do not restrain yourselves. Therefore, I will no longer accept you as my people. Now I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.”’ (Jeremiah 14:10 NLT)

Do not be deceived into thinking that the faithlessness of your day-to-day life doesn’t matter.

Jesus told the crowds a story about a farmer scattering seed in four soils: footpath, shallow soil, thorns, and fertile soil. The seed that fell among thorns sprouted but the tender plants were choked out by the thorns — and they produced no grain. (Mark 4:7)

I wonder if Jesus was thinking of Jeremiah 4:3 when he told that story: “This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.'”

We tell Jesus’ story to explain how our hearts need to be fertile soil that is receptive to the good news and bear much fruit. But the story also is about the farmer’s foolishness in scattering seed in places he knew it would not bear fruit. What sort of farmer sows precious seed among thorns? Wouldn’t it make more sense to tear out the thorns and plow up the ground first?

Jeremiah’s word to God’s people deepens our understanding about sowing among thorns: “O people of Judah and Jerusalem, surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins.” (v.4)

God’s people had turned their backs on Abba to pursue self-indulgence. Pride and power had become their idols, and their worship of Almighty God was false. Jeremiah told them they must root out the thorns and plow up the hard ground of their hearts, or find there no longer remained a sacrifice for their sin — that all they had left was a terrible expectation of judgment and the raging fire that will consume God’s enemies. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

We want to see a “hundredfold” harvest of the Kingdom in our lives. Who would think they could plant among the thorns of self-indulgence and see such a harvest?

What would you do if …?

February 20, 2018

Judah “saw that I divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery. But that treacherous sister Judah had no fear, and now she, too, has left me and given herself to prostitution. Israel treated it all so lightly — she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted.” (Jeremiah 3:8-9 NLT)

What would you do if you felt a growing conviction that the vast, vast majority of Western Christianity had lost its fear of God and given itself to idolatry, adultery, and prostitution?

“Lord, why have you allowed us to turn from your path? Why have you given us stubborn hearts so we no longer fear you? Return and help us, for we are your servants …. Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence!” (Isaiah 63:16; 64:1 NLT)

If we are not free, why does Isaiah question the Lord about his allowing his people to stray?

If we are free, why does Isaiah attribute the people’s stubborn hearts to the Lord’s action?

Doing justice to the Text requires more than a simplistic either/or approach. Some people would rather argue for their own viewpoint than submit to the Scripture.

Andrew Wilson, teaching pastor at King’s Church, London, has written a very good piece on warnings and assurance in salvation for thegospelcoalition.org.

Three quotes:

Some people like the assurances (because they’re comforting), but don’t like the warnings (because they frighten believers). Some people like the warnings (because they take sin seriously), but don’t like the assurances (because they make people complacent).

and

The warnings are real: If believers fall away into sin and never repent, they won’t be saved. The assurances are real: God, in Christ, by the Spirit, will keep all believers to the end. And the former are a God-ordained means of ensuring the latter.

and

So there are practical benefits to grasping the warning-assurance relationship in 1 Corinthians, in Paul, and in Scripture. It can help our preaching, and it can help our pastoral ministry. There are also huge theological benefits, as we see the integrity and balance of biblical emphases, and remember both that we’re commanded to obey God, and also that even the ability to obey is itself a gift.

Personally, I wish he hadn’t maintained the “believer” vs. “true believer” dichotomy, but his writing represents important progress on a subject avoided by both Reformed and Traditional Baptists. He identifies four very significant ways preaching and ministry are affected by striking proper (biblical) balance on the subject.

I recommend both the article, which I have read, and the dissertation/book, which I intend to order.

Preach the warnings without grace, and you will raise up legalists who strive at good works as a means of salvation. Preach assurance without warnings, and you will create complacent consumers with no heart for the Kingdom of God or making disciples (and, not insignificantly, put earnest believers in danger of irretrievably falling away).

Preach both, and see what God will do.