Hiking in the Serengeti

August 29, 2016

Walking the narrow path without a doctrine of apostasy is like trekking in the Serengeti without a theology of lions.

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!

Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!

Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.

— Charles Wes­ley

Purging Christian theology of the doctrine of apostasy — and ignoring the Bible texts that undergird it — is a betrayal of God’s people and a concession to the consumerist spirit of the age.

The Scripture’s clear teaching on the necessity of obedience — and the consequences of disobedience — are unpalatable to consumers who think they have sealed a transaction that entitles them to heaven after death.

God’s flock deserves to hear the whole truth. “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (John 3:36 NLT)

Salvation is free, and it will cost you your life.

If we emphasize the differences between New Testament and Old Testament faith, and fail to point out their similarities, we drain the New Testament warning passages of all meaning and put our brothers and sisters in serious danger.

How are we different?

April 1, 2016

Is the Christian’s salvation somehow more permanent than Abraham’s? Is our faithlessness — reflected in our apathy toward injustice and oppression — any less vulnerable to judgment than Israel’s?

“I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness. Since your refuge is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away. I will cancel the bargain you made to cheat death, and I will overturn your deal to dodge the grave. When the terrible enemy sweeps through, you will be trampled into the ground.” (Isaiah 28:17-18 NLT)

The Lord’s word to the church in Sardis is heavy on my heart this morning.

He wrote to a people who had a reputation for being alive, but who in fact were dead. He knew they were dead because he knew their deeds. While a few members of the congregation had kept themselves unstained by the world, most had not. He promised that those faithful ones ultimately would overcome and “walk with him in white.” Because they had not denied him before the world, he would confess them before the Father and the angels.

He promised that the names of those few would not be erased from the book of life.

On the other hand, the majority of the church was in serious danger. Their deeds were not complete in the sight of God. (v.2) They thought they were alive, but they were dead. It reminds us of James’ words that “faith” is useless if it is not accompanied by works. Dead faith cannot save. (James 2:14-26) The faith that saves, that keeps a person unstained by the world, is found in those who do things like visit orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)

The church at Sardis was warned to not just talk about faith while leaving their works of faith incomplete before God. What little remained of their saving faith was about to die. While their fellow church members would be welcomed by Jesus and see their names remain in the book of life, the “faith without works” crowd would find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by Jesus the Righteous Judge.

They would not be in the group whose names remained in the book of life.

The Lord warned then, and warns now: “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. … He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (3:3,6)

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:1-6 NAS)

Dear brothers and sisters, don’t think for a moment you can keep indulging your sinful nature and still inherit the kingdom at the end of your life.

God declared an end to sin’s control over us by sending his Son to live as one of us, and then giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Christ lives within you, and because you have been made right with God, the Spirit gives you life.

Because you belong to Christ, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. If you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, through the power of the Spirit, you will live.

Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace, but letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. Dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. If you live by its dictates, you will die.

Romans 8