Last post I talked about a fellow’s story of his own 'de-conversion’, in which he describes his experience of ‘being saved’ and then of beginning to doubt the existence of a personal God until every vestige of faith seemed to have crumbled. He described it as a ‘graceful degradation’. One by one the components underlying his faith in God broke down under closer scrutiny. Such things as his own testimony, answered prayer, the beauty and complexity of creation, scientific evidence, the Bible, logical arguments, and morality all fell short of being convincing reasons for him to believe.
Depending on one’s theological background, some would say he ‘lost his salvation’. Others, that he was never ‘saved’ in the first place. And others still that his turning his back on God, doesn’t mean God has turned His back on Him… Time will tell. We probably don’t see the whole picture and God is His judge (I Cor.4:4,5)
Though I do not know this young man’s destiny, I do know that we are cautioned often in Scripture to be watchful. Sin is by nature deceitful. Our human natures are bent to embrace it. And we do have an enemy who is far more clever than we are!
Some verses that have come to my attention are:
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it….how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb.2:1,3)
“Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (I Tim.6:20)
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood…therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Eph.6:11-13)
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb.3:12,13)
“…God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (I Tim.4:16)
I read somewhere lately that if you think you are above deception, (it could never happen to you) you are already deceived! That hit the mark! It’s the principle of pride coming before a fall, I suppose (Prov.16:18). Paul had a similar warning for the Corinthians: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10:12). In the context, he was explaining to the Corinthians that the events recorded in the Old Testament about the Israelites and their relationship to God are recorded for a reason, namely for our own instruction. I can read stories of unbelief and shake my head in arrogant incredulity or… I can take heed and learn something from their example!
So what can I learn from this fellow’s story? Let me just lay out a few observations I’ve made…
- “Getting saved” must entail some comprehension of what we are being saved from—not just a warm, fuzzy belief that God is there and I’m now initiated to the club. I see no acknowledgement of sin in this fellow’s story, and in fact a disconcerting sense of being a good person at heart. Jesus came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."(Lk.5:32)
- The reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence in one’s life must consist of more than a moment-in-time experience. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what sets the true believer apart from the rest of the world. (“Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him”. Romans 8:9) So it is crucial that we verify His presence by more than subjective experience. Is there a newfound freedom, a hunger for the Word, a growing Christlikeness, a love for others….These things are effects of the life of the Spirit in our lives. [For an excellent set of articles entitled: “The effects of the Spirit” don’t miss T.M. Moore’s series available at www.colsoncenter.org or downloadable here: http://www.colsoncenter.org/images/content/wilberforce/ViewPoint_Studies/VP-Effects-of-the-Spirit.pdf ]
- The Word of God is an essential aid to growth, stability and protection from deception. It is our guide to life and godliness. Accept no substitutes! (II Tim.3:16) This young man appears to have neglected study of the Word in favor of reliance on impressions and visions.
- Hearing from God is first and foremost a matter of listening as the Spirit brings the written Word to life in our hearts. Overdependence on mental impressions apart from verification in the Word will leave us open to deception. The mind is a powerful entity and we are capable of deceiving ourselves.
- Beware the craving to understand everything. The human mind must be subject to the truths that God has revealed even when they cannot be explained. As believers, we are people of revelation--not everything we believe can be logically ‘proven’ beyond a doubt. Paul describes our quandary excellently in I Corinthians 1. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”(21) Intellectual arrogance is a slippery slope to grand delusion! By it we can profess to be single-minded searchers after truth and be in fact pursuing deception!
And that’s some of what I’ve gleaned from this fellow’s story. We are called to greater things—to know the source of all Truth. Interestingly, the deception already at work in the world that will culminate in Antichrist’s appearance will target those who have ‘refused to love the truth and so be saved.’(II Thess.2:7-11) A great deception is coming and already at work but I love the way Paul braces us for it-- reminding us that we are loved, chosen, and saved by the Spirit’s work and our belief in the truth…and after all is known and believed, it is God who is at work to strengthen and establish us in all we say and do. Wow! And that’s the drift of what I really wanted to say!
Thanks for hearing me out.
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (II Thess.2: 13-17)