Summary: What happens when a saint falls and refuses to get up? What is the reach of God’s mercy? Where does the responsibility for personal holiness lie?
Recent events in my ministry and life have required an exploration of God’s nature and His attitude towards sin in the life of a believer. In search for a position on this issue, I had to find direction through the maze of theological debate to find the true heart of God. What happens when a saint falls and refuses to get up? What is the reach of God’s mercy? Where does the responsibility for personal holiness lie?
THE NATURE OF SIN
Nothing can change our lives like sin. It is a disease – a cancer – that eats at us and everyone that loves us. Its effects paralyze us and cause us to become delusional, excusing even the worst of crimes. Most sin stems from pride or self-focus. It distracts us from the selfless nature of Christ, creating a spiritual domino effect. James describes sin as our desires leading us into a state of pregnancy, and at some point giving birth to death. The implications are that once conception happens, an intervention must occur if you are not going to carry iniquity full term.
SALVATION AND POWER THROUGH REGENERATION
The process of salvation is something that is often misunderstood and badly modeled. True salvation occurs when:
An individual comes to the knowledge of who God is,
The individual understands who Christ is in relation to the Father,
The individual understands what Christ did on the cross,
The individual understands and acknowledges the profound significance of His death and resurrection,
The individual turns away from the present life and surrenders to the will of the Father through an adoptive process,
The individual confesses this new realization.
This immediately provides the new believer with a freedom from the law of death and sin. True spirituality now begins, marked with a newfound power over sin. It is in-fact, an overturning of the events in the Garden of Eden, where the power of choice was manipulated to cause a separation from God. With salvation, the power of choice is the first act of authority, allowing us to take back the power we had in the Garden. As Christians, sin no longer has dominion over us - the power of choice is now the vehicle to our redemption.
SURRENDERING THE CROWN
Is it possible that a regenerated person return to his or her former status – in complete slavery to the wrong choices? I don’t believe so. However, sin can certainly blind us in a way that manipulates our ideas, as we begin to believe lies above the truth. The world turns upside down as the Righteous become bigots, Pharisees, and enemies. That blurred vision causes us to use our redeemed power of choice in the wrong way. Because we now have the power through the Holy Spirit to choose right, the act of choosing evil is much more treacherous. It involves a person having complete knowledge of God’s ways, but choosing to walk away from that. Many at this point quote a scripture like Hebrew 13:5, where it says that God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, to excuse their condition:
De 31:6 - Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
But, those people forget:
Jos 24:20 - If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
2 Ch 15:2 - And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.
Surrendering your crown for the sins of your own pride and selfishness is nothing light. It entails one using the redeemed, uncorrupted power of choice for one’s own benefit. The problem is that you are now held accountable for those choices, done in direct opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit.
SO, WHERE IS GRACE AND FORGIVENESS?
The only thing that guarantees us complete forgiveness from our self-deceit and treachery is repentance. Repentance, the act of turning around, melts the heart of God. It is the pride of persisting in your sin that keeps you from that forgiveness, and ultimately separates you from a full relationship with God. Am I saying that you can lose your salvation? Absolutely not. I am saying that you can voluntarily give it back by crucifying his grace and love with the nails of your own voluntary sin. Will you still go to heaven? I wouldn’t gamble on such a notion. Whether you have lost your salvation or never had it in the first place, you are in dangerous and unpredictable territory.