This is a response to a reader/friend regarding whether a single fall from perfection could cost us eternal life.
I hope that what people saw in my post is that the issue with the cross is not a failure here or there, but saying “no” to the dealing of God. I hope the picture I painted is that sometimes that thing that God wants to crucify in you is so frightening, even though it is actually insignificant to everyone else around you, that it takes weeks or months to say yes to God.
Nonetheless, the cross must be dealt with. Shove it aside, and we all agree you will lose the opportunity to be all God wants you to be. I don’t think Jesus’ parables or commands teach that. I think he says that when you push it aside, and say no, thank you, to him, then … well, I already said all that in the post.
That does not mean that people who say yes, who let the cross rip apart their defenses, and who bow their knee to that one thing God makes them do to really break inside … those people who say yes to that do not suddenly become the perfect, non-sinning disciple. I don’t believe in that disciple. I believe that the growing disciple eventually bows his knee and says, “Oh, God. I am so marred inwardly that even my tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of Jesus. Nothing I do, even in obedience to you, is free from some secret desire for self-glorification.”
I got part of that quote from George Whitefield, but I know for myself it is true. Sometimes I get revelation from God, and I know it is revelation from God. I am excited about it, and I know it is going to stir, revive, and strengthen the hearts of the saints who are going to hear it. When I get such revelation, I share it in joy and with all my heart, knowing that in doing so I am obeying God and blessing his people. In fact, if I share something like that with something less than great confidence in God, he always rebukes me for being “shy,” a word I don’t believe God likes. “Shy” is an excuse for not boldly saying what God has put in your mouth to say. It must be overcome.
But I also know that every time I share the revelation of God and see the benefit to the saints, I have to fight down my pride and ambition. I would love to be in front of hundreds of people, sharing some truth from ancient history that they have never heard and having them all think I’m just the best, most illuminating teacher they’ve ever heard come along.
There is absolutely nothing good about that desire. There is no desire there for the benefit of people or the glory of God, just desire for my own glory, my own love for attention. I have to fight it down all the time, and in doing so, I’m sure there are other terrible motivations in me that I miss.
I devote exactly no time whatsoever to worrying about the truth about my pitiful inward desire for grandeur. I focus on the glory of my God, the incredible gift of being called not just to be a follower of Jesus, but to be a servant, a worker, and a leader as well. I wrestle my attention to the benefit of those that I walk with so that, hopefully, I never have time to even think of my own sinful longing for glory. I thank my friends for their kind words to me, search them quickly for things I should put into practice for the service of God, then shove them aside as a temptation to my ego.
In all of this, I confidently expect that if I walk in the light, loving his will, his ways, and the way he exposes the rottenness of my flesh so that I have no confidence in myself, then the blood of Jesus, my King and my loving Savior, will both cleanse me from the influence of the flesh and forgive me of my sins, known or unknown (1 Jn. 1:7).
So I exhort you and everyone to do the same.
- Say yes to God about going all the way with him, and don’t think for a moment that you will get away with saying no. The punishment may be eternal.
- Acknowledge that everything you do, if it comes from you, is terrible, sinful, and stained. The mind set on the flesh CANNOT please God. So if you get your mind on the flesh, which you will, and you don’t please God, you can confidently know God is not surprised. It is what he expects. So don’t be surprised yourself. Get up, get your mind off yourself, even off the sin you’ve been walking in, confess that you know there is nothing good in you, and put on the Lord Jesus. Set your mind on him. Find something he’s told you to do and go do it just to please him.
- Grow. Get up every day knowing that his mercies are new every morning. If you are giving today to him, wholly and at any cost, nothing happened yesterday. It’s gone, left behind. God doesn’t pay any attention to the wickednesses of yesterday for those who will live in righteousness today (Ezek. 33:14-16).
One last thing. I don’t believe in falling away from God in one day, unless you are actually making a choice today to quit following him. God’s explanation of this is that he is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). It’s one thing to generally sow to the Spirit, but occasionally give in to the flesh. It’s another to forsake the battle and sow to the flesh all the time. If you plant fleshly deeds all the time, then you will grow the fruit of those fleshly deeds. You will reap corruption INSTEAD OF eternal life. Paul actually states this in different ways twice (Rom. 8:12-13; Gal. 6:7-9). Simple as that. This ought to frighten us (1 Pet. 1:17).
On the other hand, everything I wrote except that last sentence ought to put that fright in the right place!