Repentance, Atonement and Nails


A Bag of Nails
A Bag of Nails … a “deadly” reminder

A mother once gave her daughter a bag of nails and told her that
every time she lost her temper or insulted somebody she
must hammer a nail into the back of their fence.

When Temper is Lost; a Nail is nailed to the Fence
When Temper is Lost; a Nail is nailed to the Fence

The first day the girl hit 14 nails into the fence.
Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the
number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled. She discovered
it was easier to hold her temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all.
She told her mother about it and the mother suggested that the girl now
pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper.
The days passed.
Finally, she told her mother that all the nails were gone.
The mother took her daughter by the hand and led her to the fence.
She said, “You have done well, my daughter, but look at all the holes
in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things
in anger, they leave a scar just like these.”
Holes represent the Spiritual, Emotional and Physical "Wounds"
Holes represent the Spiritual, Emotional and Physical “Wounds”
You can put a knife in a person and draw it out.
It does not matter how many times you say I’m sorry;
the WOUND is still there.
A verbal wound is almost as bad as a physical one.
 
“How can I repair the fence?” asked the girl.
“Will it have to remain damaged forever?”
“Yes and no” said the mother. “Our Rabbis say that if the fence is alive
and responds to the way you have changed, it too can change and heal
itself. If the fence is dead to the possibility of your repentance it will
carry its scars onward. The fence will never be as it was before, but it
doesn’t have to become like new to be a good fence. If you do your part
and change, and the fence does its part in response, God will do
something wonderful. God will promote a healing that will make you
and the fence better. This process is called Atonement.
It means that the changes that come about from repentance
and forgiveness lead people to higher levels of relationship
than was the case before.”
 
“What happens if the fence doesn’t respond?” asked the girl.
“Can I ever make it whole?”
 
“You should try on three different occasions,” said the mother,
“but if the fence remains dead even after you have changed,
YOU can’t force it to become whole. In that case you should fix
another fence somewhere else.
There are always lots of fences that need fixing, and whenever
you fix a fence God will make something wonderful happen.
That is the miracle of Atonement.
God always responds to our attempts to change by helping
us change and always responds to our change by giving us new
and wonderful opportunities for Atonement. This is why we
have a Day of Atonement ten days after the beginning of every
New Year; so the New Year will be a better one than the last one.”
as retold by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Moral :
Wars and Quarrels are mostly started by humans,
who are sinful by nature, they do not
think deeply about ramifications nor consequences
of their verbal or physical outburst that is spilled
or acted out in the moment of anger or jealousy.
In Proverbs 19:19,
King Solomon in his God given wisdom,
exemplified that
“A hot-tempered man MUST pay the penalty;
if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”
That hot-headed man must realize and admit and change
his ways because nobody, not even God, can help him
if he does not TRULY AND HONESTLY REPENT
of his ways!

 

Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Her mother once gave her a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper or insulted somebody she must hammer a nail into the back of their fence.The first day the girl hit 14 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled. She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Instant Gratification or Protecting Your Future?


Genesis 25:27-34

Would you forfeit a double-share of your family’s inheritance for a bowl of soup?
Esau did.
In one impulsive bargain, he gave up his right both to lead the family and to take a
lion’s share of his father’s wealth. From where many believers sit in safe and
well-stocked homes, Esau’s actions seem ridiculous. But falling into this brand of
temptation is not unique. Every person is enticed to sacrifice future blessing in
favor of feeding current desires.

Esau had his priorities out of order. The Bible says he “despised” his birthright, but
that does not mean he hated the benefits of being born first. More likely, Esau didn’t
give much thought to his position—it was doing him little good in his current life.
He lived dangerously as a hunter. So how could he inherit anything if a wild animal
killed him?

Therefore, he placed a higher value on his immediate need for a full belly.

Esau’s shortsightedness isn’t all that different from some common modern scenarios.
1) When people trade family time for extra work hours, they lose the comfort of a loving
household.
2) When men and women ignore God’s marital standard of faithfulness, the result is a
damaged or destroyed partnership.
3) When someone refuses a relationship with the Lord in order to maintain
a sense of self-will, he forfeits eternity with God.


What is your “bowl of stew?” At some point, you will face a choice between future gain
and present pleasure. Do not act on impulse like Esau.

Esau squanders his Birthright for a bowl of lentils

Consider your decisions carefully and seek God’s will.


Esau preferred instant gratification. (Genesis 25:30-34) “Not appreciating sacred things,”
Esau gave away his rights as firstborn “in exchange for one meal.” (Hebrews 12:16)
He failed to consider how his decision to sell his birthright would affect his relationship
with Jehovah or what influence his action would have on his offspring. He lacked spiritual
vision. Esau closed his eyes to God’s precious promises, viewing them as of little value.
He walked by sight, not by faith.

Esau provides a warning example for us today. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

When we face decisions, whether great or small, we must not be seduced

by the propaganda of Satan’s world, which says that you must have what

you want right now. This constant bombardment of instantaneous gratification

of our desires by the media and society has led many confusing poor souls to the graves

and their spirit hanging in the balance comes the Day of Judgment; the “Day of Jehovah”.

We do well to ask ourselves: ‘Are Esau-like tendencies showing up in the decisions I make?

Would pursuing what I want now mean putting spiritual interests in the background?

Are my choices endangering my friendship with God and my future reward?

What kind of example am I setting for others?’


If our choices reflect appreciation for sacred things, Jehovah will bless us. 

Proverbs 10:22
The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.

Brokenness


♣ ♣ ♣

BROKENNESS—THE PROCESS

Matthew 16:13-28

Everybody wants a blessed life, nobody wants the blessed life the way
God gives it—through a broken life. But before God can thoroughly
bless a person He must thoroughly break that person from his own
self-reliance.
· We saw that in Jacob, who after being broken, became Israel.
· The understanding of the necessity of brokenness before blessedness
was seen in our Savior’s purchase of redemption through brokenness,
as is personal salvation and restoration.
· The path of brokenness begins with the birth, followed by the death,
but the eventual resurrection of God’s desires and intentions.
Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David…all took this path.
· The pattern of brokenness is seen through various Bible illustrations
and in real-life demonstrations. God has been in the “breaking business”
all through the Bible.

The “Purpose of Brokenness”
(1) To bring us to spiritual maturity and
(2) To allow us to engage us in maximum ministry.

Charles Stanley’s definition of brokenness:
“Brokenness is the condition whereby our will is brought into full
submission to his will so that when he speaks, we put up no argument,
 make no rationalizations, offer no excuses, and register no blame,
but instead, instantly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit as he guides us.”

Brokenness is not just a “condition,” it is also a process—a very
predictable, planned process from God’s viewpoint.  When we are
the ones being broken it is chaotic  and confusing, it is painful
and puzzling.  God is in the very center of our circumstances,
accomplishing His purpose which is …..
(1) spiritual maturity and
(2) maximum ministry.

‘Brokenness’ that only God can Heal

How does God break us from living like unbelievers live—depending
on their five senses and their corrupt minds, their warped wills and
their easily influenced emotions?  Believers, and only believers,
have an inner man that is meant to control the outer man.

The life of Simon Peter in the gospel provides a great example of
God’s breaking process.

1.  The Process of Brokenness is Planned.

To many of us, our spiritual life is a huge mystery.  We see it as
only some spontaneous, rather than something calculated, thought
out, planned out.

Think how this planned came together for Peter.

First, Christ choose His disciples, and one of them was Peter.
And the one that Jesus had the most problems with was … Peter.

But Christ saw what He could do in and through this man—a man
who had more hang-up than a telephone solicitor.  Christ knew
with His touch, the blow of the chisel here and the heavenly
sandpaper there, Peter could be used to the glory of God.

If you will cooperate with God as you walk through the breaking
process, He will shape you into a servant that resembles His Son.

Christ’s plan was to zero in on what seemed to be Peter’s strength.
· Matthew 16:16-18  Peter spoke up…this time with the right
answer.  Jesus pointed out to Peter that he didn’t come up with
that conclusion by himself—God had revealed it to Him.
· Matthew 16:21  Jesus began to prepare His men for His death.
· Matthew 16:22.  Peter buts in.  “Why, you’re not going to do
anything of the sort!  You’re not going to be the Son of God and
have a bunch of men treat you that way.  We are going to take
care of you.”  How many know it is He that takes care of us,
and not the other way around?

Peter was a man of tremendous strength, potential, determination.
But Peter was not responding from a “spirit-level,” but from a
“soulish-level.”  His will said, “No, you won’t die.”  His emotions
said, “I’m too loyal.  I love you too much to see that happen.”
His reason said, “None of this makes any sense.”

· Matthew 16:23a.  “Peter…Satan, get behind me…”  Who?
That’s, right.  Peter, this is Satan’s plan for me to avoid the cross.
Get this.  Peter had just had this tremendous spiritual revelation
in verse 18 and now he had a soulish revelation that was
diametrically opposite.  The first came from heaven, the last came
from hell.
· Matthew 16:23b  “Peter, you are an offense unto me…”
Peter was his most outspoken, loyal disciples. It must have crushed
him.
· Matthew 16:24-26  While Jesus said this to all “his disciples,”
the primary target was Peter.  Peter had the bright idea that Jesus
would raise up an army and wipe out Rome and set up an earthly
kingdom.  “No, Peter, you must be willing to die, also.”

2. The Process of Brokenness is Perpetual.

Many people have the idea that if we have one giant, whopper of
a breaking that it will last a life-time.  Brother, you better keep
the bandages handy.  Brokenness is a perpetual process…a process
to keep us broken from self-reliance, self-glorification, self-seeking.

Years ago when I was a young adult a man was trying to sell me
some health insurance.  I said to him, “Man, I don’t need health insurance.
Can’t you see?  I’m healthy.”  His reply was, “You are over-due and you will
be needing some.”   We need health insurance because…we all get sick,
sometimes seriously sick.

If you haven’t gone through the breaking process…hang on,
you’re overdue. Our strong points can be our weak points…because
we allow them to marginalize God.
Someone said “EGO” is “edging God out.”

Every step of the way, Peter was being broken.

· Matthew 14:22-27, 28-30 – Peter’s faith was broken.
– “If it is you, bid me come.”  That’s serious spirit thinking.
– “But,” vs. 30.  Peter slipped into his soulish senses and sank.
– Here is Peter—bold, courageous, loyal, fearless, determined—
and he nearly drowned. Wiped out. Buried at sea.

· Matthew 18:15-22 – Peter’s rights were broken.
– “How oft?  Seven times?”
– “NO.”  “Seventy times seven.” Not 490, but on and on and on.
– Shattered the old Peter who had his limits.

· Matthew 19:27 – Peter’s expectations were broken.
– “What shall we have?”
– Jesus: “More than you deserve and more than you can imagine.

· John 13:4-8 – Peter’s pride was broken.
– “Thou shalt never wash my feet.”

· Matthew 26:51-52 – Peter’s wisdom was broken.
– Peter drew his sword.   Great plan, Peter.
– “Put up the sword into his place; for all they that take the sword
shall perish with the sword.”

· Matthew 26:33, 69-75 – Peter’s self-confidence was broken.
– Broken, Peter goes out weeping like a little baby.

· John 21:15-17 – Peter’s self-professed love was broken.
– “Lovest thou me?”
-”He was grieved.” Broken.

At every turn, Peter was put down, embarrassed, silenced, humiliated.

Why doesn’t God let up on us?  God works to strip from our lives
that which we depend upon…so that we will depend on Him.
God loves us too much to let us be our soulish self.
He has bigger and better things for us.

3. The Process of Brokenness is Painful.

Psalm 119:67  “Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now have
I kept thy word.”  Verse 71  “It is good for me that I have been
afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

The process of brokenness is painful because of what brokenness
targets—the old man, the self life, our soulish dependence.
Our old man doesn’t like to be exposed as helpless, hopeless and hellish.
Most believer know what God is targeting to break in our
lives.  We know what is grieving the Holy Spirit.
We know what is quenching the Holy Spirit.

The process of brokenness is painful because brokenness takes time.

The process of brokenness is painful because of the tools God uses
to break us.

· Family.
God may use a wife to break a husband…husband to break a wife…
parent to break a child…child to break a parent…friend to break a friend.
The real laboratory of life is the home.
The home is where the real “you” is.
God may use your children to expose your flaws, your inconsistencies,
your selfishness.

· Flesh.
God can touch our “health” to get our attention.
You have heard of many medical problems that cannot be diagnosed.
All sickness is God’s hand of breaking, but all sickness is a time to
draw near to God.

· Finances.
God can hit us where it hurts—a shot at our pocketbooks.

· Friends.
There are people God will put in your life who care to be honest
with you.

· Failure.
God can wipe out our huge egos with personal failure.  God did that
for me my first semester in college.  If I had succeeded I don’t know
where I would be today.  God used my failure—He didn’t have to do
very much to get me there—to get me to surrender to Him.

God’s most powerful tool is His Word.
· Jeremiah calls God’s Word a “hammer” 23:29, and a “fire,” 5:14.
It is also a “sword” Heb 4:12 and a bright “light” Ps 119:105.
This is one reason why people consistently stay away from church
services. The Word literally tears them up.  God uses the Word to
break us.  And you will not be broken until we can discern between
what is soul and what is spirit.

Let’s make a clarification about a couple of things that may or may
not be tools used by God that peole may wonder about.
· Death.  Does God take another person’s life to get our attention?
It will often result in that, but it doesn’t seem like God to takes the
life of someone to make a point because God loves both people.
Death is the result of sin.
· Sin.  Does God cause a person to sin to bring about another’s
submission to God?  e.g. Does God get a teenager on drugs to get
a parents to fall on their faces before God.  God will take advantage
of our sins and disobedience to bring about His purpose to confront
us and change us.

4. The Process of Brokenness is Precise.

God knows everything about everyone of us and know how to
precisely measure our breaking.  And what a great God He is…
from person to person He orders our breaking.

Our breaking will last no longer than when we finally surrender.
Any resistance on our part will prolong the process.  So our
willingness to yield shortens it.

The only thing that you can determine in the process of brokenness
is how long you will postpone the inevitable.  God will have His way.

Charles Stanley warns, “Those who resist God long enough are not
destroyed — rather, they generally are ‘shelved.’  They are ignored.
They remain unused.  They stagnate at their current level of
growth and spiritual maturity.  They remain in their flawed state.”

That concept of being “shelved” is a Bible concept.  It comes out
of 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul expressed the dreaded thought
of becoming a “castaway,” meaning “rejected,” (A.T. Robertson)
or “disqualified,” not from salvation, but from any earthly usefulness.

The last thing Peter wanted to do was give up the control of his life.
He wanted to do it “his way.” Brokenness is God’s process of bringing
us to the place where we humbly say, “Lord, I get it now.  What do
you want me to do?  How do you want me to live?  Where do you
want me to go?  What do you want me to say?  Its all about you—
its not about me.”

Peter would later write in his first epistle, “God resisteth the proud,
but giveth grace to the humble,” 1 Peter 5:5.  Peter had lived the
first part, and was now enjoying the last part.

5.  The Process of Brokenness is Profitable.

The best things for all of us is to be broken by the loving hand of God.
It is productive. It is profitable.

How can we be sure of that?  Well, did it do ‘ol Peter any good?
Did he continue to live as he had always lived?  Was he always a
spiritual yo-yo—up and down, up and down?  Was he ever changed?
What is our proof of the profitability of brokenness?

Remember God purpose for brokenness?  Maturity and ministry.
How did that work out for Peter?

· Maturity is never fully accomplished, but Peter was much more
grown up than when he first met Jesus.  Acts 4:13 “And they took
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”  Hey, we start
looking and behaving more like Jesus than ourselves, we are headed
in the direction of spiritual maturity.  Jesus could now be seen in Peter
…what an accomplishment…a job only God could do.
· As far as ministry was concerned, he was the leader of the pack.
After all that he had been, and all that he had done (most of it not
good), God assigned Peter the ministry task of preaching on the
Day of Pentecost, Acts 2.  He was Spirit-empower, preached Christ,
and 2,000 turned to Jesus and were baptized.

And the very next day after this record event at Pentecost, Peter
and John are headed to the temple to pray, Acts 3:1.  That tells
me volumes about Peter.  He’s no longer depending on himself.
While Peter takes up the first half of the book of Acts, it’s not the
old Peter doing the work; it’s the new Peter, the broken Peter.

Copyright © 2006 Lake Worth Baptist Church | All Rights Reserved

All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Trees


The following ideas (edited by Alan Smith) are entitled

“All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Trees”

** author unknown **

It’s important to have roots.

In today’s complex world, it pays to branch out.

If you really believe in something, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.

Be flexible so you don’t break when a harsh wind blows.

Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow.

Grow where you’re planted.

It’s perfectly okay to be a late bloomer.

Avoid people who would like to cut you down.

Get all spruced up when you have a hot date.

If the party gets boring, just leaf.

You can’t hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life.

It’s more important to be honest than poplar.

Those are some good lessons.

They remind me of some other lessons taught in the very first Psalm:

Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.

And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.

Psalm 1:1-3

The Psalmist says that a godly person is like a tree in three very important ways :

First, he is planted — he’s got his roots put down deep, he’s fortified, stable.

Second, he bears fruit — he develops godlike qualities in his character and life.

Third, he doesn’t wither — he is able to survive under all circumstances, even days of difficulty.

May your spiritual life take on the qualities of a tree planted by the rivers of water.

Drifting Away … Spiritually


Deuteronomy 12:32

“Every word that I am commanding YOU is what YOU should be careful to do. 

YOU must not add to it nor take away from it.”

Hebrews 2:1

“That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention

to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”

Mankind has an innate desire to worship God, but he wants to be free to do it according to the dictates of his own mind. The result is a wide variety of religions–in actuality, mass confusion as to which is the true religion–and a world in which true values are lost in an ocean of conflicting opinions about how to live. This, in turn, has helped persuade many people to reach the conclusion that all gods are equally good, or its counterpart, that everybody is worshipping the same god.

We all know God is not pleased with this situation, but He allows it to continue. However, even while allowing it to continue, He is calling people out of it. He has shown His called-out ones that they have been redeemed from the bondage to traditions, described in I Peter 1:18 as “vain,” “aimless,” or “futile,” depending on the translation. However, in the vast majority of cases, someone, presumptuously taking it upon himself to inaugurate a tradition, began practicing them, sincerely thinking he was improving his life. We have all followed these traditions, but the Christian is responsible not to allow the world to squeeze him into its mold of conduct, character, and attitude.

Proverbs 21:16 describes the way many presumptuous sins begin: “A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the congregation of the dead.” Like this man, most people do not deliberately set out to depart from God. Nevertheless, carelessness invariably enters the picture, and a person drifts from his former sure fix on his goal. Once his focus on the goal is blurred, he is more easily deceived into foolishly assuming certain things. An especially sad part of this is that the result is the same as if he were deliberately presumptuous.

The author of Hebrews uses a metaphor in Hebrews 2:1-3, portraying a boat slipping from its moorings and drifting away. A person “neglect[s] so great salvation” by allowing himself to be caught in the current of the world’s attitudes and conduct. Presumption frequently begins with careless drifting, but the drifting quickly advances from neglect to presumption unless one carefully checks whether he actually has God’s permission to behave as he does.

Like a Boat Adrift … Our Spiritual Life Drifts Away … Slowly

In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman crying out to people along the way–to God’s Kingdom?–to take heed to her instruction. In verse 36, she utters a profound warning: “But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.” None of us likes to think of himself as foolishly loving death. However, the Bible consistently shows that those who do not consciously, purposefully, and carefully direct their lives toward obedience to God do indeed love death rather than life! Such a person is in effect presuming that all is well with him in relation to God. God does not like being taken for granted–just as you and everyone else don’t like to be taken for granted!

*John W. Ritenbaugh*

Isaiah 66 : 1-2


Ω

ISAIAH 66 : 1-2

This is what Jehovah has said:

“The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool.

Where, then, is the house that YOU people can build for me,

and where, then, is the place as a resting-place for me?”

“Now all these things my own hand has made,

so that all these came to be,” is the utterance of Jehovah.

“To this one, then, I shall look, to the one afflicted and

contrite in spirit and trembling at my word.”

Humility is the key to oneness with God.

Consequently, it is also the key to oneness with our brethren.

God’s way of achieving oneness is for each person to be so

attuned to God that he is motivated to do everything possible

to ensure that the relationship (with God or fellow man) is not

only unbroken, but constantly becoming ever closer.

We should do this because we are striving to become like Him,

and that is how He is.

Each person is responsible

for cleaning up his character and

humbling himself before God.

*clipart from http://www.christart.com*

Each is not responsible for judging his brother so critically it

drives a wedge between them and separates them.

Such a person does not even see his own sin! In such a case,

he could not be in God’s Kingdom because that manner of thinking

would continue right on into it, and God will not allow it there.

*John W. Ritenbaugh*

No Looking Back


♣ ♥ ♣ 

NO LOOKING BACK

Luke 9:62

“Jesus said to him: “No man that has put his hand to a plow

and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.”

♣ ♥ ♣

REMEMBER the wife of Lot

This “looking back” is not merely reflecting to evaluate the progress made since one decided to leave the world. Instead, it is like Lot’s wife, who looked back with a degree of longing to return to what she had left. Her life was literally on the line, and rather than being fully engaged in surviving, she placed a higher priority on life’s lesser matters than on the greater one of preserving her life through God’s gift of protection.

She looked back, revealing her heart still to be in Sodom, a type of the world. Her action indicates regret for having left. Success in God’s way requires following an awesome vision of future glory with devoted conviction. Abraham is a primary example: He looked for a city built by God, apparently leaving his homeland without ever looking back (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16).

Once we commit to Christianity, God’s calling becomes our vocation, which requires our concentrated attention going forward. A vocation is a person’s regular occupation. What happens when a Christian looks back with a measure of longing is similar to someone talking on a cell phone while driving his car. He frequently drifts all over the road, swerving this way and that because, at best, his attention is split between conflicting priorities. He is setting himself up for trouble, and all too frequently, an accident occurs. A Christian cannot make a beeline for the Kingdom with his attention diverted elsewhere. We are not to be anything but altogether followers of the Son of God. The stakes are that high, for the fulfillment of His promise is so great.

Dramatic, sudden death, as happened to Lot’s wife, will not likely happen to us if we gaze yearningly behind us. For this reason, a person who has begun to fall away will most likely take the second step backwards with hardly a pause. Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” Almost invariably, longing for the old life is followed by gradually and increasingly believing that God’s requirements are too exacting and difficult.

In Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:11-27, did not the man given one mina complain something similar to this when asked what he had gained with it? “Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow” (verses 20-21).

We must be prepared to put God first in all things. There will be times when this will be exceedingly difficult, especially if the surrender of a thing involves the sacrifice of someone or something deeply loved or desired. It can happen, but such occasions are quite rare.

It has been said that he who is unwilling to sacrifice everything for the cause of God is really willing to sacrifice nothing. Drawing back happens despite God’s promise that every trial is measured to the exact specifications needed by the individual Christian. In I Corinthians 10:13, God promises to provide relief from every problem: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” The word-picture in Hebrews 10:39 portrays a person shrinking back from following through on the demands of faith. He is looking for an easy way out of some distasteful thing he does not wish to face. This eventually happens to us all.

A major appeal of the world’s way is that it seems to be broader and easier. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:13, the easier, broader way it probably is—for a while. That deceptively effortless way draws the person ever-further from salvation, and he grows steadily weaker as he loses contact with God. The one who apostatizes thus permits himself to be drawn back.

The third step is taken when a person actually turns away. John 6:65-66 records such an occasion in Jesus’ ministry: “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’ From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” In this poignant scene, Jesus watched people who may have been friends leave His entourage because they could not comprehend His teaching. He undoubtedly had spoken of things of an order far higher than they were accustomed to hearing, but rather than patiently facing it, as the apostles did, they simply gave up, proving themselves unfit for the Kingdom of God. Their loyalty could not stand the strain of what may have been merely a temporary misunderstanding. They had been followers, but apparently, they were seeking for something else.

By this stage, it is still not too late for a person to grab hold of himself and move forward, but the world’s appeal has become almost overpowering. Spiritual decline has reached the tipping point, and he is in serious peril.

The fourth and final step backward is illustrated by Isaiah in the Old Testament: “But the word of the LORD was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.’ That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught” (Isaiah 28:13).

In examining the context carefully, we see that the people being described have reached the critical point where God’s Word is falling on deaf ears. It is to them just jumbled noise. In New Testament terms, they had backslid beyond the reach of repentance and forgiveness. Here, the apostate reaches the point of no return; he has earned the Lake of Fire.

*John W. Ritenbaugh *