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Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness:

Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

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Question #1:  

I still believe you when you say the rejection of the gospel is unforgivable, but I would like your opinion on something. I hear one preacher say that what makes the sin unforgivable is that people are proud to do it, do you feel that proudness would make any sin special.

Response #1: 

Pride, of course, is a sin. Interpreting sermons second hand is always dangerous (sermons are a waste of time any way, in my opinion; see the link). The best spin I can put on your report is that this person is imagining a situation where the sinner in his pride has every intention of sinning and is not intending to cease sinning, let alone confess his sin and change his behavior (repent). Of course, if we don't confess, we are not forgiven. But if we do confess, we are forgiven (1Jn.1:9). Understand: for believers, sin and confession have to do with our fellowship with the Lord (not with our salvation – believers are saved). It is typical of sermons not to make these issues clear, but rather to run them all together, leaving listeners more confused and upset than they were when they arrived (if they had the bad fortune to pay attention, that is).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for this explanation! This is pretty much how I thought it was interpreted but the way you explain it makes it clear! I do have another question for you if you don't mind. In Matthew 26 I believe Jesus warns his disciples to not fall away but they end up doing so when he is arrested. Did they apostatize? Was Jesus referring to apostasy? Also it says that if you deny me before men then I will deny you before my father yet Peter denied Jesus and was saved. Does this refer to unbelievers who never come to Christ or Christians too (such as Peter)? Id like to hear your take on this. Thanks again,

Response #2: 

You are very welcome – happy to be able to be of some help.

As to your latest question, it is actually Peter who says "even if all fall away" (skandalizo – used by our Lord of apostasy in the parable of the Sower). Our Lord knew that while the eleven would all "scatter" – and while Peter would deny Him three times – that none of them would "fall away" in the sense of completely abandoning their faith. That is why our Lord also said:

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Although Peter was not strong enough in his faith to resist denying the Lord, his "faith did not fail". This is a wonderful example of the truth of this issue, namely, that the Lord Jesus died for all and that the Father wants all to be saved. All are written into the book of life and names are only blotted out by refusal to accept Christ or by outright rejection of Him. Likewise, believers are not "accidentally" thrown aside by the Lord or condemned to hell for one mistake or two (or even three). Believers are saved (even poor believers); unbelievers go to hell (even otherwise morally upright, noble and honorable ones). It's all about faith – which is the essential human choice.

As to "whoever denies Me" (Matt.10:33), while it is true that Peter did deny Christ, three times, he also spent most of his life witnessing to the Lord and His truth:

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 10:32 NIV

Scripture (and our Lord in particular) often puts things in terms of this sort of stark contrast – for our benefit. Because, after all, if we are hewing tight to the good, we are less likely to get off into the bad ("aim small, miss small"; cf. 1Cor.9:27). But it is a blessing to remember that even if we stumble (as we all do in many ways: Jas.3:2), and even if we sin (as we all will, until the resurrection: 1Jn.1:5-10), that our Lord is gracious, that our sins have already been atoned form, and that the grace and love of God are looking to save us (and everyone else) rather than to condemn us (or anyone else). Believers are saved; unbelievers go to hell. In Matthew 10:32-33 we find the perfect believer versus the consummate unbeliever. We may not be the former (though to this we should aspire) – who can claim always on each and every occasion and opportunity to have confessed Jesus as he should have done – but we Christians are certainly not the latter (if we had consistently denied Christ at all times as our policy and way of life, we would not be believers in the first place).

See the link: "Denying Christ"

Yours in the Lord we love and proclaim, and for whom and through whom we live, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Hola, Doctor.

So, Matthew 7 "judge not lest ye be judged". I hear this used by a good portion of believers in our Laodician era to essentially explain our unbiblical tolerance for things obviously condemned in the bible (corporate Christianity in toto, unmarried sexual relations, etc.). When I read that verse I hear condemn, not necessarily judge, although that's how most people portray it. "Man, don't judge." Am I off on this? Many times over our Lord says to use the intellect AND Holy Spirit God gave us to decipher obvious fact from lie and to stay separate from sin as He is separate, right? How would you explain this issue? I apologize if this is already answered in your email archives, I've read A LOT and still haven't seen it, pretty sure it's there.

Thanks ahead of time and again for your amazing ministry!

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you as always.

I think you have hit this nail on the head. There is a difference between going around and verbally condemning others, sounding off on their conduct and telling them (and others) how wrong they are on the one hand, and on the other hand recognizing that the opinions, actions, and words of others (Christians and unbelievers both) are wrong, sinful, dangerous and anti-God. The former is only occasionally to be recommended, as in rescuing a fellow believer from something which has ensnared him/her – and that must be done carefully (e.g., Jude 1:23). The latter is something we should indeed be doing all the time, namely, evaluating our own conduct – thoughts, words and deeds – but also for our own spiritual safety recognizing the essential spiritual reality of what we see going on in the world whether laudatory or, much more frequently, condemnatory.

Here is one link: "Judge not that ye be not judged".

Thanks much for your encouraging words! Feel free to write back about this one if this doesn't get to the nub of your question.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Dear Brother Bob,

I am so blessed to have found such a great teacher. Certainly, you may use your response to my question. I know there are probably others who may have the same concerns, and you answered in such a compassionate way. Now that you have answered my question about sin, I have a related question about forgiveness. The forgiveness we receive from God is the second greatest gift, the first being our salvation. But we have a duty related to forgiveness that is frankly quite frightening. We have to forgive others.

In Matthew 6:14 and Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus warns us that if we don't forgive others, the Father won't forgive us. Since it is a part of our human nature to hold onto hurts and to bear grudges, this is probably one of the hardest things He asks of us. Yet, it seems to me this one of the direst warnings Jesus gives.

So how do we forgive others? Do we say in our hearts and minds, "I forgive you?" Do we ask God to help us to forgive? Do we go the offender and say, "I forgive you?" If we say seventy times seven I forgive, but it keeps coming up again in our minds, does that mean we haven't forgiven? If we are still hurt, does that mean we haven't forgiven? Does forgiving others include just "taking it" and not mentioning it to the person who hurt us?

I know it must be an act of will and not of emotion, but how do we really know? We can be at peace one day, but the next day, it comes up again ferociously. Is forgiving an on-going process?

I know that forgiving others is a part of loving others, which has been a difficult lesson for me to learn since I've been treated very badly in the past. I'm working on that part of my nature, and I know some day I will be able to love perfectly, though probably not in this life.

I certainly don't want to face The Lord one day and have Him tell me I haven't forgiven someone else, so He will not forgive me. My greatest desire is to please my Lord, and I never ever want Him to be disappointed in me.

I hope I'm not pestering you to death with all these questions. I know you are very busy. But as hard as I study and as much as I read my Bible, there are some things I either can't find answers to or that I don't fully understand. You are the best teacher I have ever found, and I have never had any red flags or even yellow flags raised with anything you've ever written. In fact, you have cleared some doubts.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Response #4: 

You are very welcome.

These are great questions and are ones that I think probably every serious Christian wonders about or struggles with from time to time. The first thing I would say about all this is that forgiveness is different from abrogating one's right and duty to defend oneself. Violence would seem to be the main dividing line here when it comes to "turning the other cheek", etc., in Matthew 5:39-42 and Luke 6:29-30. If someone tried to break into my house and hurt my family, I would have no qualms about using whatever measures were necessary to prevent that. I would strive to forgive the perpetrator after the fact, but I would not be sorry or repentant about protecting my family nor would I be reluctant to do the same thing in respect to the same person if it ever happened again. I would forgive, but I would also press charges. If we are talking about crime or serious abuse or any other sort of dangerous behavior, we should not allow this concern to keep us from doing what it is right and proper to do. Our Lord's command to turn the other cheek does not envision a situation where the adversary is attempting to kill us or do us serious injury (see the links: "The Golden Rule" and "Christian Love, the Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense").   

Apropos of this first point, if someone has done us some terrible wrong, forgiveness aside, it is not required for us to downplay the seriousness of the wrong to ourselves and others, nor would it be wise to do so. Forgiveness does not require us to re-write the facts of history nor to make ourselves vulnerable to repetition. We are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, not to like them nor to socialize with them nor to feel good about what they have done to us. How much more would that qualification not apply to unbelievers and strangers who are dangerous. If someone has committed a crime or other serious abuse against us or others, it is not required that we ever even have any contact with them again – and in such extreme cases that would seem to be the course dictated by prudence and spiritual common sense.

Forgiveness means letting the other person "up" from whatever punishment we might otherwise be able to inflict upon them, having mercy on them instead of acting out of retribution and revenge. This "letting go", in addition to renouncing active counter-measures against them, does mean to clear our minds of hostility towards the person in question (not to purge our minds of a common sense evaluation of what sort of person they are and what they have done, or what they are likely to do in future as a result). It means to seek the blessing of our enemies by the Lord rather than their cursing – but scripture recognizes as we should too that they may still remain just that: our enemies, namely, people who are inimically opposed to us regardless of our attitude of blessing and forgiveness.

It is important to note that in the context where these matters are discussed in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, in both chapters our Lord tells us to emulate our heavenly Father (Matt.5:38; Lk.6:36). Since we clearly need His mercy, we certainly should offer up that same attitude of mercy to all of our "debtors" and all those who "trespass against us". Otherwise we stand to be like the man in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt.18:21ff.) who begged for forgiveness but when he received it was unwilling to extend it to others. In that parable, of course, the under-servant actually asks for mercy when the unmerciful servant is in the process of legally exacting a debt from him. If we would be perfect, then 1) we would be forgiving the debt immediately rather than exacting payment for it, and 2) in case we fail to do so on our own accord, we would extend mercy when asked for it.

Few of us are perfect when it comes to this issue, and there are bound to be many circumstances where the right course seems somewhat cloudy and where absolute compliance with the spirit and the letter of this law of mercy and forgiveness seems beyond us (or turns out to be so in the way we actually behave). But with continued growth in the Lord, we can be confident that He will melt those clouds away with time, and also give us the strength and the courage to carry out these mandates in just the right way, guided and empowered by His Holy Spirit.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1st Peter 3:9 NIV

This is the sort of issue that will quickly alert any honest Christian that there is still some road ahead when it comes to being absolutely perfect in spiritual maturity. Even if we have forgiven someone from the heart, that doesn't mean that we won't necessarily have to defend that "hill of forgiveness" in our hearts from time to time – just as we all have a tendency to be vulnerable to certain types of sin even after we have gained a general victory over them. In all such things, we always need to keep our guard up, staying confident of the truth that God will work it all out together for good if only we remain patient, trusting Him.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21 NIV

So we need to keep at this, and we need to remember that it is God who will work out the details, protecting us and vindicating us at the proper time and in the proper way. And even though we are not perfect, God is merciful to us and does forgive even our failures in forgiveness – as long as we confess them and turn away from them in the true repentance that precedes all genuine confession. Once we accept the fact that we are not yet perfect, we can have peace on this as with all such issues, committed to the pursuit of perfection in the power of the Spirit. God is for us, not against us. He helps us in this journey and in this fight, even when we don't walk or do spiritual battle in a perfect way. On this as in many such issues, there always seems to be some room for improvement. The correct attitude to adopt, therefore, is, on the one hand, not to become sullen about some standard we feel is unfair and that we will never be able to match up to, nor, on the other, to get panicked about our failures as if God does not understand that we are mere flesh and blood and that the fight here in this life is a difficult and bloody one. If we are truly fighting that fight, attempting to walk closer to Jesus day by day, we will make progress even in things we find the most difficult, and we will grow in the love of Christ in every way. If absolute perfection were the standard of salvation, no one would be saved.

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them."
Romans 4:6-8 NIV

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:8-10 NIV

We are all sinners, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He died for all of our sins – and for the sins of the entire world. That would include any failure to forgive or anything else we might do in this life as believers. But through the faith we have He considers us righteous despite our failures, however many and great. As long as we hold onto that faith, we have the righteousness of God, and life eternal. Whatever impediment to our Christian walk a lack of forgiveness of some person or some act may prove to be, all believers are saved. As those who wish to honor our Lord and gain the maximum possible reward at His judgment seat, we absolutely should seek to purge ourselves of every such kink in our hearts. But we should also never underestimate His mercy, goodness, grace and forgiveness of us.

I think it safe to say that any Christian who is genuinely concerned about this issue of forgiveness is in little danger of being reproved on that Day like the unmerciful servant of the parable was.

In Jesus Christ in whom we have been forgiven everything, and whose walk we seek to emulate to His glory and good pleasure,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Brother Bob,

This one should be a little easier. When we commit an offense against another, do we sin against him or her? Or is it only possible to sin against God?

Certainly, when we willfully hurt another person, we commit a sin because we are breaking God's commandments. But do we also sin against that person?

Or is it like committing an offense against man's law? When we rob or assault another person, we are not punished under the law for hurting that other person, but for breaking the law. We may be sentenced to restitution, but the person we harm is considered a witness under the law. That is why there is no such thing as a victimless crime, because the "victim" is always the (manmade) law.

I have heard some define sin as "missing God's mark," using the analogy of shooting an arrow at a target and missing the bull's eye. Is that a literal translation of the original word or is that somebody's made up word picture? Please know that I don't read any language but English, so if you could explain this part of the question as simply as possible, I'd appreciate it.

As always with my deep gratitude for your wisdom and teaching,

Response #5: 

It is true that both the Greek and Hebrew words for sin apparently mean "missing a mark" in terms of their etymology. Etymology can be helpful, and here that is the case, but the precise meaning of words is determined by their usage in any language at any given time. For example, "to err" in English has very specific connotations, and when we here the word "error" we do not necessarily (and probably only rarely) connect it with its Latin etymology (errare in Latin means to go astray from the path, literally to "get lost"). So what we have in the case of all these words are literal terms that begin to be taken metaphorically, and over time the metaphor becomes moribund. A long way to say that "sin" means "sin" (rather than being poor at archery or navigation). It is falling short of God's mark in terms of how He expects us to behave; it is "transgressing", but in a moral sense.

All sin and fall short of God's glory.
Romans 3:23

On the direction of sin, the only part of that direction that really matters is the God-ward part. That is to say, if a human being thinks I have sinned against him/her, it makes no difference if God does not think so (even if I were to agree with the person in question). On the other hand, if I do not think I have sinned in my dealings with another person, it makes no difference what I think if by God's standards I have sinned (and that is true even if the person in question takes no notice or forgives me). Human standards mean nothing. Only the divine standard counts. That is the standard compared to which when compared we all "fall short", in general and specific terms. So regardless of how anyone may or may not define sin, the only standards meaningful for Christians are God's standards, and the only Person whose evaluation of our behavior we need to consider is God's. I have more on this in Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin, in section II.1, "The Essence of Sin", but let me paste in for you the first part since it is particularly apropos of your question:

The Bible defines sin in a number of ways. Sin is lawlessness (1Jn.3:4). Sin is failing to do right when one knows what is good (Jas.4:17). Sin is falling short of God's righteousness (Rm.3:23). Sin is everything which is not of faith (Rom.14:23). In all of these general definitions, sin is action which is deficient when compared to some standard, namely, law, good, righteousness, and faith respectively. And in each of these cases the standard comes from God: i.e., sin is falling short of God's Law, what God has established as the good, God's righteousness, and the principles of God's truth in which a person believes. Sin, therefore, is an action a person takes which is contrary to the will of God, so that all sin is necessarily directed against God (cf. 1Sam.15:24):

Against You and You alone have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your eyes.
Psalm 51:4a

Sin is thus at its base the substitution of our own false standards for God's true standards, and our own will for God's will. This is true whether we sin in full knowledge of the wrongness of our actions or do so out of complete ignorance that what we are doing is wrong (see section II.8 below).

Hope this helps – feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hello Bob I recently have been reading over some old testament passages and have come to Numbers 15:30 "But the soul that doeth aught with an high hand, whether he be homeborn or a stranger, the same blasphemeth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people." And I know we've already spoken of Hebrews 6 on repentance, and I'm fearful about the issue of high handed sin because God does not change. My question is could this individual who sinned with a high hand find mercy? What if he repented and confessed his sin to God – could he be forgiven? I know he must bear his iniquity because of the next passage but what if he repented could he then offer a sacrifice? I know if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, but this passage doesn't seem to say that. Please help Bob make sense of this passage.

Thank you

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you again. The "high hand" sin is a deliberate sin. What most people, even professional theologians, often to not understand about the Mosaic Law is that the sacrifices for sin are almost entirely focused upon unintentional or "accidental" sin (that of the Day of Atonement being the main exception). If a person knew what they were about to do was a sin and did it any way, that was sinning "with a high hand" and the penalty was death. Now, obviously, there has never been a single human being who has ever lived (with the sole exception of our Lord) who has not committed a deliberate sin. Moreover, we have only a couple of examples from the Old Testament of individuals being put to death for this cause (both date back to Moses' day: the man who blasphemed the Lord and the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath). So even though millions upon millions were guilty while the Law was in force, almost no one was held to this standard. This goes to the purpose of the Law, namely, to show that we are all sinners, and that even if some of our mistakes can be chalked up to ignorance or accident, that is certainly not the case for everything we have done. Therefore, absent a Substitute who will die in our place, we will all be condemned by God's justice when we meet Him face to face. Blessedly, of course, the whole Law also looks forward to that Substitute, our dear Lord Jesus, and the Bible assures us over and over again that He has died for all of mankind's sins. The only sin for which He could not die (and therefore the only sin which could not be forgiven) is the sin of rejecting Himself and His work and choosing to stand on one's own record instead at the last judgment:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

The upshot of this is that if the Numbers passage meant what your darkest fears suggest, then no one could be saved. In fact, it is talking about the civil legal procedures for dealing with sin under the Law (execution for most deliberate sin). The passage is not even saying that such a person would be eternally lost; "merely" that the state should execute them. We are not living in a state governed by the Mosaic Law, and even when that was this case this stricture was reserved, apparently, for outright, public blasphemy. In fact, the only recorded case of its employment after Israel's entrance into the land which I can recall is when Jezebel misused it to have an innocent man judicially murdered (1Ki.21:1ff.). For the details please see the link: BB 3B: Hamartiology.

Our God is a forgiving God. He wants all to be saved. Whatever punishment we have coming for sin is punishment applied as that of a loving Father for the correction of His dear sons and daughters (Heb.12:1ff.). Only unbelievers, including those who reject His Son and by their own choice and leave the family of God through apostasy, are subject to condemnation.

Your brother in the hope of the gospel, resurrection and eternal life in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi,

I am really scared I have committed the unpardonable sin because I've thought the HS is evil and maybe have thought worse things too. I'm really worried I have committed the one sin God will not forgive. It terrifies me. Please help me!

Response #7: 

Let me assure you that you have not committed the unpardonable sin. God forgives believers anything and everything when they confess to Him in prayer (1Jn.1:9; see the link).  The unpardonable sin is the sin of rejecting the gospel when the Holy Spirit makes its truth clear to an unbeliever's heart. Jesus died for each and every sin that every human being has ever committed or ever will. The only sin for which He could not die was the sin of rejecting Himself. This life is all about choice. We are all here to find out where we want to spend eternity. Those who are willing to accept Jesus and be saved are saved; those who are not willing to bend their will to God's will even in this very easy way – easy for us since Jesus did all the work on the cross – get what they want: an eternity without God. Since you wanted to be saved, you are saved; the only thing that could ever separate you from our dear Lord Jesus now would be if you completely abandoned you faith and became an unbeliever again by your own choice (through the death of any faith in Jesus Christ), as in these individuals in the parable of the Sower:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

Here are a couple of links where these issues are spelled out in more detail (feel free to write me back about any of these things):

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

God’s Plan to Save You

In Jesus our dear Lord in whom we stand secure by grace through our faith,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:  

Hello Sir,

I have been reading your site for a very long time now. I have been afraid to even write to you before today just for fear of what the truth might be. I have made some extreme errors and I quite frankly do not know how it got this far. I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ forgive my rebellious behavior.

It all started with a new dedication to Christ, I was on fire for God and just wanted to please Him. I got a great new job and started fall back into the old ways due to my desire to connect with the men at work. I started drinking and cursing I wanted to fit in so bad. It was absolutely ridiculous and none of it matters to this day. I started to feel like I belonged and enjoyed that. I decided to take it to the next level after I heard about another group that my grand dad was in from the past. There was other tid-bits but I ended up asking a friend to join. It was the freemasons. I don’t know what you know about this but it is the step that took me down a road that was very hard to get off. I had a bad feeling and decided to look at it on the internet. It was crazy, some said it was the mark of the beast and many other things. I immediately felt like it was absolutely crazy. Then, I read some of their websites and found some other weird stuff that made me think that it was not that bad.

I still to this day don’t know how I allowed myself to think there was something ok about this. I went in knowing that Jesus said never to swear oaths and that one must not be a respecter of person. Oh so foolish, I went in saying that if I heard something bad I would leave. I was full of pride that I could discern what the right thing to do was. During one of their rituals they tell us something that points out that our works will be listed on our apron and we can present that apron to what they call god at the white throne judgment. Unfortunately, as you probably already know, works will not save you and the Great White Throne Judgment is the judgment of the damned. I went through the process and forgot the whole thing. I felt a fearful feeling before going but I ignored my thoughts. I am a naturally nervous person and just kinda blew it off.

I went on with life and really thought so very little about that. It seemed almost like a joke and I had no idea why I joined in the first place. I asked a few of my then friends why did we join in the first place what's the big deal? I had a guy come up to me and say, brother, I have a book I want you to borrow. When he handed it to me, he said, "I just never could buy into that story about Jesus". I still didn’t get it. I even felt sorry for him when he handed me the book.

Years past and never continued up the masonic ladder. I just paid my dues for the next couple years. I had a bad feeling about going further into the temple. Yes I know, I should have had a major problem with them calling it a temple. I was looking at a website and long story short, I figured it out. I was in a massive occultic community. I was immediately overwhelmed with voices telling me that I had taken the mark of beast, or I had committed an unpardonable sin. I went to the bible and immediately turned to the scriptures you have been siting on your site.

I went almost insane. I could not sleep or eat or think straight. I cried at every moment. there was no reason to live and no reason to kill myself because It would simply add to the time spent in eternal damnation. I prayed to the ceiling and they would bounce of the ceiling at me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had even prayed. I went on medication and spent night after night awake repeating and rocking back and forth in my bed "Jesus please don’t leave me please don’t let this be true. Im so so sorry God please forgive me." I could not bear what I had done. Even as I type this to you I am crying. I broke down and started to try to figure out how this happened. I felt like the Lord no longer accepted me. It made me so extremely sad and hard. I don’t know how to describe my hopelessness.

I turned to find out about masonry. It was according to some a luciferian institution that once you entered even if you leave there is a mark on your spirit. that is according the authors of masonic literature. So I decided that was it. This was why God no longer had anything to say to me. So I knew there was no hope of me coming back to God because He would never have me back and go against His word. I went to the satanists first. To read their bible. It was nothing worth mentioning but during the time in my pain many of them were talking about Jesus and the power of Jesus. They were making fun of it and I thought it was tragic and funny so I repeated it to some other people. It was a blatant insult. I only recently remembered the event today. It seems to at least be a blatant disrespect for the power of Jesus with fits what I always thought was the unpardonable sin.

I was in a constant place of sadness and anger. I could not believe I ended up on the other side, the only one I could ever want was Jesus and now I was caught on the other side swearing a oath of allegiance to the enemy. I feel horror even repeating this story. I was in such pain. I was not sure that I could ever be ok in this life or after ward so wanted to try at least consider the fact that Jesus was not real. I went to the atheists. they had great arguments why its not real. But I could not get over my desire to be with God. I went to the Luciferians and they accepted me right away due to me identifying myself as a master mason. They said they could offer me a way to seal myself away from these ideas I had of Christianity.

It sounded like a way out to me. Christianity was following me everywhere and all I could do was long for God. I received my invitation and knew that if I went down this road I would never be able to even have the slightest chance of coming back to God. I had no real hope of Jesus wanting me but I did not want to guarantee the hottest place in hell. So decided against it and dove into the witchcraft books to see if Freemasonry really was the unpardonable sin or the mark of the beast. Then I got very quiet after accepting that Hell was most likely my destiny. One day a year or so latter, I had a voice in my head saying, maybe its not over. Maybe God could possibly still want you. I went to church with my family ( they have been Christians like me that enjoyed being with God and talking about Him). I had a great experience and felt that question get stronger. Could it still be possible ?

I decided to dive in head first, I started going to church sitting in the back and just listening and asking. Is this message for me God? Will you still have me after all that I have done? The answer to that question is still hard to see. The voices in my head say there is no way and remind me of my past and how this is definitely the mark of the beast and definitely the unpardonable sin. then they remind me how bad its gonna be in Hell. I decided to make a stand one day in the midst of this and say., maybe you're wrong, maybe. Then I was reminded of Job saying "though He slay me, yet shall I trust in Him". I decided that even if I’m going to Hell, I'm serving Jesus Christ all the way to the gates of hell until Jesus says I cant anymore.

I will say that I can't seem to find the scriptures that leads people to think that if we are still worried about our salvation, then we don’t need to worry about it anymore because we are still hearing from God. If I had entered into perdition that I would have no interest in pleasing God. Can you provide me scriptural reasons for your thoughts on this? I realize you may not want this on your website because of how bad this is. I have struggled with even telling my story so that I don’t mislead others into thinking that because I claim to be saved now means they can dabble like that and still come out of the occult with salvation in tact. I really don’t know.

I will say that the only place I accept truth from is the Bible. I know that God will not lie and make an exception for me if it says I'm done in the scriptures. I have found many many scriptures talking about the men like me who blaspheme in ways they don’t understand. I have seen the scriptures that say there is nothing but fear of judgment left for them in this world. Please help if you can. If you think I'm gone please let me know that too. It’s the unceasing not knowing and that is killing me. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. I just keep on talking to Jesus asking Him to send me some word to help me to firm up my mind.

I'm now attending a church and a little house small group. I don’t want to be hurting these people by my presence if it is possible. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

Response #8: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Since you are not a newcomer to Ichthys, I will wait to give you a list of links below. I think it is fair to say that one of the most common sorts of emails I have been receiving in the past few years have been just of this type. I am always saddened – and somewhat amazed – by the self-torture that my brothers and sisters in Christ are capable of inflicting upon themselves, especially since we have been called to peace and joy in Jesus Christ.

Let me start by saying that we do have to speak of general principles in this matter as well as of specific scriptures. After all, I can't find anywhere in scripture where there is a verse with my name nor will you find one saying "[your name], do this and don't do that". Clearly, scripture is for everyone, not just us personally. While that is obvious, what may not be so obvious is that scripture also leaves many obvious things unsaid because otherwise it would take thousands of Bible-sized volumes to answer all our questions – and the result would be that no one would ever be able to get to the bottom of what is true and what is not. Happily, our God has provided us with the perfect book containing the perfect information, just what we need in just the right form and format. But it does take work – and the right sort of "work" – to find the answers we need sometimes. One guiding principle I have found over the years is that to the extent that anyone focuses too much on getting the answer to one specific question to the neglect of everything else the Bible has to say, to that extent the book tends to close up, not only on that particular question but also on everything else. That is one way of saying that if we want answers, we should look to scripture for everything and seek to know all of its truths: that is the only path to spiritual growth. This is not an inapplicable point to your concern, for it is only through spiritual growth that you will gain the confidence, peace and joy that Jesus has for you. I intend and will try my best to give you the answers you are asking for on this question, but I know from experience that even the truth is hard to accept until it fits snugly into a whole corpus of truth soundly residing in the believer's heart. To use a crass analogy, over-developing your left calf-muscle only while ignoring the rest of your muscles, cardiovascular state, general flexibility, and nutrition, will not do much at all for your general "shape". To be fit and healthy requires a total effort. The same is true of Bible study: all of it is important and each small truth of scripture contributes to the totality of the growth of the person in question, often in ways that can't be anticipated at the time that truth is learned and believed and treasured up in the heart.

Principle #1: No one is perfect. Did you sin? Did you fail? Did you do things you now regret, things you now see as terrible and frightful? Join the club – of the human race in general and believers in particular:

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
James 3:2 NIV

" —for there is no one who does not sin— "
1st Kings 8:46 NIV

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 NKJV

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:6-10 NKJV

If sin and failure were the measure of salvation, then no one would be saved. You feel your sins and failures to be particularly egregious – but all sin is abominable to God, and Jesus died for all sin of every type. The issue is not sin; the issue is choice; the issue is faith.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
John 20:31 NKJV

Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved. As Jesus Himself assures us . . .

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

So the question is whether or not you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Only those who die as unbelievers or reject Jesus Christ as unbelievers have their names blotted out of the book of life (see the link). That is the only "sin" which is unforgivable, namely, the sin of rejecting Christ. If you believe in Him, have put your faith in Him, are trusting in Him for life eternal, then you are a believer – and only unbelievers go to hell. From what you have written me, I cannot fathom how you might be an unbeliever, even as I acknowledge that you have put yourself through hell on earth.

Principle #2: God is good. The character of God must come into this question, because it is God with whom we have to do. There are many ways to blaspheme Him. One way is to claim falsely that He will do something He won't do or that He won't do something He will. Who are we to say that He will forgive if He won't . . . or that He won't forgive if He is more than willing to do so. How is it not arrogant to claim that God won't forgive us when He says He will (1Jn.1:9)? What basis does anyone have for making such a claim?

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1st Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV

Our God is gracious – He is love. He has done more than we can possibly imagine to make salvation available to all mankind. He did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it (Jn.3:17). He loved us so much that He judged all of our sins, yours and mine and everyone else', in Christ's body on the cross. Jesus has already paid for all your sins, whatever they were, are, or will be. God did not do that to condemn you. He wants you to be saved. Wanting you to be saved, why would you not be saved? Why would anyone not be saved? There is only one reason: many choose not to be saved. For many people, their god is their own ego, their own free will. They are not willing to bow the knee to the Lord in accepting God's Substitute – as simple an act of obedience as that is – even at the cost of eternal life. Sadly, most people would rather be in charge of their free will in hell than worship the Lord Jesus in heaven. That is not the case with you as far as I can tell. You have accepted Christ; therefore you are saved.

Principle #3: Where there is life, there is hope. Why are we not immediately taken to heaven when we believe? For the same reason, I would suggest, that a person is not immediately swept off into hell when he/she blasphemes God or denounces Christ, or worships Baal, or does anything of the sort that we might understandably imagine (apart from scripture) is "unforgivable": because we are here to exercise our free will in responding to or in rejecting God's grace. And while it is true that being born again is a momentary thing, we are not taken out of this world when we do respond to the Lord in faith – in order that this faith may be confirmed in the crucible of life, and so that we may be challenged to use it in growing in the truth, in walking with Jesus, and in helping others do likewise through the gifts and ministries we are given (which good things form the basis for our eternal rewards). Similarly, unbelievers are left in the perfect place for each of them for the perfect amount of time in the perfect circumstances (from God's perfect point of view) precisely so that it may be demonstrated unequivocally what it was they really wanted and what it was they willfully chose in this life. So while it is true that some believers choose to change their minds and follow the path of apostasy, just as they continue to have the free will to do so, so also those who have done worse than you have the opportunity to change their minds – as long as they live. What I do not find in scripture – anywhere – is the idea or the suggestion or even the faintest hint of the proposition that anyone alive cannot choose one way or the other – indeed, life, human history (from the divine point of view) is all about choice.

Principle #4: This is the devil's world. There is much "untruth" about in this world, and believers in particular are targets of all manner of false information coming from the world's present sovereign, not to mention the indirect and direct attacks of his unseen minions and human followers. His whole world system  (see the link) is designed to lead human beings away from God and God's truth. When it comes to believers, nothing is more effective than getting them involved in one of his systematic traps for distorting the truth and thus rendering them hors de combat – out of action in the Christian life for as long as possible. Even if the devil cannot tempt these confused believers into apostasy, Satan is quite content with reducing believers to a state of self-doubt and spiritual ineffectiveness. To escape all such traps, believers have to give themselves over to the truth and reject all lies – and that means a systematic and comprehensive study of the truth – to include the acceptance of at least some authority above themselves and their own emotions (Satan is very good at compromising anyone who wants to be their own spiritual leader in all things – that is ego, after all, and the devil knows all about pride and how to use it).

Bottom line, my friend, I have heard worse, and I know that the Lord has seen far worse from those who remain His – yet they have been safeguarded by their faith in spite of their stumbling and falling.

(3) May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, (4) and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, (5) who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and by our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance (i.e., salvation) ready to be unveiled at the end of time.
1st Peter 1:3-5

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him. And if (or rather in my view, "since") you do, it is high time to move beyond this self-doubt and self-torment, and enter in instead to the peace and the joy that come with immersing oneself into all the truth of the Word of God. Ichthys is at your disposal for this noble endeavor – but please do avail yourself of a good Bible-teaching ministry somewhere (it is possible that this church you mention is such a place; that would be unusual, however; I also recommend Bible Academy at the link). Here are a few other links which may be of benefit on this issue about which you ask:

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Salvation Lost and Found

Have I Lost my Salvation? (part I)

Have I Lost my Salvation? (part II)

Have I Lost my Salvation? (part III)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior, the One who loves us with a perfect love – because of who He is not who we are, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

As I try to latch on to what your saying, I must first say thank you so much getting back to me so quickly. I've been very worried as you might have guessed. So when you say that if I believe then I'm a believer what comes to my mind is another scripture that states that faith without works is dead (Jas.2:14-26).

Trust me, and I know you must get this a lot, I don't want to be damned so I really hope you prove me so wrong that my mind will snap out of this. I have to say that to even consider what your saying makes me smile on the inside but I don't dare jump for joy yet.

My natural mind or some dark force tells me that The Lord would not have stayed with me through an incident like that. I committed will full sin in the face of total God chastisement. He was warning me and I just ignored Him. So now the scripture seems to fit that to my loss, I cannot be allowed back in because that would be exposing Jesus to a second crucifixion. And what about these guys talking the state of these men is worse than the first. Now there nothing to look forward to but fearful judgment. Saying they are now in a worse state than they were before?

It makes my hands shake when I think about it. Thank you so much for your help ands just so you know, you have given me hope where I had so very little

Also would you say my fruitless branch can survive at this rate? I have not been very fruitful. You think the vine cut off is a time that the believer literally completely abandoned any belief in Jesus Christ whatsoever?

You don't believe there are people outside the faith that want back in and will not be allowed back in?

I'll try not to get on your nerves with these obsessive emails.

Thanks again,

Response #9: 

You're most welcome. One of the things every believer has to learn when it comes to actually walking with the Lord and taking the scriptures seriously is not to take counsel of our fears. Fear is a sin – the antithesis of faith. God has everything under control, and He certainly knows who are His (2Tim.2:19), and who is trying to do the right thing (and who is not). If we are pushing our way forward on the high road to Zion, He is for us and will help us – even when we make mistakes. If we sitting down or, worse, are headed backwards, He will get our attention (through divine discipline). But we have to remember that if we really are trying to learn the truth, walk in the truth, and help (or get to the point of being able to help) others do the same, He is our Friend, not our adversary. The real adversary, however, is all too willing to put false ideas in our heads about these things, play to our doubts, play to our fears, and generally get us looking backwards and not forwards.

Paul aggressively persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ, and if he didn't actually kill anyone (we are not told), he was clearly in favor of killing, torturing, imprisoning, and stealing from believers – and was a motive force in the process of the early Judaic persecution of the incipient Church. In other words, he had a lot to feel nervous about – more than you or I do. But what does he say?

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Paul was always looking forwards – to gain the prize; not backwards (a pointless and self-destructive exercise). God promises us forgiveness for our sins – all of our sins. That is why Jesus washed the disciples' feet – to show them that they would continue to need cleansing and forgiveness even after the cross. Scripture tells us that God forgives us – believers – when we confess our sins to Him (1Jn.1:9), and that we are liars if we say we don't need this provision from His grace (1Jn.1:10). We need to be careful, therefore, not to say to God, in effect, "my sins are SO important that they cannot be forgiven; what Jesus did for me on the cross is not enough to wash away MY sins, so spectacular are they; my actions are so significant that the plan of God could not anticipate them and the Word of God does not apply to them". If we refuse to accept God's forgiveness for our sins, that is, in effect, what we are (in our arrogance) saying to Him.

Peter denied Jesus Christ three times only a few hours after swearing he would die first – and then went on to be one of the greatest believers of all time. I think we can assume that God forgave him even these horrific sins. What you have done is not worse than this, is it?

(1) Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Think on the things above, and not the things on the earth. (3) For you are already [positionally] dead [to all that], and your [true] life has been hidden away with Christ in God. (4) When Christ – your [true] life – is revealed [at the 2nd Advent], then you too will be revealed in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

I am happy to talk about all these passages to which you allude, but I have to point out that you have your focus in the wrong place. You are looking down rather than up and back rather than forward (remember Lot's wife – that didn't work out for her). James is making the point that all true believers have some production; unbelievers have none since true production can only be accomplished through the Spirit. Believers, therefore, should motivate themselves to produce – and the first order of production is spiritual growth, a multiplier for everything else we will ever do. Have you ever prayed? Then you do not fall into the negative category of the zero-production unbeliever (e.g.). The vine torn out is torn out because it is no longer "part" of the Lord (no longer a believer; cf. Rom.11:16-24). As Paul says of unbelieving Israel, "God is able to graft them in again" (Rom.11:23) – because the issue is faith or lack thereof (v.20). All believers are part of the Vine, but no unbeliever is. If the status of belief changes, so does being in or out of the Vine (Jn.15:1ff.). The end result is worse than before for unbelievers who, having accepted Christ, decide (as in Luke 8:13), to give up their faith and become unbelievers again (2Pet.2:20-22).

For persons such as yourself who clearly do believe in Christ and wish to be with Him forever, the question of whether or not "God is able" to graft someone in again after falling away is a moot one. Let me be clear: I see no way to make that impossible given what scripture says about faith and free will; but it is entirely academic from a personal point of view for those who are now actually believers in Christ. Or at least it would be, if so many like yourself were not so intent upon unnecessarily torturing themselves on account of their past mistakes.

My advice is always the same. Trust God, not your fears. Believe the scriptures, not your "worst case analysis" of half a dozen verses poorly translated out of context in an English version and falsely interpreted through the courtesy of the evil one and his supporters.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9 NKJV

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you."
Isaiah 35:4 NKJV

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27NKJV

We are not that important. Jesus is the One who is important. What we have done is not the issue; what He has done is the issue. Therefore we need to give our full attention to Him and to what He has done, and put aside ourselves, past and present; that is how to become good soldiers for Jesus Christ and win the future rewards that glorify Him – this is the best way to respond to His sacrifice on our behalf, namely, by doing what He wants us to do (as opposed to something we cook up in our own guilty minds).

Yours in Jesus Christ the dear Lord who bought us by His death on our behalf,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Thank you so much Bob,

I've been able to calm down so much since we have talked. You really got me through a hopeless time that was driving me toward insanity.

I started going to this church a few weeks before talking to you and I signed up for a little new convert class. But I wake up to the reminder every morning for a very long time that I have committed the unpardonable sin and that they have corrupted my heart and that this is the mark of the beast. This is the unpardonable sin. They tell me that none of these discussions will mean anything when I get to heaven and God says He never knew me.

Is there anyway to get past this business of the mark of the beast? Mystery religions really do fit the bill for the mark of the beast or more specifically the beast being a huge political religious society of men and women under a single charismatic leader some day. I realize that the anti Christ has not become known to me as of yet but I can tell you for sure that freemasonry is an anti Christ because they worship not a God but all Gods or at least all monotheistic Gods. Hence the beast. Many of the higher degrees members refer to themselves as lucifer or the beast. It makes me so sad I want be so far from this but I can't go back in time to fix it. Is there anyway to know that I have not been guilty of this before I get to heaven to ask Jesus if He knows me?

Response #10: 

You're very welcome. Let me reiterate: the "unpardonable sin" is a sin only an unbeliever can commit, because it is the sin of "blaspheming the Holy Spirit", specifically, denying the Spirit's testimony that Jesus is the Christ and that the only way to be saved is through faith in His Name.

"And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
Matthew 12:31-32 NIV

"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; "but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" – because they said, "He has an unclean spirit."
Mark 3:28-30 NKJV

The passage from Mark in particular makes the issue clear. Jesus' opponents claimed Jesus was acting in the power of the devil when in fact He was acting in the power of the Spirit. They were, therefore, by definition disputing the Spirit's witness that He is the Son of God. That is the only sin for which Jesus could not die, the sin of rejecting Himself, since He is the only way of salvation (please see previously given links).

As to the mark of the beast and the number of the beast, yes, obviously, the antichrist has not yet been revealed and the tribulation has not yet begun, so there is no way that anyone can yet have "taken the mark of the beast". Clearly, actually taking the mark is a very bad idea (to say the least), but the issue in taking the mark is very clearly spelled out in scripture. Not only that, God will proclaim in an unmistakable way to everyone in the world at that time that taking the mark will be tantamount to rejecting Him, so that there will be no doubt and no excuse at that time:

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name."
Revelation 14:9-11 NIV

Therefore since the issue is so clear – announced from heaven to all – and since the involvement is not accidental or secret or questionable – actual public worship of the beast and an actual permanent mark accepted on the body are required to fulfill this curse – in my view it is doubtful that any believer will do so. That is to say, any who were believers when the Tribulation began and come to worship the beast and take his mark will of necessity first have to have stopped believing in Jesus Christ.

The bottom line here is that whatever activity you were involved in was clearly not the same as the above. Even if it was foolish, spiritually dangerous, and did great damage to your faith and peace of mind, it was not irremediable or unforgivable or unpardonable. As I read your situation, you never stopped being a Christian, not matter how close to the edge you sailed, and you never did anything to cut off your future options for growing close to Jesus Christ again and living for Him – because where there is life there is still free will (and thus hope). Here are some links about the mark et al. the details of which should make clear that this is a unique future situation that is not the same at all as what you relate:

Numbers, Letters, and the Mark of the Beast.

The Mark of the Beast

Biometry and the Mark

Computer chips and the Mark

The Mark of the Beast (in CT 4)

Do Not Take the Mark of the Beast (in CT 7)

One thing you write here does concern me when you write "They tell me that none of these discussions will mean anything when I get to heaven and God says He never knew me". Are you talking here about your own doubts? If so, it does take time and spiritual growth to learn how to silence such things, but it is certainly possible. We are the ones who control our thoughts and emotions (see the link, and also:  "The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle."),  even if that control is loose and takes time to get anywhere near mastering. However, if you are talking about people, it would be best to separate from such people. As to "I never knew you", this is one of those sayings of our Lord which has probably troubled every Christian from time to time – at least every honest Christian. That is because we are all subject to doubts (they have to be aggressively challenged with the truth), and, since we all sin and we all stumble and we all fail, if we are ever in a "humble" moment, we may indeed wonder whether or not we have "fallen from grace". That is not the case for any believer, however, and it does illustrate the truth of the main point I would wish you take from this discussion: spiritual growth is not only the solution to these sorts of problems, tests and challenges – it is the only solution to all the problems of the Christian life. If we are not moving forward, we are inviting trouble. And until we gain a modicum of spiritual maturity, we are not even ready to take on the spiritual combat which every believer finds around every corner here in the devil's world.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV

The "armor" of God is first and foremost the truth of the Word of God, learned and believed: it is the "belt of truth" through which we understand and have confidence in the "righteousness" we have in Him which is our breastplate and the "salvation" that protects us like a helmet; it is complement of "the shield of faith" since only if we believe truth is it usable to us; it is "the sword of the Spirit". So while I rejoice that you have gotten some peace, it is incumbent upon me to say that it is only by moving forward in the Christian life, that is, by continuing to grow up in the Word of God, believing, and walking in it, applying it to your life in passing the tests that come, and helping others do the same once you gain a solid foundation of maturity, that you or I or any Christian can consistently experience the peace and the joy that is in Jesus – because only through such solid faith from growth in the Word can the sorts of attacks that have been plaguing you be dealt with as a matter of course.

You seem to have found a good place of fellowship, and that is important to many Christians. However, fellowship can only take a Christian so far. Absent orthodox, substantive Bible teaching that the believer actually embraces in faith, there can be no spiritual growth. Most churches do not offer that – although many "talk that talk", few really "walk that walk". So I would point out to you that whatever peace you are experiencing now is based upon the truth of the Word which you have accepted, and would point out further that this is the process of growth and spiritual safety and production going forward as well. It certainly doesn't have to be Ichthys (we all have our own particular needs, likes and dislikes), but I would enthusiastically suggest that you make accessing genuine Bible teaching – learning and believing the truth of the Word – an essential part of your Christian application going forward. Indeed, that is the only way to go forward.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Good morning Bob,

I really appreciate your ability to articulate Biblical truth without the element of "I feel like a God of mercy would not Blah Blah Blah". I find myself amazed how so very little scripture is being used today. I hear about the relationship that people are having and that God talks to you through His Holy Spirit. I struggle with accepting what men say God told them to tell me about but I have found it encouraging at times. I have struggled the most in the beginning after leaving the cult because nobody could answer my questions why the bible was pointing fingers at me and saying that I was damned. they would say," Oh you were close but your still around so you must be ok".

I should be clear, I assumed that the voices I was hearing were some sort of demonic attack, but I realize that after the trauma I've been under over the last so many years, that I may have caused some damage to my physical mind and some of this maybe thought patterns and behaviors of my own mind. Loops of bad choices relived every hour over and over. Do you think that I am under spiritual attack at this point or more like PTSD kind of thing? I never went to a doctor because I never believed they could help me with my soul.

I'm also curious, do you think that your ability to read the biblical texts in their closer to original form allows you a bit more insight than the average consumer of NIV or other easier to understand version. I have always liked going back to the King James version thinking it might be a bit richer. What is your take on this? You have an intimidating resume in terms of scripture which quite frankly is exactly what needed in this time. I realize the question is strange, but what type church do you recommend in terms of denominations. I feel extremely rushed to get my act together just watching the news and reading philosophy, there seems to be very little time left to dilly dally. I'm returning to college and this was my first year. I've been taking modern philosophy of religion. it really bothers me to see there reference to try and make a government body that is tied to the State and religion at the same time.

Please suffer me just a bit more on my concern. I've begun to wake up in the night again in terror from dreams of this coming to pass. I have thought that freemasonry and all the other mystery religions were the Beast or at least some portion thereof. I keep remembering before the rituals took place. I was warned by the man bringing me in not to go if what I was looking for was money or fame. He said not to worry because many of them had been through the process too and clearly they were alive and well. He then asked me, is anyone forcing you or coercing you to do this? I said no. He said is this of your own free will and accord? I said yes. He said very well. So there was a whole long drawn out process to measure that it was I that had to choose this fate. then we had this ridiculous class about how we are to show God our apron at the Great White Throne Judgment.

They talk about how the masons were building a temple in the " house not made by hands" – in other words the heart of a man – also where the Holy Spirits temple is. They talk about how they are the builders that and that they knock off the rough edges of the stones. The bible said in the old testament that God forbid His people from cutting the stones. He wanted His alters to have the stones in their natural state. The god of freemasonry is all gods rolled into one large beast. At the end of the 3rd degree of the master mason there is a murder that takes place and every initiate is given a mock smack in the head which was to represent knocking the rough edges of the stone off. Then, the initiate lays on the ground and waits for these terrible sounds to come out they are calling out scriptures that are too strange to recall at this time. But then one is grabbed by a lion's paw and "raised" (latter I found out this represents a baptism into the Lion) afterward you are symbolically joined together with the lion (the beast). I keep hearing in my head that Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected. This cult was designed to put a man so far from God. I cannot even imagine how I got to this point. I pray God forgives me for this terrible Blasphemy. I pray that I didn't knock off a stone in the temple of my heart blaspheming the Holy Spirit and ruining any chance of eternity. that would make me no longer able to approach God again. I know its not the beast system but I know that Paul talked about how there were many anti Christs among them even in his day.

I feel so afraid Bob, I don't know how to make this right. I really pray you see this and just blow it off but that's the stuff haunting my dreams at night. I'm really struggling to see a way that this is not the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit or both. I'm able to hold out a little hope because as you have pointed out, I am still drawn to God and want Him more now than ever. I'm so ashamed for taking it lightly. I cant believe I could do this to myself for no reason whatsoever – just curious, prideful. I cant believe that now because of an incident that had no value to me whatsoever put me in a place that makes me question where ill spend my eternity. It's just absolute horror. It makes my hands shake as I was thinking about this. I envision the antichrist to come on the scene and require everyone to do the initiation of luciferians to get their ability to buy or sell. Saying he is the god of the mystery religions and he is the god that all paths lead to. There is another that is the woman that rides the beast, the great whore, on her forehead is blasphemy. But it says that God tells them to come out of her so you will not share in her punishment. I pray that is what I did perhaps I came out of the nasty occult.

Sorry about that, I'm being genuine and its pretty raw. You said you have heard worse than what I have been a part of? I am so sorry for those that have even more. The one upside is that I did not believe that was what I was doing so perhaps that is enough for God to continue to give me His grace.

Thank you for your help sir, I don't have a lot of instruction to look forward to anytime soon so I just sit around anticipating your emails. Just for the record I'd like to say that I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to get to the Father. If my conscience was seared and I had been given over to a reprobate mind, I don't think that I would be saying that I wanted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.

Response #11: 

There are two types of people in this world: believers and unbelievers. Most of the world is composed of the latter, and anyone who belongs to ranks of the former knows it – at least on some level. Much more importantly, "The Lord knows those who are His" (2Tim.2:19). God would not be drawing you back into the fold if you did not belong to Him already.

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ "
Luke 15:4-6 NKJV

So it is with the Lord who rejoices at your turning back to Him. Your testimony about the weirdness etc. of the Masons is illuminating, but it says nothing about your present spiritual state. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are a believer – and I cannot fathom why you would be writing what you are writing and doing what you are doing if you were not. However dark and despicable the rituals you were involved in may be, did you do worse than Paul who persecuted the Church? Did you do worse than Peter who denied the Lord three times? Did you do worse than David who committed adultery with the wife of a trusted subordinate then had him murdered to cover his tracks? These three all failed spectacularly, and yet were among the greatest believers who have ever lived – they did not lose their salvation; the Lord did not cast them aside. We all sin; we all stumble; we all fail. But believers repent, return, confess and are forgiven, restored, disciplined. Believers have made the most important decision – to put their lives in Jesus' hands; all decisions from here on in involve protecting and growing that faith, and seeking to please the Lord and earn eternal rewards as a result. If we have taken a wrong turn, the solution is to turn back the right way; there is no point at looking backward to where we went off the track – that only causes us not to see clearly ahead where we ought to be going next.

Many if not most believers have to fight the sort of "mental warfare" you relate. The previous links speak to that. So when you write " I don't have a lot of instruction to look forward to anytime soon so I just sit around anticipating your emails", I feel compelled to say that these emails are merely a very brief introduction to the more weighty and lengthy material at Ichthys. If you really want to grow, you will need to get on with the process of systematic Bible study. Ichthys is one place where that can be accomplished – and there is plenty of material there (at least enough so that it will be a good long time before it can be said that there's no new instruction to be had). Reading your Bible is very important, and I recommend this to all believers, using a variety of versions if possible (see the link: "Read Your Bible"). However, reading your Bible is not enough. Christ placed all manner of gifts in the Body for a reason; and every member needs the help of all the others. Bible teaching is a ministry of which all believers need to avail themselves in order to achieve any serious spiritual growth:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance (epignosis) to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

As I say, it doesn't have to be Ichthys, but it does have to be somewhere. Traditionally, that "somewhere" has been a local church. However, it has been several generations now since the truth necessary for spiritual growth has been widely available in a church setting, and in our present day it is nigh on impossible to find a church where the Bible is taught in a correct, doctrinal, orthodox and substantive way. Many Christians are drawn to "church" out of guilt. It is not wrong to go to church, but Christians need to understand that "church" as we know it today bears virtually no resemblance to what we find in the Bible, and it is not a substitute for deep instruction in the truths of scripture. Other Christians are drawn to "church" out of a desire for fellowship. It is not wrong to crave and to enjoy Christian fellowship, but Christians need to understand that true Christian fellowship proceeds from a mutual understanding of, respect for and love of the truth of the Bible, and no personal relationships not built on that solid rock will in the end be of any benefit.

Again, spiritual growth is the answer to all your questions and problems – and to all Christian questions and problems generally.

Best wishes for your continued growth and blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #12:  

It's with a heavy heart that I continue to write to you concerning these things. I find unimaginable that I came this far without seeing how far I had come from where I want to be. I believe but is this belief enough? I see that the demons believe and shudder. I'm sorry that I constantly find myself trying to condemn myself while you seem to bring scripture that does not support my beliefs. You have a special kind of ministry with this Bob. I'll bet this is frustrating for you to see is fight so hard to damn ourselves. I see the point about this possibly being a sin of pride on my part. Thinking my sin is too great for The price Jesus paid. That makes me sad to think how twisted this type of sin is. You must find yourself often fighting with people that seem bent on condemning themselves. Do you ever hear of these people coming back to you to tell you they are free? Do they ever go this far off the deep end and return with their confidences that they are going to heaven? I'm trying to talk myself down and just relax. Unfortunately, in the days when I considered that God was not real, it seemed to give me some sense of comfort to think maybe we will all just die and that will be the end. No everlasting damnation. But coming back to the church has caused me extreme anguish considering my life without Jesus. I am having health issues and sleep issues, so my school work has slipped and now I'm struggling to make it to class. I've gone but the whole class time I'm fighting back tears and can't hear what they saying in lecture. It's so sad too because I really love school and learning. I'm not giving up. By the way thanks for obliterating my mark of the beast hypothesis. I've never felt so good about being wrong with that issue. The apostate thing is one of the other monkeys hanging on my back. So am I to understand you are saying that the scripture that I read of men that have actually been with God ( the crucifying Christ twice thing) you are saying that I am interpreting that scripture wrong? One can go another way and still come back into repentance? I was worried that God removes His spirit from an apostate and never gives it back. But perhaps that's just that if you still wish to return to God That is the evidence that God is still with you. Anyone given over to satan fully will begin to work for him feeling relaxed and with out the feeling of condemnation? Am I on the right track? By the way, I really appreciate your help my friend.

Your friend in Christ Jesus

Response #12: 

Our Lord Jesus told us that we only need faith as big as a grain of mustard seed – and any less faith would be no faith at all. As human beings, the entire reason we are here is to use our God given ability to choose in faith to receive the Gift of Jesus Christ – that is the obedience God wants from us:

[Jesus Christ], through whom on behalf of His Name I have received [this] grace and [my charge of] apostleship, for the [fulfilling of His] purpose among all the gentiles of their obedience [consisting] of [their] faith.
Romans 1:5

As believers, our entire reason for being here is to safeguard that faith and to exploit it – and if we are doing the latter we rarely need to be concerned about the former. That is because if we are attacking up the hill we are in very little danger of being driven off the hill (but if we are wandering off the path entirely all manner of bad things can happen).

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

For these reasons, I once again appeal to you to seek out the peace, confidence and joy that are yours as a believer in Jesus Christ by precisely these means: growing and advancing spiritually. This requires giving diligent attention to teaching of the Word of God, both to learn it and also to believe it. Standing still in the Christian life is dangerous for anyone; for those who are in recovery mode it is doubly dangerous. It is very easy to get into a "loop" of guilt, fear and self-recriminations. The only way out of that loop is through becoming grounding in the truth. As we learn more and as we believe more of what we learn (without which the information from scripture is useless to us, true though it is), the more internal resources we will have to combat the doubts, the fears, and the worries of this life. At present, you resemble a man trying to put together a 5,000 piece jig-saw puzzle – with only half a dozen pieces: what you need is not more obsessive shifting around of the same pieces (you'll never get an idea of the picture that way) . . . but more pieces to work with. The fix, therefore, is not an overnight one, but as with all things in this life it does yield to work (the "work" in this case being accessing and paying attention to good, solid, orthodox Bible teaching, believing it, then putting it into practice in the way we think, speak and act in this world). As I say, there are other ministries out there besides Ichthys, but you are very welcome here. I recommend starting with the Peter series (see the link; see also FAQ #8: Recommended sequence of study).

From what you have written to me in this email it does seem to me that you have "figured it all out" correctly: yes, you are saved; yes, you are having trouble escaping the "negative gravity" of looking backward; yes, you do seem to be looking for reasons to condemn yourself, and that is indeed prideful when viewed from the standpoint of what Jesus did in dying for all of your sins. I will say that you should not, in my opinion, make matters worse by giving yourself a hard time about being caught in this morass inasmuch as it is an all too frequent thing for many believers these days. Many in your situation are looking for other people to tell them that they are "OK" and that everything will be "OK"; what is needed instead is the determination of faith to trust God when He says that He forgives you, because our faith has to stand on the solid rock of the Word of God and all of its truths, not on the words and opinions of human beings.

If we say that we do not possess sin (i.e., a sin nature which is producing personal sins), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10

Pretty straight-forward: if we confess, He forgives – we just have to believe it.

Unbelievers don't torture themselves about their spiritual status. They have embraced the world and its present ruler, having rejected its true Creator, our dear Lord Jesus. When they do, God abandons them – not to internal self-torture about not being saved – but to a "reprobate mind" (Rom.1:28 KJV); not to neurotic self-inspection – but to wrath because they are suppressing the truth (Rom.1:18); not to a vain struggle for sanctification – but to uncleanness (Rom.1:24). Unbelievers – including those who are apostate former believers – are not concerned with the truth at all. Indeed, they are unbelievers precisely because they reject the truth and wish to put it death by replacing it with their own lies which they wish to become the truth (in the manner and after the pattern of their father the devil).

(28) And just as they did not see fit to keep God in their hearts, God abandoned them to their unfit minds, to do things which are not fitting, (29) filled up with every [sort of] unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, full of envy, murder, strife, guile, maliciousness, gossips, (30) slanderers, God-forsaken-[and]-forsaking, insolent, arrogant, boasters, devisers of evils, not concerned for their parents, (31) unthinking, unreconcilable, uncaring, unmerciful, (32) men who though they had full knowledge of God's righteous decree, namely, that those who do such things are worthy of death, not only did [such] things themselves, but even commended those who made it their practice [to do them].
Romans 1:28-32

If a person is really concerned about God's opinion of his/her behavior, and really is focused on wanting to be pleasing to Jesus Christ, I hope you can see by comparison with the above that it is impossible that such a person is an unbeliever. Unbelievers want to please themselves and have no place in their hearts for the one true God and His Son our Savior Jesus Christ (even though they often make up gods which are convenient to their own lusts and desires). That is why He abandons them – because they abandoned Him first. Unbelievers possess not one scintilla of faith in God or concern for Him and His sacrifice of His one and only Son on our behalf.

Start moving forward, my friend. Jesus will be with you to help you every step of the way. He our good Shepherd, the One who scouts out the places of material and spiritual sustenance for us, the One who restores our lives and spirits through guidance and forgiveness, the One who sets us on the right path to Zion, the One who is with us through whatever may comes, delivering us from death, and blessing us with all manner of blessing both here on earth and in the life to come (Ps.23:1ff.). Trust Him and let Him bear these burdens while you follow along. That is the peace and joy He promises us all. Be pleased and content to enter into that rest.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

"Peace I leave for you; peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you."
John 14:27

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NIV

And the peace of God which surpasses every thought will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 NIV

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
2nd Thessalonians 3:16 NIV

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:   

Good evening Bob,

It has been a few days since we last spoke. I've been struggling with a few of these thoughts still bouncing around in my head. I've been reading up on your mark of the beast literature. I'm really really hoping your version of interpretation is better than mine. I studied very in-depth (what the Freemasons were attempting to do to me) with the resources I had available to me which admittedly were not Godly sources. They claim to be an ancient Sun worshiping cult from Egypt. This solar cult claimed to be the Gnostics of old that was constantly trying to lure Christians away from their faith. I bring this up for two reasons, one hoping you can tell me this is definitely not the mark of the beast and secondly in the possibility that it can help protect some christians (I noticed that the subject came up on your recovering from cults question in a recent posting). They spent a huge amount of time making sure that the choice to come to the lodge was of our own free will and accord. Over and over they asked and I remember thinking wow they ask this a lot and to which I constantly would answer in the affirmative. The master lecture that I was led through is this strange play or drama that latter I find out is at least intended to Baptized me into the character Hiram Abiff. This is a lesser know character from the bible know as the king of Tyre. in Ezekiel 28 we see why the cult chose this character to represent the person that the initiate is baptized into. This is one of the most seriously disturbing things about the masonic cult that makes me wonder if I have received the mark of the beast or somehow marked my spirit with an unpardonable offense. Most or the Mystery religions have this same crazy initiation that involves 3 degrees. They say this is the highest that you can go and all the rest of the degrees are simply more teachings in what one has already done. In some of the latter degrees they refer to the mark that an initiate in the mystery school receives is not something that can be removed. in some of the other degrees they actually refer to the mark of the beast and recommend repeating the ritual every day to make a person more creative. It makes me a little crazy to think that its even remotely possible that one could do this without full knowledge that they were doing just that the religions seems to fit the description of the universal religion. they say no problem freemasonry is not a religion we allow all religions into our lodges. everyone kneels down on the same alter and makes blood oaths to their God or to the Great Architect of the Universe, aka GAOTU. at the time I thought well my god made the universe and everything else. I was not thinking about the implications of what they were saying. I knelt at an altar that the day before may have had a Satanic Bible or a Koran and here was my bible. The masonic bible none the less with added text in the front and the back of what seemed to be a King james version of the bible. it was opened to a certain passage of scripture on each degree. On top of the open bible. I swore these crazy oaths to have God help me to perform my oaths to uphold masonic laws and follow their teachings. Afterward I was told to kiss the holy bible – the Judas kiss – and I was sacrificing my beliefs on the alter of Freemasonry. Here is the thing. I never had any of this on my mind and was thinking it was deeply strange the oaths that were required to me seemed sort of strange and useless. I latter read how deeply upsetting this type of thing is to God. I see that He hated Esau for this very reason. There is a reference that even after the tears of Esau God had no mercy for him since he treated his inheritance with such little respect. I saw a few places in scripture that even Jesus was telling us never to take an oath that everything must be repaid. I don't question that God is capable of forgiving me. I just don't know if this has taken things to that crazy willful sin point of no return that is referred to as falling away. Perhaps this is falling away and is the mark of the beast as the freemason Luciferians have suggested. I've been spending a lot more time praying to the Lord that he reveal the truths about my situation more and more. I have heard from many pastors and many christians on the subject and everyone says if you can still ask for forgiveness then you can be forgiven. While I find this to be wonderful news, I cant help but wonder why I am having such a hard time seeing this. I do realize that I called down all sorts of crazy curses in that Luciferian cult but how is it that im this far off? If we confess our sins He is faithful and Just to forgive. I guess this is what we are standing on. I am wondering why I have such a hard time seeing that I am still seeing things as sin which to me must be the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must still be talking to me. If not I should be enjoying all the fruits of freemasonry and taking advantage of the business contacts and favor with the society. There are many many practicing Freemasons in several of the churches that I have attended. They have no problems with mixing the two. I would think I'd be in that state if I were damned. I would no longer care to see error or ignore it. I do plan on approaching these people as soon as I can stand on my own two feet and telling them that I a free from the fear of condemnation. I guess my question is this. I think with very little research I could prove to you that Freemasonry is the single biggest threat to an ignorant christian such as myself. I knew that oaths were a no-no but I had that attitude that I will just come take a peak and then leave if it looks weird. What could this thing be if not the Beast? the revelations says that if any man bow down and worship the beast and take his mark shall not inherit the kingdom of God. I would still say, that this is a weapon formed against us, and Paul is saying that he is convinced that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. Would you say there is absolutely no way that people have been taking the mark of the beast for the last so many thousand years? The mark of the beast will only be available to us at the very end?

Thanks again Bob,

Response #13: 

Good to hear from you – although I am sorry to hear that you are still struggling with this. What you relate is certainly "scary", and I for one had no idea what the Masons were up to until you began to fill me in. However, the main reason I did not "know" was because it was of no particular concern to me – and it still is not. A person could make a very good argument for the Roman Catholic church to be beast's religion – or Mormonism or any other of a very large number of cults, secret societies, and false religions. And I am sure it is true that for all of these and for Masonry too they are part of the devil's system now, and will be part of his universal religion then. I do wish that you would read the previous links that treat the mark and the number. One thing you will find there is that in the Greek original "six hundred and sixty six" is in the feminine – referring to the plethora of "ways" a person can be a good "beast-worshiper" (as opposed to the ONE way to God the Father: Jesus Christ). Masonism may be one, but it is only one of very many.

I am pretty sure that if you had a pertinent tattoo on your arm or forehead you would tell me. That is the mark of the beast; and for it really to be the mark that particular tattoo has to be either "his name or the number of his name". Since no one at present knows what that is, it is not yet possible to take the mark. That will come soon enough, but it is not here as yet. Also, the devil and his antichrist will go to great lengths to make sure that taking the mark is a free-will decision – to them it will be a great privilege, and that is how the world of that time will see it too, with the actual form representing a hierarchy of "who's who" in the beast's system evident by what type of mark is given (mere mark or name) and where it is placed (hand or forehead) – please see the links: "The Mark of the Beast", "The Number of the Beast", and "Numbers, Letters, and the Mark of the Beast.". More importantly, God will make sure that everyone knows that taking the mark means irrevocably casting in one's lot with Satan and against the Father and the Son (e.g., the "eternal gospel" which is broadcast worldwide in an unmistakable way at the point when this campaign to mark the world begins; see the link). I don't recall from what you have related that anyone ever told you that by engaging in Masonic rite you were making yourself God's enemy – and I am confident that He did not tell you this verbally and audibly (as will be the case during the Tribulation).

Why is this hard? Whenever we shock ourselves with our behavior it is always challenging to put such things behind us. Mind you, we all sin in ways that do not shock us, and these sins we seem to be perfectly able to "confess, forget and move on from". But to God, a sin is a sin. True, some sins have greater and more lasting repercussions both in terms of the divine discipline they evince as well as their natural consequences. But all sin is sin, and all sin had to be covered by the blood of Christ, His spiritual death on the cross wherein He underwent fiery judgment for ever single individual human sin. So while there is perhaps a scale of egregiousness when it comes to sin, we have to resist seeing some sins as benign and others as unforgivable – both of which things are untrue.

When a person is in a hole, the first order of business in recovery is to stop digging. Fretting about past errors is a waste of time and, more than that, can become a real neurosis – I have seen and dealt with this in fellow Christians many times. Yes, we do need to stand on 1st John 1:9 – and on the vast collection of scriptures and biblical teachings which speak of God's love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, long-suffering, faithfulness and, oh yes, omnipotence, truth and justice: He says He forgives us. Who are we to disbelieve Him or say to Him, "oh no, God, you are not able to forgive my sins", or "you are not telling me the truth when you say you've forgiven me", or "it wouldn't be right for you to forgive me". In other words, it does get to a point after a while when our introspection about past failures and our post mortem of where we went wrong can pass from something useful, to something counterproductive, to something outright blasphemous.

In my considered opinion, it is time to trust the Lord and move on. That is the only way to gain peace, because peace only comes to those who are walking with Jesus Christ by means of moving forward in their spiritual growth, progress and production – not by looking backward and "hyper-neurosing" about the past.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Hi Bob,

So you're saying that this mark of the beast is not a spiritual mark ? It will be an outward display and some how God is going to make it very clear to us what this thing is? I can also assume you don't endorse the pre trib thought process or you would not be thinking you need to know what it is and that Christians will be forced to choose life or the mark. I agree, I was a bit surprised to find out that the pre trib idea was less than 160 years old ( or so I've read ). I see your point on the fact that they are all sneaky deceptions made by satan to get is into damnable heresies. I guess the mystery religion and all this lucifer mainstream stuff in the media has renewed my fear of being in deeper than an average sin. So if I'm understanding you correctly, the only reason you don't think I have it is because I don't have visible mark and my heart would be so hard I'd be enjoying my life without a care in the world till judgment?

Is the reason you're confident with me not having this mark and the Masons aren't doing this is because there is not any visible mark given by the lodge on forehead or right hand? I'm curious though, I never learned gematria ( if that is how its spelled) so I am compelled to ask the question does Hiram Abiff or G.A.O.T.U. equal up to the 666 number? that is the way they refer to their idea of their idea of god. it stands for The Architect of the Universe.

Response #14: 

Yes, I am most definitely "post-Trib". Here are some pertinent links on that:

When is the Rapture?

Parousia

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory

No Rapture

Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

Misplaced Faith in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

As to your situation, I have many reasons for my opinion (as outlined in all previous emails), but this is a good concrete one that is easily discernible. The mark of the beast will not be something hidden. Indeed, the whole purpose of it is to proclaim to the world, to all who see such a person, that he/she is a follower of antichrist. If it were not visible, for example, it would be impossible for the beast to restrict the buying and selling of those who are not so marked (please see previous links). Spiritualizing the mark is not scripturally authorized, and is, in my view, a very dangerous thing to do, both because in that case virtually anything can then become "the mark of the beast" (as in the case of your concerns), and also because such a practice will reduce the sensitivity of those who engage in it toward the actual mark when it comes on the scene. From my conversations with you it is very clear to me that you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and that you are very concerned about both your present spiritual welfare and your eternal status. People who will take the mark (in the future – it's not possible to do so now because no one yet knows precisely what it looks like or how it will be configured in terms of the "name or number of the name"), will not be believers in Jesus Christ (even if they once were), and will be concerned only with pleasing and following antichrist. The mark will represent, therefore, not just a lack of saving faith but also a zeal for the devil's son. It will not be accidental in the taking of it; it will be willful in its adoption with no doubt on the part of those who take it that they are casting their lot with the beast. And yes, as described, God will make this clear through the three heavenly pronouncements which the entire world will hear – not to mention that we have the scriptures right now which describe these matters in great detail.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 NIV

As with most things in the Christian life, the "sweet spot" of correct application is in the middle between the opposite extremes. You speak of "enjoying my life without a care in the world till judgment". That is clearly one extreme to avoid. But the other, the one with which you have been torturing yourself, should also be avoided. Our salvation is not something easily lost. Apostasy requires a Christian to completely abandon their faith in Christ, and such an eventuality is not an overnight or trivial thing. It's not the sort of thing that is likely to sneak up on a person unawares, except after a long course of gross sin or deliberate rebellion from the Lord wherein the person in question's faith gradually gets weaker and weaker until, like the light in the lamps of the foolish virgins, it eventually goes completely out – and when the light of faith is quenched, the person in question will not act like a believer or have a believer's concerns. We should all be wary of getting anywhere near any sort of thinking or behavior that might even tend in that direction – but we don't have to live our lives on pins and needles either. We should have joy in the Lord at all times, being confident of the salvation He has secured for us, even as we continue to "work it out" diligently day by day through the process of spiritual growth that comes from giving attention to the Bible and good Bible teaching, believing the truth we have learned, applying that truth to the tests that come our way, and eventually helping others do the same through the gifts we have been given. If we are "working out", that is, growing, progressing and producing, we won't have to worry about "falling aside". That is the way to stay safe; and if we persevere in that way we can glory in the salvation that our Lord paid so dearly for on our behalf.

(8) But God commends His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) So how much more is it not true now, after we have been rendered righteous [through faith] in His blood, that we shall be saved from the [coming] wrath through Him? (10) For if when we were His enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more is it not true [now], since we have been reconciled [to Him through Jesus' death], that we will be saved by His life? (11) And not only that, but we even exult in [our new relationship] with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained this reconciliation.
Romans 5:8-11

As to your other question, there are many ways to calculate the "magic number", as it turns out, by making use of alternative forms of various names, by considering ambiguous letters or spellings or systems of transliteration in favor of one's theory, and also by using different systems of calculation (i.e., the Greek, Hebrew and Latin systems are all different in this regard). By means of such "tricks", I dare say that it would be possible for an enterprising person to make up to twenty percent of the names in the phone book fit the bill (I have seen plenty of these in my time). But this misses the whole point of what scripture has to say about the mark. The point is that once the Tribulation has begun, believers who most likely will know very well who the beast is and will know very well that the mark being taken by so many is none other than the mark of the beast, will be able to give themselves assurance on this point by calculating the number of the name in the mark. In other words, the discussion of this mark and its number in Revelation is not for the purpose of having us figure out before the fact what the name might be or who the person behind the name might be – that is getting things 180 degrees backwards. The purpose is to provide a litmus test for the reassurance of tribulational believers once the mark has become prominent. So it's not supposed to be mysterious at all – and it won't be, if properly applied at the proper time. As I say, this is all explained in detail in the previously provided links.

Your brother in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior to whom we belong forever.

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hi Bob,

I've really enjoyed the pre trib links. I should say that I really appreciate all the time you have been spending on me. I no full well that many would be annoyed at this point with my seemingly circular questioning. You have already helped me more than anyone I have spoken to in the past. Many of the pastors that I have spoken with in the past just simply say," if you ask for forgiveness then you get forgiveness". I always ask for a scripture that tells them that is true and rarely can anything produced. I then explain to them that depending on men is what got me here in the first place. Frustration is soon to follow. I say it with all the softness and sometimes with tears but it seems to aggravate most people. Having a person like yourself to bounce ideas off, has proven to be a great shimmer of hope.

I feel I'm on the verge of a major breakthrough. I get attacked throughout the night and wake up feeling completely defeated that voice still talks to me about how I'm going to Hell and there is no hope. I have to go back over the scriptures that I have begun to fight back with but its been a very long time since I have woken with the possibility of hope throughout the entire day. In between classes I have begun to read some of your links and other sites as things come to mind. I have to be careful in my reading as many Christians do think that freemasonry is the mark of the beast. Every once and while I'll feel brave and go try to prove that it is not true. That has not turned out well for me in the past so I stay away from those types of sites.

I am having a bit of trouble distinguishing me from those people that " Worship the Beast ". I realize that I did so in a state of not knowing that I worshiped the beast. I guess maybe what you're saying is that the actual mark of the beast is the only true form of worshiping the beast that is found in the revelations end time sequence. So just being tricked into making a deal with the devil so to speak is not going to meet the criteria for the mark of the beast especially since it is not a visible mark. I found this yesterday in my searching and I thought of you immediately. Thank you for the help. I also noticed that it is God that gives us repentance. So would you say that the desire of repentance to the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit pointing out to me that I want to do that is a sign of good fruit? That lost souls are lost because they cannot repent because they are not able to see that they should repent?

2 Timothy 2:24-26 King James Version (KJV):
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

I do run into this interesting place of wonder who these men are that say Lord, Lord to Jesus and He says not everyone that cries out will be saved. I guess that conversation may be taking place in heaven but what do you think this means? I keep running into people that believe in the eternal security. I'm not able to follow that teaching as you might have guessed because of all the falling away and the rest that we have discussed previously. I get that one can walk away and I guess its semantics really but I'm pretty stuck on the thought that taking faith light-heartedly is exactly what got me to this point in the first place.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #15: 

You are very welcome, and I am encouraged to learn that you are getting closer to recovering your spiritual balance. Believe me when I tell you that "hearing those disturbing voice", to paraphrase your comments, is something that all believers have to deal with. We all have sin natures, we all have to live in the world with all its various temptations and pressures, and we are all opposed by the evil one and his minions – at least all of us who are ( or who are trying to get) moving forward in the Christian life. I try to tell Christians that the suggestion in their hearts and minds of something bad or the thought of something evil or the threat of something terrible are NOT the same things as sinning, doing evil, or experiencing disaster. The evil one – with a lot of help from the world and from the sin which infests our bodies – is ever trying to upset us. Fighting this internal fight, learning how to deal with our emotions, taking control of our minds and the detritus from our "subconscious", is somewhat of an advanced technique – it is hard to get "victory" in this area without first gaining a measure of spiritual maturity. That is because untruth is best battled down by the truth. A believer has to have a "critical mass" of truth actually in his/her heart (i.e., not only learned but also believed so as to become what the Bible calls epignosis as opposed to gnosis, mere "knowledge") in order to have the "ammo" to fight this fight, and the Spirit uses truth as His leverage, so to speak. E.g., remembering a Bible passage such as the 23rd Psalm, for example, is great, if a person knows what it means, and, even more to the point, if that Christian believes and holds fast to the truths it proclaims.

This issue – and, indeed, life in general – is all about free will and choice. We do have the right to say to a suggestion of the evil one (such as "you're not saved!"), "I don't believe that; rather, I believe, and therefore I know through faith that I am saved"; we have the right to say to the world which threatens us or tempts us, "I don't accept that and will not do this nor be cowed by that; I don't have to because I belong to Christ and He has given me the control over my own free will so as to reject that wrong and so as not to fear that threat"; we don't have to acknowledge disturbing suggestions in our heart which may be from the world or from our sinful minds or even from the devil or his minions; we have the right to say, "I don't accept that thought, suggestion, mental picture, emotional reaction – that is not me, that is not what I choose". In short, we have the right to "catch" all those "little foxes" and to prevent them from "ruining our vineyard" – as opposed to letting them run riot and mess everything up (Song 2:15). Better yet, we have the right to blow such "varmints" to smithereens with inappropriately over-sized ordinance (my personal preference). Here are a couple of links on this:

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Our New Orientation as Reborn Believers

As to 2nd Timothy 2:24-26, this is one way of looking at things: God controls everything (cf. Rom.9:17-24). But the way He controls individuals is by giving them the image of God, the free will to make their own decisions (as if they were as God in their own "world"); and in the case of unbelievers, the ability to put the truth to death in their hearts and create their own pseudo-truth (all of these issues are covered in great detail in BB 4B of Basics: Soteriology). Clearly, there is much the Lord can do, and I would never sell Him short – indeed, I pray for this kind of repentance all the time in the case of all manner of individuals who are hardened beyond the point of giving any objective observer the hope that they might ever "come to repentance" . . . but we might have thought that about Paul before he was saved, after all. How you got to the point of deciding to make the Lord Jesus your life again and leave all the nonsense behind is an academic question. The real point is "here you are" – and praise God for it!

As to "Lord, Lord" (Matt.7:21-22), as I think I might have mentioned, this is a standard passage used by those who would torment themselves beyond measure. Those to whom the Lord says "I never knew you" were never believers because, obviously, He "never knew them" – i.e., He does not say "I used to know you but now I don't" (which would indeed be scary). There are plenty of people today just as there were plenty of people in our Lord's day who "talked the talk" of the saved but never actually believed. There are reasons for this. Wanting to follow the crowd and the parade of palm branches from the Mt. of Olives during our Lord's day; wanting to fleece the sheep or otherwise benefit from Christian associations in our own day. But "the Lord knows who are His" (2Tim.2:19), and the wheat will definitely be separated out from the chaff on that great day of days.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."
Acts 16:31

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are saved. If you have doubts, put them to death. That is what faith and growing in faith is all about. It's a decision, or, rather, a series of a great many decisions. Faith is challenged every day. "Be strong and courageous" and battle those doubts through the truth of the Word of God. The Word says you are saved through your faith by God's grace (Eph.2:8-9). Believe it. Believe and don't doubt. Shoot that varmint down. That is how faith grows strong.

"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1st John 1:9

If you confess, you are forgiven. If you have doubts, put them to death. Blow that varmint away. The Bible says you are forgiven. Believe it. Believe it and don't doubt it. This is the only way forward in the Christian life, through faith in the truth. Every time you choose to believe and not doubt, your faith grows stronger, and you will be better equipped for the next encounter. That is how the great believers did it. And you can be a great believer too – it's about embracing God's grace with your free-will faith.

(1) It is faith [in the Living and written Word], moreover, that substantiates what we hope for. [Faith] provides proof of things unseen. (2) For it is by this [very faith] that believers of old received their divine approval.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, in whom we have placed our faith forever.

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Dear Bob,

Thank you for answering my questions, and helping me understand the passages a little bit more. Lately, my chest and heart have felt somewhat heavy, as if I feel guilty of something but don't know what it is. I don't know if it is 'false guilt' or not, but I have been working hard to tame my mind. Of all of the sins I used to have problems with, to my surprise I've managed to stop or severely reduce the vast majority of them (mostly). I've -for the most part- managed to keep my tongue under control (but things still do slip out every once-in-awhile), my anger is more controlled and I have a firmer grip on it, but I still seem to have trouble with some other things including controlling my thoughts. I don't mean to sound as though I'm helpless or that I have no control of myself, I'd be lying to myself then, but I still do get the occasional thought that just kind of 'pops in' from out of nowhere seemingly. I'm wondering what this all has to do with the issue of marriage me and my girlfriend are contemplating.

I also still find myself in that "situation" I spoke to you about dealing with the friend of a close relative whose hostile to Christianity. I would of course still like to show her Christian love.

Sometimes I think I merely over-think things or let my head get to me, or maybe it's the spirit talking to me. It's really hard to tell sometimes. Is there anything I should change about myself in these respects, given my natural tendencies?

Response #16: 

I would never recommend that someone try to change around their personality. There are many parts in the Body of Christ. No two are the same and we all have their own unique function. We are commanded to do certain things and to abstain from certain things, but it is certainly clear from scripture that the apostles, for example, all had quite different personalities, and our Lord never once suggests that there is anything wrong with that. So while it is true that personality type X may be prone to sin type Y, well, all of us are prone to one type of sin or another. The solution is not to try and change who we are; the solution is to grow in grace and to know that as we do we will be better able to carry out the mandate for sanctification with which we all struggle to some degree (Heb.12:14).

As to your other question, I am no therapist and have no professional training in these matters. However, if I had to guess, I would sooner think that the source of your anxiety is your impending nuptials. Marriage is a serious business and it has obvious and also not so obvious life-changing implications. Human beings that we are, we often appreciate things intellectually and assume that because we have thought them out that our emotions will follow as a matter of course. That, however, is often not the case. For example, one would think that a simple thing like moving would be just a logistical and physical problem. But without question pulling up stakes and moving somewhere else has a variety of emotional effects and produces tension and stresses of different sorts. Some handle the strain better than others but there is a level of pressure there that anyone who has done it understands. If that is true of moving, how much more so when it comes to something as serious as marriage?

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. As you continue to advance, you will get better at all these things – and closer to Jesus too (which is the whole point).

In our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hey Bob,

A lot of scripture, and some of our own discussions, have gone over the subject of taming the tongue and being careful of what you say. Nothing a man takes in is evil, but rather what comes out of a man, right? Well, in my long struggle against sin, I think (or I'd like to think) I've made some huge strides against a lot of personal sins which I used to have trouble with: I used to lie sometimes if it got me out of trouble, I used to cuss and use swear words a LOT, I had little to no control over my anger and my temper, thought only of myself a lot, and then there are other sins I talked to you about. This was a long time ago, but I never really took them seriously, only doing so after the night I first came to you after discovering Ichthys, and coming to you with my very first email concerning my spiritual well-being.

Anyway, the point of this email was to ask about taming the mind. We once discussed about how if someone's real only concern at one point is policing their own mind and thoughts, then they are doing very well in the faith (at least I'd like to think I am, but that's up to the Lord). I have touched on this before and wanted to ask about it again. How exactly can we keep sin out of our minds? I've gained full/near full control over my tongue and what I say, but I still struggle with sinful thoughts 'appearing' in my head, for what seems like the sole reason of simply causing me to feel guilty or to shake me up. I'm not going to go blaming the evil one for poking and attacking my mind and making those thoughts appear (unless that is the very case?), but they're coming form somewhere. Do all believers struggle with controlling their minds? Sometimes my mind seems so actively rebellious against what I want to do that I really have to focus and turn to the Lord, and after awhile I will feel fine. I guess I really want to know if these thoughts are really of me or from my own mind, or if I'm at mental battle with the evil one constantly, or with my own sin nature?

Response #17: 

Good to hear from you. I'm certainly happy to hear of your progress, my friend. On the mental front, there is a little that scripture says about these things (and I'll give you below the references to what I have written about this in the past), but perhaps not as much as we would like to know. I think the main points to keep in mind are: 1) we do have free will, which means that we are free to think what we want and free to not think what we don't want. Given the way the mind works, however, this can sometimes seem to be a debatable proposition, but I have found – and I think in this I also have the testimony of scripture and the ministry of the Spirit – that the less we worry about this issue and the more we have and gain confidence of our ultimate control, and the less we worry about the sinfulness of unexpected thoughts that present themselves and instead get in the habit of shooting them down like we would any varmint menacing our livestock, then the less of a problem this problem becomes; 2) this is another area in which good offense trumps the best defense. Regardless of how good and experienced our defense is in these matters (point one), we will still find ourselves doing an inordinate amount of "varmint shooting" if we are not aggressively moving forward spiritually and aggressively applying the truth of the Word in our Christian walk. Put another way, if we are growing in the Word and making our growth, progress and ministry of the Word our top priorities in this life, these good things will necessarily have a tendency to automatically occupy our thinking instead of random "bad things". A vacuum in the heart, be it chronic or temporary, will tend to be filled with all manner of dross. This is true also on a moment by moment basis. If we are deliberately and purposefully focusing our thoughts on Jesus, on the truth of the Word, on the glories of our eternal future, on all manner of good things, well, as long as we are actively doing that, there will be less opportunity for our sin nature and/or the minions of the evil one to intrude on these good thoughts (because there will be no momentary vacuum, let alone a chronic one).

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Also in all this it is good to remember that getting to a place where these sorts of issues are under pretty good control is not necessarily an overnight thing and can in fact can take quite a while, depending on how deep of a hole a person is coming out of and also how diligently said person is pursing spiritual growth – even for someone starting out in a relatively good place and truly making their drawing closer to Jesus through the Word the top priority, it may still take some time. But progress will be made with perseverance – as you are making progress – and we have to be happy with the progress so as not to be dispirited if we don't achieve 100% total success immediately. Indeed, we will probably never get to the point of never having to "shoot varmints" – but we can reduce that population significantly and get better at knocking them down when they do show up. Remember: these random thoughts are just varmints, annoying, necessary to deal with, but of no particular importance – unless we panic and run away or get lazy and let them multiply.

Here are those links:

The need to transform our thinking (in BB 4B)

Transforming our thinking to "virtue thinking"

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Christian mental "reprogramming"

Sin and Spiritual Transformation

Imitating Christ (Peter #17)

Walking with Jesus

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dear Bob,

I realize we all have to face sin, since none of us is perfect, but I had a question (or two?) to ask about the sin nature in us. Well, my mind still faces with odd 'pop up' thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere, but I have been keeping my mind on-guard and policed. I have this feeling inside of me, or a part of me, that once in awhile 'acts up' and just wants to tear away and turn away from the Lord, a part of me that constantly wants to go in another direction and feel 'free', which I know is a lie since there is only true freedom in Christ our Lord. There's a very small sense of frustration, for some reason. I was wondering if this is normal? Is this something all believers face, or am I just not as strong-willed or as good of a believer as many other people are? Granted, I of course never follow through with these occasional feelings since I know they're wrong, but to even have such feelings/thoughts (even sparsely) to begin with is disturbing to me. Is this the challenge we as believers face every day?

Response #18: 

I would say that this is a very common Christian experience. We believers face enemies within and without, "the world, the flesh, and the devil", as some have said. Here on earth things will always be a struggle; there will always be a battle going on within and without. As we grow in Christ, we grow in our potential to fight this fight better day by day, and to give ourselves, our will, over to the Spirit as opposed to allowing ourselves to be tortured by the flesh inside and by outside temptations of various sources. Biblical truth learned and believed is what makes the difference. It is clear to me from our correspondence over time that you are growing in the truth and getting better at this day by day.

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ, my friend. Spiritual growth is the only safe path, and the only way to win a good reward.

In Jesus Christ whom we are all here to serve,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Dear Robert,

I have been coming to your website now for several months and your biblical insight has been a blessing to me. I would like to get your thoughts on my situation. I came across Titus 1:16 last night and it really hit me hard. You see, I have struggled with certain temptations for as long as I can remember even though I accepted Jesus as my savior as a child. I am now middle-aged. [details omitted] Every day I try to start fresh. Some days I do good, some days not so good. Since reading Titus 1:16 last night I have meditated on it and prayed about each part of the verse. I do not want to deny God by my actions but in all honesty that is what I have been doing. I do profess to know Jesus and have put my faith in Him as stated above but my actions in private make me question my salvation. I asked the Lord this morning to not only let me profess Him but truly possess Him. I prayed that He would help me not to deny Him anymore through my works that I do in private but that I would walk in integrity, purity, honor, and character. I asked Him to help me be obedient and not disobedient and asked Him to save me from a reprobate mind. I have written to you because the ones I have confided don’t seem interested in hanging with me on this problem in my life. Can you help me in any way with some advice or scripture?

Thank you so much,

Response #19: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I have received many emails from believers over the years struggling with all manner of sins and sinful behavior. Everyone, it seems, has some area or areas of weakness that are hard to get under control. If we are not walking with the Lord in a sanctified way, the Spirit within us will not let us or our consciences rest easy. And, in such cases, verses such as Titus 1:16 will of course convict us and make us feel uncomfortable – at least they should. I take the fact that you are not content to give into a life of sin as a good sign. I would also wish to give you some comfort in regard to this particular verse. When Paul says, "by their actions they deny [the Lord]", he is talking about the sum total of all that a person does. Ideally, everything a Christian does will proclaim Christ – but none of us is perfect. On the other side we have the people Paul is talking about in this verse, namely, unbelievers or apostates whose every action denies Jesus Christ in spite of the lies they may tell themselves and others. That said, being "in the middle" or in any way between these two fires is a very uncomfortable place, and a dangerous one too. That is because few people can take the pressure of such guilt forever, and if they choose not to reform, are likely either to start ignoring their consciences entirely (and that leads to apostasy) or, if they continue in a life of gross sin and disobedience, tempt the Lord mightily to ever increasing measures of discipline (which in the most extreme situations leads to the sin unto death; see the link). Neither result is necessary because, as just indicated, we are talking about choices here. Struggling with sin in a serious way will result in victory through the power of the Spirit (Gal.5:16-25), but we do have to be just that, serious about getting past the things that tempt us.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4 NIV

Serious resistance to sin and sinful behavior is never pretty, may take time, may have brutal consequences, is likely to be very painful and extremely difficult, but is the only way to win the victory over this sort of assault by the evil one in concert with the enemy within, our own sin nature and fleshly lusts. The first step in successfully engaging against sin is to take full responsibility for that sin. It is certainly true that many of us have weaknesses. It is also certainly fine to ask God for help in combating those weaknesses. And it is also true that when we confess our sins we are forgiven them. However, it is also very much the case that the damage we do to ourselves through serious and repetitive sinful behavior, whether spiritual or physical or circumstantial, is not going to go away immediately upon confession. Nor is our Lord's divine discipline going to go away immediately, especially if it is clear that we are having a hard time "giving up" whatever it is we are dallying with. Since all this is true, recognizing in a cold and completely clear-sighted way that we are responsible for what we do and that only we can stop doing what we shouldn't be doing (or start what we should) is the first step towards gaining mastery over the sin nature in these difficult sorts of situations.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Galatians 5:16-17 NKJV

The Spirit gives us victory over sin – but we first have to give our will over to the Spirit. We may not "do what we wish", but we are still the ones doing the "doing". In other words, we are still the ones making the choice. If we choose to go with sin instead of sanctification, we cannot very well blame the Spirit.

To use a familiar analogy, many of us would like to lose some weight. Now eating too much and gaining weight is far less spiritually significant than most errors a Christian might make (even if it is a sin at all; that would depend on a number of factors, in my view), but the principle of taking responsibility certainly applies. We may pray wholeheartedly to God to help us lose weight, and I certainly would not suggest that there is anything wrong with that. In the end, however, it is unlikely that we are going to wake up tomorrow 30 lbs. lighter as the result of a miracle. Instead, we are going to have to take personal responsibility for our weight, start eating less, start eating better, start exercising more, and start being much more consistent about how we approach this issue – if we want to win the fight.

This fight against sin will undoubtedly be more difficult for some than for others too, but that will not change the essential calculus: we must take responsibility and accept the facts that the fault lies with us, that we can in fact do better if we choose to do so, and then engage in the battle "to the point of shedding blood" (Heb.12:4). In the previous analogy, whether or not we lose weight is most likely not going to have any tremendous effect on our spiritual life, one way or the other. Whether or not we gain mastery over some area of sin which is destroying our relationship with the Lord, however, makes all the difference in the world, and that battle ought to be our #1 priority until we have the problem "solved". When it comes to "solutions", moreover, since we are talking about areas of sinfulness that constitute our own unique and particular weaknesses, we cannot expect ever to be free of temptation. But we can – and our Lord expects us to – get to the point where we have fought the attacks to a standstill and never fall into that sort of trap of chronic transgression again. It won't be easy, and it probably won't be quick, but it is not only possible – it is absolutely necessary for our spiritual safety and our spiritual growth.

"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
Genesis 4:7 NIV

It seems to me that everything you have asked the Lord for in this matter is good and honest and true. It is now incumbent upon you to follow through with an absolutely iron will and put this whole area of sinfulness to death. In attitude, be intolerant of even entertaining anything having to do with it. In practice, do not put yourself anywhere near anything that even reminds you of it or in any way might lead to it. When our Lord tells us to "cut off" the offending hand or foot or "pluck out" the offending eye, He does not anticipate that we will mutilate ourselves – and it wouldn't reduce our lust for "whatever" if we did. But it does show us that we cannot take half-measures when it comes to fighting against "the sin that so easily besets" if we mean to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb.12:1 NKJV).

The problem is not your profession, your possession, or your status as belonging to Christ. Like every other Christian who confronts an area vulnerability, only getting intolerant with yourself, casting out all excuses, and taking full responsibility can work.

"Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case – the things that have to do with salvation" (Heb.6:9 NIV).

Yours in the One who died for all our sins that we might walk with Him in newness of life, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Master,

Bob Luginbill

Question #20:  

To what degree of sinning can one only lose his /her reward without forfeiting their faith which holds their salvation so that they don't lose too? 2 John 1:8, Rev 3:11

Response #20: 

As to loss of reward, the passages that talk about disqualification and loss of reward (i.e., 1Cor.9:27b; 2Jn.1:8-9; Rev.3:11; cf. Rev.3:4; 16:15) are talking about the loss of reward that falls to the lot of those who lose salvation entirely; obviously, if we do not hold fast to our faith we will not have anything whatsoever to show for our time in this world after death (cf. Is.7:9). Our Lord assures us that even a cup of water offered in His Name will not lose its reward (Mk.9:41), and 1st Corinthians 3:11-15 presents a general picture of reward versus loss (whereas it is doubtful if any Christian, even the most highly rewarded ones, will have no "wood, hay or stubble" at all). The warnings in the passages cited are for our good, so we should indeed use them to motivate ourselves to be so far from failure of any spiritual sort that we may have confidence of a good reward – that is surely the intent. Whether falling into a downward spiral and escaping "with the skin of one's teeth" will wipe out our reward otherwise won even while the individual in question is saved "yet as through fire" is an open question. However, it is probably mostly a theoretical one: those who really do advance to spiritual maturity (so as to win the crown of righteousness) and then move forward in the Christian life thereafter do not generally fall into near apostasy or the sin unto death – at least in my experience and observation (as well as in my reading of what case studies scripture provides). Exemplary believers all do seem to have some ups and downs, but they also always seem to recover and move back onto the high road to Zion (Prov.24:16). When it comes both to apostasy and the sin unto death, this is usually the province of those who have never gotten anywhere in the Christian life in the first place (see the link), so that there would not be any question of losing a crown in any case.

Question #21:  

When Paul tells Timothy that he handed Alexander and Hymenaeus to Satan due to their shipwreck of faith so they will learn not to blaspheme, is this the sin unto death or apostasy? Given the strong imagery of the word "shipwreck", I think its apostasy and God killing them for returning to unbelief, but I'm not sure.

Response #21: 

In 1st Timothy 1:20, Paul states that his purpose in initiating the "sin unto death" for these two (for that is what apostolic "handing over to Satan" amounts to; compare 1st Corinthians 5:5) was to "teach" these two a lesson . . . so that they might respond, turn from their wickedness, and thus be saved (as in the case of the incestuous Corinthian: "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"). However, God is sovereign in all things and He also honors the free will of every human being. I like to think that Hymenaeus did respond to this pressure (or at least that he did not desert his faith even if he did die as a consequence of his actions), for he is never mentioned in scripture again. Alexander, however, is mentioned again, in Paul's final epistle:

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
2nd Timothy 4:14-15

The way Paul phrases this leads me to believe that instead of responding positively to the duress of being "handed over to Satan", or leaving this life through the sin unto death (but still with his faith "by the skin of his teeth"), Alexander abandoned his faith entirely in the face of this pressure. That, after all, is what apostasy usually amounts to, namely, reacting to divine discipline or some other troubles or tribulations which one finds "unfair", blaming God, being unwilling to respond to God's corrective actions or bear up under testing, or being unwilling to let go of sin, and then in a desire to escape the consequences abandoning one's faith along with any and all allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Question #22:  

Q&A regarding 1 Peter 4:6 (NASB):

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

What type of "dead" does Peter have in mind here? Those who don't know the gospel, those who got to know it but rejected it? Why does he use the word "even", if it's the "dead" that really need the gospel? You wrote:

I take this to mean the conviction of the Holy Spirit when He makes it clear to anyone who is "dead" that they are in fact dead to God and in need of salvation in order to escape eternal condemnation. These "dead" have the gospel preached to them so that they may be "judged", that is, convinced by the Spirit that they are guilty, "dead", and in need of help, to the end that they may "live" as a result of responding to the "gospel preached" in saving faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Jn.16:8-11).

You wrote that by "judged" Peter means convinced by the Spirit that they are guilty, but since the passage says "judged in the flesh as men", could it not refer to believers being condemned and persecuted for their faith ("judged in the flesh as men"; worldly point of view on faith), but winning life "in the spirit" (God's point of view on faith)?

Response #22: 

I think the Greek word kai, meaning "even" here or perhaps better "also", is being used to make clear God's desire for all to be saved, "even" those too who have not yet been saved, and even to offer the opportunity to those who resist and reject it; for Christ died for them as well. In terms of application to believers, the Greek is pretty clear in my view in linking up the first half of the verse to the second. The "judged" and "live" verbs are both in the purpose clause and without any new pronouns introduced, so I think we have to understand the "they" in both instances as being the same as the subject of the main clause, that is, unbelievers (at least at the point when they receive this benefit and before they respond). I have this passage explained in more detail at the link:

The consequences of unbelief

Question #23:   

What suffering does Peter have in mind in 1 Peter 4:15-16 when talking about a murderer, thief or evildoer?

Now let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler, but if [anyone should suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed of it. Let him rather glorify God under that name.

Is it associated with the consequences of these sins on part of God (divine discipline), consequences executed by other people (exclusion, negative perception of the sinner) or the consequences felt by the sinner himself (guilt, shame)? It seems that the second explanation could hold water judging by how the rest of the passage could be interpreted, but I wanted to be clear on this.

Response #23: 

Nicely done! Yes, he is referring primarily to the natural consequences of bad behavior (see the link) – although we would not want to rule out the divine discipline that might be added thereto – and contrasting it with the persecution that comes the way of the genuine Christian who is trying to "live godly in Christ Jesus" (2Tim.3:12).

Question #24:   

Could you clarify 2 Peter 2:7-8 (NASB):

7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

Why does Peter call Lot "righteous" and say that he "felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds" if Lot, as you put it, "had issues", being, for example, happy to commit his daughters to the Sodomites?

Response #24: 

If it were a matter of being blameless, none of us would be righteous. We are righteous because we have put our faith in Christ for salvation and have received God's righteousness as a result. We are justified by our faith, not our conduct, and the same was true at this time:

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
Romans 4:13 NIV

Lot was a believer; that is what "righteous Lot" means. Your point is a good one in that while we believers have all been justified by faith so as to be righteous in God's eyes (through the blood of Christ; link), this really does mean that our behavior ought to comport with our blessed new status. That is to say, we are righteous "by position" so that we ought to be righteous in fact in all we think and say and do. That is where the Lord is leading us, after all (Ps.23:3b).

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