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Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

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Question #1:

Hi again, Dr. Luginbill!

Your response made me think of myself and whether I'm being selfish and self-centered. I desire every day for Jesus to return and find myself crying out loud saying, "I really wish today were the day Jesus would return!". At the same time, I actually look forward to the trials (although very difficult) to learn and grow in Christ. Another reason I so look forward to Jesus' return is so that I can't sin anymore. I feel terrible if I sin and ask myself "why did I get wrongfully angry at him/her? I wish I were glorified in Christ so I could never do this again!" I feel saddened and sometimes angry because all the sin in this world. When I turn on the TV there's garbage, bad news on the local news, etc. If God told me that I could go and be with Him NOW, I would in a heartbeat. The Bible talks about Heaven as having streets of gold, and gates of pearl. Even if none of that were there but God only, that would be enough for me. Am I self centered or selfish for having this escapist mentality? My favorite verse in Bible is in Revelation 21 (and God HIMSELF shall be WITH them, and be their God). I cry every time I read the Revelation 21 passage because of its promises. Am I wrong for wanting to leave this world while there are people like my relatives who need to find Jesus? I want them to be saved and witness to them every time I see them and hope that if they stay around longer than me, that God will save them if they are saved by then. Am I being selfish?

God Bless,

Response #1:

I feel very much the same way as you about these matters – apart from the guilt. It is a very legitimate thing for Christians to put their focus on the Lord and His return, on the next life and not on this one. In fact it is a measure of spiritual maturity.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
1st Corinthians 1:7 NIV

And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God's Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
1st Thessalonians 1:9-10 NLT

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. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 NIV

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV

Jesus is our hope, and the resurrection and reward we anticipate when He returns is what makes this hope a living, breathing, powerful thing which quickens our spiritual life and motivates all that we do. Being with Jesus is "better by far" than anything this life has to offer (Phil.1:23), but it is also legitimate – and from what I read in scripture important – to motivate ourselves with the resurrection body and with the rewards we shall all receive on that great day of days:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 19:20-21 NIV

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:23 NIV (cf. 2Cor.5:1-5)

In all these matters, Jesus is the One on whom we have fixed all our faith, all of our hope, and all of our love – or should do.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:3-9 NIV

We are still here because our dear Lord Jesus asked that we be left here in the world even though we are now not "of the world" (Jn.17:15-16), and He did so and we are here for particular purposes, all of which in the case of believers involve the refining our faith, the sharpening of our hope, and the demonstration of our love. If we truly do love Jesus, then we will "feed His sheep" (Jn.21:17), contributing to the growth and well-being of His Body in the ways and in the particular ministries He has for us. That is why we are still here. So even though like Paul in Philippians chapter one we would much rather pack up and go to be with Jesus, for that is "better by far", nevertheless "it is necessary" that we remain here in order to do what Jesus wants us to do. We are not told in specific terms what that is, but we certainly know what it is in general terms: personal spiritual growth, passing the tests that come our way through the truth we have believed to the glory of God, and helping others to do the same by prosecuting the ministries our Lord calls us to. In this there is great reward for ourselves for all eternity, for our brothers and sisters in Jesus whom we have helped forward, and great glory for the Lord in the response we have shown to His will. So while it is painful at times to "keep on going", keep on going we must – and we must also try to do what you are doing and remain thankful for every opportunity to do so. That is the best way to maintain our spiritual equilibrium in the midst of the trials and troubles of which this world is full to the brim. The next one will be "better by far" beyond anything we can presently imagine.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 NIV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

I remember in an earlier conversation we had that you weren't a big fan of the whole 'friends helping to keep me accountable' mentioning I made in one of my very first emails, and wanted to talk about that today. I remember what you said about change needing to come from within, and I feel like (or at least pray) that it's happening, albeit slowly. I came upon a realization today, more clarification about what I expressed to you before about my apprehension of uneasiness of reading the Word, which I hope to slowly get over as I read more. Just today, after looking over what I've been doing, I think there may be more to it. I haven't read the Word as much as I would have liked to believe I have, and even your website so far I've only read a few pages of. I've started to sense another apprehension in my heart, one I'm not particularly sure how to deal with. I think there's a sense of laziness and lack of commitment within me that I didn't see before, or I didn't think was there. I don't know if it's just the apprehension coming at me in a different way, or if I really am just not fully committed or lazy. I was asking myself why I sometimes 'skip days' when it comes to reading, or listening to a broadcast or something, and then I told myself 'it sounds like you're not fully committed to this. Being the still-nervous and insecure person I am, I immediately felt bad about this, cause part of me wondered or even maybe knew it was true. I feel I am lazy and uncommitted, on top of the apprehension, but I guess that's one reason I'm coming to you. I am committed to the Lord, I am committed to Jesus, but when it comes to reading, the apprehension comes up but also just partly not wanting to read it. I don't want to be like that. This might sound weird but how to I be committed? How do I read the Word without making myself? I don't know if you've ever heard of anything like this, commitment to the Lord, wanting to draw closer to him, but neglecting the actual reading of the Word, or not. My heart is set on it I want to be committed, more than I am now. Should I just make myself? This might sound weird, but how do I stop being lazy?

Response #2:

It is certainly not uncommon for relatively new Christians to have doubts (and unfortunately also not anything unusual to see this in those who have been Christians all their lives). The point of the Christian life is to grow ever deeper and stronger in faith (which by definition erases doubt). The way that is done is by putting one's faith in the truth of the Word of God, that is, through the process of spiritual growth which we have been talking about for some time now. It is not necessarily an easy process, and it does make good sense to appreciate the challenge before taking it up:

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it]– "
Luke 14:27-28 NKJV

Just as the true Church of Christ is a spiritual edifice (1Cor.3:10-17; Eph.2:22; Heb.3:6; 1Pet.2:5), one built upon the only foundation, our Rock, Jesus Christ, so we too are in this world to "build up" an edifice of truth in our hearts, that is, to grow up spiritually, to progress in our Christian applications in this world, progress which will be increasingly tested in order to refine our faith, and finally to help others do the same through whatever ministries the Lord calls us to according to the spiritual gifts we have been given (i.e., assisting individual "edification": Rom.14:19; 15:2; 1Cor.10:23; 14:3; 14:5; 14:12; 14:26; 2Cor.10:8; 12:19; 13:10; Eph.4:29; 1Thes.5:11; 1Tim.1:4).

While some see this all as a burden, that in my view is entirely the wrong way to look at things. What we have, what we really have as Christians still in the world, is an incredibly wonderful opportunity. We are saved by faith in Christ, and we are assured of being in the New Jerusalem with Him for all eternity as those who keep the faith. The former is the basis of the latter and the latter is the result of the former. So why are we still here in between the two, especially as this hiatus is so short in relative terms? Why are Christians even in the world after salvation? Of course there is the necessity of showing that our faith is genuine and that we really do want to spend eternity with Jesus. But assuming that we are not "temporary" like the seed sown on the rock in the parable of the Sower, then why are we given all this extra time?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:9-10 NIV

We are here for a purpose. We are not here to "enjoy the world". That does not mean we cannot be happy or that we have to deprive ourselves and live in misery or renounce anything we might otherwise think of as fun. Far from it. It does mean that every Christian ought to understand that almost all of the things the world values are meaningless, and that most people are completely wasting the time they have been given – that is true also of Christians, especially in our lukewarm Laodicean era (see the link). Those of us who have given or, like you, are giving this matter serious consideration recognize that the time between the moment of salvation and the eternity of delight is incredibly short and only meaningful to the extent that we seize the opportunity at hand. That engaging with the task the Lord has put before us is the basis for eternal rewards which will delight us forever – and which please and glorify the One who died for all of our sins. Everything else in life is "important" only in respect to how it affects and relates to our fundamental Christian task of growth, progress and production (please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"), for this is what we be judged on when we stand before the Lord.

(10) According to the grace of God given to me like a wise architect I have laid down a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay another foundation except the One that has been laid down: Jesus Christ. (12) And if someone builds upon his foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, [or] with wood, hay, and stubble, (13) [in either case] his work will be made manifest [as to its true quality], for the Day [of judgment] will make it clear [for what it truly is], because it will be revealed (lit., uncovered) with fire. And the fire will evaluate (lit., "assay") the work of each person as to what its [true] quality is. (14) If anyone's work which he has built [on his foundation of faith in Christ] remains (i.e., is not burnt away by the fiery evaluation), he will receive a reward [for it]. (15) If anyone's work is burnt up, he will suffer the loss [of any potential reward for it], but he himself will be saved – but in this way [just described] as through fire [which evaluated his false works as worthless and burnt them up].
1st Corinthians 3:10-15

In the New Jerusalem there will be four basic "eternal status neighborhoods", each with three gates. The most populous no doubt will be the one reserved for those who merely maintained their faith in this life after salvation. There will be no shame in living there, no pain, no trouble, no regrets, only a blissful eternity in a perfect body and a full share in Jesus Christ as an eternal part of His Body the Church. But how much better to live in one of the "three crowns" neighborhoods! Everyone could have done so – but not every will fulfill the purpose Jesus has for them to that degree.

It should give everyone in this lukewarm time who goes by the name Christian just a little pause to consider that eternity lasts forever, but this life is a blink of the eye. How much more blessed could things have been if only those in that fourth neighborhood had used this infinitesimally short life to follow and serve Jesus as they were told and encouraged to do – rather than just hanging onto faith by their fingernails. The Tribulation is coming, and one third of those who now believe are prophesied to fall away during those dark times. So on the one hand "just holding on" through that gauntlet of testing will be no mean accomplishment. But it will undoubtedly be easier to hold on for those who are doing more, namely, for those who have built a solid edifice of truth in their hearts on the Rock, our Savior, who have had that faith tested in persistent application of the truth, and who have drowned doubt, hesitation and inconsistency in the day by day service to Jesus Christ according to the gifts and ministries with which they have been entrusted. Not only does moving forward carry a promise of reward and blessing beyond our imagining – it is also really the only sure way to stay spiritually safe.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "
Matthew 25:21 NIV

Consistency and self-discipline in these matters are important keys to success. I do hear what you are saying. Everyone is different, so I can only tell you what I know about this. No two people have the same level of commitment and nothing in human life remains the same for long. But it is important to do one's best to be consistent in one's walk with the Lord day by day. And it is better to develop a pattern of a little done with consistency (more can always be added as strength and capacity increase) than to promise a lot and be unable to carry through. The latter is very common in our time, especially since in the "rah-rah" hyper-emotional sort of Christianity one finds in many churches today people are encouraged to make massive commitments when on an emotional high, only to discover that what seemed so great Sunday morning seems impossible on Monday morning. Practical advice: read some of your Bible every day; do some Bible study every day (ideally listening to or reading from a source of Bible teaching you trust); make a point of engaging with the truths you read, learn, hear and believe throughout your day. The more consistent you become with this, the more your priorities will begin to straighten out, the more you will grow up in Jesus and grow closer to Jesus, and the more you will then be relying on the truth in your heart rather friends at your side or music in your ears. Please do read the following link which, it is my hope, will help you in this effort: Read your Bible.

You have my best wishes for working through this resistance and coming to terms with the mission to which our Lord has called you – you also have my prayers.

In Jesus Christ the One who died for us that we might live for Him.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Bob,

I found it kind of funny/coincidental you sent me the link to the page where you speak of the emphasis on reading the Bible, and how important it is for spiritual growth, on the day I just happen to have read it. Today, I took another long and deep self-evaluation, and found myself lacking mostly in the Bible reading department. Lately, I've been working up the courage to open up the Bible again by taking slow steps, by primarily reading what you have on your website, and even then have started to neglect studying somewhat. I don't want that to happen, and want to get back on track, in a good momentum, before I lose any. You recommended on that page a generally good plan is to read two chapters a day, one OT, and one NT. I think this is the plan I'll follow, for now. Part of me wanted to think 'I'll do four a day', but I didn't want to start off putting too much on myself, but if I find myself reading four a day anyway, then all the better.

You were right about me not being satisfied with being 'lukewarm' in faith, since I do find myself wanting more. I do keep the emails we share so I have the links to the pages you've given me on-hand. I also think one of my big hindrances was not having a decided time to read the bible, like choosing at a certain time of day or whenever. Again, I thank you for your assistance, and look forward to future conversations with you. I know you've probably read a response like this from me several times already, but you really have helped/are helping me, and I thank you for it. I think when it comes to reading the Bible itself, I was letting my apprehension/fear get to me again and prevent me from getting started on doing so, directly. I'll read Ichthys for awhile longer, a couple of days straight or so, and then I'll take to reading the Bible itself. I know how strange it sounds, being afraid/nervous/apprehensive of reading the Word itself, but I think it's simply an after-affect from the 'shock' of first discovering Hebrews 6 and, well, the initial problem I came to you with. Thank you again for helping me.

Response #3:

You're very welcome.

Glad to be of some help. By all means, get to reading your Bible. And do stick with your intention not to neglect Bible study from a good source either, however. Accessing good teaching is also an essential element of spiritual growth. The Body is composed of many members and we all play our role in the edification of the Church. No one can go it alone or do it alone. You are welcome to any and all of the studies available at Ichthys any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hey Dr. Luginbill, 

God is good! A very young friend of ours was baptized right after college graduation. She was always so full of questions and she e-mails me with yet more. This time she has stumped me and I’m looking to your expertise!!

Her questions are these :

I didn't know that God had an evil spirit and would trouble us with it. Can you please explain this scripture for me?

I know Saul had not kept Gods command 100% so God took away his leadership over Israel, but why torture him, and how does David playing the harp soothe his soul?

The first part of her question I did guide her to your "why do bad things happen" and "God’s use of evil spirits to perform His will".

The second part of her question has stumped me. "How does David playing the harp soothe his soul?" Even my own question would be if it soothed his soul , to me the evil Spirit did not go away. In a chapter after this one Saul is bothered the same evil spirit. Soothing is not the same as cleansing ?

Looking forward as always to your untiring patience and expertise. May God keep blessing you and keep you safe.

In Jesus,

Response #4:

Very good to hear from you!

It's a very good two-part question. New believers who are enthusiastic about the Word often do get right to interesting issues in a way some of us "old dogs" do not. You sent your friend to the right place on the first part, namely, BB 2A under "God's employment of evil spirits" (link). Since she already has that link, I would only want to add a couple of comments on the first part of the question. The Bible often describes God as the subject of certain actions of this sort to emphasize that He is in control of everything. As when in Exodus chapter 14 God is described as having "hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Ex.14:4; 14:8), that is certainly the case but not as simple as all that either. The process whereby the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart was only by allowing Pharaoh to continue to express his own free will in circumstances where any other mortal would have buckled to the pressure God was laying on him. That is to say, "God hardening Pharaoh" is not God taking away Pharaoh's free will but actually God allowing Pharaoh to express his underlying will in a way that normally he would not have been able to do (sort of like allowing an unbeliever to see God yet retain their disbelief in Him; see the link: Exodus 14: Hardening Pharaoh's Heart).

We have something similar in Saul's situation. God withdrew the special unction of His Spirit from Saul because of Saul's pattern of excessive and exceptional sin and disobedience. As king of Israel, without question Saul was a very high-value target for the devil, but even after entering into this pattern of spiritual degeneration, God did protect Saul from being destroyed for a very long time. Nevertheless, when believers turn away from the Lord, He disciplines them not to torture them, but to "show them the difference" between serving Him and serving the devil (cf. 2Chron.12:8), so that they may return to Him with all their hearts and be restored (as the prodigal son did after facing analogous hardships).

Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NIV

Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
1st Timothy 1:20 NIV

This does not mean that God does not love us, even if we go far astray from Him. We are the lost sheep, the lost coin, for which He diligently searches. But unlike sheep and coins, human beings have gone astray from their own bad choices, and in order to come back to the Lord as we should, we often need to be taught a lesson (see the link: in BB 3B Hamartiology: "The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline").

For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.
Hebrews 12:6 NKJV

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19 NKJV

On the second question, it is difficult to underestimate the benefits and blessings of having the Holy Spirit. We know from 2nd Corinthians chapter 1 – and from personal experience – that the Spirit is a great source of comfort for us who in this age universally have the Spirit (e.g., Rom.8:9). But even for Church Age believers, the benefits and blessings of the Spirit function best and brightest when we are walking closely with the Spirit, listening to His still, small voice, obeying the will of God, growing spiritually, making progress in the Christian life, and helping others do the same through the ministries we have been given. For if we have turned away from the Lord or, worse yet, not turned back, we are not going to be able to access that comfort in the same way as if we had a clean conscience and were in close fellowship with the Lord. The Spirit protects us from evil and evil influences, and, if we are growing, even when under attack by the evil one we learn how to use the "full armor of God" to fend off all of Satan's fiery darts of negative emotion, fear, worry, depression and the like (Eph.6:11-17). Believers who neglect the Word, neglect the Lord, begin to live carelessly, and generally slip back into an unbelieving style of life, will soon find themselves "tormented" as well, and it is a sure bet that the devil and his minions will be involved in that torment.

So Saul is not really unique. Saul is a paradigm for all believers who instead of living a Spirit-filled life for the Lord have wandered back into living for themselves instead. And just as Saul started making decisions which directly violated what God had told him to do, so such believers will inevitably begin ignoring His very clear commands. One important negative consequence of "getting out of ranks" in this way is to become vulnerable to the evil one's attacks – since now the person has placed him/herself outside of the umbrella of the Spirit's full protection. Now God is faithful, and He does often continue to protect the person and give him/her time to repent and recover and come back – as He did for Saul. But God treats believers – who are His special property – different from unbelievers, and allowing said persons to find out for themselves what the world is like for someone who is a target of the devil and not under God's complete care and protection is a major part of the process the Lord has put in place to turn the wayward around that they might be spiritually restored. Sometimes even so people do not come back. Saul did not, and he died "the sin unto death" as a result (also linked in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death") – but he remained a believer even so (1Sam.28:19).

As to the "soothing" part of the question, it is a well known fact that music can have such an effect on human beings and even on animals. The Greeks were acutely aware of the emotional effects of music in a way in which we moderns are often not. Generally speaking, today we like to think of ourselves as being in control of our emotions (which in truth only makes us potentially more vulnerable to them). Whenever we listen to music, it has a emotional effect, however small, and that effect can change our "mood" or even motivate us to action (or inaction). This is one of the reasons why I am very leery of much Christian music, because in my view the words are very often not completely biblical (and sometimes being close but fatally flawed is worse than being way off – because it is harder from immature believers especially to spot), and thus a wrong point of view can be imprinted when it would never have gained any leverage without the musical accompaniment (for some comments and links see, "Some Negative Effects of Christian Music").

In the case of Saul, the music was played by David, so that we may be sure that if there were any "words" they would have been the inspired words of the Psalms (many of which he wrote, after all). For a marginal Christian to have the Word of God ministered to him in this way backed up by appropriate and therefore no doubt soothing musical score would, it seems to me, very reasonably produce at least a minor "rallying" of whatever spirituality Saul still had left (and send the evil spirit packing, at least temporarily). But this, of course, was only a stop-gap. Without a complete change of heart and a determination to come back to the Lord while abandoning his self-willed ways, such medicine would never "cure" Saul, only temporarily mask the symptoms (as is evidenced by the fact that he tried to kill David – in the very act of playing the harp on two separate occasions: 1Sam.18:11; 19:20).

We have all probably had somewhat similar experiences when from time to time we try to encourage a depressed brother or sister who has lost much of their faith for whatever reason. They may perk up while we remind them of all the great things God has done and all the reasons to trust Him in spite of troubles, but without a personal decision to take that truth and make it their own by faith, following through with determination in a program of spiritual recovery, they are likely to revert soon after the divine "music" stops. David did what he could. Saul was temporarily helped, but the cure lay in his own heart in turning from self and back to the Lord, and this medicine he stubbornly refused to take.

Please do feel free to write back about this.

I appreciate your good work for our Lord and the ministering of His Word to others!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #5:

G'Day Brother,

Hope your doing well!

Are there any examples in the Bible of those that turned there back on God after believing and didn't make it to heaven?

God Bless

Response #5:

Always good to hear from you. I don't know of any off-hand, but that is not surprising. After all, I can only think of three individuals whom scripture represents as actually in hell: the rich man of Luke 12 (who is not named), and antichrist and his false prophet – who are the only two deposited into the lake of fire without a last judgment: their crimes are so egregious that such is not necessary for we are in no doubt about their eternal fate. We might think this about Saul, for example, but Samuel tells him just before his death "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me" (1Sam.28:19 NIV). It is certainly consistent with scripture, moreover, to represent that where there is life, there is hope, and, even in our dealings with those about whom we know the most on this earth, there are many occasions where we cannot be 100% sure of the final outcome. But of the fact of apostasy there is certainly no doubt:

And he who was sown on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. He has no roots [to his faith], however, but lasts only a short time. So when tribulation or persecution occurs on account of the Word, he is immediately tripped up (skandalizetai; i.e., he apostatizes).
Matthew 13:20-21

And these [second types] who are sown on the rocky places are similar. Whenever they hear the Word they immediately receive it with joy, although they have no root [of faith] in themselves, but are only temporary [believers]. When tribulation or persecution because of the Word comes [their way], they are immediately tripped up (skandalizontai; i.e., they apostatize).
Mark 4:16-17

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
Luke 8:13

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I believe with almost certainty that there is a woman at my job who is either demon possessed or heavily demon oppressed. She was on vacation for almost two weeks, and as soon as she returned to work, I could see things going wrong in all the wrong ways. I didn't even know that she returned, but I knew (don't know or cannot explain exactly how) that she had returned. Also, it was almost as if malice had spread to the other workers and in turn they tried to accuse me. I know that this sounds a little crazy, but I've had this sort of "sense" for some time. This woman even claims to be a Christian and brags about going to church. I don't know what it is, there seems to be some dark presence that I sense whenever she's around. She hates me and tries to slander and accuse me daily too. Please pray with me! Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #6:

I do pray for you and will continue to pray for your deliverance – this place you work in seems to be at the heart of many of your troubles, and I will be praying for a better situation for you all around.

Christians cannot be demon possessed (see the link) – but they certainly can be influenced by demons, directly and, even more frequently, indirectly (and our culture is awash with all manner of such influences). Of course, any Christian who is being heavily influenced by satanic forces is in grave spiritual danger. It is also true that there are many out there who claim to be Christians who are not so in fact. We know the children of God by their fruits, and that is also true in the case of others who only claim to be of God (Matt.7:15-20).

This is a world of darkness, and we believers are the "light bearers" in it (Phil.2:15; cf. Matt.5:15). This is the role our Lord has called us to, and our shedding of light in the darkness will continue to be opposed by the evil one until our Lord returns. The best thing we can do when we find ourselves under such satanic fire is to strive "not to take it personally" (see the link), and do our best to glorify the Lord in all we do, say and think, growing in Him day by day. That is the essence of our spiritual warfare (see the link), and the best policy for believers at all times in any case.

For more on demon influence and possession, please also see:

Satan's Tactical Methodology

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dr. Bob,

Enjoyed reading "the gap" and "soul sleep." Please clarify some questions brought up by reading "is baptism necessary for salvation?"

Does saving faith have limitations?

What is the status of one who believes but does not love?

Can one obey by faith? What is the obedience of faith? Work of faith?

Is repentance a work?

Regards,

Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance. While I will try to give you a pithy answer here, most of your questions are dealt with in a large amount of detail at the following links:

Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology

Peter Lesson #24: Faith Dynamics.

As to your questions:

Does saving faith have limitations? We are all saved by grace through faith, that is, those who place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. All believers are saved. Those who do not have a living faith in Jesus Christ are not saved.

What is the status of one who believes but does not love? All who believe in Jesus Christ are believers and all believers are saved. In terms of love, few are perfect in love. My reading of the verses in 1st John (and elsewhere) which address this issue is that for anyone who is truly a believer it would be incorrect to say that such a person "does not love"; if indeed a person is entirely devoid of love, that person would also be entirely devoid of faith.

Can one obey by faith? Faith is the essential act of free will, the reason we are given the image of God. Faith is obedience to God.

What is the obedience of faith? First, to accept the Father's Substitute for our sins, Jesus Christ. Once born again, our obedience consists in following Him as He would have us to do.

Work of faith? The work of God is to believe in Jesus Christ (Jn.6:29). "Work" and "works" in the true, biblical sense according to Greek usage are anything we think, do or say, that is, everything we do from our free will.

Is repentance a work? As much as anything else is a work. But, again, the word "work" is often misunderstood in such contexts since sloppy exegesis and incorrect doctrinal formulations over the past several centuries in particular have loaded this word down with all sorts of non-biblical connotations and in an inconsistent manner at that. I would have to say on this one 1) it depends what the person means by "work", and 2) it depends what the person means by "repentance" (see the links on both of these topics for some help on that).

Most of these questions depend upon how one defines the terms and what sort of basic theology one is using as a point of departure. So please do feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

G'Day Brother!

I read your passage on the mechanics of faith, excellent work.

Want to know a little more on faith.

What is the relationship between faith and love? Can one exist or abound without the other?

For example, can I say I have faith or believe in Christ but not love him?

Love In Christ

Response #8:

It's an interesting question. In an absolute sense I would have to say that it is not in fact possible to have true faith and absolutely no love or, conversely, to have genuine, godly love and absolutely no faith. Faith without works is dead, and anything we do in terms of grace-work that is truly legitimate in God's eyes has to have a modicum of love-motivation and hope of reward (however small and unexpressed). The Christian virtues, whether working from Paul's "short list" in 1st Corinthians 13:13 or Peter's "long list" in 2nd Peter 1:5-7 – or off of any other list at all – are ideal descriptions of our behavior which in truth is a composite of everything we think, say and do. No one, apart from Jesus, has ever had perfect faith, for example, and the same is true of any virtue you might name. What these virtues are, as I say, are standards to which we ought to aspire and yardsticks by which we ought to measure ourselves. So again, as in our previous discussions, on the one hand God and His standards are absolute, but on the other hand since we are sinful human beings everything we do is relative. Just as no baseball player ever "bats 1.000 (i.e., 100%)" – or anything close (apologies, as I am sure there is a good cricket parallel but I am completely ignorant of that sport), so we will never be perfect in any of our applications or in our walk with Jesus. That does not mean we ought not to aspire to 100% – indeed we should. But it does mean that in a time when the best of us on our best days are batting ".250", it is somewhat beside the point to cast the Christian life in terms of perfection. My job is to encourage those who aren't even picking up the bat in the first place to get to it that they might hit at least something for Jesus Christ, earn some sort of a reward, and solidify their spiritual security in the process through spiritual growth and preparation, a very important consideration for us who find ourselves on the cusp of the Tribulation. Those whose faith is very weak are the most likely candidates to lose it in the Great Apostasy (see the link), an event prophesied to claim one third of the genuine Church. As in your question, there are many out there who claim to have faith in Christ but by their actions (lack of love, hope or however defined) make it seem questionable if they know Him at all. If they really are saved (in many cases only God knows), marginal types of this sort are risking their eternal futures now – what will happen when the going gets really tough?

If you have not already done so, you might check out the following links:

Free-Will Faith and the Will of God

Faith Dynamics

Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology

Yours in Jesus Christ the One we strive to please and serve,

Bob L.

Question #9:

I know for certain that God lead me to find your website- and brought me all the way across the world from South Africa to find it!

Just a question- I was reading somewhere that Job's problems-boils, losing his family - was caused by Satan's fallen angels – is that right ? But then God allowed it?

I appreciate your comments ... thanks a lot

Love in our Saviour the Lord Jesus

Response #9:

I certainly appreciate your encouragement! As to your question, yes, I think it is very clear from the context of Job 1-2 that the devil and his minions were behind all the negative things that happened to Job. The fact that God allowed them to do what they did – and it is important to note that God did not allow them to kill Job so that there were limits to what they were allowed to do – was actually quite a compliment to Job and to his level of spiritual maturity. And he handled quite well indeed, so much so that "the patience of Job" is proverbial. Where he was broken down, however, was in dealing with his supposed friends who were convinced that nothing of the sort would have befallen him unless he were being punished for some sort of outrageous sinning. This is a very common reaction that believers (particularly immature believers who do not know scripture well) have when they see others "under the gun". And it is certainly true that a Christian who involves him/herself in outrageously sinful behavior will indeed find divine discipline, often of a notable type, not far behind (cf. 1Cor.5). But in cases where the person afflicted is not known to be a perpetrator of outrageously sinful behavior – and especially if it is a case of the person in question being a notably good believer as far as we can tell – then occasionally in the past and even much more so now in the age of the Church the chances are good that what we have is an instance of a believer not being disciplined but being tested for greater growth and for God's glory. Paul, after all, was one of the greatest believers who ever lived, but his sufferings were arguably greater than Job's (at least they seem to have been continual from the point of his salvation until the Lord took him home: 1Cor.4:8-13; 2Cor.4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:16-33; Phil.3:7-11; et passim in Acts).

You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human [experience]. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your capacity, but, along with the test, He will grant you the way out, so that you can bear up under it.
1st Corinthians 10:13

These are good lessons for every believer to learn well. As long as we are in the world we will be the objects of satanic attack, and God allows us to be "sniped at" for the purpose of testing our mettle and boosting our spiritual growth (e.g., Jn.15:1-2), but never beyond what we can actually endure (even if it may seem so to us at the time). We therefore have to learn not to take the trouble that befalls us personally (see the link), as if it had something to do with us: we are being subjected to tribulation because we belong to Jesus Christ (Jn.15:20; cf. 2Tim.3:12), but He will see us through, provided we rely on Him.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2nd Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ who is all-sufficient for our needs, regardless of what may betide.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I often hear the phrase, "let go and let God" and when I ask for suggestions or advice during trial, most professing Christians at my work respond by telling me to "let go and let God". And they usually say it smugly as if that's all there is to it. What exactly does this mean? and is this biblical? An older man who tells me that he's a Christian said that it means to just trust in God and listen to His voice. He said that if we're doing what's right according to the bible, we will know the difference between the voice of the Lord and the voice of strangers. Then some other people will just tell me to give it all to the Lord and let Him guide me as if to make me feel like I have to do absolutely nothing.

And please continue to pray for me as I'm on my last legs and have no strength left. The enemy is seeking to destroy me at work through my co workers who slander and accuse me and start trouble and attempt to incite me to anger. I've never prayed so much in my life. It is a difficult battle and I'm still waiting for the Lord to deliver me and to bring the people at my work to some understanding that what they're doing is wrong. Even if what I do at work is right, I'm still wrong because they all listen to each other and agree even though what they say are completely false and slanderous. They are all friends with each other too. I've worked at so many jobs and different types of jobs and this is the first time I had to deal with people like this. All of my previous jobs had people who I got along with, but this is the first. Then again, I was unsaved during the times I worked at my previous jobs. It seems like the more I pray and seek God, the more evil my co-workers become. I can almost see the demons inside of them. The other day my day at work went well and I knew that the devil was going to fire his fiery darts at me just before I got off of work, and he did, and I was right. A woman accused me with all sorts of lies the very last minute I was supposed to leave work. I don't know how you do it, I commend you for having such perseverance and wisdom throughout your trials. I wish I could do the same because I don't know how much more I can endure. Thanks for your prayers and answers to my bible questions.

God Bless,

Response #10:

I will most certainly continue to keep you and your situation in prayer. I pray for your deliverance daily. This life is a struggle for all true Christians, and especially for those who like you are actually trying to do what Jesus has called us to do: grow spiritually and help others do likewise.

As to "let go and let God", no, there is nothing of the sort in scripture. It's one of those bumper-sticker phrases that means whatever anyone wants it to mean. Of course we are to wait on the Lord and trust Him for deliverance in our trials, but that requires hanging on, not letting go. What the comments you received and what the thrust of this sentiment also communicates are just the opposite of what Christians need to do. All attacks and tests the growing Christian receives have to be met actively, not passively, with aggressive accessing and application of God's truth, and with an active faith which reaches out and holds fast to the Lord's coat-sleeve. Like Jacob, we have to wrestle in faith and be unwilling to let go until the time of deliverance. We have to continue to pray, as you are doing; continue to have faith, as you are doing; continue to read and study our Bibles and access good teaching, as you are doing; continue to apply the truth to our lives, as you are doing. In short, especially when tests come, we genuine Christians of true faith must be more outgoing than ever in our remembering and active thinking and believing of God's truth than ever before (see the link in Peter #6: "The Battleground of the Heart"). That is hardly letting go. That is holding on – through faith in the Lord and in His truth, thinking it, remembering it, believing it, meditating on it, proclaiming it, living by it. "Let go and let God" sounds more like forgetting about striving for the faith and giving up. The fact that certain people can take solace in these hollow words indicates to me that 1) they don't have any sort of close relationship with the Lord and His truth in the first place and, 2) they've never been under this sort of fire from the evil one in the second. That is not surprising since the devil doesn't waste his time on the spiritually immature or the spiritually deficient, not to mention unbelievers.

Your comments are too kind. I am impressed by you and your courageous stance, continuing to hang on in very difficult circumstances and continuing to give a good Christian witness in the process. Remember, we have a cloud of witnesses watching us (Heb.12:1), and the Lord will never let us down (Heb.13:5).

Since then we too [like the believers of chapter 11] have such a large audience of witnesses surrounding us [both men and angels], let us put off every hindrance – especially whatever sins habitually affect us – and run with endurance the race set before us, turning our gaze unto Jesus, the originator and completer of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the shame of the cross, treating it with despite, and took His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Keep in mind all the terrible opposition He endured against Himself at the hands of sinful men, so as not to grow sick at heart and give up.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Keep running the race. You are running a good one, and you are both a witness and an inspiration. In anticipating rejoicing together with you when the Lord Jesus awards you your crowns of victory.

In our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dr. Luginbill,

Can I ask you if you have ever actually known someone who lost their salvation (I mean completely to the point that the Holy Spirit departed them, not just back-sliding) and regained it in that the Spirit actually returned to them. I ask this because for a long time now I have desperately tried to get the Spirit to return to me, but of course, I can't force Him. The Christian life is one of walking in the Spirit and without His promptings and influence, I feel lost.

Thank you for your time.

Response #11:

Sadly, I have known a number of people in my life who "confessed" that while they had once been Christians and believers they now were no longer. I take them at their word. Two particular cases I have in mind were both the result of blaming God (for a great personal loss in the one case and a great disappointment in dealings with a fellow "Christian" in the other). These seem to me to be even more common reasons for abandoning the Lord than involvement in sin (although that is strictly anecdotal). Could these people come back? Most definitely in my opinion – but they are not interested in doing so. They have "crossed that bridge". It's a shame too. After all, Jesus died for all of their sins. That means that He died for every sin every unbeliever has or ever will commit. It also means that in the case of those who lapse, He died for their sins before and after. Since that is true, and since God wants "all to be saved", on what basis would God be unable to save those who do repent, regardless of what went before? Clearly, He is not only able, but He is also willing (1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), having already paid the price in the gift of His one and only Son. God has done His part and welcomes all with open arms. The problem lies in the individual human heart.

As to the question of the Holy Spirit, I am a bit at a loss as to how you can tell you "lost the Spirit". Many people make the mistake of equating the Spirit's ministry with emotion. As I have tried to show, whether the emotion is negative (e.g., excessive guilt) or positive (e.g., excessive ecstatics), there is in fact a very big difference between emotion and the Spirit. In fact, they are not the same at all. The Spirit's voice is "still and small" (1Kng.19:12). Emotion may or may not follow our proper response to Him, depending upon what type of person we are, our present emotional state, our level of spiritual growth, etc., but the guidance of the Spirit is more of a confidence that something is right. It is leadership, but it does not force. We are given many gifts and we are here to use them according to the free exercise of our will. Therefore the Spirit never shouts – He whispers. And it is only through faith in the truth that we can know and ascertain and verify that what we are hearing is "His voice" and not an emotional reaction. In my experience, where the latter is present, the Spirit is likely not to be (of course there are exceptions, but in my view they prove the rule). Once we commit to the truth, the Spirit will confirm it. If we have any doubts, we consult scripture. As we grow, the more we know, the more we "epi-know" by committing the truth to our hearts through faith, the easier it becomes to be discerning of all things (see the link: "Epignosis and spiritual growth").

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2

The Spirit is the Agent of this transformation but, as is ever the case, He accomplishes all this in a largely invisible manner (see the link). In a sort of ironic way, we are most open to His influence when we are not over-focusing on that influence but instead keeping our noses to the grindstone of day by day spiritual growth.

I am confident that as you continue with the prescribed regimen of day by day Bible reading, prayer, and Bible study from an orthodox source, believing what you learn and putting it into practice day by day, in very short order you will be aware of His influence again – and realize that He has been with you all along.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:8-12 NIV

In the One who died to forgive us all of our sins that we might have eternal life in Him, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dr. Luginbill,

I could not agree more with you that the Spirit's presence is evidenced by His still small voice, and the confidence that something is right. For most of my life I had just that confidence and an ever present awareness of His gracious influence. But a while back I fell into sin and came to the point where I had that thought that had lost my salvation. I have not felt His presence since that then. In times past, before I would even open my eyes in the morning, I would be aware of His sweet presence and that would be the last thought I had each night. Now there is a constant void in my heart, and furthermore, I can't even feel love, joy or any other positive emotion or fruit of the Spirit. I am just empty. I used to be almost always aware of His influence, but now I have none of that. Honestly since then I have felt nothing. And although I'm still abundantly aware that I have no hope but in Jesus, I don't have that peace of resting in Him. I've prayed constantly for Him to return to me, to forgive me, etc., but nothing happens. What frightens me even more is the site I found called Experience Project on which a few people describe experiences almost identical to my own. In fact, one woman even describes the feeling of waking up to find that the Spirit had departed and she too went into shock. One guy has been like this for over ten years now. They all have tried desperately to return to God but to no avail. Their predicaments all resulted from deliberate sin. The guy who had been like this for ten years said on the site that willful sin is a form of blasphemy of the Spirit. This combined with my predicament, has me terrified that I cannot be forgiven.

I appreciate so much your patience in corresponding with me. I remain so discouraged. I've tried everything, but not one thing has made a difference. I promise I have not had one positive emotion since that morning and that still, quiet voice is gone. I used to have so much peace and joy, a constant awareness of the Comforter, I never felt alone no matter what the circumstances, now I feel completely alone all the time. No mater how much I plead with Him to return and forgive me and give me peace, no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. And the Father and Spirit are not drawing me at all. Honestly, I feel dead in my trespasses and sins, but it's worse than years ago before I became a Christian because then I didn't know the difference. Now I'm acutely aware of the difference.

Perhaps this will give you some idea of my predicament.

Blessings on you.

Response #12:

I am very sorry to hear that you are having such trouble with this, and sorry too that I have not been able to be of more help to you.

I can only tell you what I know to be true.

God wants everyone to be saved (1Tim.2:4).

Jesus died for everyone (1Jn.2:2).

All who believe are saved (Acts 16:31).

The Lord forgives all of the believer's sins upon confession (Ps.32:5).

And based upon what you have told me, you most certainly are a believer (regardless of how you feel), because you do acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
1st John 4:15 NIV

In my view, this is all about faith. If you still have it, and in my view you do, even if it is small as a mustard seed, then begin to build it up again. When building a large house, we all have to start small. One brick at a time. One board at a time. One nail at a time. One day, one hour, one step at a time. Emotion, good feeling, confidence, and all of the other "positives" that people often associate with Christianity (though they often overlook the tribulation that comes to "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus") – these things, when they really are of God, only become reliable and consistent after a long process of spiritual growth. There are many Christians in our lukewarm country today who love to bask in the "rosy glow" of being saved but without ever taking the time to "build upon the Rock", without ever committing themselves to learning the truths of scripture in depth, believing them, applying them to their lives consistently, and helping others to do likewise through the gifts they have been given. These sorts, when trouble comes, often find that the "glow" disappears. That is not because the Lord has left them, but because they have not used the "honeymoon" period of salvation to build up their relationship with the Lord.

We are all sinners. We have all made mistakes. We have all failed – and most of us have failed spectacularly at least once. But for all who still do have that seed of faith, however small, the process of recovery is the same: repent, confess, forget, move on, grow. Everything else will take care of itself, but we have to have confidence that if we do commit to doing things God's way, in time we will mend, in time we will be restored in every way. Backtracking is never enjoyable, but if we have dug a hole, there is nothing for it but to climb out. The question is, are we willing to do what is necessary to climb out?

My recommendation for you is the same as always: commit yourself to a plan of spiritual growth. You are clearly penitent about the past and have obviously confessed your past sins (as 2Pet.2:20 makes clear, only those who are "defeated" as in losing their faith fall into the category of apostasy). As Hebrews 9:14 makes clear, such confession cleanses our conscience: but we must BELIEVE we are forgiven (as we always are when we confess our sins to Him: 1Jn.1:9).

It is time to begin looking forward and to stop looking backward. Whatever has been lost can be restored, but not necessarily instantaneously. It may take time, but that is why we are here. For wherever we find ourselves in the Christian life, there is always more to learn, more to believe, more tests to pass, more ministering to do. That is the Way to which we have been called, and in following it there is great reward. And more important than how we may feel today is how we shall feel when our Lord evaluates the use to which we have put our time here on earth. As we commit to moving forward, no matter how we may feel here and now and no matter how much trouble we may be enduring on earth, we can have confidence that the Day will come when we will "rejoice with joy inexpressible" (1Pet.1:8) for "our labor has not been in vain in the Lord" (1Cor.15:58).

It's not something I normally do, but I'm going to make a specific recommendation. I think it would be very helpful for you to begin to study something that is "off topic" from you current pressing concern. I would like you to read part 1 of the Basics series: Theology. It may not be "new" information for you, but focusing upon who God is is always helpful for regaining and reinforcing our basic Christian perspective, helping us to see things God's way and from His point of view. That essential objectivity is so important for keeping our balance here in the devil's world. Because it's not about us at all – it's all about Him.

In hopes of your quick recovery and restoration of hope – for our hope in Jesus Christ does not disappoint, "because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom.5:5 NASB).

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me!
Psalm 51:12 NIV

This is my prayer for you. May you regain your joy through faith in God's truth.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your kind advice. My concern with Romans 5:5 and similar verses is that I do not think the Holy Spirit is still poured out in my heart. This morning, like every other morning, before I even open my eyes, I was terribly aware of the void in my heart. No longer do I feel the warmth of His presence and the ever present comfort. I laid there in bed pleading with Him to return to me, desperately praying to Him as I do all the time, but with no result. Dr. Luginbill, are you absolutely certain that salvation isn't lost through the commission of willful sin? I've told you my entire story, and I don't think what happened to me constituted becoming an "unbeliever", however, I did presume horribly upon Jesus. Particularly as I was also thinking (as a former Calvinist) that I could not lose my salvation. It was extremely arrogant. I have confessed it countless times, but the void remains and scares me so. I've asked the Lord to return to me, to draw me to Himself, to forgive me, etc. but I still feel awful, as I said yesterday, worse than before I became a believer because now I know the difference.

I will take your advice and read the "off topic" information. I know that the Lord will bless you greatly for all that you do for so many people. You are a faithful servant of His.

Thank you.

Response #13:

You are quite welcome – and I think I do understand. Thank you for your kind words . . . and please consider: Would a non-Christian be grateful for Christian advice? Would an apostate have confidence that the Lord will bless someone? Would an unbeliever recognize anyone as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ?

The problem is faith – and also not really recognizing what this means.

Your paradigm:

1) I used to feel I had the Spirit.

2) I behaved in a way that shocked even myself.

3) I no long feel I have the Spirit.

4) I must not be saved.

My paradigm:

1) You behave now like a believer in ways that no unbeliever ever would.

2) You profess faith now in Christ which is the definition of being a believer.

3) The scripture tells us that all believers have the Spirit.

4) So not only are you saved but you have the Spirit regardless of how you feel.

In my view of all this, until you accept by faith that you do have the Spirit, that you have been forgiven, that you are saved, and begin rebuilding your faith and your spiritual foundation through the exercise of that faith, what you experience is likely to continue to keep you in doubt. What you need is a little bit of pump-priming in the area of faith. In my view, it's time to get out of the boat and begin walking with our Lord on the water. Jesus won't let you go under – and even if you ever do feel yourself slipping through doubt or lack of faith, He will pull you up – and bring you safe to the other side. All you need to do is trust Him, just a little.

In hopes of your growth, progress and future ministry . . . and an abundant eternal reward.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your continued advice. It's not just so much that I can't feel the Spirit now, but the way this came about was so dramatic. It was so horrific that I went into physical shock. I promise you that since that morning I have not been able to feel one positive emotion - no love, joy, peace, etc. I fake it with my loved ones, but I am acutely aware of the void. It was that sudden and dramatic transformation that morning that lead me to believe that the Spirit departed me. I pray constantly but never feel a thing. I think that someone who once had the Spirit would have to act like I am because the void is so great that they would feel terrible. I had mentioned that website to you where people had posted who think they've lost their salvation and their experiences sound terribly similar to mine.

Thank you for all you've done for me.

Response #14:

While it is true that we receive discipline for our sins, and that discipline can take many forms and can sometimes be very long-lasting, God disciplines us a father does his sons, in love and for the purpose of good (even though at the time we may really be hurting). I am convinced that you are saved. The fact that there is an entire website out there somewhere where people are posting similar experiences merely reinforces my opinion of your salvation. After all, the evil one has a vested interest in trying to convince Christians that they are not saved. Every believer he can put in that mind-set will be effectively "out of action" until further notice. The last thing the devil wants is for a believer to trust God, grow in God, and, heaven forbid, start producing a crop for God. I have no doubt that many Christians (and many pseudo-Christians) have experienced all manner of shocking things, and the internet allows a few outliers to get together and make things seem like a trend – it's certainly in Satan's interest to encourage such things. If I were you, I would turn away from the like. It seems to me that this is just reinforcing your experience instead of trying to counter it through faith. After all, we are supposed to walk by faith and not by sight. The more we rely on what we have experienced, the less we are relying on what we know through faith even though we cannot see it.

This is all about faith.

I am convinced that as you build back up your relationship with Jesus by believing the truth of His Word, everything will begin to fall back into place. It may not be an easy road, but it is the only way for those of us committed to the Way.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:11-14a KJV

In Him who is the only way, the truth and the life, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #15:

I stumbled onto your website, and have read much about what you have written. Some of it scared me, some of it didn't, but overall it was a great learning experience for me.

Some time ago, a few months back now, I was a bit rocky in my faith, going up and down. Some nights I was singing along with Casting Crowns music, and other nights part of me genuinely began to doubt/wonder about things the bible says. Well, on one particularly bad night, I was trying to think of a way to defend myself against tough questions about the faith... but I'm not well-versed in the word, or at least my memory is very poor, and I need to keep re-reading parts of the bible to keep them fresh. Anyway, at some point during this night, I got angry and frustrated. I yelled out "I'm done with this!! I won't believe this stuff anymore!!", and it was really upsetting -- I yelled this out loud AT GOD.

I never had any actual intent to commit to what I said, and I'm pretty sure I didn't mean it. Even as I spoke the words, in my heart I knew I couldn't stop believing, because I knew the truth was the truth, no matter how much doubt or confusion may have filled my mind. I quickly repented, not even a minute or two later, and begged for forgiveness for my inconsiderate and outrageous outburst. Since then, though.... it's haunted me, what I said, because new doubts started to fill my mind. I started to wonder if I had gone too far, if I had actually gone through a door that can't be walked through again.... many nights, it was even terrifying, paralyzing. Even up until now, I've had trouble eating... sleeping, and I can't seem to find rest because of what I said. Many nights I've spent looking up what people think, what the definition of apostasy is, and I just can't find any real comfort or a definitive answer to this, especially since I can't find a case even on the internet of someone else having done it!! It's become an obsession, almost, trying to determine once and for all if what I said, what I did, led to me becoming an apostate.... and I've been so restless, praying for an answer, for help....

What have I done? Have I turned away? Did my words count as making the decision to become apostate, even if they were just words in the end? I didn't mean it, obviously, since I'm still a believer -- I still WANT to believe, but my outburst, what I said, still haunts me like I turned down the gift of Christ and then that's it, even though I'm certain I haven't.

I hope to hear a response soon, and thank you for taking the time to read this.

Response #15:

Good to make your acquaintance. I am glad to hear that this ministry has been of some help to you (not sure what scared you – unless it's just that any close study of scripture causes us all to see how far short we fall).

As to your question, this issue is the one I have gotten more questions about these last few years than almost anything else (and as you no doubt can tell from the site, I have received many such emails in the past as well (see especially the links: "Sin and Forgiveness" and "Hebrews 10:26"). One of the false doctrines this ministry exposes is the all too comfortable false teaching of "once saved, always saved". We Christians have free will as long as we are in the world, and just as we can start believing, so also we can stop believing (as the seed planted in the rocky, shallow ground in the parable of Sower represents and demonstrates). But just as our salvation is not so secure that we can do anything and remain saved, even to the point of renouncing Jesus Christ, taking the mark of the beast, serving Satan, and living in absolute and utter disbelief in and rebellion from God, so also it is no simple or accidental matter to lose one's salvation – as long as we maintain our faith, we are believers.

As Peter states quite clearly, we believers are those "who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1Pet.1:5 NKJV). In other words, as long as we truly have faith, we are truly saved. This is of course not just an intellectual understanding of the existence of Jesus Christ as the Son of God (cf. Jas.2:19), but rather that same acceptance of Him and His authority over our lives which we demonstrated at salvation in accepting Christ as the Substitute for our sins. If we do believe in Him, have faith in Him, remain faithful to Him, then we are saved – no matter what. But if we reject Him, turn away from Him, spurn Him, then we are no long His by our own choice – and no longer saved. So on the one hand Christians must never assume that their free will has now ceased to be an issue once saved: our choices in this life after salvation are of more importance than at present we have any idea (our eternal rewards depend upon them). On the other hand, it is equally dangerous and equally wrong to assume that through some momentary lapse or some unnamed "unpardonable sin" that the Lord who loved us enough to die for all of our sins is going to be willing to cast us aside without further ado. The former heresy abuses the righteousness of God; the latter abuses the love of God. Both misunderstand everything about the image of God, the free will which is our most precious possession, and the reason we have it before and after salvation (i.e., to be saved in the first place and to glorify God as those who have been saved in the second).

To address your particular concern, it has always amazed me that groups which play to "loss of salvation" fears ("once lost, lost forever", OLLF) accept fully the idea that everyone chooses whether or not to accept the gospel in the first place through an act of free-will faith. So they accept that entry into salvation is available to all who are not saved, but then turn around and present the situation of loss of salvation as a "once and for all act" in the same misunderstanding of the principle of free will which the "once saved always saved" (OSAS) crowd alleges for becoming saved. In this both extremes in this debate are in the wrong and inconsistent in their positions. It is just as incorrect to claim that choice is involved in salvation but taken away thereafter (OSAS) as it is to claim that choice is involved in losing salvation but that there is no chance for repentance thereafter (OLLF). Either we have free will or we don't, and the truth is that we do have free will as long as we are alive here on earth. For unbelievers, that means that there will be the option of accepting the gospel as long as they still draw breath; for believers that means that there will be the necessity of maintaining their faith as long as life endures. Death is the finish line, ending in damnation for unbelievers, if they persist in unbelief, and salvation for believers, provided they keep faith with Jesus.

In practical terms, it is true that most unbelievers will never accept the gospel, whether or not they harden their hearts to the point of actively and openly rejecting Jesus Christ in this life (and both categories will be condemned at the last judgment for failing to believe in Him). It is also true that most believers do persevere (although the Tribulation will see the most dramatic falling away in history when one third of the Church apostatizes in the "Great Apostasy"; see the link). And it is true as well that for the group which does fall away like the seed planted on the shallow, rocky ground few come back to Christ after once rejecting Him. But that failure of lapsed believers who apostatize to come back to the Lord in true repentance has nothing to do with a loss of free will, or any termination of opportunity, or a walling off of the grace of God to make such a restoration impossible. No. Abandonment of faith is a decision, a major and fundamental one which is seldom undertaken in the heat of the moment or without due consideration. Faith is like a plant (as in the parable), and it either thrives or dies. A plant withers over time for lack of moisture, nutrition and light. Faith can starve too through the absence of the water of the Word and light of the truth. If we do not feed our faith by believing God's truth (in the same way that we entered into His family by believing the gospel of His dear Son), our faith will weaken and may well die out in time (usually as a result of encountering some major disappointment or by falling into sinful patterns we are not willing to give up which in turn harden us against the Lord; see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). Just as choosing not ever to water a plant is not one decision but a series of decisions, so loss of faith can only come about through willful neglect over time. One thing is certain, however, we absolutely do know full-well what we are doing when we begin, continue and complete the process of estranging ourselves from Jesus Christ by putting to death by means of our own free will the truth in our hearts once received with joy.

As I often say in these conversations, a person who is seriously concerned about his or her spiritual status and spiritual safety is almost certainly still a believer. The problem is that we live in a time – the era of Laodicea (see the link) – when believers are not being properly equipped by our churches for the intense spiritual warfare in which we presently find ourselves. You are seeking out instruction and are to be commended for it – and encouraged to persevere not only in salvation but in the spiritual growth that comes from making the truth of the scriptures one's top priority: in the final analysis, that is what is necessary to put such doubts to rest, namely, the courage and confidence that comes from being "[spiritually] mature and thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2Tim.3:17).

The problem of so many of our fellow Christians being up and down about the question of salvation is symptomatic of our time and the low spiritual state of contemporary churches. As our Lord says to the Laodiceans, "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become wealthy, and white clothing so that you may be clothed and so that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and salve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see" (Rev.3:18). Gold, clothing and salve represent spiritual accomplishment, sanctification and discernment based upon accepting the truth in spiritual growth respectively, and these are the things that every believer should be occupied with. Simply put, if the devil has someone pinned, wrestling over the issue of salvation, it is most likely because of a lack growing sufficiently through hearing and believing the truth of the Word, progressing spiritually through applying that truth to our lives and living by it, and producing for Jesus through proper functioning of our individual spiritual gifts in the ministries He has called us individually to. I get the impression that such is not the case with you, and that you are eager to get past this "hiccup" and take things to the next level of spiritual growth. In that endeavor I encourage you firmly. For if we are on offense, we may have other problems (satanic opposition), but they will be the problems joyously met by those who are serving Jesus Christ in anticipation of a great reward (rather than the pointless worry of whether or not we are even saved).

Finally, it is never easy to gauge another person's spiritual state, even if we are very close to them (or perhaps especially so). All we can really do is listen to what they tell us and observe what they do. The higher the standard we set for ourselves and the better the job we do in striving to meet that standard, the more we are likely to be disappointed by others. "Not all have faith" (2Thes.3:2) – and not all who do have faith are exploiting the immense opportunity we have after salvation to make our lives count for Jesus Christ. That is a pity, because the Lord has no shortage of crowns, and just as God desires all to be saved (though most will not be), so our Lord Jesus desires us all to win the three crowns of righteousness, life, and glory (though few will; see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"). By growing up through faith in the truth, pressing forward in life through applying that truth and passing the tests God sends our way by means of that truth, and by helping others do likewise through ministering His truth, we stand to win eternal rewards of untold wonder and a glorious estate in the New Jerusalem. But this does not happen by accident – any more than loss of salvation happens by accident.

I have no doubt that you are saved, my friend. I encourage you to heed the words of the apostle Peter on this score:

So strive all that much more then, brothers, to make your calling and election secure through these good works. By devoting yourselves to these things (i.e., virtue, growth and the Christian production which springs from faith; cf. vv.1-9) you shall never be tripped up along your way. For it is by such means that your path into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be smoothly and generously paved.
2nd Peter 1:10-11

I wish you great success in the task ahead, and hope to rejoice with at Christ's judgment seat when you receive your reward. You are certainly welcome at Ichthys at any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Bob,

I thank you for your reply, and find it has given me a great comfort to finally be able to move on, confidently, in my walk with Christ. The fear still comes up from time to time, but with this new assuredness I feel I can finally properly defend myself against doubt and fear. I wish I could take credit for all that I've done thus far (admittedly, it is not much), but I have the advantage of having two very great and very patient Christian friends in my life, one of which being the one who even directed me and showed me the path I could take to salvation. Even with their busy lives, they take a little time every week to check up on me and help keep me accountable, at least until I can walk on the path instead of just crawl and fumble around. Sometimes, it's hard for me to remember that salvation is a free gift, and you don't have to work to earn it, but one who is truly following the path will at least try to produce good fruit.

Before this big scare with my worry and fear, I had fallen into a lifestyle of complacency, and didn't even realize it. I slowly was growing more and more 'comfortable' with certain sins, but part of me didn't take it seriously. I've now made a clear and conscious decision to stay pure. Unfortunately, my weakness in these areas seems/seemed to make this difficult.

Part of me is curious if God allowed or caused this scare in me, to kind of 'shock' me back onto the right path. Kind of like grabbing someone in a trance and shaking them a bit, yelling at them to wake up. If this was his plan, his idea.... it worked.... and I don't want to fall back into that lifestyle of complacency again. Thank you for your guidance and help, and if there is any other advise you may have for me, given the information I've provided you, I'll gladly accept it.

Thank you for your help,

Response #16:

Good to hear back from you. I am pleased to hear that the previous email was helpful for you.

As I probably said multiple times in that letter, true spiritual growth is not a matter of good defense only but even more so of good offense. It is impossible to change anything substantial from the outside in. Affecting a good outward appearance means little if it is not the result of true inner-change which only a large and consistent dose of the truth received and believed can effect. That is why I am not a fan of "discipling" and being "accountable" to other people (see the link). Ultimately, we live our lives to and for the Lord, one to one, and it is to Him that we are responsible for everything we think and say and do. Our proper interaction with the Church has to do with the positive efforts we receive and give for spiritual growth – at least on those rare occasions when things are working as they should.

So, again, I would advise you to find a good source of Bible teaching and devote yourself to learning the Word of truth, believing it, and learning how to apply it to your life yourself. That is the only way to prepare for the testing that must come before spiritual maturity, and also the only way to build to a ministry of your own (and all believers have been called to some ministry), in order to win the top rewards Jesus wants us all to strive for.

You are certainly welcome at Ichthys any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Bob,

I understand, and I'll do what I can to be able to stand on my own on the path; although, another or question or two, if I may?

Is it normal, it sometimes feel scared, or nervous when reading the Bible? I don't know if it's the feeling of conviction from finding out something new, and needing to make a new change in your life, or if it is just the fact that it's the Word of the Lord to begin with, but a lot of times I read the Word, I just feel uneasy. It could be that I'm still learning, that my fear is partly coming back while I read, or an overall feeling of greatness that I can't fathom or am not worthy of, but sometimes it is difficult or unnerving to read the Word. Is this simply the process of learning? Will I eventually get passed those feelings?

I hope I'm not being a bother, but I am simply seeking advice of one who is more learned than I am in these matters.

Thank you for your assistance,

Response #17:

It's no bother at all.

The solution to this problem is the same: spiritual growth. The deeper you faith gets, coming to be more solidly based upon truth after truth that you have made your own in your heart by faith, the less you will be affected by these sorts of things coming from whatever source. That in many ways sums up the whole purpose of the Church wherein each part of the Body helps the other until we are stable in our faith:

(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 (Greek: ἐπίγνωσις, 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

The more you learn, the more you believe, the more you know with certainty in your heart, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with and the more absolute you will become in your faith. Also, of course, the more you avail yourself of good Bible teaching, the less you will be surprised by certain scriptures or put off by them. You will also in this process develop the right method for handling "problems", namely, not throwing out things you know are true because of a scripture that may seem to run counter. It is important to wrestle with these things. Your doing so is a sign of a willing and tender heart – much better than not caring! But with time and spiritual growth you will learn to love the scripture and not be put off by pieces that don't fit yet. I have been doing this a long time and there are still some pieces I would like to fit in a bit better. But I have learned to love the process.

Here is a link that may prove helpful for you on this score:

Read your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Dr. Luginbill, how are you doing?

I trust you are doing well. Was reading on your site yesterday, as Sunday seems to be my best day for recreational reading now.

By the way, "recreational" may sound like a funny term to use for Bible study reading, but your writing is fun for me to read.

Thanks for your website.

Response #18:

Thanks!

I like the fact that you consider Bible study recreational. I had a seminary professor once who made the point rather emphatically that Christians ought to see it that way by portraying someone checking his watch every few seconds to see if the ten minutes he had to put in every day had elapsed yet.

Truly, nothing is more important – I'm thrilled that you find these things helpful.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello,

I have a question for you. My sweet husband of only a few brief years passed away earlier this year in a car accident. He would have classified himself as a Christian but he did not attend church, read the Bible or following Christian teachings. I did read the Bible to him often at night. He would listen but I'm not sure how interested he was or if he was really taking it in. I got him to attend church a few times but he went reluctantly. He was raised going to church but at a young age his mother allowed him to stay out so he could do other activities with his dad. I don't think he was ever made to go back to church after that. He developed the attitude that church was boring and didn't want to attend.

I had asked him a few weeks before he passed if he believed. He said he did believe in God and Jesus. I'm not sure how far it went. My husband was not one to discuss emotions. He was better at expressing his love with actions and act of service. He was a very kind and gentle person. His heart was of gold and would help anyone that needed help without complaining. I miss him and I pray that he is in a better place. I know you do not know or you might not even have any answers or ideas for me but I did find the below topic on your site.

I really think I did all I could without overly pushing the subject and making him really run from God. I prayed for him often to be saved. Who knows, he might have been. I'm so confused about it all. Any advice or words would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Response #19:

Good to make your acquaintance, although I am sorry to hear about your loss.

Of course no one can say for certain about anyone who has passed on whether they have gone to be with the Lord or not. Only God really knows what is in our hearts. We mere human beings can only judge but what we see and hear, and often that can be less than what we would want in order to be sure in our hearts. Even when we think we are sure, we can be wrong. I have no doubt that at our Lord's evaluation of all believers many assumed to be "first" will not be, and vice versa.

Let me say that you seem to have done things in precisely the right way, through a constant witness of a godly life and bringing in the Lord and the truth of the Word at every opportunity but not to the point of alienating your late husband on that score. Personally, I would not take "church attendance" as any sort of a guide for or against salvation (especially given the sad state of churches today in their lack of teaching and substitution of all manner of pointless things). I am sure that many (possibly the majority) of people who attend Christian churches of one sort or another are not saved. Salvation comes through faith by God's grace when a person is born again by believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their Savior.

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
1st Corinthians 12:3 NIV

Based on the verse above, since your husband said that he believed in Jesus, I would take that as great grounds for confidence that he is indeed presently in heaven. With that assurance, and knowing that you personally did absolutely everything you could do and in a very loving and wise way to contribute to that blessed outcome, I would hope that you could have peace on this. I am confident of the fact that there are many who are indeed saved who by their actions and their words have given their Christian loved ones far less indication than this that there was any hope.

Please feel free to write back about any of this.

In Jesus for whose appearance we wait in patience and anticipation.

Bob Luginbill

Question #20:

Bob,

I really appreciate that you wrote back so quick. It has been a hard time for so many with the passing of my husband. A friend was also killed in the car accident so his family is in great anguish too. You never know when life will take a huge bite out of your rear! I never would have thought I would be a widow at this age. I truly believe that my husband would have passed with or without me on that day. Everything is done in God's timing. I wish I could understand why some go at 1 and some go at 99. It really doesn't seem like it matters personality wise on who goes first or last. I have a hateful old relative who is still kicking who rarely ever causes joy in anyone's life. Things like that don't make sense to me.

You're right that there will probably be people in heaven that will be a surprise to us. My husband was such a good, loving man. I hope God let him in. Someone did say that even as much as I love him that God loves him more and I have to remember we have a loving God. I just hate to think that it might be a very long time before I see him again. We had the type of marriage they make movies about.  

God bless & thanks again for your email,

Response #20:

You're very welcome. This life can be very painful. Honestly, I don't know how people get through it without Jesus. Your "why" questions are very understandable – most everyone asks this sort of question from time to time. A big part of the answer is that this life is temporary, was never meant to be permanent, and everything we see and experience reinforces the truth that God is working out things the way He is "so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27 NIV). For me personally, trouble, tribulation, pain and loss are reminders that our time is limited and that every day is an opportunity to do what we have been put here to do: growing through the Word, walking closer to Jesus day by day, and helping others to do the same through the ministries Christ assigns us, each and every one. In doing so there is great reward on the other side, and confidence that we are pleasing our Master here and now.

In the One who died for us that we might live blissfully with Him for all eternity to come, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.
 

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