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Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation III

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Question #1:  

The last couple of days I was experiencing some doubt regarding the mind-body interaction, and wondering whether it would even be possible to disprove the viewpoint of physicalism. The doubt was so intense that it almost caused a crisis of faith (but thankfully it didn't). However, that's not what scared me alone. What scared me was this:

I take the public transport to work and sometimes I end up on the wrong side of the tracks, and the only way to get to the other side was to take the stairs, cross the street, and take the stairs again. Not wanting to do this, I briefly considered whether it would have been better to cross the tracks. Now, I wasn't aware of the existence of the electrified third rail (because some trains don't use a third rail to supply electricity), and I couldn't read the signs saying DANGER: STAY OFF TRACKS. HIGH VOLTAGE because I am somewhat nearsighted (they're spaced very far apart). So what if I didn't exercise impulse control and decided to cross? I could have been killed!

And what if the state of doubt was enough to condemn me to Hell? That was the horrifying thought. People would think I decided to commit suicide (when it was really an accident) and I would be condemned in the next life.

Response #1: 

Thankfully, we're not on pins and needles – as if salvation were some tenuous thing and God was looking for ways to condemn us. Quite the contrary, salvation is the most secure thing in this world, far more secure than anything that can be seen, even things people think are solid as the rock of Gibraltar – like the rock of Gibraltar. Salvation cannot be touched by even something cataclysmic enough to send that famous rock crashing down into its eponymous strait. No one can snatch us out of God's hands (Jn.10:28-29). Only apostasy can cost a believer his/her salvation. And that is a conscious, deliberate and willful rejection of Jesus Christ. It doesn't happen by accident or on account of a momentary wave of doubting. There will be plenty of believers in heaven whose doubts in this life were mammoth compared to what you experienced – but they will not have rejected Christ. That being the case, be pleased to devote yourself to spiritual growth. This will not only allay all such doubts but will please the Lord and result in great eternal reward. That is the only reason we are still after salvation in any case. Everything else is just background noise, even though it is indeed very loud and very distracting. Keep your eye on the prize.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

Here are some pertinent links:

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation I

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation II

God's Forgiveness of Sins

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Salvation Lost and Found

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

The Battlefield within

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Mutual Encouragement in Christ III

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Guilt feelings vs. the guidance of the Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

[content withheld by request]

Response #2: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I never publish the text of someone's email when they ask me not to do so (no worries there); and in any case I make it my policy to remove identifying features. But I won't be posting what you have said here.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you are a believer, and all believers are saved, regardless of how they may "feel":

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

If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, then salvation is only as far away as your heart and your mouth, "for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Rom.10:10).

However, I rather suspect that you are a believer. Because if you did not believe in Jesus Christ you would not be concerned about Him whatsoever. The fact that you are concerned about salvation means most likely that you have it; if you do not have it is because you do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God the Father, God and man come into this world to die for the sins of us all, having paid the price of all of our sins on Calvary's cross. But if you do believe this, then you are a believer; and all believers are saved.

This is not a matter of feelings. Please don't give into misplaced guilt. You are disturbed by your former sins? Welcome to the human race. "All sin, and fall short of God's glory" (Rom.3:23) . . . but all are saved who put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. And after salvation we are forgiven unconditionally when we confess to the Lord (1Jn.1:9).

There is a difference on the one hand between wandering from God . . . like the prodigal son . . . and completely abandoning faith on the other. The latter is called "apostasy" and it constitutes the complete loss of any faith in Christ whatsoever. An apostate is someone who once believed but now does not believe. An apostate is not a believer who is conflicted about past conduct and not "feeling" close to God. Many if not to say most believers today fall into the second camp (if they are honest about it). That is because in our late day of Laodicea lukewarmness is the order of the day.

But you are concerned. And that means that not only are you a believer but that you are now ready to do something to get your relationship with Jesus Christ "squared away" (as we used to say in the USMC). Good for you! But, please, do not adopt the position of prosecutor against your own salvation. That is the devil's job, but he is only too happy to get believers trying to (wrongly) accuse themselves. Let me tell you again that if you DO have faith in Jesus Christ, then you ARE saved, and nothing can snatch you out of the Lord's hands (Jn.10:28-29). The only thing that can imperil a believer's salvation is absolute loss of faith. Period. If you still have faith in Jesus Christ, even a mustard seed's worth, then you are still a believer – and all believers are saved. If such is the case, which I think from your letter it must be, then I strongly counsel you to start building up that faith . . . rather than being your own worst enemy in trying to break it down.

Jesus loves you – and He died for all of your sins, every single one. He is not trying to find a way to condemn you. Believe me, if that were God's purpose, it would be easy enough to destroy us all. But instead the Father sent the Son into the world to do what we could not do: die for our sins. And so Jesus did! So sin is NOT the issue (Jesus has already died for them all in the darkness on the cross). FAITH is the issue. Do you still trust Him? Are you still grateful that He died for you? Then you are still saved, and you ought to make your number one priority "working out" that salvation in the time left to you (Phil.2:12).

How to do so? First, stop taking counsel of your fears. If you read a Bible verse, please don't read into it the worst possible thing it might possibly mean under any esoteric interpretation and immediately assume that you are correct. You are certainly not alone in misinterpreting verses of the sort you have included in your letter; it is a common thing for believers wracked by guilt and fear to do this (I have seen it often enough). But please allow for the possibility that you might be reading the Greek wrong (especially if you do not know Greek). There is, additionally, much false teaching out there in the ether these days. For this reason, I commend you on your search to try to find a good source of teaching the Word. Please understand: spiritual growth is what you are lacking, not salvation, and spiritual growth is available to all who desire it. That requires reading your Bible BUT ALSO accessing good, solid, sound, orthodox, in-depth Bible teaching. Ichthys, my website, is one such place (IMHO); there are others (I also recommend "Bible Academy").

If you devote yourself diligently to daily Bible study, not only reading on your own but listening to a good source of teaching AND believing the truth of what you are being taught, then you will grow and all of these problems, troubles, fears, false emotions and guilt will begin to melt away over time and you will find yourself instead "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" the Lord calls you to do (2Tim.3:17). But again, you do have to actually believe the truth for it to do you any good. As with this email, if instead of accepting what I am telling you instead wish to advocate against your own salvation, the truth of what I have told you won't do you any good. Also, please understand, one on one counseling is subjective and no substitute for Bible teaching; the latter is definitely needed (I can't speak to the former).

There are many believers who have similar concerns so I have written extensively about this and related issues. So let me give you some links at Ichthys where this topic is treated; but I also need to stress that spiritual growth requires delving into every aspect of Christian doctrine and truth, not just areas that presently concern us or that we may find personally interesting:

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

Salvation and Sin

Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?

The Grammar of Hebrews 6:4ff.

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Do also feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:  

[content withheld by request]

Response #3: 

I really think if you would read my previous email carefully it would help. Also, if you would read the links, they will lead you to even more links. I have written reams about this subject and every single passage you ask about is treated in detail many times on the site.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? If you do, then you are a believer. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, nothing prevents you from becoming one:

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!
Acts 16:31

There are plenty of "warning verses" in scripture, that is true. And it is also true that believers can lose their salvation through apostasy. But apostasy is deliberate loss of faith -- the willful abandoning of one's faith in Jesus Christ.  If a person does that, they no longer believe in Jesus Christ and are no longer part of Him.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Then you are saved.

Why the warning verses? Because life is serious business and salvation depends upon retaining faith until death. Those who die without Christ are not saved, even if once they believed in Him.

How does sin enter into the equation? Sin weakens faith and wars against it (1Pet.2:11). The deeper we get into unconfessed and unrepented sin, the farther we move in our thoughts from the Lord until one day we have left Him completely in our hearts. Sin is not apostasy. Total loss of faith is apostasy. Sin can contribute to bringing on apostasy by undermining faith.

Not all believers allow this to happen even when deeply involved in gross sin. Some believers will hold onto the Lord for dear life even if they are living lives ever more shameful to Him. For these, the "sin unto death" is the way that the Lord removes their bad witness: either they respond to the shock He gives them or He takes them out of this life in a very painful way – but these believers are still saved. Link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

The only way to lose eternal life is to lose faith, to completely stop believing in Jesus Christ.

There are no verses in the Bible which teach that a person cannot come back to Jesus Christ. I am happy to answer each and every one of them about which you have questions, but believe me when I tell you that this won't do you any good whatsoever unless you believe the truth of what I am telling you. If you believe that believers are saved, and if you are a believer, then you can rest in the goodness of the Lord. Certainly, you should make it your top priority to come back to Him with all you heart. You should read your Bible every day, confess your sins regularly, pray regularly, AND access a good teaching ministry daily, believing the truth of what you are taught. If you do, you will recover emotionally as well as spiritually over time, and begin not only to grow but to walk closer with the Lord and be able to help others do so too. That is the kind of life that glorifies the Lord and the one which leads to great eternal rewards.

2nd Peter 2:20-22 describes unbelievers. It is worse to be an apostate than to never have been a believer. But having wandered far from the Lord, having sinned in spectacular ways, having lived one's live in disrespect to Him for many years, bad as these things are, they are not the same as apostasy. Apostasy is the complete death of faith. Apostates never care. You care. I am sure you still believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for you sins, and that you have trusted in Him for life eternal – haven't you? If you believe, you are a believer, and believers are saved. You are in need of spiritual recovery. We've all been there. But please don't make the mistake of confusing being in a spiritual mess with not being a believer – these are two quite different things.

Hebrews 6:4-6 is Paul speaking to Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were "crucifying the Son of God afresh"; that is, they had reverted to the sacrifices of the temple in order to "go along and get along". The problem was that the animal sacrifices of the Law were shadows which taught the spiritual death of Christ, the Messiah who would come some day and actually die for our sins – and He had come and done so many years before by the time of writing. But by continuing to sacrifice, these Jewish believers were saying by their actions that Christ's sacrifice had been ineffective, and there is no greater blasphemy. So "as long as they were" doing so, "it was impossible for them to be restored". That is to say, if we wish to apply this verse to ourselves, "as long as we are continuing to engage in some gross sin" it will be "impossible to be restored to fellowship (not salvation)" for "as long as" we are stubbornly determined to continue in sin. If we want fellowship restored – which is what you want – we need first to repent (which is changing our attitude completely) and then confess. Having ceased the sin in question and having confessed it we are then restored (to fellowship: 1Jn.1:1-10) – we were always saved as believers because all believers are saved.

Hebrews 10:26 can also only be understood in the context of Paul's letter to the Jerusalem Jewish Christians. He writes this letter, after all, not to tell them they are lost but to get them to straighten out spiritually. Think about it. If they were irretrievably lost, what would be the point of writing this letter to them in the first place? But as Paul says at Hebrews 6:9, "beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner" (NKJV). So these are believers, in spite of the "impossible to be restored while" passage, and also in spite of this next one, the "if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" passage.

This second passage has to do with the fact that there are now no animal sacrifices which are legitimate. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross fulfilled the shadows and put an end to the Law's foreshadowing of His work in dying for our sins. So if these believers think they can abandon Christ and go back to the Law, there is in fact, Paul assures them, "no sacrifice left" which will help them. Abandoning faith in Christ and His sacrifice will leave them facing God the Father's wrath. So this is a passage which tells us that it is a terrible thing to abandon faith in Christ – and if these believers had persevered in their sinful course many of them probably would have lost their faith (while many others would have been removed by the sin unto death when refusing to let go of either faith or their terrible sin). To apply this to us, if we are involved in any pattern of sin that we are preferring to Christ and the will of God, "willfully" turning away from Him, only bad things will come. This does not say we cannot turn and change our thinking (repentance) and come back to Him (confession). Indeed, the Spirit guides Paul to write these words for the very purpose of bringing these wayward believers back. The whole point of this passage is to motivate us to come back if we are straying. It does not say or mean that it is impossible to come back (its purpose is precisely the opposite).

I do agree with one thing, namely, that you are under spiritual attack. The way to resist the evil one is through trusting the Lord, turning from sin, growing spiritually, and walking with Jesus Christ. The devil and his minions attack all believers, but they are more inclined to "pile on" when they are having success. When they meet resistance such as I hope you will begin to offer through faith in the Lord and faith in His Word, they eventually move on to easier targets:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 NKJV

In terms of self control and fear, 2nd Timothy 1:7 is speaking of the Spirit we have been given to dwell in us and the attitude of heart we will have when we are walking in His power correctly. But that is not an instantaneous thing, especially if we are recovering from being in a spiritual hole. Our feelings will heal, we will develop better control over ourselves and start more consistently to deploy this control and embrace other Christian virtues over time – but not overnight. If you want to run a Marathon, you can't expect to go out and do it tomorrow. You have to train for it. Similarly, spiritual recovery and growth to spiritual maturity take time, effort and consistency. How is it done? The most important element that most Christians today leave out is daily Bible study under a pastor-teacher the believer trusts and whose teaching he/she is ready to believe and put into practice. There are a lot of false teachers out there, and there are very few local churches that even make a show of teaching the Bible in depth, but if you seek, you will find. As I say, you are more than welcome to all of the materials at Ichthys. May I recommend beginning with the the Peter series? The lessons are short and fairly easy to comprehend especially in the early going, then they build up from there – the same way that I hope you are determined to have your faith be built back up, my friend. You know a lot about scripture; what you need is to believe the truth it actually teaches.

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above (as I say, the passages you ask about are also treated and in greater detail in the links previously given and in the links those postings will lead you to).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

I have question about James 5:9 It mean being lost? Its sounds strange.

Response #4: 

On James 5:9, perhaps your Bible version has produced an odd translation. The English versions all seem to make it clear that we ought not be judgmental of others lest we fall under judgment ourselves. That is something our Lord said repeatedly as well (e.g., Matt.7:1-2); none of us is perfect, therefore we ought to "take the beam" out of our own eye before we worry about the speck in our brother's eye.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

It's a question about James 5:9: Is it mean that if we will grudge that other people will condemn us? Or we will be lost? Or its about rewards?

Response #5: 

None of the above.

The "judgment" mentioned in James 5:9 is one of divine discipline which comes to believers when they sin, especially if they resist confessing and repenting from sinful behavior. Being aggressively at odds with our brothers and sisters in Christ – lacking forgiveness therefore – is a very bad attitude that will lead to all manner of sins. And consider that Christ is coming soon (the end of the verse): we would all behave differently if we saw our Lord right here in front of us (and He will be so in fact very soon).

In Jesus Christ or dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Im not sure what texts mean like don't judge or you will be judged? It means we will be lost? Or people will judge us? This is like James 5:9. I'm not sure if it means lost salvation or other people will judge us? I don't believe in once saved always saved.

Response #6: 

There are many scriptures which are meant to show us what not to do. That does not mean if we ever fail we are lost (then EVERYONE would be lost because everyone fails: Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2). These passages mean that if we are in the habit of being judgmental and criticizing others we are likely to be disciplined by the Lord for our unloving and unforgiving attitude and actions.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

So God can punish us in this life right? Like Hebrews 12:6.

Response #7: 

He disciplines as a loving father disciplines the sons and daughters he loves – only our heavenly Father disciplines us perfectly to help us in every way (see the link: "The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello and god bless I stumbled upon your site when searching for info on Hebrews 6 4-6. I have a question about the seed that falls on the Rocky soil as I was saved and had the holy spirit fall on me when I was young. I did OK for awhile. I fell hard. At times in my life since I've came back but fallen just as hard. I truly love the lord Jesus Christ and don't feel as if I have sinned unto death or committed the unpardonable sin due to my love and want to do right but I feel as if I'm am spoken of in the parable as the Rocky soil. I do good then fall harder than before. I truly wish I could stay on fire and not fall and I pray this is the time I will stay close to god but if predestined people will fall what do I do as of now? I read the Bible in morning and night. I pray all I can. I cry out that he hold me close as I am scared I may one day lose my salvation and he will not call me back. I'm truly scared of certain verses. I've read a lot of what you teach and I've never felt as if I didn't want Jesus nor that I would give back my salvation. I pray that I'm never in such a state. I do hunger to grow but don't want to grow more then fall again as I'm even more guilty then. I don't want sin and I try to keep my distance from it I just don't know what to do besides to trust god as I don't want to go to hell. I do know the Bible to some degree but do very little in the way discipleship. I'm just scared a lot and I'm also very confused on rapture when it occurs and if I'll be here for the tribulations. If so I'm afraid I'm not rooted deep enough to be beheaded and that scares me so so so bad sorry for rambling any info is appreciated have a blessed day!

Response #8: 

It's good to make your acquaintance.

Let me assure you that your experience is far from unique. If you continue to peruse Ichthys, you will find dozens of similar cases – it seems to be one of the most common patterns in our day and age. And it is a good pattern – the recovery part, that is. We live in the lukewarm era of Laodicea, and most Christians care very little for the Lord and His truth, even if they put on a good Sunday show. But here is what I read in the Bible:

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
Matthew 21:28-31 NKJV

So if you have really decided to "come back" with all your heart, then the angels in heaven are rejoicing for you more than for the 99 who didn't need to come back – and much more than for the 1,000 who are only lukewarm (cf. Rev.3:16). Only please make it your number one priority to recover spiritually.

How do you do that? First, confess to the Lord – and you will immediately be forgiven all that you have done (1Jn.1:9). Second, make sure you believe His promise to forgive you, since you asked in faith "nothing wavering" (cf. Jas.1:6). Third, commit yourself to a daily regimen that puts the Lord first, being regular about prayer, Bible reading, and most importantly Bible study from a good source: you are very welcome to all the materials at Ichthys – and I would urge you to begin going through them all, not just the things you feel apply to your current predicament, because a strong spiritual edifice needs all of its building blocks (I also recommend Bible Academy).

Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
Proverbs 19:27 NIV

If you do as suggested, not only will all of your questions be answered over time, but you will gain confidence in your relationship with the Lord day by day. Please understand. Spiritual recovery does not come from working oneself into an emotional state, and all preoccupation with the past is not only not helpful but extremely harmful. We are told not even to worry about today, how much less yesterday which is gone and cannot be changed. But if we will have a great tomorrow with the Lord, then we have to keep our eyes firmly fixed on running the race in front of us, not looking behind – for that will surely only cause us to stumble again because we are not looking where we are going, being wrongly focused one what's behind.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

You are a believer in Jesus Christ (as is obvious from your email – no unbeliever would talk this way). And all believers in Jesus Christ are saved:

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 KJV

There are very many related issues broached in your email, but for simplicity sake I've given you the most important take-away for a first communication. You are saved. When you confess you are forgiven. You still have an opportunity not only for a wonderful relationship with the Lord but to earn a great eternal reward (see the link). But these things will only happen if you approach this the correct way: through hearing, learning, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God (see the link: "Spiritual Growth").

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above (or any outstanding issues in some of the things you said which I didn't address).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Thanks brother in Christ. The prompt response means much to me and the words did my heart good. I got chills as I read it. I'm at a point now where anything salvation related and pertaining to my Savior Jesus Christ brings about tears and emotions. I have much to ask and learn and don't wanna be burdensome or take up your time but I'd like to tell you more about when I was younger [details omitted]. Again for bless you for your work and much brotherly love to you

Response #9: 

Hello Friend,

Let me assure you that if God does not allow it, no force on heaven or earth can even touch a hair on your head:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NIV

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
John 17:15 NIV

In terms of the second passage, believe me when I say that our Lord's prayers have always been answered! We are under His protection, sealed by the Holy Spirit (2Cor.1:22; Eph.1:14; 4:30) – and "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1Jn.4:4). Please see the link: "Spiritual Warfare IV".

A couple of things to mention: 1) the Christian way of life is emotional but it is not built on emotion. It is built on the truth. So it doesn't matter how we feel. If we feel great, great. But great feeling does not last. There will be days when we feel terrible. And if we are not understanding that it's not about how we feel but about what we are actually doing for Jesus Christ whether we feel good or not, we risk wrongly intuiting that we are doing bad/wrong because we feel bad/wrong (and that is no more true than the false proposition that feeling good means we are necessarily doing good). That is common mistake especially in the early days of spiritual growth. We are here to grow in grace through the truth (2Pet.3:18), then move forward on the road to Zion passing the tests that come to the mature, and eventually help others on the journey. That is how rewards are won (see the link). But if we are seeking emotional highs through experiential means, we are never going to grow and the end is always a severe crash.

So again I urge you to commit yourself to a dedicated daily regime of reading your Bible, praying, and, most importantly, accessing reading/hearing good Bible teaching, believing the truth of what you are taught and applying it to your life (see now the link: "BB 6A: Peripateology: The Christian Walk"). That is the only way to grow, the only way to please Jesus Christ, and the only way to be truly happy – in the full Christian sense – in this temporary life.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

I again thank you for a quick and loving response. I was just wondering if those experiences are unique or are biblical as I believe some people would say I'm crazy. I also have another question with confession: is it necessary to confess to the ones wronged or just to god as it'd be very hard to confess to people who no doubt would judge. Thanks again, god bless and much brotherly love to you!

Response #10: 

Hello Friend,

I think if you'll read the link on spiritual warfare I sent you (and the links it contains), you'll see that many Christians report similar things.

On confession, 1st John 1:9 doesn't presuppose confessing to other human beings but to God – He is the One who forgives (cf. Ps.51:4). Confession through an intermediary is a Roman Catholic heresy (based I suppose upon a willful misinterpretation of James 5:16 which is entirely related to the context of a person who is under the sin unto death or other serious disease as a result of divine discipline, and who is asking the church for help).

Your point is a good one, and it very wisely picks up on some of the obvious problems with that foul practice which has been infiltrating non R.C. groups lately as well under the guise of "discipleship". A disciple is a "student" (in the Greek NT), someone whose job it is to learn the truth and follow the Master through that truth – and that is done through attending Bible class (whether in person on though ministries such as Ichthys), not by handing over one's free will to some immature and legalistic "coach". In other words, "discipleship" as it is called in legalistic churches is really a system which guarantees that a person will not grow to spiritual maturity because that takes personal responsibility for everything in the process. Please see the link: "discipleship".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thanks again Dr. luginbill,

I greatly appreciate your time and energy in what most be a very busy time with the website. I have been reading and trying to abide in his word and love. I am growing I do believe but wish for my roots to grounded in love and faith. I truly love god but it seems the more I learn the harder it becomes as I'm always second guessing. Am I staying in his commandments? I fear the lord and the consequences that's eternal but I can't figure the love part out as he says those who love me keep my commandments. I'm scared I'm obeying through fear and not love. I do love him and wish to obey him but I know I don't want to stray for fear of becoming an apostate so how do I know if I'm walking through love not fear? Again I don't mean to be burdensome. I just feel as if your a blessed source of information. I do know I love god and wish to keep his commandments but also fearful so I'm confused. I know he loves me and forgives me but doesn't wish me to sin. Thanks and god bless much brotherly love to you and I am reading all attached links on matters I've asked about. God bless

Response #11: 

These are early days of recovery. What you need to do now is trust the Lord that is working it all out together for good. He is 100% faithful, so He is worthy of all your trust and completely so. Start with using a mustard seed's worth of trust and then see how it grows – and it will grow if you keep watering it with the water of the Word.

If you can find me one believer in the Bible who was absolutely perfect, then maybe we will have to worry about not being absolutely perfect. In fact, all sin (Rom.3:23) and all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2) and all are forgiven – believers that is – when we confess (1Jn.1:9). So put away your fear and trust God. Didn't Jesus already die for all of your sins? Yes He did! He didn't do that with an ulterior motive of casting you into hell for some small mistake. No. He suffered more than we can know for each one of our sins so that we might be saved, and all who are willing to take shelter in Him are saved.

For God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His one and only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead].
John 3:16

The Father gave up the Son to suffer death so that you might not perish.

I'm glad that you want to do better. But it is a trap and a fallacy to feel bad about doing better but not doing perfectly – because no one is perfect. We are here to move forward, not look backward. As you continue to grow in the truth, you will begin to see this all more clearly. For now, please take things one day at a time, remembering that you are closer to being with Christ each day, and doing your best to do your best for Him "today". You won't do your best "today" if you are consumed with guilt about "yesterday" or worried about "tomorrow". You have to focus on doing what is right to do right now, and let the chips fall where they may.

You have eternal life in you as a believer and are sealed with the Spirit against that great day to come. The only way any believer can ever change that is by rejecting Jesus Christ in absolute and willful unbelief. That (apostasy) is not a very common thing and it never happens instantaneously but rather always as a slow process of growing disbelief – exactly the opposite of the course you are on (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

So you can relax about your pointless fears. But please don't relax regarding your good intention to start growing spiritually. What you have here is the greatest of opportunities, the chance to win eternal rewards that will glorify Jesus Christ forever and also bless you for all eternity. That is what this life after salvation is all about. Everything else is merely the noise and smoke of this temporary world.

Hang in there my friend, and keep running a good race for Jesus Christ,

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hello again I hope all is well with you. I've been reading and reading soaking up as much as I can of the scripture and emails from your site. I understand by grace we are saved and that we will never be perfect never fulfill the law. I feel so condemned though. I want to quit smoking and I pray so hard for it. I try and I pray for strength I give it to lord just to fall again. I want to know I'm heaven bound as I believe in the son of god and his being made sacrifice for my sin but I'm struggling with it I keep thinking if I don't do the right things I'll go to hell. I know that's not grace and I don't wanna keep thinking this way but when I read that by this we know him is to keep his commandments I feel even though I try I come up short. I see my life changing and I don't wanna sin but I fall. What do I do? Faith is what saves me I know but how do I keep his commandments and still not live under the law? I don't know if it makes sense what I'm saying as I believe he died for my sins and the holy spirit is a witness to this in me as he tells me this is oh so true. I guess it boils down to when I fall short he has already made me right. I just wanna do the right thing and I know u believe in my heart and confess with my mouth he is my lord and Savior. I just wanna know how to keep his commandments.

I will do as you say and take it day by day the only reason I fear is I've fallen away before and I feel so close to the lord right now I don't want it to happen but I understand to just take it day by day and I can feel the spirit growing vile thoughts are less my mind is on heavenly things I read that same verse this morning before you sent it to me.

[details omitted]

I'll try not to ask anymore questions as you've helped so much already again thanks god bless and much brotherly love to you!

Response #12: 

It seems to me you are making great progress! Don't give up! As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day". It will take time, but just as you can see yourself that you are doing spiritually better by pursuing this course (even if things are not yet perfect), please continue and have faith that they will continue in that good direction. Remember: God is for you, not against you. He loves you – so much that He gave His only Son unto death for you. Jesus has already died for every single one of you sins. He is not looking to condemn you. He is ever trying to help you. Please let Him. He helps you through the truth – and the more of it you get . . . and the more of it you believe . . . the better things will go.

From my perspective, you are doing exactly the right thing. And I'll tell you one more thing: the more you grow as you are doing, the more you will begin to do all His will in all things. And it will happen not artificially but in spiritual power – true change from the inside out rather than a false facade imposed from without.

Keeping running your good race for Jesus Christ our Lord!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hello Dr. luginbill,

I had a few questions and comments when you have time first please keep me in your prayers. I'm trying to move forward and I know fear is the enemy at my door as I feel like I can't grasp the concept of my salvation. I do know my faith in Jesus is super strong and my love for him and fellow humans is strong and I once believed I was saved for my belief but the more I read and study hard I stay scared as I still lose battles with sin and know I can't serve two masters. I read things like no adulterer no liar etc will inherit the kingdom and that's so scary. I know I fall short but I am trying I pray so much when my eyes open I began praying and thanking him but I lose the battles with temptations and I hate it I won't to just die and go to heaven while I'm doing well as I'm scared I'll backslide too far as I always seem to do. I believed in faith not works but faith without works is dead and my life isn't the best picture of a Christian it should be and I'm just scared. I feel bad when doing wrong so I know the spirit is in me but I fail so often it's terrifying. I just want to know I'm saved and will stay that way on a bright note I'm doing great with not smoking cigarettes but the lust seems to be back in my life heavier then before. What can I do dear friend? I want to walk with my head high knowing he won't say depart from me I never knew you. OK I been watching a t.v show called Shepard's chapel and they teach that a murderer can't find salvation in the flesh which I'm not a murderer just had never heard that and they teach that eve slept with Satan in the garden giving birth to twins on from Adam one from Satan Cain being from Satan is that true? I ask because I'm trying to find a good teacher and there doesn't seem to be any that I know to believe and I need help to grow I read your site a lot and study a lot I'm just trying to Surround myself as much as I can with good things and don't know if they are reputable as they teach that ____ [marriage]. Sorry for the rambling and long message. Just a lot on my mind and no-one to help me understand it all. I hope this mail finds you in good health and doing well as you've become a dear friend to tell the truth the most trusted friend I have in my life and it seems to have evolved with just a few messages. Perhaps I feel the love in them or I can feel that you are my brother in Christ; either way I surely hope you are blessed and doing well. Hope to hear from you soon. much love to you my dear brother – oh by the way I don't know if you need my permission or not but all emails that can be used please do so much love again brother

Response #13: 

I'm always happy to hear from you. I want to assure you again that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a believer and all believers are saved:

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

So it is a question of belief. The more we trust the Lord, the better. And of course we want to live a sanctified life, both to honor Him and also to avoid the divine discipline that comes upon sin. But whenever we sin – and "all sin" (Rom.3:23) and "all stumble" (Jas.3:2) – we are assured of complete forgiveness when we confess (1Jn.1:9). Passages such as the one you relate are talking about unbelievers who are "X/Y/Z" by profession; believers who commit, for example, the sin of lying are not liars but believers who have sinned . . . and who are forgiven when they confess:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1st Corinthians 6:11 NKJV

We are now "new creatures" in Christ. If we want to start acting like it, we will only have modest success if our approach is only to "try not to sin"; in order to make true and significant progress in sanctification we must first make such progress in spiritual growth. That is the key to everything in the Christian life, and very little appreciated or engaged in in our latter day Laodicea. So I certainly cannot recommend the show you have been watching (they appear to be wrong about everything and leading you backwards instead of forwards), but along with Ichthys I can also recommend Bible Academy (at the link) where you can hear Pastor Omo's lessons (instead of reading mine).

N.b.: 1) Marriage is marriage; if a person is not legally married according to the laws of the country/state in which he/she resides, then said person is not married in God's eyes either – because marriage is a civil institution designed by God for all, not just for believers; 2) Cain and Able are both sons of Adam as the scripture makes quite clear; the story reported is both blasphemous and ludicrous.

Be encouraged my friend. Your salvation is sure and kept secure in heaven by the power of God and your faith in Jesus Christ:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept [safe] by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1st Peter 1:3-5 NKJV

Thanks for all your kind words. Please keep growing by reading/listening to good Bible teaching every day (and staying away from the bad). Don't listen to your fears – listen to the still, small voice of the Spirit instead. He speaks to you through the truth you've learned from the Bible.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

I'm sacred I possible committed the sin unto death. I need your help to see if there is any hope for me. Plse, would there be any way of contacting you? Idk what to do, I feel I found out too late the Truth and that God has abandoned me.

Response #14: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Here is what I read in the Bible:

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

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are a believer, and all believers are saved. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, then the solution is to put your faith in Him, trust in Him, His person (God and man) and His work (dying in the darkness for your sins), and you will be saved.

The sin unto death is not a specific sin one commits but rather a pattern of sinful, unrepentant behavior wherein the believer refuses to come back to the Lord and refuses to give up whatever pattern of sinful behavior he/she has become enmeshed in. The sin unto death is the Lord's final attempt to get the wayward believer's attention. The most famous example in scripture is the incestuous Corinthian man (in 1Cor.5:1ff.) – and it is important to note that when he found himself suffering the pain of terminal divine discipline (which is what the sin unto death is), he repented and was restored to fellowship.

Whatever sin you have committed, as a child of God you have the right to confess it to the Lord and He will forgive you (1Jn.1:9). At that point, even the discipline you receive – and we are all disciplined by the Lord when we stray – will be for blessing rather than for cursing (Heb.12:1ff.).

There is much to say about all of this. I will give you some links here. Please have a look and then please feel free to write back if you have any questions:

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Divine Discipline

Confession of Sin

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:  

Thank you, I will check it out.

I have been struggling with _____ for my entire walk with Jesus which has been 5 years. I had a deep passion for the Lord and consistently pursued His word and will for my life. Recently _____ and my everything vanished. It spent the next 2 months sleep deprived, in constant pain and fear and blind. I've begged the Lord to give me another chance, I can't even function anymore without Him. I miss His love and His guidance. There is no comparison to it. I'm hoping He will forgive me, idk what else to do man. My home church is a church who believes in eternal security no matter what. But I seem by experience to have felt otherwise. I cannot deny the scriptures on warnings. Im scared man and I am totally in ruin I feel abandoned and completely empty. Im sorry to bother you about this, but im desperate for answers. I just want Jesus back.

Response #15: 

We all sin and stumble (1Ki.8:46; Ps.130:3-4; Prov.20:9; Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2). And we are all forgiven when we confess our sins to the Lord (1Jn.1:9). God is absolutely faithful. He does not lie. He has said He forgives you when you confess – so repent and confess and you will be restored. At that point, whatever discipline you have coming will be for blessing, not for cursing, for He disciplines you as a son (Heb.12:5-10). And please do not forget that Jesus paid the penalty for all of your sins already – they were already judged and paid for on the cross (praise God!).

Spiritual recovery is another matter. Getting back to the point of spiritual balance, growth and progress may take some time – just as when we allow ourselves to gain too much weight and get out of physical shape it may take months or longer to recover from that. But the process is the same for all. Once we have determined to get back on the right road and eschew the wrong road, we have to have confidence that we are forgiven when we confess . . . and we are!

The next step is to begin putting the Lord first again in all we think, say and do. That requires the truth pulsing through our hearts. So that requires daily Bible reading, daily prayer, daily application of the truth we know to all we experience, and, most importantly, that requires a daily regime of Bible study wherein we learn the truth from a good and tested source and believe what we learn . . . because only the truth can help us, and only the truth we have actually learned and believed can benefit us. That is what the Spirit uses to guide our conscience and help us see things aright.

It is not uncommon for Christians who stray to be overcome with guilt afterwards. But please remember that God the Father forgives you just like the father forgave the prodigal son:

"The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’"
Luke 15:21-24a NIV

Listen to what the Father says: He is happy to have you back. So forget the past – forget it. And move forward in Jesus Christ.

Your are more than welcome to all the materials at Ichthys as you begin the process of spiritual recovery. God has things in mind for you: spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and a ministry of your own to help others in the Church – therein lie your great eternal rewards.

Feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

I just want to thank you for your time and your attention you have taken to help me understand where I need to go from here. Thank you and I will keep that in mind and apply it the best I can to my life and situation. God bless, keep up the good work!!

Response #16: 

You're very welcome.

Thanks for your good words.

Do feel free to write back any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hey there! I just wanted to thank you again. There are extremely few good explanation on God's discipline and how to approach it as a believer and child of God. This portion on the Lord's discipline has helped me greatly understand not only the severity of my going astray in sinful behavior, but also the mercy and willingness God will give to us as soon as we come back to Him! That really healed my perspective from before thinking God was dooming me to hell, He really is loving on me which just blows my mind. It has a wonderful aspect to it I've never seen before, yet going through this discipline I'm starting to learn more still. Thank you again, God bless!!

Response #17: 

It's my great pleasure, my friend. I rejoice in your new found joy in the salvation you have in Jesus Christ!

I do want to encourage you now to dedicate yourself to spiritual growth, progress and production. This will help you to build on what you have accomplished and not lose ground again (Prov.19:27). So please keep praying consistently, reading your Bible consistently, and first and foremost, please keep listening to / reading good Bible teaching daily, believing the truth you are taught, and putting into practice day by day. That is the way not only to please Jesus Christ our Lord and win the eternal rewards that glorify Him forever, but also the best way not to slip backward – for the world is spiritual quicksand for any believer who is not moving straight ahead on the narrow road to Zion.

You are most welcome to all the materials at Ichthys (I also recommend Bible Academy; at the link). Feel free to write any time.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Hey there Robert. I don't know if you remember but we spoke a few months ago and I am doing slightly better, but I'm having immense trouble believing I can come back to God after all my disobedience. The parable of the sower has me shocked because it shows from my perspective that once we believe we only have one chance to stay on the steady path. Yet that also doesn't make sense to me because God also shows He gives us other chances. Im confused and my church isn't helping me either because they don't believe as I have seen from what God states in His word. Please if you have time help me. Thank you!!

Response #18: 

Good to hear from you again. I think if you'll continue to avail yourself of the materials at Ichthys and commit to a disciplined habit of spiritual growth through reading/listening to the truth, believing it, and applying it consistently to your life, these and other questions will all be answered.

When you say, "The parable of the sower has me shocked because it shows from my perspective that once we believe we only have one chance to stay on the steady path", I would have to disagree strongly. I have written a great deal about that parable and have read it many times in the Greek, and I honestly don't see how you came to that conclusion (see the link: "The Parable of the Sower").

In the case of the seed that falls on the road, these are unbelievers who never believe (Satan steals the seed away because they refuse to let it in). In the case of the seed that falls on rocky ground, these are those who do believe but "in time of testing, fall away" – falling away means not just going off to a far country, spiritually speaking, like the prodigal son, where a person may or may not indulge in gross sin. Falling away means the death of faith entirely. It's not a behavior thing; it's a faith thing. In that second instance, the plant – which represents faith which has sprouted from the seed of the gospel and begun to grow in the soil of the heart – dies entirely. The death of the plant represents the complete death of faith so that the person in question is no longer a believer in Jesus Christ at all. This person may never commit any gross sin whatsoever – but he/she does stop believing in Jesus (n.b., the verb translated "fall away" is from the Greek root from which our word "apostasy" is derived).

On the other hand, a person may be just as outrageous in their behavior as the prodigal son but never lose faith. The father in that other parable, representing our heavenly Father, is overjoyed by the son's return, and is not unwilling to have him back. Christ died for the sins of all human beings, and God wants all to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). He is not looking for ways to keep those who wish to be in fellowship with Him from it. Quite the contrary.

So first, the scriptural position is that you can come back (i.e., recover spiritually) – you are a believer in Christ and all believers are saved. And second, you have to keep in mind the character of the God with whom we have to do. He is gracious, kind, and longsuffering – and He is love. That doesn't mean that we can do whatever we wish and not be disciplined for it – you have certainly found out that such is not the case. But it does mean that even so He disciplines us for our good and out of love.

Do feel free to write me back about this my friend. And please remember that a good deal of your present spiritual disorientation comes from spiritual malnutrition. The only way to get your spiritual sea legs is by accessing good, in-depth Bible teaching daily (and I'd be very surprised if you're going to get that at "church").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Thank you for your reply!! I appreciate it!

I want to say I was the good ground for sure. All you described happened exactly to me. For the next 2 to 3 years after receiving Jesus, I hungered for the word, studying ALL the time, spending all my time trying to understand God from His word. Also, I didn't even feel forced to leave the party scene and drinking and all that. I WANTED to change, my language, my behavior, my thinking. Not because I had the desire, but because God put that in me and I acted on it. I literally was so willing and accepting of all God's teachings in the Bible. I loved them and cherished them. I used sing and praise to Him in the car. I LOVED going to church and learning more.

I also knew, because all my friends noticed a DRASTIC change. My language, my demeanor with past people I hated and argued with now peace. I didn't drink or smoke anymore. They all openly we're wow, I've never seen a change as drastic as yours. And I always replied that it was Good not me.

Then __ started to take control. I started struggling more and more. And now, I am just trying to find out who I am in Gods plan. Am I lost? Where do I now fall into the sower parable?? I need to know so I can know where to go from here. Maybe you already stated it, but I have lost a lot of that passion. I still desire to be free from that sin, and to please God. Just not to extent I did before.

I mean I literally had the MOST awesome relationship with God. He was always with me and I in Him. I left anyone who wasn't on the same page as I was with God and His plan and program. I was radical in my pursuit for Him and His will. And now it slowed down so much. And idk how to get that back. I want that so much.

Response #19: 

When we are saved, God gives us a "fresh start for the heart", clearing away the old hardness so that we are open to respond to Him and His truth without such interference (see the link: "Our New Orientation as Re-born Believers" in BB 4B). However, unless we defend that high ground aggressively through dedicated study of the Bible through a solid teaching ministry, adding to the small amount of truth that set us free and thus preparing us for all the testing to come, we are going to see that bright and shining light get dimmer and dimmer over time. Sin usually plays a role, but the problem is lack of interest in the Lord, His truth, and His Church (whom we can only serve effectively once we reach spiritual maturity).

So I understand completely where you are coming from and do wish to underscore that your experience both initially and what followed is by no means unusual. Rather in my experience and observation it is more the norm. Human beings that we are, most of us have to learn certain things "the hard way". But praise the Lord that you have come back! Not everyone does. Some continue in negativity to the point of losing faith; some continue in sin to the point of losing their lives through the sin unto death; some continue in lukewarm spiritual mediocrity and end up like the seed among the weeds in the parable of the Sower, producing almost nothing for the Lord, saved but with little or no eternal reward – the earning of which is the reason why we are still here after salvation. Now that you have changed direction, I heartily encourage you to commit yourself to a plan of Bible reading, Bible study, and spiritual growth. If you do so, you will find that while at first your emotions may not wish to respond the way you would like, in the end what you will experience is more sublime than what you knew previously. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it's the only path to spiritual safety, joy in the Lord here on earth, and great reward before the judgment seat of Christ. You are certainly welcome to everything at Ichthys.

And by the way, the Spirit and Jesus Christ have been "in you" all along. What is needed is responsiveness to the truth over time to recognize and experience that.

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death. (3) For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh, (4) so that the [perfect] righteousness which the Law demands might be fulfilled in us – we who walk not according to the [sinful] flesh, but according to the Spirit (i.e., believers). (5) Those who are oriented to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who are orientated to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (6) For the thought-pattern of the flesh results in death, but the thought-pattern of the Spirit results in life and peace. (7) Now the thought-pattern of the flesh is [one of] enmity towards God, for it does not obey God's law, nor is it [even] able [to do so]. (8) And [so] those who are under the control of the flesh (i.e., unbelievers enslaved to the sin nature) are not able to please God. (9) But you are not under the control of the flesh, but under the control of the Spirit – if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that person does not belong to Him. (10) And if Christ is in you, although your body is dead because of sin (i.e., because it is still sinful by natural birth), the Spirit is life because of righteousness (i.e., the Holy Spirit is your pledge that you have passed from death to life through the righteousness which comes by faith). (11) And if the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [at the resurrection] through that [very same] Spirit who dwells in you. (12) So then, brothers, we are under obligation – but not to the flesh to live by its rules. (13) For if you are living by the rules of the flesh, you are destined to die. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the practices of the body, you will live. (14) For as many as are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the [true] sons of God. (15) For you have not received a spirit of slavery [leading you] back to [a state of] fear [of damnation], but you have the Spirit who has entered you into God's family (lit. "of adoption"; Gk., huiothesia, υἱοθεσία, "placement-as-a-son"), in whom we cry, "Abba! My Father!" (16) For the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God's children. (17) And if we are God's children, then we are also His heirs, even fellow heirs of Christ – that is if we have indeed suffered with Him so that we might also be glorified together with Him.
Romans 8:1-17

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Thank you so much for being patient with me. I know it takes energy to put your replies together. I appreciate it so much. And yes I will keep sifting through your info on your site! Thank you again sir, you and your response based in God's word are more than helpful to me! Please be safe and please!! If you have any prayer requests I would LOVE to pray for you. God bless :)

Response #20: 

You're most welcome.

And your prayers for me and this ministry are much appreciated! If you'd like to help others too, please consult the Ichthys prayer list (at the link).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hi, I accepted Christ but then I went to the atheistic page that convinced me and I stopped complete believing. After a few days I realized that it was a mistake and repent. Forgives me God? I am apostate?

Response #21: 

Let me assure you: if you believe in Jesus Christ, then you are a believer, and all believers are saved. Many Christians have serious ups and downs, but "apostasy" is a complete loss of faith wherein the person in question is no longer concerned about salvation at all; it is the result of losing faith, and is often brought on through the hardening of the heart through sin whereby faith is damaged and eventually destroyed so that the person is no longer a believer (Heb.3:12). The fact that you are concerned is an indication that you do in fact believe in Jesus Christ – and all believers are saved:

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

So you see that only unbelievers are condemned . . . for their lack of belief. Believers are safe and saved, because they do believe in Jesus Christ.

If you have sinned – and everyone sins (e.g., Jas.3:2) – then you will be forgiven all just as soon as you confess to God (1Jn.1:9).

So please do not despair! You believe in the Lord Jesus; then you belong to Him. And no one can snatch you out of His hand as long as you maintain your faith in Him (Jn.10:28-29).

There is much written at Ichthys about all this, I urge you to read some of these links; please remember that the only way to become confident in one's heart about all the wonders God has done for you and will do in the future is through consistent spiritual growth (which requires learning the truth from a creditable Bible teaching ministry):

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Salvation Lost and Found

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness

Salvation and Sin

Salvation Questions

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

ok thank you and what about blasphemy against holy spirit?

Response #22: 

Hello Friend,

The "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" which our Lord speaks of is the sin of refusing to accept the Spirit's witness to Christ. Where this comment is made in the gospels, our Lord's enemies have just blasphemously claimed that the miracles He had done were done by the devil – when in fact they were done by the Spirit. The Spirit was giving witness, through the miracles, to the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the only way of salvation. To impute to Him and to the Spirit evil instead is the epitome of blasphemy and a sure and certain sign not only of lack of faith but of a vehement and willful rejection of our Lord and of the Spirit who was witnessing to the truth of who He was and is.

Christ has died for all sins; so all sins are forgiven for salvation when we believe in Him. But unbelievers go to hell in spite of the fact that Christ paid for their sins . . . because they refuse to accept the Gift of salvation given by grace through faith in Him. And these individuals were not only refusing to accept our Lord but were actually attributing the Spirit's work to the evil one. There is no greater proof that they were not willing to be saved. Thus this blasphemy or "unpardonable sin" is the sin of being an unbeliever and refusing to repent; but all believers believe by definition and so are not guilty of this sin, no matter what we may have done in the past. God wants all to be saved (1Tim.3:4; 2Pet.3:9) and is not trying to send anyone to hell – He sent His only beloved Son Jesus Christ to die precisely so that no one would have to do so (Jn.3:16). The only ones who are lost are the ones who refuse to be saved.

Here are some links which explain this issue in more detail:

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Have I committed the unpardonable sin?

An Extended Conversation on the 'Unpardonable' Sin

Blasphemy against the Spirit (in BB 5)

Please remember that getting to the point where you are confident and comfortable in the truth requires growth through the truth as it is taught in depth and substance. So please continue to read scripture and listen to good Bible teaching every day.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

thank you but still I fear I'm a apostate and that God will not forgive me. :(

Response #23: 

Dear Friend,

Please do not be so swift to condemn yourself – especially as God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ.

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
1st John 3:20 NKJV

I cannot stress this enough. The Christian life is NOT about how you "feel" – it is about what you know to be true by faith. So when you say "I fear", you should remember that the Lord tells you not to worry or fear . . . but to have faith. Faith is built up over time through listening to the truth and then believing the truth. It is a fight. It is a battle. The evil one and the world will tell you that you are crazy, and so will the sin nature within in you which manifests itself very often in inappropriate feelings of guilt. But you know you are forgiven . . . by faith. And you know that you are saved . . . by faith. That is what the Bible says:

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [the purpose of accomplishing] good works, which [very works] God has prepared ahead of time for us, that we might walk in them (i.e., live our Christian lives in the accomplishment of them).
Ephesians 2:8-10

God will not forgive you? Which is harder for God the Father to do, forgive you or condemn His very own Son to death for your sin? But God has already judged all sin in Jesus Christ before you were ever born – and in full knowledge and understanding of everything you may have done or ever will do. It all had to be paid for, not only for you to be saved but for any of us to be saved. Salvation required that all sin be paid for or else none could be saved. So since your sins are now paid for, why would God who loves you enough to do that for you throw you out?

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:7-10 NKJV

You were reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and the only way you can be estranged from Him now is by deliberately and willfully rejecting Him to the point where you no longer believe in Him at all – I know you do believe in Him (otherwise you wouldn't have written me in the first place).

There is much to say about all these matters, but there is no point if you will not give into the truth and accept the truth. It is very prideful for a person to think that what he/she may have done is bigger and more important than what Christ did on the cross – which is the foundation of all things, more than we can presently appreciate.

Also, with all due respect, there is no way that you could have possibly read carefully through all the links I have sent you yet. If you really do desire the truth, it is available. It's not easy to access, especially if English in not your native tongue, but it is available. Be pleased to accept what God has graciously provided, and please understand that He has provided this to you NOT because He hates you, NOT because He will not forgive you, but because He loves you and has already forgiven you – He loves you so much that He sacrificed His only dear Son to give you life eternal. Don't you think such a great love, such a great sacrifice, such a great Gift ought to be repaid with just a tiny little bit of faith and gratitude? Please don't impugn His character by imagining that your sin is bigger than His love, His grace and His sacrifice.

As ambassadors of Christ, as though God were urging you through us, we beg you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God!
2nd Corinthians 5:20

Keep on seeking the truth, my friend, and the Lord will lead you to it, lead you to peace and courage and happiness and well-being . . . in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yours in Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins that we might live forever with Him – that is love.

Bob L.

Question #24:  

when I wrote you for the first time. I wrote you about my complete stop faith for few days and again start believe. So i lost salvation but after i again found it?

Response #24: 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are saved.

What happened in the past is of no account . . . unless you fixate on looking backward instead of forward. The Christian life properly lived requires focus and concentration. Looking backward is even more dangerous than trying to drive in rush hour traffic staring into your rear-view mirror: bad things are going to happen as a result of looking back not in front.

I rejoice that you are a brother in Christ!

Don't worry about the past. Focus on being the best Christian you can be today. The Christian life is "one day at a time"; that is how God provides for us and that is how we are supposed to live, looking forward to the return of our dear Lord Jesus. So keep growing by hearing and believing and applying the truth. That is the way toward spiritual comfort, spiritual safety, and pleasing Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Thank you but I just want to know how it works. I know we must look forward but i just little doubt about how it works when somebody fall away and then want back. So in my time of unbelieve i was lost?

Response #25: 

I think we've been over this ground before. I can't say anything beyond what is written in scripture (1Cor.4:6). Since many believers, especially those saved young, don't necessarily have a clear idea of precisely when they first came to believe, I think it must be true that many believers who go their own way before turning around and coming back to the Lord may not have a precise idea of their exact spiritual status at such times. Since we can't be dogmatic about our own experiences – in fact we ought to believe the truth of the Bible regardless of what we see or hear or think or feel (Heb.11:1-2; cf. 2Cor.4:18; 5:7) – it is best not to push this. I can tell you dogmatically that if you believe now then you are a believer and are saved regardless of anything that may have happened in the past.

Our God is not a nasty accountant but a loving heavenly Father who loved us so much that He sent His one and only dear Son to die for all of our sins so that we might be saved, not to destroy us! Our Lord cares deeply about the one lost sheep (Matt.18:12-14) and the one lost coin (Lk.15:8-10) and there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over many who have no need of repentance (Lk.15:7; 15:10).

As you begin the process of spiritual growth, these things will become clearer to you and you will cease to worry about non-essential things which lie buried in the past. As it is, it seems to me that your experience resembles exactly that of the prodigal son who went on a long journey "away" but later repented of his departure and returned:

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ "
Luke 15:21-24 NKJV

You see, while the son was fixated on the past and his prior mistakes, the father cared nothing about all that but was only overjoyed to have his son back again. Likewise the Lord and our heavenly Father are overjoyed to have you back again – so revel in their joy for you and respond with a holy walk and a determined program of spiritual growth whereby you will come to understand all these things better day by day, be a better witness for the Lord in all you think and do and say, and eventually come into your own ministry to help others – therein lie the greatest spiritual rewards.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Now yes. But i had time of unbelieve. So can somebody be save lost and finally save again?

Response #26: 

If you believe now, then whatever happened in the past is irrelevant, because all believers are saved, regardless of what happened in the past:

The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
John 3:18

I'm not sure anyone can really know everything that is going on in their hearts when in a period of estrangement from the Lord, but I will say that I don't know of any scripture which says anything like if someone believes then falls away he/she can't come back and believe and be saved. Do you?

The prodigal son came back and was received with open arms, even though he did not consider himself worthy.

Most believers have historical "baggage" and from time to time are tempted to look backwards and let themselves be consumed by doubts, fear and guilt about the past. But if you commit yourself to a course of spiritual growth through personal attention to the scriptures and, very importantly, daily Bible instruction from a good, tested source, these doubts and fears and guilt will begin to melt away in the light of the truth as you accept it and believe it and begin to put it into practice. Spinning your wheels on this unimportant point is not going to help anything, however; it's only going to delay your spiritual advance.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Im asking because my friend tell me: christian earn salvation than lost it and again find it. Its unbiblical. So im asking you if is possible lost salvation and get it back.

Response #27: 

I have been explaining this to you in biblical terms for a long time now and have been giving you many Bible verses to support everything I have told you, as well as many links to many places on the website where these things are explained in greater detail.

What verse(s) did your "friend" cite to back up the truly non-biblical statements that 1) a Christian can "earn" salvation (!), or that anyone who is lost cannot be saved? In truth, I'm not surprised he/she hasn't quoted any verse on these assertions because there is no such verse.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NKJV

That would seem to cover all possibilities: God wants all to be saved; all who persevere in faith are saved; all who abandon unbelief so as to be believe are saved.

Let me tell you something. Jesus Christ died for all of your sins. What sin do you think is so great that you cannot now be forgiven? After all, Jesus already died in the darkness to pay for that sin – paying a price greater than the entire world for that sin and individually for each and every sin. You cannot imagine how important you are to the Father and the Son. You cannot imagine the depth of their love for you. So why is anyone "lost"? Not because Jesus didn't love them; not because Jesus didn't die for them; not because Jesus didn't already pay for all of their sins. No. Unbelievers are lost because they reject/refuse to accept Jesus Christ so as to be saved.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12 NIV

If you do believe in Jesus Christ, then you have received Him, you are born again and you are a child of God. It's just that simple. Trying to make it more complicated is what is wrong and unbiblical.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #28:  


I came across your page and have been encouraged reading so many others have struggled with the same questions/doubts I've had.

I've read through many of your posts regarding apostasy, blasphemy of the holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin and have found comfort in the response and continual assurance of Christ's forgiveness for us on the cross.

I am writing because I have been going through a dark time of these doubts and questions for myself for the last year roughly. I see now that I spent some time despairing and questioning the authenticity of my faith in Christ and began to fear I was a fair-weathered believer, and that despairing in itself was quite damaging. I have been very depressed and now somewhat lifeless in my day to day, and I would say I "feel" as if my faith has been lost, yet these posts have given me some hope that if I still care even a little, perhaps Christ is still at work in me? I am seeing now the importance of clinging to and focusing on truth and what scripture says is true of who Christ is and what He has done. What I struggle with is the fact that while I know these things to be true in my mind, in spirit I still often feel disconnected and empty - I don't experience joy and peace like I did when I was walking closely with Christ. I have a critical spirit towards myself and others and have even at times felt afraid or angry towards Him. This makes me fearful that perhaps I have crossed into unbelief, and that I am prideful and unwilling to accept that. My heart seems so hardened and although I see that and express the desire and have prayed for it to be softened, I fear and have believed I might truly be at a point of no return. The only hope I have is there is a part of me that does not want to accept this and knows it's not good. Can God soften my heart and restore my love and faith by simply fixing my thoughts on His truths? Or am I deceiving myself by just renewing my mind and not my heart? Have I truly lost faith?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Response #28: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

I'm very happy to hear that you have been getting some benefit out of these postings. However, I am sorry to hear that you are not completely "back" yet – by which I mean emotionally. Clearly, you seem to get that you ARE a believer if you believe in Christ – and you do believe in Christ:

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

Salvation doesn't depend on our works; it is by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9), and that means it doesn't depend on how we feel. It is very typical for believers who have been on a "far journey" away from the Lord to feel bad about it – why wouldn't we? This is just like the prodigal son who came back but felt terrible about how he had behaved. "Father", he said, "I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants" (Lk.15:19 NKJV); but his father – who represents our heavenly Father – said, "Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Lk.15:22-24 NKJV). The Lord is thrilled to have you back: there is more joy in heaven among the heavenly angels for one believer who comes back than for 99 who never left (Lk.15:7).

So please understand that this really is not a question of your status (you are saved) or how the Lord feels about you coming back to Him (He is thrilled) but rather of how you are processing your recovery. The emotions are tricky things. We currently inhabit a body of sin, and the emotions are never the best guide to where we are spiritually. Sometimes they do respond positively when they ought to, but when they have gotten into negative patterns it does take time for them to come around and "feel" the way they should feel. After all, we are not going to die the way the world thinks of it: we have been saved from death, decay and condemnation. How good is that? We ought to feel pretty good about that. We have an inheritance and a place in the New Jerusalem. We have an eternal reward. We will be with the Lord we love and with all of our brothers and sisters in eternal bliss in a very short time. And we will inhabit a perfect body that can never be destroyed or know pain forevermore, only joy. Seems as if we ought to "feel" pretty good about all that. But we are human in these very human bodies, and it takes effort to think the way we should think about all this. If we do commit ourselves to consistently thinking about "the things above" rather than the things on this earth (Col.3:2), eventually our emotions will begin to come around. But please understand. If we are disturbed because our emotions are telling us things we know are not true, we turning things completely upside down to listen to them instead of to what we know by faith is true. We are then "reeling with what we feel" rather than "going with what we know [by faith]".

Spiritual growth is the key to victory in this difficult area. Only believers who are spiritually mature are going to be consistent in having victory in this area of "joy in the Lord". All believers when they are saved get a honeymoon on this score, but only those who work on their relationship with the Lord continue in the joy. Just as in an earthly marriage, happiness is not automatic: you have to work on the relationship daily. So also in the spiritual life, we have to commit to reading our Bibles AND accessing a good teaching ministry daily in order to grow to the point where this very common problem you report becomes first manageable and then eventually largely disappears. It is not a quick process for most but, as with most relationships, we get out of it what we put into it.

To that end, you are very welcome to all the materials at Ichthys.

I hope this is of some encouragement to you. I know that if you persevere these doubts and this emotional upheaval will fade. We've all been there (most of us who love the Lord, anyway), and for those of us who've pulled out, then marched forward on the road to Zion where there is joy and gladness, we have all done it the same way: through attention to the truth of the Word of God.

Feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29:  

Hi Robert!

Thank you very much for your response and for such encouragement. Its these basic foundational truths of salvation I need to dwell on I think.

Here is my struggle further: that while I can reach out to you, or others (as I have, my pastors and friends and those who know me) and seek counsel, my spirit is grieved and I fear I am seeking assurance or affirmation from others instead of from God. These truths again, in my mind I know are true, don't seem to be taking root like they once did. About three years ago I faced a decision (starting a relationship) and all seemed to line up, but I didn't have complete peace. Looking back, I can't help but think it was a test, but I am now pretty convinced I should have trusted that "unpeace", that God was instructing me to wait on him, yet I was so fixed on finally having something I desired that seemed to come from the Lord that I proceeded with the mindset "if it's not his will, he'll show me." Long story short, I battled extreme anxiety through the whole relationship and it ended because neither of us felt the Lord's confirmed leading. During all that is when I began questioning and having doubts about my ability to really hear from the Lord, my desires, etc. It then turned to thoughts of "if I can't really hear him or have peace in this, have I ever really heard him? Maybe I've been fooling myself and I have only thought I was saved but am not." I started questioning if the anxiety (which had been a struggle before coming to Christ and would surface here and there) was due to something I had not fully surrendered or repented of. I then began to see areas of sin that I had not taken to heart to really fight but had allowed to linger, but instead of a grieved remorseful heart I sought to eliminate them or find the root, and I began to despair at how really sinful I was. I see now, as in your responses and in these posts, I was becoming entangled in seeing my salvation as somewhat works based and losing sight of what Christ had done in me.

My point in all this is I see downfall and know that others in my life encouraged me to not overthink or worry or fear, to cling to the truth, and yet though a part of me knew they were right and in a sense agreed with them, I'm not sure I truly listened and took to *heart* these truths. It wasn't until a year ago, when I'd say this darkness seemed to come to the worst, did I come across the verses in Hebrews that pierced my heart regarding continuing to sin once we have a knowledge of the truth, and that as Esau sold his birthright for a moment of pleasure he could then find no place for repentance. I started to see and deeply sense in my spirit that it is possible to ignore God, even while knowing Christ, to the point of not being responsive anymore. I say I've wrestled, but really I think I've been carrying this weight that I may truly have sinned into death in unbelief and anxiety, not trusting the Lord or really wanting him, and I seem to be convinced that I've realized it too late. I read somewhere that if you refuse Christ he will not leave with a shout but will leave quietly, and that is what I fear I have done. Am I a stubborn fool who simply cannot accept this? My reality is that I keep seeing this unbelief in my heart, but I am hoping I am very wrong. Can that happen? It doesn't seem like God would allow his true children to wander as far as I have, and I feel like my efforts even in trying to focus on scripture and in confessing my sins is based in my strength and not by a spirit of grace. I know you are not God and you cannot see my heart, and my friends and pastors have all said they see in me fruit of a true believer but I'm also pierced in spirit that maybe I've fooled everyone, while outwardly I seem to line up inwardly I see such darkness and wickedness. I am caged in despair like in Pilgrims Progress, and while I have thought all these things through so much I have not found peace. ONLY in the occasional thought and hope that I am indeed wrong and that Christ is still somehow holding on to me, but even then when I pray and when I search my heart I think I only want safety, freedom from the consequence of my sin, but do I truly want the Lord and to be freed from my sin? I think I've come to love it more than I love him, which makes me worse off than if I'd never known him.

I apologize for the length of this, you probably get emails like this all the time, I'm not sure what you can tell me but I do know I need help and I want to want to change. I want my heart to truly be repentant from despair and doubting, but my fear is I find myself seeking forgiveness for rejecting the gospel, which cannot be forgiven. I hope I am wrong.

Thank you anyways for your consideration, your wisdom and gentleness is a blessing and appreciated.

Response #29: 

It is clear to me that you are believer. You believe in Jesus Christ. Only believers believe in Jesus Christ. You cherish your relationship with Him. Only believers do that.

This is a question of faith – not of faith unto salvation (you have that) but of faith unto growth wherein you become confident in your relationship with Him; we progress after being saved the same way we were saved: by believing the truth (Phil.3:16; Col.2:6-7).

Clearly, all sinfulness, selfishness, pride, greed, over-engagement with the world, etc. does our relationship with Him no good. But there is a big difference between a believer who is bumping along with the sort of concerns you have and an unbeliever – the difference between being saved and not being saved: there is no greater difference.

Faith can grow. Doubts can be defeated. The past can be put to rest. Joy can return. How do these things happen? They happen by learning to trust the Lord more and more day by day. How do we do that? It is a question of using the image of God we have been given, our free will faith, to decide to do so. It is not a one time thing; it is a long process. This, the Christian life, is not a one day race; rather, it is a life-long Marathon. And just like a person who is out of physical shape shouldn't expect to be able to run a Marathon the day he/she decides to do so, but will instead have to build up to that over what might be many years, so in the spiritual life we have to be patient and consistent if we are going to get to the place we want to get to.

First things first. If we are engaged in some sort of sinful behavior, we need to knock it off. But if we are walking in a sanctified way, if the sin that troubles us is in the past, we need to trust the Lord that He meant what He said when He said He forgives us our sins when we confess them. It is also important to accept that we will never get anywhere by playing defense. All the soul-searching and agonizing in the world is never going to defeat sin completely while we are in these bodies of sin, and if we are only trying to whitewash the outside we are never going to have the sort of victory we crave. Only by changing the inside is that possible.

How do we change the inside? It has to happen, again, one step at a time, one day at a time. It has to happen by committing ourselves to learning the truth AND believing the truth, then applying the truth we have made our own through faith to the lives we lead. Just like a mustard seed doesn't look like it could ever amount to much, the faith you have been given to make use of can grow into a massive tree which fills every corner of your heart. But that requires consistency in making good decisions, decisions to pursue the truth of the Word and accept the truth you learn and live by that truth. Along that path is recovery from everything that troubles you as well as the recovery of your joy in the Lord – and eternal rewards beyond anything presently imaginable. But it is a pilgrimage, a journey that the evil one will oppose. And he well knows how to poke your emotions in just the right way to get your feelings working against you at times. But if we know the path forward and are determined to proceed regardless of feeling good or bad, we will have success in all these things.

Agonizing over the past won't help. Second guessing prior decisions is pointless. We "are where we are" at any moment in time, and the only question worthy of asking is "am I willing to move forward or not?" If you are, God has provided you with everything you need. You have free will – the right and the ability to use the faith faculty you have to pursue the truth and to believe the truth; you have the Holy Spirit within you to comfort you, encourage you and guide you. And you have the Bible and Bible teaching available, the spiritual food you need to grow and build your strength for this Marathon we all have to run.

It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about Jesus Christ. It's important for Christians who want to grow and please the Lord through spiritual progress and eventual production to learn to spit out all subjectivity, to turn a dead, blind eye to the past, and to accept that we are on a mission in enemy territory with a job to do for Jesus Christ. If we keep that perspective foremost in our thinking, many of the other incidental things that happen to us or have in this life will seem less important – and they are far less important than the kingdom of heaven after all.

There is plenty to say about all of this (for example, Esau was never a believer so that passage does not mean what nervous believers often take it to mean; see the link), but the main point is that spiritual growth through hearing and believing the truth of the Word is the solution to all spiritual problems (and all spiritual problems are the result of not growing as we should); every single truth of the Word, moreover, however small, is important to building the spiritual edifice in our hearts that produces maturity and strength – even if may not seem important at the time we learn and believe it.

So I want to encourage you not to doubt the Lord but to trust the Lord. He is absolutely faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness and worthy of 100% trust. Our unfaithfulness does not negate His faithfulness. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed He will work with us to build it up. But we do have to apply at least that small amount of trust. Please remember, what He did in dying for the least of our sins was greater than anything imaginable in this world from the beginning of history to the end – and He died for them all, paid for them all in the fiery darkness on the cross. The cross, our Lord's spiritual death whereby He redeemed us from all of our sins, is the answer to everything; it is the refutation of all satanic lies and it is the confirmation of all of God's promises to us. Believe it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you very much again for both your response and this link. I also read over the following, mainly point 6:

https://ichthys.com/3B-Hamartio.htm#6. Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

This further confirms the danger and damage I have been staying in by mulling over the doubt and choosing to be ruled by feeling over truth. As mentioned in my first email, I have been camped out in a place of feeling depressed and powerless against my doubting and not just doubting but of areas where I have been spiritually lazy and somewhat lukewarm. I am not sure if or how close but I am convicted of these attitudes that sound similar to what you've described of that going towards apostasy. I am tempted to despair but want to choose to seek repentance and turn from this awful place. I also see I have become more terror-fearful toward the Lord than awe- fear, and will need His grace to overcome this doubt that I can be fully restored.

My concern and now what I see need for is this: now recognizing how damaging this has been, I feel overwhelmed at the amount of work repentance and fully turning back will require. I see more clearly now too areas that I have allowed sin and the world really to take place in my heart but I've been trying to battle it in my strength, which has caused a judgmental attitude towards others (and really myself). I think I've recognized this over the past year or so and I've despaired in seeing the lack of love for Christ, that this attitude shows my love for him has grown weak or cold that I have been choosing things other than him. The task of repenting seems daunting in light of that love having become so weak. Can I still repent? That's where I think I have felt stuck, is that I expect to have the love restored to help motivate the process of thoroughly repenting and walking in repentance. Does it grow over time? I think that is also where I've thought I could be like Esau, fearing I was never a true believer to begin with.

Thank you again so much, I appreciate your responsiveness and care.

Response #30: 

You're most welcome.

Repentance is a very misunderstood biblical term. In the English language the words "repent" and "repentance" have become loaded down with so much emotional baggage and with so many misconceptions that I rarely use them without explanation. The Greek word metanoeo means to change one's thinking or attitude about something, and that is precisely what true biblical repentance is (see the link). That is to say, it is not some sort of emotional self-flagellation nor is it is a program of doing "penance". It means to wake up, spiritually speaking, and begin acting accordingly. In other words, while people assume from the English word and the Roman Catholic religion that repentance is backward looking, true biblical repentance is forward looking – as is the spiritual life in toto, rightly appreciated. Here is one of my favorite passages on this:

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

Properly digested and appreciated, this passage tells us all, no matter where we are at spiritually at any given moment, what we need to do next, namely, advance today (rather than agonize about not having advanced yesterday).

The Christian life is not about ruing lost opportunities; it is all about making the most of the ones we still have. If a Christian is alive "today", then it is "today" which is the day of salvation (2Cor.6:2). Yesterday is gone and we cannot do anything about it whether we are convicted about past failures and squandering of time or happy with our performance or something in the middle. In any case and in every case it is gone and there is no point worrying about it and no profit in glorying in it. We are here "today", and we have no idea if there will even be a "tomorrow". This might be our last day on earth – in which case tomorrow we will be with our Lord (and that is "better by far"; Phil.1:23). In any case, that glorious tomorrow is the one we are striving for – to have a good report before Jesus Christ; and the only yesterday that is worth remembering is the one in which He saved us from our sins and made us His own. Our job as Christians is all about "today", and making the most of it for our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

So I encourage you to lift up your head. You have been forgiven as soon as you confessed to the Lord. Feelings, as mentioned, often give false signals but they are inconsequential. No matter how bad we may feel, we can read the Bible, we can read/listen to Bible teaching, we can pray, we can direct our thoughts toward the Lord and the things above and we can begin to turn our backs on the world and toward Him instead. If we do these things "today", even a little bit, then we are honoring Him and making a deposit in our eternal treasure chest where no thief can break in and no moth nor rust corrode. And if we do these things, even a little bit, we will be on the road to building up spiritual momentum. If we are given a tomorrow, perhaps we will do the good things we know we should do a little longer, a little better, with a bit more faith and concentration. Before we know it we will no longer be crawling up the high road to Zion, but walking, then running, making good progress to the glory of the Lord – and we will "feel" good about it . . . most of the time. We will still get tired. We will still be tested. We will still have "those days". But if we trust that the Lord is with us (Ps.23:4), and He most certainly is (Rom.8:31), that He loves us (Jn.15:9), and He most certainly does, and that He is for and not against us, which is of course the case, then we will be able to keep pushing forward to a good reward which will glorify Him forevermore (Ise.40:29-31).

For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
Hebrews 13:5a-6 NKJV

I urge you to forget about past failures – there is no believer who doesn't have them – and instead to start the process of regaining your spiritual momentum. It happens the same for us all: one small step at a time.

I'll be keeping you in my prayers for victory on all this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31:  

Hi Robert,

Thank you for further clarifying that. Setting emotions aside, I still seem to be stuck in knowing in my mind I need to change, yet inwardly everything seems shut off or numbed. There must be a heart change, yes?

I shared with my roommates the things you've shared with me, and I confess they have been encouraging me with the same truths through all of this. They encouraged me again to take it as a sign and just start believing it - and that's where again I seem to be stuck.

This makes me think and fear that maybe I have lost my faith, or that it has died and now it is too late. My heart seems so hardened, or the truth would be sinking in more readily right? Do I actually care, or am I just writing this to you in hopes it will make me feel better? I am seeing a pattern now that I know I need to change but am so unwilling to actually take the needed steps. I keep thinking I gave up not realizing it and now I can't get it back.

Thank you again for your time and insight.

Response #31: 

Motivation to fight a good Christian fight is different from saving faith. First, faith is a faculty which all human beings (and angels) possess; directing that faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ so as to trust in Him for salvation is what brings eternal life and deliverance from condemnation "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8-9). For this reason I sometimes refer to faith as "free will faith", because for the believer in particular faith is something we deploy rather than "have"; "have faith" implies passivity; but acting in faith is a matter of choice: we have to choose to motivate ourselves, e.g., by choosing to trust in the Lord and in His marvelous promises.

The fact that you are concerned about all this is a clear indication that you certainly do – as I am sure you know you do – believe in Jesus Christ. So you are a believer in Him, and that means you are saved and will be in the New Jerusalem with the rest of us, just as long as you hold onto your belief in Him firm until the end.

Motivating oneself to pursue spiritual growth, progress and production is something different. In the New Jerusalem, there are four sets of gates. The east side gates are reserved for those who grew to spiritual maturity, progressed in their walk with the Lord and passed successfully serious testing in this life, and then went on to produce a good crop for Him, "100, 60 or 30 fold". The north side gates are reserved for those who never even got to spiritual maturity – but who are saved nonetheless. In my observation and experience, and based on my knowledge of the Bible and church history, I would estimate that the north side will be massively more populated than the east side.

Simply put, it has proven to be difficult for most believers to motivate themselves to get moving forward spiritually. And in fact many who seem to the uninitiated observer to be truly gung-ho for Christ are in most cases merely spinning their wheels (in ritual, pointless works, and emotional experiences). True response to the Lord is first and foremost about seeking the truth through the Word as found in the Bible and as explicated by a good teaching ministry, believing that truth, and deliberately living one's live in accordance with it. This most Christians today are not doing. That is a hallmark of our current era, the lukewarm era of Laodicea (see the link). It is very easy (for those who don't much care – which is most of the Christian population today) to nod to God once a week or so at a church which is all about program, music and sermonizing, spiced up with traditional rituals or emotional excess; but no one has ever grown that way, and since the ministers in charge are in most cases not spiritually mature themselves nor truly prepared to teach the truth, no serious growth in such environments is possible.

Most residents of Laodicea don't care (yet – they will once the Tribulation begins). In your case, however you are asking questions and you are concerned about your level of personal motivation. That is a good start. Jesus says, in the context in Revelation where Laodicea comes up that He would rather have us be "hot or cold" rather than lukewarm – because cold can switch to hot very quickly if given the right stimulus (cf. the apostle Paul's experience).

So I do hold out great hope for you – not for your salvation which is already secure and in no need of hope, but for your spiritual growth, progress and production. One thing though: we do all have to own up to the fact that motivation is something we control. Not to say that it is always easy to motivate ourselves to do the right thing. It's often not, especially in the early going. Take exercise as an example. If we are not doing it but are aware that for health reasons we need to be doing it, getting started is hard; keeping at it – especially in the early days – even harder, but, once we have made a habit of it, we may actually learn to enjoy it and look forward to it (at times). So it is with most things in life that are worthwhile, i.e., they are not easy but they are rewarding. And nothing is more rewarding than spiritual growth and the process it sets in motion. And the rewards that process brings last forever: the crowns of righteousness, life and glory, and a prime place in the New Jerusalem which glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ forever (see the link: "Rewards").

The changes do come from within, but they are determined by one's own free will exercise of faith. They are not generated by emotion and often are opposed by the emotions; but in the end, if we persevere, nothing "feels better" than living one's life the way Christ wants us to live it in all respects – not merely keeping our noses clean (sanctification), but growing in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ, learning to walk joyfully hand in hand with Him through the valley of the death-shadow, and helping others do likewise through the ministry opportunities He gives us. That is truly rewarding – both here in this life and much more so in the next.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you again for your response and encouragement. I have been trying to focus on having faith and asking God to help me in that. I also have read some more of your responses to others who have written in with similar questions here (namely questions 7, 8, and 18)


I came across your explanation of the heart (https://ichthys.com/mail-Doubting-Salvation.htm - response 6). My concern is that I only believe in Christ intellectually, not deeply or inwardly. I don't seem to have the inner enlightening of the holy spirit like I used to. I thought I truly did once which is what is so frustrating, because I was in almost the same place right before coming to him. What is different now though is I almost know "what to expect", so when it's not happening, I feel hopeless, and also afraid that confirms further that I am one who has been enlightened and tasted in the heavenly gift, only to fall away. I have been trying to meditate on truths and believe them in my mind, but also it feels like I'm giving up or not really doing anything. I don't want to stop caring but I also don't want to keep being obsessive over all this. And while inwardly this is still all very much on my mind and occupying my thoughts and concerns, outwardly I am like a robot and just going through life, it seems so lifeless.

And then there is part of me that says "listen to yourself! Why are you arguing to prove something is hopeless when you want there to be hope?" But then why is my heart so hard?

Thank you as always for your time and insight. I just hope the Lord will open my eyes and give me assurance that I can have true repentance.

Response #32: 

You're most welcome.

I don't think your experience is unique. Even back in seminary I remember being told by others that they felt "spiritually dry". The thing is, as mentioned before, the Christian life is not about what we "feel" but about what we are actually doing. If we are doing the right thing and don't "feel good", well, at least we are doing the right thing. And I can tell you that if we keep doing the right thing eventually our emotions will catch up with us – if we lead, they will follow. But if we start following our emotions instead, if we stop doing the right thing because of how we "feel", we are going to start feeling worse and worse in a vicious circle – better a virtuous cycle, even if sometimes we have to wait on the emotional payoff.

To that point, I have heard about this supposed distinction between "intellectual belief" and "heart-felt belief" before, but I can tell you that it is not biblical. Either we believe in Christ or we do not. Either we have put our trust in Him for salvation or we have not. We may feel ecstatic about our salvation or we may feel nothing – but how we feel does not change the fact of being saved if we are believers. And all believers are saved.

It's always hard to diagnose other people's spiritual issues and not a good thing to try too hard to do so. Ultimately, we personally are the only ones who stand a chance of getting it right. What I will say is that spinning one's wheels over the question of one's current spiritual state is a pointless task. That is because no one is able to stay in exactly the same spot for any length of time. Spiritually speaking, we are either moving forward or backward or waffling sideways. The velocity may change but the fact of fluidity is a given. What we really need to pay attention to is the direction. If we want to please Jesus Christ, we will take pains to move forward – not think about it, talk about it, neurose about it, but actually do it. And if you do begin moving forward – by being consistent about prayer, Bible reading, and, most especially, committing yourself to a plan of daily Bible study from a solid ministry (one you can trust so as to believe what you are taught because it is worthy of being believed), you will move forward. And you know what? You will start feeling better too. The doubts and angst about the past will start to melt away and you will begin to recover the joy. Christ is the joy – but you can only feel that joy when you are actually walking closely with Him. And that requires doing what He tells us to do, the difficult positive things of spiritual growth as well as avoiding what is negative.

Please don't get down on yourself because this isn't falling into your lap like a ripe fig. All Christians who want to grow and/or recover from spiritual torpor have to go through what amounts to spiritual "Boot Camp" – and it's not necessarily easy. But in the analogy successful completion brings happiness and the joy of accomplishment. That is true of worldly things which do not last. It is doubly true of what is not only of prime importance but has eternal ramifications: great rewards from the hand of Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior (please see the link).

If I may, I would recommend that you begin reading the Peter series (link); it starts very short and very slow, and builds from there (and see also now: BB 6A: Peripateology: the Christian Walk).

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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