by Steven Chan
28 December 2008
Have you ever wondered why some fall away so soon after they became Christians; others slowly fade away through the years as their zeal and fire for the service of the Lord gradually dissipates? Falling away from our Lord is a tragic event. Many passages of Scriptures highlight the condition of those who fall away after they have received the Word.
According to 2 Peter 2:20-22, the latter end is worse than the beginning: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
The fate of those who chose to turn their back against the Lord after having known His exceeding great mercy and loving kindness is described in Heb 10:26-32: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Those who fall away from their commitment to serve the Lord can only expect the “fiery indignation of the Lord” because they have chosen to “trample the Son of God underfoot, count the blood shed by Jesus as a common or unworthy thing, and have effectively insulted the Spirit of grace”. It is indeed a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make our call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”( 2 Peter 1:10-11).
The Bible tells us in Heb 4:1-2 about the Israelites who succeeded in escaping from Egyptian bondage but only to perish in the wilderness – and failed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief or lack of continued obedience and subjection to God – and the Hebrew writer exhorts us thus: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Yes, like the Israelites of old, we too can come short of our salvation if we allow our faith to be replaced by fear and doubt.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus described the case of the seed that “fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away” (Mark 4:5,6). Being scorched and to wither away under the relentless pressure and scornful persecution by an ever-sceptical world is how the Lord describes those who hear and accept the Gospel but lack the depth of faith to withstand these onslaughts on our faith.
In Luke 8:22-25, after the Lord had calmed the storm that had threatened to capsize the boat that the disciples were in, He asked them: “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25) which implied that in spite of having seen the many great miracles that had been performed by Jesus, they still lacked faith in God’s providential care and His ability to help them through all of life’s challenges. In the account provided in Mark 4:40, Jesus was quoted as saying: “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Could that be true with some of us?
In Matt 14:31, Jesus reached out to save the drowning Peter and said to him:”O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter’s faith was described as “little” or lacking depth. In Luke 17:5, “the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”. There is a need to grow our faith.
In order to grow our faith so that we can ensure that we have depth of faith and be able to withstand the scorching sun such that there is no withering effect on our faith, we need to adopt the advice of the Psalmist David as recorded in Ps 1:2-3: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”(1 Peter 2:2-3). “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “(Matt. 4:4). We need to have regular daily diet of spiritual food to feed our soul.
There was a time when many of the disciples chose not to walk with Jesus but we would do well to consider the answer of Peter when asked whether he would also fall away: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69). What is the alternative to turning away from Jesus? Is living a godless purely humanistic lifestyle a credible alternative?
One day our lives will end: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). But judgement awaits us. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men ;”( 2 Cor 5:9-11)
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:11). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”(1 Cor. 10:12). If one falls away, one ought to carefully consider where one is falling into: Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.