Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phillippians 2:12-13)
I was chatting with someone recently about the spiritual development of Christians in church today and how we could help to encourage it. I went on to say how important this was to me, and that I believe nearly more (i.e. influence, guidance, teaching) is required of believers after a person has made a commitment to Christ than before.
Why? I believe it’s possible to fall away.
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
Apostasy is defined as “the abandonment of a person’s or a people’s religion or faith; turning away”. See also 1 Timothy 4:1.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)
Let’s look at the vine and branches story that Jesus talks about in John. We all know when we accept Jesus we are in a way grafted into the vine – adopted into God’s family. Maybe I’m using this out of context (and feel free to tell me) but who exactly are the branches that are cut off and burned? Are they previously grafted branches? If we stop bearing fruit, are we no longer disciples of Jesus?
Jesus explains a few different scenarios in the Parable of the Sower where the seed starts to take root, “but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful”. The truth is, people come to Christ with a lot of baggage. Sometimes it is real heavy baggage. God wants to release us of that baggage, but some people find it hard to let go.
What you find is that some people start off their new Christian life still strapped to a lot of their baggage – possibly choking any growth potential. Can fellow Christians help people in this situation? Can we help to guide them through the ground weeds to the sunlight above until they are strong enough to survive the terrain? Or is this out of our hands?
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)
I know God gives us a lot of assurances as believers, and I wholeheartedly believe them. God gives us a gift and He will not willingly take it back. But since God has also given us free-will, we have the freedom to hand it back in reality.
You can see with the opening verse that as Christ followers we need to continue to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling. What does that mean? I’m guessing it means that Salvation is more than one Sunday ten years ago. It’s a continuous process (or discovery) throughout our lives.
I believe we’re saved from the moment we accept Christ but we must always be on our guard and be on the look-out for others in trouble. The enemy (can I say devil?) is out to deceive and I don’t need to tell you that everyone is prone to deception if they don’t keep their focus on Jesus.
I was going to end this post with a reference to Romans 14:1 where Paul kind of talks about not perplexing people with discussions in theology that don’t really matter (in the big picture). However, the context of the passage is actually referring to weak believers, and I don’t want to come across in any way that I think I have this topic all worked out. I do not.
This post is just what I think right now. I’d love to know your thoughts on it – and why? Tell me here.