Is Salvation a Sure Thing or Dependent Upon Us? Part 8

June 3, 2015 at 5:55 AM

Try to imagine just how Peter felt after denying Jesus. He chose the path of unbelief.

Try to imagine just how Peter felt after denying Jesus. He chose the path of unbelief.

In our last article in this series – Part 7 – we pointed to Moses and his huge misstep just prior to the children of Israel gaining access to the Promised Land. Because of the misstep – something that God actually called “unbelief” – Moses was stopped by God (as was Aaron) from leading the people into the Land of Canaan. Though Moses sinned egregiously and should have known better due to his years of faithful service to God, I cannot imagine anyone saying that Moses lost his salvation because of it. What Moses lost was entering into the “rest” that God had planned for him and the Israelites. In other words, he lost some measure of what God had intended to be the full benefit of entering into His rest.

Let’s get back to Moses for a few minutes and then we’ll look at some others in the hall of faith chapter of Hebrews. No, I haven’t forgotten about Hebrews 6:6 either.

Since we know that Moses had “salvation” – even though the salvation that he understood was a bit different from the salvation that we now understand – would anyone argue that Moses lost this salvation when he sinned at the same place (called Meribah; Numbers 20) where water came from the rock the second time? I think it would be very easy to prove those individuals wrong.

Moses sinned in Numbers 20 and I marvel at the fact that God referred to Moses’ sin as stemming from unbelief. Let’s look at Moses’ actions from Numbers 20:9-11.

“9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.” (emphasis added)

There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong because God follows through and pours water from the rock in spite of the fact that Moses did not follow God’s instructions to a tee. God had just finished telling Moses what he should do to cause water to spring forth from the rock.

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water.” (emphasis added)

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? I’ve always thought that Moses sinned because he got angry even though God tells Moses that he had actually committed the sin of unbelief.

“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (emphasis add)

Please notice that God said that Moses (yes, MOSES), succumbed to unbelief. God was not angry with Moses because Moses had become angry at the people. How do we know Moses was angry? The text itself. Numbers 20:10 states, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” (emphasis added)

Moses had had it. He was angry with the people. He’d been here before (cf. Exodus 17) and it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day or something out of the Twilight Zone. Enough was enough. I think Moses began to think that he – not God – was actually in charge of the people of Israel. He may have even indulged in a bit of “okay, I’ll bring water out of the rock…again for these stiff-necked rebels!” After all, God had told him “You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink,” (emphasis added), in verse 8b.

It was because of his anger that Moses sinned. Again, God called this sin unbelief. Unbelief is when we depart from God, when we choose to say that His truth is really a lie and that our way is better. James says “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” James 1:19b-20.

Adam and Eve sinned because they ended up believing the lies of the Tempter. They believed him instead of continuing to believe God. In essence, they departed from God because they chose to go down the path of lies. Is it possible for Christians to depart from God by choosing to believe lies instead of God’s truth? I believe it is and I believe Scripture shows this in many ways.

Remember what James says about sin? “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death,” (James 1:15). Here, he notes that sin stems from lust or desire. That is the starting place. But what is it that causes us to allow our desires to give birth to sin in the first place? Essentially, this happens when we “depart” from God’s truth, which is called unbelief.

Take Peter for instance. He was a man of passions. He believed strongly in what he believed even when he was wrong. Matthew 16 tells us that God spoke to Peter’s heart and revealed to him who Jesus really was – “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” (Matthew 16:16). But just a few verses later, Peter is calling Jesus a liar!

“God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s,” (Matthew 16:22b-23).

Here we read how Peter responded to Jesus when He said He needed to go Jerusalem where He would suffer and eventually be put to death. Peter’s “God forbid it, Lord!” was anathema to Jesus. Peter was siding with a complete lie, one promulgated by Satan himself and he was using Peter to spread that lie. Jesus cut Peter (via Satan) to the quick, immediately squelching the lie.

In John 18:15-27, we read of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Think about it. He actually lied about knowing Jesus! He chose to side with unbelief. Peter’s several sins in these narratives stem from agreeing that lying and believing lies is better than God’s truth.

Can we say that Peter departed from God in this instances? Yes, we can and we should. That is the lesson here. To depart from God means to believe lies. Believing lies means to accuse God of being a liar. This is essentially what Peter did when he denied that Jesus should go to Jerusalem and ultimately be put to death.

In spite of the perfection surrounding them, Adam and Eve chose unbelief.

In spite of the perfection surrounding them, Adam and Eve chose unbelief.

Adam and Eve gave into lies that brought forth sin and death. Moses refused to believe that God’s way of simply speaking to the rock was the best. He yelled at the people and struck the rock. Yet, God was faithful, wasn’t He? It’s because God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He had already promised to Moses what He would do and even though Moses succumbed to unbelief, God remained faithful to His promise to Moses that He would bring forth water, but as far as the people were concerned, it would appear as though Moses brought forth water. Moses sinned because of unbelief.

How about Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5? Were they believers? Did they possess salvation? There is nothing in the text or context that would cause us to arrive to any other conclusion. They were certainly part of the early church. They wanted to serve and did so by selling a parcel of land they had. What was the problem? The problem was they chose to lie to the Holy Spirit. How is that unbelief? They tried to LIE to the Holy Spirit as though the Holy Spirit was not omnipotent enough to know they were lying!

For whatever reason, Ananias and Sapphira chose to believe something that was untrue about God. They chose unbelief. It was their unbelief that brought for th sin and their death. God took them to make several points, chief of which is that believers who depart from God through deliberate unbelief may have their lives shortened here on earth. Isn’t this what happened to Moses essentially? His earthly life was shortened because he failed to belief God.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who chose to believe God and it was counted for them as righteousness. This is what Hebrews 11 is all about, rightly called the great hall of faith. Noah believed God. Lot believed God. Abraham believed God as well as others.

What did this believing in God cause these individuals to do? They walked in righteousness. Their actions proved their belief in God. Noah believed God and…built the Ark. Lot believed God and…left Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham believed God and…left Ur to go the Land of Promise. But some of these same people also had times in their lives where, through unbelief, they parted ways with God. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, they did not get the opportunity to come back from their path of unbelief. Neither did Moses. We haven’t even talked about David, have we? He was a believer, a man after God’s own heart, yet, through unbelief, he sinned, first through lust, which gave birth to adultery, which then gave birth to murder. Even though David repented, things were not the same. God was not happy that David had chosen to go off the path of righteousness and down the trail of unbelief leading to death.

Can true Christians depart from God? Can we indulge in unbelief? The answer is YES and it is the most unfortunate truth that every Christian needs to accept.

Hebrews 4:1 says: “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

The writer is speaking to people whom he considers to be believers and he is also including himself with them by using the words, “let us.” He understood exactly what would happen when the Christian chooses unbelief over belief in God. He was speaking to believers and yet he was encouraging them to enter into the rest God has designed for us.

The “rest” here is when we will be able to cease from work, just as God ceased from work on the 7th day of Creation. That rest does not happen in this life. Now is the time called “today” and it is during this time that we must work.

Next time, we will talk about Hebrews 6:6 and we will also discuss why people too often think of Christianity as a set of dos and don’ts. Join me then.

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

Is Salvation a Sure Thing or Dependent Upon Us? Part 7 Is Salvation a Sure Thing or Dependent Upon Us? Part 9

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