reposted from April 2, 2013
My world used to have two types of people: those who followed Jesus, and those who didn't. This is the most important division for me, because what a person decides about Christ determines their relationship with God (either with Him or separated from Him). I believe the Bible is one big story of redemption, of God reaching out to us. Jesus is our gift; we can accept Him or reject Him.
I've been involved in church since I became a Christ-follower in my teens. I've seen a lot of sin in the church. I've seen plenty of hypocrisy and hurtfulness. Two of the churches we were members of broke apart due to fighting among believers. And still, a church community has remained central in my life. In fact, my husband and I were part of a new church that sprang up in the Tulsa area about ten years ago, and it was one of the greatest blessings in my life. I have learned from church people, been encouraged and supported by church people, and served the needs of others alongside church people.
This past year, however, something has happened to my worldview. My husband and I have had one theological difference our entire married life. I was saved in a Southern Baptist church, and we were certain that once you were saved, you were always saved. What about those people who walked the walk and talked the talk and then fell into utter sin? Well, either they need to repent, but God's still got them in His hand, or they were never saved in the first place. My husband maintained that a person could lose their salvation, but it wasn't a casual "in and out" with God based on our behavior. My husband believed that if a person lost their salvation, they could never be saved again. Salvation happens once; if it's gone, it's gone.
We of course referenced Scripture in our discussions, and I was pretty sure I was right: two kinds of people, the saved and the not saved. When a person comes to Christ, he is a new creation. The old passes away, and all things are new (2 Corinthians 5:17). I didn't see how, if you were a new creature, you could ever go back.
Hebrews 10:26-27 says, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." In verse 29, it refers to this group of people as having "treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them." It speaks of them having a disdain for their salvation. The writer tells us, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded" (v.35).
The call to persevere once you have received Christ is found all over the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, "I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." I always thought, "Poor Paul! He had no need to worry! How could he be disqualified?"
I really don't know if someone can "lose their salvation." I have a feeling I'm asking questions that my Father will not answer clearly until I stand before Him. But I have definitely created a third group of people in my worldview.
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul says, "No wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (v.14-15). Peter warns the believers, "Since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position" (2 Peter 3:17).
There are people who are serving Satan, and they dwell in the church. My blog entry Leaders who deceive addresses this, and I don't know why I feel compelled to say it again: these people exist. I don't know their standing before God, and it is not my job to sift through everyone I know and assign them a category. However, I need to be alert, because these people, who are in the church, are working against Christ.
The other day, my youngest asked me about a girl at her school. "She's very religious, but when I am around her, I feel bad. What does that mean?" I told her that she could be having one of two reactions: either she feels convicted about her own walk, which comes from the Holy Spirit and is good, or this girl is something false, and she should stay away from her. My daughter needs to examine her own walk, and if the Spirit does not reveal a problem, the problem might lie with this girl, and she should avoid her. As I'm talking, it becomes abundantly clear that this is the situation I am facing with several fellow church people. Something about them disturbs me deeply; I should not submit myself to their teaching.
John says, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring [sound] teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work" (2 John 10-11). We are to welcome fellow believers, love them, help meet their needs, encourage each other with true teaching and singing, be gentle, forgive each other, work for restoration of relationships, consider others before ourselves, bless our teachers. But we are also to be perceptive, and avoid false people in the church. I don't know if these people were once saved but have lost their salvation or were never saved and just pursuing wicked schemes with a Christian coating, but the Scripture warns me over and over, they are there. They are among us. Pay attention, church, because the newer converts to Christianity and those who struggle more in their faith can be very wounded by the wolves.