I’ve only been following Jesus for six years, but in that short stretch of time I have seen so many people walk away from him. Some of these people were exposed to the gospel decades before I was born, professed faith in it, and fell away after years of church-going and apparent dedication to God. And others began and ended their journey with Jesus within the duration of my Christian life. Some of them were introduced or “reunited” (as they would say) to the gospel through me! I shared the truth with them, brought them with me to church, saw their hearts soften toward Jesus—I even saw some of them baptized! To then witness them subtly or violently pull back from Christ has been heartbreaking.
And dang it—it’s been down right frightening! If I’m honest, every time someone embraces Jesus with seeming sincerity and then throws him out with the bathwater, I wonder to myself, “Will this be me? Is it only a matter of time before I fall away, too? Is this life I’m living—this daily death to self—really sustainable for the long haul? Is my faith authentic?”
These words don’t just float around inside my head; I’m assaulted week in and week out with others’ “predictions” of my falling away. Former leaders of “ex-gay ministries” who have now embraced homosexuality insist that it’s only a matter of time before I throw in the towel on this celibacy stuff. Personal friends with same sex attraction who once embraced repentance but now chase the fleeting pleasures of this world urge me to follow suit because “it’s going to happen eventually, so ya might as well go ahead and date while you’re young!” Though I generally stand pretty steadfast against these “predictions” and feel confident I will continue following Christ (biblically) until the day I die, sometimes I do get a little uneasy. Sometimes, when I see so many people failing to persevere, I feel a little uncertain about my own future endurance in “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” – Jude 1:3.
And you know, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong; I think God wants his people to have assurance they will be kept blameless until the Day of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). John says the entire reason he writes his first epistle is so that those who believe may know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). However, the New Testament is also filled with exhortations for us to examine ourselves and to keep looking, keep listening, and keep clinging to the one who is able to keep us from falling away (Jude 1:24).
- “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard [the gospel], lest we drift away from it.” – Hebrews 2:1
- “Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” – Hebrews 3:6
- “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” – Hebrews 3:12-14.
- “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 1 Corinthians 13:5
If you’re like me, and you begin to get a little nervous when you see your friends and family falling away from Jesus, I think the Bible tells you God will finish he work he began in you, and you better hold fast to Jesus. In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul tells believers: “ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Do you see the tension there? In other words, he’s saying, “It is purely by God’s grace and power you are living as a Christian . . . but you better work hard to hold onto Jesus!” This tension is found throughout the entire New Testament.
When it comes to Christian endurance, many believers embrace one biblical truth at the expense of another. Some think because God sovereignly keeps his people until the very end, we don’t have to put forth any effort at all to remain in Christ. Others think because the Bible commands us to keep fighting, clinging, and abiding in Jesus, the future of our salvation rests solely in our hands. Brothers and sisters, God is sovereign over every aspect of our salvation and we are responsible to keep believing, hoping, and trusting. It is both/and, not either/or. So let’s embrace the tension! Let’s rest in God’s sovereign power to keep us as we cling to Jesus with all our strength. Let’s put all our hope in God’s free and unending grace while not being lackadaisical about putting on the new self. Let’s rest deeply in the security of God’s commitment to us as we cling desperately to Jesus with fellow believers.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:3-11.