From a reader —
Well we are studying your book (Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace) in our Sunday a.m. class. Most are really enjoying it. One is, to say the least, struggling with some of your thoughts on when is a person lost. Make that two people, I am struggling as well. But we are still in the mix, studying it.
The point brought up by this Christian in my class, she says, “I believe a person is lost who is living in sin.” She uses herself as an example and says, “In my life there was a time when I knew the Lord was trying to get me to turn around, but the two times when He did this, I said, “Not now Lord”.” She said, I know, and I teach, that if I died then, I would have been lost.
Well, my question to her was, what about the prodigal son? Was he lost while away from the Father? Wasn’t he welcomed back, forgiven, and had not lost his standing as a son?
I may have been using the wrong example and maybe I don’t get it. I know I don’t hold to the position that some hold that we are in and out of salvation numberless times during our lifetime. Each time we have to pray, confess to ‘get back in’. Obviously we forget or are not aware of the many things we do that are sin, even things ‘continued in’. When is a person lost? Well, I’m not the Judge for sure.
Grace is wonderful, it is as big as His love. There is at aleast as much grace and forgiveness for those in Christ as for those coming into Christ and having all their past forgiven.
Where am I going wrong?
I think you’ve nailed it. One of the most difficult doctrines dealing with falling away is how very difficult and how very easy it is to fall away. It’s easy because sin deceives and hardens the heart, making it harder to return to Jesus. It’s difficult because God is astonishly patient with us.
It helps, I think, to remember that this is a personal relationship, not the United States Code of statutes. It’s not a criminal law system. Rather, it’s like parenting.
How badly would your own child have to sin for you to disown your daughter? How much rebellion? If your child ran away from home, would you welcome her back? Or would you tell her to her face that you have no daughter and leave her on the street? While she was away, would you still of her as your daughter? Or as disowned?
I know parents who’ve disowned a child, but it took years of rebellion by the child. The parents tried everything they could think of, because the pain of losing a child is nearly unbearable. You see, disowning a child is as traumatic as the death of a child. It’s rare, but it happens.
We are not fallen away until we have so rebelled that God disowns us, gives up on us, and the relationship is entirely ended. This is when we’ve quenched the Spirit.
Here’s a post from several months back dealing with the passage in Revelation dealing with the church in Thyatira. The astonishing thing isn’t that God threatens the church with damnation, but that he hasn’t yet damned them despite some truly dark sins.
Our God is a merciful, patient God. But if we rely on God’s patience, we risk being deceived by sin and hardened so much that we turn away and never repent. God is patient, but we are often too rebellious to take advantage of the mercy available to us.
I love the painting I’ve inserted at the top of the page. But it’s not the picture I was looking for. I wanted a picture of the father on the road, heartsick, staring at the horizon in hopes that his son — whom he still loves desperately because he is still his son — will return. The point of the story, you see, is not whether the father will forgive. It’s whether the son will repent.