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On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

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Question #1:  

Thank you so much building this wonderful Bible Study and making it available over the internet. My only hope is through Christ since I've lived a life full of sin; alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. I getting on in years and finally finding peace in my life through God's word and his Son. Please pray for me. My life has been full of depression with no hope. God Bless you,

Response #1:  

Good to make your acquaintance. You are certainly not the first person to have to sample the world to find out that there is nothing here that is worthwhile – except for Jesus Christ (1Jn.2:15-17). I will pray for you; not only for peace, but for spiritual growth and production. Truly, there is nothing to hope for in this world of death and decay in the natural order of things, but the good news is that in Jesus Christ we have so much not only to be thankful for here and now but to anticipate in the glorious future to come. Everyone who survives the human experience with their faith intact has a full share in the Son of God and a full inheritance in the Kingdom of the Father which can never fade away. We all have a guaranteed resurrection, a new body that can know no pain or trouble, only happiness and joy for all eternity; and we all have a place in the New Jerusalem, one prepared for us by our Lord Himself who died for us all, individually as well as collectively, that we might have these blessings forever and have them abundantly. It doesn't matter how old you are or what the past was like. Even Paul had baggage, but he never looked back, and counsels us too to "forget what lies behind and strive for what is ahead" (Phil.3:13); and why? in order to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil.3:14). What lies ahead is wonderful beyond our present ability to comprehend. I have often said and fully believe that if we truly knew how terrific things are going to be on the other side we would be able to think about little else.

You actually have a great advantage in that you know experientially and not just academically that there is nothing in this world worth having or doing – except as it relates to pleasing our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. But in pleasing Him there is great blessing and reward; spiritual blessings that cannot be comprehended by the world here and now (Eph.1:3; cf. 1Cor.2:15), and eternal blessings of a very solid sort in eternity, not the gold, silver and precious stones of this world which are but dust and destined to be destroyed at the end of history, but the eternal equivalent that can never be taken away from us. And on top of all this there is the prospect of receiving a "well done!" from our Lord Himself (Matt.25:21-23), and a "name better than sons or daughters" receive (Is.56:5; cf. Rev.2:17).

So there is no place for hopelessness in the Christian walk. Every day is a gift – not because the world is enjoyable (it isn't to anyone who is thinking as Christ thought: Jas.4:4) – but because it is an opportunity to "lay up treasures in heaven where thieves cannot break in or moths corrode" (Matt.6:19-20). Every day represents a chance to please our Lord and produce for our Lord. And everything we do according to His will and everything we produce in response to His will cannot fail to reap a reward (even a cup of cold water given in His Name is to be rewarded: Matt.10:41-42; Mk.9:41). So whether we have decades or a few years or even only a few days in which to serve Him before He calls us home, once we throw off the devil's blinders we should realize that we have a chance to do what otherwise we wouldn't, namely, to earn a better reward which not only will bless us for all eternity, but which honors Him as well:

For whoever wishes to draw nearer to God must believe that He exists, and that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man in his own coin.
Matthew 16:27

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1st Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

So don't throw away this conviction of yours – it leads to a great reward. You need to keep persevering so that you may carry off in victory what has been promised – after you have accomplished God's will.
Hebrews 10:35-36

Don't throw away your confidence and conviction, but persevere in Jesus Christ. This is not only not a hopeless course but one filled with the greatest of hopes and expectations, eternal rewards that can never dim or diminish. If you have confessed and turned from your sins as your e-mail indicates (see the link: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness"), then you have been forgiven! Looking back now is pointless and counter-productive. What is needful now is to grow spiritually day by day through taking in and believing the truth of God's Word (through personal Bible study, accessing orthodox teaching, believing the truth and applying it to your life), then helping others to do the same through whatever ministry God calls you to corresponding to whatever spiritual gifts you have been given. Please see the following links, especially the first two where the levels of reward and the performance necessary to achieve them as well our corresponding places in the New Jerusalem are covered in detail respectively:

The Judgment and Reward of the Church (in CT 6)

The Gemstone Foundations and the Tribal Gates of New Jerusalem (in CT 6)

Bearing Fruit

Eternal Rewards

Introduction to Spiritual Growth

So on the one hand there is plenty of time, and on the other, there is not a moment to waste! I do promise to keep you in my prayers and encourage you to embrace the opportunity every day offers for drawing closer to Jesus and helping others do likewise, glorifying the Lord thereby – that is why we are still here on planet earth after salvation, and why we were ever put here in the first place.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time. Rejoice in this [salvation to come], even though at present it may for a time be your lot to suffer through various trials so that this validation (lit., "assaying") of your faith [which results from your successful passing of these tests] may result in praise, glory and honor for you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. For this [validation process] has a greater benefit [for you] than [is true in the case of] gold, which, while it is also proved by fire, ultimately perishes (e.g., in contrast to the eternal rewards of faith proved genuine through testing).
1st Peter 1:3-7

In anticipation of rejoicing with you before the Judgment Seat of Christ on that great day of days when everything is revealed! In Jesus Name,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Hello Bob,

I just want to thank you for your wonderful website and all of your thoroughness in everything.

I also want to let you know how much I appreciate your writings on spiritual trials and tribulations. I'm currently undergoing the most grievous tribulation – something extremely severe and long-lasting with no apparent way out.

Your words about how God always provides a way out, no matter how hopeless the situation seems to be, is encouraging, indeed. I love how you remind us what Jesus endured for us and how important it is for those of us who want to serve him to really summon our deepest strength and strive to do our best no matter what we happen to be facing.

I also draw strength from your comments about how – in severe testing – there is often a demonic component. This feels intuitively right to me in terms of the situation I am facing; it is/was an extreme shock that has cut right through to my emotional core. It is also extremely personal. I've had several other trials and difficulties in my life, but this is the worst so far.

Your use of the term "compliment" is also encouraging and helpful . . . that severe testing is given only to those who are fairly mature in the faith – and that God is entrusting us with this particular trial and wants to see us victorious and not defeated by it.

I love reading your articles on the end times, too. I believe these times are near. I also feel that this particular U.S election is playing into it. I had a strong inner prompting/warning about one of the candidates, in particular (and I rarely get these -- only one other time in my life). I don't feel that I should say more about it at the moment -- especially if you intend to publish my email.

Thanks again, and may God be with you and continue to bless your work!

Response #2: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. I will most definitely say a prayer for you and hope to hear soon of your inevitable victory in Jesus (Ps.20): everyone who remains faithful no matter what wins that victory, for faith in the face of the world's assaults is victory and victory abundant (1Jn.5:4; cf. Rom.8:37; 1Cor.15:57).

Thank you so much for your encouraging comments, but thank you even more for sharing with me your indomitable spirit. It is always so good to hear when my brothers and sisters in Jesus are demonstrating such courage on the firing line. It is so easy to whine, to complain, and even to give up when the pressure reaches a fever pitch – that is what most people by far do, even Christians, sad to say. It is a great encouragement to me personally to hear of someone like yourself bearing up through application of the truth of the Word, trusting the Lord to see these troubles through in spite of what the eyes may see or the ears hear. That is walking by faith for sure!

Thank you again for your e-mail. Please know that your witness is not lost on those around you, men and angels both.

In the One for whom live one day at a time, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:  

Thank you, Bob!

I have suffered yet another unexpected blow/hardship, since I wrote you, in which there is a strange and mysterious aspect, and I would like to get your "hit" on it.

I recently experienced a major robbery under very unusual circumstances. The losses it involved have set me back at least a year. What is strange about this is that it felt deliberate, as if this blow was intentionally directed at me by fate – perhaps as an added cross to my existing period of seemingly intractable tribulation. Almost as if Heaven (or demonic forces) are saying/asking "how much can she really take?"

The good news is that it has not thrown me off course. I do still want to move forward in every sense of the term. I do not feel that this is divine punishment because I am really trying my best to serve the truth in my other current difficult trial/dilemma.

Honestly, I feel a bit like Job – how piece by piece deep and harsh wounds/blows are being inflicted upon my person – and upon my heart and upon my deepest goals/plans.

I am a practicing Catholic, and last night I went to Mass, and the reading was from the Book of Job; that did not feel like an accident, and I took it as encouragement to persevere and accept the cross of not knowing or understanding and of feeling so intensely my creatureliness, powerlessness, and dependence on the Lord.

I really look forward to your response. It is obvious to me that you are person of deep prayer, thoughtfulness, learning, and wisdom.

Bless you, Bob! I really do sense a spiritual connection to you as a brother in Our Lord, Jesus.

Response #3: 

I am very sorry to hear about your troubles! I can certainly relate. A couple of years back my home was burglarized in broad daylight, neighbors home on both sides. They took my desktop computer – the whole ministry of some 20 years work. Blessedly, I have made a habit of backing up my files on-line on the server where Ichthys is stored. There was still a lot that I lost, a tremendous amount of work to do in restoration and reconstruction, and of course the expense. It's the kind of thing one has to grit one's teeth and get through. Not for a moment did I imagine that God was telling me to get out of this ministry. Indeed, the way He worked it out for me, I was able to avoid missing a week's e-mail posting. God is faithful! I saw God's grace powerfully at work in all this. It is undeniably true that the evil one attempts to stop us or at least slow us down in many ways. God has accounted for all of these things, however, so that even when we hit bumps, they can be to our great benefit (both in terms of the spiritual growth we experience from trusting Him to get us through and also in terms of glorifying Him by accepting His will and not grumbling or losing heart – a witness to men and angels both).

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

It is true that if something is not "of God", it will never work out. It is also true that major events in our lives, especially the unexpected ones, can be the Lord getting our attention for one purpose or another. In fact, since He knows everything and has planned it all from eternity past, we should be sensitive to all such "signs". How we interpret them, however, is another matter. The basics of the plan of God are clear: Jesus wants us to believe in Him, then follow Him faithfully throughout our lives in daily prayer, daily Bible reading, daily Bible study (from an orthodox source), daily application of living the Word we have believed as we learn, and daily prosecution of the ministries to which we are led as a result. This is the essence of spiritual growth, progress and service. Of course we have to live, and "Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things", so that if we are in His will, any bumps we experience in the provision of our daily bread are there for discipline, testing or guidance (or all three). But no other person can tell you definitively "this is how you should take/interpret this event". If a person is involved in gross sin, that will result in divine discipline. If a person is involved in something God wants them out of, that too will draw attention. But 1) only the person in question really can have the true answer about these two possibilities, and 2) if the bumps and lumps we are experiencing are not related to either, if we really are living our lives exactly as the Lord would have us to do, then the likely answer is that we are being tested for growth and blessing, and that trusting the Lord is the way to handle all such adversity – of course that is true of the possibilities of sin and dangerous association as well, only that in those cases we need to confess/separate before we can experience God's peace and receive the benefit of the test.

So I do think that some amount of "soul-searching" is appropriate as a result of any major life event, but it is also important not to go overboard and overreact. If we are on course, we can expect the devil to try and torpedo us. First check the compass carefully; then make adjustments if needed. If we are not, then hold course, come what may. And in all these things, remember that our Lord Jesus is "working them out together for our good, for all those who love Him".

I will certainly say a prayer for you for guidance, for wisdom, for courage, and for God's blessing in recovering from this blow. May He hold you up firmly as you walk on the water, hand in hand with Him.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Thank you, Bob! And thank you very much for your prayers for me. I'm sorry to hear that you, too, were robbed and your computer and part of your work stolen.

You are doing excellent work in endeavoring to uphold and proclaim the unvarnished truth of the Gospel. I am sure that your work is a powerful witness to the Lord. It was wonderful, indeed, for me to stumble across your website one day and find the boldness of your testimony and scholarship. You are the complete opposite of those demythologizing theologians one runs across these days in their work to distort the teachings, invalidate miracles (and the miraculous) and reduce everything down to a sterile and ugly materialistic humanism devoid of God. May God reward your for your courageous witness to Him!

And I know what you mean by going overboard (and seeing a devil in every treetop!), but I am not too worried about doing that because I tend to never think of events that happen to me in that light. It's just that this robbery occurred in the midst of a much more awful and deeper and protracted tribulation that it made me wonder if you'd ever run across this, too – while enduring something really painful and difficult – a seemingly hopeless and painful impasse – and then have another very sharply aimed blow hit you to see if you can still stand and endure. This was shocking to me in its pointedness – like it was trying to kick my legs out from under me while I was reeling from a deeper blow that has cut me to the quick and is testing every bit of faith and trust in me.

And I do not sense at all that God is asking me to give up on my plan to start my own business and hopefully be of more spiritual help to people. All lights seem to still be green on this front, despite this setback. My plan/hope for my ministry is to reach out to the "unchurched", if you will, people who are possibly open to spirituality but do not think it possible for them to return to Christianity. I spent a decade or so as an atheist/agnostic/quasi-Buddhist before returning to the Church, so I can understand where they are coming from. I would like to provide a doorway for them, if they are open to entering.

I find a lot of solace and renewed strength from these words of yours:

"If we are on course, we can expect the devil to try and torpedo us. First check the compass carefully; then make adjustments if needed. If not, then hold course, come what may. And in all these things, remember that our Lord Jesus is "working them out together for our good, for all those who love Him"."

Thank you, Bob!

Response #4:  

You are very welcome. And thank you for your encouragement as well! You seem to me to be very well equipped to encourage others to move beyond depression and complaining, then to make the most of the opportunities God has to offer. It may very well be that one of the reasons you are being "hit while you are down" is so that you can all the more effectively encourage "young recruits", being a seasoned combat veteran yourself. For if you have found yourself standing at the Red Sea and didn't lose faith that it would part, you are going to be able to tell others to hang on and hang in without any doubt or worry or shame – since you have done exactly that yourself and lived to see God's great deliverance. You asked if I had ever heard of the like. In my experience it is pretty common actually. In John 15, we are told that it is precisely the branches which bear fruit which continue to be pruned for the purpose that they might bear even more. The best biblical example I can give you is that of Job. Remember that it was after he had lost everything and had refused to blame God that the devil was allowed to take his health away too. Not only that, but his biggest test, the one that he ultimately failed, came from the "encouragement" of his friends (who of course give us the famous appellation "Job's comforters").

In all this, I would ask you to remember three things which must be appropriated by faith: 1) the Lord never tests us beyond what we can truly bear, even though He often tests us beyond what we think we can take (1Cor.10:13); 2) it is a fact that we have access to ever increasing comfort from the Lord through the Spirit precisely when we are under increasing stress; these are the times when we have the opportunity to grow and to get and to feel closer to the Lord than we ever could or would when the "sun is shining", but we have to remember this and aggressively pursue that spiritual comfort (2Cor.1:3-7); and so 3) we can actually have great joy in spite of tribulation; happiness in addition to sorrow; that is really what James 1:2 means – not that we should enjoy suffering!?, but that we have access to a special font of divine comfort and spiritual exultation as we see ourselves being preserved in the midst of the fiery furnace by the power and the grace of God, that we can have God’s peace in the midst of tribulation (Jn.16:33). Suffering is a necessity for spiritual growth, even though none of us would choose it if we had a choice, and without it we will never reach the heights that Jesus would have us reach (please see the link: Peter 25: "Personal Tribulation").

You are already applying these principles wonderfully! Keep up the wonderful witness for Jesus Christ, and may the Lord give you a quick and blessed release from all your troubles.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Wonderful, Bob! I draw such strength and encouragement from your words.

I know this is the truth – it's the only thing that makes sense – and God has rescued me many times in the past from seemingly hopeless predicaments – and often at the very last moment.

Praise to our God in Christ who so much needs our complete and steadfast faith and trust in the greater reality of the unseen in order to accomplish his work. And may He help me to meet this challenge, victoriously, for his greater glory!

And I love this part:

"For if you have found yourself standing at the Red Sea and didn't lose faith that it would part, you are going to be able to tell others to hang on and hang in without any doubt or worry or shame – since you have done exactly that yourself and lived to see God's great deliverance."

I am at the Red Sea, and I simply need to wait for it to part. And I am very glad that you used the word "shame" – I do feel that my predicament is such that – to merely human or conventional reasoning/thinking – everything says that I should take action to conclude matters. Although, my deepest sense is that I am to refrain from taking action and simply let myself be led through this – letting God act in the situation at will without saddling Him with any time constraints. Doing this entails deep personal suffering for me, and deep uncertainty, vulnerability, and risk, but I do believe it is God's will.

Thanks again, Bob!

Response #5: 

You're very welcome. Please do let me know how it all turns out.

We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.
Psalm 20:5 NIV

Waiting on Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  


As always, thanks for the inspiring note, always appreciated. She had a miscarriage on Saturday, so the little girl is gone. This was God's will and now she is in heaven. It's been very hard on her husband; he looks old, depressed and I'm afraid he's not turning to God but it's hard to know for sure. I know he has a lot of people praying for him.

Thanks again for your words, prayers and support, I hope and pray that your family is doing well.

Response #6: 

I am very sorry to hear about your loss. God's ways are indeed beyond finding out, but always, always for the good, whether we see how or why now or not.

I thank the Lord that your friend has a friend who not only is dedicated and loving, but also one who is spiritually mature enough to offer solid biblical guidance and support.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NIV

In our Lord with whom we shall all be together on that great day of days.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Thanks. It's hard, I have to keep reminding myself "thy will be done." And, he has kids with Downs too.

Response #7:  

This is indeed an easier perspective to maintain when the pressure is off rather than on. None of us is naturally good at looking beyond what we are conditioned to see with fleshly eyes as "disasters". It takes real spiritually maturity to begin to see things from God's perspective. He knows how everything affects everything, both in the short term which we see imperfectly, and in the long term about which we usually have no clue. There really is a reason for everything, and in His perfect will those perfect reasons may not be obvious or even possible to see this side of heaven. But if we trust that He really does love us and really does have absolutely our best in mind at all times, working out everything together for the good for those who love Him, then our faith allows patience to do its perfect work, and we become stronger despite whatever life may throw at us – because our faith is founded on an unshakable Rock.

In the mercy of Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Believers,

I am lost and unsaved. I thought I was a Christian for many decades. I am totally broken down physically and mentally. I do believe in Jesus. If I repent (which I am very repentant) and be baptized immediately afterward is it possible I will be born again or do I have no chance since I was already baptized twice but now realize I was in gross error? If I am not already reprobate maybe I can then know finally that I am either saved or unsaved. I may have been cast away for gross sin already and am getting on in years. I can't live like this. I am tormented I am afraid to talk to anyone about this because I know many people who think they are saved but are not and it will make them become hysterical like me. So is it possible to be resaved or am I wasting my time? The Bible says you cannot recrucify the Lord so I don't know. But I can at least try and pray Jesus will take me back. I am nearly homeless and financially emotionally and spiritually (physically and mentally) bankrupt. I can only hope for healing at the new birth. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.

Response #8: 

I want to assure you that – whatever you have done or think you have done -- there is only one sin for which we are condemned, and that is the sin of unbelief. If you still believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that He died for all your sins and mine and for those of the whole world, then, believing, you do have eternal life in His name.

That of course does not mean that you may not have stumbled, and that you may not have and may not be experiencing the after effects of the sin you relate. These include not only the torment of conscience and the natural consequences of the sin or sins themselves (and there are always natural consequences); but also of course there is divine discipline for sin in the case of believers; the more rebellious the sin, the stiffer the discipline. But you may take heart in this: if you were not a child of God, God would not be disciplining you. Indeed, the very fact that you are experiencing God's heavy hand of discipline is a proof that you are still one of His own; for unbelievers do not come in for discipline, only believers do:

You have not yet resisted to the point of [having to shed your] blood in your struggle against sin. And you have forgotten the encouragement scripture gives us as to the sons we are: "My son, do not treat the Lord's punishment lightly, and do not lose heart when you are rebuked by Him. For the Lord punishes those He loves, and flays everyone He receives to Himself as a son." So take your punishment in this spirit – God is behaving towards you as to sons. For what son has never been punished by his father? And if it should be that you are not receiving punishment (in which all [true sons] share), then you are illegitimate and not sons at all. Now we all had human fathers who punished us and we respected them for it. How much the more then shall we not submit ourselves to the Father of our spirits and live? For while our human fathers meted out our punishment for a relatively short time according as they saw best, when He punishes us it is definitely for our own good – that we might partake of His holiness. Now no punishment is a cause of rejoicing as it is being experienced, but rather of regret – only later does it bear fruit for those who have been trained through it – the fruit of [personal] righteousness that makes one whole and complete. Therefore (going back to the race analogy of v.1), pick up those hands hanging slack at your side, put some strength back into your weak knees, and make straight tracks for your feet, so that, [even though you fell down,] what you sprained might not be twisted completely out of joint, but might instead work its way back to health.
Hebrews 12:4-13

Now it is very true that sin, especially particularly gross, arrogant, high-handed, rebellious sin, is very damaging not only to our walk with the Lord but also to our spiritual safety. The danger is that the more our conscience torments us, the less able we are to continue to walk with the Lord and in sin at the same time; therefore the danger is that if we do not turn around we will begin instead to care less and less about the Lord and what He thinks or wants until in the end we don't care at all. This is the process of apostasy and the end of that process, down a long road of rebellion and casting aside all restraint, is the death of faith. When our faith dies, we no longer are believers. While it still lives, we are still children of God, even if find ourselves groaning under divine discipline.

Generally speaking, a person who is concerned about his or her spiritual status as you clearly are is really in much better condition than a person who is sinning grossly and rebelliously so, but has largely ceased to care. As you report that you are not only a believer but also are very intent on turning your back on you errors and moving ahead with the Lord, then I can assure you that, this being the case, you are still my sister in Christ. I want to encourage you to turn back to the Lord with all your heart and seek Him in the proper way for the rebuilding of your life and walk with Him.

What many fail to appreciate to a proper degree is that spiritual growth and the increasing safety it provides are not things that can be worked up emotionally in a few minutes. They are instead the result of diligently reading the Bible, listening to (or reading) solid Bible teaching, believing what the Spirit tells us is true, applying these truths to every aspect of our lives, and helping others to do the same. Truth is the ammunition of spiritual growth and the leverage used by the Spirit once it resides in the believer's heart by faith (Eph.6:17). Therefore I encourage you to recover spiritually the same way you have and should continue to advance spiritually, through the process of learning, believing, and following the truth of the One who is the Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I would be happy to communicate with you further about any of this. For the moment, please see the following links which are pertinent to your situation and questions:

God's Forgiveness of sins

Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness

The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

There is no spiritual value in water baptism; it has nothing to do with your salvation one way or the other (please see the link: Baptism: Water and Spirit). The passage you refer to in Hebrews "crucifying the Lord anew" is generally misunderstood and refers the habit of the Jerusalem church in their own particular apostasy of continuing in the shadow sacrifices of the Law when they should not have been doing so (Christ our Passover has already been sacrificed; continuing this ritual was in effect saying that His work on the cross was invalid).

I promise to pray for you. Trust the Lord and trust the words of truth and comfort He has given you. In all of your troubles, He is able to provide. In my experience and observation, all rebuilding has to start and to be based upon spiritual rebuilding, and it is to that principle that this ministry is dedicated (you are more than welcome to all the materials here at any time).

Jesus died for you, died for all your sins, the ones that trouble you and the ones that do not; He died not to condemn you, but in order that you might have eternal life with Him and have it abundantly (Jn.3:17). His forgiveness is absolute and immediately available upon confession and repentance of sin (1Jn.1:9). Even if the consequences, human and divine, do not immediately abate, yet His mercy and comfort are immediately available. Please avail yourself of that mercy, and have faith that your cause is not lost nor your hope in vain. It is right there where it always was, shining behind the veil of tears and storms which cloud our view of what lies ahead. But we know it is there – by faith.

In the One who died to save us from our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #9:  

Dear Bob,

It is a pleasure to email you again and I hope this email finds you well and happy.

I wanted to ask about Leviticus chapter 4 I am absolutely petrified that I have lost my Salvation in this chapter how can you tell the difference between sins done in ignorance and wilful sin it looks like in the OT there is no forgiveness for willful sin how does a believer who backslides come back to the Lord because at some point he would be willfully sinning to get to that stage,

I am struggling with things at the moment my faith is weak and I have slipped into the occasional sin here and there, I am praying for gods mercy and I know that if God does not love me now it's game over.

Best wishes,

Response #9: 

Good to hear from you – although I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing some "turbulence" in your spiritual life. It is indeed very difficult for us, human beings with sin indwelling our flesh, to completely avoid, as you say, "slipping into the occasional sin here and there". The standard is indeed perfection, and it is also true that without sanctification, no one will see the Lord (Heb.12:14). But in the book of 1st John, where believers are described as those who "are not sinning" (i.e., KJV: "whosever is born of God sinneth not": 1Jn.5:18), yet John also tells us in the very same book that that his purpose in writing is that we "not sin" (1Jn.2:1), and that if we do "we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1Jn.2:1b-2).

Sin is serious business, and as one who has had his share of divine discipline, I can certainly attest to the great value of avoiding it and the great detriment of indulging in it. But we have to remember that we are "sons of God". Just as a human father who is an honorable man would not disown a son for some act of indiscretion but would most likely level severe punishment which "fit the crime", so we should not expect our perfect divine heavenly Father to throw us out for sin whose penalty Jesus has already paid. God does discipline us, and it will hurt. Part of the pain of discipline is the alienation you are feeling now. But just because we have soured our relationship with Him on a temporary basis does not mean we have destroyed our eternal relationship with Him. It takes complete rebellion to do that, for the only thing that can cost us our salvation is our own willful and willing abandonment of our faith – that is what apostasy is, becoming a non-believer through completely eschewing our former faith in Jesus Christ (please see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death).

The passage that troubles you is terrifying and is meant to be so. We are supposed to have a healthy respect, reverence and yes even holy fear of God; but that fear is the sort of fear we should have for an earthly father who is completely just and will never allow us to "get away" with something truly wrong; not an unreasonable terror of Him Himself, for we love Him and He loves us, and we have a sense of security that can never be broken as long as in the end we accept His authority (as evidenced by our continuing faith and faithfulness in Jesus).

As I have written on this subject before, the lack of any sort of sacrifice for "deliberate" sinning is purposeful. Now we can say for certain that this does not mean that if anyone ever commits or committed a sin which arose not out of complete ignorance they are lost. First, no human being aside from our Lord could or ever has lived up to such a standard. Second, we have historical examples of believers who sinned on occasion and yet are clearly saved. David is one of the greatest believers of all time, and yet he certainly was not free of deliberate sin, having seduced Bathsheba and murdered her husband in complete cognizance. Now David was disciplined severely over a period of fourteen years or so, and I don't recommend doing anything that would ever bring this degree of discipline from the Lord, especially considering what he suffered as a result – but he is still saved, and greatly honored in scripture too.

I believe one the major points in the Leviticus passage is to make it clear to any and all who consider the matter carefully as you are doing that we can never and could never do anything to atone for sin on our own. There are necessary sacrifices in the Law and they are onerous (to my mind), and yet even if one were perfect in all of these there are in every life instances, as you see, where even this perfect adherence to the Law would never wipe away all sin. This is precisely the real message. We cannot be saved by works, even ones outlined by God Himself. The actual atonement for the sins we commit, sins for which we feel God's discipline and suffer palpable alienation, these (as well as all others in truth) had to be provided for by God (that is the message of the Law, as Paul tells us, to bring us to Christ: Rom.7:7; Gal.3:24). Jesus Christ is our atonement, and there is no other true sacrifice for sin. Indeed, all of the Levitical rites are merely shadows which represent and point to the cross and the blood of Jesus, the spiritual death He would die on Calvary in the darkness to wash away our sins. And they have been washed away!

The sins of the whole world are now no longer an issue because of what Jesus has done in our behalf. What is at issue now is our acceptance of that work for salvation (in the case of non-believers), and, for us who have believed, the issue is our response to Him and His truth in and with the remainder of our lives. Sinning goes against the grain of what He has done for us and what we are supposed to do from here on in in response to Him. It not only slows us down, is counter-productive to the ministries we are attempting to further in His Name, and damages if only temporarily our walk and relationship with Him – it also hurts on account of the divine discipline we receive. In your case, it sounds as if the peace you should have in Him and the confidence and security of the eternal relationship you should have with Him is where you are getting hit the hardest. Please know that as long as you hold fast to Him, your salvation is not in doubt. Left unchecked, unrepented of, and unconfessed, sin can begin to do irreparable damage, damage to faith, and it is by faith that we stand. So I do not belittle the issue, rather I am trying to help you understand it completely. To that end, I have written about this extensively at the site, but I think the best place to start is with Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin, and you might want to see in particular section II.3, "The Results of Sin" where this issue in the Law is addressed in part.

It is a truth of the Christian life that if we are advancing, we are less likely to be wandering. So I encourage you and pray for you both to "put off the sin which so easily besets" and "run with endurance the race set before us" (Heb.12:1-3). Devote yourself to spiritual growth and ministry, and you will find that both your inclination and opportunity for wandering will be less and less.

In the One who died to expiate all our sin and did so on the cross, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10:  

I've felt the urge to draw closer to God ever since you and others have prayed for me, but it seems as if the devil and his flunkies are trying to stop me. There's a man and a new temporary worker who sits next to me that judge me and it's one of my pet peeves. I even have a sign on my cubicle which reads "GOD IS MY JUDGE." The lady that sits next to me said aloud (I am almost certain that she was referring to me) "some people enjoy their sinful lifestyles." The nerve of her - she was never introduced to me and she is fairly new, although I have a hunch that those who don't like me are gossiping (another one of my pet peeves) about me. She is dishonest because we're not even suppose to talk aloud when were busy working as the boss and supervisors mentioned, and as soon as the bosses leave...it's non-stop holier than thou conversation with XXX who thinks that he's somehow holier than me because he goes to church 3 times a week and claims to worship God and brags about it. BTW, XXX believes in false doctrines such as Satan is OUR evil side and only exists in our mind. He also stated that the serpent in the garden was some voice in Eve's head just as how today all the wickedness that goes on is caused by Satan...that is our evil counterpart.

What was interesting was that I prayed to be light to others at work today, and as soon as I was about to leave from work (was a good day until...) they start to talk ALOUD so as to purposely cause me to hear their conversation. I don't like so-called Christians putting others down only to make themselves look better or "holier" and it frustrates me and even makes me cry. I'm sorry if this email seems like I'm filled with anger and frustration, but I am and the enemy got the best of me today with judgmental co-workers and I don't want him to overcome me like this anymore. And to those who are not saved...that they may also turn to the Lord and learn not to judge or condemn others who are striving to seek God.

Response #10: 

I am sorry to hear that your workplace has become a place of such challenge –

especially since it is coming from so-called Christians. At least I guess that is what they call themselves. They may be. In our time especially, most Christians are highly deficient when it comes to knowing God's truth, and that inevitably affects how they behave. From what you relate there is no question that you are correct. It is wrong to gossip, wrong to judge others for superficial reasons, wrong to brag, especially about something like going to church (as if going to a church where the truth is distorted is something to brag about!), etc.

I am very encouraged about your desire to walk closer to God, and your desire to be a good Christian example to others. These are very noble and worthwhile desires. Don't worry too much about the day to day ebb and flow. Spiritual growth comes from the inside out. As we grow closer to the Lord through hearing and believing His truth, the change happens, and real change always shows. This can't be done outside in. If we would be light to others, we first have to have the light of the truth in ourselves.

As to your situation, as Peter says, "Beloved, don't be amazed at the fiery ordeal of testing you are now undergoing, as if something out of the ordinary were happening to you. But to the degree that you are [truly] participating in Christ's sufferings, be joyful about it" (1Pet.4:12-19). And as Paul says "All who wish to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2Tim.3:12).

But how can we be joyful when we feel like crying! It is hard to endure tribulation, it's true, but we have to try and remember that it is a mark of our growth and success that the evil one opposes us through whatever means and minions he can. God is our Rock of deliverance, and will never let us be tested beyond what we can endure (1Cor.13:10). These light afflictions will turn out for us unto the glory of great reward in times to come (2Cor.4:17; cf. Rom.8:18), if we but persevere in our march up the high road to Zion, carrying our cross daily as the Lord has commanded.

There will always be weeds in this world which try to choke us, but we have to learn to rise above the weeds and yield a bountiful crop for our Lord (Matt.13:22-23). Once we start to see that Jesus is the only One worth considering, the paltry opinions of all who are not truly following Him come to matter to us very little.

You might also gain some comfort and guidance from the following links:

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

Spiritual Resiliency.

Waiting on God.

Feeling desperate and alone.

The Peter Series: Coping with Personal Tribulation

I pray that you may come into this peace of Him who is our peace, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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