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Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation II

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Question #1:  

Dear Sir. I have been reading every thing I can on your web site. Hoping I can find the true state of my soul. I am a middle-aged man who has lived in willful deliberate sin all of my life. None of my sinful life was ever out of ignorance.

Being raised in the church and having the light of Christ in-planted in me by the seed of the Word I believe I am a reprobate. I am a life long cigarette smoker and alcoholic. I have indulged in every perverse sin imaginable and doing so in full knowledge of the undoubted truth of Gods word. All of my life is nothing but a spitting in his face

My weakness is NOT an excuse to me. I know the Lord gives everyone Free Will. But I have demonstrated throughout my life that I am NOT his child by my actions. Behind this short email is a very long story of my life. I was wondering if I could possibly get some counsel from you. Maybe go into detail of my life so that you could maybe tell me if I am DOOMED or if I can have some possibility of hope. I am a man who is desperately wanting to be found in Christ when I die. I am very scared. And live in fear every day. Thank you for your help

Response #1: 

It's good to make your acquaintance – although I'm sorry to hear of your spiritual troubles.

Yes, there is a great deal at Ichthys about this subject because it is one of the most common questions I receive, namely, "since I am such a bad sinner how can I be saved?" But of course our Lord did not come to save the righteous – because there are no righteous. He came to save sinners, to which category we all belong.

As a believer, if you sin, and if you confess, you are forgiven whenever you confess, no matter "how bad" or "how much" or "over how long a time" you have been messing up:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

Listen, the prodigal son had the same feeling. He threw himself down at his father's feet and started into his speech about how unworthy he was . . . but his father picked him up and embraced him and restored all that he had previously had. Jesus told us that parable because that is the way the Father deals with us.

Is sin unimportant? No, it is important. For one thing, He disciplines us for our sins (Heb.12:1ff.), and He knows how to spank and make it hurt (as you are hurting now). Also, if we do not respond (in the way you ARE responding), eventually sin will dull our hearts toward Him and we may get to the point where we no longer want any part of Him and so stop believing in Jesus Christ at all. That is the real danger, the danger of apostasy. Because while all believers are saved, regardless of sins, all unbelievers are not saved, regardless of stellar conduct.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you are saved:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV

So stop looking backward. Every day is a new day and a new fight. Begin to engage in the fight "as long as it is called today". Not only is your salvation secure as long as you believe, but there is still time to glorify Christ with your life AND earn eternal rewards that will be a blessing to you and a glory to Him forever. To that you have been called. Be pleased to answer the call. Here are some links on this (many more at Ichthys):

God's Forgiveness of Sins

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Salvation Lost and Found

Do feel free to write me back.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Dear Bob.

I thank you for replying to my email question. It is a good feeling to know that I can receive counsel from a man of God like you. I appreciate what you do and the great amount of information regarding spiritual truths that you provide on your web site. I am still tying to contemplate how I can describe to you my concerns about my relationship with the Lord (of which I feel I have ZERO). And IF or how I can be restored to a saved condition––that is of course "If I was ever saved in the first place".

Bob I am an alcoholic and I know that Gods Word says that drunkards will not go to heaven. I know that I need to repent from my drinking and smoking. To me I believe that smoking is another form of idolatry of which I also need to quit and ask for forgiveness. I have been an alcoholic and smoker since my youth.

As I have read through your web site I have learned a lot about sin and myself. I also believe without a doubt that If I could get sober and quit smoking I am still absolutely guilty of ALL sin. I have been through two years of voluntary residential life in rehab at a place called "Teen Challenge" to no avail. I also have been through the "CULT" of Alcoholics Anonymous to get sober but that didn't work either. So my question is this:

If I was saved at one point in my life when I quit drinking and attended church faithfully and seriously pursued the Lord for about a year and then fell away. Which I did many years ago, and went back to my vomit like 2nd Peter talks about. Would the Lord take me back? Bob I have lived all my years knowing and have been given the light and knowledge of the truth and I rejected Him to pursue the lust of my flesh. I am a Liar, fornicator, drunkard, idolater, profane man filled with all form of wickedness. Yet I hate myself. And I crave Christ. My best guess is that I am the second or third soil Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower and seeds. Can I change my soil?

Today as I wrestled with my spiritual condition that constantly beats me to death in my heart and mind I realized that – EVEN IF I CAN GET SOBER – sobriety does NOT equal salvation. AA teaches that sobriety equals salvation and that is the reason why I left them. Have you ever heard of the "Orange Papers"? Among other historical accounts of AA you would be shocked to discover the true origins of Bill Wilsons writings. How he used Ouija boards and used seances to produce the Big Book of AA. Most folks don't realize the truth of AA and how dangerous it is.

Any ways I'm sorry that I got off track. So back to my question. I believe that it is absolutely pointless to even pray to God or hope for salvation unless I can truly repent and quit drinking completely and forever. Then and only then can I have hope to be granted forgiveness as long as I STRIVE to RUN away from all Willful sin. Repentance must precede confession. Right? I'm such a lost mess of a man. please pray for me that the Lord would grant me the courage and strength to repent and courageously lay down my life for HIM.

God Bless

Response #2: 

I'm happy to help. As I say, I get similar emails from lots of folks all the time. A couple of principles to keep in mind:

1) If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you ARE a believer – and all believers are saved; only unbelievers, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, are not saved (Jn.3:18).

2) This is not a matter of how you may feel. This is a question of fact and of faith: if you have genuine faith in Jesus Christ then in fact you are born again and are saved.

3) Many people wander off like the prodigal son did; the whole point of that parable is that God the Father willingly takes us back. We all realize how bad we are at such times (a good thing to hold in memory since we are all sinners in fact), but, just as the prodigal assumed that he would not necessarily be taken back, He found instead that his father was delighted to have Him. That is how it is with God too (rejoicing over the lost coin, the lost sheep found). After all, He's already paid for you in the blood of His Son, and we know that He wants all to be saved – that He deeply desires the salvation of all (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), and that He gains no pleasure from anyone's condemnation (Jn.3:17); so why would He condemn you? That's wrong thinking and it is actually a subtle form of arrogance: "I'm so bad that my badness overrules God and is more important than what Christ did in dying for my sins". I know that's not the way we express it to ourselves at such times, but it is the logic of such a point of view.

4) We absolutely do need to resolutely "abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul [= life]" (1Pet.2:11). Without such sanctification "no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14). Why is that? Is it because there are sins so bad that Christ could not die for them? No. It's blasphemous even to think like that. The only sin for which Christ could not / did not die was the eternal sin of rejecting Him as Savior. Anyone who dies as an unbeliever is guilty of that unpardonable sin, whether the rejection was deliberate or passive (i.e., refusing to have anything to do with God while alive), and even if a person once believed. So the problem for believers  is that sin sours our relationship with Him – turning us away from Him rather than the other way around. He is willing to forgive always but He also disciplines us for our bad behavior – as a loving Father attempting to get us to reform.

It seems clear to me that His discipline is what is bringing you back to Him, and that is love indeed. But if a believer stays away too long too far out, there is a powerful tendency for God to become less and less in one's own thinking. So two thing may result for those who are beloved but not behaving right: a) we may become so hardened in our heart and set in our ways that eventually we lose all of our faith; that is, we revert to being unbelievers, rejecting the Savior we once embraced; we apostatize (as in the parable of the Sower where the plant of faith dies out entirely); or b) we are unwilling to let go of the Lord – as you are unwilling to let go of the Lord – and yet we are also unwilling to let go of our sinful behavior. The Lord is only going to tolerate a bad witness which is quintessentially bad for so long. Eventually, such a believer will be taken out of this life by the Lord in a very painful way through the "sin unto death" (cf. 1Cor.5:1ff.). The advantage of the latter is that the person is saved, even though he/she has had a very rough experience and has lost eternal reward (beyond the wonderful "basic package" all have; 1Cor.9:27; Rev.3:11); the paltry "advantage" of the former is that divine discipline stops – because the person is no longer in the family of God but has left it of his/her own accord (but of course the lake of fire will quickly seer away any such temporary here-and-now "advantage"). The fact that you are clearly in the woodshed tells me that God is working on you in a very loving way; it is causing you distress, but for good:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NIV

5) You are alive. So there is hope. Every day is a fight. Every day is its own fight. We have to resist seeing our lives in any other way but as one day at a time. Yesterday is over, whether good or bad, and looking back is disastrous for any Christian – except to their salvation and to the cross whereby we were saved. Tomorrow may or may not be given to us, or it may be the great day He calls us home. Only today matters, and today we need to commit ourselves to doing what the Lord wants. The most important part of that is offense: He wants us to learn the truth (from the Bible but also from a good Bible teaching ministry), believe the truth we learn, apply that truth in our walk with Him, and, eventually, minister that truth to others through whatever spiritual gifts we have been given in whatever ministries we have been called to. There is also defense, that is, learning to stay way from bad thing, mastering ourselves in what we think, say and do. But only through good offense will we grow to the point of being good on defense. It cannot really be done beyond a certain point in reverse. Put another way, only by cleansing the inside of the cup will the outside eventually begin to show signs of that cleansing consistently. We can't win this fight by treating the symptoms; we have to attack the root cause . . . which is lack of truth in the heart sufficiently believed with sufficient faith.

As to practicalities, thanks for your sharing about AA. I have heard similar things in the past from Christians. It's akin to the RC church. I've always hoped that it might be possible for some Catholics to be saved, but all "ex-pats" I've ever met have told me it's not (they weren't while within it and from their experience feel unanimously that it would be impossible to accept the Lord through faith by grace therein); similarly with AA, while I never recommend it because of things such as you report, I've always hoped that it might be helpful to some people – but the response from those in the know is usually along the lines of what you have said.

What I do know is that we do have free will. We certainly can and most of us at times certainly do put constraints on that free will so as to make it harder to do what is right. If we want to serve the Lord by teaching the Bible but have a hard time learning Greek because of heavy drug use in our youth, that would be an example. Still, the Lord can overcome anything. If we have made it hard to recover from a certain type of sinful behavior by making that behavior a central part of our lives and ingraining into our brain and our body, that will make recovery harder, obviously. But we do have free will. So accepting the responsibility for whatever it may be is the first step. We do have to "own it" and realize that it is up to us – with God's help – to "kick" whatever it is needs to be kicked. We have to be realistic that it will be a fight "to the point of blood" to accomplish that (Heb.12:4). We also have to understand that it will probably take time. That there will be setbacks. And that without spiritual growth our chances of success are not good. But if we are committed to coming back to the Lord with all our hearts, He will help us do so. A big part of that help is the truth that you are attempting to get your hands and heart around. Good for you! However, this growth cannot be limited to the parts of the Bible and the truth which directly affect the situation at hand. All truth is important, and none of it can be left out if a person wants true spiritual success – any more than girders and bricks and foundation stones can be left out of a building and still have the expectation of its physical security. You are certainly welcome to everything at Ichthys.

Finally, as to "returning to one's vomit", please remember that the person who wrote that passage was the apostle Peter, the same Peter who, after over three years with our Lord, denied Him, not once, not twice but three times – and yet Peter is not only saved but is one of the greatest believers of all times with his name inscribed on one New Jerusalem's foundations. If the Lord can forgive this for someone He loves, He can certainly forgive you – and He loves us all so much that He died for all of our sins.

Be encouraged my friend, and resolve to fight this fight to win.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Thank you Bob for being such a nice caring man when it comes to losers like me. I am a nobody, a sinner of the worst kind. I say that because I am different from an "unbeliever". I do believe and know TOO much to claim any smidgen of ignorance. Yet I am held captive of habitual sin. The only thing that lives within me is the "FEAR" of my coming judgement and the lake of fire. Some say it is the Lord drawing me to repentance. Others say it is just my fear of the reality of my impending doom. I don't know how to tell if I am beyond the point of hope or not. I don't know if I am a true apostate and reprobate. I wonder if it is truly hopeless for me since I was once a faithful servant of the Lord. Thank you Bob for your replies

Response #3: 

As I've mentioned, if you are alive, there is hope. Every day is its own struggle. Yesterday is gone and only what Christ did for you in saving you is important to remember about what went before. Once you confess, you are forgiven. So be pleased to let go of the past (even yesterday) and begin moving forward today "as long as it is called today". If you are alive, you still possess the image of God – the free will to make your own choices. It is a trap to believe you cannot still choose . . . since you choose every moment of every day. You choose what you think and what you feel. Granted, getting control of thoughts and emotions is just as difficult as getting control of behavioral deficiencies – but it is possible with 1) spiritual growth (please do not leave this part out: study the Bible and Bible teaching every day), 2) determined resolve. Getting "resolved" is far from easy and harder for some than for others but it is possible once we finally make up our minds to "own it" (whatever "it" is). This is what Paul reproaches the recipients of Hebrews of not doing:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4 NIV

Meaning, we have to get deadly serious about it to win. So be pleased to resolve to fight the fight of spiritual recovery which is the necessary basis for lasting physical and emotional recovery. You'll have to get tough on yourself to do it, but it can be done. The Lord honors those who genuinely fight the fight. Looking back with regret is no good for anyone – we can all do that to some degree, but it never helps.

Fight the fight today.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Thank you Bob for responding to my questions.

I have been wondering about my desire to be restored to the Lord and I do realize that I must repent and turn from my sinful ways before my confessions to the Lord will be meaningful.
But I am confused about how to confess the millions of sins I have committed over the years. How can I confess sins I can't remember? This worries me . Can you help me understand how to begin to walk the right path to being restored to the Lord?

Thank you.

Response #4: 

I'm happy to help.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 KJV

If we confess, He forgives . . . and cleanses us from everything (cf. Ps.32:1-11; 103:8-12).

No one knows all of their sins, for sin is a darkness deep and wide; and no one has a perfect memory – we are but flesh. God knows that better than we do. What He wants is your return. Since you have it in your heart to return, please do so and with all speed! Confess to the Lord and He will forgive you. Christ has already died for all your sins. When you confess, you will be forgiven all, even if you don't remember all. As long as we are not deliberately "harboring sin in our heart" and refusing to confess (Ps.68:18), we will receive the same answer as the psalmist did: "But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer" (Ps.68:19 KJV). God is anxious to forgive you, waiting patiently to be merciful to you (Is.30:18 NIV). So don't make the mistake of waiting for some perfection that will never come and has never existed in any human being outside of the garden save our perfect Lord. And if any of this still troubles you, remember that even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts – for He knows all (1Jn.3:20).

There is much more about all this in the links previously provided. The main thing is to get started. There is no advantage in waiting. So please take my advice and confess to the Lord from your heart, then begin to climb out of the hole – one step at a time.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Savior who has saved us from all of our sins.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Thank you again Sir for giving me your time to answer my questions. As you know I am very concerned about my salvation.

But I am still confused . When I read Gods Word I see the big "IF" condition behind God granting forgiveness unto salvation. And that is based upon obedience.

I know that none of us can be perfect and without sin on this side of eternity. I also understand that we have a choice to obey or not to obey.

From my understanding of the scriptures, choosing to disobey in a consistent life style of sinful behaviour equals UN-belief.

All of my life I have believed in my heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and I have always believed that His Gospel, His death and resurrection for my sins is my only hope of salvation.

But "Even the demons believe and tremble in His presence". . I examine myself all the time and have come to the conclusion based upon my actions I display the heart of an unbeliever. .

As far as I have gleaned in reading the various topics on your web site I see that you teach "belief only" "without" the need of repentance. You say that if I believe then I'm saved.

I'm not trying to dispute or debate you Bob. But just saying that when I study God's Word I see that Obedience and faith go hand in glove. You can't have one without the other.

It makes me think of the passage in James that says something like this: Faith without works is dead. And show me your faith by what you SAY and I'll show my faith by what I DO.

In my heart I look at my pathetic gross sinful drunken life. Filled with all forms of deviant perverted sexual sin. I'm a liar. An idolatrous self centered pig wallowing in the vomit of sin. Entangled and controlled by my sinful evil impulses.

Yet. I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is my only hope. Not only for salvation But also freedom from the grip of sinful habits that enslave me.

Bob. I am a loser entrapped in the muddy pit of WILLFULL SIN.

Yet I go to bed every night thinking of God. And my judgement to come. I awake every morning thinking about God and Jesus. I go to work and think about the Lord all day long. Every second of every day. It is a miserable existence.

Living in sin is absolutely undeniably miserable for me. I hate myself and I hate my life. And I am terrified of death because my life clearly demonstrates that I am NOT a believer.

Someone once asked me this question. "If you was standing in front of God face to face. Would you sin in front of Him? My answer was "absolutely not". But then I thought about it. God sees all things. Knows all our thoughts and intentions of our inner man (our hearts). I truly believe that. So when I intentionally sin all I do is display a heart of UN-BELIEF. That makes me think of Hebrews 10:26.

I have a hard time equating my sins to the "excuse" of weakness. All of my sinful delights and choices are from what I believe is my own sick disgusting sinful wickedness that resides within my heart.

I truly believe that I have never been "Born Again". Yet I believe in Jesus. And know I am hopeless without Him. What a tangled mess I am Bob. I find it hard to comprehend that I am saved just because I have "head knowledge" of Christ but not a "True heart knowledge" of Him and His Love.

I have no purpose in life. No enjoyment of anything in life. Even drinking gives me zero relief. But I can absolutely say with confidence and 100 Percent belief without a doubt that " JESUS CHRIST" is the ONLY PURSUIT Worth pursuing.

I know this deep within my heart. But Jesus said that "Unless you repent you will perish". Bob I am lost in my continual habitual sin. I am spiritually dead. Please pray for me. Any insight from you will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.

Response #5: 

Here is what I read in scripture:

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
Psalm 130:3 NIV

Answer (obviously): no one at all, not even the greatest believer of all time. Moral: we all need God's mercy – and it is indeed available to us all, always.

Repentance is a word freighted with a good number of incorrect connotations in our present culture. But in Greek repentance means "to change one's mind" (see the link) – that is, to turn around, back to the Lord. It is impossible to confess without turning around; it is impossible to turn around without confessing. If you confess, that is an indication of your desire to return to the Lord, but what if you refuse to do so?

The demons don't "confess". If you confess, you have turned around and come back to the Lord in search of His mercy. And if you don't, well then . . .

So please take my advice and confess to the Lord. What is so hard about that? You've already confessed to me. Confessing to human beings means nothing. Confessing to God means everything. If God refused to hear confession because we were going to sin again in the near future even so, then no one's confession would have ever been heard in the history of the world.

Don't you think God is strong enough or good enough or merciful enough to forgive you? He said He would – if you confess. He's not lying about that, is He? God forbid!

If you wait until you are "perfect" to confess, one of two things will happen: 1) either you will never confess because, of course, you'll never be perfect, even though you may make great improvements in your behavior – good for you if you do, but please understand that this is not the main thing the Lord wants from you in any case (He desires your spiritual growth, progress and production), or 2) when you get better at behaving better you will feel you "no longer sin" – when in fact you have merely redefined "sin" as the things you were doing before but have given up. In either case this is "works-based" strategy and so it is abominable to God.  God's plan is grace.  We need it; He gives it; if we take it, all is well. If we reject it, for whatever reason, spiritual disaster is the result.

Why are you refusing to accept the grace of God? Jesus has already died for all these sins that trouble you, and, as written and shown in scripture to you before, God is waiting eagerly to be merciful to you. Why not accept that mercy?

In fact, that is really the only way to recover. No one ever dug out of a spiritual hole by immediately reforming all that was wrong – people are not built like that. We have to come back like the prodigal and throw ourselves on the Lord's mercy even though we have nothing to offer. And that is the point. No one has anything to offer. And if we possessed the entire world and could lay it at God's feet, it wouldn't wipe out even the smallest sin we've ever committed – and by the way God already owns the world, having made it and now sustaining through Christ's "word of power" (Heb.1:3).

So your agonizing is not becoming, nor is it acceptable to the Lord. He died for your sins and then promised you that He would forgive them, but you are pushing that away as if your sins are so special that grace does not apply, so unique that they couldn't be washed away by the blood of Christ. Trust me when I say that such guilt is really a subtle form of the most pernicious sort of arrogance set on fire by the flames of hell.

You, and your sins, and your situation are not unique. All Christians have "been there" at one time or another, merely with kaleidoscopically different story lines – but the substance is the same. And a good number for whatever reason just seem unwilling to accept God's mercy, God's grace, God's word for what He has promised to do. But all they are doing by doing so is hanging onto a perverse pride of being special in sinfulness which has in effect become and idol to them, and thereby they abandon the grace that God is holding out to them (Jonah 2:8).

So please take my advice and start confessing whenever you fall into any sin, great or small.  Did you just confess the same thing a minute ago?  No doubt.  It is not hypocritical to confess anyway.  Rather it is obedient.  Do you imagine that this cycle will go on and on anyway? Please have a little faith. When you start doing things God's way, you will be amazed at what He can do far beyond anything you ever imagined you yourself would ever be able to do.

It does take time, effort, and "resistance to the point of blood" to win these sorts of fights. But they can be won. You do have free will and you do control your own actions, your own words . . . even your own thoughts and emotions. Bringing the whole into a consistent, disciplined walk with Christ takes time and effort, but it can be done, even if starting from the lowest of low places. But it cannot be done on one's own. You have to let the Lord Jesus Christ help you. You have to rely on the power of the Spirit. You have to do it God the Father's way, not your way. The Bible says "confess!" . . . so confess. The Bible says we need the truth . . . so give attention to Bible study consistently. The Bible says "pursue sanctification" . . . so stop bemoaning your past failures and start fighting the fight now.

You can't change the past, not even what happened five minutes ago. I know you feel bad about mistakes in the past – we all do. But you cannot afford to focus on that. To win this fight you have to put your head down and move forward resolutely one step at a time: confess, grow in the truth, fight the fight against sin one battle at a time – and then repeat just as often as may be necessary no matter how often that may be. That is the only "R/x" for getting out of the hole and beginning to move forward again for Jesus Christ.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus us who loved us so much that He endured everything the devil could throw at Him in this world, walking as a man just like us (but without sin), and more than that, dying for all our sins on Calvary's cross . . . that we might be forgiven all in Him.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Thanks Dr Bob. I am trying to understand and my heart is open and seeking truth.

I prayed today and did my best to confess my sins to the Lord and asked Him to open the eyes of my heart.

I also asked Him to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh and a renewed spirit. A heart of " Godly sorrow" that I may have a hatred of sin just like He has.

I really appreciate your guidance. But I'm still a bit confused. Could you tell me your understanding of Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26?

These two passages strike deep fear within my heart.

From your friend seeking Jesus Christ. Thank you Bob.

Response #6: 

Good for you! I am very pleased with this report, my friend. Begin your conversation with the Lord again, and don't back off of it.

I was thinking about you today as I was reading in Leviticus about the various animal sacrifices. It occurred to me, as it has before, that given how wide and deep and broad sin really is, namely, that it can be anything we think or say or do, there could never have been anyone in the history of Israel who actually made such a sacrifice each and every time they sinned. So when it says that "they will be forgiven", we have to conclude that God forgave them all their sins even so. Likewise 1st John 1:9 assures us that we will be forgiven and cleansed of all sins when we confess, and that includes things we have forgotten or, as is more often the case, didn't even register with us as sins at the time.

As to the two passages you ask about here, these are two of the most misunderstood passages in scripture and I can assure you that they do not mean what your darkest fears suggest. Incorrect translation, poor preaching, taking things out of context, and excessive guilt overriding what is actually said has contributed to these two passages being great stumbling blocks to many – not the verses themselves, mind you, but the wrong appreciation of them which many people have adopted. I have received very many emails about these verses over the years.

I will give you a brief synopsis in a moment, but what I'm going to say next is even more important. In order for you to get anywhere in your newfound correct approach, you will need to begin to do the hard work of growing spiritually. That will mean accessing the teaching of a doctrinally sound Bible teaching ministry. Ichthys is one such place, but not the only one (I also highly recommend past-teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy; see the link). Reading your Bible is great (and important), and so is prayer. Going to church is not necessarily bad for you (depending on the church, that is), but one thing is clear: you are not getting enough spiritual nutrition in your diet from "going to church". So please make a commitment to spiritual growth through giving serious attention to a good Bible teaching ministry. Exchanging emails with me every once in a while is (I certainly hope) helpful, but it is not enough to grow. A Christian needs to be taking in the truth on every subject the Bible teaches, not just what is concerning or interesting him or her personally at the moment. Also, mostly we need to learn objectively. By that I mean that there is a subjective element in "one to one" exchanges which makes appreciating the truth for what it is – apart from the person sharing it – more difficult. A little bit of this sort of thing is not a problem and can even be helpful. But for the most part, a Christian needs to do his or her reading or listening or watching as "a member of the congregation" where he/she can be sure that the truth presented and the advice given is meant for all hands. That said, do please consider reading all the links I've given you (and other things at Ichthys too – which is "my church"). That is how you will gain some true spiritual momentum in the end. Even if we can get you "feeling better" with these emails, it's not likely to last unless you commit seriously to an aggressive plan of spiritual growth through hearing/reading/viewing the teaching of the truth in depth and detail, believing it, and putting into practice in your life.

My translation of Hebrews 6:4-6:

(4) For, in the case of those who have been enlightened (i.e., have become believers, "light in the Lord": Eph.5:8), and who have experienced the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit (i.e., have been baptized with the Spirit so that He indwells them, and by the Spirit into union with Christ), (5) and who have experienced that the Word of God is good, and [who have experienced] miracles [foreshadowing] the age to come, (6) it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., while they continue in their sin, the particular sin in question here being continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 6:4-6

Comment: If we are in the very act of committing a sin, clearly, that is no time to confess.  Such a thing would be pointless.  Secondly, these verses are only making that point.  "Restore to repentance" means just that, namely, bring the person back to the place of responding to God correctly.  The verse neither says, nor means, nor implies that these Jerusalem believers were lost – much less that they were lost without the possibility of salvation!  That is not what is said here.  Paul is remonstrating with believers – all epistles are written to believers – and warning them that their behavior is sinful, dangerous, and must change if they want to avoid serious consequences (such as the sin unto death; see the link).  So the very fact that these people are given this passage shows that they are saved and that Paul is concerned for them as believers – otherwise (if they were no longer believers), they would not care and he would not bother.

My translation of Hebrews 10:26:

For if we continue to sin willfully (i.e., arrogantly) after having received full knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice applicable to [such] sins, but [only] the terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery retribution waiting to devour those who oppose [the Lord].
Hebrews 10:26-27

Comment: A sacrifice is a Levitical sacrifice. Jesus had by this time long since died for the sins of the world, making the shadows of the temple rite no longer appropriate for believers to engage in – because they proclaimed a suffering Messiah yet to come, and thereby implied that either Christ was not the One or that His sacrifice had not been effective – God forbid! So this passage is merely letting these people know that their animal sacrifices are not going to be accepted to forgive such arrogance – indeed, these are exactly the problem! These people wanted to have it both ways, namely, to be saved but also to pretend to be "good Jews" and not bear the reproach of Christ. That was an impossible situation, and Paul lets them know that if they continue, no good will come of it. As explained before, these people are believers – in spite of their shameful conduct – but Paul, out of love, warns them in the Spirit that what awaits them if they persist is "the sin unto death" whereby a believer who disgraces the Lord is taken out of this life in a very painful way – but not with loss of salvation even so (see the link).

Here's an extended paraphrase of the passage, expanded for instructional purposes:

v.26: Now that we have accepted the truth of the gospel by believing in Jesus as God's true sacrifice for our sins, if, in contrast to associating with other Christians as we should (v.25), we instead insist on continuing our association with the unbelievers in Jerusalem and committing the sin of sacrificing-after-the-cross as they are doing, consider that since Jesus has already been sacrificed for us no further sacrifice of the Law can have any effect in removing our sins.

v.27: All that is left is judgment for those who oppose God in this matter of denying Christ and denying the Father's sacrifice of Him by their actions in so doing.

v.28: You should be able to figure this out by considering the Law which Christ has actually fulfilled; for even violators of the Law which was merely a set of shadows anticipating Christ nevertheless were put to death.

v.29: Since even violators of the Law of ritual which spoke of Christ were put to death, how much more do you not think that God will judge those whose violations give offense not to the Law but to the reality, namely, Jesus Christ Himself! For by participating in the blood-ritual which spoke of Him not yet come, you are saying what He actually did is of no effect and no importance to you. When you participate in these sacrifices, therefore, you are trampling Jesus underfoot! You are pronouncing His true blood – the death that makes the true, New Covenant effective – unclean! You are casting aside the genuine sacrifice by which you were actually redeemed from death and substituting the inferior shadows so as to imply He died for nothing! You are outraging the Holy Spirit who witnessed the truth of the gospel to you when you believed! And you are in danger of falling into apostasy if you keep this up – or more likely God's terminal judgment of the sin unto death!

Obviously, none of this applies to you directly (none of us can commit this particular sin); but it all does apply to us generally: sin is serious business and any Christian mired in it (we all sin but there is such a thing as being a slave to it rather than fighting with it "to the point of blood) needs to understand that it will go better for him/her if he/she will repent/confess and turn away for the bad and get cracking with the good.

Here are a couple of links to where this is all explained in much more detail (and these will also include further links that will keep you busy a long while):

Salvation Lost and Found

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

I'm very happy to see you righting the ship, my friend! Keep up the good work in Jesus Christ. He loves you so much He died for all of your sins in the darkness – so that you might have eternal life with Him and the rest of us who love Him, and have it abundantly.

Yours in the dear Savior who sacrificed everything for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

I realized how often and prevalently I blaspheme God's name, to my shame.

Response #7: 

We all have rough edges. The Lord is good at smoothing them out if we let Him. It's rare for a Christian to become perfect overnight . . . in fact we never actually ever get there. There's always room for improvement, and that is true of all of us (Heb:12:14).

Question #8:  

I believe that, due to my extremely stubborn sexual sins, that I will suffer the ultimate divine discipline of having my life taken away.

Do not get me wrong, I DO want to stop, but I just always fail. If you do not hear from me in a while...that's because I'm dead.

Response #8: 

First off, I think you overestimate your uniqueness in failure when it comes to chronic sin. I receive a large volume of emails on this topic (e.g.). And we know that our Lord is forgiving . . .

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 32:5 NIV

When we confess, we are forgiven (1Jn.1:9). So confess, and be forgiven. Do not look backward and become demoralized on account of many previous failures. Make it your business to look forward in confidence that the Lord will help you to gain victory in this as in all things.

Then there is also this. No one ever loses weight by accident. No one ever gets into good physical shape through a scattershot approach. No one ever learned a foreign language well without self-discipline applied over a long period of time. And no one ever grew to spiritual maturity without making it a priority and consistently so. Likewise when it comes to addiction or chronic sin of any kind, resistance "to the point of blood" is what is usually required for victory (Heb.12:4). In other words, true victory requires getting truly serious, and that is not a light thing nor an easy thing nor often an overnight thing.

If you really do feel as bad as it sounds like you do from this email, that can be a help in the fight: remember and use that as a bulwark against future failure. But one thing is certain. We do have free will and we can, e.g., lose weight. If we don't/aren't it isn't because we can't; it's because we are not engaging the free will we have been given in a serious enough and in a consistent enough way to carry out what we have purposed to do. All worthwhile objectives usually involve a fight, and sometimes a furious fight. So take it to "the point of blood" (figuratively speaking) . . . and don't forget to rely on the Lord's help – since none of us can do anything important in this spiritual conflict in which we are involved without that help.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Well can you please explain in a nutshell Hebrews 6:4-6?

Response #9: 

The essential meaning is that if a person is in the middle of a pattern of rebellious sin, true repentance and confession have to precede restoration.

In terms of the specific pattern of rebellious sin in this passage, the Jewish believers of Jerusalem are being reproved by Paul for continuing to make sacrifices at the temple – doing so to blend in as "good Jews", even though as believers they knew very well that the One whom the sacrifices represent had already been crucified and had already died for their sins. By continuing to engage in these sacrifices, they were proclaiming, in effect, that Christ had not yet come, that He had not yet died for sin, and that He had not yet been resurrected. In short, by continuing to participate in the sacrifices that foreshadowed the cross, they were in effect saying that what our Lord did on Calvary was of no effect – that was the logic of this pattern of sin.

That's the "nutshell". Here's a link to a more detailed explanation: "https://ichthys.com/mail-Hebrews-6-and-10.htm".

"Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin."
Jeremiah 36:3

Repentance – a true change of mind that leads to confession of sin and change of behavior – leads to forgiveness as has always been the case.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Well thank you. Romans 11:21-23 is maybe about this people. They can be saved again.

Well but then I do not understand what is a repentance. They can repent after then they stop rejecting Jesus?

Response #10: 

The recipients of the book of Hebrews were saved, but were acting as if they were not; the unbelieving Jews envisioned by Paul in Romans 11:21-23 may indeed be saved "if they do not persist in unbelief". The way to do this is to believe in place of not believing, to turn from their hardness against the Lord unto belief in Him.

Repentance is not a magic word, but it is true that many groups and individuals use it as if it were (and that is true of many Bible words). Also, repentance is often misunderstood. Repentance is a change of spiritual direction, a change of heart reflected in one's life ("turn from their wicked ways"; Jer.38:3). For unbelievers, it is a change from an attitude of not being willing to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior so as to believe – that is the "turn"; for believers, it is a change away from a destructive pattern of sinful behavior (large or small, chronic or short-lived) and back to the Lord, His authority and His love – that is the "turn". For the unbeliever, faith in Christ is always part of true repentance; that is, a true change of heart results in faith in Christ. For the believer, true repentance is always followed by genuine confession and a return to spiritual growth; that is, turning away from sin and every wrong path always results in the believer seeking to be restored to fellowship with the Lord through confession, resulting in re-embracing doing things the Lord's way (rather than our way).

Here is a good link on that: "Repentance".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

There it is: grafted again. it seems to me as they talked about who fall away.

So until they rejecting Jesus, they cant repent. But if they changes their minds they can come back again to Jesus. I thought that repentance and change of mind it's the same.

Response #11: 

Romans was written to believers, some of whom were of Jewish extraction, but many of whom were gentiles. The "you" in this passage (Rom.11:21-23) refers to believers who, if not careful to preserve their faith in Jesus Christ, might fall back into unbelief and find themselves in the same position as the "they" in this passage, not the Jewish believers who are part of the community who received this letter, but the unbelieving Jews who have never accepted Christ in the first place. These unbelieving Jews are "by nature" part of the olive tree of Israel, so they are easily grafted back into it. But these individuals in the hypothetical have never been believers in the first place. Rather than being believers who fell away, these are unbelievers who have never been part of the Body of Christ in the first place. Still, the process is the same, both for anyone who is not at present part of Christ's Church and also for believers who find themselves out of fellowship with Him because of sin and/or a pattern of sinful behavior which has led to estrangement (though not necessarily to loss of faith): repent (change one's attitude and respond accordingly) and confess (Christ as Savior, in the case of unbelievers, sins committed in the case of believers).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

I do not understand because you say that they can not repent. But when they start to believe again that is repentance.

I send you small article about wilfully sinning like in Hebrews 10:26 https://carm.org/can-true-christian-sin

Response #12: 

Hebrews 6:6 says that while these people – believers in Jerusalem who are pretending not to be believers – are actively engaged in their impossibly wrong behavior they can't be restored to fellowship at the same time. They are still believers but they are in a carnal rather than a spiritual state. It's only a question of repentance in that, clearly, if a person is in the act of doing something wrong, said person has not yet decided to turn away from it. That – turning – is what repentance is (see the link), namely, a change of heart that is genuine, which genuineness is manifest by a corresponding change of behavior.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

I want ask you what do you think about this view on Hebrews 6:4-6 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/682-are-apostates-from-the-faith-beyond-repentance

Response #13: 

This article can't be of any use to anyone because the title shows that the person does not understand the passage in question. The title of this article on Hebrews 6:6 is "Are Apostates from the Faith beyond Repentance?" – however, Hebrews is NOT addressed to unbelievers (that is what an apostate is), but to believers. These Jewish believers in Jerusalem were not behaving in the way they should – which is precisely why Paul wrote the letter, that is, to straighten them out (cf. Heb.13:22). But they were believers. An apostate is someone who once believed in Christ but who has since abandoned his/her faith in Christ and as such is no longer a believer in Christ because he/she no longer has any faith in Christ – not a believer who is in danger of serious divine discipline (and perhaps even the sin unto death) because of outrageous and repetitive sinfulness. These are two different things entirely (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

I don't know. Everyone says something different about this passage. I think this interpretation is good.

Response #14: 

You can find someone to say anything you want to have said about any passage in the Bible. The problem is, only one interpretation can be true. So how is a Christian to grow? First, spiritual growth can only happen when a believer hears the actual truth AND accepts that truth as truth through faith. That truth is then transformed by the Holy Spirit into epignosis, that is, not just mere "knowledge", but usable truth, stored in the heart by faith. That is what leads to growth and a powerful Christian life for the Lord.

Of course no ministry and no minister can be 100% correct about everything at all times. But there is a big difference between a ministry which is, say for the sake of argument, 90+% correct on the one hand, and on the other hand one which is spewing nothing but lies. It is easy enough for any Christian serious about growing up spiritually and genuinely committed to following the Lord to tell the difference between a tree whose fruit is demonstrable "good" and one which is clearly poisoning whoever eats from it. That doesn't mean that every apple (e.g.) off of the good tree will be pristine and without blemish, nor does it mean that the poison fruit won't be attractive to the eye. But it does mean that any person with a lick of spiritual common sense can easily enough tell the difference and will not make the mistake of eating from the poison fruit more than once. Spiritually, things are a bit different because arrogance and a lack of genuine desire to do what the Lord wants us to do causes many Christians to eat poison fruit over and over again, to turn away good fruit continually (not that there's much of that out there), and generally to live in a way that exhibits a total lack of spiritual common sense.

If you are serious about growing up spiritually and following the Lord, one thing I can tell you for certain is that no Christian is capable of "refereeing" between ministries to pick something from here and something from there – because if the person could do THAT, he/she could have his/her own ministry and would have no need of any other teacher. Of course, however, even those with the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher are not able to feed themselves spiritually until after many years of preparation and practice. A brother or sister without the gift or even one with the gift (brothers only) but not being engaged in preparation or not being complete in preparation needs to rely on someone else' teaching ministry. That is the only way growth can happen. And not by relying on "many teaching ministries", because this sort of "Smorgasbord-itis", as I call it, always causes spiritual indigestion. That is because it is a natural human tendency to select what one finds appealing and not what one needs to eat to be healthy (or hear/believe to be spiritually healthy). On top of that, when even only two ministries conflict, even if one interpretation is preferred, there will be doubt about whether or not the right "referee call" was made – and rightly so since believers only have this ability in aggregate (i.e., spiritual common sense allows us to make that "call" about a ministry as a whole only) but not about each specific teaching.

Ichthys is not for everyone. And you are certainly free to do what you like, access what you like, believe what you like. But I tell you as someone concerned for your spiritual welfare that what you need to do is find some ministry you can rely on and stick with it, even in cases where you have doubts about one teaching or another – once you have proven to yourself that you have found a truly "good tree". And if it is a "good tree", then you will grow, even if once and a while you get a bruised apple. But if you confuse yourself as to which trees are even good or bad, you'll find yourself in the position of the individuals duped by false teachers about whom Paul remarks who are "always learning but never able to come to a knowledge [epignosis] of the truth" (2Tim.3:7).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

As to this charismatic theologian we've discussed who demands strict obedience to flawed teaching on the pain of hell-fire, I don't know a better short definition of a cult – which by definition will have nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus Christ.

This person is still living in my head rent-free, unfortunately. I keep wondering: what if he's a second John the Baptist and I am cursed by God? I am too afraid that there's a risk that I'll incur God's wrath if I prayed for God to take care of him, so could you pray that God deal with him?

Response #15: 

The more we grow, the more doubts such as this diminish. The evil one is very good at picking weak points in the wall and attacking there with vigor. But if we keep on trusting the Lord, if we keep on growing, if we keep on resisting the devil, then he will flee from us (Jas.4:7), so that we may say with Wellington, "they came on in the same old way and we beat them in the same old way".

You have a right to rebuke any errant thought and "take it into captivity" for Christ (2Cor.10:5).

See the links:

Maintaining a Sound Christian Offense in our Spiritual Warfare (Peter #29)

The Battlefield within

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hi Bob,

I will be curt and not conceal my sin. I am angry at God because I feel as if God is mocking me.

I am not expecting help. I am not expecting consul. I am just telling you so that you know where I stand before God spiritually.


Change "am" to "was" and "feel" to "felt." I repent.

Response #16: 

Good for you! Being able to rally spiritually after defeats is a mark of growing spiritual maturity. Even after we grow and progress quite far, it doesn't mean that we are not still being targeted by the evil one, and it doesn't mean that we won't occasionally fail (just as David or Elijah or Job, e.g.). We all have to get better at fighting against sin – but we all also have to be adept at recovering when and if we do mess up.

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:8-12 NKJV

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Good day Bob

Trust you are well. Can you help me with "apostate'. Is it possible for a Christian to backslide and still not loose salvation? I don't understand the story about the golden calf in Exodus? Did the Israelites forsook God and then repented again?

Also they could not enter Canaan because of their unbelief. But they did fellowship with him.

Is it then possible to think that you believe and yet you do not?

Many regards

Response #17: 

Good to hear from you again, my friend! I hope you and yours are doing well.

As to your question, only believers are saved. Believers are people who have been born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As long as a person believes in Jesus Christ, that person is a believer, and saved.

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1st John 5:4-5 NIV

Do some believers behave in a questionable way? Indeed. And all the more so it seems in our lukewarm era of Laodicea as the Tribulation fast approaches. However, no one is an apostate who believes in Jesus Christ. Falling away from the faith to the point of no longer believing, no longer being a Christian, having entirely lost one's faith in Jesus Christ is the definition of apostasy:

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
Luke 8:13

There is no question that any believer who becomes lackadaisical about spiritual growth is going to be in for some lumps and bumps. And there is no question that any believer who allows him/herself to settle into a life of worldliness or gross sinfulness is going to drift farther and farther away from the Lord – because it is only through responding to Him by means of the truth of the Word of God that we grow closer to Him. But it does seem that there are many who bump along in this life not accomplishing anything real for the Lord (although they may be involved in traditional or corporate Christianity), but living their lives almost as if He were an afterthought to them – that is the very definition of lukewarmness, and it is a very dangerous state even if the person in question avoids falling into gross sinfulness. And that explains our Lord's attitude towards such types:

(14) And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: "This is what the Amen says, the reliable and truthful Witness, the origin of God’s creation. (15) I know your works, that they are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! (16) As it is, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth. [I will vomit you out], (17) because you say "I am rich and have become wealthy and know no lack". And you do not realize that it is you who are the one who is wretched and pitiful and poor and blind and naked.
Revelation 3:14-17

The fact is that it is sometimes difficult for us to tell when a believer has lapsed back into the state of disbelief or is merely lukewarm and thus in danger of it. But God knows the difference, and that is all that matters. For those who turn away from Him, He is no longer responsible for handing out divine discipline for their sins. For those who are still believers but who also want to indulge in gross sinfulness, the end result is "the sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16-17; cf. 1Cor.5:5, and see the link).

As to the children of Israel in the exodus, it is very difficult to tell what their spiritual status was – except to say that it was none too good (collectively; we have to account also for the fact that every individual is in fact different). We know that Moses, Caleb and Joshua were great believers, but there is not too much more to say than that. We also know that some were so abominable that they were destroyed in spectacular ways (Num.16:1ff., e.g.). I would venture to say that very few of that first generation won much in the way of eternal rewards, and that many of them were probably not believers. But there is an important difference between having some faith – as small as a mustard seed (which is all that is needed to be saved) – and a powerful faith wherein one's thoughts, words and deeds glorify God (cf. Matt.8:10; Lk.7:9). All believers have some faith, saving faith (that is what it means to be a believer), but not all have great faith, mature faith, faith that manifests itself in our lives as it should. That requires spiritual growth to the point of maturity. I would venture to say that very few of the exodus generation were spiritually mature (obviously), in spite of all the miracles they had witnessed, and in spite of the supernatural support they received from the Lord day by day . . . which just goes to show you that the growth of faith has nothing to do with experience or circumstanced – but it does have everything to do with choice.

And that is the key word. We have all been given the image of God, and we are all here – every human being – to demonstrate what we truly value and just how much. Those who appreciate the sacrifice of Christ become believers, and those who appreciate it a lot continue in the truth so as to grow, progress and serve Him through whatever ministry He assigns. Unbelievers demonstrate by their contrary choice that they have no use for God (cf. Job 21:14; 22:17). So what we are discussing here is a middle group whose commitment to the Lord is so weak as to be difficult to discern – or possibly even non-existent, having already expired. Can an apostate come back to the Lord? I find nothing in scripture to suggest it is not possible and everything to suggest that it is (cf. Ezek.18:1-32). God wants all to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.3:17; 12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), and Jesus Christ died for every single sin so that all can be saved (Jn.1:29; 12:47; 2Cor.5:14-15; 5:19; 1Tim.2:4-6a; Heb.2:9; 7:27; 1Jn.2:2). The only thing that prevents salvation is the free will of the person who refuses it – or, in the case of an apostate, who has thrown it away as something vile. However, that does beg the question of why anyone who would do such a thing would ever want to come back.

Finally, in practical terms, I am very sure that there are many cases, "prodigal son" situations, where those who observe the behavior of the person in question imagine him/her to be an unbeliever ("how could a believer do such things?"), and perhaps even the person himself doubts his/her own salvation because of the depth of the fall into sin and worldliness (the prodigal son certainly did). But God knows who belongs to Him, and just as the prodigal's father rejoiced at having his son back, so the Lord and the elect angels in heaven rejoice more over one repentant believer than over ninety nine who never drifted off in the first place (Matt.18:12-13; Lk.15:4-7). Such is the mercy, the goodness, the grace of the One with whom we have to do.

Do feel free to write me back about any of this. Here are a few links which address these issues:

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

I was saved at 9 years old. Later in life I drifted into sin and in my 20's went full force into sin. Became a alcoholic, divorced, you name it I've done it just about. But in the last few years my life has completely fell apart and no matter how hard I try to fix it, it doesn't get better. Everyday is worse than the one before. Job lost, house lost, car lost etc. I try to seek God, but feel nothing. I feel like I've sinned too much to come back to God. Am I correct with my thoughts? Is that why my life is in complete shambles?

Response #18: 

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. The first thing to say is that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then in spite of whatever troubles you are experiencing or sins you have committed, then you are saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV

The second thing to say is that God forgives all believers whenever we confess our sins to Him:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

This does not mean, of course, that we can expect forgiveness and restoration of fellowship if we are not sincere/genuine in our confession, if we are only engaging in ritual and have no real intention of changing our behavior: biblical repentance (as opposed to how many misunderstand it; see the link). It does mean that God has promised to forgive us – and since He always tells us the truth, we should not doubt Him but should rejoice in that forgiveness whenever we confess our sins in truth.

The third thing to say is that even though we have confessed our sins, that does not mean that our lives will immediately turn around and that we will instantly end up on "easy street". There are a number of reasons for this:

1) There are natural consequences for our behavior. If we drink too much and are most unloving to our spouse with the result that she leaves us, we can't very well blame God for that. If we completely turn over a new leaf and do all the things we ought to do to recover, of which the spiritual dimension is the most important (spiritual growth through learning the truth from a solid ministry), then perhaps she will be restored, but that is usually not the way life works. If we drink too much and get fired, likewise, reforming (spiritually most importantly) might get us a second chance, but more than likely we are going to have to start over. If we drink too much and ruin our health, getting back on the right track (spiritually as well as physically) will no doubt help, but as one Christian said about this after turning to Christ, "God gave me a new heart, but He didn't give me a new liver". But whatever damage we have done to ourselves in our lives, turning back to the Lord is always better, and His mercy towards us when we do so should not be underestimated: He loves us so much that He gave His one and only dear Son to die for all our sins, after all. And there is nothing impossible for God (Rom.8:28).

2) There are consequences for our behavior in the form of divine discipline. Whenever we engage in sinful behavior, we are essentially testing God. God the Father loves us more than we can know, and He comports Himself to us in this regard just as human fathers do, only perfectly so (Heb.12:1ff.). Just as a human father may choose to let some small things go, let other relatively minor things pass with a mild rebuke, but is not going to allow a major challenge to his authority go unanswered, so it is with our heavenly Father who loves us and who does not want us to get involved in things that will harm us. Just as children need to punished to learn not, for example, to run out into traffic without looking, so also the Father knows very well the spiritual dangers of sin – and also the dangers of being a bad witness and defying His authority. Down that road lies either the sin unto death or apostasy (depending on our choices; see the link).  To protect us from all that, He disciplines us with the rod, lovingly but certainly painfully enough to get our attention (see the link).  And this loving punishment in cases of extremely egregious and/or longstanding bad behavior can go on long after the fact, sometimes for years (cf. David's case) – although that does not mean the blessings that can be ours cannot and do not come through at the same time (they do – just as in David's case).

3) There is also the fact that a prolonged period of sinful behavior where we put ourselves "far from the Lord" as did the prodigal son will naturally affect our spiritual state in all manner of negative ways. But the good news here is that, as with the prodigal son, when we do return to Him He receives us with open arms.

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate."
Luke 15:21-24 NASB

"Returning" requires confession based on a definite change of heart (biblical repentance), and, most importantly, a commitment to start over in rebuilding our spiritual lives. In the case of many in our lukewarm era of Laodicea there is not much to "rebuild", but however that may be, the real answer to your troubles is spiritual growth (see the link). There is only one way to get close to God whether a person is starting from a deep hole or not, and that is through the truth of His Word. We have to commit ourselves to hearing the truth, learning the truth, believing the truth, and walking by means of the truth. This has to be pretty much a daily thing too, and not just a once a week afterthought. So if you are really interested in recovering and finding again the joy of your salvation and the peace of resting in Christ which is your birthright as a born again child of God, then I strongly urge you to find a good teaching ministry and aggressively pursue the truth being taught there. That is the only way to grow, whether initially or after a bad stumble. And let me emphasize here that I am not talking about "going to church" – unless that "church" is committed to teaching the truth of the scriptures as its reason for existing. The vast majority of "churches" in this country barely teach anything of the truth (though they pay it lip-service), and are often in error on the tiny bits they do put out. There is no spiritual recovery to be found in such places. This ministry, Ichthys, is by way of contrast devoted to that principle, and you are very welcome to everything posted here. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but if you do want to recover it will take this sort of focused, in-depth teaching to do so, so please try to find some place where you can learn the Bible in a substantive and orthodox way. One other place I highly recommend is pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy (at the link).

There are many people who have hit rock bottom and who have recovered, so please don't despair. Just know that it does take choosing the right things and rejecting the wrong ones to do so.

Here are some links which may be helpful:

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Mutual Encouragement in Christ III

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

Spiritual Warfare V

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hi I found your site; yes life is truly meaningless; we eat sleep and work and repeat the cycle until we die? I sometimes think to myself it would be better if I was not born into this meaningless life? I sometimes wonder if God created robots then sin would have been avoided instead of free will human beings? Or maybe sin was part of Gods package and plan for his creation?

Response #19: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

Life is meaningless – for all who have not found the Lord Jesus Christ.

But for all who have found Him, life is meaningful in every possible way. For we believers are looking not to this world but to the world to come, to a city not built by human hands, one wherein we have an eternal inheritance – the New Jerusalem, the supremely blessed place where we will live in resurrection with the one we love, Jesus Christ our dear Savior, forever and ever. Life eternal, perfect bodies, no more trouble of this world, and wonders untold "which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1Cor.2:9).

Unbelievers, however, have only the sweat and toil of this temporary world, and afterwards only darkness, death and judgment.

So turn your heart to the Lord! Be pleased to be saved and have eternal life! It costs you nothing to receive – because Christ came into this world, for you; because Jesus became a man, for you; because our Lord died in the darkness on the cross, bearing all of your sins and mine (see the link: "God's Free Gift"). God the Father has already paid the ransom for your life in the blood of His one and only dear Son. That is the Gift of all gifts. Be pleased to take it from Him! Only put your faith, your trust, your belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God become man who died for all of your sins.

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!

Question #20:  

Thanks Robert, truly our only hope is Yeshua the Messiah but the bible we have today – is it the same bible that was originally written? Was sin part of Gods plan from the beginning or God never intended for sin to occur in the garden of eden?

Response #20: 

You're most welcome.

I can assure you that the Bible is the Bible. Part 7 of Basics (Bibliology) not being available as yet, here are some links for more details on that:

Read Your Bible

Cults and Christianity (see Q/A #4)

Origin of the Pentateuch

Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VII

As to sin, God is not the author of sin in any way. There is, however, only one perfect plan of God. God is not reacting to events. Every single thing that happens has been ordained by Him in the plan of God and decreed by Him to happen before He even created time and space. That does not, however, mean that we do not have free will – as possessors of the image of God, indeed we do. It does mean that God's perfect plan has perfectly taken into account every free will action of every one of us before creation, including our sins. The divine decrees thus do not eliminate free will – in fact, free will would be impossible without them. Also, without free will, there would be no plan. Consider, Christ was ordained to die for the sins of the entire world before He even created it. When one considers that His dying for the least sin ever committed is more than all human and angelic experience and suffering rolled into one and to an infinite degree, we see how important we are to God – how truly great is the love of God. It was impossible to have an eternity wherein creatures who were given God's image could live with Him forever without at the same time giving them the choice of whether or not they wanted that. That choice is what all of life and history is all about – and it cost the Lord Jesus much more than we currently have any idea to make this all possible (in solving the sin problem by atoning for them all on the cross). There is much more about all this at the following link:  "God's plan to save you" (in BB 4B).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who bore all of our sins on the cross that we might have life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Is there a meaningful semantic difference in the Bible between μεταμέλομαι ("I regret") and μετάνοια ("repentance")?

Response #21: 

In terms of the roots, the word complexes are virtually synonymous. It does depend on the context, however. The main potential difference is that a person may regret something without necessarily having a resultant fundamental change of heart about that would transform the motives which produced the action. I.e., regret is not exactly the same as "repentance" (if that word be understood in the correct, biblical way). Judas and Esau "regretted", but not enough to turn to the Lord in repentance so as to be saved.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

[personal details omitted]

Response #22: 

We'll keep up the prayer for you healing. And please remember that not all physical illness believers have to deal with is a result of divine discipline. It's easy to get thinking that way, I understand. Even Job did so when his deliverance lingered. But testing comes in a variety of ways for us all. Paul wasn't perfect but the "thorn in the flesh" with which he was afflicted had a divine purpose that had nothing to do with discipline or its consequences, and I believe that is generally the case for us all, even when there are obvious natural consequences we see playing out – because after all God can heal us easily at any time if that is something we need and it is in His plan to do so.

So please don't get discouraged by this. We can't change the past in any case, and we never have to worry about the future – since our salvation is assured. That leaves us to get through today doing the best job we can for the Lord, regardless of what all we have to deal with.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

I agree. And I agree that I have a tendency to overthink these things, but this time I can see God's perfect discipline working out in my life. It seems this is just what I needed.

Response #23: 

I hear you, my friend. Just remember: none of us is perfect. Only Christ was perfect. God is faithful. We strive to respond to that faithfulness in faith day by day, and some days we do so better than others. Don't look back, keep the trend in the right direction, and fight that fight every day – that is all any of us can expect to accomplish in these bodies this side of the resurrection.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Dear brother, thank you for your encouragements, you helped me a lot. Please keep me in your prayers, I want my heart and my mind to be clean and always depending on God and obedient to Him. I am dealing with pride, as I still keep myself accountable for my sins, and this is keeping me from obeying God and listening to His word and receiving His Grace and forgiveness. I don' t want to, but it is so hard to accept, i need repentance in my life, because it's like I have given up on myself, and I feel like God has given up on me, though I know he hasn't. I feel my heart is wicked and dark and I just want to please Jesus. I have lost so many years of my life being away from Him, and dwelling in sin, it is so hard now for me to even pray. I feel so lost and without Christ I have no identity or joy. I want to grow closer to Him again. Most of the times is just like I want and need a new heart that is good and only working for His Grace. Thank you for being here for me. God bless you friend an give you the fullness of His joy on your life!

Response #24: 

It's good to hear from you.

The best "R/x" for your spiritual condition is to forget the past entirely and instead to begin moving forward spiritually now with an aggressive program of Bible reading and Bible study from a good source. In so doing you will begin to feel closer to God – because thereby you actually will be closer to God.

You are certainly willing to all the materials at Ichthys in this necessary course. And, incidentally in case you haven't noticed, there is now a collection of MP3 files for some of the major postings (courtesy of Chris B. at the link).

But whoever or however, no Christian has ever felt "good" about being Christian without moving forward on the road to Zion; and no one who is looking backward is going to be going forward.

Keeping you and your wife in my prayers daily, my friend!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Thank you my friend, I am going to start reading The Bible, and thank you for your thoughts and your support. May God keep you in the palm of His hand.

Response #25: 

Good for you. Please also find some place where you can be fed spiritually through in-depth teaching (I believe Ichthys to be one such place but everyone has to find their own best place for this). Just reading the Bible is not enough. Even those with the gift of pastor-teacher can't feed themselves sufficiently directly from scripture until they have achieved adequate preparation and spiritual growth under someone else' ministry. See the links:

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth II

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

It feels like I can't come back to God, I have so much unforgiveness for myself in my heart, and this is why I have blasphemous thoughts I try to fight so hard and it only gets worse, and i feel like i am sinking and my heart is evil, and it's hard to find my faith in Christ again, having these prideful heart an doubts.

Response #26: 

First thing, I hope you know that God only tells you the truth. And He has promised to forgive you if you confess your sins to Him. I'm sure you have done this, and so I know you have been forgiven. Since God says you're forgiven, you need to accept that. Seriously.

Second, what you are describing are not rational evaluations but typical emotional responses all of us have. But mature believers learn how to deal with emotions and how to separate themselves from them when the truth is otherwise than how they "feel". After all, the Christian life is not at all about how you "feel". Rather it is all about what you know by faith and the choices you make. The evil one is always involved in trying to manipulate our emotions against us. So if you don't "feel" like learning the truth, your "feelings" are definitely wrong and you need to ignore them and do the right thing any way. Please trust me when I tell you that this issue – a very common one – does get better, but only with spiritual growth through Bible reading and Bible study from a good source, consistently, diligently, and with faith, believing the truth you are taught and putting it into practice in your life. That is the only way forward. But if you don't push through this emotional resistance so as to begin true spiritual recovery, it can't happen. The Lord will help you – you have the Spirit. But you have to trust Him and YOU have to make the correct decisions and follow through.

Here are a couple of links on this which may be helpful:

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Maintaining a Sound Christian Offense in our Spiritual Warfare (Pet.#29)

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Guilt feelings vs. the guidance of the Spirit

Do feel free to write me back.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Hello dear friend, i feel so depressed and lost. I always make a wreck of every blessings God gives me, I don't even know why He still loves me to give me blessings. He is so good to me but I have made a mess of my heart, because I have so much pride, unforgiveness and sin, and my conscience is numb and my heart is like stone. I feel great despair, because i have been battling pornography, and I fell again committing the sins I used to. I feel like praying but I don't know what to tell God, because I don't believe the words I say anymore, I've said them countless times before, and I wanted to change so much, and I didn't. I have a heart of stone.

Jesus talked to me through a friend's sermon and told me that I am like Samson, I don't listen and am stubborn and disobedient, and my heart is hardened. I haven' t used the blessings God gave me, instead i made a mess of my heart and mind. Now I am struggling and battling these blasphemous thoughts I have in my mind. I am a wreck. My wife loves me so much and I love her so much, but I still sinned, I have everything I could wish for, but I don't have a real relationship with Christ anymore, and instead of running to Him, I always run from Him. I feel so much pain, I feel like giving up. I miss the days I praised Him.

I don't want to lose my marriage an my family, and I want my family to be saved, but I am not an example, I am not the man Christ wants me to be for my family. Sometimes I can't even get out of bed. I am always angry on myself, and depressed. The anger also fuels the blasphemous thoughts in my head. I have no joy anymore. I am sorry because I didn't access the links you gave me. I am so afraid. I don't have faith or love as I used to. I need Christ to lead my life out of this darkness. I miss Him.

Response #27: 

I am sorry to hear of your troubles, my friend. Please know that I have been praying for you daily.

I understand that you are upset with yourself for falling into sin and also for not doing the positive things you should be doing to grow spiritually. However, God is merciful, and loving and kind. He does not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps.103:10). Rather there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who turns back to the Lord than ninety nine who don't need to do so (Lk.15:7).

Please understand that the solution to all you problems lies within your own grasp. Indeed, that is the only place it is to be found. God has already done more than the most for you, more than you or I or anyone else has any idea: Christ has already died for all the sins you have committed (and for all you ever will). You were forgiven for salvation when you believed, AND you will be forgiven for full restoration to fellowship when you confess to the Lord.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

Like you, the prodigal son was so upset with himself that he suggested to his father that he treat him as a slave and not a son. But what did the father say?

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Luke 15:22-24a NIV

It is a very common thing among Christians who are struggling with sin and with failure to do what the Lord wants them to do to let one mistake pile up on another until they feel trapped in a never-ending vicious circle, just like you do. The important thing for you to realize is that this cycle CAN be broken – but you have to be the one to do it. God has given you the means to be restored through confession; He has given you the Holy Spirit to help and encourage you; and He has given you the truth of the Word of God to guide you through this trouble. But YOU have to be the one to say "enough!". Please don't let misplaced guilt stop you from confessing. Please don't let past failures stop you from future spiritual successes. You can't expect to climb your way out of a deep hole in one jump, but it is a good idea to stop digging if you want to get out. Do you want to get out? I'm sure you do. But that will take a firm decision on your part. You have to be honest with yourself and tough on yourself. But it can be done. Please realize that until you have developed some spiritual momentum in recovery, you are not going to "feel" great about all this; but feelings are very often deceptive. It's not what we "feel" that's important; it's God's opinion that's important. He wants you to persevere, to recover spiritually, to grow, to progress and to produce for Him. He wants your wife to be saved (I am certainly praying for that). So my advice to you – based entirely on scripture – is as follows:

1) Confess everything to the Lord.

2) Have faith that your confession has been heard (which will be the truth), regardless of how you "feel" about it.

3) Resolve to spend time every day in prayer, Bible reading, and Bible study (from a good source of Bible teaching; Ichthys is at your disposal in this regard).

4) Try your best to stay away from what you know is wrong, and try your best to concentrate on what you know is right instead.

5) Listen to the Spirit's still, small voice in guiding you and encouraging you.

6) If/when you make a mistake, do NOT let yourself fall all the way back down so as to stop doing the good things you've begun and to start doing the bad things as a matter of course. Confess and move on instead.

7) Have patience and confidence that being of the right road and making progress on it will solve all of these troubles by and by – it will, but it may take a minute. Have faith that what the Lord counsels you to do in the scriptures is right.

You are not perfect. No one in the human race is. All believers stumble (Jas.3:2). What separates the mature and advancing from the others is their willingness to get back up when they do fail and turn immediately back to the Lord. That is within you power – since you are in charge of your own free will. But you have to be the one to do it.

You are not Samson. And God gave Samson lots of opportunities to turn back and repent. You have not lost your eyes or your life. So as long as you are still drawing breath, there is hope. But you have to rise up, repent, confess, turn your back on the past, and move forward resolutely in the cause of Jesus Christ.

I promise to keep praying for you – but you have to lend a hand in doing what you know needs to be done: repent (change your thinking – you seem to have done that in this email), confess, read your Bible, pray, and – very importantly – spend time in Bible study from a good teaching source daily, the more the better. That is the only way to alter your thinking and thus your behavior in the long term, namely, through the truth of the Word of God.

Instead of beating yourself up, trying listening to His voice.

I am happy to point you to more links. Please feel free to write back in any case.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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