If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well?
Four accounts in the New Testament tell us why believers may not reach the intended final destination if they do not fulfill certain conditions.
The accounts are found in the writings of the apostle Paul and Jude, the letter of Hebrews and the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Moses led about two million Jews out from Egypt. But they were not grateful to God who delivered them out of slavery. They had experienced supernatural guidance through a cloud that moved ahead of them. And they had narrowly escaped the fury of Pharaoh’s army when they miraculously crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land. Yet, through it all, they did not remember God’s faithfulness.
Despite experiencing God’s supernatural provision of food (manna) and water that gushed out from a rock, they worshipped idols and indulged in pagan revelry and sexual immorality. As a result of their rebellion and sinful acts, they did not inherit the Promised Land but perished in the wilderness.
This falling away, according to the apostle Paul, serves as a warning to believers today that we need to persevere in our faith in order that we might not be destroyed. We must not think we are spiritually strong—for we might just fall like the exodus generation (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
Though God will eventually bring to completion the good work He began in us (Philippians 1: 6), we still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Though Paul is sure that God is able to guard what he has entrusted to Him (2 Timothy 1:12), he does not keep us guessing about the need for personal responsibility. He himself set the example.
- He tells us that he subjects himself to strict discipline like an athlete, lest after preaching to others he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- In the last days of his life, he proudly proclaims: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Paul had to remain faithful till the end before he could receive heavenly reward. This is in keeping with the fact that only overcomers receive the ultimate reward—salvation. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).
Similarly, Jude, the author of the penultimate book of the New Testament warns “that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful” (Jude 1:5).
Though God is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24), we too have to play our part—build ourselves in the faith and keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1: 20,21).
Thirdly, the writer of Hebrews warns that if we willfully and deliberately live in sin, we can no longer expect a sacrifice to cover our sins; instead, we have to be ready to face God’s judgment (Hebrews 10: 26).
Once again referring to the rebellious generation who left Egypt but failed to inherit God’s promise, we are told that we share in all that belongs to Christ only if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed; and so we must not harden our hearts as Israel did (Hebrews 3:14-15).
Elsewhere, it warns us that we need to patiently endure and do God’s will—that we might receive the reward God promised (Hebrews 10:36).
Believers who do not keep themselves strong in the faith but shrink back will be destroyed (Hebrews 10:37-39).
Yet, the most serious warning is directed to apostates: It may be impossible to bring back to repentance believers who turn away from God, even if they have a genuine conversion experience (Hebrews 6: 4-8).
Lastly, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus warns us to be spiritually prepared as we await the appearance of the bridegroom, who is a picture of Christ returning to earth for the second time. All these ten virgins carried lamps filled with oil. Keeping one’s lamp filled with oil means staying close to God, constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
When people think that they have more than enough time to get ready, they tend to be complacent and spiritually lax. That is what happened to the five foolish virgins, who started out well with oil in their lamps but later ran out of oil when the bridegroom got delayed. And so they were left out of the wedding feast. Meanwhile, the five wise virgins followed the bridegroom to the wedding feast as they had sufficient oil in their lamps. For more on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, please check out: http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F
To recap, it seems clear from the four accounts above (the writings of Paul and Jude, the letter of Hebrews and the Parable of the Ten Virgins) that our eternal destiny is not determined merely by a decision we made once upon a time in the past—when we asked Christ to come into our lives.
We are saved by faith to enter into a journey of faith. Mind you this is not salvation by works but a salvation that requires us to have enduring faith (Hebrews 10:36-39, 2 Timothy 4:7). If we fail to abide in Christ, we will be thrown away like a useless branch and burned (John 15:6). Likewise, if we fail to continue in God’s kindness, we will be cut off (Romans 11:22).
Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?
The believers’ spiritual status is not static. Though we have been enlightened by the truth and transformed by the Holy Spirit, there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t change. That’s because we are sinful by nature. And, because we have a will, we can choose to remain in God’s favour or reject Him.
God’s love towards believers is immeasurable but can we take it for granted?
As believers, what’s the point of having great miraculous power, riches, wisdom and unbridled pleasure at our disposal if we miss out on heaven?
HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE
ABOUT Author: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul
For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp
For the source article, go to: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2015/12/starting-well-vs-ending-well.html
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