Simon Chin—Perth, Australia
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20–21)
Our life of faith begins when we come to know God and accept that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, by whose death and blood shed on the cross our sins are forgiven. After repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name, our life should transform from one of bad habits, sinful character and carnal lusts to a life that is godly, sober and righteous (Tit 2:11–13).
However, after accepting baptism and the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, many of us lose sight of what a life of faith means, and our zeal declines. We become lax in fearing God, keeping His commandments, and submitting to Him as Ruler of our lives. Instead, we rely on our own accomplishments, abilities, wealth, careers, status and interpersonal relationships, to live not by faith—as the Lord Jesus recommends—but by sight. We may feel it is safe to relax and become more casual in our faith. But what are the dangers of a casual faith?
THE DANGER OF DEPARTING
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were some Jews who initially believed in Him, but could not understand how the truth would set them free:
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (Jn 8:33)
They could not let go of their existing status as God’s elect, and rejected Jesus’ teaching that they needed to abide in His word. Later, when Jesus proclaimed, “[B]efore Abraham was, I AM,” they even took up stones to throw at Him (Jn 8:31–58). This shows that Jesus’ word had no place in them (Jn 8:37).
Like these Jews, who believed at first but eventually sought to stone Jesus, there are believers in the church today who deny our Lord. Although purchased with the blood of Christ, they cut themselves off and depart from the fold. They no longer fear God or submit to His sovereignty. This is a sad outcome, for the grace of justification and sanctification unto eternal life is no longer available to them:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Heb 6:4–6)
How can we avoid this outcome and keep ourselves in God’s love?
TRIALS AND SUFFERING
Often, we are in danger of departing from God’s grace when we meet trials and tests, and we struggle to trust in God. If we do not fear the Lord with a reverent heart, it will be difficult for us to accept trials or overcome suffering.
During his ministry, Paul suffered from a thorn in his flesh. It was only by submitting to God and remaining faithful that he was able to overcome the pain that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He prayed three times to God to remove the thorn, but the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). This led him to declare:
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9b–10)
This was how Paul remained faithful, submitting to God’s divine sovereignty, and keeping himself in the love of Christ—the One who lived and died for him (Gal 2:20).
A LIFE OF FAITH
While undergoing trials and suffering could potentially make us depart from Christ, the reality is that we need to persevere even when life is going well. How can we maintain a life of faith that enables us to endure to the end and receive the salvation of our souls?
Seek and Know God through the Scriptures
While the Ethiopian eunuch traveled home from worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem, he was reading the prophecy of Isaiah (Acts 8:26–39). He invited Philip to board his chariot and explain the passage:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.” (Acts 8:32b–33)
Starting from this Scripture, Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch. As they rode on, they came across a natural spring and the eunuch requested baptism. Philip replied, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). He had searched the Scriptures and found Jesus; his faith was established on the word of God. Such faith will endure.
While we search the Scriptures, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with spiritual wisdom (Jn 16:13; 1 Cor 2:13). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the word of salvation and know Jesus Christ, whom we have believed. The mystery of God’s word, revealed by the Holy Spirit, grants us wisdom for salvation through faith (2 Tim 3:15), and it is shown to those who search the Scriptures and seek God with a pure heart (Jer 29:13). Those who find Christ Jesus shall know Him, and be motivated by His love to live and die for Him (Rom 14:7–8).
Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul learned the hidden wisdom of God—how Christ’s death on the cross redeems men from sin and grants salvation grace (1 Cor 2:4–10). Knowing Christ deeply is how Paul remained steadfast when facing trials:
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Tim 1:12)
Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil. (Eccl 12:13b–14)
This was King Solomon’s conclusion in the Book of Ecclesiastes, written after a lifelong quest for wisdom. Jesus is the Judge, who will appear on the last day with His angels to execute His righteous judgment, and recompense each individual for what he has done. The righteous shall rise to everlasting life, and the wicked to everlasting punishment.
However, some believers forget this and live as though they will not face judgment—they lack the fear of God and go on to commit sins of sexual immorality and covetousness, yielding to the lust of their flesh and love of this world. When this happens, they are unable to continue in the saving grace of Christ Jesus; they have despised His divine mercy and submitted to sin, making them enemies of the cross.
Joseph is a good example of one who feared God throughout his life. In Egypt, when his master’s wife attempted to seduce him, he rejected her advances, saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9b). Out of fear of the Lord, Joseph fled from her, leaving behind his garment that was later used to falsely accuse him of impropriety. When he was imprisoned, Joseph found favor with the jailer and interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer. It was only after two years that the cupbearer remembered Joseph and recommended that he interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. This turn of events brought Joseph to the height of power within the Egyptian government, second only to Pharaoh himself.
Up until this point, Joseph had suffered many misfortunes, beginning with his brothers selling him as a slave to Egypt. Yet, he did not take revenge on his brothers when he was in the position to do so. His fear of the Lord remained. He knew that the Lord had sent him to Egypt to preserve life and a posterity for his brothers, so they would not perish in the famine (Gen 45:3–8).
After their father, Jacob, died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph would take revenge for the evil they had done to him. But Joseph said:
“Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19–21)
Joseph had the favor of God because he feared Him and did not succumb to vengeance and the desires of the flesh. He departed from evil (Prov 3:7). For believers who lack the fear of God, they find themselves unable to forgive those who have wronged or spoken unkindly to them. In some cases, the hurt can cause them to lose faith in Jesus. They may even entertain thoughts of repaying evil with evil. To harbor such hatred is akin to murder (1 Jn 3:15), and can lead them to practice unrighteousness. Such believers doubt that God will judge righteously, and defend their cause, and may even depart from the faith.
But for those who fear God, Elder Peter’s words are instructive:
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. (1 Pet 2:19–21)
Furthermore, if we leave all judgment to the righteous and faithful God, we would pursue good in all circumstances:
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17–21)
Honor God and Submit to His Sovereignty
[T]here is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Cor 8:6)
Jesus, whom we serve with all our heart, is the Lord of life. He is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6)—the God who is Sovereign over all creation.
If we are to be victorious, we must fear God and submit to His sovereignty. In Revelation, Elder John recounts his vision of those who were victorious over the beast. They were standing on the sea of glass mingled with fire, holding harps and singing:
“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy,
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev 15:3b–4)
These victorious saints had the peace of Christ Jesus ruling in their hearts, having yielded to God’s sovereignty.
Peter and Paul led lives of faith and submission, despite imprisonment and persecution during their ministry (Acts 12:4; 16:24–25). They endured hunger and thirst, and were misunderstood, falsely accused and reproached by fellow brethren (2 Cor 12:10). Eventually, they were martyred for the word of God. But they were victorious, and kept their faith till the end.
Knowing that his death was imminent, Paul submitted fully to God’s path for him, writing:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 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 Tim 4:6–8)
When Agabus prophesied how chains and imprisonment awaited Paul in Jerusalem, the brethren pleaded with Paul not to embark on his onward journey. Paul replied:
“What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)
This was Paul’s submissiveness to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the Lord of his life.
If we do not submit to God’s sovereignty over our lives, then we are probably not living according to His divine will. Without submission, we cannot be victorious.
To remain in the love of God and endure until eternal life, we must seek Him, know Him through the Scriptures, fear Him and keep His commandments, and submit to His sovereignty. Let us look to God’s grace and trust in His righteous judgment, as we serve Him as the Lord of our life. If we do this, rest assured, His grace will bear in us the fruit of salvation when the time comes.