Stumbling Block to Becoming Reformed - Perseverance

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Alexander

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi,

The first thing I want to talk about with you is just what saves us. Let me be clear: our faith does not save us, but rather God saves us by uniting us to Christ through faith in him. Faith is like a conduit through which saving grace flows. This faith is not generated by us. It is worked in regenerate people by the power of the Holy Spirit. We learn from Scripture that every good gift comes from above. This includes faith. You and I have absolutely zero capability to well up in ourselves the faith required to lay hold of Christ. Zero. The Bible teaches us that we are dead in trespasses and sins. We do not have the ability or will to reach up in faith toward God. First, he must make us alive, and give us then the faith we need to be united to Christ. Do you believe this? Ask yourself: am I trusting in my own faith, or am I trusting in the object of my faith? Am I trusting in how well I spread the blood on the doorpost, or am I trusting in the blood? Am I trusting in the fact that "I believed the gospel", or am I believing the gospel? The blood of Jesus covers even our unbelief and doubt. I am not talking about full apostasy but various wavering we experience. Jesus chided his disciples for being of "little faith", and for "doubting". Their faith was not perfect, it had various deficiencies, but it was sufficient because it's author was God himself. Remember, Jesus told them that their knowledge of the things of the Kingdom of Heaven was given to them. Naturally they could not comprehend it.

Secondly, we must understand that it is God who preserves our faith, not us. 1 Peter 1:5 teaches us that God's elect are being kept by the power of God through faith. That is, GOD keeps us using the MEANS of faith in Christ. It is his work, not ours which causes a believer to persevere to the end.

Thirdly, we must understand the salvation is permanent and unchanging. From God's perspective, the salvation of the elect has been a reality since before time began. For us, we experience this salvation in time. From God's eyes however, it has always been sure. It makes no sense though, for us to think that anyone can lose their salvation. On what possible basis can we lose it? 2,000 years ago, God laid the sins of all his people on Christ. What's more, we were united with him in his death and resurrection. In Him we were circumcised and baptized, and raised with him (Col 2). There is no basis for anyone to bring a charge against God's elect, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

I can tell that this ultimately boils down to this question for you: Am I "in Christ"? Do I have "real, Spirit-worked faith"? You look at your wavering and you wonder if it is possible that you have never been saved at all. I have thought about this in my own life. The first thing I would do is truly examine yourself and see if there is any hint of self-righteousness in you. Pray to God and be frank with him. Ask him for the help of the Holy Spirit to expose this in you. Realize that nothing about us is "good enough" to merit salvation. Our level of belief is not high enough; our sincerity is not sincere enough; our motivations are not pure enough; our prayers are not long enough; our sorrow for sin is not sorrowful enough; our contrition is not contrite enough; we cannot promise God to be better and stop sinning because we do not have the capacity; our repentance is never "good enough" to satisfy God. ALL of our merit must come from Christ. We are wretched in every sense of the word, and contribute nothing, not even a proper disposition toward God a proper "coming to him".

I would urge you to thrust yourself on God's mercy. Do it several times a day if necessary. Trust that "he who comes to me I will by no means cast out". God is happy to receive sinners. There is a celebration in heaven when a sinner comes to repentance. Were you born into a Christian family? If so, then that is already evidence of God's grace in your life. Have you been exposed to the gospel message? That is evidence of God's grace in your life. Do you think that God gets a rise from dangling the gospel in front of people's eyes and then pulling it back? Satan would love for you to think that but it is not true. Jesus tells us to come to Him if we labour and are heavy laden, and he WILL give us rest. He sent his Son so that those who believe in him might have eternal life.

Confess to God "Lord, I have nothing to offer you. This prayer cannot be offered to you even in a right frame of mind without the work of thy Spirit. I need help. I have no hope outside of you covering all of my faults with Christ, including my sins of unbelief. Sin has permeated every aspect of my being. I come to you only because I know that you have revealed yourself as a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. On this basis, and on the basis of thy promise that "he who comes to me I will by no means cast out", I come to you in faith. Father, I know I am not worthy to be called your child, but I know that you delight when a sinner comes to you and asks for mercy in Christ's name". I recognize, Holy Father, that the placement of myself into a Christian household or the fact that I have heard the gospel is evidence of your good will toward me. Thank you for that. I continue to rest my soul on Christ alone. I confess that I cannot contribute even one iota to my justification. I am reliant on thy mercy alone. Please help me."

Every time you are afflicted with doubts, bring it before God in prayer. Every time. Do NOT let yourself wallow in these thoughts. IMMEDIATELY cast yourself on Christ in prayer.

Best Regards,

Izaak

I've managed to conclude that a regenerate person, perhaps one struggling with mental issues, can fall into certain heresies for a time but then be recovered unto the truth. However, when I fell into certain heresies, I taught them to my friends and argued for them on facebook, and even wrote about it on my website (which has like no subscribers). It didn't last long, but it still happened. And, I read those verses in 2 Peter 2 about false teachers, and I can't help but fear damnation. And, I read in Galatians 2:4 about "false brethren" who taught heresies, and I get nervous. I stay up for hours, sometimes until the sun comes up, worrying about theological issues.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ryan,

This thread is obviously not the place to hold a debate on this point, but the classical Reformed understanding is that the Reformed system of theology is the system of theology taught in the bible, and doesn't contain any "weaknesses." Consider the vow of subscription for office-bearers in the Free Church (Continuing): "I, ________, do hereby declare, that I do sincerely own and believe the whole doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith, approven by former General Assemblies of this Church to be the truths of God, and I do own the same as the confession of my faith ..."

I want to push back on this. The system of Theology taught by the Bible cannot be perfectly summarized by anything less than the entire Bible itself, as we believe that every jot and tittle is inspired by the Spirit and contributes in some way to God's revelation. As a result, any man-made summary of doctrine is by necessity imperfect and incomplete, although they may be very helpful and well-rounded, and faithful. The point is, that every point in the confessions can be challenged against scripture at any time, but we trust that the fact that the confession is time-tested and subscribed to by many believers gives it significant weight. If someone is questioning a doctrine, the best we can hope for is that a confession can point them to the interpretation of mature, Spirit-led believers and also to the Spirit-inspired scriptures behind these interpretations, but their conscience must be bound by the scripture itself, not the confession. Please note, I am not advocating that everyone should have their own private interpretation, and I am also not advocating against confessions, as I think they are extremely helpful.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I want to push back on this. The system of Theology taught by the Bible cannot be perfectly summarized by anything less than the entire Bible itself, as we believe that every jot and tittle is inspired by the Spirit and contributes in some way to God's revelation. As a result, any man-made summary of doctrine is by necessity imperfect and incomplete, although they may be very helpful and well-rounded, and faithful. The point is, that every point in the confessions can be challenged against scripture at any time, but we trust that the fact that the confession is time-tested and subscribed to by many believers gives it significant weight. If someone is questioning a doctrine, the best we can hope for is that a confession can point them to the interpretation of mature, Spirit-led believers and also to the Spirit-inspired scriptures behind these interpretations, but their conscience must be bound by the scripture itself, not the confession. Please note, I am not advocating that everyone should have their own private interpretation, and I am also not advocating against confessions, as I think they are extremely helpful.
Perhaps you should start another thread on this point, brother. I'd be happy to discuss the matter further elsewhere.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've managed to conclude that a regenerate person, perhaps one struggling with mental issues, can fall into certain heresies for a time but then be recovered unto the truth. However, when I fell into certain heresies, I taught them to my friends and argued for them on facebook, and even wrote about it on my website (which has like no subscribers). It didn't last long, but it still happened. And, I read those verses in 2 Peter 2 about false teachers, and I can't help but fear damnation. And, I read in Galatians 2:4 about "false brethren" who taught heresies, and I get nervous. I stay up for hours, sometimes until the sun comes up, worrying about theological issues.

So confess your sin to God and ask for forgiveness.

And perhaps refrain from trying to instruct others until you are more rooted and grounded in the faith. Do you know if you have the gift of teaching? Perhaps you must serve in some other way.

Also, go to sleep. The Lord gives sleep to his beloved (Ps 127). Why don't you accept his gift? Worrying is a sin. By staying up and not letting your mind rest you are compounding the issue. You can't expect to be on your guard when you are physically tired.

Please note that I am not trying to be snarky or short at all. I have actually dealt with similar things myself, so I feel your pain. Feel free to send me a P.M.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
ut at the same time we must remember that this faith is not something that we conjure up in ourselves. It is a gift of God, lest any man should boast.

In post 3, I clearly delineate the difference between beliving in the flesh and faith that is given from God; In post 13, I say:

"The point of faith is that it is all of Him and none of us."

Biblically speaking, in the compound sense, it is all of Christ; in the divided, it is my faith. I believe, I receive. I accept. Christ does not believe for me. I repent; Christ does not repent for me, etc.

It is God who is primary:

Phil 2:13
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Phil 1:6
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

This is what Christ meant when He made such a statement...Our faith DOES save us.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've managed to conclude that a regenerate person, perhaps one struggling with mental issues, can fall into certain heresies for a time but then be recovered unto the truth. However, when I fell into certain heresies, I taught them to my friends and argued for them on facebook, and even wrote about it on my website (which has like no subscribers). It didn't last long, but it still happened. And, I read those verses in 2 Peter 2 about false teachers, and I can't help but fear damnation. And, I read in Galatians 2:4 about "false brethren" who taught heresies, and I get nervous. I stay up for hours, sometimes until the sun comes up, worrying about theological issues.
When you suppose that your sins are too great for the Savior to forgive, you are selling Him short. "Come unto me," He said, "all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." There is no qualifier there, no "except for those who have sinned too greatly." There is only an invitation to all. It appears you are weary and heavy laden. The Savior will give you rest. The price He paid is sufficient for your sins, if you will hope in Him alone.
 
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Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
I've managed to conclude that a regenerate person, perhaps one struggling with mental issues, can fall into certain heresies for a time but then be recovered unto the truth. However, when I fell into certain heresies, I taught them to my friends and argued for them on facebook, and even wrote about it on my website (which has like no subscribers). It didn't last long, but it still happened. And, I read those verses in 2 Peter 2 about false teachers, and I can't help but fear damnation. And, I read in Galatians 2:4 about "false brethren" who taught heresies, and I get nervous. I stay up for hours, sometimes until the sun comes up, worrying about theological issues.
The threats and warnings against the false teachers and false brethren in the NT don’t really apply to you- those are men in positions of authority in the church and recognized as such. You’re a young layman who fell into the trap of the modern evangelical “everybody is a minister” culture. So you were holding forth :) with your new-found understanding as if you had a duty and a position in the church to do so, and the more your audience argued the deeper you dug in your heels, I bet. It’s so good you were able to get past that. God is good.
 
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Alexander

Puritan Board Freshman
The threats and warnings against the false teachers and false brethren in the NT don’t really apply to you- those are men in positions of authority in the church and recognized as such. You’re a young layman who fell into the trap of the modern evangelical “everybody is a minister” culture. So you were holding forth :) with your new-found understanding as if you had a duty and a position in the church to do so, and the more your audience argued the deeper you dug in your heels, I bet. It’s so good you were able to get past that. God is good.

Hey Jeri, I re-read the passages. I think you're certainly right about the "false teacher" passages referring to positions of authority. However, do you think this also applies to the "false brethren" passages? I thought the brethren were just church goers.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Alexander, do remember that the only unforgivable sin is a final, utter, conscious rejection of Jesus Christ. It is not a sin that you can fall into accidentally. And even then, it is not a sin that is greater than Jesus' blood has power to forgive. It is unforgivable because it is unrepentable. You seem to be in process of repentance. Therefore Jesus' blood covers your sins, which includes false teaching. Flee back to Jesus Christ. My recommendation for you is that you repudiate publicly (in the same forums where you used to promulgate error) your errors, if you have not already done so. Comment on your FB error pages, or remove them, and put a repudiation in place.

One other point. You say that you fear damnation because of the warning passages in Scripture. Do you not realize that such a reaction itself comes from faith? As the Westminster Confession states, true faith trembles at Scriptures warnings, is encouraged by Scripture's promises, and in short, reacts as the Scripture wants us to react. It is okay to tremble at Scripture's warnings, as long as you then flee to Christ to protect you from such condemnation.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Hey Jeri, I re-read the passages. I think you're certainly right about the "false teacher" passages referring to positions of authority. However, do you think this also applies to the "false brethren" passages? I thought the brethren were just church goers.
Yes, the false brethren were Judaizers, the "certain men" of Acts 15:1 who came down from Judea and taught the brethren; they were men of stature in the church. I'm sure they had their "lay" followers who didn't help any, but the condemnation seen in Jude and 2 Peter 2 is against teachers. God holds them accountable in ways he does not hold the ignorant and misled. You can rest easy on this. Your error is definitely to be repented of, but you do repent and now, as others have said, you need to do the work of believing what Christ has said about his kindness and mercy to those who come to him. If you've got a brain that tends to the negative it's harder!
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Edward, most Reformed expositors that I have read explain the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by a full, final rejection of Jesus Christ. The reason that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is that the way Jesus Christ is present with us to the end of the age is through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a full final rejection of Jesus Christ is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit's work.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
Alexander, do remember that the only unforgivable sin is a final, utter, conscious rejection of Jesus Christ. It is not a sin that you can fall into accidentally. And even then, it is not a sin that is greater than Jesus' blood has power to forgive. It is unforgivable because it is unrepentable. You seem to be in process of repentance. Therefore Jesus' blood covers your sins, which includes false teaching. Flee back to Jesus Christ. My recommendation for you is that you repudiate publicly (in the same forums where you used to promulgate error) your errors, if you have not already done so. Comment on your FB error pages, or remove them, and put a repudiation in place.

One other point. You say that you fear damnation because of the warning passages in Scripture. Do you not realize that such a reaction itself comes from faith? As the Westminster Confession states, true faith trembles at Scriptures warnings, is encouraged by Scripture's promises, and in short, reacts as the Scripture wants us to react. It is okay to tremble at Scripture's warnings, as long as you then flee to Christ to protect you from such condemnation.

I agree with this post, especially the last paragraph. Consider Psalm 73. In it, the Psalmist sinfully longs to have a state of mind like the wicked, who seem to go through this life without a care in the world.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Calvin's commentary of 1 John 5:16 might be helpful. Calvin even hints that determining if one has committed the sin unto death is perhaps warranted:

There is a sin unto death

I have already said that the sin to which there is no hope of pardon left, is thus called. But it may be asked, what this is; for it must be very atrocious, when God thus so severely punishes it.

It may be gathered from the context, that it is not, as they say, a partial fall, or a transgression of a single commandment, but apostasy, by which men wholly alienate themselves from God. For the Apostle afterwards adds, that the children of God do not sin, that is, that they do not forsake God, and wholly surrender themselves to Satan, to be his slaves. Such a defection, it is no wonder that it is mortal; for God never thus deprives his own people of the grace of the Spirit; but they ever retain some spark of true religion. They must then be reprobate and given up to destruction, who thus fall away so as to have no fear of God.

Were any one to ask, whether the door of salvation is closed against their repentance; the answer is obvious, that as they are given up to a reprobate mind, and are destitute of the Holy Spirit, they cannot do anything else, than with obstinate minds, become worse and worse, and add sins to sins. Moreover, as the sin and blasphemy against the Spirit ever brings with it a defection of this kind, there is no doubt but that it is here pointed out.

But it may be asked again, by what evidences can we know that a man’s fall is fatal; for except the knowledge of this was certain, in vain would the Apostle have made this exception, that they were not to pray for a sin of this kind. It is then right to determine sometimes, whether the fallen is without hope, or whether there is still a place for a remedy. This, indeed, is what I allow, and what is evident beyond dispute from this passage; but as this very seldom happens, and as God sets before us the infinite riches of his grace, and bids us to be merciful according to his own example, we ought not rashly to conclude that any one has brought on himself the judgment of eternal death; on the contrary, love should dispose us to hope well. But if the impiety of some appear to us not otherwise than hopeless, as though the Lord pointed it out by the finger, we ought not to contend with the just judgment of God, or seek to be more merciful than he is.​
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Alexander,

My approach to give you counsel will be slightly different. Yes, as a new and unstable believer your mind may go to various places, especially if you are not under sound preaching and teaching.

When you were first converted to Jesus Christ and were given by God to be alive unto Him, did you have a sense of Jesus personally receiving you and being your Savior and your God, as per the words of the Gospel?

Alexander Nisbet, who wrote a commentary on 1st & 2nd Peter, said, “it [is] the nature of true faith to make the thing it closes with spiritually present to the soul.” In other words, faith experiences – in the soul of that person – the reality of God’s words, and promises.

You will not be the first person to go way off track in your understanding, at least for a while, till corrected, and yet remain united to the Lord Jesus in spirit, your heart to His heart.

When you were believing the nature of God was Unitarian, did you still have fellowship with Jesus Christ – even if it were a “Jesus only” sort of faith – so you were not denying Him and still in communion with Him, albeit erring as to the nature of the Godhead?
 

Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
*Moderation*

This thread is closed. There has been no response or reply from the author of the thread since 8/15. He can contact thread contributors via private message should he desire further discussion on those posts.

Thank you.
 
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