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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

On Guard Against Unbelief

Proving and proving again.

Our Heavenly Calling (6)

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God… Hebrews 3.12

Lose your salvation?
The Book of Hebrews has been a source of consternation for certain believers. To some, it seems to suggest, in chapters 2, 3, and 6, that believers can “fall away” from or “lose” their salvation. We need to understand the writer’s intent in these places.

In Hebrews 2.1 the writer warns us to be careful about what we believe “lest we drift away” from it. Those who believe in Jesus don’t suddenly renounce Him or His heavenly calling. They drift, and some, it seems, drift entirely away.

In chapter 6 he writes, “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…” (vv.4-6). Fall away from faith?

And here in chapter three, the writer of Hebrews qualifies our possession of God’s heavenly rest—and thus of our heavenly calling—by saying that we will truly share in it if we hold fast and persevere, so that we are able to keep from being led to depart from the living God (vv. 6, 12). And if we don’t hold fast?|

Here is not the place to resolve these difficult passages. Suffice it to say that the writer is not teaching that a true believer can fall from grace or lose his salvation. Instead, he is saying that true believers daily prove that they partake of the heavenly calling by the way they practice faithfulness to God, and by guarding against every inroad of unbelief and sin. Their faith in the unseen things of heaven bears evidence in the way they live (Heb. 11.1).

And if we’re not daily proving that faith by the lives we live, then we need to examine ourselves again.

In our media-rich, secular age, we must be especially vigilant against unbelief finding its way into our hearts. The heavenly calling of God is really real, and we can really partake of it. But we’ll need to be continuously on guard against ideas and messages that can undermine our confidence, stifle our boasting, rob us of the reality of our experience of Christ, set us adrift from the Lord, and end up proving us to be someone other than we thought.

Lose the reality of your salvation?
Francis Schaeffer was once asked why it is that the Christian life doesn’t seem real to so many people. They don’t act like people who are partaking of a heavenly calling. The really real life with Christ under the heavens seemed mostly humdrum and indistinct. What is the cause for this loss of reality, this failure to partake of the heavenly calling?

Schaeffer explained in True Spirituality that “the greatest reason for a loss of reality is that while we say we believe one thing, we allow the spirit of the naturalism of the age to creep into our thinking, unrecognized.” We profess to be on the path of a heavenly calling, but in fact, we’re trudging around in the desert with all the other grumblers and complainers, so busy looking out for number one and hankering after this world’s fare that we’re missing the life God intends for us. Instead of focusing on the promises of God, and taking heed to His Word, we’re looking for our satisfaction and happiness in worldly things and ways, all the while telling ourselves we believe in Jesus and hanging around with His people.

Many believers have allowed “the spirit of the naturalism of the age” to undermine their experience of the heavenly calling. Their priorities and values are fixed on material possessions, agreeable circumstances, and successful careers. They look for pleasure in fleeting entertainments. They worship in churches where the health of the Body of Christ is measured in attendees, budgets, buildings, and programs, rather than in Biblical criteria. They fill up their time with work and frivolous diversions, so that they have little strength or inclination left for serving the Lord.

Such people may be Christians, or they may be merely wanting to be Christians. But they will never know the true joy, hope, power, peace, and righteousness of the heavenly calling until they shake off the fetters of our materialistic and relativistic age, fortify their hearts with the vision of Christ exalted, and take up the path of faithfulness toward God which the writer of Hebrews outlines in chapter 3.

Constant vigilance
In an unbelieving age like ours, we need to be constantly on guard against anything that threatens to lead us astray from our heavenly calling.

If we will not do this, and if we prefer instead to follow every side-path of self-indulgence, every distracting dead end of frivolity and foolishness, or every invitation to make more, have more, spend more, or just have more fun, we will discover, sooner or later, that the path our feet pursues proves the reality that is in our hearts, and that hearts committed to the spirit of the age cannot truly be regarded as treading the path of the heavenly calling of God.

And unless they return to that heavenly calling, hold fast to their profession, and prove by the evidence of their lives, they will be disappointed to hear Jesus say to them one day, “I never knew you.”

We will indeed have drifted and fallen away, but not from true faith in Jesus, only from the sham of it.

For reflection
1.  Is it possible that some people who believe themselves to be Christians may not really be believers at all? Meditate on Matthew 7.21-23 as you formulate your answer.

2.  If some people who never began to share in the heavenly calling – considering Jesus, being faithful to God, daily in the Word, and so forth – suddenly “fall away” from their profession of faith, have such people “lost their salvation”? Explain.

3.  Peter says we should give all diligence to shore up our confession of faith. Meditate on 2 Peter 1.5-11. How does Peter’s teaching fit into the idea of the heavenly calling?

Next step2—Conversation: Talk with some Christian friends about Francis Schaeffer’s observation. Do you agree? How can we keep from having the spirit of the naturalism of the age undermine our partaking of the heavenly calling?

T. M. Moore

Two books can help you gain a better sense of what this heavenly calling entails. The first, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, considers the work Jesus continues doing at the Father’s right hand. Order the book by clicking here or download the PDF here. The second book, The Landscape of Unseen Things, offers a detailed study of the teaching of Scripture on the unseen realm and why it matters for our heavenly calling. Order your copy of this workbook by clicking here.

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ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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