A Heavenly Calling (6)
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
The Book of Hebrews has sometimes been a source of consternation for believers. It seems to suggest, in chapters 2, 3, and 6, that believers can “fall away” from or “lose” their salvation. In Hebrews 2:1 the writer warns us to be careful about what we believe “lest we drift away from it.”
In chapter 6 he writes, “it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and powers of the age to come, if they then fall away...” (vv.4-6). And here in chapter three he qualifies our possession of God’s heavenly rest 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 fall away from the living God.”
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 share in the heavenly calling by the way they practice faithfulness to God, and by guarding against every inroad of unbelief and sin. 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 share in it. But we’ll need to be continuously on guard against ideas and messages that can undermine our confidence, stifle our boasting, and rob us of the reality of our experience of Christ.
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 sharing in a heavenly calling. What is the cause for this loss of reality? Schaeffer explained 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 that we’re missing the life God intends for us.
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 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. And 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.
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 reveals 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.
Talk with some Christian friends about Schaeffer’s observation. Do you agree? How can we keep from having the spirit of the naturalism of the age undermine our sharing in the heavenly calling?
This week’s series, A Heavenly Calling, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more insight to this heavenly calling, order the book, The Radical Disciple, by John Stott, from our online store. Or read the article, “Manufacturing Converts or Making Disciples?” by Trudy Chun.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.