Return Ye Unto God

The Israel of the Old Covenant is different from the Israel of the New Covenant in that they were God’s people by natural birth, whereas we are God’s children by spiritual birth. But we were/are both saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, via repentance and obedience and submission to our Lord.

The Scriptures make that perfectly clear in Hebrews 3-4 where it warns the church against rebelling against the Lord like the Israelites did in the wilderness, and so many of them did not enter into God’s eternal rest, because of their unbelief (their disobedience).

So, although the Scriptures teach that a true believer in (follower of) Jesus is one who has died with Christ to sin, and who has been born anew of the Spirit of God, and who is walking according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, it warns believers against rebelling and falling back into sin.

What I see of these warnings throughout the New Testament is that those who profess faith in Jesus Christ should know that if we walk (in practice) according to the flesh, we are going to die in our sins, and that those who make a practice of sin will not inherit eternal life with God (Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 2 Co 5:10).

So, how does this all work exactly? Well, when we have a proper understanding of faith and of salvation, then it begins to make sense. For, we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved (future) when Christ returns, and our salvation is complete.

So, right now we are in process, and the way we choose to go will determine where we spend eternity. And, this is why the church is given all these warnings about not going back to how we lived before we believed, for we are slaves of the one we obey – if sin, it ends in death, and if obedience, it results in righteousness which ends in eternal life with God.

Hebrews 3:12-15 ESV

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,

“’Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’”

Warnings Against Falling Away

Now, some people will tell you that this is not speaking to the church but to the Jews. I believe it is both, i.e. that the intended audience here is the Jews, but they are Jews who profess faith in Jesus Christ, for that is clear by the wording of the writing.

But since many other passages of Scripture in the New Testament, outside of the book of Hebrews, give the same or a similar message, we can gather from that that this message is for the church, in general, as well, for it speaks of holding fast our confidence (faith) in Jesus Christ until the end.

So, what this and other passages like it teach us is that our faith in Jesus Christ is not a one-time thing, we live, we die, and then we go to heaven. Faith in Jesus Christ is a lifestyle. It is how we walk, how we conduct our lives day after day. It is dying to sin and living for the Lord (Rom 8:1-17).

These warnings, thus, are not peculiar just to the book of Hebrews. The Apostle Paul, who many claim as their champion of God’s grace, which usually they mean the “cheap grace gospel,” speaks many warnings against believers in Jesus being deceived and falling back into sin.

In Romans 6 he warns that we are slaves of the one we obey, and if that is sin we obey, we will die in our sin, but if obedience, then it ends in eternal life. And, then in Romans 8 he says that if we walk (in practice) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we have eternal life with God.

Then, in Galatians he warns us against making sin our practice, and to practice sin means we regularly (habitually), willfully and premeditatedly choose the same sins over again, as our normal pattern of behavior. And, so he says if we are engaging ourselves in sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkenness, orgies, and the like, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Continuing on in the book of Galatians, Paul warns us that we are not to be deceived, that God is not mocked, for whatever we sow we are going to reap. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction (decay, death). But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8; cf. Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10).

In Ephesians 5:3-6 he reiterates what he said in Galatians 5:16-21 regarding living in (walking in) sin habitually, making it our practice. We will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God if that is how we live. But prior to that, in chapter 4, he details for us what it means to have faith in Christ.

Ephesians 4:19-24 ESV

“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The Truth in Jesus

Many people today are teaching that we can be saved from our sins and be on our way to heaven, guaranteed, but that we can still continue living in sin. Scripture does not teach that. It does teach it is possible for us to sin, as followers of Jesus, but we have many warnings that if we continue living in sin that we don’t have eternal life with God.

This is one of those passages which detail for us what it means to be in Christ, and to be a believer in Jesus Christ. The truth in Jesus Christ is that we must put off (die to, forsake) our former way of living to sin and to self. God’s grace to us is not free license to continue living in sin.

And, we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds by the Spirit of God in rebirth so that we don’t have the same mindset as we had before. Our minds are moved away from deceitful desires to desiring Christ and his holiness, and away from a desire to sin to now having a desire to obey our Lord.

So, we die to our former lives of sin, and we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, then, by the Spirit, we put on our new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord, which are created to be in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, which is how we are to walk.

So, if you have not done that, i.e. if you have not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, died to your old life of sin, and put on Christ and his righteousness, by faith in Jesus Christ, I would encourage you to do that today, for you don’t know if you have tomorrow.

And, if you have had genuine faith in Jesus Christ, but your faith has been wavering, and you have drifted from your pure devotion to Jesus Christ, and you have fallen back into some of your old sinful practices from your old life of sin, I encourage you today to repent of your sin and get right with God.

Jesus will forgive you and he will restore you if you are truly repentant.

Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet

Frances J Crosby, 1880
William H. Doane, 1876

“Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
They shall be as wool!”
“Though your sins be as scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow.”

Hear the voice that entreats you,
Oh, return ye unto God!
He is of great compassion,
And of wondrous love;
Hear the voice that entreats you,
Oh, return ye unto God!

He’ll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more;
“Look unto Me, ye people,”
Saith the Lord your God!
He’ll forgive your transgressions,
And remember them no more.

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