Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials

Apostates are people who appear to have embraced the faith, but then they reject – or fall away – from it. Their faith is shown to be insincere, and often trials provide this revelation. In the Parable of the Soils, the seed represents the Word of God, and the soil represents our hearts:

Matthew 13:5–6—”Some [of the seed] fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.”

“Stony places” refer to shallow soil on top of a bedrock layer, where there is not much depth of earth. As a result, when this soil (or heart) receives the seed (or Word of God), it will not establish deep roots. Apostates often receive God’s Word enthusiastically—they are excited about their new faith and “immediately [spring] up”—but they do not last. Their faith does not have deep roots. It looks good at first, but trials reveal it was not genuine:

Matthew 13:20–21—“He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

Sadly, we have all seen apostates like Jesus described—joyful until they experience trials. How many times have you been at church and heard, “Hey, what happened to so-and-so?” Then someone replies, “Oh, they went through this trial, and they have not been back.” Without roots, the insincerity of apostates’ faith is exposed, and they revert to their lives before the seed fell on their hearts. First John 2:19 says:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Apostates Look Like Christians

The church at Sardis was filled with people who appeared to be Christians, but Jesus told them, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Sardis looked so good it developed a reputation (a name). Observers thought this was a thriving church because of how much it had going on physically (you are alive). Jesus looked at them and knew they were a church of unbelievers—spiritually dead people. Continue reading “Apostates Are Often Revealed by Trials”

5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, because of the Christian reminders that come with it.

1. The 4th of of July can remind us that our nation was founded by men who recognized God was their Creator.

The 4th of July celebrates the adopting of the Declaration of Independence by Congress on July 4, 1776. The document begins with Thomas Jefferson’s famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

There’s quite a bit to notice from this one sentence:

  1. The words, “all men are CREATED equal” reveal Thomas Jefferson did not believe in evolution.
  2. Thomas Jefferson believed men have a “Creator.”
  3. With the words, “endowed by their Creator” Thomas Jefferson gave credit to God for the “Rights” we have. He called them “unalienable” because he knew they were given by God and couldn’t be taken away.

Thomas Jefferson saw the authority for our freedom and liberty coming from God Himself.

2. The 4th of July can remind us of our true freedom.

I’m thankful for independence from Great Britain. But I’m more thankful for the greater independence Jesus has given us from the Law:

  • Romans 10:4—Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
  • Galatians 3:24-25—Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Our independence from the Law motivated Martin Luther to take a stand for the Gospel. The freedom we have as Americans is great, but the infinitely greater freedom we have is from having to be saved by works.

3. The 4th of July can remind us of our dual-citizenship.

Continue reading “5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July”

3 Reasons Conversion Doesn’t Involve Restitution

One of the more common questions I receive as a pastor sounds like this: “What sort of restitution do I need to make for my sins after conversion? I committed all these sins before becoming a Christian, so what should I do about them now?” Here’s the most recent question I received on the subject:

As I reflect on my past and my many sins I am more aware of how wretched and worthless I am. I am also convicted of sins I wonder If I need to undo.

For example, when I was 16 and I worked at Ross I stole clothes. I am pretty sure I don’t own any of those clothes now, nor do I know the amount or worth of what I took. However, will I go to hell if I don’t find a way to pay them back? There are so many other things I could list.

I feel like my past is like Humpty dumpty, and I can’t fix it.

Here are the three reasons I don’t believe we need to try to go back and make right all (or even some) of the sins we committed before becoming Christians…

First, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because there are too many sins to count.

We can’t remember all the sins we committed before becoming Christians. Even for the sins we can remember, we often don’t have the means to make restitution. Using the previously mentioned theft from Ross as an example, the person doesn’t still own the clothes, know the value, etc.

If we thought restitution should follow conversion, for most of us it would take the rest of our lives trying to make things right. My heart would really have to break for any deathbed conversions: “I want to be saved, but I don’t have the time to…” When I was saved I knew the importance of living for Christ and dealing with the sin currently in my life, but past sins are in the past. They’re paid for by Christ.

Second, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because Zacchaeus is descriptive, not prescriptive.

We can experience many problems in the Christian life when we look at accounts in Scripture and think we’re commanded to do the same. For example, Acts 4:32 says:

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

The early church shared all their possessions and lived very communally. This is descriptive, but not prescriptive (commanded). How do you know what is descriptive versus prescriptive? Simple. Look for a command in the epistles. In this case, there is no command that our possessions be shared with all other believers.

Zacchaeus is another example. Luke 19:1-9 says:

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.”

Although Jesus commanded Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, he didn’t command him to give away half his possessions and restore fourfold. Zacchaeus chose to do this on his own, but we’not commanded to do this prior to becoming Christians.

Third, restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion because salvation involves repentance, not restitution.

Salvation involves repentance, which means turning from our sins. As a result, when we’re saved we must strive to ensure patterns of sin in our lives are broken. But nothing in Scripture says repentance also means going back and fixing the mistakes we’ve made.

If restitution was required for salvation not only could nobody be saved, salvation wouldn’t be by grace through faith. The point of the famous hymn, “Just As I Am” is God wants us as we are, not as we would be after we make some number of things right. We don’t have to do anything to be accepted by God except repent and put our faith in Christ.

With that said, restitution could need to follow conversion if…

Soon after college I badly hurt a girl, and by extension, her family. My actions bothered me for years. At first I thought it was guilt. Then I thought the Holy Spirit was burdening me to apologize.  I found the girl’s mother on Facebook and asked her to forgive me. Although I thought of messaging the girl too, I thought hearing from me would probably cause more pain than comfort. I did invite the mother to share with her daughter how sorry I was if she thought that best.

The Holy Spirit can convict you to make some form of restitution for past sins:

  • Ask for forgiveness from someone you hurt
  • Repay someone for something you stolen
  • Tell someone the truth after a lie you told
  • Fix the reputation of someone you slandered

If God convicts you to perform some form of restitution, by all means obey the Lord. Will it affect your salvation? No, but it will affect your sanctification and spiritual peace.

Discuss questions for the comments section:

  • Why do you agree or disagree with this post?
  • Can you thin of any other reasons restitution is not needed following conversion?
  • Has the Lord ever burdened you to make some form of restitution? Can you share the details?
  • Can you think of some other ways God might convict people to make restitution?