Question and Answer

Is there hope for backsliders?

Question:

I understand if you don't want to answer my question because I believe I am not saved.

My question is related to the fact that I left the church many years ago believing that I was not saved and was deeply affected by the fact that God chose some people and not others.

Recently I have begun to ponder my future and my belief is that I am going to hell and have no hope of salvation because I do not love God in a way I believe a Christian should love God, and I turned my back on Christianity.

From what I understand, as an unrepentant sinner I cannot call on God to change my heart, for that request comes from a place that is part of my sinful nature and is asking God to change my heart when it is His choice whose heart he changes.

Then there are issues about whether I am able to be brought to repentance having tasted the fruits of the Holy Spirit and denounced Christianity.

I guess I just wanted to talk to someone knowledgeable who understands Christian doctrine better than I do who might be able to give me some hope.

Answer:

I would much prefer to speak with you about these serious issues, but I will try to deal with some of them in this format.

I remember reading in a little booklet some years ago the little phrase (by one of the Protestant Reformers) that "no one has the right to believe he is not elect." You are very right that, as our church standards say, "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death" (The Westminster Confession of Faith, III:3). This very sobering doctrine of election and reprobation is clearly taught in the Scriptures, especially in Ephesians 1 and Romans 11. They are true because, even more fundamentally, the true and living God is sovereign over all things. "He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35)

But your question has to do with whether you can be saved from your sin, given this doctrine of election. The answer is that we are not to live out of what we think God has decreed, but, rather, out of what God has told us to do. "The secret things of the Lord" (e.g., those who are elect and those who are not), "belong to the Lord, but the things that are revealed", i.e., in Holy Scripture, "belong to us and to our children forever" that we might do what God has commanded us to do (see Deuteronomy 29:29).

In the same way that, with respect to your body, you live out of your responsibility to eat, drink, sleep, and act wisely—full well knowing that the Lord has ordained the "days fashioned for us" (Psalm 139:16); so, with respect to your soul, you must live out of your responsibility to repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and seek to follow Him fully. The apostle Paul did not say that God now commands "the elect" to repent, but God commands "all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). That command includes you!

I praise the Lord that you have begun to, as you put it, "ponder (your) future." You (and all people) must live or die forever. It is by the mercy of God that you have lived to do this pondering, and it is the mercy of God that you are pondering! That, alone, should encourage you that you are not abandoned by the Lord. And the fact that you are convicted of your sins of not loving God and "turning your back on Christianity" is also encouraging.

The apostle Peter denied the Lord three times, but he was mercifully forgiven and made to be an apostle to the Jews. None of us loves the Lord the way we should. Let us be thankful that "when we confess our sins" (and there is no limiting this to those who think they are elect!), "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9). I continue to be amazed that the Gospel is for sinners! Even the apostle Paul could say toward the end of His life, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am [not was!] chief." (I Tim. 1:15). This is against the backdrop of all that Paul had done to persecute the church of God before he was converted. It's amazing to see what the Lord does in converting sinners just like you and me.

I urge you, by prayer, to cast yourself on the mercy, grace, kindness, and love of Jesus Christ, who is freely offered to you in the Gospel as revealed in the Bible. While He does say, "No one can come to me unless the Father draws him" (John 6:44), He also says "the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). If your heart is cold, ask that the Lord give you a warm (and new) heart. King David (who had committed adultery and been responsible for a murder) prayed the same way, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10). Our God does not change! He will do the same for you. Repent of your sins of unbelief and thanklessness toward God. Then read the promises of God in Holy Scripture, and believe them! "No one has the right to believe he is non-elect." Come to Jesus Christ with the two legs of repentance from sin and faith in Christ—and come now!

It is crucial, too, that you be part of a faithful local church. I would be happy to help you with that. I have prayed and will continue to pray for you.

May the Lord graciously work in your heart and draw you to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


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