FAITHFULNESS TO GOD IN AN AGE OF APOSTASY
By Pastor Joe Jacowitz
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12).
The apostle Paul makes practical applications to the believing Jews from the solemn passage that is a quote from Psalm 95. He warns them against the danger of apostatizing. This is clear from the expression, "in departing from the living God." The same Greek verb is rendered ''fall away" in Luke 8:13, and in its noun form signifies "apostasy" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Such apostasy is the inevitable result of giving way to an "evil heart of unbelief," which the apostle exhorts to "take heed" lest this catastrophe happen to us.
Verse 12 has been debated in Christendom throughout the centuries and one of the questions that emerges is "Can a true child of God fall away from the faith and lose his salvation"? The answer, of course, is no. But for our present purpose, without going into a study on eternal security, we will address the topic of the testing of the believer's faith.
"Take heed brethren. "This tender title of God's saints is a searching one. Some of Paul's hearers might object and say, "The scripture you cited has no application to us. That passage describes the conduct of unbelievers, but we are believers. Yet the text addresses them as "brethren" and exhorts them to "take heed." They were not yet out of danger though they rested in the wilderness. Those mentioned in Psalm 95 began well, as their singing the praises of Jehovah on the far shores of the Red Sea after they crossed it (Ex. 15). They vowed their faithfulness to the Lord: "all the people answered together, and said, all that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8); yet the fact remains that many of them apostatized and perished in the wilderness. Therefore, the searching relevance of this statement, "take heed brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief."
"In departing from the living God." The reference here is plainly to the Lord Jesus Himself. The reason this Divine title is applied to the Savior in this verse is clear: the temptation confronting the Hebrews was not to become atheists, but to abandon their profession of Christianity. The unbelieving Jews denounced Jesus Christ as an impostor, and were urging those who believed in Him to renounce Him and return to Judaism. The apostle affirms that Christ is God in verse 4. He now warns them that leaving Christianity is far worse than returning to Judaism because it would be "departing from the living God." The deity of Christ was fully proved by the apostle in the preceding chapters of this epistle. The admonitions of Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3:12 apply to Christians today. Let us heed the exhortation of 2 Pet. 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never fall."
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:14-15).
"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (Heb. 2:1-3).
"Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38).
"Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Heb. 4:11).
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36).
christ our refuge and sanctifier
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2).
"But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:11-15).
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:19-25).
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16).
"Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:17-18).
Is a Faith Ministry Biblical?
For my blog article this month, I will be addressing the following topic: “Is a Faith Ministry Biblical?” My answer is absolutely yes! I will be explaining first what a Faith Ministry is. Second, I will be giving reasons why a Faith Ministry is biblical. Third, I will be giving examples from history from great men of God who “lived by faith” and who trusted in God “for great and mighty things” (Jer. 33:3). And finally, I will be giving personal applications.
So what is a Faith Ministry? A Faith Ministry is a church or a Christian ministry that seeks to “live by faith” and trusts God to provide for all its needs solely by going to God in prayer. A Faith Ministry is completely dependent upon God to provide and does not solicit funds from people. It is completely non-profit and does not charge for Bibles, Christian books or Christian literature. Its primary aim is to glorify God and to see souls saved. It does not trust in the “arm of the flesh” and does not use human techniques or gimmicks to accomplish its goals.
I will be giving several reasons why a Faith Ministry is biblical:
There are two great examples of men who “lived by faith” in history. They are George Muller and Hudson Taylor. George Muller (1805-1898) is one of the greatest examples of men who took God at His word and who trusted God with child-like faith. God used him to build orphanages and care for more than ten thousand orphans all without making known his needs to man and without asking anyone for penny. George Muller never went into debt and believed it was unscriptural. George Muller not only founded orphanages but also founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution to circulate freely the Holy Scriptures; to aid in supplying the needs of missionaries and to assist Day-schools, Sunday-schools and Adult-schools to give instruction based upon Scriptural principles. George Muller is a great inspiration to me and I have devoted the whole web site: www.georgemuller.org to encourage men and women and boys and girls to trust God for “great and mighty things” (Jer. 33:3). George Muller did everything for the glory of God. His chief reason for establishing the orphan houses is to have a living proof that God does and still hears prayer and to strengthen the faith of the church and of the children of God. I encourage you to visit www.georgemuller.org to read many books, articles, quotes and even to listen to the whole autobiography of George Muller on audio. It has proven to be a great strength and encouragement to me as I listened recently to “The Life of George Muller” on Sermonaudio.com. The link is found on the George muller web site at: http://www.georgemuller.org/audio.html. George Muller said:
"God's plan is, there shall be none of self and all of Christ. The very people who are doing the most for God in saving souls, in mission work, in the care of orphans, are those who are working on short supplies of strength, of money, of talents, of advantages, and are kept in a position of living by faith and taking from God, day by day, both physical and spiritual supplies. This is the way God succeeds and gains conquests over His own people, and over the unbelief of those who look on His providences." – George Muller
The second great example from history is Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) who was a missionary to China and was the founder of China Inland Mission. Hudson was greatly influenced by the principles of George Muller. Hudson Taylor was one of the missionaries that George Muller supported financially. Often times, Hudson was almost completely out of funds until he got an unexpected gift from George Muller or other Christians. Hudson said, "Many seem to think that I am very poor. This certainly is true enough in one sense, but I thank God it is ‘as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things." And my God shall supply all my need; to Him be all the glory. I would not, if I could, be otherwise than I am - entirely dependent myself upon the Lord, and used as a channel of help to others.’” He also said, "Depend on it. God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so." Visit www.firstlovepublications.org to read more quotes and articles by Hudson Taylor.
In conclusion, a faith ministry ought to be normal thing and not abnormal in the Christian life and in the church. How can we apply this to our personal lives? Everyone ought to develop a life of complete and utter dependence on God and exercise his faith. We should seek the glory of God above all things. Of course, we need to make a living and work in this world as good stewards of God. The Bible says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10) and “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). But God said, “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18). “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:10). Ultimately, God is one who provides for us and gives us the strength and health to make a living and to put food on the table. And God not only wants us to use the resources He has given us to take care of our temporal needs but also to take care of spiritual needs to reach the world with the gospel.
I encourage everyone to listen to Pastor Joe’s Jacowitz sermon titled “The Necessity of a Faith Ministry” found on http://www.georgemuller.org/audio.html. Part 1 and Part 2 to talk about the importance of living by faith. I will close with a quote by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
~ Peter Sarkis
"Paul's God is our God and will supply all our need. Paul felt sure of this in reference to the Philippians, and we feel sure of it as to ourselves. God will do it, for it is like Him: He loves us, He delights to bless us, and it will glorify Him to do so. His pity, His power, His love, His faithfulness, all work together that we be not famished. What a measure doth the LORD go by: 'According to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.' The riches of His grace are large, but what shall we say of the riches of His glory? His 'riches of glory by Christ Jesus'-who shall form an estimate of this? According to this immeasurable measure will God fill up the immense abyss of our necessities. He makes the LORD Jesus the receptacle and the channel of His fullness, and then He imparts to us His wealth of love in its highest form. Hallelujah!" – Charles H. Spurgeon
"That the creature should have so absolute and universal a dependence on God, provision is made that God should have our whole souls, and should be the object of our undivided respect. If we had our dependence partly on God, and partly on something else, man's respect would be divided to those different things on which he had dependence. Thus it would be if we depended on God only for a part of our good, and on ourselves, or some other being, for another part: or if we had our good only from God, and through another that was not God, and in something else distinct from both, our hearts would be divided between the good itself, and him from whom, and him through whom, we received it. But now there is no occasion for this, God being not only he from or of whom we have all good, but also through whom, and is that good itself, that we have from him and through him. So that whatsoever there is to attract our respect, the tendency is still directly towards God; all unites in him as the centre." – Jonathan Edwards
The Bible says that God has “given to us exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). The Bible describes God’s promises as being “exceedingly great.” Indeed that is true! It has been estimated that there are approximately 30,000 promises in the Bible. They are too numerous to count and too numerous to bring all to mind! God has given to us many promises such as “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) and “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). The Bible also describes God’s promises as being “precious.” God’s promises are priceless and invaluable. They are comforting to the soul and encouraging to the heart. Promises such as “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24) bring comfort and encouragement to our hearts.
How are God’s promises made possible to us? It is only because of the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy and who made us worthy to come before God and who “made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). The bible says that “all the promises of God in Him [Christ] are Yes, and in Him [Christ] Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). Yes ALL, not some, but all the promises of God in Christ are “yea and amen” (2 Cor. 1:20). So when you go to God in prayer claiming His promises, you will not receive these promises unless you go through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6) and that there is “one Mediator between God and men” who is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). So if you want to be heard by God and want to receive His promises, you need to go to God through Jesus Christ.
God’s promises are also based on His immutable nature. The Bible says that “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). Joshua told the children of Israel before his death about the promises of God saying: “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14). God’s promises are sure and steadfast and are based on His nature! The Bible says “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4) and that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). The Bible says that “when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you’” (Heb. 6:13-14). God’s immutable and unchangeable nature should be of a great comfort to us. The Bible says “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Heb. 6:17-19).
How are we to treat God’s promises? The Bible says that we should “not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12) and that “the soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Prov. 13:4). God commands us that we should “not become sluggish” but to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12) and “that each one of us show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end” (Heb. 6:11).
One example of a man we ought to imitate is Abraham. God promised Abraham saying: “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you” (Heb. 6:14). The Bible says that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). God promised Abraham that He would bless him and multiply him and make him a great nation. Humanly speaking that was impossible for Abraham was old and childless and his wife had passed the age of childbearing. But God told Abraham: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1) and He brought Abraham outside and said to him: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be” (Gen. 15:5). The Bible says that Abraham “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed; so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom. 4:18-21). The Bible says in Hebrews 6:15 that “after he patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:15).
The Bible says to “take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience” (James 5:10). Consider the example of Sarah also who “judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11). And finally consider the examples of the men and women in Hebrews chapter 11 – that great chapter of the heroes of faith “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, OBTAINED PROMISES, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:33-34). The Bible commands us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23) and that we should “not cast away our confidence, which has great reward. For we have need of endurance, so that after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:35-36). - Peter S.