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The promises of God

It is in many ways quite distressing when a husband, wife, son or daughter whom you always thought secure in their faith apparently falls away.

Those who sat under the ministry of one recognised as being doctrinally sound find his departure from the truth bewildering especially if his wandering takes him into the embrace of cults he once warned against.

Fellow believers in local churches find it difficult to cope with, when their pastor or other elder departs from them because he adopts a life style far removed from that which should be characteristic of those who name the name of Christ.

What should be our attitude toward such people? Should we just let them go, ignore them or perhaps even ex-communicate them and have nothing more to do with them?, What does God have to say about them?

The local and visible church has among its members those who are truly born again and of the ‘household of faith’ but it also has those we might call ‘tag alongs’. These people may have joined themselves to the church for a variety of reasons, e.g. respectability, social interaction, sense of belonging etc who although they may have made a profession of faith have never known the regenerating work of the Spirit. They think they are safe and rely on what they have done (lived a good life, helped others and even wrought miracles) rather than faith alone in the atoning death of Christ. To them, in the final day of judgement He will say “Depart from Me, I never knew you”.

Why was Peter reinstated among the disciples after his denial of Jesus whilst Judas having betrayed Him “went and hanged himself”?

After Peter had denied His Lord we read “The Lord turned and looked on Peter” and can only imagine how he must have felt. Judas, however, seemed to show signs of repentance and tried to return the 30 pieces of blood money he had accepted. Both of these men had spent approx. 3 years being numbered among His disciples, Peter was clearly a true disciple and although the others failed to discern it Jesus knew Judas to be ‘the son of perdition’. There are those like Judas who plot and scheme, who infiltrate the church to destroy and cause havoc and John tells us we should not entertain them.

Ultimately, although we may be confused as to the true and the false “The Lord knows them that are His”.

Our present concern is for those genuine (and there are signs to help us discern the one from the other both prior to and during their time in spiritual exile) believers now in the ‘far country’.

Does God have anything to say about these who having been ‘redeemed by the blood of the Lamb’ seem to have lost their way?

I never realised it at the time but it was inevitable that as a child of God my restoration was assured.

In Luke 22:31 Jesus told Peter that “Satan desires to have you, he wants to sift you as wheat.  Matthew Henry puts it ‘to show you to be chaff’ (of no real substance).

You cannot deny that the wicked one got to Peter and caused him to deny His Lord, but Satan had no real hope of ever keeping him. Peter’s faith wavers and he falls but like a boxer in the ring he and every believer in similar situations must rise before the final count. How can we be that sure?

The answer to that question lies in the next few words of Jesus “But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not”.

Yes! God does have something to tell us about these fallen saints. He tells us that Jesus is praying for them. We know that The Father hears The Son, and if He hears He answers. This is really wonderful isn’t it? That backslider you are so concerned about is the subject of our Saviour’s prayers, “He ever lives to make intercession for us” Whilst I like Peter was ‘in the far country’ He whose prayers cannot be refused, was and indeed still is, praying for me.

What exactly was Jesus praying? Well, it wasn’t that Peter’s faith would not be tried, it wasn’t that he should avoid the embarrassing situation where denial were the safer and easier option. The prayer of Jesus was that “Your faith fail not” It was not a prayer that you might avoid the battle but that even if you fall you should ultimately triumph to be numbered among those who have “overcome through the blood of the Lamb”.

We can also be reassured from the parable of the lost sheep. The true believer is a sheep known by name to ‘The Good Shepherd’ If but one of His sheep is lost He searches ‘till He finds’ and then brings it home rejoicing.

Although in the Old Testament we frequently find the people going astray we read “I will heal their backsliding” Our God is slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. One of the many wonderful things about our Sovereign Lord is that His love is steadfast and everlasting. He who chose and loved His own from before the foundation of the world loves them for ever.

Once we have been brought to a real faith in Christ and have received the ‘spirit of adoption by which we cry Abba Father’ we never cease to His child. Wayward? Sometimes: Rebellious? All too often: Disowned? No: Forsaken? Never Loved? Yes always.

The prayers of His people >