FEBRUARY 2, 2022

FEBRUARY 2, 2022

Dear Friends,
 
I received a text last week from a friend, a pastor who lives in Tennessee.  He was working on his Sunday sermon and he was stuck.  I was his “phone a friend” lifeline (sorry to use an obscure reference that will make no sense to those who weren’t watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire two decades ago).
 
My friend’s text for his sermon was Hebrews 6:1-6.  If it’s been a while since you read it, it’s maybe the best known of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews.  The writer of Hebrews describes those who have “once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away” (Hebrews 6:4-6).  These people, he says cannot be moved to repentance.  It’s impossible. 
 
On first blush, it sounds like the writer is talking about Christians who, after being saved decide to no longer follow Jesus. For those who believe that a person can experience the new birth and be brought into the family of God and then decide at some point to walk away and reject Christianity, this is a go to passage. 
 
But a careful reading of these verses, combined with the clear teaching we find in other passages of scripture, points us in a different direction.  Elsewhere we read statements Jesus makes, like “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29) and passages like Ephesians 4:30 which describes believers as “sealed until the day of redemption” and we come away understanding that it is God who saves us and God who keeps us.  He who began a good work in us, Philippians 1:6 tells us, will be faithful to complete it.
 
But back to Hebrews 6.  The writer of this letter is describing Jews who had a first hand, up close and personal exposure to the ministry of Jesus before His crucifixion.  They were enlightened, but not converted.  They tasted the heavenly gift, but that’s as far as it went.  It was a sample, not a meal.  They shared in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but were not part of the 3,000 who were saved that day.  The writer of Hebrews is telling us that if, after all this, these people continue to reject Jesus – to fall away – God has nothing more to show them that will change their mind.  They’ve seen the full revelation of the Father in both the Son and the Spirit, and they aren’t convinced.  “It’s impossible to renew them to repentance,” the Bible says.
 
By the way, most people who point to Hebrews 6 and conclude that a believer can lose his or her salvation seem to ignore the clear statement that whoever is being talked about here can’t be brought to repentance.  You will hear people urging you to pray for these lapsed believers, that they might come back to church and back to Jesus.  But if Hebrews 6 is telling us that a Christian can fall away from his or her salvation, it’s also telling us that the walking away is irreversible.
 
My friend’s text was asking for a clear statement on what the Bible teaches us about apostasy.  That word means literally to stand off from or stand away from.  It’s describing those who were once near to the faith who have moved away.  I pointed my friend to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which addresses the subject.  It says that believers in Jesus may, “through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their perseverance, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.
 
In other words, a true believer can get off in a ditch.  And can be stuck there for a while.  Maybe a long while.  It’s not a good place for a child of God to be.
 
So what do we conclude about someone who has stepped away from their faith and is standing far off?  Is this a true believer who is snared in sin?  Or is it someone like the people John describes in 1 John 2:9 when he says “they went out from us because they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us?”
 
The answer is, we don’t know.  Jesus said that wheat (genuinely saved people) and tares (people who act like they’re saved but who aren’t) will grow together in the same field.  He told us to leave the tares alone.  At the harvest time, the reapers will sort out the wheat from the tares.
 
When we know someone who has walked away from following Jesus – and all of us do, right? – our job is the same.  We need to pray for them and continue to remind them of the gospel.  If they’ve never truly believed, they need to continue to have the good news declared to them, that it might penetrate and soften their heart and bring them to faith.  “Faith comes by hearing,” the Bible tells us, “and hearing by the word of God.”  So we continue to point them to the word.
 
If they are wandering, wayward children of God, they need to be reminded of the gospel again as well.  Over and over again.  The gospel exalts the goodness, the kindness and the love of God in a way that nothing else can.  And it is an understanding of God’s kindness that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). 
 
All of us need to be reminded of the gospel over and over again.  It is, the Bible says, “the power of God unto salvation.”  It’s the gospel that first penetrates our hard hearts and brings us to faith.  It’s the gospel that sustains us in our journey toward sanctification.  And it’s the gospel that points us to our eternal hope.  As John Newton wrote, and as we sing so often
“tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”
 
We also all need to be aware of the constant pull of sin in our lives.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains, any child of God can fall into grievous sin, stay there for a season, and in the process, bring temporal judgment on himself or herself. 
 
This song, written and recorded by Keith Green back in 1980 should be our regular petition.  While we can rejoice in the security that is ours as children of God, we should never be cocky and think we couldn’t slip into sin.  As 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
 
Let’s not fall.  Let’s do all we can to stand.  And if we see someone trapped in sin, let’s pray for them.  Let’s remind them of God’s goodness, His kindness and His love for them. 
“I Don’t Want To Fall Away From You” by Keith Green

Spring Women’s Bible Study

 The Spring Women’s Bible Study in the Psalms kicks off this coming week.  It’s a nine-week group study where during the week you will meditate and reflect on a specific group of Psalms, taking notes as you go.  Then each week, you’ll gather with a group of other women to interact and share with one another how God has spoken to you as you’ve read and meditated.
 
There are three groups meeting each week.  One group will me on Monday night at church from 7:00 – 8:30 pm.  A second group will me at the same time, but will connect via Zoom.  And a third group will meet on Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:30 at church.
 
Everyone is invited, but we need you to do something first.  We need you to sign up to let us know which of the three studies you’ll be attending.  This is especially important for those joining by Zoom, but it would really help if everyone could sign up and give us an idea of what to expect for each of the three meeting times.  And we’re making it easy.  You can sign up for the study of your choice by clicking here
 
Any questions?  Reach out to Jen Gurney.  Her email is jengles1@yahoo.com.

LOVE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! Weekend ~ POSTPONED.

A reminder that we’re postponing the Love Like You Mean It marriage event we had planned for next weekend.  We’ll let you know when we have a new date set.  Thanks for your understanding on this.

FAMILY SUPER BOWL – SAT. feb 13.

Are you excited about the Bengals and the Rams?  Are you grieving Tom Brady’s retirement? 
 
Well we have the perfect activity for you.  You need to do some Super Bowlin

This is a great “bring a friend” event, and it’s open to everyone.  You can click here for details and to pay online for your two hours of bowling fun! Contact Jen Gurney for questions or more information. Her email is jengles1@yahoo.com.

True confession time.  The spring Men’s Retreat is now four weeks away, and until tonight, I still hadn’t signed up and paid.  I’ve taken care of that now.  It took me about 90 seconds.  I’m in.  I’m excited.  How about you?  Click here to do what I just did and reserve your spot!

prayers needed

 On Sunday I asked you to pray for Faithann Glidden and her son Matt who has been diagnosed with COVID.  Faithann wanted you to know how grateful she is for your prayers and for the encouragement you’ve been to her.
 
I have someone new to add to your prayer list.  Jeff Brinsfield has also been diagnosed with COVID.  In addition, Jeff has pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs.  As many of you know, Jeff has faced some significant health challenges in recent years that have likely weakened his immune system.  He is in the hospital now.  Please pray for Jeff, for Louren and for Kyra, Isabella and Jaina.  Pray that God would sustain them all and restore Jeff to full health. 
 
In fact, let me invite you to join me in praying these prayers together with me – right now as you’re reading this and then again later today and tomorrow and the next day.  Let’s be people who are persistent in our prayers for Jeff and his family, for Faithann and Matt and for all who are directly affected by the pandemic.

Merciful God, we come to you right now on behalf of Matt Glidden and Jeff Brinsfield and others we know who have COVID.  We entrust them to your loving and tender care.  We pray they will know that whatever danger they are facing right now, your everlasting arms are there to keep them safe.  Comfort them in their affliction.  Heal their bodies and restore them to full health and strength we pray. 
 
For their friends and family, we ask that you would keep their hearts and minds in perfect peace.  We pray that you would meet them and comfort them in their anxious moments and in their fears.  Be near to them.  Give them a palpable sense of your presence.  Holy Spirit, we ask you to be the Comforter.  Bring peace that passes understanding.  Calm their fears.  And when they don’t know what to pray any more, be their intercessor as you have promised to be.
 
Be with each of us, Lord.  We are weary.  We have experienced uncertainty and distress.  We have been anxious and fearful.  We have all been touched by COVID, whether in body or in spirit.  Be our strength.  Help us to find our rest in you.  Because of your resurrection, we know the sting of death has been removed for all who know you.  Help us to be bold to share the gospel with others.  Help us to be quick to serve those in need. 
 
We pray Lord for those who face the reality of this plague each day.  Be with our doctors, our nurses, all health care workers and all who are working to address the virus.  Give them skill and resilience.  Keep them safe.  Give them wisdom as they face challenges on the front line every day.  Strengthen them, body and soul, by your Spirit, that through their efforts, many will be restored to health.
 
We pray these things in Jesus’ matchless and mighty name.  Amen


What did Jesus mean when He told his disciples that if they really loved Him, they would be glad that He was leaving them?  How can that be?  What did He mean?  We’ll see as we conclude our study in John 14 this Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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