I am very much afraid that the Lord has no
longer accepted me. / Commentary, AM 2015-09-23
The meaning of the word “penitence”
/ Article, Derek Prince - Glaubenswachstum [Growth in Faith],
Are we walking in the light or in the
darkness? (1Jh 1,6-7) / Article Fritz Wolf - discourse 58, Immanuel.at
In spite of penitence, has God not
forgiven our sins?
The basis for God’s forgiveness
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
I read your article (Discourse 58: “How
can you know whether you are saved? / FH) and for years I have been in
great distress, because I have cast final warnings to the wind.
Before I get to my actual question, I would like to tell you my past history, as it is to this that my concern relates.
I was born as the child of believing parents and was raised in the Christian community. I don’t know for sure whether I was really converted as a child. To begin with, my life went on as it probably does for any child who is raised in a Christian family. I prayed mornings and evenings with my parents, read the Bible and regularly attended Sunday school and community lessons (in short, Jesus Christ was always present for me and faith was a normal thing).
At the age of around 15 I started to go my own way (alcohol, parties etc.), but still there was never a time where I completely turned my back on the faith, until it came to a situation, when I was perhaps 15, when I said to the Lord in a kind of “childish tantrum” that I didn’t want Him and he should let me be lost in order to punish my parents for their strictly Christian upbringing. But I confessed this later to the Lord and prayed Him to forgive me and save me after all (I don’t know whether he heard me??)
So my life went on, I wasn’t really rejecting the faith but neither was I truly open, I was rather indifferent and although the Lord often clearly spoke to me, I didn’t change anything. At around 24 I increasingly got into states of anxiousness and depression from anxiety about being lost and fear of eternal damnation, and then I frequently prayed to the Lord that he should save me and be pleased to forgive me and I would like to have Him as Lord and Savior, and that I needed his help and strength in order to leave my sinful life, because till then the real will was lacking, but the wish was there to follow the Lord. I then once again began to study the Word of God more in order to see why I wasn’t getting any real peace, and came upon the following passages which made it clear to me that there is a too late if you persist in ignoring God and so refusing Him as well. (Job 33:16, Hebr. 12:16; 10:26)
I am very much afraid that the Lord has no longer accepted or no longer accepts me, although for around 6 years this has been my daily ongoing prayer, that He should bring me to true penitence and forgive me. I’m afraid I haven’t yet clearly sensed the point where the Lord really placed me in his light as a great sinner, the fact that I am one is something I have rather grasped on the basis of understanding and as a result of the influence my Christian family background. Now I have read this report which plunged me into further doubt http://www.glaube.de/artikel/thema///derek_prince_busse.html and that is why I write to you too:
Does God fail even when you beseech Him to be saved, does he give you no further possibility of penitence?? After all that I have written can it be that the Lord has rejected me like Esau and Saul ? Can it be that I have left behind my “place for repentance”, although I long for salvation? Has God perhaps hardened me, or did I back then, when I said to God the thing I mentioned earlier, overstep a mark, as in Hebr. 10,26? (Based perhaps on my responsibility of having been raised in a Christian family?) I would be glad to believe and truly repent, but God doesn’t grant it me and is silent. And all the time I hear a kind of inner voice - When I called you, you weren’t interested, now it is too late.
Dear editor, I am really in such deep despair that I no longer see any chance of being saved, life brings me little joy living with the fear of being lost eternally, and I see no reason why God lets me go on living although my time of salvation has expired.
This is why I am writing to you. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your visit to Immanuel.at and for your e-mail.
In reading your message it came to my mind that possibly there might be other brethren in the Lord asking the same question. Seeing that the answer to this question is undoubtedly of more than minor importance for continuance on the path of faith, I am very grateful to you for consenting to my publication of some part of your correspondence, so that these reflections may be made accessible to other readers at Immanuel.at as well.
Before we ask ourselves whether God has accepted our penitence, we should get it clear what penitence actually is. For the better understanding of your problem, I followed up the link you provided. In this article by Derek Prince I then found, right away, a very good explanation of the concept of penitence, and in view of the fact that you write that you too are uncertain whether you understand penitence correctly, I reproduce below the relevant part of the article:
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
First of all it is important to arrive at a clear
understanding of the word “penitence”, as it is used in Holy Scripture.
Meaning of the word
In the New Testament the expression “to repent” is generally used as a translation of the Greek verb “mentanoein” [correct: "metanoein"]. This word “mentanoein” [correct: "metanoein"] has a clear and defined meaning, which can be traced right through the Greek language and actually comes across both in classical and in New Testament Greek. Fundamentally the word always means just one thing -a “change of mind”. The actual meaning of “penitence” in the New Testament, then, is not an uprush of feeling, but a DECISION.
It is extremely important to get this fact clear, because otherwise many false imaginations and suppositions about “penitence” will be triggered automatically. Many people connect the term “penitence” first and foremost with a certain feeling, in which tears are shed and the like. However it is altogether possible that a person is deeply addressed on the level of feeling and even sheds many tears, and yet never repents in the true, biblical sense. Others, on the other hand, think in connection with the word “penitence” of the observation of certain religious rites and requirements - perhaps in the sense of “expiation” or “atonement”. But here again the same thing applies: you can carry out a whole lot of religious customs and rituals and nonetheless never achieve true, biblical penitence.
True penitence is nothing other than a firm inner decision - a change of mind.
When we look at the Old Testament, we find that the word that is generally translated there as “to repent” literally means, “to turn around”, “reverse” or “turn back”. The New Testament term describes the inner decision, the change of mind; the Old Testament term points to the outer action as an expression of the change of mind - to the act of “turning around” or “turning back”.
So the New Testament underlines the inward nature of true penitence; the Old Testament emphasizes the act as an expression of the inner change. If we join the two together, you get a complete picture of penitence: penitence is an inner process, a transformation of attitude, resulting in an outer turning around or facing the other way, so as to look and to go in a completely new direction from this time on.
So when AM writes at the start of his commentary above, “I’m
afraid I haven’t yet sensed the point clearly where the Lord really placed
me in his light as a great sinner,” although he mentions that he has
read this article at glaube.de, it appears that he must have overlooked the
following statement by Prince:
“Many people connect the term “penitence”
first and foremost with a certain feeling, in which tears are shed and
the like. However it is altogether possible that a person is deeply addressed on
the level of feeling and even sheds many tears, and yet never repents in the
true, biblical sense.”
So if AM is waiting for a “feeling”, and thinks he is under
the obligation of “sensing” something, he is on the wrong path. Feelings are
what the adversary works with. He “enchants” his admirers with apparitions
of Mary or “visions of hell”.
(See also discourse 106: “The
false teachings in the Christian congregations.”)
As Prince quite correctly writes above, “True penitence is
nothing other than a firm inner decision - a change of mind.” And this
decision does not manifest itself as a feeling that one senses in the “gut”,
but in the spirit. It is the same as with all decisions of faith: they play
themselves out - when they are genuine - for the most part in the spirit,
for this is the place where we meet God. God is spirit and anyone who wants to
talk to God (pray) must pray to him in spirit and truth. (Jn 4:23-24).
Now although this part of the article at "glaube.de" analyzes and explains the meaning of the term penitence excellently, the observations that follow are somewhat problematic. As AM in fact writes above, it was these statements above all that “plunged him into doubt”, which was why he came to Immanuel.at for counsel.
It is not, however, by any means the case that these other statements are incorrect or unbiblical. The reason is rather to be seen in the fact that the different level of understanding of the reader, in terms of faith, is not taken into account - so it is possible that one reader or another may fall into misconceptions and draw incorrect conclusions because of his or her lack of biblical knowledge. As, for example, with the following statement at the end of the article:
“The critical point in the life of a human being,
then, is the moment when the Holy Spirit calls him to repentance. Those who
accept this call He leads to saving faith in Jesus Christ and eternal life; but
if they reject it, on the other hand, then the sinner remains on the path he has
embarked on, which will lead to the grave and the never-ending darkness of
eternity without God. The Bible says clearly that it is possible while still in
this life to have left the “space for repentance” behind. This means that it
is possible to come to a point where the Spirit of God no longer calls the
person to repentance, and where consequently no hope remains for this person,
even though he has not yet passed through the gates of eternity.”
It is absolutely correct that it is possible, according to the Bible, to have left behind the “space for repentance” while still in this life. And that does not just apply to godless persons and idol worshipers, it also refers to correctly believing Christians who have fallen away from the faith, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us:
Those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance
Hbr 6,4 For in the case of those who have once
been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made
partakers of the Holy Spirit, 6,5 and have tasted the good word of God and
the powers of the age to come, 6,6 and then have fallen away, it is
impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to
themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hbr 6, 4-6;
“To repent” means taking an inner decision. Naturally
outward signs, which necessarily follow this decision, are associated with this
- there is no question about that. Perhaps we can illustrate this by means of
a vivid example. Suppose somebody wants to reach the station in time for the
departure of his train, but he realizes that he is going in the wrong direction.
When this dawns on him he forms the inner resolution to turn around, whereupon
the outer action follows: an about turn, and a march in the right direction.
In the case of these former brethren in the Lord to whom the author of the Letter to the Hebrews refers above, the scenario must have worked out rather differently. After their initial about face, they have turned around again and have gone again in the wrong direction. But now they no longer think of changing course. Like all other godless persons, they are overcome by a kind of “behavioral dementia”. They have lost the capacity to distinguish between good and evil, and now judge the world and their environment only in terms of “old” and “new”. And so they regard the past as old and played out, and strive to reach what is new and interesting. And this time it is no longer an error that can be corrected. These people have lost the will - and so also the capacity - for conversion.
So if a Christian - like our commentator AM in this case - tries to discern, in a state approaching desperation, whether God has accepted his repentance, he has not lost the will to conversion (and so has not lost the capacity either). Thus after his repentance and conversion he will again be accepted by God as his child, and so is a correctly believing Christian.
But as we can see, sometimes even among Christians there is uncertainty about whether one is on the right path. Here it is not a matter of faith in God or godlessness, but rather of the question whether one’s actions conform to the behavior of a correctly believing Christian or not. On this topic Fritz Wolf said a few important things in his article “How can you know whether you are saved?”, in Discourse 58 at Immanuel.at, and I would like to quote here a few extracts from this.
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
For a long time I thought that walking in the light amounted
to a practically sinless way of life. But this cannot be the case, because we
are told at the end of verse 7 that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all
sin. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. One who is living
in the darkness is concealing his guilt. In the darkness all dirty clothes are
able to pass for clean. If I put on a white shirt and place myself in bright
light, then every spot, however small, will be apparent; whereas dark clothes
in a dark room, even if they have spots, will still be able to pass for clean.
If we expose ourselves to the light of God, and constantly examine our lives in accordance with the injunctions of the Word of God, we will notice pretty quickly that we are sinful and unworthy. We will soon notice that we are not in a position to cherish any illusions about ourselves. If on the other hand we expose ourselves to rather shallow conversation, then we become increasingly insensitive to our own sinfulness and we may start to think that we really are not so bad after all. We lose interest in spiritual themes, and are increasingly unaware of what our way of life is like in relation to God. .
Even if in the lives of God’s children there may be phases from time to time in which one is less concerned to engage with the Word of God, preferring to enjoy shallow conversation; but all the same he will be drawn back ever again into the light of God’s presence. The righteous person falls seven times, but he gets up again, whereas the godless person remains wallowing in his guilt. One who walks in the darkness conceals his guilt, so that it does not become apparent. In such a state one easily persuades himself that he is without sin. You can always find people whose faults are reassuringly more obvious than your own.
(See also discourse 58: “How
can you know if you are saved?”)
If we now seek to summarize the problem voiced in AM’s e-mail
quoted above, we find it reflected in the following passage:
“At the age of around 15 I started to go my own
way (alcohol, parties etc.), but still there was never a time where I completely
turned my back on the faith, until it came to a situation, when I was perhaps
15, when I said to the Lord in a kind of “childish tantrum” that I didn’t
want Him and he should let me be lost in order to punish my parents for their
strictly Christian upbringing. But I confessed this later to the Lord and prayed
Him to forgive me and save me after all (I don’t know whether he heard me??)”
So it is a essentially a question of “When does God hear us,
and when can we know whether God has forgiven our sins?”. The last part of
this question can be answered with relative ease: God forgives all sins except
for one - the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.
Mt 12,31 "Therefore I say to you, any sin
and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall
not be forgiven. 12,32 "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man,
it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it
shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.. Mt
And at this point of course many brethren ask what this
blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, and here too suffer from anxiety that they
might have already committed this sin. In Discourse 64: “What
is the sin against the Holy Spirit?” there is a relatively detailed answer
to this question, which I would like to reproduce here in summary form.
The occasion on which the Lord made this statement is reported to us in somewhat greater detail by Mark:
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.
Mk 3,28 "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be
forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 3,29 but
whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is
guilty of an eternal sin" - 3,30 because they were saying, "He
has an unclean spirit." Mk 3,28-30;
Mark says here at the end: “because they were saying, ‘He
has an unclean spirit’.” So if we now revert to the gospel of Matthew, and
trace the text back a little way, just a few verses before the above statement
in Mt 12,31-32 we come upon the event to which Mark refers:
This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons..
Mt 12,22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind
and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and
saw. 12,23 All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "This man cannot be
the Son of David, can he?"
12,24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."
12,25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 12,26 "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 12,27 "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 12,28 "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Mt 12,22-28;
And there we now have the answer to the question what the sin
against the Holy Spirit is. Even worse than the mere denial of the Holy Spirit,
it is the sin of describing the Holy Spirit as an “unclean spirit”.
So these are the real enemies of God, like the Jewish scribes of the Sanhedrin in their day, who say this kind of thing and whom the Lord called a brood of vipers and sons of the devil, who will not succeed in fleeing from the wrath to come.
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
Jn 8,43 "Why do you not understand what I am
saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 8,44 "You are of your
father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a
murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no
truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is
a liar and the father of lies. Jn 8,43-44;
You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Mt 3,7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and
Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who
warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Mt 3, 7;
You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?
Mt 12,34 "You brood of vipers, how can you,
being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the
heart. 12,35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is
good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. Mt
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Mt 23,32 "Fill up, then, the measure of the
guilt of your fathers. 23,33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how
will you escape the sentence of hell? Mt 23,32-33;
So these are the people who have made themselves guilty of the
sin against the Holy Spirit.
For those people who ask this question from a believing heart, there is an answer here which in my view is as simple as it is correct:
So someone who asks the question, as a believing Christian, “Have I committed the sin against the Holy Spirit?” - at whatever time of life - can safely assume that the answer is No. (Otherwise he would undoubtedly no longer be a believing Christian!)
And there we likewise have the answer to the question in the title of this discourse: “In spite of penitence, has God not forgiven our sins?”. Provided that we repent with a sincere heart and have done penitence, i.e. have turned around and converted in our thoughts and actions - and that possibly not for the first time - we can safely assume that God, just as we are obliged to forgive the brethren when they have sinned against us and ask our forgiveness, (Mt 18:21-22), will likewise forgive all our sins (except for the one) if we ask him to.
(See also discourse 18: “Forgiveness:
God’s and the Christian’s business?”)
At the same time it must be said that some inquiries of this
kind completely overlook the basis (the one and only basis!!) on which God can
forgive us our sins. God does not forgive us our sins “because we are not so
bad after all”, as Fritz Wolf warns us above. Nor because the love of God is
“infinite” and “unconditional”, as the Catholic church has been trying
to pretend to its own faithful and to the whole world for centuries.
The infinite and unconditional love of God.
If the love of God were to be infinite and unconditional,
this God would have to forgive all human beings of all ages (infinite
time!!) all their sins, without any conversion or repentance on their part
(unconditionally!!). There would then no longer be any need of a redeeming
sacrifice - and Jesus Christ would not have had to die on the cross.
(See also discourse 30: “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”)
As we can see, this erroneous teaching of the “infinite” or
“unconditional” love of God is already very close to the sin against the
Holy Spirit. It is at least a sin against the sacrifice on the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ. The consequences are the same in the one case as in the other:
these people cannot be saved and are going to damnation. Only the Catholics
still have the possibility of repentance - of contrition and conversion -
while those who sin against the Holy Spirit do not.
In discussions with Catholics, the argument is frequently advanced at this point that “one must pray to God, after all, not to Jesus Christ”. They themselves meanwhile often pray not to God but to the Catholic demon “Mary”, and to deceased “saints” in a kind of cult of the dead - something which they pass over in embarrassment. But this statement too only serves to document these people’s lack of scriptural knowledge. For the Lord tells us repeatedly:
He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.
Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He
who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 12,45
"He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. Jn 12,44;
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.
Mt 11,25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise
You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from
the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 11,26 "Yes,
Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.
11,27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Mt 11,25-27;
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the Son of God.
Jn 3,14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 3,15 so that whoever
believes will in Him have eternal life. 3,16 "For God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall
not perish, but have eternal life. 3,17 "For God did not send the Son into
the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
3,18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe
has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God. Jn 3,14-18;
He who believes in the Son has eternal life.
Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has
eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the
wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;
He who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the
resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe
this?" Jn 11,25-26;
But it is not just the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, in the
unity of the Trinity, at the same time also represents God the Father -
indeed, even is God the Father - that makes it an absolute obligation for
correctly believing Christians to worship him; it is also our love and
thankfulness that compels us to worship that divine being who, although in the
image of God, took on our lowly human form and let himself be nailed to the
cross for our sins.
The consequence of sin and salvation through grace
Sin is every act that goes against the commandments of God
(Ex 20:3-17; Mt 5:21-48). The consequence of every single one of these
acts is the death of the perpetrator - and not just the first, physical
death, but the second death (Rev 21:8), to which the sinful person will be
condemned at the Last
Judgment after Resurrection
from the dead with his or her new and eternally existing body. Just as the
first death is merely a transitional period up till the resurrection, so
too the second death is
not an extinction of the human person but rather an eternally prolonged
existence, distant from God in the darkness of damnation.
That is the good news: in spite of our sinfulness, we can be
saved by grace, because God offers us forgiveness through the redeeming
sacrifice of his Son. This is the gospel. Every human being has an eternal
existence - it is only a question, where they will spend this eternal
existence after their resurrection: in the light with God, or in the darkness of
The eternal existence of every human being.
Every individual human being who leaves the amniotic sac
of his or her mother alive in being physically born – who is "born of
water" (amniotic fluid), that is to say (Jn 3:5) – receives a human
spirit (1Cor 2:11) from God (Jn 4:24) with eternal existence (Mt 25:46).
In the first, temporal and earthly part of their existence – in their
life, human beings have the possibility of deciding, in complete freedom,
without any compulsion and with the help of the spirit given them by God,
whether or not they will give this God, the creator of all life, their
complete trust and entire love.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1Cor 15,42 So also is the resurrection
of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable
body; 15,43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it
is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 15,44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is
also a spiritual body. 15,45 So also it is written, "The first MAN,
Adam, became a living soul." (Gen 2,7) The last Adam became a
life-giving spirit. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first,
but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first,
but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,47 The first man is from the earth,
earthy; the second man is from heaven. 15,48 As is the earthy, so also are
those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
15,49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image
of the heavenly. 1Cor 15,42-49;
With this body the human being
will then stand at the Last Judgment
before the Son of God, who has been given the task by God (Jn 5:22, 26-27)
of judging every human being on the basis of their earthly deeds and their
decision for or against God while still alive (Rom 2:16).
The Son of God said:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know
Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Jn 14,15-17;
In the light of this, the well known evangelist and preacher Wilhelm
Busch said to his hearers, "You don’t need to accept the message I am giving
you. You can choose not to convert to Jesus. But just be aware that this means you
are choosing hell! You have complete freedom – it’s your choice!" (People who are unable to believe)
(See also Discourse 22: “Is
there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?”)
For all those who would like to have it short and
But this offer of God’s is something that we must first
accept. And if anyone does not accept this sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ
quite personally for their own sins, in spirit and in prayer, their sins will
not be forgiven and the wrath of God remains on them - whatever merits they
may have in other respects.
Neither the most admirable services in charitable aid given to poor and sick non-believers, nor the most zealous commitment in the community of believing brethren can be any kind of substitute for this. All these acts only count when the foundation, which is Jesus Christ, is laid. And as Paul tells us below, these works too will then be tested to see whether they were selfless, or were only intended to boost the person’s own reputation.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Cor 3,111 For no man can lay a foundation other than
the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3,12 Now if any man builds on
the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 3,13 each
man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be
revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s
work. 3,14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive
a reward. 3,15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he
himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1Cor 3,11-15;
With reference to the brethren in the congregations, Gottfried
Daniel Pomacher, an Awakening preacher from Wuppertal, has given us a guideline
that is in the spirit of Paul’s statements above:
“Christianity does not consist in words but rather
in the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer. The pillars of the temple are
not those who attract the admiration of their hearers with their public
utterances of ‘Lord, Lord’, but rather those who - at home, in the stillness
of their own room, and without any audience - address their prayers to the Lord:
these are the ones who really support the congregation.”
For all other people, it has been made clear by Wilhelm Busch (sadly, the late Wilhelm Busch, 1897-1966), a youth pastor, evangelist and preacher from Essen, that with God there is absolutely no compulsion. Every action of faith must be based on absolutely free will, otherwise it does not come from God:
“With God there are no compulsions. But please be
clear on one point - you will have to live with the consequences. In Jesus God
offers you peace, and the forgiveness of your sins. You can say, “I don’t
need it! And I don’t want it either!” And you may live accordingly. But then
you are not to suppose that in the last five minutes of your life, when you are
on the point of death, you will still be able to grasp what God has been
offering to you for the length of a whole lifetime.
You are free to reject God’s offer of peace in Christ Jesus, but then you must live for all eternity without having made your peace with God. And that is hell. Hell is the place where you have finally and truly succeeded in getting rid of God. You are no longer invited. There is nothing calling you any longer. Perhaps you may want to pray, but you can’t do it any more. Perhaps you may want to call on the name of Jesus, but you can’t remember it any longer.
You don’t need to accept this message I have for you. You can forget about converting to belief in Jesus, if that is what you want. But be clear about what you are doing, because you are choosing hell - and you have absolute freedom to do so!”
(See also discourse 55: “Why
does God permit suffering?”)