Joe: Mr. Slick?
Joe: Do you have a minute?
Joe: I wanted to ask a biblically-related question, but I'll understand if you don't have time right now.
Matt: Go ahead.
Joe: I've read your article on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit before, as well as a few others, but I'm still deeply concerned about it. You see, I've really spurned Christ so many times. I've committed many willful sins in my life after professing Christ. And I can't remember feeling convicted for it.
Joe: So I think about Hebrews 11 and God's discipline . . . so I have to wonder, right? Then I read about Esau and how even though he came to God with tears he found no repentance in his heart, and I can't help but wonder if that's me.
Matt: What would it take to convince you otherwise?
Joe: It'd be nice if God would shoot lightning and thunder and a big ole neon sign.
Matt: Sometimes that would be nice.
Joe: But I'm guessing He won't . . .
Matt: But, he wants us to rely on his word.
Matt: Let me ask you. Have you publicly proclaimed that our Lord performed his miracles and that he cast out demons by the power of the evil one?
Matt: Okay. Then you have not committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That is the one unforgivable sin that Jesus told us about in Matthew 12: 22-32. Since you have not committed, then you don't have anything to worry about.
Joe: What about Hebrews 6 and 10? That's pointing to apostates, right?
Matt: There are different interpretations on that. One view that is necessary to understand is that it was written to Hebrews--most likely to those who had an eyewitness' account of the deeds and teachings of Jesus. In a very real sense they were enlightened, and then they turned their back on the Messiah, the one who was sent to Israel (Matt. 15:24). I admit that it is a difficult passage to interpret but, what I do is compare it to other verses that are more clear.
Joe: Of course.
Matt: Let me ask a question. If you have eternal life, can you ever perish?
Joe: Of course not. I accept perseverance of the saints, but I fear that I'm a false convert. And so am in danger of becoming so hardened by my toying with sin that I am beyond repentance.
Matt: Well, I am glad to know that you believe in eternal security, especially since Jesus taught in John 10:27-28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." But, let me run something else by you. If you were to ask God for a fish, would he give you a snake instead? If you ask him for an egg, would he give you a scorpion?
Joe: No, Jesus made that clear. If my natural father knows how to give good gifts will not my Father in heaven give . . .
Matt: Correct, Luke 11:11-13 says, "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
Matt: Okay, then what are you asking from the Father?
Joe: I feel foolish for asking these questions, but they've really been haunting me for a while.
Matt: They are not foolish questions. They are the questions of someone with whom the Holy Spirit is working.
Matt: Let me ask you again, what are you asking the Father for?
Joe: Ultimately, salvation.
Matt: If you are asking the Father for salvation, please tell me, basically, what would he tell you?
Joe: Well, He'd say yes. But what if I merely had an emotional experience? Or I'm like the burnt out district in New York where the Mormons and JWs came from? Many those had salvation experiences . . .
Matt: Let me ask the question again a little bit differently. If you were to ask the Father for forgiveness of sin, for reconciliation, etc., who would he point you to?
Matt: The Father bears witness of Jesus--John 5:37; 8:18; 1 John 5:9.
Matt: Since the Father would point you to Jesus and Jesus says in Matthew 11:27-28 to come to him, then I need to ask if you have done that? Have you obeyed the Father by going to Christ and asking him for reconciliation, for the forgiveness of your sins?
Matt: If God will not fake you out and give you a scorpion for an egg nor a snake for a fish, then what makes you think that he would allow you to be deceived when you go to Christ asking for the Holy Spirit to indwell you through the shed blood and forgiveness of Christ?
Joe: I see what you're saying.
Matt: It comes down to whether or not you believe what God has actually said about forgiveness. The Bible tells us not to trust our feelings, Jer. 17:9. Do not make doctrine out of experience! Let me say that again. Do not make doctrine out of experience. If you feel something that is in contradiction to the Scripture, then your feeling is wrong.
Joe: Of course. I just see more and more my ineptness and sinfulness, and I can't help but wonder if I'm an authentic Christian.
Matt: Of course you are inept and sinful! You don't think God's grace is dependent upon your ability and holiness do you? The ones he saves are all inept and sinful. So what does that have to do with your being saved or not? Are you trying to find yourself worthy of being saved? Are you thinking that you have to feel a certain way in order to be saved? Look . . . We can deceive ourselves in so many ways because we are inept and sinful.
Joe: It's just it seems like I shouldn't be so spiritually dry and not desiring of God.
Matt: So what does that have to do with you being saved? Don't you realize that there are times when we will go through spiritual deserts and not sense the presence of God at all? It is these times when God allows us to be stripped down, so that we can examine ourselves and our faith so that it can be purified. Ultimately, our faith must rest in God alone and not in our feelings and not in our circumstances. I have been through the desert several times and have wondered even if God knows I exist. But, I have always come out of the desert having my faith purified because it always came down to one thing: do I believe God at his word or not? True faith is trust in God in spite of our circumstances and our feelings . . . and our doubts. Unbelievers who do not have the Spirit of God in them are not concerned about the things of God. They cannot be concerned about them because the Holy Spirit is not working in them and because the unregenerate cannot receive the spiritual things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). But you are concerned, thereby demonstrating regeneration. Through the desert, you must trust God beyond your ability to understand and beyond your ability to feel.
Matt: Remember, Moses went through the desert before he was used by God. Paul went through the desert before he was used by God. Jesus went through the desert before he was used by God.
Matt: Can I give you a quick parable?
Joe: Of course.
Matt: There are two men in about in the ocean--many miles from land. There is no one around them. As they are sailing, they come upon two other men in the ocean. It is obvious that the two men in the water are in deep trouble because there is no boat around them, and they have no life preservers. One of the men on the boat takes a rope and throws it to the men in the water. One man, very tired and weak, reaches for the rope. He is struggling to get to it. The other man in the water is floating face down. He is not reaching for the rope. The first man continues to struggle, continues to reach for that lifeline. So, let me ask you, which one of those two men in the water is alive?
Joe: The one reaching for the lifeline.
Matt: That is correct. Only those who are alive struggle for life. Likewise, only those who are alive in Christ struggle against their sin. The point is you are demonstrating that struggle for spiritual life.
Joe: I see.
Matt: Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, that he died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead physically three days later?
Matt: Do you also acknowledge that there is nothing you could do to earn your salvation in any way and that what you must do is completely and totally trust in Christ and his sacrificial work for the forgiveness of your sins and the deliverance of your soul for the righteous judgment of God?
Matt: These are spiritual matters. These are not things that can be accepted and trusted by unbelievers. 1 Cor. 2:14 says, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
Matt: But you are accepting them and trusting in them. Therefore, it is safe to say that you are not a "natural man." And, you need to trust God at his word that he will not fake you out and leave you unsaved if you are asking him in Jesus Christ and trusting Jesus for the sacrifice that cleanses of sin. God is not in the business of deceit. Okay?
Joe: I see what you're saying.
Matt: What I am telling you is the truth. It is biblical. What you need to do is believe in what God has already said . . . and thus get out of the desert.
Joe: Thanks, Matt. I really appreciate your taking the time.
Matt: No problem. I hope it helps.
Joe: And I really appreciate what you're doing with CARM. It's awesome.
Matt: Thank you.
Matt: But, does this dialog help you?
Joe: Yeah, it does.
Matt: Good. You will have to let me know how you progress.
Joe: Sure, if you want.
Matt: Btw, speaking of CARM, would it be okay with you if I use this dialog in the dialogue section? I think it would help others. You are not the only one who was asked this question.
Joe: Go ahead. Now I wish I'd been more articulate. haha.
Matt: LOL . . . I will change your nickname to something else.
Joe: It really doesn't matter. After all I've gotten from CARM it wouldn't be a big deal if people didn't think I was the most intelligent person on earth. I've used information from your site to witness to several skeptics, one guy eventually made a profession of faith.
Matt: Who knows? Maybe God has allowed you to feel your despair, so that he would ask the questions so that it could be written in a dialogue and so that it could help others? I am glad to hear that.
Joe: He is that kind of crazy sovereign.
Matt: Yep. Okay . . . I'm going to take off. Cya later.
As I reviewed this dialogue I wished I had continued with the issue of sanctification, the process that God brings us through in order to make us more like Christ. As Christians we can become hardened to sin; and we do need to practice repentance.
But I was most concerned about the immediate issue of this person's salvation. If he does not believe that he is saved, great despair can enter into his heart. If he can rest in his salvation with God and realize that it is secure in Christ, then he would be less likely to try and mistakenly be good enough in order to "stay saved" or "get saved." After all, it is our tendency sometimes, even as Christians, to try and please God by being good. We need to realize that we are only acceptable to God through Christ. Once we have that truth, we can be set free to live righteously and not have to worry about perfection. We need to look to Jesus in spite of how we feel. That is faith!