Sorry for the length of this one but I feel an urgency about this; please read it when you can give it good time.
Some of the oldsters who read this blog will remember Keith Green’s song, “I don’t wanna fall away from You.”
Neither do I.
But, the Bible speaks of a time called the great apostasy—the great falling away—prior to the coming of the day of Christ (2 Thes. 2:3).
Surely that could not happen to me… could it? I am not trying to sow doubt in my heart; at the same time I don’t want to kid myself either. Things can get so difficult that any of us might be tempted to throw in the towel. Jesus promised in the parable of the unjust judge that God will certainly avenge His elect who cry day and night unto Him, though He bears long with them. He will be faithful. He will avenge them speedily. But then Jesus added, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh [to avenge them] shall He find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).
Meaning that even with the certainty of this promise being fulfilled, its delay will leave many in such overwhelming circumstances that they will be tempted to abandon their faith. This is especially true in this hour when it seems the whole of Christianity is on trial; even here in the “free” western world it is becoming a heavy reproach to be a Christian in a society that increasingly ridicules God and hates Christians.
And so the temptation is there. God, it seems, is slow to vindicate Himself, and His own. Will I be able to continue on? Will I be able to stay faithful in spite of this delay?
I want to answer this question by first framing a picture from the book of Hebrews, which I was reading through recently, when suddenly the light came on.
First I read this:
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17,18).
That reminded me of this a couple of chapters further on:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession [our confession].
For we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like 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).
Now, these verses have been a great comfort to me in times of temptation all through my Christian walk. But, as I said, suddenly the light came on. For it dawned on me that sandwiched between these two passages about temptation is another passage about temptation.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work forty years” (Heb. 3:7-9).
The Grand Scheme of Hebrews
Suddenly I was able to connect the dots. This is the centre of the picture framed by those two other passages about the Son of God being able to help those who are in a time of temptation.
The writer of Hebrews—whether it was Paul or someone else doesn’t concern us—was writing in the days of the early church to Hebrews who in a time of increasing persecution were being sorely tempted to draw back from the high and holy calling with which they had been called—to be partakers of Christ Himself, and thus of the great salvation He had wrought for them on the Cross of Calvary, and which He would unfold to them in all its fullness… as they continued to hold the beginning of their confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
This is grand scheme of the writer of Hebrews. He wants to find ways to encourage his brothers and sisters in a time of sore trial to continue on and not fall away. So he goes back to the days when in the wilderness the children of Israel on their way to their Canaan inheritance did the exact opposite. They didn’t hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end. They abandoned their hope. In the day of temptation (or, testing) they failed God… and themselves. Instead of going on, they drew back.
The original Greek has, “in the day of the temptation,” speaking of a specific temptation, or test. The context shows that it was the day when the people, instead of believing their God and pressing on into their heritage, were filled with unbelief and turned back in their hearts to Egypt. The enemies before them, and the obstacles, were just too much. They were filled with fear, not faith. And they turned their backs on God. (See Numbers Chapters 13 and 14.)
They failed the great temptation. In fact they turned the tables on God, as this passage says (and it seems to include other occasions when the people refused to believe their God; see Psalm 95:8, Num. 14:22, Ex. 17:7, Num. 20:13). “Your fathers tempted me…” That is, they put God to the test when it was they who were being tested; they questioned God, doubted that He could actually do what He had promised.
And so instead of going on, they drew back, they fell away. Incidentally, the passage in Hebrews about those who crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh does not have in mind someone who has stumbled in sin; it’s about those who have “fallen away” (Heb. 6:6). That is, they walk no more with Christ; they have turned their back on Him. This is far different from one who has stumbled in a sin, and is still crying out, “I don’t wanna fall away from You.”
And so the writer of Hebrews seeks to encourage the new converts; he wants them to know that in this calling, difficult as it is, they are attended by a faithful and merciful High Priest who Himself knows all about temptation and is able to help those who are tempted.
This is why he urges them to come boldly to the throne of grace knowing that this High Priest will not look down on them because of their weaknesses and fears; He will sympathize with them because He Himself had been tempted in all things just like themselves, yet without sin. (And what is sin but falling short of the will of God?) All they need do is accept His invitation to come boldly to the throne of grace for the mercy and grace they need in their present trial.
After I read this, I put my Bible down with that question in my heart. (And when you think of it, every temptation has in it this very question.) Will I continue to be faithful? Will I continue on in this hour, or draw back? As I said, I am not trying to sow doubt—to myself or to others—but some of us know that the test can be very severe at times, and it’s not once or twice that I have cried out, Lord, I can’t go on any further, please just take me home. Not that I am saying I don’t want to go on, but I am certain that with my own resources I simply can’t go on.
But this is just why I am urged to come to the Throne of Grace, is it not? Yes, it’s a very high throne, but the One seated there—reigning there with all power in Heaven and earth—is my priest, my very own great High Priest, who has deeply identified Himself with my cause, and is touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and sympathizes with my weaknesses.
So, if I am certain I will never make it by my own resources, I am just as certain that if I come boldly to this throne of Grace I will find the provision I need in order to abide faithful, and continue on. And that is the answer to my question.
Faith… that pleases God
This present hour is a difficult hour… which is going to get even more difficult. We are in the beginnings of a final onslaught against God and His Christ, and it will take faith to continue on. And—have we learned this lesson?—yesterday’s faith will not do for today. And so we must come to the Throne of Grace… again and again. At the Throne of Grace we will be able to renew our faith in order to continue to live by faith… today as yesterday, though today’s trial be very severe. At the Throne of Grace we will find the mercy and grace we need in order to continue believing God and pleasing God (for without faith it is impossible to please Him) regardless how great the obstacles before us, and impossible the situations, and dark the day. We will also find—this is my conviction because the present day is calling for this—the release of some very powerful things from the Throne of Grace to enable us to triumph and glorify our God in this day, the Evil Day.
Beloved, let us remember that every problem we face, the impossible ones, the insurmountable ones, the ones we have cried to God about till we have no more tears to cry… these will be answered not by our drawing back, but by our going on. God’s answer to the cry of our hearts lies in an inheritance in the light (Col. 1:12). I don’t think we appreciate just how powerful an answer this inheritance in the light is. Suffice it to say that it means the absolute ruin and complete downfall of all the hosts of darkness in the heavenly realm that have wrought such havoc in the family of man.
The psalmist wrote of “a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Ps. 78:8). I believe he had in mind that same generation who, on their way to their promised inheritance, failed God in a great temptation in the wilderness.
I don’t wanna join them.
What I want to do is receive the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward (Heb. 10:35).
For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
While it is said, Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation… (Heb. 3:14).
Today if ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts… (Heb. 3:7).
For we which have believed do enter into [the] rest… (Heb. 4:3).
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Heb. 10:38).
…Notice that last little phrase? Beloved, this is what living by faith is all about. It’s about pleasing God. It’s about believing in Him, and continuing to believe… every step of the way. This brings Him great pleasure. When we are in a great trial and much difficulty… and we are not sure we can even continue on… and yet we don’t draw back, we come again to our great High Priest on the Throne of Grace seeking mercy, and grace, and a fresh inspiration for our faith so that we can continue on no matter what… oh, how this pleases Him.