There are going to be people in our lives that we love, that we trusted, that we were sure they were in Christ, but there's going to be this experience of them walking away. They went out from us, but they weren't really of us. You've just run into someone you haven't seen in a long time. They used to attend your church. You might even have gone on a mission with them, and then they drop a bombshell. They no longer go to church or call Jesus Christ, Lord.
What happened? How can you make sense of it? Well, today on The Truth Pulpit, as Don Greene continues teaching God's people God's Word, he'll help you answer those questions. As he continues a series titled, So You Call Yourself a Christian, I'm Bill Wright.
And Don, what can we hope to learn from this message? Well, my fellow believer in Christ, Scripture is very clear about this. When God saves someone, He keeps him in his family. And when someone walks away, it simply means that he never belonged to Christ to begin with.
He had never been born again. At an individual level, it's sad to contemplate. But for those of us who stay and walk with Christ, it's an opportunity for us to renew our commitment. My friend, when others leave Christ behind, you find your reason to stay. All these things are just ahead on The Truth Pulpit.
Well, let's join Don right now in The Truth Pulpit. First John chapter 2 verse 19. Apostle John, referring to the false teachers that had troubled the midst of his readers in times past, says this, they went out from us, but they were not really of us. For if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. How are we to explain this problem of spiritual defection, which is going to no doubt just continue to grow worse and worse as the days go on? Well, I want to give you two points from this passage to help you think through this. Point number one here is the explanation of spiritual defection. How do we explain it? How do we explain that someone was with us for a while and then went out?
And when I say with us, I'm not talking about our local body here. I'm talking about someone who claimed to identify with Christ, claimed to be a Christian, and then their life just went off the rails and there was no love for Christ to be manifested ever since. How do we explain that? That's point number one, the explanation of spiritual defection.
And here's the simple answer to the question. Those people, the Bible teaches, the Bible teaches that people who make a deliberate and final departure from Christianity were never really saved to begin with. They were never really saved to begin with. Look at verse 19 with me again. Paul John says, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is the one who brings salvation to men.
And so, since we're reading from the book Inspired by the Holy Spirit about the work of salvation that Christ accomplished, we're getting it straight from the source who really knows the situation, right? He says they went out from us but they were not really of us. For if they had been of us, they would have remained with us.
Beloved, here's the way that you must understand that situation. Their departure shows that they never were saved to begin with. Their departure reveals their true character. It reveals what was true all along about them. They were of us, meaning they seemed to belong to the body of Christ. They seemed to belong to us.
They seemed to be one of us for a time, and they were. But only in outward identification, only in external association, when they left the true body of Christ, they were showing that they did not truly belong with us in spirit and in life, that the inner reality was absent even though the external appearance was there. That is what the Scripture teaches. We see from this that there's a distinction between the visible church and the invisible church. The visible church, those who gather together, those who identify themselves with Christ, those who would claim the name of Christ, not everyone who does that is truly a believer on the inside.
That's what this means. And the sad, difficult reality for us as believers, as true believers in Christ is, is that there are going to be people in our lives that we love, that we trusted, that we were sure they were in Christ, but there's going to be this experience of them walking away and proving that we didn't know them like we thought we did. And our duty before Christ in that situation is not to try to call someone a Christian who obviously wasn't and isn't. Our duty is to be faithful to His Word and to see and understand the situation like the Scripture explains it to us.
They went out from us, but they weren't really of us. How could John say that? How can we know that that is true? Well, the Bible teaches a doctrine that's known as the Perseverance of the Saints. It's a doctrine which means that God, once He has saved a believer, He will secure that believer and keep him in the faith until the end. You've got to understand this, that when you were saved, you were not saved by the power of your own decision to trust Christ.
No one was saved by the power of their own decision. The power that saves us, Romans chapter 1 verse 16, it's the power of God unto salvation. It is God coming down and opening a heart and drawing him to Christ and baptizing him as it were into the body of Christ in a relationship, a spiritual relationship of union with Christ that can never be changed, that can never be altered. The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. And so, the power of God is at work. And if the power of God is at work in salvation, God finishes what He starts. God does what He sets out to do. Turn back in your Bibles to the book of Philippians, just back to the left, probably 10, 15 pages for you, unless you've got bad eyesight and a large print, then it might be 20 or 25.
That's okay. But this is so very important for us to understand this. Philippians chapter 1 verse 6 says, I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Look at chapter 2 verse 13, chapter 2 verse 13, it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. God starts the work, God's at work in the work, God finishes the work. So when somebody is truly saved, they've truly been born from above, the power of God guarantees that whatever difficulties and trials and temptations they may go through, whatever manifestations of weakness there might be in their spiritual life from time to time, underlying that is the current of God's power that is certainly carrying them to persevere until the end, and that those who God says will ultimately persevere until the end.
It is a divine unseen reality that guarantees that true believers will ultimately continue in the faith, that it is because of the nature of salvation that we believe this. Look, we're not saying we know from personal experience in our own lives that we're not living perfect spiritual lives, we're not the perfect witnesses for Christ that we would like to be. We're not the sinless people that we would like to be. You know that in your own heart, you're not manifesting perfection.
And so that's not what we're talking about at all. True believers will struggle, they may be sorely tried, they may fall into sin, but at the end of the day, they will never finally, completely, deliberately turn away from Christ and renounce Him as if they had ever known Him. True believers don't do that. And they could not do that because God has saved them and brought them into His family, into the body of Christ, and God has saved them and secured them and given them a new nature with new desires and a new spirit at work in them that guarantees that that final turning away will not happen for those that have truly been born again. Look at the Gospel of John chapter 10, John chapter 10 verse 27. We're saying that true Christians persevere because God finishes what He starts. Look at verse 27, Jesus is speaking here, and He says, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me. Look at that. He states that as an indicative, My sheep follow Me.
Do you get that? Jesus says, My sheep follow Me. They don't turn around and follow someone else in the end. My sheep follow Me, Jesus says. Someone who is not following Christ has no grounds for assurance of salvation rooted in something that they did in the past that has no enduring reality flowing from it in their present life.
This is so basic and so important. Verse 28, He says, I give eternal life to them, eternal life, not temporary life that will be, you know, resurrected. Later, this is eternal, enduring life, 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.
I and the Father are one. With that in mind, turn to the book of Romans chapter 8 beginning in verse 35, a familiar passage I know, but speaking to the enduring, eternal reality of true salvation, the Apostle Paul says, echoing the same theme from Jesus in John 10, says, who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? Just as it is written, for your sake we are being put to death all day long.
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered. But in all these things we, the true Christians, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God secures us. He saves us. He keeps us in Christ.
He most certainly keeps true Christians in the faith. Now without a little bit of background, turn back to 1 John chapter 2. First John chapter 2 in verse 19.
So when John says, they went out from us but they were not really of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us, he's simply saying that their departure unmasked what was always true. A true Christian doesn't depart from the faith, ultimately finally in the end. And so we're not to think of those kind of people as those who lost their salvation as if the work of God could be reversed, that as if the work of God could be overturned by a subsequent human decision. You know, when you think about salvation as simply being a decision that you make at a point in time, it's easy to fall into the mindset that you could reverse it with a subsequent decision in a point of time. But that's not what the Bible teaches about the nature of salvation at all. Salvation is being born again from above by the power of the Spirit who gives you a new heart, a new nature and continues that work until the end. When you separate out the work of God from your view of salvation and turn it into a simplistic decision at a point in time, that's what opens you up to think that, okay, you can go in and out.
And then you just baptize it with a false view of eternal security that says one prayer one time secures everything forever without ever calculating the possibility that that prayer was not an actual moment of salvation but something else. Something done under the influence or pressure of the moment. Something done under the pressure of just wanting the 17th verse of just as I am to finally come to an end. Okay, just stop the music because I can't take it anymore.
I give in. These are people that never had salvation to begin with. Now let me illustrate this for you again from the Scriptures. To say these things with this kind of clarity is not to say that individual circumstances are not very difficult to discern.
We're trying to understand the principle before we work out the application. Understand this. The 12 disciples of Jesus had the very same problem with this issue and were shocked with the ramifications of this issue while Jesus was with them on the earth. You may remember from reading the Gospels that the disciples had been with Jesus for a period of about three years moving about with Him, interacting with Him together collectively as a group, hearing His teachings, seeing the miracles, and ministering, sometimes being sent out by Him in order to minister together. And so these men were intimately working together with one another all seemingly in the cause of a common master and a common commitment to Him.
You know what happened with one of them. But let's go back to the Gospel of John chapter 13 so we can see it in the text for ourselves. John chapter 13, Jesus is at the Last Supper with the 12 disciples at this point. John 13, and I'll assume your familiarity with the story. John 13, we'll pick it up in verse 21. Jesus is at the table with the men and it says in verse 21, when Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit and testified and said, truly, truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.
This is unthinkable. Look at verse 22, the disciples began looking at one another at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. Now you and I have the benefit of knowing how the story comes out. You and I know that the one who betrayed Him was Judas Iscariot, that wretch of a man who betrayed the Lord with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed Him over to the Roman authorities who would crucify Him. You and I know that now in retrospect, but at the time, here's my point, at the time the disciples had no idea. They had no idea none of them looked and said, yeah, you know, it's Judas. We knew, right? We talked about this. It was Judas.
I had had my eye on him for a long time. It wasn't like that at all. They had no idea this was a total shock to them that Judas would betray Christ. They thought of Him as nothing other than another faithful disciple in their midst, but He was a devil.
He was a devil in their midst. Now and you know what happened is Jesus sent Him out and He went out to betray Him. Now last time we said in verse 18, in 1 John chapter 2, go back there with me. 1 John chapter 2, in verse 18, the Scriptures tell us to expect false teachers and spiritual defection. Verse 18, He says, children, verse John chapter 2, verse 18, He says, children, it is the last hour. And just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared.
From this we know that it is the last hour. Even with an apostle still on the earth, there were many antichrists, false teachers, false prophets circulating about in the church, not always easy to recognize and identify. And so the Bible tells us to expect this as part of the age in which we live, that there will be spiritual imposters around us. And so when they are exposed as spiritual imposters, we expect that and we're not thrown off by it.
We're not confused by it. And here in verse 19, John explains how we are to think about it. In his pastoral desire to help us achieve spiritual victory in the midst of a hostile world, listen, the fact that this is difficult and the fact that this is painful to think about because faces come to your mind about what this means for loved ones that you have in the past or in the present is no reason to reject the clear teaching of Scripture. God gives us this for our benefit and for our upbuilding.
And He wants you to understand what it is. Their departure only showed the preexisting unbelief that always reigned in their hearts. It is very sad, it is very sobering, but that is what the Scriptures teach us.
The thing that we have to come back to is that while they may have fooled us, we may have been fooled. Christ never was. Christ knows those who belong to Him. Christ knows His sheep. And so our Lord never lost track of anyone. He was never confused about how this was going to come out and the fact that our knowledge is imperfect and we can't see hearts simply means that we're in a broken place of dependence before the Lord as He works out His plan for the church.
Now here's the question. Why does God allow that? Why is it? Why is it that God would allow this to occur for imposters to be in the midst for a while and then they would go out? It's so painful on a personal level. On a pastoral level, I'll tell you, it's really painful to see people in your flock that just leave and abandon the faith. Nothing breaks a pastor's heart like that does. When Christians die, there's an element of sadness to that, but you know, you have the hope of heaven to fall back on, to rejoice in, even in the temporary separation.
But when someone walks away after pleased to come back and they say, I don't want this anymore, leave me alone. Sometimes spiritual life comes with its thorns. It's not always joy and comfort and peace in every situation that we deal with, either as a pastor or as Christians together in the body of Christ. Why does God allow this if it's going to cause so much confusion and pain? John says, right in 1 John chapter 2 verse 19, look at it with me.
He says, if they had been with of us, they would have remained with us, okay? But they went out so that, see those little two words there? So that for this purpose, here's what God was doing as this unfolded. So that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
This teaches us so much that is so important. Instead simply, God purposed their departure in order to clarify the truth about Christ. In the particular setting in which John was writing there, false teachers had been mingled together with the true believers.
They're mingled together and it's hard to tell one from the other. But these false teachers went out. And you know what they took with them when they went out?
I'll tell you then, since no one seems to know. What they took with them was they took their false teaching with them. They took their spiritual hypocrisy with them. They took their false love and their hypocrisy and hatred for true believers. They took that all out with them. And what did they leave behind? They left behind a purified church.
Do you get that? The tares had been removed from the wheat. The church had been purified when those false teachers left. It was shown that what they represented, what they taught, their lifestyle was not a representation of the true spiritual life of being in union with Jesus Christ. And by separating out as they left the true bodies, it had a purifying, sanctifying impact on the church they left behind.
What does that teach you? Something really important is that more than what happens with particular individuals, God values the purity of His church. God values the clarity of the gospel.
God values the protection of His people. We'll have to pause there for today, but Pastor Don Green will have the conclusion of his message titled, When Christians Walk Away on the Next Edition of the Truth Pulpit. Plan now to be with us as Don takes us further into the series, So You Call Yourself a Christian. Right now though, Don's here with a special invitation. Well, friend, if you are anywhere near the Cincinnati area and you don't have a good church home, I invite you to visit us at Truth Community Church. I'm in the pulpit almost every Sunday, and we have a loving congregation that would simply be thrilled to meet you and welcome you to our body.
We are striving to manifest the principles that you heard taught today. Why not come and see us? Bill will help you find us on our website. Just visit thetruthpulpit.com for directions and service times. There you'll also find a link to Don's Facebook page. Once more, that's thetruthpulpit.com. And by the way, thanks for your support of this ministry. Without you, this program would not be possible. I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time as Don Green continues teaching God's people God's Word here on The Truth Pulpit.
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