by Mike Ratliff
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7-8 ESV)
I am in the process of reading a book that is a collection of works by John Owen. One of the works is his masterpiece The Mortification of Sin, which I have read several times already. The other two works are Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It and Indwelling Sin. This is not light reading, but it is rich and a treasure house of Biblical wisdom that is presented practically to shine these truths from God into our hearts.
I was attempting to read some of this last evening so I deliberately separated myself from my Mac and went to another part of the house. However, my wife was watching an episode of Law and Order on TV. As I read about the necessity of actively putting to death the sinful desires in my heart I found my mind drawn to the presentation on the screen of some of the most sinful things imaginable. All this day I have been asking God for direction because I know that He was speaking volumes to me through this.
As the time grew near to write this, it all started coming together. As usual, I got into the Word. I did a search in my Bible software for the phrase, “sin no more.” This lead me to John 5:14.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14 ESV)
I meditated on that verse then realized that for us to obey Jesus like this we must have a level of faith that is being continually strengthened through the trials of sin mortification. It seemed that the direction I was being given had to do with the terrible lack of this sort of faith and obedience in the Church in our day. This caused me to grieve and seek my own repentance in areas in my own life where I have been slack in this. I had a terrible sense of desolation concerning the Church then. I then did a search for the word pair, “faith earth,” as I wanted to get the context of Jesus statement about Him returning and questioning if He would find faith on the Earth. This led me to Luke 18:8.
I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8 ESV)
This passage was part of the parable of the persistent woman and the judge who did not fear God. However, my focus was on v8. This verse suggests that when Christ returns , the true faith will be very rare as in the days of Noah (Luke 17:26). The period before Christ’s return will be marked by persecution, apostasy, and unbelief. (Matthew 24:9-13,24) I also noticed that there was a cross-reference for Hebrews 10:37-38.
For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:37-38 ESV)
The burning in my heart really started intensifying then so I put this passage in context. Hebrews 10:37-38 is a quote from Habakkuk 2:3,4.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:3-4 ESV)
Habakkuk was a prophecy given during a time in Israel and Judah when justice had essentially disappeared from the land. Violence and wickedness were pervasive. There was no sense of righteous indignation against it that should have been present in genuine believers of that day. It was a day much like our own. The writer of Hebrews took this passage and placed it at the end of a section that starts in 10:26 and goes through 10:39. This section is a warning dealing with the sin of apostasy.
“Apostates are those who move toward Christ, hear and understand His gospel, and are on the verge of saving belief, but then rebel and turn away. This warning [Hebrews 10:26-39] against apostasy is one of the most serious warnings in all of Scripture.” – John MacArthur
We have been looking at the Religion of Do and what separates those folks in it from genuine believers. The main difference we have seen is that genuine believers are those who battle unbelief and deliberately seek to mortify their sin. They do not “let go and let God.” Their sin breaks their hearts and they seek to continually walk in repentance. They deeply desire holiness and purity. Why? Christ’s character is being wrought in them through their sanctification. They are taking on His character the more Spirit-filled they become because they are living sacrifices presented to God for His purposes. They are having continual mind renewal through which this transformation takes place.
However, this passage in Hebrews is a direct warning to those who profess Christ, but refuse to live like this and see no need to do so. They prove by their addiction to sin and their lack of desire to stop that they are apostates.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews did not pull any punches. He did not mince words. He spoke the truth. Perhaps this will wake up some unto repentance. I took a class at church this Fall on the Jewish feasts. One night our teacher said something that really struck me. He said that all of the sacrifices prescribed in the Law were for unintentional sins. There was never any sacrifices given for intentional sins. That is essentially what v26 is saying. When we are in ignorance of the truth then that is one thing, but once we have heard the truth then we are liable. Those who have heard the Gospel are liable to obey it. If they do not then judgment awaits and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:32-39 ESV)
Once again we see the difference between genuine Christians and nominal or disingenuous Christians. What is it? The just live by faith. The unjust live by their flesh. The just seek to walk in repentance, to put to death their sins while doing good works. The unjust seek fulfillment from their flesh and make excuses for their sin. Those who shrink back are those who deny Christ when the going gets rough. When the opportunity comes to be identified with Christ in the fire the genuine Christian does not shrink back, but the apostate Christian does. Suffering separates and clarifies.
Genuine Christians are those who persevere. They do stumble into sin at times, but they repent and get back into the race, which is the deliberate killing of their sinful desires as a way of life. They become more and more separate from the world and its ways. Their faith is alive and they learn that they can obey God and “sin no more” as they pursue Him, love Him, and delight in Him. When we are in worship in spirit and truth it is impossible to sin. However, the moment we step back into fleshly pursuits, even in our minds, we are seeking fulfillment from the flesh and this is sin. We cannot worship God in spirit and truth when we are walking this way. No, we must repent and seek Him, the Kingdom and our Lord’s Righteousness above all. Then we are in the race with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and this is how we put our sinful desires to death.
The just live by faith.