The Baptist Beacon
by Michael T. Adamson
The title of this essay echoes a declaration commonly expressed by believers. It is a simple, yet accurate statement describing the feelings, emotional and spiritual, that begins from the time of their conversion. It does not express how or why they were changed. Neither does it attempt to put the miraculous occasion of their salvation into eloquent words that can never truly express the joy, peace, and contentment that accompanies the travel from nature to grace. Still, although the declaration is simple, it speaks everything to a believer, "I am forever changed."
Yet, this declaration is equally true for non_believers who recognize they are lost, without God, and without hope in the world. When someone realizes the sinful state of their existence, they too are forever changed. They can never again be oblivious of God, or the drawing of His Holy Spirit with a free conscience. The Apostle Paul described his experience with accountability very effectively when he said, ROM 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And, so it is with everyone. When the reality of an individual's status before God is revealed to them, they are forever changed.
However, the change that accompanies the realization of the lost condition is not static change; it is dynamic. In other words, this realization does not mark the end of change. The alteration of consciousness, coinciding with a person's realization they are lost and separated from God, only marks the beginning of change that will ultimately lead to salvation through repentance and faith, or will lead to ultimate doom and destruction through a continual hardening of the heart.
Please understand. I am in no way intimating that a person is ultimately saved or ultimately lost by degrees. That doctrine is not taught anywhere in the Scriptures and insults the integrity of the atoning work and sacrifice of our Savior. A person cannot be more lost today than yesterday, anymore than someone will be more saved tomorrow than they are today. The Bible is explicit; every person falls into one of three distinct categories: Not yet accountable, Saved, or Lost. Regardless, it cannot be denied there is a direct correlation between the number of years a person remains lost and the likelihood they will ever find salvation. It is the Biblical reasoning supporting this fact we want to entertain for the next few minutes.
We know that a saved person, at the moment of salvation is forever changed. The Lord said to Nicodemus, JOH 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Paul also said, 2CO 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. At the moment of salvation, when a person is relieved of the sin debt by grace through faith, they are changed. At the same moment, they begin a life_long process of continual change in spiritual growth known as sanctification, or the process of becoming more holy.
Is the opposite true of non_believers who continually refuse to submit to the gospel call, repent and be saved? If, in fact, they too are in a process of continual change, does it seem reasonable that the change they undergo during their lost condition is increasingly more vile in the righteous sight of God? I am persuaded this is the case and this realization grieves my heart.
Viewing the lost condition in this light may be upsetting to many who would rather characterize our God as the Lord of unlimited mercy. But brethren and sisters, that simply is not so. God already has placed limitations on mankind and only God's long_suffering stays the judgment He has righteously determined for sin. Our friends and loved ones are dying and going to hell, while most of the remaining world continually trifles with eternal disaster by failing to heed God's call to repentance.
Knowing this, the Hebrew writer says, HEB 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. It is such a simple statement, but there is an eternity of truth behind it. Some have heeded the warning, fleeing to their praying place to seek the Lord while He may yet be found. But there are others, so many others for whom countless prayers are offered continuously. These lost souls may even have spent hours upon hours under the sound of the gospel and still have not been saved. They have yet to lay aside their stubborn pride and heed the beckoning of the Holy Spirit. These poor, unregenerate souls will, if their lives are suddenly required of them, stand before our almighty God, pleading for judgment to be set aside. But it will be too late then and, as Mercy turns its back and their pleas fall upon the deaf ear of Justice, soul after soul will plummet into outer darkness.
There are men, women, boys and girls in this awful state of condemnation today who, seemingly, have no cares whatsoever about the eternity that awaits them. Oh, the deceitfulness of Satan who continually lures them into believing time is of no concern! He assures them that tomorrow will be soon enough to care for the needs of the soul. He convinces them that God will forbear their judgment with unlimited tolerance, for He is a merciful God. In spite of the beckoning of the Holy Spirit and the urging of God's children, the lost ignore the urgency of the moment. Their sense of survival is dulled; the still, small voice of the Spirit is quelled. Salvation eludes them time after time and unknowingly many, perhaps, will have no more opportunities.
The futility of the game they play is illustrated time and time again in the Scriptures. Noah preached to a world that would not believe. In spite of Noah's pleas, they too continued their lives as before. They shunned the message from Noah, saying he was mad. They insisted the calamity he spoke of would never come. They continually denied the warning until the time the rain began to fall. But when the time came for judgment, judgment came, swift and sure. MAT 24:38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Lot pleaded with his son_in_laws to flee Sodom, but they would not listen. GEN 19:14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.
Pharaoh did not heed the warnings that came to him from God through Moses. After each plea to allow Israel to depart, Pharaoh refused to listen to God. He could not mistake the author behind the words and deeds of Moses; even his own servants testified it was the will of God. Yet, stubborn pride and an increasing hardness of heart prevented him from obeying the Lord. EXO 8:19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. Eventually, the Lord used Pharoah's self_imposed hardness of heart against him. EXO 11:10 And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
In each case, the warning was clear, the plea to turn from the imminent wrath of God before them was made and the opportunity to obey was extended. God's long_suffering was great, in spite of their sin. His grace cried for their repentance before destruction came. Why was it so hard for them to hear? Why is it so hard for you to hear?
Yet, with each passing day, with each sermon that falls on idle ears and cold hearts, our lost loved ones change. It becomes increasingly easier for them to ignore the word of God. Our pleas to them are returned with icy stares of indifference; although, not a single one of them would willingly choose to suffer the torments of hell over the pleasures of heaven. But, though they would not choose hell, their state of unbelief has, at this time, sealed their fate. Hell yearns for them and is rushing to swallow them up and they still refuse to hear. But when they awake in the eternal state they have chosen, they will say, "I thought I had more time! I died too soon! I was going to seek him and be saved! This has all happened too suddenly!" For those who are not prepared, death will always come too suddenly.
Judgement came suddenly for the people in Noah's time also. They would not believe. As year after year passed, Noah faithfully performed a task they could not understand and looked foolish to them. But when the ark was shut, the fountains of the deep were opened and the rain was pouring down, they remembered the words of Noah even as they scrambled to higher ground in a futile attempt to save their wretched lives. Similarly, Lot's son_in_laws would not heed his admonishment to flee destruction. Their willful disregard of the impending disaster cost them their lives. Pharaoh, daring to challenge the authority of God's word, came to destruction through his own pride.
How like these our lost ones are. So many times when their hearts were tender they stood on the brink of belief and salvation would have been theirs if they would have but heeded the call to leap into the arms of our Savior. But instead they shrank back, holding onto their flimsy threads of mortal existence and ignoring the eternal consequence. With each refusal, their heart has become more hardened and their opportunity to be saved has become more unlikely.
We still yearn for the lost to heed the warning, but we can do nothing more than deliver the truth. God's Spirit still knocks at their hearts in the hopes that, even through the hardness of their hearts, they will turn to the joy and safety that is yet available to them, if they will just yield to that still, small voice.
Have you hardened your heart? Are you laboring under a weight too great for you to bear alone? Listen to this message. Recall the messages you have heard in time's past. Finally and above all, listen to that still, small voice pleading silently within you. Do you still not understand that, with each denial of His call to repentance, your heart becomes more hardened? While He still beckons to you, while you still draw a breath, will you turn to God and live?