We are going to finish up Hebrews 10 today! That being said, let's start with a look at Romans 10.
9that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 (Berean Study Bible)
Belief, that essential, foundational act of becoming a Christian, is such a mystery! On the one hand, it is a simple acknowledgement of the truth of Jesus Christ, a trusting in His finished work on the sinner's behalf, an acceptance and surrender which seat Jesus on the throne of one's heart. On the other hand, it is a profoundly complex act, with eternal consequences.
There is no such thing as "easy believism", as far as Christianity is concerned. Belief is quite complicated, far from superficial. In fact, when adults come to Jesus Christ, their belief is accompanied by costly repentance, the giving up of other idols they have accumulated and worshiped along their life's journey.
I wrote in a recent blog post on Hebrews 10:23 that it is impossible for Christians to "keep themselves saved". In other words, it is God's faithfulness that "holds on to us" and keeps our salvation secure. With the duality of our carnal and our redeemed natures, it is impossible for us to do this for ourselves, because of the constant warring of those two natures in our lives!
Today, I was at a birthday party with my two-year old great-nephew. (The party was for his older brother.) The little boy was dressed in a gorgeous Noah's Ark "shortall" , with smocking on the front. (You mamas out there know what I mean). But, as beautiful as his outfit was, it became smeared with icing from the cookie cake, the red sauce from the pizza. It was all over his mouth, hands.... everything he touched bore the mark of grease.
Even Christians get their royal robes dirty! We sin from time to time (let's be honest - - DAILY), and we have to run to our Lord for confession, forgiveness, cleansing, restoration. Hopefully, along the way, we grow in our faith as we learn more of the heart of our Savior through His Word.
This process is not the same as walking in sin, wallowing in sin - - apostasy.
Saving faith, true belief, is especially complex from the standpoint of identifying who is Christian and who is not. We can observe a person's life, but only God knows that person's heart.
I have come to believe that the strongest indicator of a true Christian (that person claiming allegiance to Christ, claiming that He is Savior) is this: steadfast, persevering faith.
Honest, authentic faith endures. The true Christian's "belief" is so strong and pure that it refuses to capitulate to apostasy when confronted with worldly philosophies or when that belief is challenged by the direst persecution.
Take a look at today's passage, Hebrews 10:26-39 (ESV). It's long, but so important that I'm choosing to reprint it here.
26For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34For 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. 35Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Don't worry --- I won't exegete every verse. We'd be here for hours. But, let's start with verse 39. The apostle John says something very similar in 1 John 2:19 (ESV).
19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
It could be argued that many (if not most) Americans have heard the gospel message of Jesus Christ. In other words, they have "received knowledge of the truth" (vs. 26). Many of those who "heard" might have gone so far as to profess allegiance to Jesus Christ, yet without a true belief. They may have walked the aisle, parroted a prayer that someone led them in, etc. - - maybe because it was what their family expected, or what their friends were doing. But, there was no sincere, deep belief in the heart. It is these folks who are spoken of in Hebrews 10:26-31. SO many across the world have never had a chance to hear the message of the gospel! How much worse it will be for those who have had a chance to hear, perhaps over a period of years and years, and still have not believed, truly believed to the point of a changed heart.
The evidence of a true heart change, a supernatural transformation, is the "fruit" which genuine belief, authentic faith, produces. After all, as Jesus said, "a good tree produces good fruit" (Matthew 7:17 NLT). You will not see apple trees producing figs. Or, as the Lord also said, "You will recognize them by their fruit" (Matthew 7:20 NET).
You can resemble a Christian believer and not be one; but you can't be a Christian believer and not look like one.
On the flip side, ...
Verses 32-36 describe the true converts of the first century, and the 20 centuries since. Because of their faith (vs. 38), they endured sufferings (whether ridicule or physical torture or great loss) with JOY! And, they endured to the end.
Do you see that the actions of these true believers inexorably flowed from their belief, from their saving faith? The same is true today. Those who do truly take God at His word concerning Jesus, the Son of God, will not commit apostasy. They may be enticed and deceived by some false doctrine; but, once shown the truth they will renounce error. They do not "shrink back" (vs. 39) or eventually reject the eternally saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Their actions don't "keep them saved"; their actions PROVE they are saved.
Saving faith endures. This is true belief - - the unmistakable mark of the disciple of Jesus Christ.
Recommended further reading:
I did not take any material from this site in the writing of this post. But, the article linked above goes on to expound upon the doctrine called "perseverance of the saints".