Restoring grace (part I)

(The following is an outline of the message that was preached by Michael Larsen on March 10, 2019.)

Your relationship to Jesus Christ has to be maintained. You're either growing closer to the Lord or you're drifting away. You never just stand still. The good news is that when we stumble or even walk away from God, God offers to us Restoring Grace.

4 common causes of why people fall away from the Lord. 

In Mark 14 the Bible tells us the story of Peter, one of the disciples, and His denial of Jesus on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested. In that story, we have an example of four common causes of why people fall away. 

14.31 "But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same."

1. This is the first reason people backslide –OVER-CONFIDENCE. We begin to think we can handle everything on our own. We begin to think we are so strong we could never fail. We begin to say, "That would never happen to me!" That's called overconfidence, and that's the first step in falling away. 

1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

2. The second cause of falling away is LAZINESS. We start all of these good habits like praying every day, reading the Bible every day, being in a small group. Then we start saying, "Maybe I don't have time for that right now." Peter's problem was he just kept falling asleep. v. 37-38 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." There's a principle here. When you get tired, you're sitting yourself up for major temptation. 

In Matthew 14:38 Jesus said, "Watch and pray so you won't fall into temptation." We have to keep our guard up because when we start letting it down in laziness, we start falling away. 

3. The third cause of falling away from Christ is FEAR OF DISAPPROVAL. We're worried about what other people will think. We're afraid they'll reject us, that they won't accept us, that they'll make fun of us or ridicule us or put us down or that we might be harassed or embarrassed. 

This is what happened to Peter. After Jesus was arrested it says in Mark 14:54, “Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire” Jesus has been arrested and Peter decided he would follow Him at a distance. Just far enough back so that nobody would identify him with Jesus. 

Mark 8:38 Jesus said, “If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.”  

4. The fourth cause of falling away from Christ is CONVENIENCE. We want to have a faith, but we want to have a comfortable faith. We want it to fit our schedule. Look what happened to Peter in Mark 14:66-67: While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.

There’s a pattern when people fall away from Christ. It starts like this: When a person's real active in a church and they start falling away, the first thing they stop is their giving. The second thing that stops is prayer. The third thing is they stop attending. What happens to those people? Why aren’t they walking with the Lord anymore? How does God respond to those kind of people? 

He responds the way He always responds to His children. By grace. Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." This is not a promise for everybody. It's not saying anybody can do whatever they want to do and there's no condemnation. It says if you are a genuine believer in Christ, you've put your trust in Christ and accepted His grace, then there is no condemnation.

As well as the above reasons, a final reason that many fall away from faith is a crisis. A devastating, incomprehensible loss can sometimes drive people away from God. But God in Hebrews 13:5 God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”