Have you ever thrown away something valuable?
I’m one of those folks who loves to declutter and throw out (what I consider) worthless junk. Sometimes my zeal gets me in trouble. I’ve been known to sweep other people’s stuff into the bin without a second thought. I’ve even been paid to do this.
Last year I was hired for a day to clean out the kitchen in a multi-tenant rental house—the kind of place where 20-somethings come and go, leaving a raft of unclaimed cast-offs and leftovers. Nobody bothered to clean, and the landlord hadn’t inspected or done a sweep-through in six months. We started in the kitchen, where he flung open the cabinets and the fridge, swollen with rotting food and mystery containers.
“Throw it all out!” he said. “Everyone says it’s not theirs.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “What if there’s stuff that’s still good?”
“Toss it all!” he repeated. “Fresh start!”
I spent the next several hours emptying all manner of ethnic food (Jamaican, African, Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern) into black garbage bags and hauling the whole mess outside. Much of it was old and stale, but there were also packages of unopened foodstuff. I grabbed a few things for myself. I recycled as many containers as I could, being the conscientious Canadian girl I am. I emptied every nook and cranny. I fumigated the fridge.
After the kitchen, I tackled the common areas—living room, dining room, bathrooms, laundry room. Anything that looked salvageable I stacked into neat piles for their owners to reclaim. It was an overwhelming job on a hot summer day, but eight hours later, things were looking better. Then one of the newest tenants came home, headed straight for the kitchen, and circled back to me.
“Where’s my food?” he demanded. “I had cooked meals in fridge for the next week!”
I told him what the landlord had instructed. “He said he talked to all of you. He said none of you wanted any of it.”
“He never said a word. And I had no idea he was hiring someone to clean. What about the cupboard stuff?”
“All gone,” I said. “As per orders.”
This slayed him. All those unopened bags of spices and ingredients I’d tossed or grabbed were freshly bought. His cupboard was bare. His rage was immense.
I spent the next hour digging through trash bags for whatever was recoverable. I returned the stuff I’d stashed in my car. Sadly, his freshly cooked food, mingled with garbage, was beyond recovery.
The landlord paid me from afar, and probably didn’t show his face for several months. Next time he called, I declined the job. I like making people happy by cleaning, not furious.
Hebrews 10 warns against throwing away the confidence we have in our salvation, especially in view of God’s promises:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. (Heb.10:35)
How do we throw our confidence away? He tells us a few verses back:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Heb.10:26-27)
Thus begins one of the scariest passages in the Bible, the promise of God’s wrath especially against certain Christians, those who know the truth, yet relapse into sin: deliberate, unrepented sin.
Contrary to what many preach and believe, there’s no such thing as “once saved, always saved”. Christians can definitely lose their salvation by falling back into sin. The entire book of Hebrews supports this truth, which is why the book brims not only with encouragement, but also with dire warnings.
After pondering all the ‘pinnacle’ passages in Hebrews, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would throw away their salvation so foolishly. So mindlessly. So dreadfully.
The Hebrew writer compares a Christian returning to sin with trampling the Son of God underfoot (verse 29). Can you imagine? Yet it happens all the time. I can think of many formerly strong and committed Christians who, over time, have returned to the world and forsaken Christ.
For some, it began with disillusionment with the church. The church, it turns out, isn’t perfect, being comprised of mortal men and women still ‘under construction’ with God. Disillusionment might be a phase we all have to pass through, perhaps many times. But throwing away our hope and confidence because others don’t live up to our expectations is foolish. This step away from the Body of Christ often leads to a hardening of heart and a pull back to the world. The resultant secular lifestyle may seem harmless enough, but it’s built on a profound minimization or even denial of what Christ has done for us. Thus, such drifters “insult the Spirit of grace”(verse 29).
For others, the pull may be more overtly worldly: the enticement of an illicit/immoral relationship. They may kid themselves into thinking God ‘understands’. They plan to get married, eventually. Their new partner could become a Christian, down the line. And how can something that feels so good really be that wrong?
Others get sucked into idolatry—whatever replaces God’s rightful first place in our lives. Careers and money, children or grandchildren, materialism, an addiction, or simply living selfishly, for pleasure or self-gratification. We all have to fight for balance in our lives, making sure nothing usurps our love for God. If we’re not in the Word, not paying attention to where our time and energy goes, this could be the easiest way to lose everything. Throwing away our confidence as we grasp for other things.
There’s a great remedy for avoiding these traps:
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. (Heb.10:32)
The writer reminds his readers of their faithfulness, their willingness to suffer for Christ, their disregard for worldly belongings in light of God’s gifts. Can you remember your early days as a believer? The radical things you did out of pure faith? Your singlemindedness?
Hold onto that, he tells us. You’re going to need that confidence to make it till the end.
As we ring in a new year and a new decade, it’s a good time to purge the old and worthless, the dross in our lives that’s only holding us back. The bad habits, the negative thinking, any lingering grudges, complaints, or resentments. Toss them out!
Bu let’s also make sure we’re holding onto what’s good, especially our resolute faith in God. Because, as we are promised, it will be richly rewarded.
So, in case you’ve mindlessly/recklessly/foolishly tossed aside any of God’s gifts—including your confidence– go rescue them from the bin before it’s too late!