WHEN I WAS a young teenager living in East Tennessee, a neighbor kept several cattle in a large pasture behind our house.
Perhaps it be would more accurate to say, “…A neighbor tried to keep several cattle in a pasture behind our house.”
One particular bovine found a broken strand in the barbed wire fence which separated the pasture from our property.
Occasionally I would come home from school and find her traipsing around the backyard, browsing on the occasional patch of herbaceous vegetation, and scattering free fertilizer.
Having spent my childhood in the streets of Dayton, Ohio, I didn’t have a lot of experience corralling large livestock, but eventually I would manage to direct her back to her side of the enclosure — at least, temporarily, until she decided to try the Benson backyard buffet again.
Once she discovered the way out, it was difficult to keep her in where she belonged.
For Bossy, that twisted, three-strand barrier was the cow equivalent of the Berlin Wall and had to be breached.
Those of you who have raised cattle know what I’m talking about.
Stay with me for a minute.
I’m always taken back when I hear my religious friends teach the “once-saved, always-saved” doctrine.
Essentially they’re saying, “You can’t leave if you’re ‘in’, and if you do in fact leave, you were never ‘in’ in the first place.”
The fifty-dollar theological phrase for this is “perseverance of the saints” (i.e., “once-saved, always saved.”)
People aren’t cattle, but experience, observation, as well as the Bible tells us that sometimes folks, unfortunately, do wander (Hebrews 2:1; Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 53:6) from their saved state in the church (Acts 1:25; Acts 8:20-22; Galatians 5:2-4; Hebrews 5:12-6:6).
They fall. They leave. They quit.
For them, the grass appears greener on the other side and they want to taste what the world has to offer.
Remember the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)?
A young man approached his father and asked for the immediate payment of his inheritance (v. 12). The request was granted and the son then left for a distant land. There he wasted his fortune, and then found himself on hard times (v. 13). Penniless, the young man was forced to seek employment feeding pigs (vv. 14-15). Eventually he came to himself, acknowledged his foolish ways, and headed back home (17-19). His grieving father saw him in the distance, ran to meet him, embraced him, and then gave a lavish party in his honor (vv. 22-23).
Now study the text carefully.
The head-strong son “struck out on his own” and in so doing, severed his relationship with his father.
Someone says, “Yeah preacher, he left–BUT he was still the man’s son.”
The Bible says the son journeyed to a “far country.”
Now watch it.
He was “in” (saved); then he was “out” (lost).
He had once enjoyed the privileges of sonship, but later found himself an estranged, destitute, swine-feeding servant.
Did the young man leave — did he, in essence, “break out of the fence?”
Obviously, he did.
WHAT was his status while he was gone?
JESUS SAID the son was “dead” (v. 24), lost, separated!
Calvinism says, “You can’t leave…you can’t be lost.” “It’s impossible…”
Bossy left, at least, every once in a while. (A cow can’t leave a pasture she was never in in the first place).
The Prodigal left. (A son can’t return to his father if he’s never left in the first place).
Some of you reading this very message have left the Lord.
You’ve either departed (1 Timothy 4:1; 1:6; 3:1; 4:21; 5:7; Hebrews 3:12) from Him by embracing religious error (Colossians 2:8; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Titus 1:14, 2 Peter 3:17), or you have left the Lord in a practical way by engaging in sinful practices (Romans 8:12-13; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 2 Peter 2:20-22) — or both.
In either case, you’ve left the safe (Ephesians 1:3) heaven of the body of Christ and alienated yourself from your Father in heaven (cf. Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20).
Whatever your sin, you can come home again. Your Father is anxious for you to return.