Does Your Anchor Hold Within the Veil?

Also posted at SBC Open Forum and at SBC Voices.
By Ken Hamrick
Heb. 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…” (NKJV)
Col. 1:27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (NKJV)
1 Cor. 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (NKJV)

To hear that someone we thought of as a brother in the Lord—a pastor, a teacher of sound doctrine and a contender for the faith—has now renounced his faith… well, it weighs on my soul, as I’m sure it does with many of you. So we bring this burden before the Lord, praying for this man’s salvation. But we can’t help asking with exasperation, how could this happen?! After all, we try to spoon-feed sinners as much truth about God as we can get into them, in hope that some of it will take root on good ground. But here’s a man who knew much about God (or so it would seem); so where’s the fruit now? When someone of such stature falls away, it gives pause to all of us to examine ourselves. What anchors my soul?—and will it hold “‘in every high and stormy gale,’ ‘when all around my soul gives way?‘”[1] The time for such tough questions is while the sea is still calm. What anchors your soul?

It will not do to simply answer, “Christ is my Anchor.” Our fallen friend would have answered the same not long ago. Indeed, Christ is the only possible anchor for anyone. But how is He anchoring you? If your anchor is but Christ written on a page, then it will anchor you no more than a book about anchors, tied to a chain, would anchor a real ship. Please don’t misunderstand me. Our faith does stand on the written word of God; but only because that written word is true—and it is that truth and not the written words that anchors our soul—and not a mere set of propositions, but the truth of Christ in us. When we embrace the truth as revealed in the Bible and confirmed by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God then indwells us and Christ becomes the Presence in the temple of our soul. Without true faith, He will not come; and without Him in us, we have no anchor and no hope. It should now be painfully evident that it is possible to embrace the written word of God without fully embracing the God of that word. God will not embrace a double-minded man, nor indwell half a heart.

Have you considered the depth of your own faith? The Bible tells us, in 2 Peter 1:10, to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…” and in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” So the question is, are you in the faith? Don’t be content to rest in the fact that you went to the altar or made a decision for Christ. It is possible to make a decision that does not come from the depths of your heart, and does not include the kind of genuine faith that saves through Christ. Examine yourselves… Faith is more than believing that Christ is the Son of God, and that He died for the sin of the world, and rose on the third day, and that all who believe in Him will be saved. Believing these things about Him is not the same as believing in Him. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!” (James 2:19). Even the demons believe these things about Him and know that they are true. Belief must be more than informational—belief must be submissional.

In other words, we must embrace Him with our whole heart, desiring to forsake self, sin, and the world. We must want with our whole heart to live in Him and die to our old self. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.‘” Anyone who prays the “sinner’s prayer,” while saving his life for himself rather than surrendering his life to Christ, is only fooling himself. When a sinner surrenders to Christ, his “old man,” his self-life, is “crucified in Christ” and put to death. In this way, the believer forsakes and leaves behind all that he used to be, and “rises again” to new life in Christ. This is what it means for the sinner to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Christ.

A. W. Tozer said, in The Pursuit of God:

[…] For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.[2]

Tozer explained, in The Pursuit of Man, the vital importance of a real encounter with a present and personal God; and how the sense of the Presence of God empowers believers, and protects their faith from the attacks of the enemy (bold mine):

Wherever faith has been original, wherever it has proved itself to be real, it has invariably had upon it a sense of the present God. The holy Scriptures possess in marked degree this feeling of actual encounter with a real Person.[…] It was this that filled with abiding wonder the first members of the Church of Christ.[…] They were in the very Presence of God. And the power of that conviction to arrest attention and hold it for a lifetime, to elevate, to transform, to fill with uncontrollable moral happiness, to send men singing to prison and to death, has been one of the wonders of history and a marvel of the world. Our fathers have told us and our own hearts confirm how wonderful is this sense of Someone there. It makes religion invulnerable to critical attack. It secures the mind against collapse under the battering of the enemy. They who worship the God who is present may ignore the objections of unbelieving men. Their experience is self-verifying and needs neither defense nor proof. What they see and hear overwhelms their doubts and confirms their assurance beyond the power of argument to destroy.[3]

Tozer goes on to contrast real experience with “reason upon texts” and “the conclusions of logic” (bold mine):

Nothing can take the place of the touch of God in the soul and the sense of Someone there. Real faith, indeed, brings such realization, for real faith is never the operation of reason upon texts. Where true faith is, the knowledge of God will be given as a fact of consciousness altogether apart from the conclusions of logic. Were a man to awaken in the pitch dark at midnight and hear someone moving about in his room and know that the unseen presence was a loved member of his family who had every right to be there, his heart might be filled with a sense of quiet pleasure; but should he have reason to believe that an intruder had entered, perhaps to rob or to kill, he would lie in terror and stare at the darkness not knowing from which direction the expected blow might come. But the difference between experience and no experience would be that acute sense of someone there. Is it not true that for most of us who call ourselves Christians there is no real experience? We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there. Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God. Without this, religion is but a shadow, a reflection of reality, a cheap copy of an original once enjoyed by someone else of whom we have heard.[…][4]

For too long, we have dismissed experience and “feeling” as irrelevant and unnecessary to faith. With good intentions of stressing that faith does not depend on emotion or experience, we have filled the congregations with people who have no encounter with God. We have taught people to trust the promises of God and to not worry about experience. But we have taught it in such a way as to bar many of them from a true faith that would naturally result in knowing the presence of God. It is true that we are saved by faith and not by good works or by experiencing God’s presence; however, a faith that does not result in both of these is missing something vital, and ought to drive us back to the cross to make our calling and election sure.

The problem is not in the dependability of God’s promises, as if one might believe in Christ and still not be indwelt by His Spirit; but rather, the problem is in assuming the trustworthiness of our own heart in coming to Christ. The absence of a real encounter with God should give us a godly distrust of our faith, and should not be dismissed as unimportant. But instead of being driven back to that place of decision to make their salvation sure, converts are taught to give no weight to “feeling” or experience. To be saved and believe in Christ only requires a decision… but it requires an honest decision from the depths of one’s heart. And the God who looks on the heart is not swayed by mere words. A man can be saved without saying a thing; and a man may remain lost though he say all the right things. Jesus told us, in Matt. 7:21-23 NKJV, that there will be many who call Him “Lord, Lord,” but will be told by Him, “I never knew you. Depart from Me…” That verse should be sobering to everyone who calls Him, “Lord.”

God desires truth from us—“truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6 NKJV). Human beings are sinful by nature, and we easily deceive ourselves rather than face difficult truths. Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Let us all search our own heart, and face the truth of who we are in our inward being. This is the most important matter in life, for “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation… ?” (Hebrews 2:3 NKJV). This is why we are told, in Philippians 2:12, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

By teaching that God works merely in the manner of an accountant, taking His divine pen and record book, and moving the sinner from one column to the other—as if the saving transaction occurs only in some far-removed court in heaven, we have lost the link between God and the reality of the here and the present. By teaching that God simply imputes to us the righteousness of Christ without regard to our reality, we have propagated a faith that is just as putative and nominal. As such, if we take the pen and record of our mind, and move Christ into the category of Son of God, perfectly righteous man, Savior who died for the sin of the world, One who rose from the dead on the third day, etc., then God, in turn, will move us in His record book from the sinners’ column to the saints’ column. Slam! goes the gavel, and it’s a done deal.

But the God of the Bible is more than a God who imputes—He is a God who consummates. His method is not that of an accountant who cannot see past his books. Rather, His method is that of a Holy Spirit who fills our hearts and lives, becoming one with us in spirit and identity. He meets all the demands of justice within reality by joining to Himself not only our penalty but our person—so that I can say in truth with Paul, (Gal. 2:20 NKJV) “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...” The imputation in the court of heaven is not putative and nominal, but is firmly grounded on the reality of Christ indwelling the sinner so that the two become one new man in Him. Therefore, it misses the mark to tell new converts to trust that they are saved based only on the promise of God to make such an imputation. “God cannot lie, so it doesn’t matter whether or not you feel any different—just trust Him to keep His promise to save those who believe,” is the common exhortation. But any sinner who trusts in heaven’s imputation without experiencing God’s consummation has put his trust in the wrong place: his own faith.

It is true that God will save any who believe in Christ. However, it is also true that God resists the proud (Ja. 4:6), and “If I regard sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear” me (Ps. 66:18 NKJV). Just as He is more than a God who imputes, He requires us to have more than a putative faith. Just as He embraces the believer with the whole of His Spirit, He requires us to fully embrace Him with ours. He will not accept half-hearted measures or a faith that holds back. We should warn sinners of this instead of reassuring them. It is possible to have a disingenuous faith, and to show outward signs that are seemingly commensurate with conversion. Do not trust in imputation alone—no imputation is possible unless Christ is in you. Is He in you? Have you met Him in this way? Do you know His presence? If He is in you, then you can no more deny His existence than you can deny your own. But if you do not know a God who is present—a Christ who is in you—then you had better examine yourself before God to see if you are really saved or not. Either Christ is in you or you are lost. 

Ken Hamrick, 2014


[1] From the hymn, “My Hope is Built,” lyrics by Edward Mote, found at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/m/y/myhopeis.htm.
[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Camp Hill, PA: Christian, 1993), p. XVII.
[3] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of Man, (Camp Hill, PA: Christian, 1993), pp. 6-7.
[4] Ibid., pp. 8-9.


Related articles:
Perseverance of the Saints v Eternal Security
Justification is Grounded on Union with Christ
Christ in You, the Hope of Glory
Do You Really Know Christ?
The Certitude of Christian Faith

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