Are You Saved & Kept?

Growing up I heard the preacher say, “Did you really mean it? Or did you just go through the motions?” This phrase referred to what many call the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ For many, this prayer is how you ‘get saved.’ But, is that really what the Gospel is? Is that what the Bible teaches us? If you say the words, are you truly saved & kept? Let’s take a moment to read the Bible and discuss.

He Will Not Forsake His Saints

Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”  Psa 37:1-40

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”  Gal 3:16

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  Gal 3:29

In the third chapter of Galatians Paul clarifies the statement that “this promise is for you and your offspring…” that was given to Abraham. He explains that the Law, with its rituals and harsh penalties was a parenthesis between Abraham—who was justified by faith—and Christ, who ratified the promise made to Abraham as Abraham’s offspring. Thus, only those who believe in the completed work of Christ (the offspring) in the same manner of belief that Abraham did, are considered “in Christ” and thus, righteous.

Those in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, those who believe God, are given the status of righteous. No works of the Law are added in. No deeds of the flesh can increase the righteousness that is bestowed by God according to His promise. No baptism, no communion, no heritage of believing parents will add or subtract one thread of the wedding cloak of Christ’s righteousness that is given by the Father.

Not Inherit – Those who will not receive the promise

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

John Wesley comments: “Idolatry is here placed between fornication and adultery, because they generally accompanied it. Nor the effeminate – Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good – natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.”

The context of the verse is Paul being astonished at the wrongs between the congregation, and that the members of the congregation were running to the non-believers and the law to get justice. There is no fellowship, and no wisdom to come from the unbelieving world. The ungodly cannot properly render justice among Christians. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers because they have no claim to inherit the things to which we have set our eyes.

The reminder is that if we live in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality or thievery, etc. we don’t have any part of the Lord. They demonstrate that they have not been washed, sanctified and justified by the name and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and are not filled with His Spirit. Paul moves on to talk about how we should flee the things that dominate the world. We should only be devoted to God and our actions as offering to the Lord. We cannot offer anything as basic as eating and intimacy with our spouse if either is tainted by the obsessive idolizing of the world.

Slave or Free

Galatians 4:30 draws the comparison of Ishmael and Issac: “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”

Those who are of the slave, dominated by the flesh, putting their hope in an imperfect, work-based inheritance, will not inherit the kingdom with those born of the power of God. Those born of the flesh will persecute and ridicule those born of the spirit, just as Ismael ridiculed Isaac. How do we know if we are born of the flesh or born of the spirit?

Those who are born of the flesh will believe their justification is in part or in whole, dependent upon works. It will either be in keeping of the Old Law, doing certain outward things like attending a church, attending all meetings, observing a form of baptism, taking communion, getting circumcised, etc. Those born of the spirit know that outward rituals and religious activity counts for nothing (Gal 5:6).

We have been born to freedom. We do not need to appease God through sacrifices, rituals, etc. But, Paul warns in v. 13, we shouldn’t use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. We prevent that by serving one another in love. When we don’t serve each other in love, encouraging each other, we bite and devour each other. We demonstrate we are not walking by the Spirit (v. 16). Rather, we are walking by the flesh, which is against the Spirit.

How do we know if we’re doing the works of the flesh vs. the Spirit? Paul says this in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The last part is key: “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s important to note what the ‘such things’ are. They include fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy … Many like to focus on the Big Ones: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies … But they only make up 7 of the things that are marked as evidence. The other 8 are largely ignored.

The truth is, they are all intertwined. You can’t be envious and full of jealousy unless you are committing idolatry of the things of the world. You cannot be filled with fits of anger, unless you are given to strife, feel dissension and eager to divide people. This tendency speaks to ones impurity, that they have themselves at the center of their thoughts. Self-righteous people who yearn for positions within authority and the respectful greetings in the public places are, ultimately, sensual since they are looking for the pleasure of their flesh, the pride of life.

Such people are showing that they are dominated by the flesh and are born of the flesh, the slave, and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What is the evidence of the Spirit? Or, as Paul puts it, the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

There are 9 of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all 15 signs of its passions and desires. Paul concludes the chapter by urging us that if we live by the Spirit, we should keep in step with the Spirit (v.25), which is the opposite of becoming conceited, provoking each other and envying one another (v.26).

To keep in step with the Spirit, we must be obedient to Christ. We must adhere to the “narrow way” that is His. We must receive the kingdom of God as a child, with faith that just believes, absent proof (Mark 10:15).

Not everyone who claims to be Christian will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). Those who are disobedient, not doing the will of the Father, will not enter.

The false Christians adhere to a form of godliness that denies the Lord’s Lordship (the Power that canceled their debt. He is the Lord of the Sabbath rest. Their “godliness” clings to the belief that their works contribute to their salvation). They ultimately cling to their self-life. We must say about our self-life, as Peter had said of Christ, “I do not know the man.” (ref. F.B. Meyer). The false Christian doesn’t produce fruit. Fruit should first be defined by the fruit of the Spirit within the believer. The outworking of that fruit is a trail of people who have been changed by interacting with those sojourners who walked humbly in their midst.

The fruit of the Spirit comes about from obeying the words of Christ (Matt. 7:24). Failing to do this, will result in a loose foundation.

We need to know the words of Christ in order to obey them. He said that the meek will inherit the earth. He said we should turn the other cheek when smitten. We should go an extra mile when under compulsion from someone. We should give up our coat, if someone takes our shirt.

The best evidence of doing the will of the Father is to repent. It is the Father’s will that each should repent and believe (repent from dead works that attempt to earn our salvation by being ‘good enough’). It is His will that we turn from the wicked way of the world and live to give Him glory. That is the call for each to obey, primarily. That is the foundation of the one who abides in Christ.

Confidence Before God

Hebrews 10 outlines the basis and the confidence for our salvation: The body of Christ offered once for the atonement of the sins of the world (the only sign of the New Covenant). No additional sacrifice is needed for our sins when we have been forgiven on account of Christ’s covenant ratified in His doing of the Father’s Will that He be the sacrifice for the sins that we could not atone for with the sacrifice of animals year after year. In that single sacrifice, God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). The Holy Spirit witnesses the redeemed because they have God’s laws on their hearts and minds (v. 16). God no longer remembers their sins and their lawless deeds (v. 17).

The writer of Hebrews continues that we have confidence on behalf of this sacrifice (v. 19). We can draw near with a true heart of assurance of faith. We will have our evil conscience cleaned, and our bodies washed with pure water (v. 22). We then hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23). We stir one another up to love and good works (v. 24) which is the opposite of striving, divisions and dissension. We gather together to encourage each other (v. 25).

The antithesis of this is that we use our freedom from sin as an opportunity for the flesh and go on sinning deliberately (v. 26). If we do that, we’ve revealed that we did not accept His sacrifice, and there is no other sacrifice for us, because we have rejected the only sacrifice that would sprinkle our conscience clean and wash us pure. instead, despite any profession of faith, we should have the fearful expectation of judgment, fury and fire (v. 27).

If someone has done this, they should recall the former days when they heard the gospel and faced struggles and sufferings, things we’re promised if we follow Christ (v. 32). We may have shown growth at first, but if we fall away we prove that we haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice and we’re not true converts.

Despite the hard times and temptations, the righteous (those declared righteous by God) will live by faith. The one who shrinks back, the Lord has no pleasure in him (v. 38). The Lord has no pleasure in the one who has not been washed by the sacrifice of Christ.

The proof of salvation is that we do not shrink back from obedience in the face of persecution and we persevere.

Perseverance is not only demonstrated in what we say, for many will say “Lord, Lord!” but have not done the Father’s will. They admit to a creed, they have faith that God is supreme, they believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin, but they have rejected it as the only way, either consciously, or in the way they live.

Our faith is demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit, which draws us nearer to God and we walk in meekness, humility, purity, gentleness and confidence in our Lord. This results in our confession of our hope. Our unwavering hope brings us together with others who share that hope and we encourage each other in the faith & in purity and a good conscience.

Those who are not unwavering in hope, cleansed and pure, but go on having fits of rage, producing division, contention, strife, jealousy, impurity, immorality … they trample the name of the Lord under their feet and by their rebellion will find no other sacrifice able to cleans them.

Advertisements

The Gospel Is Not About You

This hit me the other day and I think I should share it with the blogosphere: The Gospel is not about us. It’s natural to think of everything as revovling around us, and our best interest. I’ve heard a well-known Midwestern pastor say, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘don’t hurt yourself!'” Another one I’ve heard, this time from out in California, “God saw the value in you” in terms of why He died for our sins.

Both of those sound very good. They appeal to me. I like the thought of viewing God’s Law in terms of whether it is hurtful to me. It’s appealing to think that God saw a value in me that, honestly, I don’t see in myself much of the time.

The problem is this: If it appeals to the comfort of our flesh, if it affirms what we really want to believe, it’s probably wrong, Biblically.

That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of truth to these statements. After all, all lies stay pretty close to the truth, or contain a grain of it. That’s why we believe them. It’s true that when we violate God’s Law, we’re hurting ourselves. It’s true that we have value as the pinacle of God’s Creation, His image bearers!

The danger in taking those ‘truths’ too far is that we begin to nod our heads and say, it really is about me!

Instead, we need to remember that God’s Law is designed for us to do one thing, primarily: Honor the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!

If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, you’re affirming your rebellion against God and will be the subject of His wrath. I guess saying, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘Don’t earn my wrath!'” wouldn’t play so well.

Although we’re created in God’s image, we’re fallen. We’re born in the image of Adam, like Seth. We are in need of a new nature. Our sinful nature is abhorrent to God. His Holiness cannot abide sin.

The beauty of Grace is that He loved us when we were completely unlovable, even hateful. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. Think about that. Would you die for the person you find most detestable? Do you love the person who irritates and angers you?

God’s definition of love is so vastly different than ours. He didn’t need something in us to like in order to rescue us. In fact, He did this for Himself. For His Glory. He has called a people for His Name (think Nature). It is who He is, and that’s why He did it. God is absolute Goodness and Love.

This is why the Gospel is all about God and our salvation was purchased because of the immense value of God’s nature, not ours. The Gospel restores our value, it doesn’t find it in us.

One last remark: God is also perfect Justice. This means that those who reject His perfect Love in the Gospel and go on living their lives the way they want, thinking they are good and don’t really need His sacrifice, then they must be punished.

If you’ve read this far and have not turned from running your own life, gotten on your knees before Jesus and acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior, I urge you to do that today.

The “Big Price” in Trump’s Tweet

It’s true, there’s a ‘Big Price’ for what happened in Syria. It is also true that what happened is evidence of a big price we all face.

It’s tempting to see the horrors in the world, or even the misfortunes, pain and struggles we face in our daily lives as being ‘of the devil.’ We see wrong and we cast a judgment. There are three groups:

Those who acknowledge (the Judeo-Christian) God will often say, “this isn’t from God.” This group sees the horror that happened in Syria as evidence of Satan working in the world.

Those who do not confess there is a God (Judeo-Christian or otherwise) will see this as supporting evidence that God does not exist. After all, how could a “good” God stand by and let this sort of thing happen?

The third group–which also acknowledges the Christian God–sees this not only as evidence to prove God’s existence, but as support for the Gospel, and our dire need for it.

As I’ve said already, I agree that there is a big price for what has been done. No one commits evil and gets away with it. It may seem that someone sins with impunity. After all, our very own President has allegations of immoral behavior, yet he sits in the chair of one of the most powerful offices in our modern world. Though many hope to see “justice” served according to their own agendas, there is no indication that their version of justice will be served.

Likewise, the election that Trump won had a true “lesser of two evils” dynamic unlike any we’ve seen in my lifetime. No candidate wore the “white hat” here.

The people in Syria who ordered and carried out the chemical attack on its citizens will not go un-punished. They face a God who has commanded that we treat life as sacred. More importantly, those people–long before they ever had the ability to carry out such genocide–have been gnashing their teeth at God in open rebellion against Him from birth.

It’s natural for a child to view a broken toy as the worst thing in the world. Likewise, it is natural for us to view the chemical attacks and the brutality committed as the more heinous crime. And yet, that’s not how God sees it.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28

In Matthew, Jesus tells the people not to fear those who can only kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28. 

This anticipates the martyrdom of Christs’ followers. Indeed, the annals of the world drip with the blood of Christians. The deaths of Christians do not get the tweets and condemnation of the world as other deaths and atrocities do. Today, there are Christians in hiding throughout the world. They are prohibited from gathering and studying God’s word. They are imprisoned under false pretenses. They are brutally killed. No one takes notice. It’s as if it doesn’t happen.

These Christians have paid a ‘big price’ in gratitude for the ‘big price’ that was paid on their behalf.

And that’s the ‘Big Price’ that President Trump, the leaders of Syria, and every human on the planet owes. It is the price for our rebellion against God. And we’re born that way. From the moment we open our eyes and with every breath thereafter, we believe we sit on the throne of our lives. We focus on what’s good for ME. I have RIGHTS. No one talks to ME that way.

Such is our main view of justice. When something happens that appears to trample on personal rights, we demand that payment be made. If we trample on someone else’s feelings, rights or person, they probably just got in our way. I’m quite sure the people who dropped the barrels of toxic poison on the women and children in Syria can justify their actions. We’re pretty good at explaining how what we do is justified.

Just like we excuse ourselves from the first, and most important commandment: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and strength.

If that is the first, and most important commandment, the one from which all others flow, we fail. And it is that commandment–or the breaking thereof–for which we all must pay a big price.

In Syria we’ve seen the power of those who can kill the body. But, one day, we will see the power of Him who can not only kill the body, but also has providence over our souls. It is this judgment that should cause us all to tremble in fear.

I’ll admit, I don’t tremble as I should. I have more of an intellectual fear of it than an experiential fear. I remember the time I started an outboard motor while it was in gear. It started up and threw me back, over the rails. Somehow I flipped around, my feet dangling in the water, reached up and managed to shut off the motor. Afterward, I trembled as I realized my feet were probably inches from the spinning propellor and that I could have fallen over and been chopped up. That was experiential fear and trembling.

We don’t have that because we are enjoying God’s common grace. We experience His mercy, which tempers the judgment we deserve. No matter our condition in life, we are experiencing far better than what we deserve.

It is tempting to say, “but I’m a Christian! I have stepped forward in faith and should be blessed!” And yet, the Bible never extends us the promise of material wealth or honor in this life. It’s actually the opposite. Psst. That’s how you can tell a false prophet, by the way–they usually promise earthly prosperity and health.

God’s favor and blessing on us is based solely on Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection. I can make no claim to God’s favor on my own obedience. He paid the ‘big price’ for me. My obedience–such that it is–is in thankfulness and love, not out of paying a debt.

I read that Mother Teresa lived her simple, austere life because she believed that in doing so, she removed some of the suffering of Christ on the cross. While some may offer a little happy frown and say, “that’s so sweet,” it’s actually blasphemous. Remember Peter who told Jesus that He shouldn’t die, and Jesus responded, “Get behind me Satan, you savor the things of men!” Or when Peter said that He would die before he would deny Christ, and Jesus said, “Would you die for me?”

We are not God. Our hands are covered in the worst guilt–our own–and we cannot remove the suffering Christ paid on our behalf. To suggest this is lowering the sacrifice, the big price, to something far less than what it was. When we do that, we lower our offense to something like a misdemeanor rather than the death penalty we owe. This effectively tells God, your honor and glory is a small thing and you shouldn’t be upset. In other words, we become the judge of God, rather than the other way around.

When we understand that God is not absent in the horrors of this world. He’s not asleep at the wheel. He directs all things, including these atrocities. We see death of ‘innocent’ children as appalling, and we should. But, instead of shaking our fist at God and saying, “Where were you?” we should humble ourselves and give Glory to God and say, “how could we?”

How could we blaspheme and neglect honor to God? How could we run off to violate His moral law? How could we usurp His role in our lives, setting ourselves up as the ones in charge?

When we see sin on display in the world it’s a cop-out to say, “that’s evil” and yet exempt ourselves from that indictment. That is evil. And our failure to glorify God for His pure, righteous, holy, good, faithful and powerful character only contributes to the evil in this world. How does it contribute? Because we’re feeding the enemy. We’re allowing the wound in creation to fester. We’re believing that our little, selfish ‘good deeds’ are able to pay what we owe.

Like the master in Jesus’ parable about the servants, we have been given a way to have our debt canceled out. We’ve been forgiven. Yet, when we assume that those around us are worse than us, and demand that they ‘pay us what they owe us,’ we essentially reject the gospel and forfeit the forgiveness we can have.

Let me explain that lest you think I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be consequences for sin in this life: There should be. A murderer should be brought to justice. The people responsible in Syria should pay a hefty price.

What I’m pointing out is that we shouldn’t regard evil, demand justice, and think we’re doing okay. There should be justice carried out in this life. We should ‘do justice’ in reverence to God, who is just. But we should examine ourselves and recognize that we fall far short of giving God glory. We are in need of His payment on the cross every day, every hour, every minute, every second. We cannot contribute one blink of an eye toward our own salvation. Any attempt to do so (with that as its goal) is actually evil (like a bribe).

We have a big price. But the beauty of the Gospel is that it has been paid. Our response should be humility and devotion to the Lord, as much as we can offer, knowing that it is less than a penny in the offering plate to God, but more than all the riches of the self-righteous who believe they are earning their way to Heaven.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Salvation is so easy, even a caveman could do it! Salvation is so easy, what are you waiting for? Just believe. Right? Get your fire insurance. It’s free. Well–actually–it’s not. I can hear the ‘just believe’ crowd chambering rounds … let me explain. Your life literally depends on this.

Continue reading →

Is The Gospel for Here And Now?

Precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15. I’ll say what comes to mind–that seems harsh! Maybe this is just a bad translation. Could the deaths of the Lord’s saints really be precious in His sight? Honestly, it’s one of those things I’ve wrestled with. If you’d like to join me, let’s take this to the mat together.

Continue reading →

Was Job Just a Miserable Pawn?

“Job cursed God,” a seminary student told a group of us. I was in college and had decided to attend an on-campus Bible Study. That was the first, and last time I attended. I pointed out, rather sheepishly (not really) that if Job cursed God, then the whole point of the book would be lost! Of course, the seminary student chuckled at my lack of proper understanding (like of Job 1:22 and 2:10, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”). But then, I recently started going through the book again ….

Continue reading →

Doctrines of Demons – Do You Agree?

I’ve written before about sorcery. I refused to go to the multiplex to be entertained by Marvel’s Doctor Strange because–though it is “Marvel’s” sorcery–it softens us to accept sorcery overall. I also have written about whether or not witches have real power, or whether we secretly practice paganism. But, if you care about whether Jesus is actually your Lord and Savior, you may want to delve into His word to see the nature of what Paul calls Doctrines of Demons.

Continue reading →