Tag Archives: salvation

Elected

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Romans 8:28–30.
It is not that my choice is unnecessary, irrelevant or forced upon me by God’s elect grace, but that God’s choice is preeminent. If God did not offer grace, my effort to reach him would be insufficient. In fact, early on in Romans the Apostle Paul, made the case that we don’t seek God at all. No, God’s grace is prevenient. I am in bondage to sin, no matter how much I want to do right. Only through trusting God’s righteous act in sending Jesus as an offering for sin can I be free. God gives me the opportunity to believe, he offers assurance and hope. Faith or rejection (disbelief) of the Gospel are my options. After I believe I discover that God foreknew me, chose me in, and has predestined me to become like, Christ. From my perspective salvation is dependent my choice and my faith, but from God’s perspective the crux is his choice, his call, his election of me. Paul offers an imaginary reaction from a detractor: “Who resists His will?” His response is, “Who are you to talk back to God?” True. God is sovereign. However, the question hangs. Who resists God’s will? The answer is: God allows resistance to his will and shall be glorified in the end when the elect are saved and the rebellious destroyed.
Be assured, it is not God’s will that anyone go to hell. You choose heaven or hell by virtue of your faith in the Gospel.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), 2 Peter 3:9.

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), 1 Timothy 2:3–4.

Are Christians Becoming Stupid?

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen! And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

(Mark 4:23-25)

Not all Christians are stupid, and I do not use the term in a derogatory way. I use it advisedly to both get your attention, and to point out that many who would claim the name Christian, who once accepted the truth of the Bible and sought to live accordingly, have now willfully chosen to eschew that knowledge in favor of many opposing views. They could hear, but have now chosen not to pay attention.

Ignorant refers to someone who simply doesn’t know, or know any better. Stupid refers to someone who knows better than, say, to do something, but charges headlong into doing it anyhow. Stupid is someone who knows the truth that sets them free and remains instead a slave. Increasing numbers of Christians are in this position because they have chosen to be shaped by a post-Christian culture instead of having minds transformed by paying attention to and applying the truth of the living and active Word of God.

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get…

I wrote the next two paragraphs like a journal entry when I encountered Jesus words about paying attention to what you hear. You see, I need to get this.

Measure you give = how much I pay attention to the Word being spoken. Measure you get = how much truth I receive and retain. I don’t want to be like those “who are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

When I listen, focus, pay attention to the Word being communicated through the Scripture by the Holy Spirit, or the internal witness or conviction of the Spirit about some issue, then I will realize the truth being communicated. I will receive knowledge. Then I will act on the truth. If I do this, then I will retain what I’ve learned (remember it) and remain active in it (continue to act upon it), and I will be in position and privileged to receive more truth from the Lord. If I fail to pay attention, to believe in and act upon the truth the Holy Spirit is teaching, then I will not be given anything more. Not only that, what I’ve already learned will begin to leech away until I have nothing. I must live out what I’ve learned, and keep learning more. I must move upward and go forward and grow and change into the image of Christ, or I will fall backward and become more and more like a fallen man, who “fades into the light of common day.”

I think some of you need to understand this too…

Jesus told parables. These are “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.” In relating the reason he spoke in parables, this master teacher indicated it was in order to hide the truth from the uninitiated and those unwilling to change (see Mark 4:10-12). He explained his parables to the followers he chose. The beauty of Jesus’ parables is, they are memorable and tangible and may be recalled by anyone who has heard them even once. However, the meaning is not obvious; it requires an instructed mind, a mind taught by the Holy Spirit. This represents the Lord hiding the Truth in plain sight. The genius of the parables is, the truth remains locked up inside them ready to be revealed when the person who has heard decides to pay attention. “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a command Jesus appended to many of his parables and other teaching. It is like a zip file on a computer: that small file contains a compressed information which must be unzipped, or decompressed, in order to be understood by a user. A parable of Jesus, like that zip file, is stored in the memory of someone who has heard it. When once that person is ready to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, who is trying to speak to them and transform them, there comes a moment of serendipity (an Aha! moment) when they realize the truth (like “the moral of the story”).

Truth demands a response, a parable containing truth does not. The more people hear Truth and refuse to accept it, the harder their hearts become to it. Jesus was encountering opposition and hardening hearts when he began to use parables. Eventually, the truth must be told explicitly, without figures of speech and stories (see John 16:19-33), and the Spirit of Truth will make it plain to those who are paying attention. Are you paying attention?

If you pay attention and receive what you hear by faith, then you will learn and grow. You will be entrusted with more truth and more knowledge of God and His Word. If you do not, then even what you once had will be taken away from you. You may well fall into a horrible state of disbelief, and, well, stupidity regarding God and the Bible. You may come to a point of no return, a place where you seek to repent but cannot change your heart and mind back to the simplicity of trust in Jesus and belief in the Bible as God’s holy Word. It is pointless for me to warn anyone who has already come to such a point. Such a person will scoff, discount, ignore or argue against such a warning. I am speaking to someone who has yet to turn away, but may be tempted.

If you are being tested today, if you feel like turning away, I say come back home. Return to the beginning of your faith journey. You’ve become to wise in your own eyes. You don’t know what you think you do. The truth hasn’t changed. Jesus is the same and His love is never ending. Return to the place where you began to stray. Do what you refused to do back then. Go back to the place where you began to do what you still know is wrong, and repent. Change your thinking and change your ways, while you still can. “Night is coming when no man can work,” and no more change may be made.

Here’s a final warning from Scripture. Heed it, and don’t be stupid.

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 If you

Suicide and Salvation

I write this in the wake of the reported suicide of Robin Williams. Many of us are shocked, and many who battle depression have empathy for him. Everyone should have sympathy, and no one offer condemnation. However, it is very important to realize that suicide is not the answer to peace or escape.

There is a very dangerous belief shared by many Americans when death occurs. I’ve heard it at many funerals, and you’ll hear variations of it as people talk about Robin Williams or others who’ve died, whether by their own hand or in another way. Theologians call the belief in question, “universalism,” which means all people are going to heaven, or to “a better place.” Sadly, I must report the truth, however: everyone who dies will not go to a better place. I realize fully that this is neither comforting nor popular. However, if you are comforting yourself and others at the price of perpetuating a lie, then you are buying a little comfort at the price of eternal pain. If you want to know the truth, then you need to go to the Bible, which is God’s message to humankind.

The Bible teaches the following. Everyone dies. Everyone will be judged by God. “It is appointed for everyone once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Not everyone will be in heaven. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Devil and his angels” (Revelation 20:15). You will be judged. Only those with their names in the book spoken of will go to heaven. How would you know?

Actually, you get to choose one of two destinations, but only two. Either you choose to spend eternity with God in heaven, or to be eternally separated from God, which is hell. There is not a third option. There is no purgatory mentioned in the Bible, even though the Roman Catholic church has developed such a doctrine. Heaven is not a place of your own making, the realization of your fantasies, or the reward of living a good life (even if that were possible on your own).

Appropriately, Robin Williams was in a movie about heaven once. The 1998 release “What Dreams May Come” was based on a 1978 book of the same title by Richard Matheson, The concept of heaven is not one you’ll find in the Bible; instead, it depicts a sort of dream heaven that might be nearer to the idea many share, or, at least, wish for. In the movie heaven is essentially the living out of one’s wishes and desires. This is a “heaven” without God, or perhaps, more accurately, a heaven of one’s own making, so I am my own god. In the film Robin Williams plays the main character, Chris Nielsen, who dies in a car accident and is led through his heaven by a “friendly spirit” (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris’s wife, Ann (Annabella Sciorra), commits suicide and lives on in her own self-made hell (the antithesis of this concept of heaven). Chris saves his wife in the end. This kind of thinking has displaced the Bible in our culture and that gives more room for people who are considering suicide to believe they will be in a “better place.” 

Williams may have been inclined to believe in some form of reincarnation. Here’s a quote about the film from an interview mentioned in an article by Huffington Press. 

“When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much more true to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, and they held them up, and then the screen went to black.”

Did this play into his consideration of suicide? We may never know.

There will be no reincarnation, as Hinduism has it. There will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous (Revelation 20:6 and surrounding). The righteous are those who’ve been made right by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 3:24-26), who have been reborn by receiving Christ (John 1:12, 3:3 & 5). These people are justified (made right) by Jesus Christ and will rise from the dead and reign with Him. The unrighteous are those who do not believe, who reject Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for their sins . They will come up in the second resurrection and will be judged according to what is written in “the books,” which means they will be judged for their own works. Since none are righteous apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23), they are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be eternally destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).

Heaven is “God’s space, or God’s dimension” to quote theologian N.T. Wright (from his book Surprised by Hope). This is where God’s throne is (Psalm 11:4). After death we leave earth and enter the dimensions of God’s space beyond time.  So, I don’t die and go to “my heaven.” If I don’t believe in God, if I don’t want to be with God, if I want to escape his presence, the only option is hell. This is a realm where people are forever separated from God, and must ultimately pay the penalty for their own sins, which is eternal death, or destruction.

So, there is no heaven apart from God. Even if you were given some realm in which to live out your dreams, without God it would soon become hell. Human beings were made by God and for God (Psalm 100:3). We were made to be loved by God, and to love and worship God (Matthew 22:37-38). Self-love alone is malformed love, which soon devolves into selfish idolatry. I am missing what I was made for if I am apart from God. I become increasingly warped and monstrous the longer I remain separated from God. I believe what will make hell more “hellish” is that those who dwell there will have only self to sense and serve and love. We were created not only to love God but to love other people (Matthew 22:39). In order to do that we must receive the love God offers through Jesus. “Love one another the way I have loved you” (John 15:12). In hell we will be separated, not only from God, but from caring about others. Love will be impossible.

In this fallen world we are naturally separated from God by sin. Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but we are fallen; we are broken. So long as we live in this dimension of time, however, there is time enough to change.  We are malformed creatures, who may be reformed into the image of God by putting faith in Jesus Christ. That is our hope and our opportunity now, today. “Today is the day of salvation, now is the time of God’s favor” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is why suicide is such a horrible lie. When someone commits suicide, they are looking for salvation from their depression and pain. The reality is, they have destroyed the opportunity to be saved in that moment.

A hurting person wants whatever they are going through to stop, but ending their earthly life will not stop it. Instead it may bring more pain than they can possibly imagine. There was a time in the Bible when the people were longing for an end to their difficult circumstances. They cried out for “the Day of the Lord,” which is another way of saying “Judgment Day,” the time when God will make everything right. Problem is, the people who cried out for this were sinning. They were not right with God. In fact, the circumstances they were complaining about were actually sent by God as discipline. The pain they were enduring would only be temporary if they would change their hearts and minds and listen to God. Here is what the prophet Amos told these people about their desire to see the Day of the Lord, and I believe that this is what the suicidal person needs to hear, for they are hastening the day of their own judgment.

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! 

Why would you have the day of the Lord? 

It is darkness, and not light, 

 as if a man fled from a lion, 

and a bear met him, 

or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, 

and a serpent bit him. 

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, 

and gloom with no brightness in it?”

(Amos 5:18-20).

If you’re hurting, depressed, despairing, there is hope! Your hope is cannot be killing yourself. The Sixth Commandment explicitly forbid this: You shall not kill. That means God commands you not to kill yourself, friend. He loves you and has a better life planned for you than you are currently experiencing. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to help you, not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The promise made to His exiled people in this verse is for you too. If you are in exile from God, from love, from light, from experiencing life. Jesus offers a rich and satisfying life. It is the enemy of God, Satan, who wants to kill you. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come to give abundant life” (John 10:10). The thief is Satan. He is a murderer and a liar; in fact, he is the source of the lies you are believing right now. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).

Change your thinking, friend. Change your ways. Turn your life completely over to the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, right now.

We all sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us earn death for our sin. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus died so you don’t have to! Jesus also rose from the dead. He overcame our worst enemy, the devil, and our greatest fear, death.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had* the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

(Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT).

Jesus is alive and He offers you the gift of eternal life, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). 

You need to be saved. “What must we do to be saved” (Acts 2:38a)? All you have to do is turn away from your own thinking and your own ways and turn toward Jesus Christ. “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38b). Call out to Jesus right now. Admit you’ve sinned, admit that suicidal thoughts are sin. Confess that Jesus died and rose so that you can be forgiven and saved. “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved… whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9 & 13).

Pray right now:

Jesus,

I believe in you.

I believe you died for my sins.

I believe you rose from the dead.

I give you my life, right now.

I want your Holy Spirit to live inside of me.

I receive you, your gift of eternal life and all that you have to offer.

Jesus Christ, you are Lord and God.

You are my God.

Amen.

Now, get to a church and get some support. Start reading your Bible so that your mind can be renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2). If you haven’t been baptized in water since you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you must be. He commanded it.

For more, visit our church’s website http://lifewellchurch.com

Are You Poor Enough to Become Rich?

The Spirit of the Lord  God  is upon me, because the  Lord  has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the  Lord ’s favor,  and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,  the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;  that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the  Lord , that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations”  (Isaiah 61:1-5, ESV).

Who are the poor? Where do we find the poor in spirit?

Who is brokenhearted?

Who is captive, and to what are they enslaved, who is their master?

Who is in bondage, and what imprisons them?

Who is mourning, and for what?

These are the people Jesus came for, and if you and I are honest, we are those people: poor, brokenhearted, captive, in bondage, in mourning. Too many of us are lying to ourselves, though, or at least lying to others. We act satisfied with what we have and who we are. Perhaps this is because we lack hope, we lack a vision of something higher, something eternal. Perhaps too many of us are like the Laodiceans.

Laodicea was the seventh church the risen Jesus Christ addressed in Revelation chapter three. The church was established in a wealthy city filled with proud self-sufficient and self-satisfied and citizens. Here is what the Lord said to them, and what I believe would say to many of us:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV).

So long as you believe that you have all you need, that you are well and life is good, you will never receive blessing from God or be the person he desires. Your vision is clouded. You’ve become nearsighted by constantly looking only at what is placed in front of your face. You are a consumer and you buy, buy, buy whatever is easy, convenient, whatever feels good, or what everyone else has. Your imagination, the mind’s eye, is ruined with countless images of violence and pornography, which have been paraded before you and from which you have refused to look away. Yet there is still hope, if you sense conviction that something is wrong with you.

Here is what the risen Christ counseled the Laodiceans to do.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent”  (Revelation 3:18-19, NIV).

Perhaps you keep it together on the outside. Your friends and family think you’re normal, just like them. Yet being just like them is not the standard to determine whether you are right on the inside. Jesus Christ is the standard. More important for us, he is the Savior. He will save and heal and provide for those who come to him and give up their lives. You have nothing to offer him but your life, your wounded, wrecked, worthless life. That is what he wants, though. Confess your need to Christ right now and invite him inside, even if you’ve done it a hundred or a thousand times. Perhaps you’ve finally reached the end of your self-centered, lonely little life. He is standing at the door.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, NIV).