Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Salvation and Eternal Life

This is a repost:

Have you ever thought about where salvation comes from?  Have you considered what salvation really is, what it really means?  The concept of salvation is foreign to most people, but not the concept of eternity, of life after death.  Almost every culture, ancient and modern, has some concept, some belief, some picture in their mind of what life after death will be like.  Why is that so?  Of course the Scriptures give us the answer for that and it is contained in Ecclesiastes 3:11"...He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end." 

Where does the concept of eternity, life after death, come from?  It comes from God, who has planted it within the human heart.  So when you look at the different cultures and their different religions, you see their idea of eternal life and how to achieve it, or how to enhance its quality. For many of them there is no concept of salvation, but an assumption of eternal life that contains their vision and their version of what that eternal life will be like. 

When Nicodemus came to Christ in John chapter 3, he was coming with the question of how he might obtain eternal life. In fact, if you read through the gospel of John you will see eternal life, or one of its synonyms used 47 times.  John even states in 20:31 that his reason for writing that book is so that we will believe and have life (eternal life) in His name. So what must man do to obtain eternal life?  Yes, he must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He must turn from his sin and turn to God.  He must depend wholly upon the finished work of Christ on the cross. He must receive Jesus Christ by faith.  But what is done when man does this?  He is saved, by grace through faith. In other words, the Bible shows us that man must be saved to obtain eternal life (John 3:16). 


When you look at the first four verses of Titus chapter one, you see the promise of eternal life.  This eternal life, is bound up in salvation and is promised by God, who calls Himself the Savior, along with His Son, Christ Jesus. Two other times in Titus, God lists both Himself and His Son as the Savior.  In fact, the term Savior is used 37 times in the Bible, 24 in the OT and 13 in the NT; and is never used to denote anyone other than God or Christ. God states this in Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.  In Titus 3:5-6 God states that it is He that saves.  


So what is God letting the Cretans and us know in the Bible, and in this letter?  He is the author of salvation, the only author of salvation.  Salvation comes from Him and Him alone, and it is He who does the saving and in that salvation is the promise of eternal life.  Man does not, has not, and cannot save himself.   So what must man do to obtain true eternal life?  He must turn to the one who can save him and give him that eternal life, and that is God Himself in the person of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is God alone who possesses eternal life, and it is His to give; and He only gives it to those whom He saves.


How about you, my friend?  Are you under the deception that you can achieve eternal life all on your own?  Are you mistakenly assuming that you will automatically have a good life after death, and that its quality will be enhanced depending on how well you have performed or how nicely you have behaved or on how many kind deeds you have done during your physical life?  Be aware, do not miss the fact, that if eternal life is tied up in salvation, and if God has called Himself the Savior, then there is something that you must be saved from, something that you must be delivered from in order to obtain eternal life.  And if you are not saved, if you are not delivered then you will not obtain eternal life.  


What must you be saved from, what must you be delivered from?  It is the the second death (Revelation 20:11-15), the eternal death (The eternal state of dying, but never being dead. Isaiah 66:24) that is just the opposite of eternal life.  It is not bliss, but torment (Psalm 11:6).  It is not happiness, but sorrow.  It is not joy, but anguish.  And all for eternity.  


God has revealed Himself as the author of salvation, as the One and only Savior.  He alone possess eternal life, and it is His alone to give, and He only gives to those whom He saves.  Come to Him today in repentance from your unbelief and rebellion against Him.  Come to Him today in repentance from your depending on your own self for your eternal life, and place your faith in what He has done in His Son on the cross to provide eternal life for you.  Don't forfeit your eternal life because of your own sinful pride and self reliance.  Ask Him in faith for the eternal life that only He can give.



Monday, April 28, 2014

The Moral Issue of Belief

...Human beings are adept at rejecting objective evidence when it does not confirm their prejudice, no matter how clear or compelling the evidence may be. Some people will not be persuaded by all the proof in the world because they are not truly open to the evidence.


My experience as an apologist and minister has shown me that the real reason most people reject Christianity is not for lack of evidence. The proof from external sources regarding the truth of the biblical account is too overwhelming. No, the real issue is a moral one. The person not reconciled to God in Christ and living in disobedience does not want Scripture’s claim that God has a full and final claim on his life to be true...
R. C. Sproul as quoted @ inerrantword.org

and with all the deception of wickedness for those
who perish, because they did not receive the love
of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason God
will send upon them a deluding influence so that
they will believe what is false, in order that they
all may be judged who did not believe the truth,
but took pleasure in wickedness.
II Thessalonians 2:10-12 

Yes, belief in the truth is a moral issue!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love and Unity

This is a repost.

Biblical love is far deeper than a love dependent merely on feelings and emotions. Rather, it is a love that flows from the very soul and character of the individual. It comes from the person's decision to love, not from his feelings. In fact, many times the decision to love will run contrary to the feelings one possesses. Biblical love is the love of God that has been poured out into the heart, and then given from that heart to others.

This kind of love is the basis of unity as true unity does not come from a denial of differences, but from a forebearing with one another in spite of the differences. It is the love that gives, that covers, that bears, that endures, that believes. This is the love that overwhelmingly conquers. This love then enables us to be united one with another; not due to a common cause, but because of a common love. 

Ephesians 4:1-3
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk
in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, showing forebearance to one another
in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Psalm 89:6-7 and Our Worship

Psalm 89:6 For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord?
There is none like Him in heaven or on earth!

Psalm 89:7 A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him.
He is transcendent even above those in heaven so that all in heaven are in awe of Him and revere Him, which is why He is worshiped as He is in Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4. This also paints a picture for us that compliments Revelation 4:2...and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
This, indeed, is the God whose very presence commands worship. Let our heart fall upon its knees and worship Him.
This, indeed, is the very God who humbled Himself and came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered unjustly at the hands of godless men, so that He could be the perfect, sinless, sacrifice for each and every sin we would ever commit as He took sin's penalty on our behalf.
This, indeed, was a majestic death. This should inform and inspire our worship each Lord's Day. So, let us gather together tomorrow and celebrate His resurrection, His victory over sin's penalty, which is death, and its claim on us.


A Response to Michael Bird and His Issue with American Inerrancy

I don't do book reviews as there are many who do a much better and thorough job than I would.  But I am going to respond to a section in a book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, which is contains a section by Michael Bird.  Yes, that Michael Bird, the author of Evangelical Theology, which is a systematic theology based upon the gospel.

My reason to respond to Michael's section in this book is twofold.  One, because I am working my way through his systematic theology, and enjoying it; and two, to offer some corrective insight to his "global" perspective.

His assertions seem to be that inerrancy is a particular American issue, it draws an unnecessary fence around the Bible, and that the word inerrancy is not needed in the global south as they accept the Bible as true and authoritative with out all the muss and fuss of having to call it inerrant; and, therefore, are able to get on with their business of spreading and preaching the gospel.

Kind of an aside here, but he also seems to have a bit of an Aussie/Kiwi chip on his shoulder toward what he views as American theological colonialism/imperialism; and somehow connects this with Rugby verses American football.

What has struck me in reading his response is his naivete, and this naivete is mixed with a bit of smugness; and I think together they have blinded him to the pattern of the church in its history, and to the reality of the church at this time. As good a student of church history as he appears to be, he should understand, maybe more than many, the proclivity of human nature toward liberalism, toward doubt, and aware that the church has always been filled with tares. In the history of the church there have always been threats to an orthodox understanding of the bible.  The attack on the inerrancy of the Bible, at least to the degree we have seen in North America and Europe is a more recent threat, but it is also one that has hung around for the last 150 years, it is not going away anytime soon, and it will soon come to a church near you...maybe even your own.

Here in the global North we have seen first hand the damage done to the church by higher criticism and liberal textual criticism.  It has destroyed the church in Europe and damaged the church in America.  The Anglicans in the North have the same 39 Articles of the Faith as the Anglicans of the South, the Presbyterians of the North have the same Westminster Confession of Faith as the Presbyterians of the South, and that did not keep them from abandoning the Bible as truthful and authoritative. What is to keep it from happening in the South?  As the global South becomes more mature and sophisticated theologically, there will be those who will begin to teach in its seminaries and academies who will be smuggled in on the Trojan Horse of "the Bible is true for faith and practice, authoritative for faith and practice, and the standard for faith and practice" (See Michael's section on An International View of Scripture, pgs 160-162).  This is where it began in the Southern Baptist Convention and its Baptist Faith and Message statement, and once the wolves are in the door, they open the door to other wolves, who are much more savage.

As one who was involved, at the local church level, in the Southern Baptist inerrancy controversy and battle for the Bible in the 90s (and still have some scars), I have seen first hand the damage done by those who did not believe all the Bible was true, but hid behind the statement "it is the standard for faith and practice."  I have seen first hand the necessity of drawing a fence around the Bible using the term inerrant.  Yes, it does keep some good people out, but it keeps many many more wolves in sheep's clothing from getting in and ravaging the flock and destroying the faith of some.  In contending for the faith, having the term inerrant and using it as a fence, yes even as a sword, is a necessity.

Yes, inerrancy has been a particular American issue, because the battle was fought here.  The European church, with few exceptions, capitulated to the attacks on the Bible without firing a shot.  We Americans might not have fought a World War on our soil, but we indeed have fought a spiritual war on our soil (a war that does indeed affect the entire world) over the truthfulness, veracity, and reliability of the Bible, not just as it applies to faith and practice, but about whatever it touches on.  And I dare say that Michael would do the same if the battle came to his soil, his church, his school.  It just happened to come to us first, but it will eventually come to the church in the South.

Finally, after reading his section in the book, and going through his Evangelical Theology, I would say that Michael is a closet inerrantist.  He really is an inerrantist at heart, although he calls himself an infalliblist...even Peter Enns thinks so.  


Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Preaching, Let the Text Say What it Says--So that it Will do What it is Designed to do

As preachers and students of the Word, we all have certain theological leanings, and some are adherents to a particular system of theology.  Yes, when reading or studying the Bible we do so in light of our theological bent; however, when studying and interpreting the Scriptures we should not impose our particular theological bias upon the text, but let the text say what it says.  This will result in a much fairer treatment of the text, and will then result in much clearer expounding of that text in our preaching, and clarity in preaching produces clarity of thought and understanding in the hearer.

When we do this we will earn the trust of our people as they may not understand all the nuances of a particular system, but can usually tell when we are artificially imposing a meaning upon the text that is not readily apparent from its context.

Our job is not to make our people adherents of our chosen system or to have them line up with our bias, but our job is to make our people more like Christ; which is what the Scriptures are designed to do, and therefore why we should do our best to bring out the clear unclouded meaning of the text.
(Colossians 1:28-29, Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 8:29).


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Christian Heart

It is not the cleaning of the hand that makes the Christian, for many a hypocrite can show as fair a hand as he, but the purifying, watching, and right ordering of the heart; this is the thing that provokes so many sad complaints, and costs so many deep groans and tears.

John Flavel

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Persecution, a Marker of a True Christian

Blessed are those who have been persecuted
for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people
insult you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12


In the Beatitudes Christ gives us the markers that describe a true disciple, one that is truly following Christ. The first seven markers are found in verses 3-9 and they are internal spiritual realities that manifest themselves in many ways in the life of a true believer.  They are being poor in spirit, mourning over sin, being gentle or meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, and being a peacemaker (notice it is being a peacemaker, not being peaceful or at peace).  The final marker is one that comes from the outside, and that is persecution which is seen in verses 10-12.  

Interestingly, there are three reasons given for the persecution.  They are for right living (righteousness sake, vs 10), right belief (because of Me, vs 11), and right testimony (in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, vs 12).

In the NT we see many instances of persecution for the reasons listed above, here are a few:

Right Living
I Peter 2:20-21, 3:17,  4:4, 4:15-16, 4:19, II Timothy 3:12,
II Corinthians 3:14-16, John 3:19-21, Ephesians 5:6-11

Right Belief
Acts 4:8-21, Acts 5:41, Acts 15:25-26, I Peter 4:14, II Timothy 1:8, 12

Right Testimony
Acts 4:8-21, 14:1-6,16:19-24, 17:2-7

Because you believe the right thing, you will speak the right thing and live the right way.  The result of this at some point and at some level will be persecution; and blessed are you when being persecuted for these reasons.  Persecution for right belief, right living, and right testimony is a marker, an identifier, that this person is truly a child of God.







  

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Crucifixion and Freedom

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free."  To be set free means to no longer be in bondage.  To be free means to no longer be in subjection to, under the dominion of, or be controlled by.

Unlike the silly song that tells us we are free to dance, there is a spiritual freedom, a true liberty of heart and soul and mind that we have been given in Christ.  Paul lays the foundation for our understanding of this freedom in Romans 6:1-14, as he tells us that we have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin, that sin should no longer be our master.   The key to understanding this, and the foundation of our freedom, is given in 6:6-7 as we are told our old self was crucified with Him and that he who has died has been set free from sin. So we see that it is crucifixion that sets us free.  Our being baptized into Christ unites us with Him in His crucifixion and resurrection. We have been freed from sin and its stranglehold by being crucified with Christ.

In Galatians Paul fills out the rest of of what is implied in Romans 6:1-14, and what has been accomplished in our being crucified with Christ.  In Galatians 2:19-20 we see that through crucifixion we are set free from the bondage of the Law (Romans 6:14, 7:1-2).  In Galatians 5:24 we see that through crucifixion we are set free from the flesh with its passions and desires (Romans 6:12-13, Galatians 5:16-21).  In Galatians 6:14 we see that through crucifixion we have been set free from the world with its anti-God philosophies and ways (I John 2:16, 5:4-5, 5:19, Colossians 2:20-23).

As Christians we no longer breath the foul air of imprisonment, but now breathe the fresh air of freedom. The freedom that only death can bring.  Let us rejoice in our freedom, and praise God for our freedom, because in Christ we are free indeed.