Verse of the Day

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Long Way Off

I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do right; a body that can’t get started right when he’s little, ain’t got no show — when the pinch comes there ain’t nothing to back him up and keep him to his work, and so he gets beat . . . then says I, what’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I couldn’t answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn’t bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time. (Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885; repr., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958), 78.)

When we struggle within about the choices to make in life, sometimes we don't even understand ourselves (Romans 7:15) and just choose what "comes handiest at the time." Without a lighthouse, ships at sea have no way to navigate into a safe harbor. Without the truth of God's word, some people come to the same conclusion as Mark Twain's character Huck Finn. Jesus told a story in Luke 15 about one such person who realized the end of his conclusion to, "What does one do about the internal struggle with good versus bad?" and, frankly, choose poorly as we all have in times past (1 Corinthians 6:11). Thinking that his wayward choice would divide him from his father, Luke 15:20 records, "And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him." The son received forgiveness and was welcomed home as his father rejoiced over him (Isaiah 62:5). Oh, to know that you are welcomed to the party, it's at home, in case you've forgotten. The important part for those waiting at home is to remember to be looking "a long way off." Ready to respond with love and compassion.

Please read Marilyn Meberg's book "constantly craving: How to Make Sense of Always Wanting More" from where this was adapted; the words in her book struck me as poignant considering the nation's obsession with division. I wanted to journal this on this blog in my words, mainly for me to remember.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"born this way" VS "born again"

So, when someone says, "I was born this way.", it almost always leads to a conversation that ends in disagreement.  Even so, I would like to look past the genesis of that argument and look at what Jesus said about the being born and where Jesus places emphasis within His statements.  

Jesus said you must be born again (John 3:3) when talking to Nicodemus. Jesus goes on to explain that one is “born of water and the Spirit.”  One could go down either of two paths - some might say "born of water" is the natural birth where others say it is a spiritual cleansing of the past and victory in the future (Eph 5:26; Titus 3:5). Still, in either interpretation, the emphasis is on being 'born again' or 'born from above'.  That is the true need.  That need is only fulfilled through Christ (Romans 5:8).

The prophet Joel declared the judgement of the Day of the Lord. God's offer, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord” Joel 2:32, is open to all.
  • In Isaiah 1:18, God offers the invitation to come, though your sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow.
  • Revelation 22:17 is an open invitation: “Come! Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
The clear implication is, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to Him as we are, in order that He can cleanse us.

In the New Testament, sin was never excused or ignored, and in addition, forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized his/her sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. Should we leave our sin?  Yes, God expects that. But, that comes as part of our salvation, and not as a prerequisite to salvation in Christ. We simply are not able to clean ourselves up without God and His help.

While some may teach this as a type of grace abounding; grace does abound (Romans 5:20), but not to serve as a means to sin freely or be lawless (Romans 6:15; Romans 3:8). We must never lead anyone to believe that the Bible says or condones that it makes no difference how a person lives, as long as he/she believes (licentiousness, Jude 1:4).  Rather:
  • Romans 13:13 encourages us to walk honestly (decently) not participating in the licentious lifestyle of the world.
  • Galatians 5:13 says that we are called to be free from sin, but that we cannot use freedom “for an occasion to the flesh,” somehow excusing our continued sins.
  • Another example: 1 Peter 4:3-4

As Christians, our actions matter. They serve as a reflection of Christ within us to those around us. By being obedient to God’s Word, to the point of actively pursuing obedience, we learn it is a process not just a destination.  With reverence or respect we work to be more Christlike in our walk (process) with Christ (Philippians 2:12-13).  We use the Word of God to work out our Salvation where we renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2).  Understanding that salvation is a gift of Grace (Ephesians 2:8), we then understand the “our” in “our Salvation” is the Salvation God gave us through his Son, Jesus.  Psalm 2:11 helps us to understand serving that leads to rejoicing,  “Serve the LORD with fear (reverence) and rejoice with trembling.”

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and made it possible for us to receive forgiveness. He requires us to confess and forsake our sins (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9) when we come to Him.  Christ receives us just as we are, then begins to change us as we submit to Him in obedience. He begins a new work in us as his followers (Philippians 1:6)

The new work God begins in us when we accept salvation through and identify with His son Jesus Christ requires not that we must be born, but that we must be born again.  It replaces any idea that we may have that a natural birth into this world has any merit because we have to become entirely new creatures in Christ through rebirth (2 Corinthians 5:17).  To study His Word and begin to walk in His ways helps us to leave behind any state we were in when we came to Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

I encourage you to not think of yourself as being born “that way”, but instead being born “again”.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

It is all about location, location, location

... if MY people that are called by MY name intervene (intercede), humble themselves, seek the face of God ... return (turn back), stop traveling any distance down a evil path ... and HEAR heaven ... God will accept and forgive and heal their land ... (from NASB Lexicon for 2 Chron. 7:14) (emphasis and ellipses are mine)

The people who do (perform the action talked about in 2 Chronicles 7:14) are those who have the blood applied. Not the nation (a country with defined boarders). God called HIS people, HIS flock (Israel; today because Jesus reconciled them, Jew and Gentile), to humble, seek the face of God, repent, and intercede.

We are seeing today what happens when a people travel down a path that is evil. Non-believers will never turn on their own. No man seeks God. It is the role of the church to present the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

The 'prince of the power of the air' wants everyone to believe it is about race, guns, life-styles, republicans, democrats, 'haves and the have-nots'. And wow, a lot of people do. I mean they must - just look at the news. It isn't about any of that. It is about eternity and where you will spend that eternity. John 3:18 needs to be understood today, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

Eternity is real. Every one WILL live forever. So, I guess it is true - "It's all about location, location, location."

John 14:3 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." Well folks, he did go. Don't worry about the "if" in that verse. But then again, that's exactly the question ... belief.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

We believe it for ourselves, let's also believe it for others.

© Slippy Sue Designs
As believers, if we believe there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus, then also believe it for others.  Romans 8:1 does say, "to them which are in Christ Jesus".  As Christians, if we offer condemnation to unbelievers, then we offer nothing but the curse of the law.  Paul, in Galatians, tells us that all who do not keep the law perfectly [Matthew 5:17-20] is cursed by it [Galatians 3:10].  No one has the ability [Romans 3:10 and 23] to obey the law perfectly for the breaking of even one puts a person under condemnation.  The Good News is that Jesus has rescued us from that curse [Galatians 3:13].  Read Romans 3:25-26 where Paul tells how.

Romans 8:1 (emphasis mine) There is therefore now [referring to the 7th chapter] NO CONDEMNATION [Compare John 3:18; 5:24; Romans 5:18, 19] to them [2 Corinthians 5:21which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Does Hebrews 6:4-6 text mean Christians can lose our salvation?"

In light of the many scriptures that make it abundantly clear that salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5), Hebrews 6:4-6 also confirms that doctrine.
The first method I use to aid in understanding any book of the Bible is determining both the writer's intended audience and the purpose of the author's message.  ask, "To whom was the book written?" and, "For what purpose was the book written?". 

Concerning the book of Hebrews, most Bible commentaries agree with the following:

  • The book of Hebrews was written by an Apostle and mainly written to Hebrew believers. 
  • The audience, Jewish Christians, needed to read this message to understand how the Lord Jesus Christ, in comparison to Judaism, was much better than anything the old covenant had to offer. 
    •  These believers were under persecution, and as a result, some were thinking about returning to Judaism. The message was written to warn them not to turn away from their only hope (assurance) of salvation.

Chapter 6 begins with the word, "Therefore" in the King James Version. Most of the time, this word indicates that the modern-day reader needs to search further, usually in the prior chapter(s), to determine the context in which the text exists and to better provide a framework within which the reader can use the text in the sense of Christian application. In Chapter 5, the writer speaks about the office and duty of the high priest and how that job is abundantly filled in Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14 and others). This text was written to the Jewish Christians of that day because they wanted to return to the familiar activities of The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) provided by the old covenant - the learning framework within which their entire life existed prior to conversion.

Chapter 6 urges these new converts to make forward progress - to grow in their faith. They had already learned of the first lessons of the Christian Message. With that foundation established, they were not to simply remain in that knowledge and work solely on what has already been completed in their lives; they were to instead move forward just as a young baby progresses from drinking only milk to eating more complex foods as supported in context by Chapter 5, in verses 11-14. The writer rebukes these new Christians regarding the minimal progress they have made in the knowledge and application of the gospel.

In verse 6 (of Chapter 6) we are introduced to a hypothetical statement, "IF they shall ..." (or in the NASB in verse 4, "For in the case of ... "). This text introduces the reader to the idea that this type of argument, that a true Christian can fall away, is a false premise. John 10:28 specifically states, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." No one, including myself, can snatch me out of the had of God. The conclusion of this idea, that Jesus would somehow need to be sacrificed again and again, is senseless. Simply put, it's crazy talk. We know this isn't true as we can read in Hebrews 9:28. The text points out the impossibility of this happening. When looking up Strong's word number 102, we get the idea of "things that are impossible". The author writes in such a way that demonstrates a false statement by showing an unattainable result follows if one accepts the argument. The writer even goes on to say in verse 9 that even though they speak in such a way (".. though we thus speak."), they are, "... persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation."

We may not speak today in the vernacular of the following commentary, but I feel that it offers the Christian an understanding response to the question of losing one's salvation:

The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for Hebrews 6:1-8)
While many interpretations can be found on these verses, I believe the Bible only supports two regarding salvation: (1) unbelievers rejecting Christ have no salvation, and (2) that it isn't possible for a believer to lose his/her salvation. After all, Ephesians 2:8, emphasizes that " grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" Salvation isn't ours anyway; it's God's gift to us through the selfless crucifixion death of His son Jesus Christ.

A few final and critical
points from verses 4-6:
  1. This is about hypothetical "enlightened" people - so this is not about any Christian ever.
  2. If it even were possible, this person's position would be absurd (being enlightened) after denying the truth of the crucifixion. (continued unbelief)
  3. This enlightened one never truly accepted the work of the cross after hearing and then falling away.
  4. To sin = to fall way.  In order to maintain a relationship (think about David when he said the "joy of thy salvation" Psalms 51:12), with God = to repent from sin.  Repenting is only possible if a person recognizes (believes) the truth of the crucifixion.
  5. The point of these verses is NOT about a Christian losing his/her salvation. Instead, the focus of the verses is to highlight the impossibility of a person denying the truth of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection (substitutionary atonement) and still, somehow, coming to repentance in spite of that very denial. Re = to do again. In order to repent, you must have already asked for forgiveness at least once. 
  • While I didn't reference the following book for this blog post, I do recommend, "Eternal Security", By: Charles F. Stanley.
  • Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Strong's Bible Concordance, NASB Lexican via Bible Hub