Archive for the ‘Salvation’ category

A Pride Offering

August 2, 2017

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I recently had a conversation with someone who is not a believer in Jesus Christ as I am. He charged Christians with being smug, implying that all Christians are the same. They have this confidence which he described as smugness. At that stage in our conversation, I became offended and repulsed.

I was offended because he seemed to be lumping me in with “those smug Christians”. He was making the conversation personal instead of sticking with the merits of the arguments. I was repulsed because pride is the root of all sin, and I was horrified that I might be characterized as prideful.

Of course, I am prideful. That is the condition of the human heart. We naturally trust ourselves above all others, and even above God. We don’t seem to have a lot of it when we are infants and young children, but it creeps in, and it grows as we get older. We learn to keep it under wraps if we value friendship and relationships, because the pride in me conflicts with the pride in you. Sometimes we learn a false humility, but pride lurks there beneath the surface in all of us.

When I first read the Bible in college in a world religion class it was this theme of pride in people, among other things, that jumped off the pages at me. It was like looking in a mirror and acknowledging, as difficult as it was, the pridefulness of people and the pridefulness in me. If God was God, and I believed that there was a God, that we did not create ourselves, then pride in people is an ugly thing.

These things resonated in me because I saw the pride in people, and I saw the pride in myself, and it repulsed me, just as I was repulsed in my recent conversation to think that I might be considered prideful. I have been thinking about those things for several days, and these are the thoughts I have today as I reflect on these things.

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Did John Lennon Become a Believer?

May 2, 2017

“Saved” is one of those “church words” I normally avoid. But Jesus said, and our own eyes tell us, that there are people who are on paths of self-destruction, whose choices are toxic to others, as well as themselves. Not just violent or abusive types, but “decent” people who, if you strip away the veneer […]

via Can the Unbelieving be Saved? — Mitch Teemley

The Choices God Gives Us

April 28, 2017

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“But to all[1] who did receive[2] Him, to those who believed[3] in His name, He gave the right[4] to become[5] children[6] of God— children born[7] not of blood, nor of the will[8] of the flesh[9], nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Johns packs a lot into these short verses, tucked into the first chapter of his Gospel that is profoundly full of other significant meaning:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him….In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light…. was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”[10]

These are some of the most profound and remarkable verses in all of Scripture. God became flesh, and He lived among the people He chose as His own, but they didn’t even recognize who He was. But those who received – who believed Him – He gave the right to become children of God.

I see two choices here: the choice of receiving Christ and the choice God gives us after receiving Christ – the right to become children of God. My Reformed friends might be tempted to overlook the import of this power-packed passage.  I am little unnerved by it myself, truth be told. I don’t trust my own heart to make the right choices!

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What the Gospel Means to the World

February 19, 2017
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depositphotos Image ID: 19311001 Copyrightt cdp

What does it mean to take up the cross and follow Jesus? Maybe it means being willing to be vulnerable and willing to be weak for the sake of the Gospel. Maybe it means putting the Gospel first and my desire to preserve myself last. Maybe it means being more concerned with the spread of the Gospel than my own reputation.

We hesitate to be outspoken about the Gospel because the Gospel means something different to the world that is perishing than it means to us. For those being saved, the Gospel (the message of the cross) is the power of God for salvation. But for the world, it is received much differently.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom[1] of the wise,
and the discernment[2] of the discerning I will thwart.”

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly[3] of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[4]

God is about the business of destroying “the wisdom of the wise” and “the discernment of the discerning”. If that is God’s business, and if we are following after God, this should be our business as well. How then is God destroying the wisdom and discernment of the world?

The Jews demanded a sign, and Jesus dying on the cross was not the sign sign they expected. They expected a savior that would overthrow the Roman government and set up a self-governing Jewish state in the Promised Land. Jesus didn’t meet their expectations and became a stumbling block to them.

The Greeks wanted sophistication and clever philosophy. Their standard was Aristotle, Plato and the Stoics who developed systematic philosophies. The Gospel to them was foolishness, dull and lacking in the sharpness of thought that the Greeks expected of their thinkers. the Gospel seemed like foolishness to them. .

The world today wants tolerance, acceptance, validation and normalization of every form of thinking, affection and lifestyle. Anything goes, and the world demands validation of any identify, affection or behavior that someone wants to embrace. The Gospel that embraces self-restraint over self-love and which carries the message that following Jesus as the only way is seen as intolerance to the world.

Wisdom and systematic philosophy is out. The world doesn’t believe in signs anymore. The standard today is tolerance, acceptance and pluralism, sacrificing the truth on the altar of individual rights, freedoms and the license to be or do whatever one wants with no moral constraints.

In this world today, people who hold stubbornly to the Gospel are considered Neanderthal, provincial and vulgar. Taking up our crosses today means being accused of intolerance and “bronze age” thinking.  Black has become white. The Gospel is seen as moral depravity in this world that values the morality of man over the righteousness of God.

The Gospel is the word of an Infidel to the Muslims who bow only to Allah and are instructed to convert, subject or kill those who will not also bow. Yet our modern pluralistic society gives the Muslim world a pass while blaming the Christian church for intolerance.

In any age and in every age, the Gospel runs counter to the prevalent norms and worldviews of the times. The Gospel stands apart, and the followers of Christ stand with it.

Paul preached only Christ and him crucified to the Greeks who thought it was foolishness and to the Jews to whom it was a stumbling block. So we preach Christ who is the way the truth and the life to those who think we are intolerant, to the Muslims who think we are infidels, to the scientists who think we are ignorant and to the modern moralist who thinks their own morality surpasses the righteousness of God.

Significantly Paul, who’s ministry was to the Greeks and the Romans, did not eschew knowledge or philosophy or the signs the Jewish world was looking for. It wasn’t as if Paul was not a learned man, full of knowledge of Jewish history and scripture. He was trained up in the finest school of the Pharisees run by Gamaliel, the greatest teacher of the time.

It was not as if Paul was an ignorant or unlearned man in Greek philosophy. When he addressed the people in Athens, he cited by memory Greek poets and philosophers. It’s just that Paul did not buy into the Jewish interpretation of scripture that missed the very Son of God among its pages. Paul did not buy into the knowledge and philosophy of the Greeks because knowledge and philosophy cannot save a man from his sin.

So today, it’s not as if Christians are intolerant. Jesus has instructed us to welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner, to love those who are unlovely and even to love our enemies. Still, Jesus is the way the truth and the life and there is no other way to the Father but through Jesus.

It’s not as if Christians are not intelligent in the ways of science. Until very modern times, Christians led the world in science. In the last couple hundred years, Christians have abdicated the realm of science to the atheists and agnostics. The atheists and agnostics, in turn, have shut the Christians out by defining science narrowly, excluding any thought of god from it. Yet, people of faith are still involved in the sciences. We may even be going through a Renaissance of faith-based science today.

It’s not as if Christians are immoral. Far from it, Jesus called his followers to a higher morality even than the Jewish Pharisees, rooting out even thoughts that are sinful and serving others to the point of self-sacrifice. Jesus exemplified that morality because Jesus, the exact representation of God on earth, is the standard. .

It’s not as if there is any other way to salvation. Muhammad lived and died and remains buried. Jesus rose from the dead. There is no other Messiah. There is no other person in whose name is the power of life and salvation. Jesus is our bread. He is our water living water. Everything boils down to Jesus. As it was in Paul’s day so it is now in our day.

Taking up the cross and following Jesus, holding out the Gospel, will be met in much the same way as it was meet in Jesus’ day. The world that is perishing will not receive it, but it is salvation and life to those who will receive it. Even if no one receives it, still we carry the cross because there is not other Messiah and are no other words that give life.

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[1] Sophia means “wisdom” and supplies the root of the English terms “sophistication” and “philosophy”. In this sense, the Gospel is contrasted to the sophistication and philosophy of the world.

[2] Sýnesis is translated discernment or cleverness. Literally, it means holistic understanding by joining facts together; synthesized reasoning by bringing implicit (indirect) truths together. In short, it means a worldview. Thus, the Gospel is contrasted to the prevailing worldviews.

[3] Mōría means folly; literally, dull (lacking sharpness).

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Conflating God with People

February 7, 2017

ed-sheeran-concert


I have an old friend who is “disgusted” that many Christians supported Donald Trump and were a significant factor in Trump winning the election. She, like many women (and men), cannot get past the infamous words that Trump spoke how about a woman reporter. I won’t repeat them here. They are too vulgar for polite company.

My friend has been so turned off of Christians and “the” Church by the fact that many Christians voted for Trump and were a factor in electing him, that she no longer goes to church at all after decades of being a church-goer.

I don’t want to get into politics here. That isn’t the issue I’m focused on.

I have family and friends who say that they can’t believe in God, or can’t believe in the Christian God, because Christians are hypocrites. This is what leads me to write this piece.

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Christianease: Born Again part 2

January 16, 2017

This is second of a two part series on what is mans to be born again. Jesus said that we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of God, and that new life and the experience of the kingdom of God begins now! In this life. That was the message Jesus gave us.

We can have confidence in His message not only because His message was attested by the miraculous signs and wonders He performed when He spoke[1], but by the fact that He rose from the dead[2], demonstrating for us the power of this new life that is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

Being born again requires repentance (turning from our own ways) and embracing, committing to, Jesus and the message he spoke. In that process of repentance and embrace, God causes us to be born again, born from above, born of the spirit.[3]

This isn’t just a theoretical, philosophical paradigm shift; it is an actual change that we experience. Something happens within us that is not the result of anything we have done (or can do). The change may be subtle or it may be dramatic, but the change is noticeable and certain.[4] For a quick description of what this change is like, see the video below before reading on:



The change comes from being born again, which occurs when we believe in Jesus and the message He delivered.[5] Accessing this new life is a matter of faith (commitment) to Christ which is the import of these famous words:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”[6]

Similarly, the writer of Hebrews said,

“without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”[7]

Being born again comes from a genuine, heartfelt response to God’s message that Jesus spoke and initiates a new life that carries forward from that point. Being born again begins our spiritual lives, as being born in the flesh begins our lives as natural human beings. The Spirit is the hallmark of this new life.

In fact, God’s Spirit is the sign that we have, indeed, been born again[8].

Jesus promised us, if we keep his commandments, he would give us the Spirit to help us, to dwell with us and to be in us[9]. The greatest commandments are to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”.[10]

We become born again by believing and submitting to God in Christ and to His message. We have access to the Spirit of God to the extent that we keep His commandments, which are not a list of rules, but is a loving relationship with God and people. The Spirit will help us with these things as we submit to live as God intends for us to live.

Our “work” is to believe and submit.[11] The new life comes from God who causes us to be born again. The change happens from the inside out as God initiates that new life within us. It isn’t a change that we summon up, but a change that God makes in us, a fresh view of the world, filtered now through the Spirit that dwells in us and with us, providing that we embrace it and don’t grieve or quench the Spirit we have been given.[12]

The idea of being born again, born from above, born of the Spirit, is central to the message that Jesus spoke, and it is carried through the rest of the New Testament. Paul taught that we are dead in our transgressions and flesh (natural selves) until God makes us “alive together with Him”.[13] Paul says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…..”[14] Peter likewise taught that people who have given themselves to Jesus, God’s Son, are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable….”[15]

Being born again is essential. Flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of God; the perishable can’t inherit the imperishable.[16] Our perishable bodies must put on the imperishable[17] – the Spirit that God has promised and offers us if we will believe and submit ourselves to Him.

Being born again is only the beginning of our spiritual lives, just as being born as an infant begins our natural lives. There are perils along the way. Our spiritual lives must be nurtured. We must grow in our knowledge of God and continue to water and feed the new life God gives us.But, that life comes from God.

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[1] Hebrews 2:3-4 (“[Salvation] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”)

[2] The resurrection of Jesus in bodily form is so important and so central to the message of the Gospel that Paul says, “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

[3] John 3:1-8

[4] To get some idea of how being born again happens to a person, one might read accounts of it in peoples’ own words, C. S. Lewis having provided a famous account. For him, he became aware that he was holding something at bay, shutting something out. One day, after a long intellectual journey from atheism to theism, he simply found himself believing in God, but it would be nearly two years later before he submitted himself to the God he now believed in. From my own experience, I can say that a clarity and insight and new desires followed my submission to Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and they have never left me, though I at times have grieved the Spirit and spent times wandering in a sort of spiritual desert – yet that pilot light that was lit has never gone out, and that new life has been growing and renewing in me ever since.

[5] John 6:47-51 (“[W]hoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”) Paul likewise taught, “[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

[6] John 3:16

[7] Hebrews 11:6

[8] Romans 8:16 (“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”)

[9] John 14:15-17 (“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”)

[10] Matthew 22:36-40

[11] John 6:27-29 (“[T]hey said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”)

[12] 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

[13] Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:5-6

[14] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[15] 1st Peter 1:22-23

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:50

[17] 1 Corinthians 15:53

Tuning In To God’s Frequency

October 7, 2016

“When you have two tuning forks in a room and one begins to vibrate the other will also begin to vibrate if it’s tuned to the same frequency. They resonate. They abide in each other’s frequency.” (Ted Dekker from the Forgotten Way)

If we are tuned to God’s frequency, we will resonate with Him and abide in Him. When we are tuned to God’s frequency, “the Spirit Himself bears witness[1] with our spirit that we are children of God.”[2]

God’s Spirit and our spirit are like the tuning forks. When we are on the same frequency with God, we resonate with God.

Such a simple truth, but we struggle so mightily with tuning to God’s frequency. (more…)


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