Archive for the ‘Salvation’ category

Accepting God’s Invitation: The Narrow Door

November 13, 2017

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In previous articles I have explored the idea that God Does Not Send People to Hell and that God’s Invitation is made to everyone to open the door at which He knocks. Not everyone, however, will enter in. God gives us a real choice, and our fate rests on that choice.

God desires that we all enter in, but whether we do enter in is up to us. We can chose to reject the invitation, or simply fail to respond, and God will let us go. That is because God is love, and love does not coerce.

God’s invitation is compared to the parable told by Jesus of the great banquet. In that parable, a man sent out invitations, but the people he invited were too busy to come. So he sent invitations out to the people in the streets and alleys and country roads and filled up the banquet table with all who were willing to come.

This may seem on the surface like universalism, but it isn’t. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that there is more to it than that. The door to which we are invited to enter in is a narrow one.

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God’s Invitation

November 13, 2017

 

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The question, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” reveals a misunderstanding of at least three things: 1) what love is, 2) what hell is and 3) how people end up in hell. What we are talking about are the words Jesus spoke to these points, to which this question is directed. The question packs assumptions that load the question in the wrong way.

Let me explain.

I previously wrote a piece making the point that God Doesn’t Send People to Hell. In that piece, I addressed the question, but I addressed it primarily from a philosophical view. Below we will examine where these philosophical points come from.

The philosophical view is pretty simple, and flows from the proposition that God is Love.[1] Love doesn’t coerce people against their wills. Therefore, God will not compel anyone to be with Him who chooses not to be with Him because love doesn’t coerce people against their wills.

If heaven is eternal life with God, hell is eternal life without God. If God doesn’t coerce us, He leaves the determination up to us. God doesn’t send people to hell; people choose to go there because they don’t want to be with God.

God invites us to choose Him, but he doesn’t require, coerce or compel us to choose him against our wills.

This proof holds together well philosophically, but does it line up with the teachings of Jesus?

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The David Cries Out for the Judas in Me

November 1, 2017

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Judas Iscariot is a tragic figure in the Gospels. He was responsible for betraying our Lord Jesus. John wrote this of Judas many years after the events unfolded in the garden of Gethsemane: “he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”[1]

Because Judas betrayed Jesus and John says he was a thief, I think we tend to write Judas off, but Judas spent years in the company of Jesus. Judas knew Him intimately and was part of the very inner circle of followers of Jesus.

Jesus certainly knew Judas as well. He knew well that Judas would be the one who would betray Him. Jesus “called it” at the Last Supper.[2]

Why did Jesus allow Judas so close to him all that time, knowing what Judas would do?[3] John’s comment about Judas many years later, describing Judas as a “thief” who helped himself to the funds that Judas oversaw for the group of disciples, suggests that John knew the character of Judas as well.  What are the implications of that?

The betrayal of Jesus, of course, was part of God’s plan.[4] It had it happen. Jesus came to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of men, but Jesus added, “But woe to that man who betrays him!”[5]

Judas stands as a dire warning for us. What sort of man betrays Jesus?

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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

Depositphotos Image ID: 7103912 Copyright: kohy81

“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
depositphotos Image ID: 19311001 Copyrightt cdp

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[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


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