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Friday, February 7, 2014

Eternal Security vs. Assurance of Salvation

I have had numerous requests concerning this doctrinal issue. I felt the best I could do is to just post the article I wrote. It is a long read, but if you need understanding in this matter - the Scriptures speak loudly. 

         What does it mean to be eternally secure? Simply, exactly that! Once you have entered into salvation with God your eternal destination is guaranteed; nothing can remove you from spending eternity with God. No sin, no action, not even denial of the Lord can undo what God has done. Some believers have a very difficult time accepting the doctrine of eternal security. They either deny it altogether or they relegate it to the “debatable” issues of doctrine.

         The problem is that Scripture does not leave this issue ambiguous. As clearly as the Scripture teaches that humans can be saved, that same clarity is brought to this doctrine.

         Why is this doctrine important? It makes a statement about who God is and emphasizes what Grace truly is. We have to teach the whole counsel of the Word, even if it seems unreasonable.

         Why do some dislike this doctrine so much?

         There are several reasons and it is important to look at each so we have a full understanding of what the issues are that cause such a division in the Body of Christ.

         First, some feel this makes Salvation cost nothing. The “once saved always saved” proclamation based on a simple prayer you prayed, and now you can do what you want. This thought pattern though exposes some wrong thinking concerning the gospel. Salvation in Scripture is not a decision, but a conversion. Yes, a decision and prayer are involved in that experience, but so much more must happen. If the individual is not brought to an understanding, by the clear presentation of the gospel, of their condition eternally, the standard required and the gift offered, conversion will not take place. It is well stated, “a decision without a conversion is a tragedy”. Each individual must understand that they are doomed to be separated from God due to their sin; their works will never satisfy the requirements of sinless perfection required by God; that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and came to earth, lived a perfect sinless life, offered that life as a payment for our sin; He was put to death, buried and He resurrected on the third day to offer us a relationship with God through His sacrifice. We enter that relationship through a willful decision to agree with God that we cannot save ourselves, then in prayer from our heart we trust in what Jesus did, repent from our independence from God, ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, yield to Him as our Lord and Savior and follow Him. That is what a conversion looks like according to Scripture. Everyone’s growth after that is individual and at different paces, and only God has a right to judge that, not anyone else. The individual should always be willing to examine where they are in the faith as admonished by all the writers of the New Testament.
         Concerning the idea that salvation is “free”; that also is not scriptural. Salvation cost very much, the heaviest price God could pay; His offer is free to us, total grace. However, many think when we say, “grace” that means no strings attached! That is NOT Biblical salvation! When a person enters into a relationship with God through Christ some very important strings are attached. First, you have just agreed that you cannot save yourself and that only God can. GOD! If you were truly converted that word means everything. You have just agreed with God that He is the Boss of your life, not you. GOD does not mean genie, big guy upstairs, big buddy or anything that would communicate someone below or even equal to you. God means GOD! So when we enter into that relationship we are acknowledging that someone else is the Boss of our life. Secondly, when we enter into this relationship we get all of what a relationship with Him means, including adoption into His family and we are made “joint heirs” with His only begotten Son Jesus; BUT He in turn gets all of us! He doesn’t borrow us or rent us. The Scripture states this simply and directly:

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

         It is very clear – “we are not OUR OWN, but bought with a price!” This could not be stated any clearer. If a person does not want to acknowledge that, they are not “sincere but wrong”, they are just rebellious! The gospel is not a “designer” product, it states what it states, and you have the right to accept it or reject it, but not change it. 

         Second: A misunderstanding of what works have to do with our salvation. We know works provide nothing in acquiring salvation, but some seem to want to slip works into securing salvation. Again, nothing is less Biblical. This is exactly what the Galatian church had done. Paul warns them that they cannot finish in the flesh what God had begun through faith and the Spirit. Works are in the formula of salvation, but not in possessing it. Works are the outcome of us being saved. Works are the evidence that a person is saved, if the works are not there, then we need to question if we possess salvation. When Jesus said from the cross "it is done" that is exactly what He meant. Everything needed to secure a relationship with God had been completed. We can add nothing, which includes securing it. We can only invest it and that should translate into good works. So when a person claims to be saved but does not have a life of good works, either they never possessed a relationship with God, or they have lost their focus and are endangering their eternal investment, not their eternal destination.

         Third: Sadly some will not teach eternal security because they are afraid how believers may abuse this truth. This is the same mistaken philosophy concerning the teaching of liberties. Many will not teach Biblical liberties because they fear abuse by the believers of the freedom. There are two very important truths that must be faced that will lead us not to embrace this kind of control. First, it is not our job to teach only part of the Word of God, we are commanded to teach the whole counsel of the Word. This includes parts that we understand, parts we don't understand, parts we like and the parts we even don't like. The second truth has a twofold impact. One, we are not God and the child of God answers to Him only concerning his conscience in liberty issues.  Also by controlling our teaching to only the issues we prefer, we rob the child of God of a very important aspect in their intimacy with God. Without the struggle of spirit and conscience that takes place when discovering God's desires for each believer concerning their liberties, we remove one of the greatest tools for maturity. It’s true that whenever we teach the full counsel of the Word of God, there will be those and take advantage of any freedom or security the Scripture promises. This does take place with the doctrine of eternal security. Scripture makes it clear how secure the child of God is in their relationship with Him through the blood of Christ. Some may become complacent towards sin because they understand they are forgiven. This is a tragic truth, yet it cannot lead us to teach less then what the Word of God holds to be true. It robs God of his grace and integrity to allow those that may abuse His forgiveness and unconditional love to interfere with teaching and celebrating the eternal security God has provided. Remember our Lord’s teaching on the wheat and the tares. It is not our job to determine who is really in the body of Christ and who is not. We are responsible to teach the whole counsel of the Word of God. At the end the age God Himself will judge each person, and then the truth of his or her relationship with Him will be established. When we deal with a person who claims to belong to Christ, but is living in clear violation to the Word of God, we should not doubt God’s grace of salvation, instead we might be wiser to pray for this individual that God convict them of either living in sin as a believer, or bringing to light the fact that they never truly experience a conversion.

         Fourth: There is a misunderstanding concerning the essence of salvation–it is all of grace. Salvation is His gift, not His and ours. We even make the mistake of stating “our salvation” in a way that sounds as though it proceeds from us, instead of only being a gift that is possessed by us. For many years I heard Psalm 51:12 misquoted and did not realize it. I understand why so many believers misquoted this verse, because most of us heard it from the King James Version of the Bible. Their it states, (Psalm 51:12 KJV “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”)  King David prayed this after his sin of adultery. So many that I have met remember the verse as “restore the joy of MY salvation”, which I also had thought it said. However, David prayed that God would restore the joy of God’s salvation. (Psalm 51:12 NASB95 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation / Psalm 51:12, NET “ Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!) Grammatically it may appear to be a small difference; theologically it is huge. Salvation is from God, is given by God, all we can do is either accept it or reject it, we have no power or right to alter it. From the beginning to the end, salvation is all God's. He planned it, set it in motion, brought it to fruition and offers it as something we can accept or reject. Whenever a writer in the Scriptures refers to “our salvation” he is not talking about the source from where it came from, he is simply pointing out whether it is a possession or not. Only God Himself can take His salvation away from someone, which we're going to consider what that would involve.

         Fifth: Many hold the belief of loss of salvation based solely on one verse. It is worth looking at this verse and examining if there is a potential for that teaching to be supported by this verse. However, before we look at the verse let's remember, to build any doctrine around one verse is absolutely contrary to what Scripture teaches in how we approach its teachings. The apostle Peter in one verse deals with the danger of that.

2 Peter 1:20–21 “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

         All honest theologians agree that every doctrine must be funneled through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Although, this passage even by itself will be shown not to prove the idea of loss of salvation, it is still good to look at it.

Hebrews 6:4–6 “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”

         There are those that hold the position of eternal security that state this passage is not referring to a believer. I find that disingenuous when you consider the words that are used here; “have been enlightened”, “tasted the heavenly gift”, “partakers of the Holy Spirit”, and “tasted the powers of the age to come”. This is such a clear description of what happens to a person that becomes born-again.

         One of the teachers that I deeply respect that holds this position is usually the most careful contextual interpreter I know of. However, because we all are human and struggle with our own biases, his shows up here; he has a very difficult time accepting that there are believers that have no evidence in their life that they belong to Christ. The problem with that is that Paul talks about the reality of such believers as this in his epistle to the Corinthians. We will look at the passage later.

         So if we accept that the person described here is a believer how do we handle the last part of the verse, which describes that if they fall way it is impossible to renew them to repentance? It is not difficult if we will be honest with the original language, the key is what does the word repentance mean.

Let's look at the Greek: It is a compound word from “meta” and “noieo”

·      metanoia, met-an'-oy-ah; from Greek 3340 (metanoeo); (subject) compunction (for guilt, including reformation); by implication reversal (of [another's] decision) :- repentance.

·      metanoeo, met-an-o-eh'-o; from Greek 3326 (meta) and Greek 3539 (noieo); to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (moral feel compunction) :- repent.

·      meta, met-ah'; a primary preposition (often used adverb); properly denoting accompaniment; “amid” (local or causal); modified variously according to the case (III) In composition metá implies: (A) Fellowship, partnership, as metadídomi (3330), to impart; metécho (3348), to partake; metalambáno (3335), to participate. (B) Proximity, contiguity, as methórios (3181), contiguous. (C) Motion or direction after, as metapémpo (3343), to summon or invite. (D) Transition, transposition, change, meaning over as in metabaíno (3327), to go over, depart; metatíthemi (3346), to remove; methístemi (3179), to carry away, transfer, remove.

·      noieo, noy-eh'-o; from Greek 3563 (nous); to exercise the mind (observe), i.e. (figurative) to comprehend, heed :- consider, perceive, think, understand.

·      ginosko,   ghin-oce'-ko; a prolonged form of a primary verb; to “know” (absolute), in a great variety of applications and with many implication (as follow, with others not thus clearly expressed) :- allow, be aware (of), feel, (have) know (-ledge), perceive, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand. [1]

So looking at this compound word we see that means – To move or change your mind or what you know, also context can mean change of direction.

Now let's look at the common word used for “salvation”:

·      soteria, so-tay-ree'-ah; feminine of a derivative of Greek 4990 (soter) as (properly abstract) noun; rescue or safety (physical or morally) :- deliver, health, salvation, save, saving.

·      soter, so-tare'; from Greek 4982 (sozo); a deliverer, i.e. God or Christ :- saviour.

·      sozo, sode'-zo; from a primary sos (contracted for obsolete saos, “safe”); to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literal or figurative) :- heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. [2]

         This word means to save or deliver. If this passage had stated that if an individual falls away then it is impossible to renew them to salvation or deliverance (soterios) we would have a conflict in the doctrine of salvation. This would be the only verse that holds this position, however it still would be problematic to hold a position of eternal security if one verse stated so succinctly that you could lose your salvation.

         This passage does not state that though, it is clear from the original that if an individual should fall away completely from their faith as described here, it will be impossible for them to turn around and be in right fellowship with the Lord again. There is no mention of a loss of relationship, so the issue is fellowship. I will comment more on this as we finish this discussion.

         It would be impossible to write on all the verses in Scripture that deal with eternal security. Several books would be needed, suffice it to say I will look at just a few while making some comments. The key thing to notice is Who is the one that secures the person's soul.

Psalm 97:10 Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 121:4-7 Behold, He who keeps Israel  Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.

Philip. 1:6  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

         Notice, here it is God Who began the work, and it is stated that He will complete it at the day of Christ...which is the day of Jesus’ return.

2 Tim. 1:12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

         Notice Paul's confidence is in God to guard his soul and he makes it clear that until “that day”. Referring to Judgment Day.

Ephes. 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

1 John 5:11-13 And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. 

         This Scripture really should end the debate if people were honest with what words mean. Verse 12 makes it clear if you have the Son, you have life; but verse 13 makes even a clearer statement. Paul does not say I have written these things to you who believe in the Son of God in order that you may HOPE that you have eternal life, he says that you may KNOW it! Which one of us woke up this morning and as we approached the mirror, hoped that we were the same gender that we had been when we went to sleep? You don't have to look in the mirror to find out what your gender is; you know it! This is not something you hope for; it's part of what you are so you know it. That's how sure our God intends our relationship to Him to be.

Col. 2:13  And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions

         Here once again I am confused what is not understood, “having forgiven us ALL our transgressions”–what does “all” mean? If you owe me money, but I tell you I have erased ALL your debt but then later tell you that you owe me still, you would be very confused and rightly so. Why do we treat God as though he has less integrity than what we ourselves will do? God states that all transgressions are forgiven, that means past, present and future.

John 10:27-29 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  [28] and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 

         This Scripture is very illustrative of our eternal security. Again, if were honest we should be able to stop after verse 28–“they shall never perish”– how long is never? It is not maybe, or just for a while, it is the word “never”! From there Jesus goes on to point out that we are in his hand, and then states that we are in the father's hand. The picture is clear, hold your handout, place a coin in your palm and then cover it with your other hand. That coin is not going to escape, and let's remember we are talking about Almighty God’s hands! 

Romans 8:37-39 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

         This verse is incredible in its scope trying to communicate to a child of God that nothing can separate us from His love. Notice what the list includes: “Angels”, so that would include Satan himself, “things present”– that means anything you doing right now, “things to come” – that means anything that you will do in the future, “any other created thing” – you are created, so this includes you, you cannot separate yourself from the love of God if you are in a relationship with Him through the blood of Christ.

Ephes. 4:30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

         When is the day of redemption? It is clear from Scripture that day is when Christ comes back to redeem His church. If Scripture states that you are sealed until the return of Christ for the church, how can you lose your salvation? Are you strong enough to pull off the seal of God?

         I will stop; there are so many more verses and texts of Scripture that settle this issue.

         Before I discuss the issue of assurance of salvation, I want to settle the eternal security issue with a reality check.

         Let's assume you can lose your salvation, if that were to happen we must understand what must now take “unplace” that took place at the moment of salvation. We must undo what God has done.

         First: we must become unregenerated. This means the work that the Holy Spirit did by placing a new nature in us must be undone and we are placed back into a state of being a bond slave to sin and only our old sinful nature exist in us.

·      The Regenerator - Washing Of Rebirth And Renewal – Regeneration

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

·      God Creates A New You.  - Empowered By His Nature

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Pet. 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

         Next, we must become unindwelt. The Holy Spirit must stop abiding in us and we are no longer the Temple of God, and we are unbought, no longer belonging to Christ, we now belong only to ourselves.

·       The “Indweller” Abides “IN” You

1 Cor. 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

1 Cor. 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Cor. 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

         Third: we must be unbaptized. This means we are removed from the body of Christ, all of the gifts that were given to us by the Spirit of God are taken away.

·      The “Baptizer” Placed into the Body of Christ

1 Cor. 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

·      Forth: we are unsealed. God's promise and pledge is removed, we no longer have the mark of ownership that God placed on us.

·      The “Sealer” Marked With Ownership

Ephesians 1:13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise

Ephesians 4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

2 Corinthians 1:21–22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

         Fifth: we are unadopted. That means that God disowns us as His children, takes away the right given to us by Christ in John 1:12, and we are not joint heirs with Jesus.

·      The “Adopter” Placed in the Family of God

Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Finally and to complete the total removal of what happened to us at salvation, God must go back before the foundation of the world and remove our name from the Lamb’s book life

Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

The concept of “loss of salvation” is very inconsistent with Scripture and the nature of our God. Which one of us that have a child could ever deny he or she was our child, no matter how appalled we are about their behavior? The fact is we are related to them by blood, and their actions cannot change that. They might not be our friend based on their actions, but they are still our child. How can we make God less committed than we are?

This brings up the passage in Corinthians I mentioned in my discussion on Hebrews 6:4–6. This verse sheds light on those believers that do not appear to belong to God based on how they are living. Take note of what it is saying:

1 Cor. 3:10-15  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

         God gives everyone the same foundation – grace through faith – “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” From the point of our entering into a relationship with God we then become partners with God for the rest of our life. We have nothing to do with the foundation, we only received it, but we have much to do with the life that is raised on top of that foundation. “ But let each man be careful how he builds upon it” Here we see that believers will go through a judgment, but it will not be about their specific sins, but instead about what they did with the salvation that God gave them – “each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work” Scripture describes the types of works – “Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident”  - those that invested that new life will be rewarded – “If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward” – if his life after salvation was full of flesh and self centeredness he shall suffer loss. “If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”

         So here we have a verse that covers those that waste their opportunity to invest after salvation. This verse serves no purpose if a person can lose their salvation. The reason most opt for loss of salvation in spite of this verse is the conclusion this verse leads too. There are children of God who do not look like children of God; but more importantly is that it exposes the truth of Matthew 7:21–23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

There are individuals that think they are children of God because they made a decision, but there was no conversion. Many find this uncomfortable because they do not want to consider that they may not be “a Christian that is just not walking with the Lord at this time”, instead they NEVER WERE Christian. It is interesting how many times the Scriptures do exhort a person to examine if they are really in the Faith. It is more comforting for us to blame God for dropping our salvation than digging deep and facing the reality that we may have deceived our self about our sincerity in our decision; warm fuzzy emotions may have accompanied our prayer, but we never faced our sin and understood that this prayer will place God in charge of our life and eternity.

The Scriptures are clear that all believers have a part of developing their salvation. Acquiring it was all grace, void of works, but developing it is a partnership.

Philip. 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

2 Peter 3:14-18 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

One last issue that is never dealt with – if we can lose our salvation by works, how can we regain our salvation? By works? 

* Loss of salvation has it’s source in the same pride of salvation by works. We say you cannot work your way to God, but this doctrine teaches you have to work to keep it.

Assurance of Salvation

This is where we have most of the control. God secures our eternity, but we secure the peace of that reality.

Security is only there when you have proof that you are saved. If there is no evidence that God lives in you, you will not feel secure. I am not saying that you are unsaved, but the carnal man is not secure. Without intimacy a person will never feel secure. The number of Scriptures that challenge us to examine ourselves or that make it clear that our intimacy with Him is dependant on us is great. These are a small example.

John 8:31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;

1 Cor. 15:1-2 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

Hebrews 2:1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

Sometimes it is not a question of assurance of salvation, but a question of salvation! We need to be honest – if we do not live like a Christian, we need to question if we are one! Read the book of James…he grew up with Jesus but did not know Him.

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
[2] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CHRISTMAS - The Gain: To Those Who Accept…an eternal perspective!

I once had a roll of pennies – a young man had a ten-dollar bill. I showed him how heavy my roll was, then broke it and showed him I had many while he only had one, he immediately wanted to trade! I shared with him the reality and told him that many believe that outward appearance equals something more precious. From there I shared the gospel; the burden to purchase salvation is easy for us. 
Many try to carry the burden of works for salvation, which may appear on the outside more precious. Works are very heavy and will never bridge to the Lord. Works always fall short, Grace is light for us, but was very heavy for Christ. The danger of how easy Grace is for us can lead us to not treasure it for how precious it truly is.

We have talked about the cost of Christmas; in closing I want to talk about the “gain” that Christmas is to those that accept!

·      (1) Authority - We are here on business for the King

This does not mean some political intimidation which some seem to think it is, nor is this being obnoxious in our message. We stand for the Truth and will not be sheepish about it.

Acts 26:1–3 Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:  “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

Acts 26:28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

We do not represent ourselves we represent Him. So many may laugh and scorn us, but we need not take it personal, their fight is with the One we represent.         

For example:

·      Creation – God states planned and created – If someone else wants to build theories that they say shows we can from an accident, that is their right.
·      Historians have laughed at Sodom and Gomorrah, yet archeological digs at the kingdom of Ebla prove that Ebla traded with them. Skeptics say there is no evidence left of those cities. God stated He wiped them off the face of the earth! Should we expect to find remains?
·      Stars and planets just happened, yet Scripture not only states how, but describes the shape of the earth, the fact of space and exhibits a design that would be impossible from a Big Bang.

For many this reality will only hit when it is too late. The woman who nursed the agnostic, Professor J. H. Huxley, during his last illness reported that as he lay dying, he suddenly looked up at something that no one else could see and said “So it is true.”

This is not something we rejoice in, it is a reality that drives us to help all know that we all have an appointment with the One that made us.

·      We also have the authority of the Word of God.

2 Timothy 3:16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

§  Morals – God’s desire for what’s best for society is one marriage between a woman and a man. Our society has proven to live contrary leads to a disaster. Scripture teaches forgiveness, integrity, charity and over coming hatred with love. Humans seek vengeance, will do what it takes to get ahead, hoard and consume wealth, and look out for #1. Is it a wonder that our world is broke? Even those that claim to follow God, but have created a religion succumb to the world’s ways. The Scriptures never lead to “churchianity” but to a living, growing relationship with God…where when we sin, because we are still sinners…the Scriptures lead us to do the correct thing.

·       (2) Your Identity - The real you!

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

The gain to those that accept Christmas is to be what God intended us to be; beings that draw their worth and esteem from the One that made them. They are not trapped into seeking the world’s approval or fame…which last for about 15 minutes! God has a purpose and destiny for anyone that seeks it! 

This is why human kind has a restlessness that drives the question: Who am I? You cannot discover who you are until you discover Who God is…not only who you are, but who you can become!

Psalm 139:13–18 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

·      (3) Goals - Everything you do has eternal consequence…everything!

It is said “You cannot take it with you.” However, for those that have accepted Christmas…you can send it ahead!! Everything you do that was intended to glorify God whether in the family you raise, the spouse you are, the student you are or the worker you are, everything will come forth at that appointment with God as eternal rewards. When you forgive, because He did, when you refuse to condemn, because you yourself have received grace, or when you show love to the unlovely, our God honors that for eternity!

Maybe you read this, but it makes the point:

 In 1923 a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago.

Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
 Twenty-seven years later, let’s see what happened to them. (1) CHARLES SCHWAB—the president of the largest independent steel company—lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life, and died penniless. (2) ARTHUR CUTTEN—the greatest wheat speculator—died abroad insolvent. (3) RICHARD WHITNEY—the president of the New York Stock Exchange—was released some time ago from Sing Sing. (4) ALBERT FALL—the member of the President’s Cabinet—was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. (5) JESSE LIVERMORE—the greatest bear in Wall Street—committed suicide. (6) LEON FRASER—the president of the Bank of International Settlement—committed suicide. (7) IVAR KRUEGER—the head of the world’s greatest monopoly—committed suicide.
 All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live. [1]

This life is not it! Christmas opened wide the door for any that desire to live from the eternal perspective!

1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:50–52 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Don’t settle for believing that this life and this world is all you have. God sent His Son on that first Christmas to offer you a life that includes “here and now” but with the perspective of counting forever! If you can agree with God that you have sinned and fall short of perfection, but desire to live with Him, then Christmas is for you. Tell God you believe Jesus is His Son, God in the flesh, and that you believe Jesus came and died to pay for your sins. If you can do that ask God to forgive your sins and help you turn from them, and tell Jesus you are going to trust in what He did for you to make you a child of God. This is called faith, and that is how God’s grace comes to all. God states He will turn none away that come to Him in faith through the sacrifice of the death of His Son, and when they do the resurrection of His Son will give them life forever with Him.

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.