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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does Satan ever win even the slightest victory over God?

I watched a movie called The Encounter recently, as with most Christian films it was a mixed bag theologically. I liked how the person who portrayed Jesus in the film explained to a young abuse victim why she must forgive her abuser, as her sins required His death just as much as his would. I also appreciated the fact that it tried to stress repentance, although it did not really define it very clearly. There were other positive things that could be said about the film, and of course some places where I felt it missed the mark theologically.

The most troubling part of this film to me was the representation of Jesus as desperate to try to save a man, even pleading with Him to change his mind. When it becomes clear the man is not going to believe, the Devil brags on his victory, while Jesus, who is very sad for the one who got away, reminds the Devil that while He has lost one soul, He has gained three.

Is this really an accurate representation of biblical theology? Do we see Jesus begging people to believe in Him in the Bible? Do we see the Devil winning some and Jesus winning some? If more are ultimately lost than saved (Matt. 7:13-14), will the Devil be able in some sense to say he won a greater victory?

So consider -

Did Jesus ever beg anyone to believe in or follow Him?

Jesus told the twelve to follow Him and they did, Mark 1:16-20, 2:13-14.

Jesus does not beg the disciples who want to depart from Him to stay in John 6:60-71.

Jesus does not beg the Pharisees to follow Him, He promises them judgment, Matt. 23:1-36.

Now it is true that Jesus grieves for the spiritual condition of those who don't believe, Matt. 23:37-38.

And Jesus makes offers of salvation and peace that will apply to all who will receive them, Matt. 11:28-30.

However, with that said, Jesus is never portrayed as chasing after someone, begging them, or even trying very hard to change their minds about Him. In fact we read passages that would make the idea of Jesus begging unbelievers to believe completely ridiculous.

For example:

Matt. 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

John 17:6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Eph. 1:3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Why does Jesus not beg people to believe in and follow Him? Because He knows that none will unless it has been granted by the Father, according to His plans that were in place from before creation, and likewise, all the Father had planned to save from before time began, will actually be saved as they believe in Him.

This also answers the question about whether the Devil will ever be able to be said to have won a victory over God? No, the way things turn out is exactly as God planned! Some will be born again and believe, in keeping with God's plans, while others will be left in rebellion against Him with their leader the Devil. In the end these enemies of God will be punished with their leader, and those who believe will be saved!

Satan, gets zero glory; he is a created thing like us, and he will have not one single victory over God's plans to redeem His people in Jesus -

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
9 For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
 
Isa. 45:5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.

1 Cor. 1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Does this sound like a God who ever looses?

I think not!


"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Heresy, but also not helpful!


When I came to the church I pastor six years ago, we had a policy in our church library that put pretty much anything that was donated onto the shelves. The man who oversaw it did a great job carrying out this policy and even he felt the need to keep some things from making it onto the shelves at times. Since the death of that faithful servant, we had pretty much continued that policy, but recently we decided it might be best to have a library where everything was truly useful, relevant and as biblically sound as possible. This process has sought to remove books that are heretical, come from authors who have moved away from a conservative view of the scriptures or that just don't have any spiritual content to make them relevant to a church library.

I know this not an exact science, as some will see certain books as crossing a line that others don't, but in thinking through the process it has become clear that there are many Christian books that while not heretical, are also not helpful.

I have come to see most current Christian books falling into one of two categories, either they seek to help the reader see how wonderful they and their plans are, or they seek to help the reader see how wonderful God and His plans are! I am not suggesting that telling people God loves His children is heresy, it is important we recognize God's love for us in Jesus:

Rom. 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

A message we hear repeated in many Christian books is "God loves you just the way you are"! Well biblically, God has demonstrated His love in the world by sending His Son, and He has shown a benevolent loving kindness to everyone by supplying us with food, water, air, etc. Yet, before we are saved we are God's enemies, and if we stay the way we are, unredeemed, we will eventually find ourselves forever separated from God's relational love and even His benevolence!

When God's word tells us of God's love, as with the passage above, it is not so we will spend more time thinking about how wonderful we are, but so that we spend our time thinking about how wonderful He is in saving such rebellious rascals as us!

The truth is, God's word assumes we all love ourselves plenty:

Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Some have said this passage is teaching that we need to love ourselves, before we can love God or others, but that is nonsense! This passage assumes that we love ourselves plenty and that is why we already spend lots of time thinking about us and our needs. What we are commanded to do, and is also best for us, is to stop thinking about us so much and rather focus more on worshipping God and meeting the needs of others!

If someone only read popular Christian authors, rather than the Bible, they might get the impression that the Great Commission is to go into all the world and tell people how wonderful they are!

However, the great commission actually says:

Matt. 8:28 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Thinking too often about us, positively or negatively, is a failure to worship and obey God! However, this self-focus may not go away simply by learning this truth, as old habits often die hard, but the cure is being reminded to stop thinking about us and rather to think about God and how to minister to others!

Telling people of God's love for them in Jesus is certainly not heretical, but if we don't help them see their need to focus on God and obey His will, it is ultimately not helpful!

 
"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How much do we have right? Do we care?



God's word regularly exhorts us to learn:

Col. 1:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

2 Tim. 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Pet. 1:5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,

2 Pet. 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

I am not suggesting we can't know things are true or that we should be afraid to teach things which we have become fully convinced of from God's word. However, it seems obvious that we must remain humble and not go beyond what we have learned from much study in the word. This makes sense, because whatever we believed about something before we learned it rightly from the word was wrong!

Therefore, we can assume we are still wrong about some things for as long as we live on this earth. Yet, we must make it our goal to learn all we can for our good, God’s glory, and because He said so, for as long as He leaves us here!

It is much better to be wrong about some things as we diligently study God's word, than to not study and all!

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Got faith? Why or why not?

Scripture makes it clear that faith is necessary for anyone to be saved:

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

I think most would agree that this passage teaches faith is the necessary vehicle by which God's grace and salvation are made manifest to His people. I will return to this passage in a moment, but first let me consider a few questions:

Is this saving faith something that all have and can exercise, or is it a faith that only some have?

If all do have it, why do only some exercise it unto salvation?

If only some have it, why do they have it?

If other don't have it, why don't they have it?

As to the first question, do all have this faith that is necessary for receiving God's grace and salvation? I must first affirm that there is a kind of faith that all can have, that has nothing at all to do with salvation. Everyone can have faith in something, whether it be a false god, themselves or karma. The question we are addressing here is regarding the faith necessary to come to salvation. Is that a faith that all have?

Well, one passage that might seem to suggest everyone does is:

Rom. 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Now the question we must consider is if this "each one" who has been granted a measure of faith, refers to everyone in the world, or to those in the church? It does say "everyone among you" which might suggest the church is in view, but still might not seem absolutely conclusive. However, if we look a little further at the context, those in view who are "granted a measure of faith" becomes more clear.

In Chapter 12 we have a transition from explaining how we are saved to how those who are saved should live, so the primary audience of everything from chapter 12 on is the church. Further, the topic Paul is addressing in chapter 12:3-8 is spiritual gifts. Surely spiritual gifts are only to be found in born again believers, so it would make sense that everything Paul is saying in this section is about the church, as opposed to referring to all people everywhere. Even more specifically, it appears Paul is talking about not being prideful about spiritual gifts. He goes on to say that we should use our spiritual gifts in proportion to that God given measure of faith (vs. 6). Paul's whole point is that we believers should not be boastful or prideful about our spiritual gifts or the faith with which we exercise them, because it too is a gift from God (vs. 3). So does this passage teach conclusively that all have been granted a measure of faith and can come to salvation? I would say no, and would even go as far as to say that this passage teaches that the faith in view is a gift of God that only those in the church have been granted. We surely don't expect the unsaved to teach or prophesy, because they don't have saving faith or the any other gifts of the Spirit. Even if you came away form this passage not fully convinced, there are other passages that speak very clearly on the question of do all have the faith necessary for salvation? 

One such passage is found in:

2 Thess. 3:2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.

Now here again we need to consider the context. If we begin at:

3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. 5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

So, who is it that does not have faith? The unreasonable and wicked men! Who is that? It sounds like a description of the unconverted. We are told in scripture that the things of God are foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 2:14) and we are told often of our commitment to evil prior to salvation (John 3:19, Eph. 2:3, Rom. 8:7). It is very clear that it is unbelievers that are evil, unreasonable and lack whatever faith is in view. Is it saving faith that is in view? Consider the evangelistic nature of the passage. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that that they should pray for he and others who are spreading the word, that it should spread quickly, but also acknowledges that there will be those who oppose it. Why do they oppose the message of salvation? Because they don't have the faith necessary to believe it and be saved. By contrast, Paul has confidence that the church will do what is commanded by God. How can Paul have this confidence, well I would suggest it is because they do have this God given faith that is clearly said to be lacking in these Paul warns them about!

OK, is there any other passages that bear on this question of "do all have the faith necessary for salvation"?

Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Now it is interesting that the English rendering of this passage says "faithfulness" rather than simply faith. In the Greek the word πίστις (pistis) is a noun that simply means faith! So just like the kind of love, joy and peace in view are unique to believers, who have it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in them. The faith in view, that enables us to believe in the first place, and then to be faithful after that, is a fruit of God's Spirit in us as well! So, do those without the Holy Spirit have this faith? No!

Let me now go back to the Eph. 2:8 passage I began with:

 Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Some have debated the Greek here and and I think the best case is that the grammar and sentence structure support seeing the phrase "and that not of yourselves" as applying to the whole sentence, supporting the notion that the faith and grace are both gifts form God. I will likewise make a case from the English rendering that I think is hard to ignore. I don't think anyone would think grace is a work we do. The very nature of grace is that it is something unearned, a gift by definition! So, why would it be necessary for the scriptures to tell us that grace is a gift of God, not of works, when no one in their right mind would think grace is a work in the first place?  However, if all had the faith necessary to believe and be saved, then we could boast that we believed and others did not? It is not a work of the law either way, but surely if all can exercise saving faith, but only some do, then those who do have some place for being proud of making the right choice when others did not! I think the amazing and very humbling point being made in this passage is the fact that even the faith that brought us to salvation is a gift, even though natural man would tend to think it is something he brought to the salvation process. So we have absolutly nothing in which we can boast, and that is the point!

So do all have the faith necessary to respond to the gospel? I would say absolutely not, as we are spiritually dead (Ehp. 2:1), unable to know or receive the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), unable to please or obey God (Rom. 8:5-8), and unable to come to saving faith in Jesus unless God first makes us able (John 6:35-44, 62-70).

So the second question, if we all have the faith necessary to be saved, why don't we all exercise it becomes a moot point.

The question(s) that now must be considered is why do some have the faith necessary to come to salvation and others do not?

Jesus said to the disciples regarding His teaching in parables:

Matt. 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Whatever the disciples were given so that they could understand and believe Jesus' message, it was not given to everyone!

Jesus said in:

John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

So we know that not all are drawn or chosen by God, but all who are drawn are going to be raised up, and all that have been chosen are appointed to bear fruit. But why are some chosen, why are some called, why are some given the ability to understand, and likewise, why are some given the faith that results in salvation, while others clearly are not?

It is surely for God's glory that He chooses anyone, but  we can't know much beyond that:

1 Cor. 1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”[c]

Eph. 1:3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

2 Tim. 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 

Now, if we are to understand any of this rightly we must acknowledge that we are all justly condmened by God for rejecting Him as He revealed Himslef to all people who have ever lived through His creation (Rom. 1:18-32). We are owed no second chance and He surely had no obligation to change anyones heart from being one who hated Him and willfully rejected the truth, to one who now freely loves Him and wants to obey His word.

With that background to understand my salvation, how do I respond to the reality that God chose to give me the faith necessary to bring me to salvation?

I respond not with accusations of unfairness, but with thanks -

Thank you Lord for granting me, who was foolish and unable to understand or obey your word, the faith necessary to believe and be saved for Your glory!

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."


Monday, June 16, 2014

A giant inconsistency in the animal rights movement!




I am sure many others have made this point before, but I was struck by something this morning as I was reading in -
Matt. 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Is it true that we are more valuable than the other animals? If so, then what does that mean regarding our responsibility toward the earth and other life forms? If we are not more valuable, do we have any special responsibility on earth?

Gen. 1:24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[ the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Here are a few key observations from this text:

1st, we were created by God and in the image of God, something that was different from all the other living things God created.

2nd, we were given dominion over the other created things and the right to eat of them as God permits.

3rd, the unique nature/value of mankind, comes with the command that we be stewards of the earth!

Later we read a beautiful summary of this concept in -

Gen. 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

So, we have a clear distinction made by God between us and the other life He created. However, with that comes a special responsibility to tend and keep the earth. He clearly has called mankind to be caretakers of the earth, and we must assume that we can do that wisely and effectively, as we seek to follow Him according to His word!

However, if we are not different from the other life forms on earth, then we have no special responsibility to manage or protect them! If God did not set us apart for that role, then we don't have it. In fact, if you were to believe in evolution, I could argue that I have a responsibility to do what is best for me and me alone! If I am stronger, and you are weaker, I should survive and you should die, if that is what my survival requires.


You might argue for some kind of responsibility to steward the earth so there would be food for other humans tomorrow, so the human race can survive, or you might say we have a special responsibility to take care of other animals, because we have a unique evolutionary place, as very intelligent beings, to do what other animals can't.

To these or any other arguments for our responsibility toward other life forms I give the same answer –
Says who?

Pita cofounder and animal rights activist Ingrid Bergman said “A rat, is a pig, is a dog, is a boy”. If you believe mankind is just another life form created through the evolutionary process, then you must agree with miss Bergman, and it follows we have no special value or obligations on earth.


So, either we believe God created us in His image to worship and serve Him as outlined in His word, including being special stewards of the earth.

Or

We could sleep just fine and let the rats, dogs, and pigs worry about other life forms if they want!


  "Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wretched does it again!

 
I think this video gives a pretty good snapshot of why the gospel isn't being shared much by "Christians" today. Be sure to visit and support Wretched Radio if you can!