Sunday, March 11, 2012

There is a lot of work to do

To my brothers and sisters in America and throughout the whole world:

I want to encourage you with this note.  You may feel like our Christian kingdom, the Church, is losing ground in the world.  You are right to be concerned.  We do indeed have little strength.  We are losing the fight on many fronts.  But the time we live in does not represent the end of our Church; it represents a rebirth of our Church.  Though we have little strength, it is our Father in heaven that created the earth, and He dictates everything that goes on therein.  If you will give me your attention for a few minutes, for the purpose of advancing God's kingdom, I want to describe some of the work that is before us as a church.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, and in perfect Christian unity, may we do great things to the glory of God.

Knowing the Bible
It is so essential that we as Christians know God's word.  So that other people can hear the truth from us, and for ourselves to actually know the truth, having knowledge of what the Bible actually does say and what the Bible actually does not say is a foundation of the Christian life.  A Christian with a good knowledge of God's word is a secure and steadfast believer.  How, my beloved, will you recognize a false doctrine if you do not know God's word?  How will you lead the lost to Christ if you do not know the truth yourself?  Strengthen yourself.  Strengthen your faith.  Strengthen your ministry.  Read the Bible.

I won't tell you that there is a right and wrong way to read the Bible; simply read it.  Read it one page a day; 20 pages a week.  Read front to back; back to front, or start somewhere in the middle.  Whatever way works best for you.  But read it, and take to heart what is written in the Bible.

This is especially for the men of God.  Expect to be challenged on your beliefs.  But don't run from it, rather invite it.  If you are educated and aware of the evidences that support your beliefs, particularly the Bible itself, then there wouldn't be the slightest lack of confidence.  This will go a long way towards advancing the kingdom of God.  A good place to start is with those evidences that support the Bible, primarily manuscripts, archaeology and prophecy.  There's many books, websites and apologists to discover (I'll leave the pleasure to you).

Here is a fight we face right here at home.  I know we are on the same page when it comes to abortion, so I won't say much.  I will just say this: It is an all-fronts war.  Please, if its something you can apply yourself to, join in the battle.  There's no secret to winning and ridding our societies of this wickedness other than shear will-power and speaking out.

The hurting, helpless and hungry
There is always something a Christian can devote his/her life to.  Running a food bank.  Visiting those in prison.  Helping communities recover from natural disasters.  Defending the persecuted.  Medical supplies, clean water, blankets, clothing, shelter and food for the needy.  Each individual Christian cannot do all of these things, but that is why we operate as a church.  Find something you can do; let your brothers and sisters pick up the rest.  If we apply ourselves to be more active and obedient in our faith, then I am convinced we can do all of these things and more on a global scale. 

Christians must be more involved in politics.  If you look at some of the things listed above, you see that there are some things we cannot do without using the force of government.  Lets take this for example: If we want to protect our Christian brothers and sisters in Africa or Asia from violence, then we must be involved in our own government.  It certainly does not do us any good to abandon politics, which is what some Christians have done.  How about abortion?  That is another political issue in which we must be involved in politics to effect a change in the law. 

Reclaiming society's institutions
Something I did not mention, but is foundational to the Christian life, is making disciples of all nations.  I should not need to mention it; it should be something that all Christians are always conscience of.  Going beyond disciple making (which is advancing the kingdom of God), I want to point something out: The church has lost basically every institution of society.  We have lost the media completely.  We have lost most colleges/universities.  We have lost much of the justice system.  Politicians only pretend to be Christian, and much of the business world has forgotten what morals are.  We have lost any grip on these institutions that we once had.  Now I'm not saying we go out and reclaim these institutions right away; that would be practically impossible (without a miracle from God).  I'm saying that we should set it as a long-term goal that we will reclaim every one of these institutions.  Hollywood will one day be ours.  We should one day practically own the media.  The colleges and universities should be overrun with Christians.  If we do the things above - make disciples, train ourselves and be more involved - and we put our trust in God, then one day we certainly will regain these institutions. 

So if you have a talent, put it to use.  If you have compassion for the weak and poor, find an outlet.  If you find yourself a good debater, apologetics or politics or both may be where God wants you.  If you love to teach, the colleges and universities need more Christian professors.  If you enjoy the spotlight, sneak your way into the media.  If you have a zeal for the unborn, there is much activism still to be done.  In whatever you do, do it for the Lord.  Pray constantly.  God is with you.  Your brothers and sisters are with you.  We are one.  We will win this fight, because God gives us strength. 

Thank you for reading.  God bless you.  God bless His Church.  May the Holy Spirit guide you with passion and wisdom.

Life By The Spirit

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  Galatians 5:16

There is a somewhat ambiguous traditional teaching espoused by evangelicals, which really does not include a sufficient teaching on regeneration and the Holy Spirit.  Its a teaching that focuses much more on faith and grace and salvation.  I say that because its important to distinguish something in clear terms - what we mean by salvation.  To do that I want to exegete the book of Galatians as best I can.  Now to expound on the verse above:

What is the sinful nature?  In verses 5:19-21 Paul gives us the acts of the sinful nature, so its not hard to know what the result of the sinful nature is.  In verse 3:22 Paul says that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.  And in 5:1 he states that Christ has set us free from sin.  This is the Spirit that Paul speaks of, the Holy Spirit.  Paul implies in 3:5 that the Galatians received the Holy Spirit when they believed the message of Christ rather than obeying the Old Testament law.  Then in 3:14 he plainly states that by faith we receive the Holy Spirit.  We can conclude that by faint in Christ Jesus, who was sent to earth by the grace of God, we receive the Holy Spirit to be set free from sin (overcome the sinful nature).  That means that we produce the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in 5:22-23, and not the acts of the sinful nature 5:19-21. 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires  Galatians 5:24

This is very important to note, because I've heard a number of evangelicals say that a person will always have the sinful nature.  This idea is vaguely derived from the doctrine of Total Depravity, which has no biblical basis but that's another note.  I want to make this point really clear: Everyone who is born of the Spirit by faith in Christ puts to death the sinful nature.  There is no "occasionally we sin" or "we sin because we're sinners" or other such excuse-breeding statements.

Now lets get back to the point: What do we mean by salvation?  What does it mean to be "saved"?  That's a very important question to answer, and here again I think many evangelicals do not sufficiently answer this question.  Paul writes about receiving the Holy Spirit by faith, as we have noted above.  Certainly we can call this salvation, but is this entry into heaven?  This salvation is regeneration (being born again), and becoming a son of God, as Paul writes in 4:6.  But we would have a contradiction if we believe that this meant the race was won, the game was done, and salvation by faith grants automatic entry to heaven.  Paul states clearly in 5:21 that no one who lives to gratify the sinful nature will inherit the kingdom of God.  So there must be more than just faith if anyone is to enter heaven.  I conclude (but I encourage you to make your own conclusion by your own studies of Scripture) that there is a salvation by faith, which is regeneration, and an ultimate salvation by the fruit of regeneration, which is eternal life in heaven.  Its not just what can be gleaned from the book of Galatians, but also what is written in the rest of the New Testament.  Galatians, however, seems to be a favorite of many evangelicals, along with the rest of Paul's letters.  I would encourage evangelicals to avoid sloppy evangelism, and to make sure that every doctrine and tenet of their faith is in line with Scripture, as well as clearly defined.  When we do not concisely and clearly define the terms we use, it often leads to many misunderstandings.

Saved By Faith Alone? No!

I was taught in church, for the longest time, that it is through faith alone that a person is saved.  It wasn't until I started taking the Bible seriously, reading it and searching for myself that I saw how wrong that statement is.  There is not a single verse in the Bible that says a person is "saved by faith alone."  And I read many things, particularly in Matthew and particularly from Jesus, that gave me a conviction: that a person absolutely needs to do good works.  In this note I pray to prove, from the Scripture, exactly that.  Let me be clear, I am simply and only saying this: Good works are necessary for salvation.  I am not arguing for any salvation equation.  I am not going into depth with soteriology.  I am simply making the point that a person must do good deeds - produce good fruit - to be saved.  Faith is necessary.  Good works are necessary.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire  Matthew 7:18-19

So what happens if you don't bear good fruit?  I think this verse is pretty clear on that

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 7:21

We can argue over who it is saying "Lord, Lord," but it seems to me that these are people who have some kind of faith (whatever kind you want to call it).  If they had no faith, then there would be no reason that they would be calling Him Lord.  But the second part of this verse is the part I want to point out.  This verse alone proves my point: only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Pretty simple, you cannot enter heaven unless you do the will of the Father.

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.  Matthew 12:36-37

Men who speak evil = condemned / Men who speak righteously = acquitted.  Amazing how simple Jesus makes it.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  Matthew 16:27

How is He going to reward each person?  According to what he has done.

So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.'  His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Matthew 25:25-26

This is from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  You can read the rest to see what happens to this servant, who did nothing with the talent that was given to him.

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  Matthew 25:45-46

This is from the passage of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25.  The sheep are the ones who serve the needy.  The goats are the ones who do not serve the needy.  Jesus makes it very clear, if you do nothing for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick or the prisoner (and I'm sure He would include other similar persons), then you are doing nothing for Him, and you will be cast into hell.

I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God  Luke 12:8-9

Acknowledge Christ before men = being acknowledged by Christ / Do not acknowledge Christ before men = not being acknowledged by Christ.  Again, Jesus makes it very simple.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval  John 6:27

What does He say to do for food that endures to eternal life?  Work.

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.  John 12:47-48

Those who do not accept Jesus' words = condemned.  Now I think He means ALL of His words, not just the soft nice sounding John 3:16

If you love me, you will obey what I command  John 14:15

Those who do not obey Jesus' commands but say they love Him are either lying or calling Jesus a liar.

Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  Revelation 22:12

Jesus is basically repeating what He said in Matthew 16:27.  Pretty self-explanatory.

Now if the words of Jesus are not enough to convince you, let me quote from the apostles as well.

God "will give to each person according to what he has done."  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  Romans 2:6-8

Those who like to quote Romans to say "faith alone" are twisting what Paul was saying.  Firstly, Paul never said "faith alone".  Secondly, the works that Paul was referring to was OT laws, particularly circumcision.  The reason he wrote to emphasize faith and the gift of grace was to rebuke their pride in circumcision and OT works.  Read the context and you will see this clearly.

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Ephesians 5:6

He even reinforces this statement with the "For of this you can be sure"

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God  Hebrews 10:26-27

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone  James 2:24

This is the only place in the Bible where the phrase "faith alone" is written.  Unfortunately for the Protestants, its not "by faith alone" but "not by faith alone".  When Protestants teach "saved by faith alone" it is a direct contradiction to what is written here.

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear  1Peter 1:17

Judges each man's what?  Work.

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever  1John 2:17

The man who what?  Does the will of God

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.  They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord  Jude 4

I quote this last verse to point out what the "faith only" crowd does.  They turn the grace of God into a license to commit sin.  They demean works, even suggesting that anyone who does good works is "self righteous" or "holier than thou".


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.