Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can I Lose My Salvation?

         The deeper I grow in my knowledge of God, His Word, and the work of Jesus Christ, the more I grow rooted in the doctrine of eternal security.  My eternal security is the result of God keeping me until the day that He calls me home and it is not the result of me striving to maintain my salvation through my good works.  I never earned my salvation and therefore I could never maintain it.  It is God who guarantees the believer’s salvation through the work of Jesus Christ.  We are told in Jude 24 that, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy."  God’s power is able to keep the believer from falling away from Him until the day we stand before Him.  In another sense, the belief in the doctrine of eternal security is the belief that God keeps His promises towards us.
         Believers are told in Ephesians 4:30 that they are “sealed for the day of redemption” by the Holy Spirit.  Many of us have memorized John 3:16 which states that God gives the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  If our eternal life could be taken away then it was never eternal and it was never free.  It could then be defined as merit-based salvation.  Christians who have genuinely repented of their sins and have turned to God for the salvation of their souls can rest in the fact that God will keep them secure to the very end as He said He would.
         One of the greatest verses in Scripture that believers can take comfort is found in Romans 8:38-39.  It states, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Our eternal security is based upon the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary.  His blood was never meant to be temporary but it provided cleansing for past, present, and future sins (Eph. 1:3-14).  Our eternal security was promised by God the Father, provided by the work of Jesus Christ, and is secured by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit until Christ returns.  So, if someone asks if we can lose our salvation, the answer should be emphatically NO—not according to Scripture.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Does God Change His Mind?

There are times in Scripture when it appears that God is changing His mind.  In fact, we may even pray for God to change His mind about a given situation but is this possible if He has already made up His mind?  When someone changes his/her mind, it is often because they have learned new information about a matter that was not previously known or because the circumstances have changed and require a different attitude or approach.  However, if we truly believe that God is omniscient (that He knows all things), then He cannot learn something new that He did not already know.  So, when the Bible speaks of God changing His mind, it should be understood that the circumstance or situation has changed and not God.
How then do we explain verses that seem to say that God does change His mind?  Genesis 6:6 says, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  We also read in Exodus 32:14, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  These verses speak of the Lord “repenting” or “relenting” of something and seem to contradict the doctrine of God’s immutability (This is the doctrine that God does not change in His quality of being).  In fact, in the book of Jonah that we are currently studying on Sunday mornings, we see Jonah walking the streets of Nineveh cautioning the Assyrians that if they do not repent then God was going to destroy them.  Praise God they repented because we are told that God relented and had compassion on them and he did not bring the destruction that was told to them (Jonah 3).
The immutability of God (His quality of not changing) is clearly taught all throughout Scripture (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  The immutability of God is directly related to God’s omniscience.  The fact that God changes His treatment of us in response to our choices has nothing to do with God's character changing.  It is a matter of people working within the framework of God’s principles and God’s character.   If someone repents, God consistently forgives in accordance to His Word and His character; if someone refuses to repent, God consistently judges according to His Word and His character.   Therefore, God is unchanging in His nature, His plan, and His being.   God told the Assyrians living in Nineveh, “I’m going to judge you unless you repent”.  This may appear that God changed His mind; however, in reality, God was simply staying true to His Word and character (repent and I’ll forgive; continue in wickedness and I’ll destroy).
Consider this, at one time we were enemies of God because of our sinfulness and we deserved hell as our just payment.  When we repented and put our faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, God viewed us differently in that we were no longer His enemies but His children (John 1:12).  What changed?  We did.  It would be contrary to God’s Word and His character to punish us after we have repented.  Did our change of heart change God’s mind?  Our salvation actually points to the fact that God does not change but that He works according to His will and His Word.  In summary, our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He always works within His righteous character and He holds us accountable to the parameters set forth in His Word.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Was Casting Lots Biblical and Is it for Today?

            In Scripture we read many times of those who cast lots to seek and know the will of God in a particular matter.  In fact, both God’s people and the world practiced casting lots for decision-making.  Examples of the world would be the sailors on Jonah's ship (Jonah 1:7) who cast lots to determine who had brought God's wrath upon them and their ship.  We also know of the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35) at the foot of the cross.  Casting lots eventually became a game for wagering.  The practice of casting lots is actually mentioned some 70 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament. 

The tradition of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21).  Casting lots was a procedure that God instructed the Israelites to do several times in the book of Numbers (Num. 26:55; 34:13; 36:2).   On a couple of occasions God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will in a given situation (Josh. 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5).  Although it may not sound very sacred, lots were even cast for determining various offices and functions in the temple. (1 Chron. 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14).  In the New Testament we read of the eleven apostles casting lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26).

We are uncertain exactly what this looked like at the time although historically it would appear that a short stick in the mix of longer sticks was one way.  Some used stones with one being marked differently from the rest.  Even the rolling of dice was used as a means of making decisions or casting lots.  A simplified version today in making a decision is to flip a coin. 

Christians are nowhere instructed to use this practice in determining the will of God today.  Some things to consider would be the fact that we have the complete Word of God.  God has given us His complete revelation in order to know His will for our lives.  God has also given believers the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to lead and guide them each and every day.  Life does not have to be determined today by casting lots or flipping a coin.  In Scripture, at one time, God chose to make His will clear to those that he wanted by utilizing this method of casting lots.  It was a Biblical method that God chose at one time and it was also a method used outside of God by the world for decision-making and entertainment purposes.  God has also gifted believers with the privilege of prayer in which believers can go directly to God and converse with Him in knowing His Will. 

My summation is that it was indeed Biblical in its day and yet it is not for today since we have the completed Word of God, God’s indwelling Spirit, and the ministry of prayer to converse with God.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why are we here as a Church?

         I suppose that if we were to ask several people this same question we would get many different answers.  At times our answers may even need to be explained, even though they may all sound Biblical.  The church is comprised of believers who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.  God’s expectation is that believers come together and worship Him through song and the teaching of the Word (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-25).  Although God is the focus of this time together, we are privileged to take part in the blessings of fellowship as we labor together to bring Him glory.  As we gather and grow in the knowledge of the Word and the Lord Jesus Christ, we then know how to worship and serve Him more effectively. 

            Most of us only spend an hour or so at church each week so the question remains,  “what do we do with the rest of our time each week to worship and serve Him with our lives?”  Some of us have various ministries that we serve in on a weekly or monthly basis.  The job that Jesus Christ gave His church is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), which means taking the Gospel message and telling the world that Jesus Christ came to die for their sins and that He was raised according to Scripture in order that they might have the forgiveness of sins.  This is called the Good News (or the Gospel).  But when was the last time that we verbally shared the Gospel with another person if this is truly our daily job and objective in life as a Christian?

            As a church, our vision is to Become a People to Reach People for Christ.”  Our troops (our church family) must go into battle each week and build bridges to their community in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  Paul asks this question in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  We, as an entire church family, have the Biblical responsibility to share Christ as our mission!  We have every reason to be proud of this life-changing message that turns hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.  God’s Word and His love are powerful and everyone needs to hear this Good News.   Maywood EFC is God’s church that He will use to glorify His name.  His blessings will rest upon us only as we are obedient to the calling that He has given us.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are Adam & Eve in Heaven?

I was recently asked, “How can Adam and Eve be in Heaven since they died before Jesus Christ came and died for their sins.”  This is a very good question and can be applied to all Old Testament saints of God.  Scripture is very clear that all mankind are sinners and that they stand in condemnation for their sin.  We will all go to hell as the penalty for our sins unless we are cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ came as the only acceptable sacrifice that could wash away the sins of the world (Romans 5:12-21).
Prior to Jesus Christ, mankind was called to offer to God a blood sacrifice through animals as atonement for their sin (Heb. 9:22).  These sacrifices would be repeated over and over again until one day Jesus Christ would come and serve as the final sacrifice, “once and for all” (Heb. 10:10).  Although God’s people did not fully understand the full redemption story, they did act upon what God called them to do and they were promised a Messiah who would come and serve as their Redeemer.  Their obedience was credited to them as righteousness.  Christ’s blood provides forgiveness for all sins for all times (past, present, and future). 
In Hebrews 11 we are told that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many others had faith in God’s promises of what was to come—the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Although they did not fully understand in detail about Jesus Christ, they understood that they had a Holy God that demanded their unrighteous deeds (their sin) be accounted for by a blood sacrifice.  Verses 39-40 of that chapter tells us that they were commended through their faith even though Christ had not yet come—He was on His way to the cross.  Their faith and obedience to what God asked of them was credited to them as righteousness.
Adam and Eve’s own son, Abel, must have understood about a blood sacrifice.  We are told in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.  And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”  We are not told specifically that Adam and Eve are in Heaven but I believe that the Bible shows that it is a good possibility based upon the fact that they understood the need for a blood sacrifice.  Abel was Adam and Eve’s son and it seems that the only way he could have learned about God was from his parents.  After all, they walked with God and talked with God. They were the first two humans ever created.  They were the first to sin and that sin started the practice of making sacrifices to God for the forgiveness of sins.
According to Scripture, Abel knew how to offer a sacrifice that was pleasing to God. He offered that sacrifice with a heart that believed in God through faith, and he probably learned that from his parents, Adam and Eve.  If all that is true, then it seems as though Adam and Eve knew the truth as well, and if they did, we will probably see them in Heaven.  Remember, not every man and woman of God are listed in Hebrews 11 but those that are, serve as great examples of trusting God by faith alone for their salvation.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Controlling Our Tongue

Too often our words leave our mouths faster than we can process the impact that they will have on others.  I can’t begin to count the number times my own words have caused more difficulty and heartache than I ever intended them to do.  Our words are capable of breathing life into other people as we speak the truth in love.  Our words are also capable of sucking the life out of others and even cause painful division for years as we speak lies, gossip, or unkind things about them.  The timeliness of our words can also bring about a great deal of heartache.  I believe one of the best ways to gain control of our speech is to read, pray, and memorize Scripture, as it will shape how we speak to others.  When Christians yield the control of their every word to the Holy Spirit of God they can then begin to see how God uses them in building and reaching others. 
Please read, reflect and pray these verses of Scripture concerning our words:
1.     Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
2.     Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
3.     Proverbs 12:18, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
4.     Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
5.     Proverbs 26:20, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
6.     Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
7.     James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”
8.     James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Choosing to Honor Others

           Relationships that flourish demand a great deal of work.  Many people have never had the privilege of growing up in a home where parents fostered healthy vibrant relationships.  Some have never had the sweet closeness of a friend that they could pour their hearts out to.  Most desire good relationships but few have ever been taught how to be a friend or how to relate to other people in a way that cultivates a deep meaningful relationship.  Some are even afraid of being hurt if they become too vulnerable with another person.  God has made us to relate to one another in a positive productive way even though we are all different.  Our spouse, child, neighbors, and co-workers are not the enemy even though they think differently than we think~~Satan is!  We are truly capable of learning how to love and communicate in healthy ways with those that God has planted in our lives.  It will certainly be work but it will be most rewarding.

So where do we begin?  Whether relational improvement is needed with a spouse, child, co-worker, neighbor, or friend, I do believe that there is a key ingredient that must be included or the relationship will not thrive.  That often-missing ingredient is HONOR.  Too often we are guilty of going through the motions in a relationship but we really don’t engage our hearts.  At times, we may not really even be concerned with the heart of the other person.  When we intentionally choose to honor another individual we can’t attempt to measure their worth, base it off of how they have treated us, or measure the cost in order to honor them.  Christ is to serve as our standard for love and honor.  Many people work harder at not getting along than they do at trying to build a healthy relationship. 

Consider these characteristics of honor: 

1.     Honor does more than what is expected
2.     Honor hopes and believes the best about others
3.     Honor places others in a place of specialness
4.     Honor places others before ourselves.
5.     Honor focuses on our attitudes that accompany our actions.

Question:  Does our spouse, friend, or children know that we honor them?

Scripture provides a foundation in how we should relate to one another.  Consider praying this verse in Ephesians 4:29-32.

   “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving on e another, as God in Christ forgave you.”