Thursday, December 28, 2017

Is Setting a New Year Resolution Biblical?

It would appear the setting goals would be wise and would lead to better results.  In fact, Solomon tells us that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.”  (Proverbs 21:5)  Some people love to plan out every detail in life but it does not ensure that all of our planning or goals will be met. 

I worked for a pastor as a summer intern who detested laziness so he had all of the young men working on the summer program at the church to memorize Bible verses that focused on planning and working hard.  I recall memorizing Proverbs 6:6-11 which reads:

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” 

Biblically, according to this verse, there is much to be said about the one who will not work but Scripture also challenges those who do not plan for the future.  Christ even said in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” 

I believe that planning and setting goals are an excellent way to complete work.  However, I do believe it is possible to set goals for one’s own glory and never consult or include God.  Solomon says in Proverbs 16:9, ““In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  In other words, do we consult our sovereign God before we make our plans or are we guilty of asking Him to bless what we have already established in our minds.

Even James says that Christians can plan arrogantly by failing to remember that God is the One who gives us each day to live.  Listen to James 4:13-15, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”

I believe that all goals (even a New Year resolution) should be made in tandem with God’s will.  Christians should plan and live with an eternal mindset that demonstrates that there is more than just today that they are living for. Christ told His followers, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Let’s plan and work with God to accomplish great things this year for His glory!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Does the Bible Say to Celebrate Christmas?

You may have never thought to ask this question; however, there are many sincere Christians who choose not to celebrate Christmas for good reasons.  Sadly enough, even though Christmas is considered to be a Christian holiday Christ is being more and more removed from it--even among Christians.  How should a Christian approach this holiday or redeem the holiday in order that Jesus Christ is seen and glorified?

Let's be honest, nowhere in the Bible are Christians told to celebrate Christmas, purchase gifts for one another, cut down trees and decorate them, play Santa clause, or spend excessively because Jesus Christ was born.  Where did all of this come from?  Around the 4th century A.D. and in response to many pagan holidays already existing, some churches (particularly in Germany) chose to celebrate their faith found in Jesus Christ.  It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of every tradition but they were not chosen for pagan purposes.  Some Christians wanted to celebrate the incarnation of Christ and the redemption story.  The challenge for many today is that Christ is being removed from Christmas and the story of redemption is seldom talked about.  There is a story line in all of Scripture and every book of the Bible supports that story line which is the redemption of God's people through the person of Jesus Christ.  This indeed gives believers much to celebrate because salvation has come!

There are some who would argue that the traditions around Christmas are pagan in nature.  Searching traditions from thousands of years ago is very difficult and it becomes very obscure.  In fact, as I've sought to study this out for myself I find sources that even contradict one another.  There are definitely pagan roots to some traditions; however, there are many traditions that have been made to be very Christian in nature and to shine the light on Jesus Christ.  Each year, the secular world crowds Jesus Christ out more and more and alternative rituals and traditions are chosen in order to misrepresent the Christian's Christmas.  Some would argue that Christ was not born on December 25th and offer various reasons concerning the time of a Roman census, the time that the shepherds were in the field, and what the climate would have been at that time in Israel.  I don't believe we know the exact date and I also don't believe that is necessarily important.

Should these concerns nullify Christmas for Christ's people?  I would suggest that Christians are provided a phenomenal platform through this special day to proclaim Jesus' love, His incarnation, and the salvation that He alone brings.  In my opinion, to celebrate Christmas without proclaiming the work of Jesus Christ, is of no value and is even purposeless.  Christmas can be a form of idolatry if Christ is not the center and the One to be glorified.  There appears to be no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas.  At the same time, there is no biblical mandate to celebrate it, either.  I believe that in the end whether or not to celebrate Christmas is a personal decision.  Paul says in Romans 14:5 that when it comes to questionable things that glorify His name that, "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind."  The idea being conveyed is to make sure above anything else that you believe in your heart that God is being glorified with your decisions!

It is so important that we honor our brothers and sisters who choose to celebrate or choose not to celebrate Christmas. This should NOT be a point of contention or division amongst believers.  This is certainly a gray area and God's Spirit can convict each person accordingly.  My challenge for Christians who do celebrate Christmas is to make Christ known through every aspect of your Christmas~~share the redemption story!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What Does It Mean "The Word Became Flesh"?

The term incarnation is a word that Christians use to speak of the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh.  John 1:14 reads, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."  The words "became flesh" literally mean, "the act of being made flesh." 

The purpose of the incarnation was that Jesus Christ would come and serve as the sinless sacrifice for our sins since Christ was the prophesied Savior for mankind.  According to Hebrews 9:22, a blood sacrifice was necessary for the forgiveness of sin, and that permanent cleansing would only come through the perfect Son of God. It was necessary for Him to come, take on physical form, in order that he might die. So in essence it could be said that Christ was born to die.  Through this sacrifice the imputation of His righteousness would be placed upon believers as they placed their faith in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). 

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."Jesus Christ is called the Word, but why?  Scripture also says that Jesus Christ was with God in the beginning--before time began as we know it and before the foundations of the world were ever created.  Jesus Christ was never created by God as He was always God since the beginning.  In this verse we can see the unity of the Father and Son as one.  Christ is called God--He is not another god.  What this verse helps us to understand is that Jesus Christ is the very spoken word of God the Father to us.  Jesus Christ was the full expression of God's love and God's message to mankind.  In fact, Jesus is the total message that God wanted to communicate to the world.

The term "Word" (which means Jesus) is the full embodiment of who God is (Col. 1:19).  Jesus would be that physical message sent by God to the Jews and gentiles.  The message of the promised Messiah that the prophets spoke about went unheeded for years.  Then, at the proper time, the Word became flesh, took on human form, and dwelt among us (Matthew 1:23; Romans 8:3).  Because the Word became flesh, we now have a high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—but yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).

God did an amazing and loving work when He sent His only begotten Son into the world to provide us with a salvation that we did not deserve.  Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.”  We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:19).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Busy Doing Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas it would be appropriate to ask the question, "How much are we emphasizing the coming of the promised Messiah~~the Savior of the world?" to our families, even more particularly to our children?

I believe that most of the time Christ gets lost in the holly, the mistletoe, the eggnog, the gifts, the lights, the tree, the music, and even within the lives of Christians at Christmas.  The depth of the fulfilled promises of Scripture, the fulfilled prophecy of the prophets, and the witness of thousands of people all testify of the One who came, lived, died, and rose again just as predicted thousands of years prior.  The coming of Christ and the redemption of mankind remains the center-piece of Scripture~~this is the true gift.   Christians have every reason to share this Good News especially at Christmas time!  To merely tell someone "Merry Christmas" is far from the Christmas message of Christmas--yet I suppose it beats "Happy Holidays".

Beyond purchasing gifts for the less fortunate and giving to those who are homeless, are we sharing the best news, which is the Good News of Christmas that our Savior came to die to set men free from the bondage of sin that bans them from Heaven and sends them to Hell?  You see, we must talk about more than just the arrival of Jesus at Christmas time, because there was much more to the prophecy and the story.   Take a few moments to read Isaiah 53 to see what the gift of Christmas really entailed because in that prophecy we find the "gift of salvation"~~a beautiful representation of the love of God through the giving of His Son.

Isaiah gives a description of that special gift from God in Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:14, helps us to understand that only this gift of Jesus Christ could remove the bondage of sin from our lives and bring us peace with God the Father and genuine peace with one another.  Truly, "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  

You see, only telling about the birth of Jesus Christ is really only telling the introduction of the Christmas story.  Let's be careful getting lost in all the tinsel and the holly during this Christmas season and feel the freedom to boldly share with those who truly don't know that Christ came to rescue mankind from their condemned state.  We have much to celebrate with boldness and confidence!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Guiding Others to Freedom in Christ

In my early years (ages 12-18) I attended church several times a week and I grew in Christ in some amazing ways.  My life was getting on track spiritually and I was seeking to know the heart of God.  However, I developed a poor understanding of Christianity by striving to live up to everyone else’s expectations of me instead of God’s Word and the standards that He has set for me.  I was truly not free; in fact, I lived in bondage to the desires, whims, and preferences of everyone else—it was most miserable.  This religion, I discovered later was not Christianity according to Christ, but a religion that was fabricated by controlling men and it was very oppressive (Even though those people meant well they were Biblically in error.).

God has given His children a precious freedom in Christ, which means He not only freed us from sin and shame but God has given His children the privilege of living unto Him.  In this process of Christian growth it is truly fine that Christians look a little different although God’s righteousness is the standard for all of our actions.  Being free, enjoying one’s liberty in Christ, and allowing others that same enjoyment is often hard to do, especially if one is insecure.  This is especially hard if one was raised by legalistic parents or led by a legalistic pastor.  This type of parenting and leadership is often manipulative and ultra-controlling.  It leaves no room for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those who know Christ and it is often a very judgmental religion. 

Rather than using God’s Word as a tool to teach the Truth in a spirit of love it is often used as a hammer to beat people down into submission.  For many, including myself, it often takes years to walk freely under the authority of God and His Word alone without a cloud of guilt hovering over us for failing to comply with a list of man-made rules. God’s Word and His Spirit are sufficient to lead all men and women into righteousness without a list of rules imposed by others. 

If you have truly been set free from the bondage of sin and you are now living unto Jesus Christ, be careful casting judgment on those who remain under bondage from a list of rules that are imposed by others.  The Apostle Paul identifies them as the weaker brothers in Romans 14:13-23.  Let’s not use our freedom in Christ as a stumbling block for those who still struggle under a system that holds them hostage.  Choose to live as a mature Christian and keep pointing others back to Christ.  The joy that you have in the Lord will serve as the greatest proof that you have been set free from the bondage of sin.


            “It was for freedom that Christ set us free….” (Gal. 5:1)

            “For he who has died is freed from sin.”  (Rom. 6:7)

            “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free….” (Rom. 8:2)

            “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helpful Resources for Good Bible Study

How are we to study God’s Word without going to Bible College or possessing a large library of Biblical books?  Christ promised when He left this earth that He would send us the Spirit of Truth, which would lead us into all truth (John 16:3).  In other words, God’s own Spirit helps us to understand the depths of Scripture and God’s Spirit also brings believers into the knowledge of salvation.  We also know from Scripture that there are godly men and women who have the gift of teaching in order that they can help us understand the depths of God’s Word. 
I have been blessed to add to my personal library over the years, while attending seminary, so I currently have about 3500 volumes to use as I study each week.  The challenge is that not everyone has the same resources at their disposal when they want to study the Word of God.  Allow me to suggest that the Internet is still a free resource but it is not always a safe resource for searching out Biblical Truth.  I would personally not read some things that various men write due to disagreement in their theology or their sloppy interpretation skills.  Some Internet sites appear sound in their teaching and some are outright blasphemous and heretical as they deviate from God’s Word.
In one sense, every Christian should be a theologian~~one who studies the depth of God’s character and His Word.  I would like to share with you some various tools that can help you study the Word of God.
Ø  Maywood’s Leadership Library has many great books and commentaries.
Ø  Here are some external resources that you can begin to utilize:
Ø  Start with the Bible / Read the Text over & over again / Compare Scripture with Scripture & Pray through the Text as you read.
Ø  Study with others who are digging into the depths of God’s Word.
Ø  Ask questions about the Text and seek the answers in the Text.
Ø  Your pastors can also help you find the right answers or resources.
Studying can become so much more enjoyable as you begin to make use of the various tools that God has provided for us to know His Word!  Come and join a Life-Group to study God’s Word with us if you have not joined one yet.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Addicted to Pain Killers?

Most of us at one time have chosen to make use of pain medications in order to numb the pain of something that we were experiencing.  We all have different pain tolerances and some of us may even refuse to take pain meds to help deal with the misery and discomfort we’re experiencing.  Medications are not inherently evil.  In fact, the Bible speaks of the need for Timothy to “use a little wine” for his illness (1 Tim. 5:23).  At the time the Bible was written, people would often use alcohol to alleviate pain and unpleasant symptoms (Proverbs 31:6).  It is the abuse that is wrong and what the Bible would condemn.

Today, as in times past, people strive to mask their problems instead of dealing with them.  This may be true with physical problems as well as spiritual problems.  Dealing with problems is often more difficult but it eliminates the problem at its roots.  Masking problems only prolongs or exasperates the issue that must be dealt with later.  Ignoring our problems only compounds the real issue and ultimately complicates the resolve if neglected.

There are many today who are addicted to pain killers and they do not believe that they can exist without them.  Many acquire and possess them illegally as their addiction has become so severe.  We may feel that this does not represent us but could it be us “spiritually”?  Do we subsidize our Christian lives with things that are not of Christ and things that are not godly in order to offset the pain that we live with each day?  Do we create an environment around ourselves to help us live with the pain and discomfort instead of repenting and turning to God?  Many of us have silent pains and hurts that we deal with each day and nobody knows about.  I would like to ask, “what are we self-prescribing for these problems”?

What I am asking is, “Is God our remedy and present help in time of trouble?” (Psalm 46:1) or have we found a temporary replacement for Him?  Are we dependent upon a foreign substance or a cheap substitute for joy to help us make it through this life instead of seeking the strength and joy of the Lord (Neh. 8:10; Phil. 4:13)?  God is truly concerned about our pain and heartache and He longs to be our Remedy.  Are we willing to seek the comfort from the One who gives healing both spiritually and physically in order to find rest and healing?  Christ welcomes us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Do Pets Go to Heaven?

Some of my fondest and most heart-warming memories while growing up as a kid were when our family had various pets.  It was amazing how our family dog brought such joy and laughter to us all.  I can also pinpoint times in which that same dog brought about great frustration such as when she chose to hurt me by chewing the head off of my only G.I. Joe action figure!  I never saw any sorrow in her eyes after having done this evil deed!  I even recall the day that my tough-skinned father shed tears when we had to put that dog to “sleep” due to health issues.  I’m sure many of us have “Old Yeller” stories that tug at our hearts and cause us to cherish the specialness of our pets.
One might assume that all pets go to heaven and that we will be reunited with them on that glorious day when we see Christ.  Might we finally own a perfect, obedient, and potty-trained pet?  Scripture does not say a great deal about animals going to Heaven.  We may even stand guilty of offering great confidence to our children that our pet will be in Heaven waiting for us on a golden leash.
We do know a few things in Scripture about this matter but we are not told at all in Scripture that animals have eternal souls—only humans do.  We do know that both mankind and animals were given their breath of life from God (Gen. 1:30; 2:7; 7:15).  But, God’s Word tells us that only humanity was made in the image of God and that man would live forever whether with God or eternally separated from Him (Gen. 1:26-27; Rev. 20:15).  Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death.  In Scripture, only man is identified with the ability to truly know God and to depart from this world and live with Him eternally.  This does not mean that animals do not have a personality or that they are not distinct from one another.  We are just not told that they have souls or that they have an eternal spirit that will live forever.
Remember, animals were a part of God’s creative order and I suspect that we will have them for certain in the Millennium (Isaiah 11:6) and there is a good probability in the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:1).  We do know that God is just, kind, and right in all that He does.  We can know that Heaven will serve as the perfect place for all eternity with God present.  I do believe that we would be adding to Scripture to say that we will see our current pets on Heaven’s shore waiting for us.  We can know with confidence that we will stand in agreement with God when we reach Heaven whether we see our current pets there or not.  Until then, lets enjoy the pets that God has created and blessed us with as gifts from Him to enjoy while here on earth.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Is Tithing Required Today?

Over the years I have had many conversations with people who have asked me about tithing.  There are many who struggle with money and have every dollar spoken for before they ever receive their paycheck so tithing or giving an offering to the Lord becomes painful for them.  For some Christians, they want to get it right and honor God with all that they have in order that His name would be glorified with what they own.  I believe that all Christians have a duty to honor Christ with their finances and that giving to the Lord and His church ought to be something that they regularly budget and plan whether they want to call it a tithe or an offering.

Here are some quick observations that I have made concerning Scripture and giving to the Lord.  For most Christians today giving a tithe means giving 10% of their paycheck to the Lord.  Some would even argue that this should be based off of our gross and not net.   Many good Christians disagree on tithing and we need to be careful not to break fellowship over this subject.  I would agree that this subject is not the clearest in Scripture.  My answer to the question, “Is the tithe required today?” would be—No.  Please allow me to explain before I’m identified as a heretic.  The tithe was part of the Mosaic Law given to Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. 

The New Testament is very clear that we are not under the Law any longer (Gal. 3; Rom. 7; Heb. 9 & 10).  The tithe was taken to the tabernacle and the temple to be given to the Levitical priest.  It would be used to carry out the responsibilities of ministry and for the care of the priests.  We don’t have the tabernacle, temple, or Levitical priests today.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest and Christians are the living temple of God.  Some would say that Christ commanded tithing in the New Testament such as in Matthew.  Remember, Jesus Christ Himself lived under the Mosaic Law while He ministered here on earth, which is why he instructed the Pharisees in how to bring their tithe to the altar.  The law ended with the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Praise God!). 

Some would suggest that Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek (a priest of God in Gen. 14:20) and Jacob gave a tithe (at Bethel in Gen. 28) to the Lord prior to the Mosaic Law—which is true.  However, these were one-time gifts and this is not an instituting of a tithe for all of God’s people—not until Mt. Sinai. 

I’m all for folks who want to give 10% to God’s church in order for the Gospel to go forward.  However, the practice taught in the New Testament (2 Cor. 8 & 9) is sacrificial, generous giving to the Lord.  The average 2.8% tithe today would truly not be considered sacrificial or generous.  God often receives our leftovers or what we think we can afford to give Him.  Our giving tells a great deal about our “faith walk” in Christ and our great gratitude towards the great salvation that He has given us.  It tells a story about the ownership of our lives and whom we trust.  The Old Testament tithe as I have studied appears to be more than 10% when all of the various tithes were considered—it was actually over 20% (ouch).

I believe that God calls all Christians to sacrificial and generous giving that will increase our joy and trust in Him.  Unfortunately, many Christians will never experience this full joy.  According to Christ and Scripture, there is a direct correlation between our love for Christ and the way we release the things of this earth (our belongings and money) in order to glorify Him.  It becomes a matter or ownership.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Can Scripture Be Trusted in All it Says?

For many Christians this is a rhetorical question that should not be answered.  However, there are many today who do not accept the claims of Scripture as being from God or that the things stated in Scripture hold true in this life.  I would propose that all the words in Scripture are completely true and without error in any part (2 Tim 3:14-17).  They can be trusted in all that they say and they should serve as the basis for all of our faith and practice.  Because God is a God who cannot speak a “lie”, His words can always be trusted in all that they say (Titus 1:2). 

The psalmist says concerning God’s Words, “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).  It is not just that some of the words of Scripture are true but Solomon says that, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Pr. 30:5).  It would be good to remember that God’s Word is fixed in heaven for all eternity.  We are told in Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”  His words are never changing so that we can safely trust them for all times.

Jesus Christ Himself affirmed the truthfulness of His own words and His fathers.  He says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  In John 17:17 Jesus teaches that, “Your word is truth.”  The word “truth” in the Greek is actually a noun, which implies that God’s word is not just true but it is truth itself.  The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is the ultimate definition of what is true or what is not true.  This is why our churches need to stand firm on the authority of Scripture alone as the ultimate standard for truth by which all other claims are measured. 

A key word to know when speaking about the truthfulness of Scripture is the word inerrancy.  It means that Scripture, in the original manuscripts, does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.   This does not mean that the Bible tells us every thing there is to know about every subject.  This definition does affirm that what it does say about any subject is indeed true in all it says.  2 Timothy 4:16-17 assures believers that God has provided, through His word, everything that believers would ever need to know in order to live a righteous life before Him.

Walk in confidence today knowing that God’s Word stands completely trustworthy and that it is sufficient for everything that we would need to live this life and to prepare us for the next.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Invest in Yourself Today

The other day I was reading through Proverbs and God’s Spirit continued to massage the following verses into my heart and mind in order for me to reflect on the greatness of our God and His plans for my life.  Take a moment to reflect on some Scripture that God used to encourage my own heart this week. 

Proverbs 16:1-4, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.   Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

One of the first things that God’s Spirit challenged me with was the fact that I often plan apart from God even though God always knows my future and what is best for me.  You see, at times I pray for God to bless the plans that I have already established for my life as if I know what is best (yikes) ~~I know this does not sound very spiritual.  In fact, the things that I plan and do can be justified within my own heart~~even if they are not truly honorable.  God knows my selfish motives and my words / actions before I ever speak or do them.  I forfeit the best things in this life and the things that can bring me the greatest joy for cheap substitutes that could never measure up to God’s best for me.

God’s desire for His people is that each day we would commit our plans and work to Him for His glory.  It is by the practice of including God in everything that God’s will for our lives can be understood and known.  I’m afraid that many times we are too busy laboring for God that we don’t labor with God in order to do lasting work.  We even focus on the wrong work at times that will be burned up some day.  God has a purpose for everyone, which is to glorify His name, and this even includes the use of the wicked for His glory (look at verse 4 and consider Pharaoh). 

As we learn to embrace the truth, that we live best when we live with the sovereignty of God in mind, it will give peace and confidence for each day.  This is truly investing in ourselves, as we trust more in the ability of God our Father.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where Did the Old Testament Saints Go When They Died?

A good question that I’ve been asked in the past is where did the Old Testament Saints go when they died since Jesus Christ had not come yet.  Hebrews 11 talks about those who walked by faith and trusted God’s promises for a better day when Christ would come.  By their faith, “people of old received their commendation” (Heb. 11:2).  Many names are identified such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah (to name a few).  Scripture says that they “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).    We are told, “they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16).  They looked forward to the day that they would dwell with God and they trusted God’s provision for that day.  It was only by their faith in the promises of God that they would see Him again one day.
One example of walking by faith and looking for a better day would be Abraham.  We are told that when God tested Abraham, he acted in obedience by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice unto the Lord.  Although Isaac was spared, Abraham followed through by trusting in the character and promises of God.  All of those identified in Hebrews 11 are examples of those who placed their faith in God and God commended them for their faith in Him.  Throughout Scripture there is a progressive revelation of the person of Jesus Christ and what He would accomplish.  The closer to His arrival the more God’s people understood about the plan of salvation. 
So what happened to those who walked by faith in God who passed away before Christ came?  It would appear that the Old Testament believers, when they died, went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:19-30).  It was a place of comfort and rest prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At that point in time they were united with Jesus Christ in Heaven (Eph. 4:8-10).  The Bible teaches that believers who die today go immediately to heaven and live in the presence of the Lord (Phil. 1:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:1).  Believers today are saved in the same manner as believers of old~~they place their faith and belief in God alone for their salvation, they repent of their sins, and they follow Him.
We can plan on seeing and enjoying common fellowship with the Saints of old some day!

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.