Category Archives: salvation

The Authorized Gospel

There are many “Gospels” in the world but only one has been authorized to be preached by Jesus. Do you preach or believe an unauthorized Gospel?

Today’s lesson, The Authorized Gospel, continued last weeks lesson as we apply “doing things with God’s authority” to the message we preach and believe.

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Does it matter?

Does it matter?

When you ask the question “Does it matter?” you are not simply asking if “it” (the choice) matters, but you are actually asking if the “consequence” matters. In many of our choices in this life, such as our choice of lunch or the car we drive, it really does not matter. The consequences are generally not significant and, if they are negative, can be changed with relative ease.

However, when it comes to faith-what we believe and practice-the question of “Does it matter?” is very important!

The only way that a Christian has of knowing whether it matters or not is by asking God if it matters to Him. What does God’s word say about the choice you are considering making? Only by understanding what God’s word says can you decide if “it” matters!

The Scriptures are both living and active and also able to train us into godliness. They also reprove us and correct us when we are wrong. (Heb 4:12 and 2 Tim 3:16-17)

Today’s lesson explored this question in more detail. Listen to it if you like but I encourage you to search the scriptures to see if it matters! (Acts 17:11)

 

Where are your roots located?

In the Parable of the Sower, (Mt 13) the point is made about the person represented as the rocky soil that he “has not root in himself”. Because of this, he only endures for a little while. It is important for plants to set roots deep into the ground so that they will not be easily moved. For Christians, it is equally imperative that roots are sunk deep into the heart of the person who believes, so that they can endure any trials or persecutions that come their way.

I can’t help but think about those who hear the Gospel and receive it with great joy but do so not because it has particularly impressed them but because it is what their parents, friends, or perhaps dating partner wants of them. In this case, the roots will never be in themselves but in someone else. What happens if that person disappoints, dies, or breaks up with them? Will they survive as a Christian? I have seen both survivors and those who fall away.

Truly, the person’s decision to become a Christian has to be made from their own heart and not from the desire of someone else. Only in that way will the roots in the believer’s heart be able to find root in Jesus and be secure.

To help prevent the backsliding that comes from persecutions and trials, know that Jesus Himself, both suffered persecutions and told His followers that they would too. Also know that many of the faithful throughout history have suffered to serve God (Hebrews 11). But REMEMBER, that the trials and tribulations of this life are not able to be compared to the joys of Heaven…in other words, it is worth it! (Romans 8:18)

Compromise #2-Don’t go very far!

As mentioned in the previous post, compromise in areas of Christian living is a source of danger. While we can compromise in areas that do not contradict Biblical teaching, “walking worthily of the calling with which we have been called” requires that we walk in the straight and narrow path, not wander closer to the broad and wide path-which leads to destruction.

A lesson about compromise can be learned in the account of Moses and Pharaoh. Moses was sent by God with a message to “Let my People go!” and Pharaoh responded with stubbornness and “offers” that were in effect, compromise. His first compromise we discussed in the last post, the 2nd one is found at Exodus 8:28

So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.”

Even as Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for him, he was not allowing Moses to take the Israelites “very far away”

Satan is like that too. If you must leave the world to serve God (e.g. become a Christian), then do not go very far away from the world. Don’t get too involved in the Church, don’t spend time studying and learning about God’s ways and desires for your life, don’t mature in the faith.

Satan doesn’t want you so far away from the world that you can’t see it. He wants the allure of the world’s ways to be ever present before you. Yet, it is so apparent in the Scriptures that we are to be as far away from the world as we can possibly be. Far enough away that the people of the world take notice

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;  (1Pe 4:3-4)

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the type of people that they once were but no longer are:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:9-11)

But it isn’t just leaving the “big” sins mentioned above. Our whole life needs to say we are different from the world and have left it. This means even our attitudes will reflect it. One of the saddest portions of the Parable of the Sower is the third soil. It is the soil that also heard and accepted the word which was implanted but when the harvest time came, it proved unfruitful. Why?

but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it prove(d) unfruitful. (Mar 4:19)

Three things created weeds and thorns in the third soil. All of those things belong to the world. Leaving the world behind and focusing on what is ahead, pressing on toward the high calling of Jesus Christ desensitizes to the ways of the world. We can be IN the world but not OF the world.

The Gentiles care about the things of the world but God knows what we need. The riches of the world will not buy happiness, contentment, or our salvation. The contentment with what we have-not the striving after bigger and better will keep us centered on what is truly important not desiring things which we do not have and often don’t satisfy if we get them.

Just as Moses was not planning to go a short distance out of Egypt, we should not plan to go a short distance away from the world.  We need to speak as if we are on a journey. Just like Abraham left his land to go to a land which God was to show him, we journey to a land (Heaven) which God will show us…but we can get to Heaven if the world is always before us. No, let us set Christ before our eyes and follow his path even if it means our death because that will mean our exaltation!

Don’t accept Satan’s compromise.

An Outline of baptism

heb choice 2Sometimes taking a step back and getting an overview can help you see the topic more clearly. I want to do that in this post. Baptism is a topic that is sorely misunderstood, ranging from those who think that it is the very act of baptism which has the power to save, to those who think that baptism is a mere suggestion which we are free to do or not do. Of course, as is often the case, the truth lies in the middle.

It should not need to be stated but I will here (and probably repeat it), the reason why I am not writing about “FAITH” is that I don’t know anyone who has a problem with faith. Perhaps they misunderstand it but all agree that it is necessary. However, baptism does not enjoy such agreement, some thinking this and some thinking that, so I am focusing on this topic in an effort to share what I see the scriptures teach about it and challenge any who may have missed such an obviously important teaching. (And if you don’t think it could happen to us, how did the Sadducees miss the Resurrection teaching of the Old Testament? cf Mt 22:23) In stating that it is “what I see that the Scriptures teach” it should also be understood that Acts 17:11 is a good verse to keep in mind. Read the Blog and then search the Scriptures for yourself. Question, Ask, Challenge. My goal is not just instruction but to get to Heaven, if I am mistaken, please show me where and how.

First, the command.

Jesus commissioned his Apostles to go out to the world with a new message. In Matthew, He said “Make disciples” and in Mark, He said “Preach the Gospel” and in both Gospel accounts, Jesus mentioned baptism: In Matthew, he said that his disciples would be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, in Mark, he said that the one who had faith and was baptized would be saved.

Second, the example.

So if Jesus sent His Apostles out to preach the Gospel, what was the message that they presented? If you look at Acts 2, Peter’s sermon, the message was simple: Jesus was the Messiah, you killed him, but God raised Him from the dead. Then not only did he tell them to repent and be baptized, the text says (verse 41) that those who received his  word were baptized.

However, time and time again, throughout Acts, the preaching of the Gospel message and baptism of those who listened are joined together. From Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 16, Acts 19 one gets the clear impression that baptism wasn’t something that was delayed or suggested, but rather commanded.  Why the command? My guess is because that is part of what Jesus sent them to do. They were simply following orders. But there is more to it so let’s look at the epistles.

Third, the explanations.

It might seem amazing that someone would make a life changing commitment before knowing all the facts but sometimes, we know enough to realize that we need to make the change and later we find out all the implications. This was the case with Abraham when he left the Ur of the Chaldees; he left by faith not even knowing where he was going. Israel agreed to serve God in Exodus 19 just before receiving the commandments from God-apparently not even having time to look over the contract so to speak.

However, the explanations of baptism in which we learn more about what baptism means, what happened when we were baptized, and even what baptism does not mean and what it does not do are found in the epistles that were written to Christians and almost every epistle has some reference back to this important event.  Those passages and meanings will be discussed in future posts, Lord willing.

Our duty: To follow the commandment.

Does it matter what baptism does or does not do? One certainly can understand wanting to have  a better understanding of this event but what matters more than what it does or does not do is “Is it taught?” and “Is it taught like the Apostles taught it?” and “Is it taught like Jesus commanded it?”

For those who teach the alien sinner how to become justified by God and leave out all mention of baptism, you are not following the commandment. Jesus said not just to “Go make disciples”, not just to “baptize them” but to teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. Baptizing is one of those commandments. (Mt 28:18ff)

I know people who will tell someone all about Jesus but not tell a person to be baptized; I know those who say they have been a Christian since age 5 and baptized at age 18 or 25, I know people who think they can go through life and never be baptized yet still be a Christian.

Question: If I teach only Faith in Christ, Repentance from sins, Confession of Jesus as Lord and do not teach them to be baptized but DO tell them to pray a Sinner’s Prayer, am I following the commandment of Jesus? Am I following the example of the Apostles? Am I in line with the explanations given by the Apostles in their Epistles?

Please leave your thoughts and comments!

Baptism-a part of the Gospel message

why not baptizeThe Bible clearly unites baptism to the preaching of the Gospel. Yet many disagree on what baptism means, what part it plays in the salvation of a sinner, who can be baptized, when they should be baptized, etc., etc.

Rather than talk to the recipients of the Gospel message, I would like to address this post to those who teach the Gospel message. When you teach someone who is not a Christian but expresses interest in studying about God’s word or even in becoming a Christian, what is it that YOU tell them to do in order to become a Christian?

Granted, the question may be a hard one because some don’t think you need to “DO” anything. However, setting aside whatever action might be taken by a sinner, what is the message that a person trying to produce Christians should preach?

Consider this: Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark) actually commission the apostles with the word “baptism” just before Jesus leaves the earth to ascend into Heaven.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
(Mar 16:15-16)

Both of these statements take place after the resurrection and may even be the same instructions given at two different times. However, even if Jesus only commanded them one time, it took place during the 40 days Luke says he was speaking to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) Since Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover (when Jesus was crucified) it leaves as few as 10 days from Jesus’ ascension to Peter’s first sermon; not much time to forget what Jesus had said.

Since Peter spoke to them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I think one would be safe in thinking that Peter not only accurately preached what God wanted but that it is also what we should preach too.   What did he tell his audience to do?

You see, if we set aside the question about WHAT baptism does; if we set aside the question about is role in the salvation of the one who hears the message, are we able to conclude anything at all about what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost? I suggest that we can.

What we can conclude is that when Peter told those inquiring Jews (who had been convicted that Jesus was the Messiah) what they should do, he told them to repent and be baptized.  How many preach that today?

Today, too many preach  Jesus and instruct the recipient to pray what is commonly called the Sinner’s prayer. It is in many books, it is included as a “bonus CD”, and placed at the end of many TV religion shows. Something like “Jesus I believe in you, please forgive me of my sins and live in my heart. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

My question to those who teach the sinner’s prayer is simple: Where is that in the Bible? What example do we have of the Apostles ever instructing any person to pray such a prayer when they respond to the Gospel message?

Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, Peter commanded his audience to be baptized, and Phillip, who “preached Jesus” (acts 8) to the Eunuch must have mentioned it  because the Eunuch’s question was “here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?”  When you preach Jesus, do you get that response? Hey, there is a swimming pool, river, baptistry real close, why can’t I be baptized?

Today, few who “preach Jesus” would ever have someone ask them that question. My question is “why not?”

So if you do not preach baptism, if you do not include it in your message as you try to save someone, “why not?”

Why study the Bible?

readThere are many reasons to read and study the Bible but one of those reasons is so that you can live your life the way God wants you to, not just the way you think you should.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen but God’s word often directs us in ways that we, ourselves, would not think of.  Even more important, some of those things that we think of as good ideas are not just bad ideas, they are offensive to God and His holiness.  They are also ultimately harmful to us: There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is way to death. (prov 14:12) The Bible is filled with passages that show us the problems of doing what we think is a good idea.

Abraham and Sarah thought it was a good idea to bring about God’s promised son through Hagar.

Saul thought that holding onto some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifice to God was a good idea.

David thought it was a good idea to take a census of the people.

People during Jeremiah’s day thought it was a good idea to go to Egypt.

The leaders of Israel thought it was a good idea to crucify Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira thought it was a good idea to lie to God.

The list can go on and on but each of these people could have avoided the problems, curses,  and consequences if they had simply combined a desire to serve God with a knowledge of His will.  Paul wrote of his people:  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

God warned through Hosea that His people were destroy by a lack of knowledge; they did not know His word. He warned Timothy to study to show himself approved.

Often the zeal to do so is not the problem but the knowledge is. Of course, you could also argue that if one knew what God wanted of them, the zeal might diminish.  In other words, we believe we are serving God when all we are doing is serving God according to our desires, not according to His. We don’t know His will and so we are unable to do so and yet, if we did know, would we be willing to serve?

I think a desire to serve God that is based on the recognition of our having sinned against Him and His Grace by sending His son to save us is a good foundation to build on. One may never know everything, nor is knowledge itself the goal, but it is part of our growth. We learn about Jesus by the preached Gospel, we are baptized in His name, and then we are taught the things he wants us to do (Matt 28:19-20) That last part is important too.

Paul wrote to Timothy so that “one may know how to behave himself in the household of God which is the church of God” (I tim 3:15)

Do you know how to behave in the household of God? If you do not read your Bible quite often, you may be as surprised as Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-13) to find out that you don’t!

Great news in Bastrop

new birthI think it is worth shouting to the world about this piece of great news!

Last night at one of our local prisons, six inmates were baptized into Jesus for the remission of sins. Most of us know from Scripture that being baptized into His death is what puts us into Christ (Romans 6) and we understand the blessings that come from now being called a child of God. (Gal 3)

These inmates were taught by one or two of the other inmates. Those inmates brought them to the knowledge that they needed Jesus. My only role in this was to actually perform the baptisms, not that it takes  a “preacher” but because they don’t allow inmates to baptize other inmates. (I suppose they don’t allow inmates to baptize the guards either!)

It was a sudden and unexpected letter I received from the prison chaplain asking if I could come and meet with these men and help them with being baptized. It appears that it will also lead to an opportunity to meet with these men on a regular basis (after we work out details of schedule and such) and that is also truly good news.  Prayers that an effective door of teaching will be open here would be appreciated, not just for me but for those who are also already doing the teaching from the inside.

Does our relationship with God prompt change in our life?

Be HolyTrue statement: We are all God’s children.

We are, too! However, does being the child of God mean anything to us? The statement that we are all God’s children is true in the sense that he created us, made us in His image and cares for us by providing the things which we need.  However, there is a sense in which that statement is not true. There are those who are the sons of God and those who are the sons of Man. The difference is not physical, nor even of the spirit (since we are all made in His image), but of the mind and heart.

When we become disciples of Christ, there is a change made by God. We are removed from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of His son (Col 1:13). We are made to be part of the household of God (I Tim 3:15) and, of course, being in that household we understand God is now our Father and what a wonderful blessing that is. (1 John 3:1). Unfortunately, sometimes, the change made by God is not followed by a change made by us.

We focus solely on the blessings  of having God as our Father.  Our Father loves us and only wants good for us, we are on our way to Heaven. Here on Earth, He will provide for us, He will comfort us, He will never ever leave us, He will chastise us….What? Wait!  Chastise?

Yes, chastise, as in punish, discipline, rebuke, and cause a little discomfort.  The Hebrew writer tells us that God does this for our own good but the question I want to ask is “Why is there a need to chastise?”  The need is there because we are not doing what He wants us to do.

Many do not think that God cares how they live their life. They think they can call Him their Father and still live however they would like to. In other words, their life does not change. They may claim to be a Christian or they may simply state “We are all God’s children” (i.e. God loves us anyway) but the bottom line is that they do not want to change. They have no desire to stop doing what they were doing before they began to call God their Father and Christ their brother.

However, Peter is very clear on this point.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
(1Pe 1:14-17 emphasis mine)

The Prodigal son found out that he could only enjoy his father’s blessings by leaving the world he had made for himself and returning to the father and living with him. Had he continued to stay where he was at, his father’s love, concern, desire for his best interest would not have gone away, but the blessings of being his father’s child would never be realized.

We need to remember that we have responsibilities in our relationship with God. Among those responsibilities is the need to be Holy, not worldly.

3 things that cause us to neglect our salvation.

Neglecting one’s salvation would quite easily rank as one of the poorest decisions a person could make in this life. And even that simply sentence may rank among the biggest understatements in the history of blogging.As the saying goes, “Even an atheist does not want to go to Hell!”

Yesterday, we looked at four types of negligence: Passing by, ignoring, forgetting, and being careless. It is highly unlikely that those who consider themselves to be Christians would really “pass by” or “ignore” (at least not completely) their salvation. Those two items would belong to those who will not study to find out the truth for themselves. Much could be written on that topic but in this post, I want to talk about things that cause a Christian to neglect their salvation. This neglect will most likely come through forgetting and being careless.

Paul said: No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2Ti 2:4)

Christians need to remember that they died…to sin, to this world and to the rat race that so many get caught up in.

Sin is always lurking.

Just because we resist Satan once or twice and he flees from us (as the Scripture says), does not mean that he never comes back again! Even with Jesus, after all the temptations were completed in the dessert, Luke records that the devil left him until “an opportune time.” When we get caught up in sin, whatever form that may take, we become entangled and our salvation can become neglected!

Committing a Sin and living in sin are two different things but neither is what we are supposed to do. We need to be on guard so as not to sin more just so grace can abound. When we do that, we truly treat our salvation with carelessness and as if it has no value. (Romans 6)

The world is always pulling.

Our old friends, if we grew up in the world, wonder at why we do not carry on with them like we used to. The world’s morals and values are constantly being pushed on us and worse yet, they are quoting Scriptures at us to bolster their point. “Jesus said to love” may be a true statement but Jesus also said to “Love God first” was the great commandment. Besides, love does require pointing out the sins so that people can change.

The rat race doesn’t end.

Have you ever noticed that in a rat race, that the cheese is not truly the end? Nope! Those poor rats are pulled out of the maze and sent back in to do it again. Then they change the maze or move the cheese!

Lack of contentment with what we have is a big cause for us to neglect our salvation. We take more overtime or second jobs to pay for things we want. We fail to realize that food, clothing, and shelter is enough when coupled with God’s blessings. It isn’t that you are wrong just  for working more but the reason for the work is often ‘wants’ not ‘needs’.  Then you get so busy fulfilling wants that you get careless with and forget what is truly important.

While it might seem our duty to buy more and get more and upgrade more and travel more, that theme is from the world and not God. Huxley’s Brave new world and even our Newscasts would be appalled at my next statement: Buy less, be content with less!

You will not get all of it anyway and you will find at the end, that the maze gets changed, the cheese moved, or they now have new and improved cheese with a bolder taste (but you need to run the race again to get it).

One of my readers, Eugene, cited a good Scripture on yesterday’s post. (You can read Eugene’s blog here!)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3 ESV)

What we should do is “seek” and “set our minds” on those things that are above. If we do that, we will not be in danger of neglecting our salvation.

These three things, sin, the world’s pull, and the rat race are more general things that lead us to be negligent with our salvation.

Question: What are some specific things in your life that are innocent enough in and of themselves, but that you take to an extreme? Do those things cause you to neglect your salvation?

Photo Credit: antwerpenR

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