Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Salvation

The Impact of Social Media: Part 2 – CTJ #37

How has Social Media impacted the world?  What about the individual?  What about the Christian?  What about the Church?

These are the questions we will seek to answer on this series of podcasts about the Impact of Social Media.  In Part 2 we wrap up talking about the impact of Social Media on Christians as individuals and spend most of the episode discussing how it has effected local churches and the Church as a whole.

 

As Always:

Listen.  Subscribe.  Rate.  Comment.

 

References:

Part 1 Link

What I Learned From Watching the Perfect Marriage

I was extremely fortunate to grow up with two loving parents who not only loved all three of their kids (who definitely pushed their love to the limits), but also loved Jesus like crazy.  The older I get I realize how solid my parent’s marriage actually was.

 

In a day where so many kids grow up without a mom or dad, or in abusive situations, I felt very lucky to grow up in a house that was overall peaceful with two great parents who were willing to learn and adjust to not only each other but to their children’s temperaments and attitudes as well.   

 

Here are a few things I learned about marriage through them.

 

1. They Never Went to Bed Angry – I honestly can count on one hand the times I remember my parents arguing.  I can count on one finger the time it got so heated my dad left the house to cool off.  In 25 years I can’t think of one time that my mom or dad slept on the couch because there was a disagreement between them.  My parents were quick to forgive each other and to put any heated situation in the past.  When my dad got angry the few times I remember, he was quick to apologize and my mom was quick to forgive.  As their marriage progressed they got better and better at forgiving each other. 

2. They Are Growing Old Together – It’s no secret that my dad is not the same person he was when my parents first got married.  My dad grew up in a completely different house than my mom did.  While my mom’s family was all about…well family (oh, and pasta), my dad’s family was more of the ‘do whatever you want’ type.  When my parents first got married it was a major shift for both of them.  My mom was used to having people over all the time and my dad…well he most definitely was not.   Over the years they changed and adapted to each other’s needs and personality types and they are both better because of it.  My dad is a much more personable person these days not because he was forced to but because he loves my mom and wants to meet her needs.  Which brings me right in to my next point

 

3. They Meet Each Other’s Needs –  Oh sure, they are still two different people.  My dad has no problem working on his motorcycle in the garage for hours by himself (something my whole family would pay money to see my mom do), and my mom has no problem talking to her friends either in person or on the phone for hours (something we’d all pay a lot of money to see my dad do), but they sacrifice for each other and they cross over into each other’s needs to meet them.  My mom encourages my dad to buy the toys he wants, she has never once fought him on it.  My dad hosts more people at the house more often, not because he necessarily wants to but because he knows it meets a need for my mom.  It’s mutual submission to each other and what the other needs and it works wonderfully. 

 

4. The Never Fought About Money – My parents have owned a small business for almost 30 years.  Once again I can not think of one time they fought over money.  As far as I know they never had their own personal checking accounts and their were no secrets between them regarding where money went.  My mom was the book keeper for the business so she knew more about how our house economy worked, but my dad never once doubted where the money was going.  My dad was also the sole provider of the family for the past 25 years and he was always extremely generous with the money he made for us.  I once again can’t think of a time where my dad told my mom no (unless they were mutually going on a budget).  Trust me, my dad didn’t want the  pool, but my mom did….and now we have a pool.  The things that my mom wanted and my dad didn’t (and vice-versa) was never used a weapon in their marriage either.  My dad was more than happy to give my mom the world if he could regardless of who was making the money. 

 

5. They Disciplined Their Kids – Yes, I was spanked as a child (I know I’m really mentally scarred) and you know what? I’m a better person because of it.   My parents never ever ever spanked me out of anger or hit me out of anger.  I spanked on my cute little butt and was always told that my parents loved me and they wanted the best for me.  I truly never thought I was being abused, and I don’t have nightmares about being spanked….ever.   I was a little punk as a child and I needed to learn that I wasn’t the one running the shots, my parents were.  I’m so grateful for it now.

6. They Are Still In Love With Each Other – My parents marriage is like a well oiled machine.  If you walk into our house on a week day morning you’ll see my dad at the kitchen table running through all of the paperwork for the job that day and planning out all the materials he will need and then getting his employees together and sending them out to get supplies while my mom is running between the kitchen packing lunches for all of us while going into the office to get details my dad might now have.  They communicate like pros and you can tell that all of the hardwork they put in to their marriage early on has paid off immensely.  I know my dad still sees my mom as the most beautiful person who has ever lived, and I know my mom is still head over heels for my dad.  

7. They Mutually Submitted to Each Other – Let’s not confuse things here. I know that many non-Christians think that Christianity teaches the woman to submit to her husband and for the husband to rule over her like a king but this can’t be farther from the truth. The Bible teaches mutual submission with distinct roles to be fulfilled in marriage.  My dad sacrificed so much for my mom and consistently put her needs before his own.  My mom absolutely loved being a stay at home mom and she kept a CLEAN house even with three tiny terrors living there.  My mom wasn’t forced to stay at home, she wanted to stay at home and my dad will tell you that she took the much harder job.  Trust me, raising three kids, running a business, maintaining a house, and being involved with a local Church is no easy feat.  My parents both knew the two essential roles it takes to have a family and the fulfilled those roles flawlessly. 

8. My Parents Introduced Me to Jesus – I can’t speak on behalf of my other two (awesome) siblings, but I can say without a doubt that my parents are the ones who introduced me to Jesus and changed my life forever.  They didn’t just tell me about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian, they modeled it in every area of their life.  My parents were always honest, they always paid their taxes,and  they gave money to those in need.  They didn’t just send a few bucks overseas here and there, they gave money to people who couldn’t pay their mortgages, or couldn’t put food on the table.  My mom ever single morning has that Bible out and is reading it taking notes.  As a kid she would often tell us proverbs (usually when she was angry) that still stick with me to this day.  We were heavily involved with a local Church as well.  This gave me my foundation for life.  I owe my relationship with Jesus all to my parents modeling a life after Christ and building their entire lives around it. 

 

 

 

My generation doesn’t like hard work (just ask my dad he will tell you all about it), but marriage is hard work and when you put the time, effort and commitment into it, the result is a beautiful strong thing that binds two people together.

 

 So thanks mom and dad for being the best examples of marriage that I’ve ever seen.  You’ve raised three great kids and built a great life together.  Thanks for being the model marriage that so many people look up to. 

 

If you like this post then share it!

 

-TW

 

 

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Poetry: “Ok”

Ok so it’s been a while since the last post and I’ve been working on a few other ideas but I decided to mix it up a little bit with this one.  I  like to write poems and lyrics from time to time and I wanted to share a poem I wrote recently.  The Title is “Ok” and it is about man’s ruin and redemption; sin and salvation.  Let me know your thoughts.

 

“Ok”

Beating my fist to this chest to feel relevance
Defining by opinion my own excellence.
If I can only convince Him of my worthiness
Then I’ll be ok.

Him, who breathed the worlds into time, space and matter,
Who aligned the expanding universe on a silver platter
And handed it to man to rule; what a disaster.
It’ll all be ok.

The innocence of creation had lost its position
In the heart of man was now a self-religion
To put ourselves on the throne; a new vision.
We will be ok.

The more rungs of this ladder I upwardly climb
The further I descend from the presence of the divine
And the terror of our circumstance dawns on my mind.
I am not ok.

As our sin offended the highest the heavens
It continues to corrupt us down to our essence.
We’ve got nothing to fight with, no weapons.
We are not ok.

The point and purpose of eternal salvation
Is so much more than we have time to mention.
But how is this for a simple explanation:
To be made ok.

The beauty of grace is in the inability
To save ourselves, its all futility
But God sent Christ to save you and me.
We can be ok.

In a moment the Christ, reached in and changed my heart
A complete change from the inside, a brand new start.
I have a place in the plan of God, my own part.
More than just OK..

The beauty of grace is in the inability
To save ourselves, its all futility
But God sent Christ to save you and me.
We can be ok.

In a moment the Christ, reached in and changed my heart
A complete change from the inside, a brand new start.
I have a place in the plan of God, my own part.
More than just OK.

-RM

Denominations: A kingdom divided cannot stand.

Picture a mirror. Now picture that mirror with thousands of little cracks in it. Cracks that distort your reflection as look at yourself. This is what denominations do to the body of Christ. Extreme statement? Maybe, but Christ’s prayer was that we (His Church) were one as He and the Father were one. I think we dropped the ball on that.

There are thousands of denominations inside Christianity with their own set of of beliefs, principles, practices, and emphasis. They all like to think that they have church figured out more than the other denominations.

Here’s the glaring problem, we have made denominations walls that cut us off from other parts of the Church. Oh, disclaimer, when I say Church I’m not talking about your local Church body, I’m talking about THE Church, the big picture Church, the Church that we are all apart of. Anyway, as I was saying denominations have become walls, dividers, that have not joined us together but have segregated us. We are comfortable working with people who are inside our denomination, but working with Christians (your other brothers and sisters) outside your denomination? Now I’m just talking crazy. Here’s the crazy part, Christ, if he were here today would be heartbroken at how divided we are.

We have this mentality in the Church that our local Church we are a part of (or for most of us, attend) is the only Church that has it right. We are convinced that the only church body that matters is ours, or our parent/sister/brother/aunt/cousin church (meaning the other churches in our comfortable little circle that we say we partner with about once a year for something). I don’t understand it. I’m convinced that the Church is the only organization that not only is divided, but is literally cut off from itself. This is the kind of thing Paul warns the Corinthians about.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-21 ESV)

Paul hits it out of the park. If you’re a leader in a local Church reading this blog then take that Scripture to heart. Our identity is Christ, not our denomination, not our programs, or our ministries, or anything else. Our identity as a Christian is Christ! We ALL have the same identity, so why are we so DIVIDED! Forgive my use of capital letters, I am just so fired up that we can claim to be Christians and yet over look these parts of Scripture, or worse, we can take a section like I just posted and apply it only to our local Church that we serve in. Notice how Paul says we are in one Spirit baptized in one body, not a local body, not an individual body, one body. Do not apply this scripture only to your expression of the Church, Paul is talking big picture here.

Can we as Christians have different views on some issues? Absolutely. But should these things divide us as deep as they have? Absolutely not. It is in direct conflict with the heart of Christ. (See John 17).

Rob (the other writer for this blog) and I have some stark differences. In fact they are so stark that we probably won’t be planting a church together anytime soon. But these differences do nothing to sever our relationship as brothers in the same Kingdom worshipping the same God. We eat together, we share views together, we talk and hangout, we have great times together and we still have different views on things inside the faith.

America doesn’t need more church buildings, it doesn’t need more expressions of the local church, it needs a united Church. In New Jersey there are roughly 3 church buildings every square mile. We have plenty of church buildings, but a kingdom divided can’t stand. Until we are willing to bridge the denominational divide, we will continue to stifle Church growth, but more importantly we are stifling the growth of the Kingdom of God. We fight over things that are sometimes so ridiculous, our cultures look at it and says “seriously?”

What’s my solution? Here are a few.

1. Make every effort to connect with other local churches in your immediate area. Invite the pastors to lunch and talk about how to be more unified and then actually do things together with your congregations. For instance, what if the Churches in your area organized a park cleanup day? Or what if the Churches in your area went to the mayor’s office and asked what you could all do together to serve the community.

2. Take a week off from your Church service and go worship the same God with another local church body in your immediate area. I recommend doing this often. Not only does it give your pastor, worship band, and other people who help run the Sunday morning service a break, it starts to bridge the gap between local Churches. After all you are trying to reach the SAME community, why the heck would you not talk to each other?

If we are to be followers of the teachings of Christ, if we are to have His heart, then uniting the Church must be a top priority. But we are a prideful bunch, we don’t like to change and conform to someone’s [inferior] view. We don’t like to admit that we were wrong. We’d much rather be comfortable with our circle of believers, then to get uncomfortable and have some difficult conversations with other believers.

I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23 ESV)

What Salvation Does: Part 2

Ok so in Part 1 we looked at what salvation is.  In its essence biblical salvation is agreeing with God that you are a lost sinner who cannot save himself (or herself) and turning to God for forgiveness of a debt you cannot pay (your sin).  Christ paid the price of redemption on the cross so that everyone can be saved but only those who believe on Him will be saved.

But now that we know what salvation is we should probably look at what salvation does.  If salvation was only “fire protection” from hell that would be a sad thing indeed.  Real salvation has real results! Being a believer is to obey Christ, to rest on him for salvation, and by God to be committed unto heaven’s doctrine of salvation.  We accept Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King.  Salvation is much more than just “a rescue from hell” although it is that.  Let’s see what the Bible says salvation does!
Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

John 7:37-39
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.

1 Corinthians 6:19
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

What did Christ teach during His ministry?  He taught that the Spirit of God was going to indwell believers which is much different from the Old Testament experience where indwelling was a temporary thing and the Spirit of God would come and go.  Since the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God descended (and after the transitional experiences of early Acts) we see that all believers are immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit permanently.  This CANNOT be lost.  This is probably the most important aspect of salvation.  Why?  Because the Christian life is actually impossible without the Spirit of God.  We have a teacher, a guide, a leader, a provider, a comforter, and a witness.  Salvation is a fresh start and it gives us the ability to live the life that God intends for us.

A New Man

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Colossians 3:9-10
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.

Salvation is not “a license to sin” because a person that has come into the good of God’s salvation realizes the price of it.  A person who has been saved knows that the price of salvation was the shedding of the precious blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary so to continue sinning is to add to the punishment of Christ.  Would a true believer ever think that salvation gives the freedom to sin?  God forbid!  But as Christians we are given new life as a new man (or woman).  We can be assured like Paul in Romans 7 that our sinful nature is still within us and shall be until we die or are taken up with Christ by the rapture but with Salvation we are able to serve the law of God.  Now, I made a comment in an earlier post that just because you are a Christian does not guarantee you will produce fruit for God.  I think I should clarify that statement a bit.  Christians will fail and fall, stumble and stagger, and sometimes be shipwrecks but the overall tenor of a life that has been saved by God should be of victory and bearing fruit.  What I meant by my comment was that just because we are saved does not guarantee that we will not fail and always produce fruit for God. If we continue to feed our fleshly nature then we cannot produce fruit for God but like David in Psalm 52 there is always restoration for believers (and salvation for unbelievers).  God gives us the power to overcome our sinful nature and gives us new life as a new man but we must walk in it to be victorious and a true Christian will not be happy unless they are abiding in the vine.  Now, we are not to be the salvation police going around and declaring people to be saved or not but if I am claiming to be a true Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and given new life as a new man I had better be living to prove that and if I’m not I would hope that my fellow Christians would rebuke me and straighten me out.  We have a tremendous amount of “Christians” in this world that confess to be so but from their lifestyle it appears that this is just a nominal title.  Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship with God through a man who gave His life at Calvary.  So when we say we are tied with that man and act nothing like Him, why would anyone else want what “we have” (i.e. a changed life, a new man).  True salvation does change lives!  James gives us that when he says “show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

Peace

Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, one of the best things of salvation is that it brings peace.  Peace is something that this world is searching for.  Peace in the Middle East, peace in schools, peace in homes, peace of mind, etc. Everyone is looking for peace.  I would argue that the reason drugs and alcohol are so rampant is this one simple word: peace.  Everyone is looking for it somewhere.  What most people fail to realize is the reason there is no peace is because peace comes from God.  Now, I am not saying that Christians have no problems and enjoy very peaceful lives from the moment of salvation until the end of their life here on Earth, but what I am saying is that true Christians enjoy peace for the entirety of their lives.  When God gives peace it is not just peace from certain circumstances and dangers, and it is not just empty peace that things will turn out ok, but it is peace that whatever God is doing is the best possible plan for me.  Since we have been justified (made righteous by Christ), we have peace with God.  It is very important that this is only through the Lord Jesus Christ.  We won’t find this true peace anywhere else no matter how long we look.  I personally knew a former drug addict and dealer (who was actually the largest dealer in PEI, Canada) who got real salvation and it was the first time he EVER had real peace.  God’s salvation brings real peace because there is now no fear of death, no fear of the “afterlife,” no fear of what life may bring, because God gives peace.


So salvation is much more than being saved from hell, it is to know your sins forgiven, to be adopted into the family of God, to be coheirs with Christ, to be justified, to be sanctified, indwelt by and sealed by the Spirit of God, and the list could go on.  But as Christians we are given a new standard of living and should consider Christ as our role model.  Our lives should reflect well of Him who we claim to trust.  Let that salvation you have be the change that a chaotic worlds needs to see and be a light for the Gospel!

~Rob

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What Salvation Is: Part 1

The next two blog posts will be a little different.  Julia’s dad (my father-in-law) has professed faith in Christ last week and even got up and gave his testimony during CBC’s services on Sunday.  This is a place he hasn’t stepped foot in for years.  I was with him briefly on Monday night and could definitely see a change.  With that in mind I was thinking of what true salvation is and the ways salvation changes us.  This post will be what salvation is and the following will be what salvation does.

What is Salvation?
A mere decision to a proposition?  Not in the slightest.  A mere conclusion of logic?  Also, no.  Salvation of the Bible is something much more than simply a logical decision or a decision of change.  The shortest message of salvation I think you can read is found in Acts 16:30-31:
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

“Believe on” has the idea of trusting on, resting on, trusting oneself to, or depending on.  What it doesn’t mean is assenting to, acknowledging that, superficially accepting, or any other form of such things.  In Biblical Greek, the word “believe” and “faith” are very closely related (much closer than we know in English).  In fact it would be correct to translate Ephesians 2:8 as “For by grace are you saved through belief; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Believing and faith in the Bible are the same thing.  This is a much stronger word than what we use “believe” for in today’s English language.  We use it to say “to think” or “to assent/accept” and even “to come to understand.”  These meanings are not the meaning of “believing on” in Acts 16:31.  There is an illustration I’ve heard often of a tight rope walker in the 19th century that goes by the name of Charles Blondin (real name Jean Francois Gravelet).  He stretched a tight rope across the Niagra Falls to show his pristine balancing skills.  He started across with a balancing pole, then did a back somersault while walking across.  Each crossing after that he completed in a different manner: blindfolded, with a wheelbarrow, even making an omelet in the middle of the rope.  Then he comes to the crowd that was watching him and asks if they believe that he could carry someone across on his back.  Everyone at once screams “YES WE BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT!”  But then his question changed and was now, “Ok, who will get on my back and cross?”  The crowd suddenly went silent.  Everyone believed ABOUT Blondin.  They saw what he did and believed he COULD do it but no one was willing to believe IN or ON Blondin and get on his back.  Many people believe about the Lord Jesus Christ but only those who believe on Him will ever get real life.

“the Lord Jesus Christ” does not say “Jesus” or “the Savior” or even “Christ.”  He is the one of whom we read that died and rose again.
Jesus tells us that this is the one who became a man to be the savior.  We just recently celebrated the birth of Jesus.  Joseph was told “thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).   The name Jesus tells us of his humanity.
Christ is the anointed one.  He is the promised Messiah, the servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 42).  It is a shame to proclaim Jesus as a cool, party attending, rebel character that is found being proclaimed in many churches.  This is the anointed one, the Messiah, the promised one.
Lord is a term used of one in authority over you, one who you submit and bow to.  There are not two separate events of accepting Jesus as your Savior then accepting him as your Lord.  Salvation is the acknowledgment of Him as Lord!

So the gospel of salvation is that man is without ability to save himself but upon the confession of helplessness, the repentance of sin, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Christ (both the person and the work) “you shall be saved.”

Romans 6:17 is Paul looking back to before they were “saved” when he says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin.”  He is commenting on the fact that we were astray from God and servants of sin.  Then he reflects on their moment of conversion when he says, “but ye have obeyed from the heart.”  The tense of the verb “obeyed” is in the Aorist tense which says it happened at a definite moment of time (the moment of salvation).  But what is interesting is the last phrase, “that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”  Salvation is doctrine; it is truth to be received.  God has revealed the truth of the person and work of Christ and given man the responsibility to respond to the doctrine.  Salvation is truth to be received.

So in the ultimate sense, what is salvation?  It is the supernatural work of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It is the redemption of a fallen race and is available to all.  It is not just giving your life to Jesus or accepting a Savior as I hope I made clear.  Now, at Salvation we may not have known everything we were coming into, I know I didn’t.  But we can look at that moment and see that all of these things are true and prove true in the life of a true believer.  Thank goodness we can say:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

Next time, we will look at what salvation does.  Stay tuned.

~Rob

 

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Joy in Tough Times

Romans 8:38-39
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Recently, I was reminded of the practical truth of these verses when my uncle, my wife, and myself went to help and visit with a lady from our local church who was just released from the hospital and has been given two weeks to a month to live.  We went to help her move her old bed out of her apartment so that the medical company could deliver her hospital bed the next day.  We spent a good amount of time with that dear sister after we were finished just talking and actually being encouraged by one facing so much difficulty.  She also has a burden for many of her own family members who do not know Christ.  However, this sister was the happiest, most joyful person you’ll meet and so full of jokes and laughter.

I am reminded of John 15.  One of the seven “I Am” statements of Christ in the Gospel of John.  “I am the vine” is the message of the first part of John 15.  One of the keys to understanding the implications of John 15 is to remember that salvation is not a fruit bearing event.  In other words, Jesus was not talking about salvation here, He was talking about life after salvation.  One who has not been born again cannot bear fruit, but being born again does not mean you will bear fruit.  The point He was making was that He alone is the one who will spiritually sustain us but it is up to us if we want to be spiritually sustained.  Bearing fruit is the honor of one who continually does the will of God and “abides in Him.”  Bearing fruit is not an automatic right of Christians.  If we yield our life to Him, respond to the Spirit within us, and do His will then we will bear much fruit!  Why do I bring this up?  Because I think what He says after all of this is of utmost importance:

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11

Where do we get real, sustaining joy?  From abiding in the vine! How do we abide in the vine?  By submitting our lives and wills to God!  I have been guilty in the past of looking at the options and knowing what God would have me to do but instead I go for the “instant pleasure” option.  Sure, I have a bit of happiness for a bit but the lasting, sustaining joy is not there.  I have sorrow of a wrong decision, maybe guilt of sin, or sadness for time wasted.  Had I went the way the Spirit was leading I would have abided in the vine and my joy would have been full.

So how does it all fit together?  Well, when I look at this sister who only has a few weeks of life remaining she told us of her ride to the hospital and witnessing to the EMTs, then telling the hospital staff about Christ, and no matter who came in to see her she did not spare the opportunity to tell them about her Savior.  Why? Because her joy was full from all of the time she has spent abiding in Him!  Her joy comes from the fact that she is constantly abiding in Him.  You can tell by the outflow of what she has to say about the one who has her affection.  When we love something we also love to tell others about it.  I love my wife so I happen to talk about her a lot.  She loves her Savior and she happens to talk about Him a lot.  They go hand in hand.

So when life throws curve balls and trials how does a Christian remain joyful?  By abiding in the true vine!  Hoes does one accomplish that?  First, by accepting Christ as your personal Savior because without the issue of sin being taken care of no fruit can be produced for God.  Sin is the cause of separation between God and man but we just celebrated Christmas which is the day we celebrate the birth of the only one who had the mission to die.  He died upon the cross for sin so that sinners could be made righteous.  He said “It is finished” and God was satisfied, are you?  When the relationship is established, the Spirit of God is given to dwell in you and obeying the will of God has the promise that you will yield fruit.  Doing His will brings the joy of serving one who died to save and it is in the vine we find that joy.

-Rob

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The Doubting Christian.

We all doubt.  Let’s face it, at one time in your life you’ve had your doubts about something.  It might have been a job you were hoping to get, a relationship or something else.  But everyone admits in their life that they’ve doubted.

But what happens when it’s your faith?  What happens when one night you have this thought “Am I really following the truth?  Is Jesus really the only way to heaven? What if he’s not? What if I’m the one following something that isn’t true”.  It is here that we come to grips with our biggest fear, the fear that what we have been believing isn’t true.  That it iss a lie.  What happens when we doubt our faith?  Are we even allowed to do that?

A couple months ago I was driving home from hanging out with some people in my local community.  I was alone, it was late, and the roads I take are pretty much in the middle of nowhere with just woods on both sides. I was thinking about how the night went, what we talked about and the life that I found myself living in.  One thing lead to another and I started thinking about my faith and if it was really one true faith.  If Jesus really was who he said he was, if God is what I’ve been taught to believe he is like.  All of the sudden I felt a very dark feeling coming over me.  I felt extremely alone and started to panic.  Thinking to myself “What if I’m going to Hell?”.  I never felt so alone in this moment.  I was breathing heavily, and I felt hopeless.  I did the only thing I knew to do, pray.  I just started to ask the Holy Spirit to give me comfort beyond my understanding.  He did.  I felt a peace come over me, one that I couldn’t explain, a comfort that calmed me, and reminded me of the life I’m living in truth.

Why do I tell this story?  Because the next morning I thought to myself “Do other Christians ever doubt? Are we allowed to doubt?”.  Yes, and Yes.  This really isn’t a very talked about subject. In fact, growing up I’ve only been told the opposite.  That I can have absolute assurance of salvation, that I can be 100% sure that I’m going to heaven one day when I die.  Rarely if ever did I hear the subject of doubt addressed.  And why address it? It’s terrifying.

But we must come face to face with doubt sometime in our life when it comes to the Christian faith.  We shouldn’t feel guilty either.  Remember Thomas?  The one who spent time with the physical Jesus?  What is he famous for? Doubting.  We get the expression “Doubting Thomas” from this guy.  Jesus was so merciful in his moment of doubt, asking Thomas to feel where the nails pierced.  He does this with us.  In our moments of doubt He tells us to look at his hands, to look at his feet, to see where the nails pierced.

It is ok to doubt.  I’ll say that again, it is ok to doubt.  In fact it is when we doubt that we come face to face with our deepest fears.  When this happens we remove all obstacles from God meeting with us directly where we are.  Sometimes we use things to get to God (Such as reading the Bible, or putting worship music on, or attending a Sunday morning service), and these things are not bad at all, but sometimes God wants to cut out the middle man and meet with us directly.  One on one, nothing in between us and Him.  When we have our moments of doubt, and we realize how vulnerable we are, the Holy Spirit comes in and minsters to us.  God, for a moment becomes so close that we can feel His heart beat.

I encourage you to be honest with yourself regarding the faith you believe in.  And don’t be afraid if you have doubts, because God is bigger than our doubts, He isn’t afraid of it, and He desires to have us draw near to Him when we are in the midst of it.

-TW

Sin… Suffering… Savior – Rob

This is something that I have actually been tossing around in my mind for some time. I am no scholar and would love input on my thoughts as well. Perhaps I am in fact incorrect in my thinking.
These thoughts were originally brought about after multiple discussions I have had with some strong Calvinists. The “L” in the T.U.L.I.P. acronym most would know as “Limited atonement.” This would teach that Christ only died for the sins of the “elect.” Obviously if Christ only suffered for their sins then it would in fact be impossible for anyone else to be saved. I think this stems from a misunderstanding of sin, Christ, and the work of salvation.

Sin- at its core sin is the disobedience of the commandment of God. Some of the definitions:

  • Transgression: an overstepping of the law
  • Iniquity: an act inherently wrong
  • Error: a departure from right
  • Missing the Mark: a failure to meet the divine standard
  • Trespass: the intrusion of self-will into the sphere of divine authority
  • Lawlessness: spiritual anarchy
  • Unbelief: an insult to the divine veracity

Sin originated with Satan (Isaiah 14:12-14), entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12), and is universal (except for only Christ).

Scofield gives a summary of sin as threefold: An act, the violation of obedience to the revealed will of God; a state, absence of righteousness; a nature, enmity toward God.

In the garden the commandment was to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam, who up to his point had no sin, was given that choice and a free-will to obey or disregard the commandment of the Lord. When Adam chose to disobey, the entire human race fell as a result because he was the “head” of the created world. Now, Adam knew good and evil (which goes against the T of Total depravity). The sinful nature was born and plagues every human because of the fall of man. The result being seen in Romans 5:12. Sin is a problem which the human mind cannot fully comprehend. Sin has separated God from His creation and must have righteous judgment by the very nature of the God of eternity. A misunderstanding of the severity and depths of sin is the start of the misconstrued ideology behind the death of Christ. Sin has affected the entire creation, which will all be redeemed as seen in Revelations.

Christ- the divine, transcendent, eternal Son of God, who was manifested into a human body. A misconstrued idea of Christ would cause a huge error in the understanding of the death of Christ. I do not, and cannot, completely comprehend how God can become a man (hypostatic union), but it doesn’t change the fact that Christ was and is God. The transcendent nature of Christ is vital to begin to understand His death/suffering. How can there be an infinite payment of sin in a finite amount of time? Because of the transcendent nature of God. Outside of our realm and our understanding the God of the Bible dwells. That is the Christ of whom we read “took upon him the form of a man” and “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”. A transcendent, eternal, supernatural God in the body of a man.  I have found myself wondering about Hebrews 4:15 often; how Christ was “was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.”  I think the English language doesn’t do justice in times like this.  Temptation has the negative connotation about it.  I believe the word in Hebrews 4:15 would be better translated as “tried.”  Why are we tempted? Because our sinful nature is appealed by the sin surrounding us.  Ever notice that the moment you stop enjoying God like you should, you stop reading as much as you were, get lazy about your prayer life, and stop having good community with fellow Christians that sin is much more enticing?  I have! This is because the sinful nature inside of me is enticed by sin and when I am not battling that nature/desire it becomes stronger.  Was Christ then ever “tempted?”  I would say no, because He did not have a sinful nature that was enticed by sin.  He understood sin at the deepest level and was utterly disgusted by it.  However, He was tried by the same things we are.  For instance, women still walked in front of His eyes, those certain magazines were still on the shelf at the Wawa in Israel, and the internet was still full of those pages in 20 A.D.  This things all still were in front of Christ and “trying” Him but to no avail because He had no sinful nature to entice.  We are “tempted” to do wrong because our sinful nature desires to do wrong.  Now we can see that Christ not only had no sin; He was incapable of sinning.

Salvation- the payment of sin. May we first marvel at the plan which upholds the requirement of the punishment of sin while setting the offender free! “Who is a pardoning God like thee, or who has grace so rich and free?” As I understand it, one sin will never be unjustly punished twice. This would go against the character of God and the requirement of punishment. If Christ suffered for each sin as if God had a list and laid each one on Him, then we would be correct to assume that only certain people can be saved. However, I do not believe that is how the work of salvation was completed. When Christ suffered in those three dark hours there was an infinite payment to God that was sufficient to cover the entire judgment for sin. The moment of salvation is when I accept that the judgment Christ bore was for my personal sin against God. Therefore I could never tell an unsaved person “Christ died for your sins”. That would lead them to the conclusion that their sins are already paid for and there is no way they would have to pay for them again so they need not even have to believe. The work of salvation was an infinite and not “one-for-one substitution” redemption work. If the work was only sufficient for the elect then the non-elect would have an excuse for their unbelief in that “whosoever believeth” was not applicable because of the insufficiency of the atonement to cover their sin. This is what I see to be a huge misunderstanding of the work of salvation. Christ is an infinite being who paid the sufficient price to cover the full judgment of sin. However, the forgiveness offered is a gift and if the gift is not accepted than the work of salvation does not cover the sins of the rejecter and that individual will pay for their own sins as they did not come into the good of Christ’s sacrifice.

I pray that I was able to convey what I have been thinking about in some logical manner and am certainly open to any correction in my thinking.
-Rob
Perhaps in the future I’ll more solidly lay out the views of Calvinism and Arminianism and explain why I think both are faulty 🙂  Not to say there aren’t true Christians who hold either of those doctrines (there certainly are as I fully believe there could be true Christians in ANY religion).

Sin and Suffering

This is something that I have actually been tossing around in my mind for some time. I am no scholar and would love input on my thoughts as well. Perhaps I am in fact incorrect in my thinking.

These thoughts were originally brought about after a discussion I had with a very strong Calvinist. The “L” in the T.U.L.I.P. acronym stands for “Limited atonement”. This would teach that Christ only died for the sins of the “elect”. Obviously if Christ only suffered for their sins then it would in fact be impossible for anyone else to be saved. I think this stems from a misunderstanding of sin, Christ, and the work of salvation.

Sin- at its core sin is the disobedience of the commandment of God. In the garden the commandment was to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam, who up to his point had no sin, was given that choice and a free-will to obey or disregard the commandment of the Lord. When Adam chose to disobey, the entire human race fell as a result because he was the “head” of the created world. Now Adam knew good and evil (which goes against the T of Total depravity). The sinful nature was born and plagues every human because of the fall of man. The result being seen in Romans 5:12. Sin is a problem which the human mind cannot fully comprehend. Sin has separated God from His creation and must have righteous judgment by the very nature of the God of eternity. A misunderstanding of the severity and depths of sin is the start of the misconstrued ideology behind the death of Christ. Sin has affected the entire creation, which will all be redeemed as seen in Revelations.

Christ- the divine, transcendent being who was manifested into a human body. A misconstrued idea of Christ would cause a huge error in the understanding of the death of Christ. I do not, and cannot, completely comprehend how God can become a man, but it doesn’t change the fact that Christ was and is God. The transcendent nature of Christ is vital to begin to understand His death/suffering. How can there be an infinite payment of sin in a finite amount of time? Because of the transcendent nature of God. Outside of our realm and our understanding the God of the Bible dwells. That is the Christ of whom we read “took upon him the form of a man” and “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”. A transcendent, eternal, supernatural God in the body of a man.

Salvation- the payment of sin. May we first marvel at the plan which upholds the requirement of the punishment of sin while setting the offender free!

“Who is a pardoning God like thee, or who has grace so rich and free?”

As I understand it, one sin will never be unjustly punished twice. This would go against the character of God and the requirement of punishment. If Christ suffered for each sin as if God had a list and laid each one on Him, then we would be correct to assume that only certain people can be saved (or that all would be saved if Christ paid for ALL SINS). However, I do not believe that is how the work of salvation was completed. When Christ suffered in those three dark hours there was an infinite payment to God that was sufficient to cover the entire judgment for sin. The moment of salvation is when I accept that the judgment Christ bore was enough to cover my personal sin against God. Therefore I could never tell an unsaved person “Christ died for your sins”. That would lead them to the conclusion that their sins are already paid for and there is no way they would have to pay for them again so they need not even have to believe. The work of salvation was an infinite and not “one-for-one substitution” redemptive work. If the work was only sufficient for the elect then the non-elect would have an excuse for their unbelief in that “whosoever believeth” was not applicable because of the insufficiency of the atonement to cover their sin. This is what I see to be a huge misunderstanding of the work of salvation. Christ is an infinite being who paid the sufficient price to cover the full judgment of sin. However, the forgiveness offered is a gift and if the gift is not accepted than the work of salvation does not cover the sins of the rejecter and that individual will pay for their own sins as Christ did not pay for theirs.

An elaboration of the first point… the sinfulness of man.  Let me try to explain what I’ve been thinking.

Let’s look at the sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7).  Basically the entire sermon is about choices and why religion is no good and the words of Christ are transcendent.  Keep in mind he is dismissing the very teaching of Judaism.  I will write another note at some point on what I’ve been studying relative to dispensations (keep a lookout for that!).  Look specifically at 7:13-14.  Choices.  A narrow gate and a narrow road, or a wide gate and a wide road.  If we are all born on the “broad road” then why is there a gate?  Perhaps I am taking the example too literally but Christ was very specific about what He said and never slipped up or said too much.  Yes, I believe we are all born with a “sinful nature”; a propensity to sin.  But, I do not believe we are born on the broad road, or the narrow road.  Look at what Paul says in Romans 7:9, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”  Why is this relevant?  What I have been thinking about is the death of infants (sad yes).  An infant never had a chance to understand sin, God, salvation, the law, etc.  I cannot see a just and holy God condemning an infant to eternal damnation.  It goes against the character of who I see in the God of the Bible (yes the whole Bible, NT and OT).   A true Calvinist would hold that the baby would be guilty of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12… we were “in Adam” so we all sinned… in Adam).  This also goes against what I read in scripture.  No, I’m not Arminian either.  What I believe, is that there is an “age of accountability” let’s call it; a time where a child is old enough and aware enough to know when they are given a commandment that they must obey it.  Sin is the disobedience of a commandment.  When the knowledge of right and wrong sets in and that child knowingly chooses wrong for the first time, I would say they have stepped out from under the grace of God, through the wide gate and onto the broad way.  One sin will keep a person out of heaven so one sin is enough to send a person to hell (the depth and disaster of sin).  With this all in mind a sinner is punished not because of their sinful nature, but because of their sin.  It is almost as if prior to stepping onto the broad way the baby was also alive spiritually (but had a sinful nature pulling toward the broad way).  When the commandment came and sin came alive, the child died spiritually.  The sinful nature took its cause and now because of the law the bondage of sin is wrapped tightly around each person not in Christ.  But the work of Christ was accomplished so God could free the sinner while punishing the sin.  When a person trusts Christ for salvation, he/she is “made righteous” and “given eternal life”.  I was given the status of “RIGHTEOUS” because I am identified with Christ.  Yes, I still have my sinful nature, which is why I still sin.  I was taken from the broad road and brought through the door of salvation (Christ) and placed on the narrow road.

Let me know your thoughts…. I may have more on this later…

~Rob