Archive for the ‘Faithfulness to God’ Category
Acts 11:23 (NKJV)
When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
We all should be doing this to disciples around us. This is not an issue of perseverance of the saints or eternal security or conditional security, this is simply calling out to our fellow travelers on this path of life to stay focused on Christ, to make Christ our love and focus of worship, to continue in His grace knowing that we don’t deserve His grace but He is merciful toward us and He alone is our hope for heaven. This call to continue in the faith is telling disciples to walk in the light as Jesus is in the light (1 John 1:7). This is not a call to “do more” or “work harder” but to simply make sure that Jesus is your passion and that He has not been replaced with the idols in this world or our flesh (1 John 2:15-17; 5:21).
The text above says that Barnabas saw the grace of God. I have often thought about that. What did he see? I have heard various answers. One guy I knew said that he saw soul winning going on based on verse 21. I have heard some say that he saw them hating sin and obeying Christ as Lord (Romans 6:11-14). I have heard even one brother say that Barnabas witnessed their prayer lives and he saw their passion for Jesus in prayer. The text doesn’t really say. We simply know that Barnabas saw evidence of God’s grace at work in their lives. The grace of God obviously then doesn’t lead to continued life of sin (Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 3:6-9). Jude 4 warns against turning God’s grace into a license for sin. I heard one cheap grace teacher read that verse and then reply, “Well I don’t need a license. I sin just fine without one.” He completely ignored the warning from Jude.
So often a person repents and we let them go. We have the thinking that if they belong to Jesus, He will keep them. After all, Jesus is the great shepherd (John 10:14) and He said that He would lose none (John 6:37; 10:27-29) so we need only to point them to Jesus for salvation and God does the rest. However, as John Piper has said before, discipleship is a community effort. The Church, as a community of saints, is called to disciple each other and to help each other to stay focused on the Lord Jesus. Hebrews 3:13-14 and 10:19-25 make it clear that the church is to exhort each other to remain faithful to Christ. We are not to simply give someone over to Jesus and ignore the examples in Scripture and the passages in Scripture that call us to encourage and exhort each other toward holiness and righteousness. James 5:16 mentions the healing that comes from confessing our sins to each other. This comes about through prayer and others helping us to overcome sin and live in Christ Jesus. We need each other. We need the Body of Christ. I need your gifts. You need mine. We need each other because we are but flesh and we are so easily tempted to turn away from Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
May we then encourage some brother or sister today to stay focused on Christ, to remain in His love (Jude 21). I pray that we call each other to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) and I pray that we would exhort each other to abstain from all evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). I pray that we would pray for others to be sanctified by the grace of God (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). I pray that this day would be a day of victory over Satan, over the world, and over the flesh. We are at war (Ephesians 6:12). May we never forget that Jesus is worth all (Luke 14:25-35).
On a follow-up post from the previous post, I wanted to address the issue of false conversions. I first heard of this term when I first became familiar with Ray Comfort. Comfort preached hard about false converts and how so many people in the visible church were not truly saved. He said that false conversions are the result of a faulty gospel message. I looked around and I agreed. So many people in the Church seemed to have been through a ritual whether prayer or baptism or church membership but their lives were marked with sin and lack of faith in God. They showed no zeal for the Lord, no passion for God, no hunger in prayer or for God’s Word, and lived in rebellion against God. They said they loved Jesus but they showed through their lives that they really hated God (Titus 1:16).
I do believe there are many in the Church, whether Arminians or Calvinists, who do not know Christ as Lord. They believe they are saved. They would confess that they are saved but their lives show that they are lost (1 John 2:3-6). Their life of sin shows that they are still in rebellion against God (1 John 3:6-9).
The key difference I would have with Ray Comfort would be over apostasy. Brother Ray would say that a true child of God is saved forever and if a person falls away from the faith, they were never saved to begin with. His teaching is that true children of God will persevere in the faith. Those who do not prove they were not regenerated by the Spirit (1 John 2:19). He would point to people such as Judas as proof or the false disciples of John 6:60-71. Another example could be Simon in Acts 8:18-24.
The Arminian reply is that while there are false converts, this does not negate the fact that there are warning passages given to believers. The entire book of Hebrews would be a case in point. Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-20; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29 – all these warn believers. One must stretch to prove that the writer is not writing to believers in Christ. Of course there are many more than the book of Hebrews but my point is that we must do something with the warning passages. I believe they are there to warn us of a real possibility of personal apostasy so that we might avoid this (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). 1 John 2:24-25 (NKJV) says:
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus. None dispute this point. I would argue that the gift of eternal life is given to us in Christ Jesus and only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). To be outside of Christ is to be lost (John 15:1-11). Jesus is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Our salvation and our security are found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
So the final verdict would be that yes there are certainly those among us Arminians who are not saved. I don’t doubt that. This is true of all Christendom. Yet I would also preach that true Christians must be on guard and must remain focused on Christ alone for our salvation. I would preach that our eyes must remain fixed on Christ alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and not our good works nor our own wisdom. Christ is our life (Colossians 3:1-4). Remain in Jesus by faith (1 Peter 1:5) and make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11). Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
I believe the Bible calls us to holiness (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and I believe that we are to pursue holiness for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). I believe that the Bible is clear that Jesus came to save us from not just the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin (Matthew 1:21; 26:28; Romans 6:23; 8:1-4, 9-12). I believe that 1 John 3:6-9 clearly shows that we are not to practice a life of sin and in fact, 1 John 2:1 says that we should not sin. I believe that the words of Jesus in John 5:14 and John 8:11 show that we are to forsake our sins. The very nature of repentance is a cosmic change of mind and heart about sin and about the holiness of God. Acts 3:19 makes it clear that repentance involves turning away from sin and 2 Corinthians 7:10 says it produces salvation. Hebrews 10:19-39 makes it clear that we are not to return to a life of sin or thus we crucify the Lord Jesus all over again since we count as unworthy His precious blood to help us overcome sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that we can overcome sin by God’s grace. Titus 2:11-12 says that God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus helps us to say no to sin.
Yet we sin. I sin.
The temptation then is to read the above passages and to try to make them not teach what they don’t seem to teach and that is that God calls His people to pursue perfection. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. John Wesley defined this as “perfect in love” and not sinless perfection. There certainly is a danger in sinless perfection teaching in that it becomes all about avoiding this sin or that sin but it doesn’t deal with the heart. Further, the focus becomes all on what we do and not on what Jesus has done. Our performance becomes the focus and not the Lord Jesus nor His grace.
Now I am of the opinion that God does not want us to sin. In fact, there is no sin that His blood can not cleanse us from and can help us to overcome. Nothing is as powerful as the blood of Jesus to cleanse and sanctify. Those who believe they are trapped in sin need to hear the good news that Jesus can set them free by His grace. We cannot overcome sin by our own power or discipline. It is only by the grace of God that we can overcome sin. The grace of God can motivate us to be holy and to honor the Lord in all that we say or do (1 Corinthians 10:31). The will of God for us is clear: our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God called the children of Israel to holiness (Leviticus 11:44) and He calls us, the saints of the Church, to holiness as well.
However, I know of people who claim to sin everyday. I even wrote a post on Amazon.com about holiness through a book review. I actually had some folks writing about how we can’t be holy and how we sin everyday. They actually looked right at the passages on holiness and the call to forsake sin and said, “Nope, can’t be done. I sin. Therefore, these cannot be obeyed.”
I for one will not do this to Scripture. Simply because I have failed at holiness doesn’t mean that the call to holiness is not real nor does not exist. I must seek forgiveness and I will still pursue holiness. I will not give up. I will not quit. Just because I fall down doesn’t mean that I will now look at 1 John 2:1 and say, “I can’t be holy and so I will stop trying to be holy.” No! I hate sin and I will not stop seeking to be holy.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ends with Paul the Apostle praying for the disciples and I love what he prays:
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Do you pray this for others or for yourself? Do you pray for the Lord to sanctify people completely? I do. I long to be holy and I long for the saints of God to be holy. I pray for the Lord to sanctify myself, my family, and all the Christians that I know. I want to see the people of God honoring the Lord through faithfulness. Paul promises in verse 24 that God will do this. Amen!
In dark times like these may we read the words of Polycarp and be exhorted to be faithful to Christ, to continue in the faith, and to embrace Jesus as Lord over all. May we stay pure in an evil world with our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He has set us this example in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case.
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.
Oh let us stand firm! Jesus was faithful to suffer for us. Let us be faithful to suffer but for a little while for Him (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
King David sinned against God. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). 2 Samuel 11:27 ends with the saddest words perhaps in all of Scripture: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD” (NASB).
Arminius wrote about David’s sin rather briefly but his words are interesting. He wrote,
The example of David proves nothing. For, even if it be granted that David after commission of adultery and murder had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not thence follow that He cannot be lost. For a man may sin still more grievously, and on this account lose the Holy Spirit. But what if I shall say that David did lose the Holy Spirit, after he had committed adultery and murder? You will reply that it appears from Psalm li. that the matter stands otherwise. I respond that that Psalm was sung by David after that, having been admonished by Nathan, he had repented of those crimes; but that God, at that time, upon the preaching of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David.
In another place Arminius wrote,
If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.
Many Calvinist have taken exception with these statements saying that his theology here is poor and reflects his belief that a person can “lose their salvation” through sinning. They point to passages that seem to teach our unconditional security in places such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they praise God for His security in spite of their sins.
One Calvinist I have had some exchanges with on Twitter posted remarks about how Arminius was works-righteousness in his beliefs since he rejected eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”). In fact, I would argue that this Calvinist guy holds that if you reject eternal security, you are probably not saved. I wrote him and asked him, “If you went out and committed adultery and murder, where would you spend eternity?” He responded back, “HEAVEN (his emphasis) because my sins are forgiven.” He then responded, “but if I did go out and commit those acts, it would prove I did not believe.” So I wrote back, “So if you commit those sins, you were never saved to begin with?” How can he have it both ways? He says that he can commit adultery and murder and still go to heaven but if he did those sins, he was not saved to begin with?
Do you see where his road is leading? On the one hand he is arguing for an antinomian view that says that nothing we do affects us. We are under no obligation to be holy. We are under no obligation to obey God or submit totally to Him. We can do anything we like, live anyway we want but still be saved. Yet on the other hand, if we do go out and live like “hell” then we prove we were never saved to begin with. So which is it? Are we saved from sin or in our sins? Are we delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin? Is there any sin that is more powerful than God that He cannot help us overcome?
I don’t doubt that we all struggle with the flesh. I recognize that we live in a fallen world full of the flesh and full of the devil. I don’t doubt that we all face temptations (James 3:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us two important points: we all are tempted yet we all have the power of God to overcome. Take the “hot” sin of our times: homosexuality. Is homosexuality natural? The obvious answer for the Christian is no. So is sin natural? Why then do we sin if sin is not natural? The answer is because we want to sin. We love sin. Our flesh desires to sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I don’t buy into my own excuses for sinning nor yours. I sin because I enjoy sinning. Yet the Bible calls me to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Bible calls me to forsake my sins and walk in repentance (Acts 26:20). The Bible calls me to be like Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). The Bible calls me to confess my sins to God (1 John 1:9). The Bible calls me to not sin (1 John 2:1-2). The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).
The security of the believer is simply this: we are saved IN Christ Jesus. Why would you want to be away from Him? What sin is greater than the love of Christ? What does the world offer you that is greater than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven in Christ? You see the issue is not about “losing your salvation” but loving Jesus supremely! The issue is not about what sins can I commit and still be saved but instead the issue is whether you love Christ more than your own sins. We have framed the questions wrong. We have made the debate over “eternal security” all about us and not about Christ. Christ is our salvation. I have eternal life because of Christ and not because of me (John 5:24-25). Christ is our all in all. He is worth more than anything this world can offer or the flesh can desire. In His presence we will be free from sin as we live in eternity with Him, free from the lies of Satan, the temptations of the flesh, and without the bondage of time (Hebrews 12:18-24). I pray that our focus would not be upon us or upon sin but upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
When it comes to cultural issues, the topical Bible teacher has it easy because they can just avoid controversial issues. Whether the issue be a doctrinal debate such as the doctrines of election, predestination, reprobation, wrath, holiness, etc., the topical preacher just never creates a topical study based on those doctrines. He just avoids them altogether. The same is true for cultural issues. The topical preacher will not come under persecution from the culture because they control their talks and they can avoid talking about whatever they want to talk about including debating cultural issues. If the culture is for something that the Bible is against then the topical preacher merely avoids the issue by not talking about that in his topical Bible talks.
Not so with the expositor of God’s Word. Expository preaching requires boldness because the expositor of God’s Word will not be able to avoid dealing with tough theological issues nor can the expositor avoid dealing with cultural issues as they come to them in the text. Whether the issue be divine election or whether the issue be adultery and divorce, the expositor must teach the Word of God faithfully and must not allow their opinions or the opinions of culture to gray the Word of God. The Bible is clear on most issues and the expositor must allow the Bible to speak for itself on cultural issues. The expositor cannot avoid what the Bible says about various issues or doctrines. They must deal with them to be faithful to God. This is the conviction of the expository preacher. We believe that every word in the Bible is vital and important because all of the Bible is from God and given to us by His Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We believe the Word of God and not the opinions of men are what we need to hear and heed (Matthew 4:4). We believe that the Bible and not the preacher or the culture is the final say on all issues (Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Peter 1:16-21). The Word of God alone is the absolute truth of God (John 17:17) and it alone is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (John 10:35).
Expository preaching is dangerous but is necessary for the glory of God. If we really believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God (as it is) then we must believe that every word is from God and every word must be dealt with. Granted not all of Scripture is clear as others (2 Peter 3:15-16) but the job of the Bible teacher is to labor through the Scriptures to explain the Scriptures. It is not our duty to avoid the Scriptures because we merely don’t want to teach them or we don’t want to deal with them. We must be faithful to Lord God and proclaim all His Word (Acts 20:27).
I do pray that topical preachers will take a stand for the truth of God and will teach the Bible faithfully but I fear that many of them will give in to pressure from the world to avoid teaching on topics they know will bring controversy. In my 20 plus years as a disciple of Jesus, most of my life as a disciple has been under topical preachers. Sadly, I have never heard one teaching on difficult doctrines such as election or perseverance of the saints. I have heard countless topical talks aimed at pleasing my flesh or another “law” teaching designed to teach me how to do something like have a better marriage, raise better kids, be a better worker, etc. but rarely have I sat under a Bible teacher who dealt with cultural issues head on. If they did, they gave their opinions while not dealing in-depth with relevant passages of Scripture. I have seen a few topical teachers have series’ on tough issues like “Is it okay to drink alcohol?” or “What does the Bible say about…” but again, they skim the issues and they often give their opinions. Exegesis is often not the focal point.
The expositor of God’s Word will be the most persecuted preacher in the coming years (2 Timothy 3:12). More and more Bible teachers will continue to move toward topical teaching because of the culture (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The true expositor will find themselves alone (2 Timothy 4:5). They will find that they alone, at times, will speak for God. They will often feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10 and will feel as if they are facing the wicked forces of this world alone. I pray that they know that they are not alone. We are promised persecution (Matthew 5:10-12) and we are promised that all men will hate us because of Christ (John 15:18-25). I pray that we will focus on pleasing God above our flesh (1 Corinthians 10:31) and our focus will be on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The Word of God is able to save sinners as we faithfully preach God’s truth to this wicked generation (2 Timothy 3:15). Let us not shy away from verse by verse preaching of the Word of God.