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Thursday, August 21, 2008

“Eternal Security” part 2 (intermingled with Roman Catholicism part 2)

The reason I entitled this post thusly is because I was dialoguing with a Roman Catholic following my first post on Roman Catholicism, and he mentioned a text that I cover in this post. I hope that he reads this; and I hope to have some good interaction on this; and I hope this is helpful and edifying to those who can be delighted by it. And so I continue…

Some point out the warning passages as evidence that someone can actually walk away from the faith and ultimately end up in hell, but this is simply not so. An examination of the contexts of these passages will once again vindicate my claim. The only thing that you can gather from the warning passages is that if someone walks away from the faith then they were never actually saved to begin with.

Take I John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

The warning passages were written to those whom the authors were actually quite hopeful about. They were warning their recipients, but they were sure that those reading were not of the sort who would "fall away." The writer to the Hebrews made sure to mention the fact that he didn't expect his readers to "fall away." He said, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation. (Heb. 6:9)" So, the writer apparently didn't believe that "falling away" was something that "belonged to salvation." In other words, if you had true salvation that was brought about by God, you wouldn't "fall away."

Another passage that is frequently twisted by Roman Catholics is Philippians chapter 2, verse 12:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," (Php 2:12 ESV)

A Roman Catholic will attempt to utilize this verse in teaching to have a fear of losing your salvation, but by simply reading and contemplating the very next verse, this erroneous perspective falls apart:

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Php 2:13 ESV)

I actually commented on this passage once before elsewhere, so I'll just post it here instead of writing it all over again:

"Paul tells believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Why? According to the RC understanding, it is because we need to be worried about maintaining our standing in God's favor. This seems like a feasible understanding of the text, too. Never mind if Paul informs believers in verses such as Romans 5:1 or Philippians 1:6 that we are at peace with God and that He will bring us through this life in a good standing with Him. That is, it seems feasible unless Paul indicates another meaning behind it.
So what does Paul say within the context of Philippians 2:12? Well, how bout we read it with the next verse?

Php 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So, it seems as if Paul is telling believers to "work out [their] salvation" in this way "FOR (or because, or for this reason) it is GOD" doing these things in them-- not themselves. God forbid we should get the false assumption that we have anything to do with our salvation. GOD has done, is doing, and WILL DO all of it. We are simply recipients of His grace who have the privilege of being used by Him to bring Himself glory and praise. How sweet the sound of that grace!"

And here's something for further reflection: Paul points out the fact that God gives the will AND the work in verse 13. First of all, what do you think this means? It seems to me that Paul is saying that God is actually performing the works through us that bring Him pleasure. In other words, believers are instruments in God's hands that are used to accomplish the things that He likes to see. I realize that others have a slightly different understanding of this, but I think that this is the most legitimate reading. The main point, though, is that if God is the one performing the actual works that believers do, how can we fall short of the promised reward? This is the point of Paul's warning; if we don't have the desire or the works, we should be very afraid to the point of following the exhortation in II Corinthians 13:5--Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Each of us should reflect upon both of these passages and respond to the Spirit's leading, whether that means falling on our faces before God in humble repentance or singing to God the praise in our hearts for the great work of salvation He has, is and will perform in us. He is worthy of all our praise!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Epiphany!

Lately, I've been struggling with finding enjoyment in my relationship with God. I honestly have not been able to experience the enjoyment in my prayer life and daily fellowship with God as I once had. I'm not really sure why (though I have a few clues), but I have been content to endure through this valley until my Savior will refresh me in His perfect time.

Well, I realized as I was listening to the message at church last Sunday that this is a preposterous way of handling the situation. I don't remember what exactly the Lord used to bring this to my attention, but an illustration I heard when listening to Desiring God shined a whole new light on the situation. The illustration basically says that a man's wife would not be honored by her husband bringing her a dozen long-stemmed roses if, when she expressed her gratitude, her husband says, "Don't mention it; it's my duty." This illustration, I'm ashamed to say, sums up my recent relationship with the God Who plucked me out of my sinfully destructive lifestyle and placed me into His heavenly family. He has saved me from eternal torment and given me not only eternal life, but He has given me abundant life on this earth; and I should be fighting to experience that joyfully abundant life. Me not doing this is nothing less than sin.

Lately, though, I have been reading and listening to some more devotional material such as Desiring God, Pursuit of God and Augustine's Confessions; and God has been pleased to reveal Himself in a deeper way to me through the insights of these much appreciated saints. I have been encouraged to not seek to enjoy God by saying, "Boy, these sure are great gifts that God has given," but rather by saying, "God is my most valued treasure, and I have nothing that I desire but You, oh Lord!" These, by far, are what I most need to recognize and to strive after.

The only problem I've had with these encouragements has been the fact that I have nothing tangible to focus my attention on because God is Spirit. How do you focus you praise and adoration on an abstract being? Many people that have gone before me have made this same error; and this, of course, is a sure way to lead to idolatrous worship. Though, by God's grace, I've been enabled to grasp one aspect of this beholding of and worshiping of God for Him rather than His gifts…

Lately, I have been pondering certain things about the nature of God and how Christ upholds the universe. In Colossians 1:17 Paul informs us that all things are held together in Christ. How does this work? Does Jesus consciously direct each and every blood vessel and muscle fiber in my body, or has He simply determined the laws by which those things operate, set them in motion and then hold those laws within a certain parameter? Adding to my curiosity is Ephesians 1:11 which says that God "works ALL things according to the counsel of his will." Really? All things? For some, this topic might not hold any appeal; for me, though, the topic has consumed much of my thinking lately.

But the real significance of this train of thought is the fact that as I was pondering this the other day, I began to wonder what it will be like when I sit in the presence of God Himself. Will He reveal these things to me? I'm sure that He will reveal more than what I now know. I can picture myself sitting, listening as Jesus explains the complexities of all of history. Why did he allow those gruesome acts to take place? After all, God not only knows what has happened in history, but He knows why it happened. He determined that it would happen. And I will one day sit in His presence. The mere fact that He may enlighten my understanding of the past is not good enough, though. The mere fact that I will be in His presence is the thing that brings me joy. I will one day be in the presence of God, and anything I can imagine that experience to be will not do it justice.

Actually, I am in God's presence now. He Who is everywhere and nowhere at once. He is right here with me now. He sees all that I do. He causes my heart to groan after Him. I love Him for all these things. I pray that I will realize these things more frequently and that I will be aware of anything that will take this awareness and joy away before I allow myself to plunge into unnecessary misery again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Need a Subscription to WORLD magazine…

Well, I got my new issue of TIME magazine today, and guess whose mug is plastered across the front of it? None other than Rick Warren. Apparently, "America's most powerful religious leader," as TIME titles him, is doing some incredibly charitable acts in nearly every corner of the globe. It seems that he has a good start, as well; but he has also encountered some roadblocks. TIME has the complete story (what they've covered of it, anyhow) here:,8599,1830147,00.html.

As I skeptically began reading this article, I expected to find more ecumenically condemning snippets than I did, but I must say that I have finished more disappointed than anything. The disappointment, maybe to your surprise, is not what you may have guessed. The article relates Warren's plans of setting up (Purpose Driven) churches in every country in order to meet the needs of the…needy. I heard previously that Warren was teaming with many different non-Christian religious leaders in order to accomplish this aspiration of his, but I didn't hear much about that in this article. Rather, Warren seems to be gaining popularity with political leaders.

Athough Warren is rubbing elbows with the likes of Barack Obama and the president of some African country, he maintains his allegiance to his pastoral role. On the other hand, Warren has invited America's two presidential candidates to discuss the issues at hand on August 16th in his church. I really don't see anything wrong with this; as a matter of fact, this is normal historically. The topics are what concerns me: according to TIME, Warren plans to shy away from "'sin issues'—like abortion and gay marriage" in order to focus on "questions that he feels are 'uniting,' such as 'poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights…'"

To sum up, the reason why I have come away from this article in disappointment is not because Warren is accomplishing these kind acts for mankind all over the world. I do, however, believe that he is being rather political in his approach in order to be successful, and he probably is enlisting the aid of non-Christians to accomplish his goal. I just don't condone this unification with unbelievers from someone who calls himself a preacher of the Gospel. But the disappointment I feel is that someone like Warren has initiated this movement to reach the world in order to meet their physical needs when someone who would be more likely to have a focus on meeting their spiritual needs is not.

All in all, I think it's nice that someone is taking the initiative to gets these things done, and I pray that—no matter how flawed Warren's methods—God will use those associated with this movement to reach those others for whom Christ died. Brings to mind the thought of God raising up rocks to bring Him glory...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Worth-while Pondering

I originally posted this as a note on my Facebook, but I realized that some of the people that see this blog don't necessarily see my Facebook. I think that this is worthy of the blog since this is a very practical theological pondering. Please take a moment to ponder these words and meditate on them and how they may be applied to your own walk with the Lord. If you don't see the validity of them, or if you can't see yourself mustering up the affections necessary for such a pursuit--get on your knees.

Enjoyment is something that we all seek. If we're seeking it in something other than God, we are denying God the rightful place in our lives.

This paragraph is from one of CS. Lewis's sermons entitled "The Weight of Gory." I came across it when listening to the first chapter of Desiring God. I believe that it's an accurate assessment of most people's flawed understanding of what our motives ought to be when seeking to serve God and others. Take a look, and lemme know what you think...

"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order to follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half- hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Now, before you deny this as being applicable to you, seriously consider your true motives when seeking to serve you simply deny yourself something and take pleasure in your own piety? Do you exalt yourself in your own mind? Do you rob yourself of your heavenly reward? There is a fine line between seeking joy in serving others and seeking self satisfaction in your own pride. This is truly something to think about. Please prayerfully consider these things, and aim (as I have been seeking to do) toward the pure goal of satisfaction and joy in bringing joy to others and glorifying God in the process.

Friday, August 8, 2008

“Eternal Security”

Lately, the topic of security in Christ has come up in more than one conversation. I am alarmed when I hear of this, but I’m not quite as bothered by it as when some believe that they are “once saved, always saved” because many times this position is without proper Biblical backing. The alert over the doubting of some is why, in this post, I hope to give a summary of some Biblical texts that teach the true meaning of security in Christ. This will cover some texts that are twisted by some religious groups to keep their followers from ever truly trusting in Christ, and I hope will quell the doubts of whomever might read this while struggling with this issue.

The thing of first importance in this, I believe, is a correct theology of salvation. This begins by realizing that everyone is born a dead sinner who is blind and deaf to spiritual things. If this is realized, one huge hindrance in the process of complete trust in Christ is subdued. I don’t desire to make this a book-length blog post, so I won’t delve into many of the supporting texts concerning this truth. I will, however, cite one that teaches both the inadequacy of man to respond to spiritual things and the sufficiency of Christ to keep those who do respond. So, this theology of salvation will be taken mainly from John 6:37-39 & 44.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (Joh 6:37-39, 44 ESV)

Notice that Jesus points out the fact that “All” those given to Him by the Father “will” come. We know from the context that not everyone is given to Jesus because no one can come without being drawn (v. 44), and whoever is drawn WILL come (v. 37). This is imperative because it means that God is the one accomplishing the action—not man. Therefore, if God has performed this action we can be confident that it WILL be accomplished (Phil. 1:6).

Notice also that Jesus says that everyone who is drawn not only WILL come, but they will be raised up at the last day. Jesus points this out in verses 39 and 44. My question to the one struggling with security in salvation is, “Can Jesus fail?” Even if you were to say that you walking away is what keeps you from being raised up, doesn’t this ultimately mean that Jesus kept you from persevering? It would necessarily mean that Jesus actually DID lose some of the ones that He was not supposed to lose. Though, if it’s the will of the Father for Jesus to keep all who come to Him, He must accomplish His task or fail. I submit that He will NEVER fail in this mission. On the contrary, He CANNOT lose any of them—He’s God for cryin out loud!

I know it was short, but for this time, I’ll quit here. I think that the obvious truth of this passage is…well, obvious! I pray that anyone reading this is able to see the fact that if it was God’s intention to save you in spite of your insurmountable shortcomings, then He’ll most certainly not change His mind and let you walk away from Him afterwards. Though I was short, I pray that anyone who is unsure of this truth will take the time to read this section in John 6; and if you have any objections, I’m happy to spend some time interacting on this topic. In the meantime, keep an open eye for my next post on this same topic…

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Ya know, this John Piper guy is someone with a huge following by many at my school, and there are many others who just make so much of this guy that when I first heard of him I was a bit leery of even listening to him. I remember when I decided to actually watch a Piper videocalled “The Blazing Center” that I borrowed from a friend who had lots of Piper’s resources. After watching, I started to understand why these kids were so infatuated with Piper, but I was not so sure about this “Christian Hedonist” concept that he was going on about. I understood the concept; I just didn’t think that hedonist was the best word to express it (bad connotations, you know). At this point, though, I had an idea of what Piper taught, and I didn’t think his teaching was all too dangerous.

Now that I’ve heard many Piper sermons and have even seen him speak at the 2008 T4G conference, I have really grown to appreciate this man’s ministry. I have been excited by him to behold the glory of God. I have actually heard Dr. Piper speak and read some things he has written, and even when I start out disagreeing with him I normally have to concede to his point by the time I finish. He is an exegete, and I cannot find many of his things I disagree with when I consider carefully. And he always accomplishes the goal of giving God much glory as far as I’ve seen. His whole ministry is focused on this and directing others to take joy in God and to make Christ their treasure.

I recently heard this quote by Dr. Piper: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your treasure?” I think this sums it all up. I heard this quote when I was listening to my new favorite book in audio form—Desiring God. I cannot more highly recommend this book. This book is about making much of God and making the pursuit of your life to seek joy in God in everything you do. I think this is a high calling that every child of the King should be adopting.

We should most definitely seek to achieve the highest form of pleasure in this life, and this pleasure is to be found nowhere but in God. If we seek pleasure in anything else, we are disobeying many of God's commands. This also extends to serving others and is stated very well in Desiring God like this: “Love is the overflow of joy in God gladly meeting the needs of others.”

I realize that many people do not care for John Piper, and I have a friend who seemed to have some helpful insight into why this might be. He said that they are either (1) Jealous of the following that Piper has, (2) Are not saved, or (3) They have simply not experienced this enjoyment in God. I’m not really sure how you can separate the last two, but when I realized as I was listening to this book that I was not enjoying God as I once was I was overcome with grief. I had to plead with God to forgive me and to recreate in me this passion for Him to overflow into every area of my life. So, if John Piper exudes a joy in God that spreads to others then I think that he’s not as bad as some would make him out to be.

I must say in closing that I would not commend a man like this in most cases, but John Piper is not one who seems to be out to promote himself. If there ever was a man who pointed away from himself and to God it’s him. He certainly does carry himself well (I thought he was about 6 feet tall, but he’s about 4’10”!) and speak captivatingly, but all of these gifts are being used to point others to Christ over any miniscule pleasure this world has to offer. So, I will gladly commend John Piper to anyone in the hopes that they will catch a passion for the glory of God in all things and join the ranks of the Christian Hedonists who are provoking others to do the same.

Thank God for John Piper! And thank God I’m a Christian Hedonist too!

Dramatized Exegesis