Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Posts tagged “Faith

Doubting the Surely

Psalm 73 (read it here http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2073&version=NASB ), is a great help to me. I go through times where I struggle with my faith in The LORD and this is one of the passages in which God strengthens my heart.

The psalmit begins with an affirmation “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” It’s good that he starts with this for what follows lines up with the experience of the doubter. The author of this psalm lets us know that he doubted also, but has come through those doubts and states the surety of a truth before walking us through the dark valley he traversed. He affirms the light at the end of the tunnel before taking us through it.
“But as for me, my feet had come close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped.” He describes has he had almost completely fallen away from the truth he initially stated. He was weighed down with doubt and attributes it to being consumed with the appearance of the wicked stating “As I saw the prosperity of the wicked…” This is problem. This is when the cares of this world are at their strongest – when we’re staring at them. Whether it be financial prosperity that lures us, intellectual respect, the belief system of the majority, peace and enjoyment among friends, etc; when we get our eyes off of Jehovah and see things through the temporal or naturalistic lens, we loose heart. We begin to entertain thoughts like those of the psalmist, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence…” These thoughts may sound more like this to us, “The God you were taught as a kid is not real, look at the majority of scientist and even the average Joe – they don’t even believe in Him!”, “How could God be real and this bad thing still happen to me? Maybe I’ve just been fooling myself.” Or “Where is God anyway, is He there? My world seems like it’s falling apart!”
The sure-fire way to stay in this situation is to continue to do what started it. This is the lot of those Jesus spoke of in His parable of the soils. Those who’s sprouts are choked out by the cares of the world. But by God’s grace, He will not let His children stay here long. (Why He designs our trials like these is for another day.) He will turn our eyes and hearts back to Him. Just as the Psalmist tells us, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight, until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. ” He goes on to describe the certain destruction of those who do not fear Almighty God, and then describes himself through all this. “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” Looking back on his doubts and struggles he professes himself to have been senseless. This is interesting for it’s while going through these doubts he thought himself to had been foolish for believing in Jehovah; he had doubted the wisdom in not living as the ungodly. Now, having seen God afresh, he professes his doubtful time to be marked by ignorance and his mindset as that of a brute beast. Yet even in his ignorance and weakness he sees God’s grace through it all – “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.” Through it all, God had the psalmist. Through it all God was holding on to this doubting, weak creature, guiding him and will in time bring him to be with HIM.
The psalmist closes up with praise to the God he doubted initially. He declares that there is no one in heaven beside God, and nothing on earth he would rather have than Jehovah. He knows his own strength will fail him, but God is his Sustainer. It is good for him to be close to God, so he has made God his refuge. We come full circle now and see why he says as his opening statement “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!”

As I read this psalm, I am strengthened; for the world has it’s wise, it’s rich, it’s successful; and they look wise, rich, and successful. The cares can grip tightly, and there are times where I feel I am being strangled by these worldly cares. My steps are slipping, and I feel like I’m almost gone. It seems the wicked are wiser than me, it seems they have their act together, and I’m over here by myself living in a delusional world or I’m not having as much fun as they are. But God in His grace, revives me. He Who is able to keep me from falling holds my hand and guides me. There is a reason Scripture speaks of those who persevere to the end as His people. It is most definitely a fight, and by His grace, His people do fight. We are weak, but our God is strong and watches over us. We are foolish and ignorant, we are unstable and doubt the God Who created us and reveals Himself to us. We are quick to forget His mighty acts, for we easily are caught up by what we see now. Like Thomas, we are quick to believe only that which we can see; but God opens our eyes to the reality of Him. Soli Deo Gloria!


A Parable:

The Arminian kingdom of heaven is like an architect who lived during the boom of the American economy. He was extremely good at his job. Josh, the architect, had an enemy who was massively cruel. Every building Josh would erect, Stan ( his opponent) would attempt to destroy. Josh decided to build the peak of His architectural feats. He was going to build the world’s largest residential complex. It would house all the known population of New York city. In this complex, one could commute to work, live, swim, spend time at a park, etc all without ever leaving the building. There was no pollution, no disease, and one wouldn’t even feel as if he were indoors when playing in the indoor parks, or pools, or whatever. On top of that electricity was half the cost than power outside of the complex. This was the utopia of New York City.
Josh knew Stan well though. He knew Stan would try to wreak havoc on not only the structure itself, but on the residents who would live in it. He knew Stan so well that he knew exactly how Stan would go about attempting to destroy the building and the people in it. Knowing this Josh took an extra precaution. He made a way in which the people could get out of the building – a trap door that Stan didn’t know about.
As a matter of fact, hardly anyone knew about it. The handful of people that did know didn’t tell everybody about it either. So when Stan detonated the bombs, and set fire to the edifice, many perished because they didn’t know about the trap door. Some knew about it, but just figured the little rumble they heard from the 100+ floors below was just thunder and there was no need to panic. Others jumped out the windows because they heard the bombs but didn’t believe the trap door was really their way of escape. And others chose to walk through the door, some really believing what they were told and others just trying it hoping it would work, not really believing at all but having no other viable option.

Now questions:
1. Was Josh really their savior or did he just make a way for them to save themselves if they chose to?
2. If Josh did the same thing for every resident in the building, and some of them weren’t saved by what Josh did – was it Josh that made the difference between life and death for them?
3. Was it possible, based on the effectiveness of Josh’s work; for no one to have been saved and all die in the burning building had they chose to. In other words, could Josh actually make sure his escape plan was effective?
4. If Josh couldn’t guarantee that the residents be saved, and Stan couldn’t guarantee all the residents perish, but it was up to the residents themselves – who has the power to determine the success of the antagonist and protagonist schemes?


Failures of “the drowning man”

I know posting a link to another page isn’t really considered blogging, but I wish to direct those who read the blog to this article as something to ponder.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/drowningman2.html


Sola Fide Gone Wrong:

The power of faith - "I believe there were no gas chambers."

Sola Fide is a doctrine that the church was brought back to during the reformation. It has been said that it is the hinge upon which the door of salvation turns. It is Latin for “Faith Alone” and is the doctrine that teaches that God’s pardon of guilty sinners is received through faith alone (all works excluded). But it is my contention today that many in the church have taken this vital biblical principle and really “booger-ed it up”.

It seems that today, faith has become the anchor for our souls. People find their assurance of their salvation by looking at their faith – they’re told to do this by the leaders in the church. When doubts arise and they need something to cling to they are told to look introspectively and cling to their faith. This is like a man who’s falling, looking for something to hang on to, grasps his other hand tightly and expecting that to support him. The passages we pull out of context to support this are ones that say something like this: “Believe on The LORD Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!” or “if you confess with your mouth The LORD Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from that dead you shall be saved”. What happens is a twisted doctrine of Sola Fide. Somehow we have come to believe that our faith alone saves us. We put our faith in faith. Jesus becomes more abstract – a thing to give mental assent to so we can check that box in our list of things to believe. When doubts come we get our checklist out and say:

“Jesus is God’s Son” – CHECK!

“Jesus died on the cross” – CHECK!

“Jesus rose from the dead” – CHECK!

“Jesus is coming back” – CHECK!

We then turn to Satan, or maybe one of his lesser demons if we are more humble, and say “See there?! I’m saved! I got it all checked. I believe!” Or we tell God, “God, you have to save me. You can’t let me go to hell. You said if I believed then I wouldn’t go to hell. I believe these things, so there!” And rest on our faith.

We’re fine until we come across Matt 7 in our devotional time: “Many will say unto Me in that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and do many wondrous works in Your name?’ and I will say to them, ‘ Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you!’ ” And the doubts flood in again. These guys had all the boxes checked! The confessed with their mouth! They called Him “LORD” twice for crying out loud! What more could you do? Like the man falling into the abyss, we cling all the more tightly to our own sweaty palm trying to convince ourselves we aren’t really falling.

Where did it go wrong? Doesn’t “Sola Fide” mean faith alone? I believe it has gone wrong with the fundamental way today’s church views the gospel. We have stripped it of it’s efficacy in attempts to give it efficacy. In striving to “recruit” men and women into the faith, we have bled the power out of it. God justifies men/women, and He has done so through the life of Jesus (I speak of His life, death, and resurrection). We are telling people that Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that (and we fill the blank with multiple options)

      1. You would see how much God loves you
      2. Because He couldn’t bear to live without you
      3. So that God could forgive you if you ask Him to (just to name a few)

The fundamental message we give is the same regardless of how we fill in the blank – “Jesus did what He did as an attempt to get you to do what you need to do so you won’t go to hell.” It’s like telling a man to sit where there is no chair but once he sits the chair will magically appear. As good as this may sound, and as well intentioned as the people are who speak it, it is hideously wrong. Having bled Jesus’ work of all real efficacy, we promise the individual that it will really work if he only believes in it. It is His work that saves me, not my faith in His work. I am not saying that men/women are saved regardless of whether they believe or not. I am not excluding faith and the means by which we receive justification. I am saying it is not the grounds of my justification. This is where we have gone wrong with the necessarily wonderful doctrine of “Faith Alone”. Faith is powerless in itself. Stripped naked, it is pure trust – belief. It is incapable of making a thing true or false. It doesn’t give life to the dead. It won’t crank a car with no motor – it won’t even crank a car with a motor. It is absolutely powerless to make things other than they already are, and it can’t make a chair appear if there isn’t one there already. This is the problem. After offering people an atonement that has not atoned we tell them that it can become a real atonement if they believe in it. Then when doubts come, where have we conditioned them to seek solace? Jesus? Not on their life. They were convinced that their faith made the difference so the go check to make sure they’re still saying “yes” to all the right things. Ask them why they know they’re going to heaven and the general reply is “Because I’ve placed my faith in Jesus Christ!” Not a bad answer if they mean God has promised that He justified sinners through His Son and we can rest on that; but it has been my experience that they don’t mean that. They mean exactly how it’s worded, “Because I did X”.

Do you see the difference? One grounds the basis of their salvation in their faith, the other grounds the basis of their salvation in God. This self-centered sola fide is shaky stuff. How do I know I have enough faith? What if I think I believe, but I really don’t believe and I’m just fooling myself? How do I really know I believe? And then we set out to prove to ourselves we believe: vow to spend no less than 5 minutes a day reading the Bible, go to church every time the doors are open, pass out tracts, tithe, the list is endless. Nothing is wrong with these things, but when they are done to prop up our failing faith then it’s nothing short of legalism (which is a whole other issue). These actions, and others like it, aren’t props for our faith, but outgrowths of it. I attend a local assembly of believers BECAUSE I believe the gospel, not because somehow it a way of showing myself, or others, that I still believe.

Whenever we put man at the center then we get all sorts of poor doctrine. And doctrine directly affects us in the everyday practicalities of life. So, by God’s grace, let’s stop offering men a saving machine that has the power to save them if they just make it run by using their faith to operate it and give them a Savior Who really saves. If I can do nothing to redeem myself from sin, don’t offer me an impotent redemption that can’t actually redeem me without my doing something. I need a Savior!

I hear it all depends on my faith
So I’m feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they’re so mysterious

And like a consumer I’ve been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith,
Then I’d be secure

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

(lyrics from “Shifting Sand” by Caedmon’s Call)


Un-apologetically Apologetic:

In a group discussion a couple days ago, a statement was made that we should not think we have to give reasoned arguments for why we hold something to be true. It was submitted that we should just unashamedly proclaim the truth and not worry as to arguing the veracity of our claims. I believe this to be faulty thinking. As a Calvinist, I firmly believe that those whom God has chosen to save will most certainly be saved in His time – that these believers will NEVER fall away as they are kept  by the power of God.

BUT….

I do not believe that this negates the importance of apologetics (giving a defense or proof or reason of a held position).

Let me substantiate my claim – in other words; permit me to employ apologetics in defending the need for apologetics. (No! This isn’t circular reasoning, rather serves as an illustration in itself.)

God The Father used apologetics. God’s mode of operation was to give signs for His prophets to perform in the midst of the people they were sent to so as to validate that what they were saying was legitimately “Thus saith The LORD!” Even in Isaiah 40-41 God gives reasons why He is not to be doubted. In chapter 41:21 God then demands of the false gods a defense to substantiate their claim – “’Present your case,’ the LORD says. ‘Bring forward your strong arguments,’”
Jesus Christ employed apologetics. In John 10:25 He said, “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.” Jesus did not just come on the scene and make unsubstantiated claims to Deity. He backed up His words with substantial evidence. Now granted, men must be regenerated before they will believe the truth of Jesus (another topic for another day), and Jesus is fully aware of this; yet He still doesn’t fail to give proof of His claims.
The apostles employed apologetics. Peter – 2 Peter 1:16, The author of Hebrews –  Hebrews 2:4,  Paul – 2 Corinthians 12:11-12, Luke cites proof God gave to confirm His message through His apostles – Acts 17:2, John – 1 John 1:1-3. Each of these men gives evidence to support the veracity of what they claim. They don’t expect their audience to believe them just because they say to believe it.
We are commanded in Scripture to employ apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15 commands us to be prepared to give a defense of the hope that is in us. When people ask us for a reason of belief then we are expected to explain the grounds of our belief. This will increase as we grow in the knowledge of our LORD, but it is something that is expected of us. We are not commanded to convince them by our grounds of belief, but we are commanded to be able to give a defense for them.
God requires of us that we use our minds. Matthew 22:37 There are two ditches on the intillectual path. One is to rely on nothing save the mind… not a good idea! The other is to so devalue the mind that for one to ask basic questions to learn he is labeled an unbeliever or heretic. How are we to love Him with all our minds when refuse to employ them?
Christianity is naturally suited for it, as it is founded upon a historical event. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 15. If Jesus is not literally resurrected from the dead then we Christians have nothing, but a hollow belief that we will live forever, but nothing substantial to base that on. We are miserably wrong if it isn’t fact; but Paul goes on to assure us that Jesus’ resurrection is a fact
Intellectual dishonesty is a breach of the 9th commandment. “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. Paul tells the Thessalonians that when an individual said they had a word from God to”examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (I Thess. 5:21) It seems that many today are fearful to permit their faith to be examined. A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. God is the creator of all things, so we need not be afraid to engage in scientific research. God is truth, so we need not fear that history, or archeology will ever contradict the Almighty potentate. He is LORD of history. To blindly hold to something without any evidence to support your belief is not spiritual, it’s delusional! To refuse to examine your belief system in light of truth and still claim for it to be true is intellectually dishonest – what you believe may in fact be true regardless, but refusing to hold it to the light out of fear of it not being substantiated and still claim it as such is a lie.
Faith without evidence is stupidity. 2 Peter 1:16, if I may call on this text again, reminds us that what was being proclaimed to the people was done so upon sound fact. Evidence was cited to encourage the people being addressed that they were not being duped into a lie. Now I’m not advocating that one is not to believe a thing unless absolute certainty is obtained. This negates faith, as well as is self defeating for we never have absolute certainty about anything (apart from faith I might add). We trust the brakes in our vehicle. We know they have not failed us to this point and so we go careening down the interstate at 70 MPH (okay, sometimes more than that) and have faith that our brakes will stop us when we need to do so. Now we don’t actually have 100% certainty that they will work this time. They could fail. Although they haven’t yet, this one time could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although we don’t absolutely KNOW they will work when the time comes, we believe that they will. If one were to treat his breaks like skeptics expect all people to treat Christianity then we would never drive anywhere. So it is, with faith. Faith is only as beneficial as the object in which it is placed. And one can tell whether faith is misplaced by evidence. What am I trying to say? It’s a bad idea to trust a liar, and it’s not a good idea to distrust a man who is known for his honesty. Don’t be stupid. But hear me out – I’m not saying that before one can trust in the finished work of Jesus he must be an expert in textual criticism. At regeneration the evidence that convinces one of the veracity of the gospel is the work of The Holy Spirit (His working is also what convinces men to accept other arguments for the truthfulness of Scripture). I’m saying that faith begins like a child believing his father about a matter. The Holy convinces us of it, and although we can’t answer all the critics right off, we do know in our hearts that what God says of us is true and what He says of Christ is true. We believe Him. The working of the Holy Spirit is subjective proof as we can’t manifest that to someone else, yet we know deep down what we have experienced. The external proofs are simply confirmation that encourage us that we are interpreting our internal experience properly.

Faith is to increase. This can only happen in proportion to the knowledge of the object of one’s faith. Paul cites the stalwart of his faith is Jesus (2 Timothy 1:12). Faith is not this positive feeling we try to cling to that everything will be alright, we just have to stick it out – and when asked how we know this the answer pretty much amounts to an “it has to pan out in the end”. When I speak of faith increasing, I do not mean that fuzzy feeling that day has to break eventually increases. True faith is as firm as the understanding of the object or person that faith is in. For our faith to increase our knowledge of God and His works among the children of men must increase. This is a benefit to studying world history, science, etc. Our faith in God’s Word is increased as we see even more archeological discoveries, and historical documents that verify its recordings. It’s like my child believing God is real and the Bible is God’s Word because I say so. His faith in God, at this stage in his life, is based on his faith in me. He trusts me, that I would not lie to him. If his faith is to grow, he must learn more of the God he believes in, instead. Now it’s not that he didn’t really believe as a child that what I told him was true, it’s that as he becomes older he has to make it more of his own. I suppose it is possible for, “Because my daddy said so” to be the only thing his faith is anchored in, but if there is nothing more for him to cling to then he will be stunted DRASTICALLY; and chances are that if his faith isn’t rooted in substance then he will wilt and die – proving that his faith was spurious to begin with! (Something we see in Jesus’ parable about the varying soils.) I think the apostasy rate in our churches is due, to a large degree, of the fact that we are not teaching people as God would have us do. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, ” Hebrews 3:12-14 We are never told that a true believer will never doubt, rather we are told that he will persevere. Apologetics is part of that perseverance.
The God that ordains the ends ordains the means to that ends. If a carpenter wishes a nail to be driven into a board, he must use a hammer (or some other tool) to nail it in. If God intends to bring a person to faith then that person must come in contact with the gospel. And if God will not let one of His children fall away, then there is a means by which He keeps them as well. Just as the reason we give the gospel. They must hear before they can respond to it. Apologetics will not argue a man from enmity to reconciliation, but it does serve as a warning sign that if they persist it is due to their own unbelieving heart, not to any lack of evidence on God’s part. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough light, rather we hate the light. At any rate, we need never cease shining the light – apologetics is a way to do just that.

Also, apologetics has served to strengthen my faith. As I study God’s Word, and see it’s claims not only attested by The Holy Spirit, but also in history, archeology, and the like, my faith is deepened all the more. The more I look at His Word, the more I am assured that my faith is not in vain!

For the reasons given here, I am un-apologetically apologetic.


The FORCE (or Star Wars Christianity):

I’ve noticed an epidemic among Christians today, they seem to think that the story of a galaxy far, far away is a parable of their life. Their midichlorian faith is their link to great things. They think if they can just have a high enough concentration of faith then God (the FORCE) will bring about the desired result. These Christian Jedi’s think that they can use the FORCE to stop bad things if they only believe. Whether cancer, a rebellious teen, a failing marriage, or a check book that’s always in the red – if they have enough faith then the FORCE will act in their favor. They even interpret the Christian “God bless you” to mean essentially the same as the Jedi Counsel parting of “May the force be with you!”

This breed of Christianity has elevated faith above its object. The Christians’ faith becomes placed in his faith or in himself as it’s essentially his ability to generate enough faith; and God become the means to an ends, a FORCE that they can wield for their benefit and ease of life if they only believe.

Although it may sound super spiritual to attempt great things, or hang on when there is nothing to hang on to, and claim that one must have faith; there is no biblical warrant for this twisted use of spiritual jargon. The faith of many young apprentices quickly collapses as they have no foundation for it. They become disillusioned, or angry at God for not responding as they anticipated He would. Some walk away from Christianity as a whole, with the reasoning that if their midichlorian faith was futile then there is nothing but naturalistic laws and blind chance that reigns supreme in the end.

In Scripture, we are told to believe God. Faith is firmly rooted in the character and nature of Jehovah and His promises. We are never asked to just believe for the sake of belief. Take the account of the 3 Hebrew men who would not bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. In refusing to bow, even upon the threat of their being thrown into the fiery furnace, they exclaimed that God is able to deliver them from the furnace, BUT if He doesn’t then they will burn – regardless of what The Almighty has chosen, they would not bow.

Luckily, these three men had not been introduced to the Jedi way. Today, we are more interested in the outcome of our circumstances – we tend towards pragmatism. Romans 8:28 is the favorite verse of many professing believer. As they go through hard times, they repeat the mantra that all things will work out for their good. And their hope is to wait for that more dependable car, or winning lotto ticket to come rolling down the pike. They see their suffering as some sort of down payment for happiness later, possibly in the next couple years or so. Some people even tithe with the idea that tithing will bring God’s blessing and not tithing will bring His curse. (Karma has also cloaked itself in Christianity for many.) Obedience to God is no longer done from a heart of love for God but rather love of self. Things are done to keep God appeased and pleased with us so that all will go well for us. But what of times when things just do not seem to end well for us? Peter was crucified, John beheaded, countless other people martyred for their trust in God. The baby born prematurely does die sometimes, and my Grandmother didn’t win her battle with cancer. Prayers do seem to go unanswered. There are times where life is more like a casket of thorns rather than a bed of roses. When this reality sets in, then many give up. They have built their Christianity on a foundation of humanism. Having been told it’s proper to keep themselves at the center of all things; when all things fall apart so do they.

Romans 8:28, and other passages like it, are not there for our self aggrandizement, rather tells us to trust in God. Even when things don’t seem good, trust Him to work His purposes for our good – remember how we define good is vastly different than God’s definition of good. Have faith in God! Not that He will pull through for you, or make it all easier soon enough; but believe Him when He says He’s in control. Love Him and obey Him regardless of the outcome. We should not serve Him for the expected outcome, but because He is worthy.

Star Wars makes for great movies, but poor Christianity. Thoughts, you have?


Have we forsaken the Great Commission?!

Current circumstance has brought me into contact with a plethora of skeptics. It seems that I have met more, directly or indirectly, in the past 1.5 yrs than ever before. Of the skeptics/atheists that I meet I am getting the impression that most of the other believers they have spoken with were not able to substantiate their (the believer’s) faith. Now I do not think that one’s ability to substantiate his belief is contingent upon convincing the opposition. The opposition may full well look the facts in the face and refuse to accept them – and that happens often. (Unbelief isn’t proof that something is false.) Nor am I claiming that I have “arrived” and am the model for one who can sufficiently substantiate his own (following Jesus is a lifetime pursuit). I am just wondering, “Have we failed to make disciples?” Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but also to make disciples. I know masses of people who were raised in church, and they can’t substantiate their faith. Some are even taught that you shouldn’t!! But as I read the New Testament, I see the apostles claiming that they were eyewitnesses, and that they aren’t duped by some myth or fable (2 Peter 1:16; I John 1:1 for example).

God even tells us in His Word to be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

I believe we have fallen asleep on this issue. The alarm of growing apostasy is sounding, telling us of our failure. We need to wake up!

Here is a post that a friend drew my attention to. I encourage you to read it, and may God grant us repentance for forsaking the Great Commission as we have.

Partial obedience is disobedience.


All of Grace, or do we just say that?

I have dear loved ones who say that God must graciously call us, but we are the final determiners on whether God saves us or not. These same people wish to say that they are saved by God’s grace, but it’s not Grace alone that sets them apart from the unbeliever, it is their response to this grace that sets them apart.

It seems, from speaking with these people, that the Scriptures very clearly teach that the hinge of salvation is our free-will decision they just can’t exegetically show where, or that there isn’t enough Scriptural support for the doctrine that men are saved totally by the grace of God and that our faith is even a result of His grace so that we can not boast at all.

I have taken this challenge  to go to Scripture and demonstrate that the idea that God calls but we must decide whether His call accomplishes it’s intended purpose or not is a philosophical addition by man; and that Scripture is abundantly clear that men are saved {from start to finish} by the gracious work of God and God alone.

Let’s begin with I Corinthians 1:18-30

“18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, [2] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being [3] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him [4] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  ”

Things to note:

1.  vs 18The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.  We are all perishing as we are born wicked and God-hating. (Romans 3) So  how is it that the cross changes from foolishness to wisdom?

2.  vs 21. It pleases God to save those who believe. How is it that some believe and others don’t? Is God pleased to save those who, of their own free-will, meet His condition of faith? Or is God pleased to save a group of men and that group manifests itself as believers?

3. vs 22. Again Paul tells us that Christ is unbelievable to both Jews and Gentiles ,so no man will believe in Him. so why do some men believe?

Answers found in the text to the questions begged by the text.

1. vs. 24  Concerning why some Jews and Gentiles find Christ the wisdom of God while the rest of the world sees Him as foolish – “but to those who are called…” It is the calling of God that differs between believing Jews and Gentiles and the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.

2. To the question of why do men believe (even though we have seen it is the call of God that makes men differ in their response) we are told again by Paul in verse 30 “Because of Him [that is God] you are in Christ”. It is by faith that we are in Christ, and Paul here tells us that even that is to be attributed to God.

3.  As to why Christ is seen as wisdom to some and not to others, Paul gives us the same answer as before. See verse 26. We are told to consider the calling they have by God. How that God has chosen and it is in this that makes the difference.

All this brief overview begs a question: Why is this so important? Why does it matter whether we think We are saved by God’s grace alone or by a cooperation on our part with God’s grace?

A: vs. 31 “Let the one who boasts, boast in The LORD”.


Faith:

I grew up in church, and I thank God for that. Due to this fact, I heard phrases such as “But for the grace of God there goes (insert name of speaker).” “I’m saved by the grace of God.” “I’d like to thank The LORD for saving me.” Etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these phrases – they are all 100% biblical. And these statements resound in the heart of a true child of God with an undeniable “YES!”. But I have discovered that there was an unstated assumption in the mind of those who said those things. I developed the same assumption along with them. What was meant was this: “Had I not taken hold of the grace of God there goes Daniel.” Or “I’m saved by availing myself to the grace of God.” Or “I’d like to thank The LORD for saving me when I availed myself to His offer.”  The difference is vast. It is the difference between salvation being ALL OF GOD, or salvation being part of man and part of God. In case you have missed it, let me state the assumption for you a bit more clearly: “I am saved because I chose, of my own free-will, to believe the gospel. Because I performed the act of faith, God gives me eternal life in return. I met God’s requirements and He graciously granted me eternal life. Faith is what I bring to the table, forgiveness is what He brings.” This is called “synergism”, meaning the individual and God work together in the salvation of the individual. Now, the question is this – is this the teaching of Scripture? If so, then we should embrace this unashamedly, if not then we should reject this stance.

Where does faith come from? What does God tell us is the reason men believe the gospel? Is it self-generated, or given to them? Does every man have it and it is up to him to exercise it in the right object to gain salvation? Many would answer these questions in the affirmative, but before for we align ourselves for or against it, let’s see what Scripture says about it.

We are told in I John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” The same phraseology is used in I John 2:29 “everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” No Christian would say that John is teaching in the later verse that righteous works make us born again, but rather his point is to show that righteous works are a result of being born again. So it is in chapter 5. But not only is this evident by the context, the original language also points to this. The word “believes” is literally “is believing” it is in the present. The verb “is born” is a perfect imperative showing an action that has been completed in the past that has effects (believing) in the present. It is literally translated “has been born”. Here John shows us that faith is the cause of being born of God, rather than something that lies dormant within us awaiting our activiation.

John 3:3, 5-7 “Jesus answered him, Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.” Here we have Christ addressing the issue of how one enters the kingdom. He says there is a prerequisite to entering in, or even seeing it – that of being born again. The statement at the end of verse seven “You must be born again” is not a command telling Nicodemus something he must do, but rather something that must be done to him if he is to enter in. He did not just tell him “all you have to do is believe”. Christ took him to the root. Nicodemus needed to be re-born. He poses a question to him in verse 12 “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Christ struck at the heart of Nicodemus’ problem. He could not believe unless given a new nature.

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Christ reiterates in the same chapter, verse 64, “But there are some of you who do not believe,… this is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Here we have Christ, after inviting men to come to Him, stating that no one can come/believe unless given that ability by the Father. So we have Christ stating again that faith, or belief, is not something we can contribute to our salvation. Christ states this truth again in John 10:25-26 “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” He explicitly states again that belief in Him is not what makes us one of His, but rather being one of His is the cause of our faith.

Luke tells us in Acts 18:27 “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.” Here we get a glimpse of how we believe in Christ – through grace. Had it not been for grace they would not have believed. He also tells us in Acts 16:14 “… The LORD opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” God has sovereignly opened Lydia’s heart to cause her to heed what Paul said concerning Christ.

Paul tells us in Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” Faith is a gift that is given to men on behalf of the work Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. Again we are told, almost as in passing, that faith is a gift from God.

Paul tells us on another instance (Romans 6:17) that he attributes the sinners obedience of the gospel to God when he says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,” This is an unmistakable attributing the saving faith of men wholly to God. Paul did not say, “I thank God that he freed you from sin AFTER you obeyed the gospel” but rather he thanks God that slaves of sin have obeyed from the heart the gospel. Paul blames God for their faith.

Peter tells us in II Peter 1:1 that faith is given to us when he writes “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Paul tells us plainly in II Thess. 3:2 “…not all have faith.” Paul doesn’t say “not all men have exercised their faith” he said they don’t have it. This aligns with the words of Christ in John 6 when He said, “no man can come unless it is granted him”.

I Corinthians 2:14 says “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Here we see the echo of Christ’s words to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Paul says the natural man doesn’t believe the things of the Spirit of God, he sees them as foolish and is incapable of understanding them. He will not believe them, as it goes against his very nature. He must be born of the Spirit if he is to ever understand the things of the Spirit.

In I Corinthians 12:3. Paul says there is something he wants the Corinthians believers to understand and that is “… no one can say ‘ Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” We know that men can say things they don’t mean, as that happens daily, but Paul is not speaking about someones inability to just meaninglessly utter the phrase “Jesus is Lord”. Paul is speaking of one confessing that with their mouth from a heart-belief. The same utterance he speaks of in Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?…” Heart belief must precede verbal utterance if it is to be meant, and no one can have this deep rooted conviction of truth apart from the Holy Spirit.

One more I would like to share with you which will lead me into another question that must be asked – I Corinthians 1:30-31 “And because of Him you are in Christ… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.” Again we have Paul placing 100% of the reason a person is in Christ on God. None is shared by the savee, but all by the Savior!

There are more passages, but I do believe this will suffice to show that Scripture plainly teaches. we have heard from the apostle John, Peter, and Paul that faith is a gift from God. Even more, we have seen this very truth taught from the lips of our LORD Jesus Christ.

Lets pick back up with the verse we left off at: I Corinthians 1:30-31 “And because of Him you are in Christ… so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.” How does the philosophy that faith is something I bring to the table, or atleast a force that lies dormant within me until I decide to arouse it Godward, how does this line up with what Scripture says about God saving men in such a way that all boasting is excluded? That is one of the results of grace – it shuts the mouth of the one receiving it to even the smallest amount of boasting. Paul, in our current verse, explicitly states that the one who is in Christ is in Christ wholly because of God’s doing, nothing of himself. He goes on to emphasis that it is this way so that no one can boast save in The LORD alone.

Paul teaches elsewhere in Romans 9 that the mercy of God is shown to men, not based off of any quality found in themselves. verses 15-16 ” ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Paul seems to be redundant here in saying God will do what God will do according to what God will do; and it’s not according to what man may do but wholly upon what God will do. this is to emphasis a point that God is sovereign in his dispensing of mercy, not promiscuous to any who will of their own choose to meet a condition. Now I do not intend to get into election at this point, although I know this passage deals with that as well. I simply reference it here to show that God so works salvation so as to exclude any way for man to boast in it. God is jealous and He says He will not give His glory to another – Isaiah 42:8. (We also see in Isaiah 48:12 that God acts for His Own Name’s sake, not for the sake of men. God’s glory is something precious to Him and He does all He does in light of that.)

A verse that could have also been listed in the previous heading is I Corinthians 4:7 “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Here we see how faith being a gift (as already established previously) excludes boasting. We can’t boast in something that was granted to us. Just as i can’t boast in my physical sight, or ability to breath as I received these things from my Creator, so I can’t boast in my faith, for He gave me that as well.

Allow me to close with Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved though faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” the “it” is neuter in the original language. The nouns (grace and faith) are feminine. In greek, pronouns agree with the nouns they refer to in gender. Thus rather than referring exclusively to “faith” or exclusively to “grace” (which would be redundant as grace, by definition, is a gift) it seems to refer to the entire salvation. Paul states emphatically that it is  not a result of works so that no one may boast. If salvation is the result of you and God working together, then you do have a share in some of the credit. But salvation is not this way. God has so designed salvation so that none of it is our own doing, not even the faith, so we are excluded from any boasting.

This is nowhere near exhaustive, as volumes have been written on what I have attempted to summarize, but let me conclude by answering a question you may possibly be entertaining. “So what’s the big deal? Why all the hype about whether I believe of my own or of God?” In the words of the reformers “Soli Deo Gloria!” (Glory to God alone!). This is it. Christ prayed in John 17, before going to the cross, that the Father would glorify Him for the purpose that He would glorify the Father. The glory of God is paramount. We are told in Romans 9:23 as well as in Ephesians 2:7 (just to name two places) that we are saved for His glory. When God opens our hearts to this truth, our salvation becomes all the more precious, we worship God more accurately, and we exclaim along with Jonah, and the host of Old and New Testament saints: “Salvation is of The LORD!”.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!!




Potent Stuff!