Thursday, February 26, 2009

Assurance for Christians

What does a child need to be assured of? They will be taken care of by loving parents? They will have enough food to eat? They will be kept safe from predators? I think every child in this world should be assured of these things. Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, so sometimes the weakest among us are taken advantage of.

We as Christians are the children of the most high God. He is described as our Father in scripture. As His children, He has assured us of many things, and since He is perfect, He is able to fulfill all these promises.

Assurance of Salvation:

First off, we have assurance of our salvation. 1 John 5:11-12 says:

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The devil will whisper to the believer, “You don’t really think you are saved simply by receiving Christ as your savior, do you? That can’t be all there is.” This simply isn’t true. This passage tells us that God has given eternal life to those who have the Son of God as their Savior.

We need a savior because of our sins. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” Human efforts always fail to reach God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Passages on assurance:

·         John 20:31, John says he wrote his gospel, “[so] that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

·         Romans 5:8 says, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

·         Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

o   We presently have everlasting life, we will not come into judgment in the future, and when we accepted (past) Christ, we passed from death into life.

·         John 10:27-29: “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

A sign of our salvation is a changed life. The Holy Spirit will begin to sanctify those who are in Christ, giving us new desires and awareness of our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”


Assurance of Answered Prayer:

Satan also attacks us by causing us to question the effectiveness of our prayers. He will tell you prayer really doesn’t change anything. That simply isn’t true. As Christians we have the unique privilege to speak to our God through prayer. God wants us to commune with Him in prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
-John 16:24

We should feel free to ask God to meet all our needs, as it says in Matthew 7:7-8, “7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

We must follow the commandments of God if we are to expect answered prayer. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” We also should make sure we are praying according to God’s will, “14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).


Assurance of Victory:

The devil will also try to convince us that we have no power over our sin. Memorizing this verse will help you combat this attack from satan.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
-1 Corinthians 10:13

·         2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

·         Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

o   Jesus was tempted just as we all are. He knows what it is like to be tempted. He did not sin, however, making Him the perfect sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins.

God provides us ways out of our temptations.

·         Prayer as seen in the Lord’s prayer

·         His word, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11)

·         Faith:  1 John 5:4-5 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our[a] faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

·         Submit to God and resist the devil: James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Assurance of Forgiveness:

Even though victory over sin is ours, we will pass by the escape route provided by God. We are assure that we will even be forgiven of those sins

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
-1 John 1:9

·         We need to recognize that we do sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Then in verse 10 it says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

·         Psalm 38:18 says we should be in anguish over our sin. We should hate sin and avoid it at all costs because of what it cost Jesus on the cross!

God forgives us:

·         Psalm 86:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”

·         The basis we are forgiven is, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

·         We no longer need to feel guilty for the sins committed in the past because Hebrews 10:17 says, “He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Assurance of Guidance:

You may have questions about your futures. Maybe you’re wondering where God is leading you and what He wants you to do. God promises to lead us as we rely on Him completely. He knows our needs and in His wisdom and power He will lead you where He knows you need to go.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,  And He shall direct[a] your paths.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

God tells us His will in His word as it says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Here are some other verses to consider:

·         Romans 12:1-2, “1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

o   God’s will is described here as perfect.

·         Wondering what works God wants from you? (John 6:28-29 NLT), “28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”


Sola deo Gloria!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Proof texting without context

Some well-meaning Christians make the mistake of using proof texts to prove a theological point without considering the context of the larger passage that the proof text comes from. It is important to keep in mind not only the larger point of the passage, but also the historical context that the author dealt with.

For instance, I have had some good Christian people quote 2 Timothy 2:25 to me, which says, "if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth." Their point was, of course, that God causes the person to repent in a proactive manner, taking the choice out of the hands of the person altogether. I agree to an extent that it is God who ultimately is responsible for us repenting of our sins and turning to faith in Him. It is only through the hearing of His word that any of us are able to do this (Romans 10:17). It is also only because of His grace that we are enabled to come to Christ (John 6:44). In other words, we do not have a "self-determination" when it comes to our salvation. But through God's prevenient grace we are convicted of our sins and then enabled to place our faith in Christ, if we do not reject this through unbelief.

But going back to 2 Timothy 2:25, if we simply take it out of its context and present it, it would seem to be saying that God is the proactive actor and causer of our repentance, without regard to our will. In context, Paul is  speaking of two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who are spreading false teachings of the resurrection of Christ. Paul wants these two individuals to repent and come to their senses and is exhorting Timothy to ask God to enlighten them so they may escape the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). Ultimately it is through God that this comes. But not deterministically. Hymenaeus and Philetus must accept the gift of God of their own volition.

Furthermore, if we continue into chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy that he needs to get used to this kind of thing:

2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
(2 Timothy 3:2-9)

Notice, this is all done because of man's own pride. Also notice it is these people themselves who are denying the power of godliness (vs 5). In vs 10-11, Paul congratulates Timothy that he "carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions [etc]" (2 Timothy 3:10-11). I would say it was an act of Timothy's will to do these things.

Then the kicker comes in vs 14 and 15:

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Timothy himself had the responsibility to continue in these things. And vs 15 proves my point completely, that it is through the Holy Scriptures we are made wise for salvation through faith, not salvation unto faith. It is my contention that any form of determinism is not found in the Bible, even if it's softened by calling it "compatibilism."

Context, context, context!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paul's summary of Romans 9, quick and simple

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith
-(Romans 9:30 ESV)

Romans 9 is the hermeneutical grid of many many Christians. Through it, many extrapolate a double predestinarian viewpoint of salvation, which means simply that God has already chosen who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, and He has done this unconditionally. The only way to extrapolate this view from the text is to either read with a double predestinarian presupposition, or to simply misinterpret the text.

In verse 30, Paul starts by saying, "What shall we say then?" which signals he is about to summarize his whole point, which is God is not unjust for not giving His gift to all of Israel because, "they are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Romans 9:6). He is also not unjust for sending those who have not accepted the free gift of God to hell, for they (unbelievers) are vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22). Paul's ultimate point, therefore, is gentiles who have not pursued righteousness, as the Jews had, attain righteousness by FAITH. Whatever else Romans 9 means, there is certainly no reason to read a double predestenarian viewpoint into it, especially in light of verse 30.

To see a detailed exegesis of Romans 9, go here or here. If anyone has any others to offer, feel free to let me know in a comment.

*This post adds to my point quite a bit.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Eternal security and the Bible

Can you lose your faith in Christ?  No, not if by lose you literally mean lose.  We cannot simply forget our faith.  We also cannot have our faith stolen from us by any outside force (John 10:28). Believers need not fear that they will lose their salvation even if they commit a sin.  Christ died on the cross to save us from all our sins; past, present, and future. However, if we profess to be a follower of Christ and live the life of a sinner, we are lying to ourselves and others (1 John 2:3-5).

The scriptures assure us that we can't simply lose our salvation or have it stolen from us.  But can we give up our faith?  Let's examine some of Hebrews.  In almost every chapter in Hebrews, the writer warns his readers not to leave their faith.  Passages such as Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:6-15; 4:1, 11-14; 10:26-31; 12:25.  But this isn't just confined to Hebrews.  1 Corinthians 15:2, Galatians 5:4,  Colossians 1:23, and 1 Timothy 1:19 are just to name a few others.

I think the strongest passage saying one can give up their salvation is in Hebrews 6:
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Starting in verse 4, we encounter a frightening warning.  If someone who has been enlightened, who has tasted the heavenly gift, who has partaken in the Holy Spirit, falls away, it is impossible for them to be renewed to repentance.  Now this forces us to ask, who has the Holy Spirit? Only believers partake in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).  I believe this passage is clearly speaking of believers, for it is only believers who partake in the Holy Spirit.  I think the passage makes it clear that a conscious decision to leave Jesus Christ is possible.

The saddest part of this passage, is it looks like those who have experienced the gift of salvation who decide to turn away from Christ can never again repent and put their faith in Jesus.  People like Bart Ehrman, because of their own hard hearts, have abandoned their hope.  Lucky for the believer, the writer does give us good news in this passage.  God does not forget His followers' works that are done in His name.  Let us not be sluggish, but through faith and patience let us inherit the promises of the Lord.

And remember, as children of God, we should have the highest confdence that we are saved in Jesus Christ, as Paul states so eloquently in Romans 8:35-39.  No outside force can remove us from Jesus Christ.  But the Holy Spirit has warned us that we can seperate ourselves from Chrst Jesus.