Saturday, November 2, 2019

Why "Once Saved Always Saved" is such a Dangerous False Doctrine

Hebrews 3:12-14 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end."

Why do we cling to error, even when the truth is so clear?  Perhaps it is because we prefer a certain formula that we find comforting.  We prefer to believe that it's just "one and done."  But is that really an honest interpretation of the scripture?  Shouldn't we be impartial and interpret the scripture without bias?  That would be wise.  The Spirit of God leads us in these things.  

Today we consider the issue of salvation and continuance, or in other words: "Are we once saved always saved?"  

According to the scriptures, this is not a reasonable exegesis based on key scriptures like John 15, Hebrews 3:12-14, Revelation 3, and many others.  

The simple theme of John 15 is that of continuance, or "abiding" in Christ.  To abide means to remain.  Jesus urges us to "remain in me."  And then he says in response "then I will remain in you."  It's a fairly simple formula, we receive Jesus Christ as savior, through faith, and then we must continue in the faith, remaining and walking with Jesus throughout our whole lives, overcoming sin, living in victory, and living out holiness in all we do.  This is the teaching of the new testament.

But unfortunately some today teach a dangerous false doctrine of "once saved always saved."  This is the idea that once you got saved you can never lose it no matter what you do.  You can leave church, you can never come back, never read your bible, never do anything related to Jesus, and then you're still saved.  Interesting isn't it?  

We often see so many come to Christ, but then they never follow through.  They don't continue in the faith.  They don't dive into discipleship, and study of the word, and prayer.  Because often they've been left with a false impression, much like what has sometimes been inferred by child baptism, or even adult baptism, that it's "one and done."  And thus someone would say, "well I was baptized when I was 28, or 2, so I'm good."  And we've left people who are now in danger of eternal hellfire and darkness, with the impression that they are really eternally saved.  What a terrible danger! What a terrible thing to teach followers of Jesus.  Who will hold us accountable if we teach such a false way?

I imagine God himself will hold us accountable, on the day of judgment.  Please if you're out there today, teach continuance, that we must continue in the faith.  Otherwise we leave no motivation for people to grow in Christ.  We send them flying out the door with such a false doctrine of "once saved always saved."  

Now it is 100% true that we may have an assurance of salvation, that we can know that we are saved by Jesus Christ.  It's not about works, it's about walking with Jesus, in repentance, and holiness. Don't give up your assurance of salvation.  But don't get too comfortable either.  

We have to live this thing out, week in and week out, attending Bible study, praying, practicing the deeper spiritual disciplines, tithing, and sharing the gospel with the unsaved.  Imagine if more of us did that!  The church would spread across the whole world!  

Continuance is vital.  We must keep walking with Jesus.  Now, what happens if you get saved by Jesus, and then you die right after that?  Would you go to hell because you didn't have a chance to engage in the process of sanctification (growth in holiness)?  The answer to that question is no.  Just like the thief on the cross who repented (changed his mind) and gave Jesus glory, he was then that day with Jesus in paradise.  It's very simple, how we get saved, but should we live a long time after our day of salvation, we must of course continue in the faith, obeying God's commands and living for Jesus with our whole hearts.  It's simple, and a great blessing. 

Let's address some of the common criticisms of continuance.  One thing people will say is that God is our Father and He has adopted us, a father wouldn't unadopt us.  We've been grafted in, so we can't be grafted out.  We're now in Christ, held in his power and nothing can pluck us from his hand, nothing at all.  First of all, we address the metaphor in the scriptures of God as Father.  And he certainly is our heavenly Father.  But there have been many beings who were once children of God, who are now outside the family of God.  Angelic beings of example, Lucifer and those part of the rebellion.  We can also consider Judas, who was part of the inner circle of Jesus, but ended up betraying him.  So the metaphor of God as Father is a beautiful metaphor, but it's not a perfect metaphor.  It's the same with the idea of us being branches grafted in.  In fact it says that Israel was grafted out, so that we could be grafted in (Romans 11:11-31).  In fact in this very scripture we're warned to fear God, because just as some branches were grafted in, others were cut off.  So once again the critics of continuance have taken a metaphor to an improper conclusion.  

Now it is certainly true that God "preserves" us in a state of salvation.  He is our shepherd, we're the flock.  Nothing can pluck us from His hand! That is certainly truth.  Nothing can pull us out, not sadness, not grief, not death, not angels or demons, not Satan himself, but if we go on in sin and unbelief, we can step out of His hand.  Falling away is a well documented reality of the scriptures.  We should remember that.  

So that is the consideration I'd make for you today.  Remember to continue in the faith.  It's not a popular viewpoint today.  But I would dare say it is a scriptural one.  It might be better for our mental health to assume we're once saved always saved, but the reality of the truth is quite different.  I'll take truth over mental health any day.  

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. -John 15:1-11

Contrasts of Beauty and Pain: God's Hand in All Things.

Why do we delight in mysteries? Why is it so fascinating to listen to a mysterious, beautiful song? What is it about a lightning storm, or a twister that terrifies and awes us?  I love a mystery.  Give me a puzzle to solve, some sort of esoteric cryptography, some trail of breadcrumbs, a map leading to a secret location!  We want to know hidden knowledge.  We want to see the secret code behind the universe.  Why?  I don't fully understand it myself. But any sort of mysterious puzzle, ancient runes upon a rock face, a book with a code inscribed in every 7th letter, and I'm all in. 

There is something mysterious and beautiful about our existence. There is something wonderful about the brewing storm on the horizon. Impending life and death seem to hang in the balance. What is light? What is energy?  How is this system so beautiful and precise?  It ticks and tocks with the best of us. Indeed, far beyond us. 

There is great joy, and solace in the winter night. There is great fear in the windy mountain pass.  The sight of the wolf or the bear is both beautiful and frightening.  There is a silence under the street lights at dusk, they flicker to life.  There is a stillness to the country road, through the woods.  

Dare we consider the glory and mystery of the human?  Dare we consider the beauty of the young woman, or the man?  How amazing, that we speak, and hear, and listen, and even more mysterious, how we come together in passion, and make life. What a gift it is, to do these things.  

Yet there is also the inverse, the shadow's reflection of this beauty of life.  There is also the pain and bitterness of work, boredom, and isolation.  There is great terror and loneliness in the Earth.  And there is a pain beyond reckoning in the daily struggles of life.  Many live lives of quiet desperation. So many, endless millions live meaningless lives, isolated, hurting, victimized, hurting others, and being hurt in return.  The beautiful forest or the majestic summer beach seem to break all too often to the rusty rotting city structures.  The beautiful heights of mountains seem so often to dash toward the equally massive mountains of trash mounds of landfills. 

These add to the mystery and glory of life.  The strong contrasts make it a wild ride indeed. I cling closely to the beauty and wonder, emphasize it, and re-emphasize it, because if I focus too much on the evil and ugly, then I will spiral into sorrow. But if I focus on the good, I am enraptured by beauty, by glory, by God's hand in all things. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Gospel is for Everyone

There is an understandable gap that exists between us, as part of the Christian body of Christ, and the world. And the road that one walks from being part of the world rebellion, to part of the Spirit-filled body of Christ, is indeed extreme.

The gospel spreads based on our obedience as Christians. Our Lord Jesus brings salvation through His body, the church. If we are obedient, the gospel will spread, if we are disobedient, the gospel will not spread.

There were many, many, many Christians along my journey who gave nudges in the direction of Christ. It took dozens of encounters, I was particularly stubborn. But I will you tell you one thing, not one of those encounters had anything to do with Christians just shining their light and showing it by their actions. No, it was Christians actually brave enough to walk up to me and tell me in words, about Jesus. It is not enough to simply “show you are different”, that’s a good start, but the gospel has to be spoken, in words.

Prayer is more powerful than any of us fully realize. If God’s people don’t pray, salvation doesn’t come. A Bible study was praying for me, when I was in my twenties. And those prayers were effective.

I recall being in the emergency room, and a male nurse tried to share the gospel with me, I yelled at him, and he left sadly. In my twenties two trembling girls walked up to me and asked me if I died today would I go to heaven? I ran them off. My grandpa gave me a Bible, and shared the love of Jesus with me. I took the Bible, but I thought he was foolish. I read from the Bible.

I was very very very depressed at that time in my life. So sad everyday, life seemed so pointless, so meaningless. I did drugs as often as I could. I would scrape together money, and go buy beer and cough syrup and get messed up everyday.

My parents tried to help me by sending me to treatment centers and mental hospitals, but nothing seemed to change me deep down.

It took years dark times, and sorrowful struggles to realize the truth. I got really really low, I mean, so low. After several drug overdoses, I felt sick all the time.

Through drug use, and depression, I had experienced demonic activity, and disturbing hallucinations of a spiritual nature. Those had convinced me that there was indeed a spiritual realm around us that went unseen.

In 2011 God gave me an experience where one morning I watched humming birds buzzing around outside the window on a beautiful sunny day, and I realized there must be a God for such natural complexity to exist.

But through thousands of prayers, hours and hours of reading the Bible, watching Christian movies, studying the gospel of John, and getting so sickly, so depressed, so traumatized by all I’d put myself through, that I finally hit a rock bottom of sorts, where I just couldn’t live the way I had been living anymore. So on that fateful day in November 2012 I realized I needed God. So I got off my sofa, and went down on the ground, on my knees, by the fireplace at the old house, and God put it in my mind to cry out to Jesus Christ. And I cried out to Jesus Christ. That cry seemed to echo around me, and down inside me, like it echoed through an unending series of halls going off into eternity. And at that moment I found the ground around me shaking and I screamed in terror, but later I read in the scriptures “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness” psalm 29:8 and in Acts “the place they were meeting was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4:31

I joined a bible-believing church, and was discipled in a small group, I began to learn to share my faith, and use my God-given talents for Christ. I got clean from drugs and alcohol and cigarettes, and repented of my old ways.

And I will tell you, I had spent many years with some of the strangest people this world has ever known.

I spent time with a group of gamers, who were into anime and videogames and indie music. The gospel is for them. I hung out with a guy who thought he was a vampire, with girls who read tarot cards, and a gay guy who spent time trying to contact spirit guides. The gospel is for these people.

For a while I hung out with rockers in high school, trading CDs, and going to shows. During college I hung with new age hippies smoking weed everyday and philosophizing about jack Kerouac and saul alinsky. The gospel is for them.

I’ve hung out with homosexuals and lesbians, and transgender people, the gospel is for these people.

I’ve hung out with drinkers and partiers, going to bar after bar after bar. The gospel is for these people.

All these lost groups of people, people who need healing, people who need repentance, they all need Jesus. They need some Christian somewhere, to witness to them, to love them, and share the word with them. We’ve gotta plan that into our schedules. We’ve gotta make time for it, even if it we do it badly, it will still have a huge impact.

And if we don’t, then the world won’t get saved, and the gospel is for the whole world, every person, every city, every people group, and every ideology.

And woe to me if I do not carry the gospel, because if I don’t, then when I go before God and give an account for my life, where will I go? How will God judge me if I keep silent out of fear of rejection? I will be judged a disobedient servant, and cast into outer darkness. Therefore I must win the world for Jesus. So let’s do it. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Jesus and Nicodemus: How can a man be born twice?

Have you ever hung out with a friend late into the night, maybe sitting out on the porch, or chilling in the living room, or out on a boat on the water, and just talked real talk about life, and deep thoughts, and where you wanna go in life? It can be so refreshing when we sit down with a trusted friend, have some coffee, or go fishing, and just talk about life, our dreams, our hurts, our goals, and what we long for in our hearts.

Friendship is so important in our day and age when we go so fast, and get so busy. We don’t seem to value friendship too much today. Especially with men. Men don’t seem to get together too much, just as friends, to spend time, talk, and do things together. Why is that? And if you don’t have any friends guys, then whose got your back when times get hard? It can be the same with women, women don’t spend a lot of time with other women, but how badly do we need those friendships? We need them very badly.

In our scripture today Nicodemus, this leader in society, meets at night with Jesus. And they talk deep. They have real fellowship. And Nicodemus leaves having learned some things that will change his life forever.

Nicodemus has heard all about Jesus. He’s heard that Jesus has been doing miracles and healing people. And he realizes that there is something special about Jesus. Jesus is different from everybody else. He can’t quite place what is going on, but he asks to meet with Jesus so he can learn more.

So Jesus sits down with Nicodemus, they’re hanging out, having a good time, and they get into that mindset where they start talking deep.

Nicodemus says to Jesus, ““Teacher, we know that you are a teacher sent from God. No one can do these miraculous signs that you do unless they have God’s help.”

3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, everyone must be born again. Anyone who is not born again cannot be in God’s kingdom.”

Nicodemus didn’t quite understand what he meant.

4 Nicodemus said, “How can a man who is already old be born again? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?”

Now when I was born, it was pretty bad. My mom was in labor for hours and hours and hours. And the doctors actually forgot about her, because she had been in labor so long. When they finally realized where she was, they realized they had to do a C-section, because my head was stuck inside my mother. I was already born once by my mom and dad, I don’t wanna have to do that again.

So Jesus tries to explain what he means to Nicodemus.

5 Jesus answered, “Believe me when I say that everyone must be born from water(that’s the first birth) and the Spirit(that’s the second birth). Anyone who is not born from water and the Spirit cannot enter God’s kingdom. 6 The only life people get from their human parents is physical. But the new life that the Spirit gives a person is spiritual. 7 Don’t be surprised that I told you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants to. You hear it, but you don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going. It is the same with everyone who is born from the Spirit.”

Jesus refers to our first birth as born from water. What happens that is the sign that the woman is about to give birth? Her water breaks. After your mom’s water broke, then you were born. Amazing, when you think about it. The fact that a woman’s body is made to produce another life. It’s a miracle in itself.

But then Jesus refers to being born of the Spirit. So I was born 34 years ago, in 1985, when my moms water broke. But in 2013 I was born of the Spirit. I believed in Jesus, at one of those church services in 2013, and truly believed that Jesus was my savior, and so I was at that moment born again by the Holy Spirit. I was born a second time of the Spirit.

And I changed. My whole life changed. I got clean from weed pills and dxm. I quit smoking and drinking. I stopped sleeping around, and started worshiping God. I was born again.

But Jesus also says that “the wind blows wherever it wants to. You hear it, but you don’t know where its coming or going.” And that’s really true. We can’t see the wind. But we can hear it when it blows against the trees, or whips past us when we walk along the road. And it’s the same way with the spiritual birth.

We don’t really know who is born again by Jesus. There isn’t really anything physical that I can 100% tell if you are born again. You don’t get a halo over your head that tells me yes that person is born of the Spirit, born again. The same way the wind blows and we can’t see it, its the same with people who are born of the Spirit, we don’t know who they and aren’t. We can’t see any physical change.

Like many of you have been coming to dinner church faithfully for 3 months now, but I still don’t know truly which of you are born again Christians, and which of you are still not there yet. And it’s OK if you’re not there that. This stuff takes time. I didn’t get it right away. But I kept showing up week in and week out, and eventually it started to make sense. So that’s OK.

So Jesus tells Nicodemus all this, and 9 Nicodemus asked, “How is all this possible?”

10 Jesus said, “You are an important teacher of Israel, and you still don’t understand these things? 11 The truth is, we talk about what we know. We tell about what we have seen. But you people don’t accept what we tell you. 12 I have told you about things here on earth, but you do not believe me. So I’m sure you will not believe me if I tell you about heavenly things! 13 The only one who has ever gone up to heaven is the one who came down from heaven—the Son of Man.

You know what’s really interesting about what Jesus says here? He doesn’t say “I” he says “We” testify. Jesus is not alone, God the Father, and the God the Spirit are with Him. Remember how we’ve talked about the fact that God is a trinity, three separate persons, but one true God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They all were there when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. And the same is true if you are a Christian. The Trinity is always with you when you’re a follower of Jesus. Living inside you.

Nicodemus didn’t understand and he comments how the people of Israel didn’t want to believe him. They didn’t want to listen or understand. They figured that it was too hard to understand, or it didn’t make sense, or it was’t for them.

And I’m sure some of you think that. Well, I’m just a farmer. I’m not smart enough to understand that. I’m just a homeless lady, I’m just a trucker, or an alcoholic, or I just like big trucks and mudding, and parties, this can’t be for me. Right?

Wrong! This is for you. This is for everyday, average people. This is for hurting people, lost people, sinning people, people who are salt of the Earth types. Jesus is for you. It’s not too hard. It’s not too complicated. It’s not just out of reach. It’s right here, and Jesus is calling you to Him. It’s for you, yes, even you.

Trust me. I didn’t get it either. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want it. But it’s the best thing ever. Jesus Christ is everything. And you can have Him. Just receive Him. Start with that much. Jesus you are my savior. Simple, believe in Him. Believe Jesus is who He said He is. God come to save you.

So in closing today, we see that just after this encounter, we see the most quoted part of the Bible: where it says: 16 Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world. He did not send him to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. 18 People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. But people who do not believe are already judged, because they have not believed in God’s only Son.

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