Friday, November 22, 2019

Be Persistent- Keep Seeking God

5-6 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you went to your friend’s house very late at night and said to him, ‘A friend of mine has come into town to visit me. But I have nothing for him to eat. Please give me three loaves of bread.’ 7 Your friend inside the house answers, ‘Go away! Don’t bother me! The door is already locked. My children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you the bread now.’ 8 I tell you, maybe friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread. But he will surely get up to give you what you need if you continue to ask. 9 So I tell you, continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. 10 Yes, whoever continues to ask will receive. Whoever continues to look will find. And whoever continues to knock will have the door opened for them. 11 Do any of you have a son? What would you do if your son asked you for a fish? Would any father give him a snake? 12 Or, if he asked for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? Of course not! 13 Even you who are bad know how to give good things to your children. So surely your heavenly Father knows how to give the Holy Spirit to the people who ask him.” –Luke 11:5-13 ERV

In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.

"Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister." Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room--Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.

As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?' Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. He's thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he'd made his great decision.

Johnny, fortunately, didn't have to die to save his sister. Each of us, however, has a condition more serious than Mary's, and it required Jesus to give not just His blood but His life.
-Thomas Lindberg.

We each need that child like love that Johnny had for his sister. Often times we can get jumbled up in the day, upset, cranky, and even start to have self pity. Why won’t things go my way? Why won’t God give me what I want? But being a Christian is about loving others before ourselves. What are needs of those around you?

This is practical. This is as simple as helping someone up the stairs. Or helping an old woman cross the road. It can be as simple as bringing your cart back to the building before you leave Wal Mart.

It can be a random act of kindness. Or it can be calling someone just to see how they are doing. It can be handing your brother a loaf of bread. It can be inviting your neighbor over for dinner. It can be inviting someone to dinner church. It can be praying with the sad lady at the check out line. Even if it means holding up the line.

He who truly loves his friends will be willing to help his friends, and even if necessary to die for his friends. All of us as part of dinner church are more than just friends, we’re family. We’ve been born again, and we’re now part of the family of God.

I think of each of you as family. I get worried when I hear something has happened in your life, and I pray for each of you at night. That is what friends do for each other.

In our scripture today we hear Jesus tell of a story of someone coming to his friend’s house, late at night, probably at like 2 in the morning, and saying hey I got another friend out here who doesn’t have any food, give me a bunch of food. And his friend tells him to get lost. Go away, it’s late at night, I’m busy right now!

But Jesus says that even if your friend refuses you, keep asking, and keep bothering him and eventually he will help you.

Now Jesus compares this to seeking after God. Jesus says keep searching for God. Keep looking for God in your daily. Keep praying to God about the problem you have. Keep asking God for freedom from sin. If we keep asking God, and keep bothering Him, God will answer. He wants us to be persistent in prayer, and very patient.

I don’t just say patient. I say very patient. For things I want in life, I have to wait years, and years, praying and seeking God. For some reason that’s how God works. He builds us into better people through patience, waiting, and seeking after Him.

Jesus said, “Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. 10 Yes, whoever continues to ask will receive. Whoever continues to look will find. And whoever continues to knock will have the door opened for them. “

After a few months or even a few years, of wishing for something, of dreaming of.. losing weight. Or being able to sleep at night. Or for that back pain to go away, or for my soul to be free from sexual sin, or to be free from lying, or free from stealing, or addiction to cigarettes or alcohol, or porn, we start to lose hope that anything can change. But Jesus says keep seeking, keep knocking on the door, even if it’s been many years. There is still hope. God will answer. If you keep persisting. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Your blessing is almost here.

So, Jesus concludes this story he tells by saying that obviously, if your own child asks you for some food, or some money, you aren’t going to give him a snake or a scorpion, you’re gonna give him or her what they need. Even if you’re a nasty, bad parent and your kids drive you nuts, you’re still gonna give them a meal if they ask for it.

In the same way, God will give to us abundantly of the Holy Spirit, if we will just keep asking. Through all our struggles, if we keep seeking Him, He will provide. But we have to be very patient, and settle in for a long journey.

So in conclusion, just like the little boy who gave blood for his sister, expecting to die, we must give to our brothers and sisters in the church, and outside the church. We must share with them, and love them, and not grow angry or upset with them. Even when they are hard to love, we must them.

We can and should do this because God has done so much for us in washing away our sins, and giving us salvation through Jesus. And as we walk with God through this life, we must always continue to seek God, and keep knocking at the door, and keep praying for God’s will to be done, for the desires of our hearts, and God will certainly answer, if we are persistent, and do not give up.

As we settle in to the long journey home, we want to continue to gather together for dinner church. We want to be praying everyday, and reading the Bible. And right now we realize that it’s sometimes hard to love each other, and forgive each other, and deal with each other’s personalities and quirks. But we have to stand together, keep seeking God, and love one another with deep Christian love.

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.