Annoying Christian Books

I finished reading the short book on Romans 5-8. It was only 90 pages, mostly fluff, and lots of white space.

I was annoyed with it on page four, and became annoyed about every 12 pages throughout.

Many books say things that strike me as “off.” Not wrong, necessarily, just “off.” As in, not exactly what the verses say that you just quoted. For instance:

–the book said we “will all die not because we all sin like Adam, but because we all sinned in Adam.” Then they quote Romans 5:12, “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Now the issue of Original Sin is large, not going to rehash it all here, but just note that Romans 5:12 doesn’t say that we all sinned in Adam, it says we die because we all sin. The author of this little book adds words. It annoys me when books add words to verses.

–the book said in relation to Romans 8:16, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” that we know we have the Spirit if we pray to the Father. Seriously? Plenty of people say the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father, who art in heaven) who are not saved. The fact that you pray does not mean you have the Holy Spirit. Prayer might be one thing, but it’s certainly not the whole thing. The emphasis of the chapter is on mortifying sin, doing righteousness, suffering with Christ, and things like that. That’s how you know you have the Spirit, not cuz you pray to the Father. Praying to the Father is much easier than doing those other things, how convenient and coincidental!

–the book talks about “whom He foreknew, them He also predestinated” and says “The difference between foreknowledge and predestination is, perhaps, that God’s electing choice was formed in His mind before He willed it.” I’d emphasize the “perhaps” a little more. That’s not what it means. He foreknew something that He based His predestination on. Saying it’s simply just that God knew what He was going to do before He did it is largely unnecessary to say. When has God ever done anything He didn’t think about doing first? They can’t define foreknowledge as anything to do with us because then our salvation is supposedly dependent on us and he already told us yesterday there’s nothing we can do to get God’s approval. So, let’s change the plain meaning of Scripture into something non-sensical to keep our theories alive.

That’s the kind of stuff. So many things are just slightly off. Even worse, it’s the same slightly off as everyone else says. Anytime people are all saying slightly off things that the Bible isn’t saying, you know people are just listening to people and not the Bible.

Why is it so hard for people to just say what the Bible says? Why do we feel a need to explain things in such a way that makes the Bible not say what it’s saying?

I could go on, but I’m not going to because it’s a beautiful day. Actually, it’s quite cold, but it’s still a day with many more possibilities in it besides me expressing frustration on the internet over dead authors.

Carry on.

Faith and Works, Gospel and Law

I’m about half done with my copy of Luther’s Bondage of the Will. I agree with him that the case Erasmus makes, at least the parts he quotes, isn’t that great. But I also don’t think Luther is doing that great either.

The main issue is over free-will and whether we have it or not. But there are minor issues that come up that are off too.

In the midst of attacking Erasmus’ definition of free-will, Luther says:

As for those things that ‘lead to eternal salvation,’ I suppose they are the words and works of God, which are offered to the human will so that it may apply itself to them or turn away from them. I take the ‘words of God’ to include both the law and the Gospel; the law requires works, the gospel faith.

This one phrase stood out to me: “the law requires works, the gospel faith.”

I think this is a root misunderstanding that leads to lots of trouble.

It is true that some of Israel, like the scribes and Pharisees, felt they had to do works alone for salvation. They felt no need to love God, they just did some stuff God said and called it good. Jesus corrects this, as does everyone else in the New Testament. In fact, most of the prophets are trying to correct that.

But since the Pharisees did that, everyone assumes that’s how people were saved under the law. Paul says in Romans 10:5, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

See, there ya go; people under the law were saved by works!

Read the law. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Show me where, like in the entire book of Deuteronomy, it says anyone was saved by the law. It never says that. The law was a covenant between God and the nation of Israel to stay in their land. If they kept the law they would live and prosper there, if they did not keep the law they would be kicked out.

Never once does Moses say by keeping the law, doing all the works, you will go to heaven and be with the Lord.

When the Gospel comes along, people assume a BIG CHANGE occurred. Instead of doing works, we just have faith. Faith alone. Easy.

What this misses is that anyone who has ever been saved has been saved by grace through faith. There is no other way of salvation. Whether Abraham before the law, David under the law, or us today under the Gospel, everyone is saved by faith (Romans 4).

People under the law who were saved by faith did indeed desire to do the works of the law.

But get this, today people under the Gospel who are saved by faith desire to fulfill the works of the law too! It’s a little thing called “love.”

The idea that people under the law were the only ones who had to do what God said is crazy. What we do is different because the covenants are different. But faith always desires to do what God says.

“Faith without works is dead,” this is true under the law as well as under the Gospel. There is no difference in faith and it’s desire to do what God says. God says to do different things under each covenant, but faith wants to do what God says.

Luther wanted James ripped out of the Bible. Luther, when translating Romans 5, said we were justified by faith alone. Never mind that he added the word “alone” in there.

Anyone remember what the Bible says about people who add or subtract words from the Bible? Anyone? It says nothing good about them. Don’t do that.

There Are Few Who Are Saved

It is clear that Luther thinks there are few who are saved. The guy he’s arguing with in Bondage of the Will, Erasmus, agrees. This is one of the few things they agree on.

That’s interesting to me. Not so much that they believe that to be the case, most of the Early Church all the way through the ages believed it and it is what the Bible says, but more because so few believe it today.

Everyone and all their dead relatives are saved, is the way I hear it all the time. I mean, we know Hitler and Stalin didn’t make it, but not the cute old people in our family. I mean, maybe the ugly old people in your family didn’t make it, but certainly not the cute old people in mine!

We are deceived on this issue. The church in America has large buildings, tons of money, supposed political influence, and 80% of Americans say they are Christians.

Yet the morals of our land clearly deny such claims.

But since we’ve fallen for the idea that works mean nothing and saying The Prayer or being baptized means everything, we don’t think our lack of morals means jack squat.

There is a broad road that leads to destruction, a narrow one that leads to life. Not only are there few on the narrow road, Jesus says few there be who even find the narrow way.

Hell is a real place and the majority of people on this planet end up there. Luther says it’s because God doesn’t want to save them, which is insane. People on the other side say it’s because people reject the offer of salvation, which seems much more biblical and logical to me.

God has done all manner of things to show His love to you; love is out the window if He forces you to take it and keeps others from having it. That’s not love. That’s simply dictatorial power.

The Bible says “God is love,” it does not say “God is power.”

If you’re mad at God because people are in hell, you’re not hearing things correctly. Humanity is the dumb one in the equation. The majority of humanity is denying God, His love, and choosing the pleasures of sin for a season.

It makes no sense why we do this, but I know for sure it isn’t God’s doing.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
–2 Peter 3:9

Alexander the Great, Ezekiel, and Tyre

Reading a biography of Alexander the Great. Got to the portion where Alexander desires to wipe out the city of Tyre.

This is an interesting piece of history because the Book of Ezekiel contains a prophecy concerning the destruction of Tyre. The prophecy says:

And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God: and it shall become a spoil to the nations.

The original city was on the mainland. It was wiped out by Nebuchadnezzar. He left a bunch of ruins on the mainland while the people moved to the island. The presence of the ruins contradicted the prophecy of being scraped bear and thrown into the sea. Except Alexander the Great came along, threw all the ruins into the sea for the causeway and now the prophecy is complete.

The author of the biography says, “What Ezekiel foretold had now come to pass in all its terrible finality.” Always fun to see such things about the Bible in “secular” history books!

But Ezekiel also says, “And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord God.

This has been taken to mean that Tyre will never be a city again. It will never be rebuilt. There is a city of Tyre today. The author of the biography says about this, “Tyre was repopulated, and whatever Hebrew prophets may say, thrives again today.”

So the parting shot is that the Hebrew prophet got lucky, but probably should have stopped before that last bit!

There are many theories about this. The new city of Tyre is not in the same place. The prophecy says people will be there spreading their nets, so obviously Ezekiel knew there would be people there. Someone has to spread nets!

You can also take it to mean it won’t be built as a massive place like it was before, its grandeur won’t be rebuilt. Also, Ezekiel was talking about judgment upon the Phoenicians. The Phoenician city was never rebuilt. The Phoenician empire was done away with right at the time Tyre was done in.

Another historian writes, “Alexander did far more against Tyre than Shalmaneser or Nebuchadnezzar had done. Not content with crushing her, he took care that she never should revive; for he founded Alexandria as her substitute, and changed forever the track of the commerce of the world.” Tyre was removed from consideration as a place of any importance, which is the main thrust of the entire prophecy (Ezekiel 26-27).

The main point of the prophecy was a judgment against the Phoenicians. Tyre today is not a Phoenician stronghold. It’s a nice city with a harbor. The prophecy concerned the enemies of Israel, the Phoenicians. The Phoenician city was also on the mainland and not where Tyre is today. There are archeological excavations on the original site, even if a city called Tyre exists nearby.

All in all, the prophecy of Ezekiel about Tyre is one of the more literally fulfilled prophecies in the Bible that should give strong evidence of the Bible’s uniqueness. It should also aid you in knowing that when God says stuff; He means it literally.

Luther, Erasmus, and Weird Things Done With Grace

The next book on my pile is a book that’s been there a long time: The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. I haven’t read much of it, I’m still in the Introduction. The Introduction is long. I’m going to be reading this book for a long time!

Luther’s Bondage of the Will is him responding to the ideas of Erasmus, a theologian type who didn’t like stuffy theologians. Erasmus was more of a mystic than an academic. Luther represents academic theology. They liked each other but had disagreements about grace and free will.

The Introduction says:

Erasmus followed Jerome in interpreting the justification by works against which Paul writes as merely justification by outward ceremonial observance. Luther, believing that any kind of effort or any contribution man may attempt to make toward his own salvation is works-righteousness, and therefore under condemnation, preferred the thorough-going exegesis of Augustine, who magnifies the grace of God.

Let me just pause to let you know how much I’d like to puke now.

This is going to be a long book.

I’m no scholar on Erasmus, I imagine I will learn more about what he taught by reading this book. I am not defending him since I don’t know what he said.

I would like to point out the trend I’ve noted in my time in Christianity that is plainly evident in the above quote.

Human effort is the opposite of God’s grace.

That’s the underlying assumption of the quote. Therefore, the more you emphasize grace; the less you’ll emphasize human effort.

This is a handy way to promote sloth and laziness as spiritual virtue.

This has been my experience in the church. I’ve seen Grace-Happy people try to outdo one another in how little they do. Their complete absence of any virtuous effort proves how much they love God and His grace.

In fact, some even go so far as to say that sinning is better than doing good works. Sin requires grace; good works make grace unnecessary and lead to self-sufficient pride.

“Should we sin that grace may abound?” Paul asked. His answer was no. Much of Christianity’s answer has been, “Yeah, actually, that sounds reasonable.”

It is clearly true we are not saved by works. It is also equally clearly true that good works always come out of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 are always followed by an Ephesians 2:10.

“Faith without works is dead” is how James put it.

Luther wanted to throw the Book of James in the furnace.

Faith without obedience and works is not faith. It just isn’t. By faith people do what God says. If you don’t do what God says, then you’re not exercising faith.

The Bible is clear on this point.

People who like to sin muddy the clearness of the issue. We like to think that what we do doesn’t matter. God tells us what we do matters quite a bit; every judgment in the Bible is based on works. There are no exceptions.

But the popular belief in Christianity is that you doing stuff means you hate grace and are trying to merit your own salvation.

People need to read their Bibles more.

God provided the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means by which we can be saved. It’s the just way to justify the ungodly. We give ourselves to Him, to His grace, to save us, to deliver us from sin. One of the main reasons you come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be freed from sin. Upon receiving His grace and the new birth, becoming a partaker of the divine nature, you can now use all that God has given you to pursue Christlikeness and spiritual growth.

If there is no change in character, if righteousness doesn’t show up, then you didn’t get God’s grace. If there’s no new life, you’ve not become a servant of righteousness, there’s no sanctification and progress in faith, then grace didn’t show up.

You don’t prove you have God’s grace by how little you do; you prove you have God’s grace because you are able to do, and desire to do, what God says.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work
–2 Corinthians 9:8

Converting To What?

Christianity is divided into multiple doctrinal camps. Division reigns supreme. Many people wonder why this is the case. Many conclude it’s because the Bible is too hard to understand.

I agree there is too much division, I do not wonder why though, I think I know. And it’s not the Bible’s fault for being too confusing.

The main cause of division is that few are using the Bible anymore as an authority. Sure, they have verses and favorite passages, but few comprehensively use the Bible and fewer submit to what it says.

Today’s doctrine is largely based on what other guys said. When people argue you into their theological camps, it’s generally not out of a concern for your soul but it is 1) a defense of their doctrinal camp and leaders and 2) an attempt to get you into their camp to make their camp look bigger and better.

As we know (from reading the Bible), there is nothing new under the sun. People have long been more interested in defending and building their group than in the eternal state of your soul. Here are two biblical examples:

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
–Galatians 6:12-13

The main reason most stayed away from the Gospel is because it would cause them problems. They wanted to appease those who would persecute them for following the Gospel. Best way to do that is to defend the old camp.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
–Matthew 23:15

Pharisees of Jesus’ day are acting the same as those messing with the Galatian church. They would rather count you in their camp than get you right with God. In order to escape hell, you have to first escape the bad teaching and then embrace the good teaching, that’s my interpretation of “twofold child of hell.” You have to be saved from bad teaching and then saved by good teaching, as it were.

People, in general, don’t care about your stand before God; they care about their stats. Better stats means playing a people-pleasing game, winning people to our side so we win. The more we win the more we feel like we are right.

Surround yourself with your camp and you’ll never have to face reality. Unless, of course, you find a camp that deals with reality, by which I mean, the reality God explains in the Bible.

There are no shortcuts and avoid anyone who offers you one. Use zeal, effort, energy, work, toil, labor, and get this right. Beware of theological camps and doctrines named after people. Read the Word so much you know when you’re hearing false teaching.

Having the Spirit teach you the Word through His means (which can be other people with the Spirit; I’m not throwing away all people or churches here) is the only safeguard we have against false teaching and division. Pray for wisdom, then do the work to get it. Be sober, watch and pray.

The Law Cannot Justify

Repeatedly the New Testament tells us that we are not justified by the law.

“Justified” means to declare someone righteous. The law does not declare people righteous.

The law was not designed to make people righteous, nor to declare anyone righteous. The law was written to declare everyone a sinner!

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
–Romans 3:20

The law tells you what sin is and makes you guilty

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
–Romans 3:19

The law declares people to be sinners. Paul says in Romans 7 that the law actually stirs up the flesh to sin more. The law makes sin abound.

You can’t be justified by the law because the law could never declare anyone to be righteous. The law points out how unrighteous you are.

The law has NO POWER to make you righteous. If the law can’t make you righteous; then the law can’t declare you righteous.

The only way you can be truly declared righteous in God’s eyes is if something existed that could make you righteous!

That aint the law!

But it is the Gospel!

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

The Gospel declares you righteous because the Gospel makes you righteous, not just in God’s head or your head, but in actual conduct.

The law cannot do that because the law is weak through the flesh. It has no power to make you do anything right, therefore, it can never declare anyone righteous because before it; no one is righteous.

The law won’t justify you; the Gospel will. Come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be made righteous.

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
–Romans 6:17-18

Justification is Real

Justification is a word thrown around quite a bit by Christians. Any time Christians throw a word around a lot, expect it to have become battered and bruised.

Justification has become a legal term. It means “to declare someone righteous.” But this is more than a legal term, more than God moving you from the unrighteous column to the righteous column.

Something more is going on.

Unfortunately, for many, justification is synonymous with salvation. The Reformers are talked about “justification by faith.” To the extent that justification now means salvation.

Justification is a part of salvation; it’s not the whole thing.

Justification is a declaration that God makes based on who He has made you.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

Romans 5:19 is not talking about declaring you righteous! It says you have been made righteous through Christ’s work on the cross.

 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
–2 Corinthians 5:21

Again, this is not just a declaration; it’s a real thing God has made us. We have been made righteous.

So, get this: The reason why God declares us righteous is because He made us righteous!

The common understanding of justification is that God declares us righteous even though we keep living in sin. God just ignores that. God just pretends we’re righteous even though He, we, and everyone else knows we’re not.

Justification understood this way makes God a delusional liar. Yet this is how most people understand justification.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
–1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were unrighteous and doing unrighteous things, but now you’ve been made righteous. How so?

Because God has washed you [cleansed you from past sin], sanctified you [separated you from the world and called you to holy living different from the world], and justified you [declared you righteous because that’s what He’s made you].

Justification is not a mind game in God’s head. Justification is a declaration based upon what God has made you through the Gospel.

You used to live in sin, but now you’ve been washed, sanctified, and justified and no longer do those things.

Vincent’s Word Studies says about these verses:

Emphasizing the actual moral renewal, which is the true idea of justification. This is shown by the words “by the Spirit,” etc., for the Spirit is not concerned in mere forensic justification.

Justification is not the whole of salvation, nor is it a make-believe scenario. Justification is a declaration of who we are based on who God has made us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God is not a liar. If He calls someone righteous it has to be because they are actually righteous, not just in His head, but in reality.

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
–1 John 3:7

If We Believe Not, Yet He Abides Faithful

These words are found in 2 Timothy 2:13.

I have heard many interpret this verse to cancel out the previous two verses. The interpretation goes like this:

Even if we lose faith, Jesus Christ won’t get rid of us. I can deny Him or not suffer with Him and that’s ok, because Christ can’t deny Himself.

I find this interpretation to be off the mark by quite a bit.

Verse 13 does not cancel out the warnings of the previous two verses. On the contrary, verse 13 is what gives those verses their bite.

Verse 13 is saying that Jesus Christ is faithful, which means He always does what He says. “He cannot deny himself” is the conclusion of the statement.

Jesus Christ cannot go against who He is or what He has said. He can’t deny what He truly is.

People lose faith all the time. People break their promises every day. Jesus Christ never does that, because He can’t deny himself.

To take this to mean that you can lose faith and Jesus will still save you is weird. He said He can’t deny HIMSELF; it doesn’t say He can’t deny you!

In fact, look at the previous verse! He just said He could deny you!

There are many warning passages in the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 is just one.

There are many who do not heed these warnings because they sloppily interpret scripture to cancel out any need for a warning.

To use a warning passage to prove you don’t need a warning passage is the height of obstinance.

Read the words on the page. There’s a reason God put them there. God always does what He says, He’s not unfaithful like people are.

Read the words and then adjust your life accordingly. You’ve been warned. Get ready.

If We Deny Him, He Also Will Deny Us

These words are found in 2 Timothy 2:12, right after “if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him.”

Suffering is no fun.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes seed that falls on stony ground. A little green shoot pops up, but when the sun rises to its peak, the little shoot gets scorched, withers, and dies.

This seed represents people who believe for a short time until it gets hard, a little suffering comes their way, and they quit.

Suffering has a way of weeding out the pretenders. A little persecution will show who truly believes and who is playing a game.

When you are healthy and wealthy, faith is pretty easy. But when things get tough and life falls apart, what will you do then?

For the believer, suffering increases faith and leads to spiritual growth. For the unbeliever, suffering drives them further from God, they may even blame God and resent Him.

Peter said many confident things in company with like-minded people, but when Jesus was arrested and things turned bad, Peter denied Christ.

Jesus says in Matthew 10:33, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Jesus Christ was/is consistent on this issue. Paul reiterates what Christ said by saying it again in 2 Timothy.

So, what happened with Peter? Has Christ denied him?

Well, Peter repented and came back. The rest of Peter’s life shows that he did not completely disown Christ. He came back. God is always willing to forgive.

But if you deny Christ and never come back, Christ will deny you too. Stern words, but I see no aspect of Christ’s character that makes Him say things that aren’t true.

Jesus Christ always does what He says, which is Paul’s final point in this section of 2 Timothy 2.

If We Suffer, We Shall Also Reign With Him

These words are found in 2 Timothy 2:12.

Suffering is part of the deal in following Christ.

By faith we identify ourselves with Christ. Not just with Christ’s resurrection, but with His death. And not just with His death, but also with His suffering.

What Christ did, by faith, you will do too because you are following Him.

Our suffering and death are not atoning for our sins, nor are they saving us or anyone else. They are what happens when you follow the Suffering Servant!

There is a notion within Christianity that Christ did all the bad stuff, so we get all the good stuff: health and wealth, best life now, wonderful plan for your life, etc..

This notion is not from the Bible.

The Bible repeatedly says that since Christ suffered, don’t be surprised when you do. It’s part of the deal.

It’s so much part of the deal that if you don’t suffer, you can safely conclude you are not following Christ.

Paul says in Romans 8 that the witness of God’s Spirit with our spirit that we are children of God is that we suffer. If we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him (8:17).

Paul is saying the same truth here in 2 Timothy.

Paul told the Thessalonian church that their patience and endurance through suffering for Christ was a manifest token of their salvation (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

If you suffer for Christ you will have the assurance of salvation.

People doubt their salvation all over the place today. I believe this is because we rarely instruct people to follow Christ and get suffering.

We live in a happy, luxurious, comfortable age. No one is suffering for Christ, therefore, no one has the assurance of salvation.

Many who do feel assured of their salvation are merely pumping themselves with happy thoughts. They can’t prove their salvation in any tangible way other than, “Well, I’m saved because I think I’m saved.”

Suffering is proof of salvation. Suffering is proof that you are following the Suffering Servant.

Not just bad things happen to you suffering either. Bad things happen to everyone. He’s talking about suffering for Christ. About suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ as Paul did (Philippians 3:8).

People don’t like this message. We don’t like dying with Christ and we don’t like suffering with Christ. So, Paul has to address denying Christ next, because that’s what people do when they run into stuff they don’t want to do for Christ.

If We Be Dead With Him, We Shall Also Live With Him

These words are found in 2 Timothy 2:11.

The Gospel is not just a cute story you believe about what some guy did 2,000 years ago that allows you to go to heaven when you die.

The Gospel is about dying with Jesus Christ. By faith we see ourselves crucified with Christ. Dead to sin. Dead to the law. Dead to the world. Dead to the affections and lusts of the flesh.

In other words: dead.

This is not some kind of philosophical mind-game dead either; He’s talking about real consequences right now.

Dead people don’t care about stuff on the earth anymore. My dead father does not care if I take stuff from his office. He’s dead. He doesn’t care.

Dead people do not get entangled with the affairs of this life. Dead people have nothing to fight over. Dead people don’t demand their rights. Dead people are, in short, dead.

When’s the last time you fought with a dead person? When’s the last time a dead person took advantage of you?

Being dead is pretty easy when you’re dead.

But this is the true sticking point of Gospel living: Although we are dead, our flesh bodies are still breathing. We have to reckon ourselves to be dead. Reckon means to consider it to be so.

We’re dead; live like it.

I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, it is Christ who lives in me.

When Christ died, He resurrected. If we are dead with Christ, we are also raised up with Him to newness of life.

This new life we live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the son of God who gave Himself for you. The new life we live is one that follows Christ.

New life in Christ doesn’t start when you enter heaven; new life in Christ starts when you’re saved.

We present our bodies as living sacrifices. We deny ourselves and take up the cross. It’s not about me anymore; it’s about Christ in me.

This aint easy, but it is what the Gospel is. Your flesh will hate it, but your flesh doesn’t have a clue!

Die with Christ to truly live.

Appointed to Obtain Salvation

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ
–1 Thessalonians 5:9

Speaking verses we ignore because they freak people out. . .

This verse is troubling for several doctrines.

First, we deal with the word “appointed.” This word means, “to set, place, or put as a passive object.” If I set a book on the table, I am the active agent and the book is passive. The book gets put there by me. It can’t put itself there.

God has not put us in a place where we passively must accept wrath. This undermines the Calvinist idea that some are created by God specifically for the purpose of suffering His wrath in hell.

Second, we deal with the word “obtain.” In the context we are obtaining salvation. To obtain means, “redemption which will give possession. Acquire, purchase, win.”

Ellicott’s commentaty says this about obtaining salvation, “Means more than “obtain;” the Greek means “acquire” by one’s own efforts;” earn and make our own.”

Flipped out yet? Theologically triggered?

God has not put us in a passive position to have to take His wrath. Rather, He placed us as human beings, people who had no say in being born, as passive objects, in this world, a place where we don’t have to get God’s wrath; we can obtain, purchase, or get salvation.

He placed us in a place where we can do something to escape wrath and be saved.

This is where the church has overblown grace. We’ve been told that if there’s something you do to get, purchase, or obtain salvation that this is contrary to grace.

But it’s not. We can meet a condition that obtains salvation. We don’t earn it by works, or by works of the law, or by being impressive to God enough so He saves us. We obtain it through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ opened a way of salvation through His Gospel, which we can use to obtain salvation. God gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work; being humble is the condition to receive grace. You are capable of being humble. Do so and you’ll obtain grace.

There are two ways people could be saved:

  1. completely God’s work, or
  2. we have something to do with it

Calvinism says it’s all God. If it’s all God then we are passive objects being moved by God alone. But Paul says God has not placed us as passive objects to obtain wrath, but placed us in a place where there’s something we can do to obtain salvation.

Therefore, there sure seems to be something I can do to be saved. A response we are capable of making. We respond by faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not as a passive object, but as an active object that can acquire salvation.

Much of our Christian doctrine is an oversimplification based on a handful of verses rather than what the Bible says in whole.

I’ll let you hash out the implications of this verse and you can figure out what you want to do with it and why I’m an idiot for interpreting it the way I did.

That’s fine. The verse remains. Do something with it.

Getting Mad at the Bible

Reading the Bible is one of the best ways to undermine your faith!

I kid you not.

We are all taught doctrine by other people. Some of those people know what they are talking about and some don’t. Most are trying to be helpful, and there are some who are just in it for their own gain.

At a certain point you have to do some thinking about what you’ve been taught. You have to read the Bible to discern whether you were taught well or not.

Problems arise because we have feelings. We have loving thoughts about some of our teachers, some of whom were our own family members. We don’t want to think critically of them.

Sometimes we hate some of our teachers and it makes us hostile to their teaching even when they actually had some things right, but we throw it all out because of our hatred.

We also have feelings of insecurity. What will happen if I leave these doctrines I’ve depended on? What will happen if people I’ve been with find out I’ve backed off that doctrine? They will think I’m stupid and maybe disown me.

Fear is all over this thing.

Right doctrine will also make you do tough things, which are easily avoided by not believing those right doctrines. So we back off and quit. Leave it for smart people. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and quit this noise.

There are passages of the Bible that freak people out. They know if they took them seriously they’d have to change things. There would be a cost. They’d rather not pay it.

You can find people who will tell you what you want to hear and will agree to ignore the same verses you ignore. You can all carry on in happy ignorance. But what will you do in the end thereof?

Don’t be afraid of those verses. Figure them out. If you want to know the One who wrote the book; deal with His book.

Don’t get mad at the Bible for not agreeing with you–you’re the idiot in the scenario; not God!

Buck up. Do the work to figure it out and deal with the consequences. Eternity in God’s glory will make it all worth while. Don’t chuck eternal glory for temporal comfort. Pay the price, grow, and advance in the faith.

7 Approaches to Parts of the Bible You Do Like

Sprinkled amongst all the verses in the Bible that we don’t like, are verses we do like.

This is intriguing to me. I’m fascinated by what verses people like and ones they don’t. You can tell a lot about a person by the verses they like.

Not just “like” as in being fond of them either, but I mean the ones you totally think you understand and use constantly to buck up your doctrinal stances. The ones you quote in any Christianesque conversation you’ll have with anyone.

What should you do with verses you do like and know exactly what they mean?

Here are a few options:

1. Quote them ad nauseum. No matter what you’re discussing about the Bible, bring everything back to those four verses you like. Make that verse mean everything.

2. Trump your verses. Make your verses so big, so huge, so massively weighty that no other verse in the Bible could possibly come close to meaning as much or be nearly as weighty. Because of this verse; who really needs the others?

3. Don’t learn more about those verses. Just go with what you got and assume you know everything about these verses. Knowing more could possibly make you not like those verses anymore, why take such risks? Life is too short to be correct.

4. Ignore the context. Take those favorite verses in complete isolation. This will help you bend those verses into your favorite meanings. Not only don’t learn more about the verse; don’t dare learn more about what the author actually meant with them in their context.

5. Base an entire doctrine on your favorite verses alone. Romans 9 is all you need. Ephesians 2:8 is all you need. Whatever the doctrine may be, there is a certain proof text for it. Don’t bother going above and beyond outside those proofs. Just keep bashing people over the head with your one-verse doctrine. The less scripture involved; the more certain you’ll become.

6. Don’t even bother with the verses you don’t like. Too much trouble. It might cause doubt. Be firm in what you’ve got and never go outside your doctrinal bubble. There’s antichrists out there waiting to pounce on those who waver!

That’s pretty much it.

Those are your options.

I kid, I kid.

There remains one more.

7. Make all the verses your favorite verses! Seriously. All Scripture is inspired and is profitable. The whole counsel of Scripture was given for us to use. Whatever things were written before were written for our learning. I imagine there is some reason God gave us a whole book and not just five favorite verses.

Go through your Bible and look at the verses you don’t have underlined. Why are they not underlined? Maybe they are the “begot” verses and genealogies. That’s fine. Maybe they are directions for cutting up sacrificial animals or dimensions of temples or obscure prophecies for nations that don’t exist anymore. That’s fine. I’m not too worried about that.

I mean read the words of Christ you don’t like. Study Paul’s verses that drive you nuts. Read James. Learn to like them and understand them. Unconfuse the confusing bits.

Don’t get too focused on any one verse or passage; this will warp your doctrine big time. Notice the verses particularly that contradict your doctrine. Make them carry as much weight in your understanding as the verses that back up your point.

Coaches tell athletes to work on the parts of their game they are weakest at, not just the parts they’re already good at. I suggest the same thing in the biblical learning realm.

God wrote you a whole book; use the whole book.

7 Approaches to Parts of the Bible You Don’t Like

Everyone has parts of the Bible they don’t like.

Even if we don’t admit we don’t “like” those parts, we will at least admit we don’t know what to do with them.

What do you do with the parts you don’t know what to do with!?

Here are some options

  1. Completely ignore them. Yup, just pretend they don’t exist. Maybe if you ignore them long enough they will disappear.
  2. Deny inspiration. Find a way to undermine Scripture’s authority. Blame the individual authors for being wrongheaded. Ignore that bit about “all scripture” being God-breathed.
  3. Trump them with verses you do like. Find a handful of verses that you actually do like and make those verses somehow trump the ones you don’t like. Explain how the existence of this verse means you no longer need to deal with the verse you don’t like. Use the Bible to tell you why you don’t have to use the Bible.
  4. Follow theologians. If you follow esteemed people, it hardly matters whether you like the Bible; just quote your guys. Find the fancy theological loopholes only smart people can come up with and go with those and stop worrying about that silly old Bible.
  5. Don’t read the Bible. If you never read it;; you’ll never come across verses you don’t like! Just take other people’s word for what’s in there. Conform to a group. Leave the Bible on the shelf for all those smart people to figure out. Just float along in cheery ignorance.
  6. Study original languages. If you know Greek and Hebrew you can convince yourself you’re smart enough to know what words really mean and thus be able to redefine any problematic verse you come across. Be smarter than the Bible and bend it to your whims.

That’s pretty much it.

Those are your options.

I kid. I kid.

There remains one more option:

7. Shut up and deal with it! Stop trying to redefine and verbally escape passages you don’t like. Instead, bow the knee, humble yourself, and be taught. Truly find out why the Bible says what it says. Pray for wisdom and insight, not only in the Bible, but in the nature of God, the author behind the book. Keep your mouth shut, ears open, and prepare to learn. When you learn, adjust your life accordingly.

That is the most difficult option to go with (although learning Hebrew and Greek is tough). It’s the most costly and the most inconvenient. It’ll take you places your flesh has no desire to go.

But I highly recommend this approach. It’s the only one that will work in getting you prepared for Judgment Day.

Don’t be afraid of the Bible; these are words of life. Drink deeply and chew thoroughly. You will be filled.

Paul Calling People Names

Yesterday I posted about Jesus’ tendency to tell things as they are, even if it meant calling people out on their sin.

If we are to follow Christ, it seems as if we should do the same thing.

This does not mean besmirching people’s character, or making up stuff, or being rude for the sake of being rude, but it does mean telling the truth.

If, in an effort to soften our verbiage, we end up lying, we are forsaking love’s delight in the truth.

Not only did Jesus Christ call people out, so did the Apostle Paul. There may be some who defend Jesus’ manner in calling people out by saying, “Well, yeah, He’s the Son of God, of course He can call us wicked and faithless.”

Well, Paul is not the Son of God, he’s a sinner like you and me, in fact, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

He calls himself that because Paul speaks the truth. Not only does he call other people stuff, he calls himself names!

In the book of Titus he says:

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.

In another fascinating passage, Acts 23:3, Paul says to the high priest

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Paul calls him a name, judges his performance, and calls upon God to smite him!

Paul later apologized for saying that to the high priest with the supposed defense that he did not know the guy was the high priest!

Paul is rather feisty. Jesus Christ was a tad feisty. People who speak the truth will be feisty, or at least come across that way.

Now, being feisty for feisty’s sake is not the issue. I’m not calling you to be a jerk and call people names.

What I am doing is saying that truth tends to hurt. If you speak the truth you will say things about people that they will not take kindly.

Most resentment and offendedness is a result of guilt. People who know they are sinners don’t like their sin to be pointed out. They want to live in the delusional world that they are sinning and getting away with it and everything is cool.

If you are an easily offended person, that’s because you are not walking in truth and righteousness. If you know you’re doing the right thing, what people accuse you of will bother you very little.

A sign of wisdom is listening to reproof and correction. Stupid people are the only ones who get offended at people correcting them, would be another way to put it.

This is a careful issue and I can easily be taken out of context. Hear what I’m saying.

My point is not that we should be judgmental jerks to people.

My point is to speak the truth and also, as you speak it, make sure you’re hearing it yourself. Start by dealing truthfully with your own sin before taking an interest in everyone else’s sin.

Stopping Sin Is Not Magic

Sin is a terrible, persistent enemy. We are told to be standing in the armor of God and watching and praying all the time. Sin doesn’t stop; unfortunately, our spiritual motivation does.

When our spiritual motivation wanes, sin pounces. Sin lies at the door, waiting for you to drop your guard.

There is an idea floating around Christianity, which I think started with John Wesley, or at least came out of some of his ideas, that there is a second birth, or a second conversion that fully delivers you from experiencing sin.

The idea goes like this:

A person gets saved and yet sin still reigns supreme in their life. They reach a point of desperation, an emotional angst that breaks out all at once and leads to a second work of the Holy Spirit, a second conversion where you are now filled for good with the Holy Spirit and conscious sin ceases.

(I say “conscious sin” because this was sort of Wesley’s idea: a believer might still sin, it would just be a sin he was unaware of. He would never knowingly sin. Some theories eliminate all sin, but most have this Wesleyan idea included.)

I’ve met believers who claim to have had this experience, and I’ve met many more who have heard the stories and deeply desire this experience.

I mean, who wouldn’t?! This sounds dreamy! All my fleshly lusts suddenly disappear! I no longer have a desire to do the sins that dragged me down for years! This sounds truly magical. No fuss, no muss, no struggle, just POOF! Sin and its desires are gone!

There is much magical thinking in Christianity. The thing that keeps us sinning is our deep desire to do it. If I could just get rid of that desire once for all, everything would be cured.

Indeed. Again, I do think that through spiritual growth the desire can be killed off. I think this is real and true. I also think it comes through years of battle.

It does not happen in one magical moment or through one deeply emotional crisis.

The Bible does not speak in these terms. I know there are personal stories of this happening, maybe it could, but expecting it sets you up for discouragement.

The Bible speaks as life being a fight and a long race to be run. It does not speak in magical terms about the fight not seeming like a fight or the race not seeming like a race because magic zapping occurred.

There’s a fight. Don’t buy the idea that magic cure-all moments occur. This sounds more like a fleshly, worldly desire than a biblical expectation. Everyone wants the get rich quick scheme. Sounds too good to be true, primarily because it aint true.

Sin is a persistent enemy; it will not stop. One major thing keeping us looking ahead with hope is deliverance, final, victorious deliverance from this body of death.

You can enjoy this deliverance in part now by growing spiritually. You really can defeat sin, and sin less. But until we receive our glorified bodies, sin will remain an active force to be dealt with.

Run to win.

How to Stop Sin

Yesterday I put forth the case that as long as we are in the flesh body we will have a pull toward sin and we will give in to that pull from time to time.

I do not believe the believer should expect to cease sinning until they receive their glorified body.

I also don’t think individual sin has to be inevitable. People tend to flip from one side to the other on this issue: there are those who think they have stopped sinning and there are those who don’t even try, because why bother?

Although I do not believe we can have ultimate deliverance from all sin ever as long as we’re in this body, I do think we can have victory over sin, and increasingly so as we progress in faith.

Sin is a persistent enemy. Those who have told me they have not sinned for a long time, have always communicated this idea with lots of pride. If you did cease from sinning, you’d be the last person to know it, because as soon as you knew it, you’d be proud.

Lots of people say they want to stop sinning. Unfortunately, much of this desire is theoretical. People don’t actually want to stop, they just don’t want to feel guilty or have the repercussions of sin.

Desiring to not feel bad about sin is different from not wanting to sin!

Many desperately want to drop off their smoking, or drinking, or porn watching. The desire was truly there, but so too was a desire to continue doing those sins.

Sin truly is a dog returning to its vomit. It’s disgusting and yet keeps drawing us back in.

The first step in defeating a sin is to actually want to defeat it. Like, for real. Not just eliminate the cost or guilt, but eliminate the sin itself.

Secondly, you need to make sure you’re saved! If you are not saved, if you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, you have zero shot at conquering sin. OK, that might not be true. Many unbelievers have stopped being alcoholics and things, but again, the force used is typically pride or some other sin. Replacing one addiction with another.

But to honestly do battle with sin you need the Holy Spirit and the provisions of the Gospel.

Thirdly, you need to do battle. I mean, really do battle. Make war on sin. Flee temptation. Avoid places that lead you to being tempted. Flee youthful lusts. Discipline and control yourself as much as possible. Take steps to make sin harder.

Many Christians hear step three and freak out. “Works righteousness! We don’t have to do anything; Christ does it all.” Good luck with that.

Being disciplined and fighting sin is not legalism, works righteousness, or any such foolishness; it’s the biblical mandate for defeating sin.

We have an enemy. There is a fight. We have been given armor. Use the armor to fight the fight and defeat the enemy. There is no other way to defeat sin.

Take sin seriously. Determine to actually want it to stop. Use all the provision of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit and go fight.

Can We Stop Sinning?

No.

That’s the simplest answer, and also the Biblical answer. As long as we are in this flesh body on this fallen earth we will sin. How do I know that? Ecclesiastes 7:20:

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

There does not exist a person on this earth who does not sin.

Most Christians would agree with this (there are always exceptions). Most, in fact, are more than happy to agree with this!

There are many who have the idea that if the Bible says everyone on earth sins, then sin must not be a problem, nor fought against.

I mean, why bother to defeat what cannot be defeated?

It’s like the Bears trying to beat the Packers with Aaron Rodgers. It aint gonna happen. They might as well stay home the day of that game.

But the Bible also says in many places that sin should be fought, resisted, and even defeated!

An interesting verse to put next to Ecclesiastes 7:20 is 1 John 3:9 and 5:18

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

1 John was written so you would know that you have eternal life. yet many people come across these verses and immediately doubt they have eternal life!

John speaks in absolutes and he also uses continuous verb tenses. John is talking about habitual action, what your character is. The man of God does not continually sin. He is not marked by sin.

1 John talks about confessing our sins and goes on to say that we have a mediator. “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

We’re not supposed to sin, certainly we’re not supposed to continue to sin as if it were no problem. Should we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! If we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, this certainly implies that we will sin.

Some people grab onto the couple verses in 1 John to say that a real believer never does a sin, ever. Some people grab the Ecclesiastes 7 verse and conclude that we all sin so don’t worry about it.

Neither is taking into consideration what the Bible says about sin. Both go to extremes that press the issue not only out of biblical sense, but even out of common sense.

Look, God knows our frame. He knows we are dust: breathing piles of dirt. He knows we sin. God, through Christ, has made a way for our sins to be forgiven.

This shows us two things:

  1. Sin was a massive problem that needed God’s intervention and sacrifice. If it required sacrifice from God to take care of it, let’s try to stay away from it.
  2. When we do sin we have an advocate with the Father.

The fact that we have an advocate when we sin does not imply: so go ahead and sin! Look what the Advocate went through for you!

There is no way that new life in Christ was granted to you so you could continue in sin. He that is dead is freed from sin. He that is dead to sin, how can he live in it any longer?

We’ve been given spiritual armor to resists temptation. The Holy Spirit helps us mortify the deeds of the body.

Yes, Christ covers for the believer when the believer sins, but in no way does this mean sin should be the believer’s normal pattern in life. But nor does it mean the believer doesn’t sin. If the believer never sinned, why would believers be given an advocate?

As is always the case, use the whole Bible to understand a biblical subject. Read and study. Figure it out and then live accordingly.

Hope of Eternal Life

Two times Paul talks about the “hope of eternal life” in the book of Titus.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began
–Titus 1:2

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life
–Titus 3:7

This hope of eternal life isn’t a “Boy, I sure hope I have eternal life” as if there’s some doubt. Hope is a confident expectation; it’s a sealed deal.

The basis of our hope of eternal life is on the fact that God had salvation with the reward of eternal life figured out for a long time!

God doesn’t lie! If God says you can have eternal life in Christ, then guess what? You can have eternal life in Christ!

This hope of eternal life motivates us to do what God says to do. Titus 3 starts with a list of things God wants His people to do. Right after verse 7 about the hope of eternal life, he tells believers to maintain good works.

Remember from Peter that our hope of eternal life is a lively hope. It’s a hope that gives life, energy, purpose, and power to live now.

Hopeless jobs where you show up every day and do your thing with no evident progress, recognition, or appreciation get tiresome. If you have no hope, it’s hard to get out of bed, let alone go do work.

But if you have an eternal hope, one filled with all the substance of the inheritance in Christ, there will be some motivation to get busy!

We lose hope when we look at temporal things. We look at our politicians, our society, our virtues and we lose hope. We lose motivation. Everything seems overwhelming and pointless to even try to resist.

Yup, that is correct! The Bible does not disagree with that assessment of life on earth–vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

But the Bible speaks of hope, which means the Bible must also speak of a better world ahead of us, and it does.

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.

There is a better country with better virtues and better politicians! Put your hope there, let that hope fill you with passion, drive, and joy in doing God’s will even here. Our labor is not in vain in the Lord!

Lively Hope

The New Testament speaks of believers being “born again” by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Jesus lectures Nicodemus for not getting that from the Old Testament! (That’s a thing to ponder. I honestly don’t have that one figured out. But alas, that is for another day!)

Some think that being born again is some tent revivalist lingo, or some sort of Christian jargon. But it’s actually a real thing.

John 3 is the biggest explanation of the idea. But there’s another cool passage in 1 Peter 1. This chapter mentions being born again a couple times. One of those times Peter calls it “begotten again.”

Here’s the phrase from 1 Peter 1:3: “begotten us again unto a lively hope.

We’ve been born again, or created again, unto a lively hope. What’s not to like about the phrase “lively hope?”

A lively hope is a hope that gives life. Hope, in the Bible, always refers to the future and the realization of God’s promises about the future.

The promise of the future is our bodily resurrection, which is based on the accomplished fact of Christ’s resurrection.

This coming resurrection and dwelling with God for eternity gives us life now.

Our hope in the future, in other words, can benefit us now in the present!

Our hope in the future revives the heart and makes the soul lively and vigorous.

Bring on the fight to be fought! Bring on the race to be run! I’ve got life! I’ve got energy!

Maybe not physically, but certainly spiritually. I now have a reason and a hope, a greater thing to work for and drive me forward. Not some temporal goal that will be accomplished, but an eternal destiny to be lived.

This is hope! You know you understand the hope when you discover energy to live the life of Christ in this present world.

The Cost to be Counted

Jesus Christ tells those considering following Him that it will be tough. It will cost you all things.

whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
–Luke 14:33

“All things” here means “all things.” Like, everything. Your life. Your family. Your possessions. Your career. All things.

Now, this will look different for each person. It will depend on where you’re coming from. But be not deceived: following Christ will cost you.

The basic idea is that if you follow Christ, you’ll have to decide over and over again: will I do what Christ says, or will I do what allows me to keep my stuff?

The Bible is very honest and open about this cost. Paul explains the cost in his own life in Philippians.

Ever since I was 3, people told me “Philippians is a book about joy.” Certainly joy is in Philippians; but suffering and loss are in there about as much.

Why isn’t Philippians ever described as a book about suffering?!

Because no one wants to hear about suffering; we are all about the happy-happy, joy-joy. today.

Paul says that he suffered the loss of all things to gain Christ. Paul wrote Philippians from jail. Paul talks about how he had no other man besides Timothy to help him. He was alone and rotting in prison.

Paul did have joy, but the reason he had joy is because he was looking forward eternal life after death! He wanted to die when he wrote Philippians–the strait between two; his desire to depart, which is far better.

How we translate that into your best life now and health and wealth happiness is beyond me.

Many years ago church people actually read the Bible. They discovered that the Bible used harsh terms about following Christ.

These church people realized that if they went with that message, no one would sign on.

So church people told outsiders that the Gospel would make them happy, rich, and healthy. You’ll have a stronger marriage and better kids. On and on the lies went.

People signed up. Churches got full and church people got paid well. It was a sweet deal for everyone involved.

Until they died.

Notice this is the same thing Israel did in the Old Testament. “Peace, peace when there is no peace.” The false message of the false prophets won the day, which kept everyone happy.

Until they died.

We’re doing the same thing today. There’s nothing new under the sun.

There is a cost to following Christ. If church people had stuck with New Testament teaching, they would been rejected and impoverished, and would have taken part in the suffering Christ spoke of.

But people don’t count the cost anymore. Today we count the benefits we imagine the Gospel will bring us.

If you stick with the real Gospel and teach it, you’ll lose friends, cause tension in your family, you’ll be disrespected and maligned. You’ll feel lonely and misunderstood.

It’ll cost you. It will hurt and won’t be much fun.

It’ll also drive you to hope, which is the only thing that brings true joy and peace. This was Paul’s point in Philippians: my life is pretty terrible, so much so that I want to die. But after death! After death is when I get my glory! So I’ll let that hope buck me up and I’ll stick with the Gospel and I’ll keep serving and suffering until that day comes.

Too many people are holding too tightly to the wrong life and the things of the wrong world.

Let go of this life, this world and its things and lay hold on eternal life. Let hope drive you and lead you to true joy. Not dependent on material, temporal success, but on eternal hope.

Count the cost. Are you wiling to lose everything in this world to gain the next world?

Count the Cost of What?

Jesus Christ once told a multitude to “count the cost.”

This was in relation to following Him. Previous to this statement, He said if you don’t hate various family members, deny self, and take up the cross you can’t be His disciple.

So, count the cost.

The reason He said to count the cost is so you won’t be embarrassed when you don’t finish the job.

This was in relation to building a building and a king going to war (click here for the passage). Doing things without considering what you’re doing will make you look dumb.

Jesus Christ does not want you to look dumb.

He tells people up front how difficult it will be to follow Him.

If you follow the Suffering Servant, guess where you’ll end up? I’m going to go with: I’ll end up with suffering service.

If you follow the man of sorrows acquainted with grief, guess where you’ll end up? You’ll end up with sorrow and grief.

This is so out of place in our day. Today’s Gospel tells people that if you believe this cute story about this guy from 2,000 years ago, you’ll have your best life now and when you die you’ll go to heaven.

That’s it.

“Count the cost” is the most ridiculous thing a person could say in relation to today’s “gospel.”

“Count the cost of what? I just get a wonderful plan for my life and then more wonderful after I’m dead. Where’s the cost in that?”

So, we must conclude one of two things:

1) Today’s Gospel is wrong, or
2) Jesus Christ was wrong

I’ve heard people on both sides.

I can tell you for certain which side I’m on!

Today’s Gospel is wrong.

Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be right. He’s also going to be your Judge. Imagine explaining to Him how you didn’t follow Him because you thought He was wrong.

Love Believes All Things and Hopes All Things

Love is tough. Love is great when someone shows it to you, but showing it to someone else, boy howdy. it aint easy.

Love covers a multitude of sin. Covering sin, which means to overlook it and act as if they didn’t just offend you, is hard.

It’s way more fun to be a victim, yell and scream, throw a tantrum, and fight for your rights.

What’s harder is to take a beating for no reason.

Love believes all things. How insane is that?!

I know people who lie and break promises all the time. I know better than to believe the words that come out of their mouth. Is love supposed to believe liars?

After believing all things in 1 Corinthians 13, we’re told that love hopes all things.

Hope is about the future, that something better is coming.

Perhaps these go together.

OK, I know this guy is lying, so I can’t believe what he’s telling me, so now I shift to hope. Perhaps this time he’ll be true. Perhaps he’ll repent at some point, maybe even because of my loving response to him, and stop lying soon. Or maybe it goes beyond to see what reason there is that this person is untrustworthy, maybe there’s a legitimate reason they are letting me down.

Adam Clarke has this to say about it:

When there is no place left for believing good of a person, then love comes in with its hope, where it could not work by its faith; and begins immediately to make allowances and excuses, as far as a good conscience can permit; and farther, anticipates the repentance of the transgressor.

I think that is well said.

Love basically gives people the benefit of the doubt. Chill. Relax. Remember that you lie too. Remember that you sin and let others down too. You have no problem defending and excusing your own sin!

Why do you think you are so good at justifying your own sin? Perhaps it’s because you love yourself?!

That’s exactly why. If you love others, you’ll begin to lighten up about their faults. Love your neighbor as yourself. You’ll be quicker to forgive, just as God, who is love, is quick to forgive.

Love gives people a break. Stop being Perfect in your own mind and outraged at other people’s faults. You aint perfect; neither are they. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Give people a break.

Faith and Hope

Faith is the substance of things hoped for.

Faith contains all the things hoped for that we do not yet see or possess.

Faith is trusting that God knows stuff you don’t know, and since you don’t know, you’re going to take His word for it.

Much of faith has to do with the future. The future aspect of faith is “hope.” Hope is always about the future.

Hope is a confident expectation that what God says will happen, will happen.

I have no ability to see into the future. I have no proof of what the future holds. Nor do I even have power to guarantee my own future.

Therefore, in me, I have no hope. I have no confidence, trust, or faith in me. What do I know?

But God knows all and has told us some of what He knows. Our job is to trust His word.

Part of what His word tells us is that believers will be glorified in the future. He tells believers they will live in righteousness in the future. Believers will enjoy God’s presence for eternity in the splendors of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

This gives us hope, and hope brings joy and peace.

If there is no hope, then there can be no joy and there can be no peace.

But if we know our future is wrapped up securely in the promises of God, and there’s nothing anyone can do to remove us out of God’s hands, then we have joy, peace, and all hope.

This sort of hope can get you through a world of tribulation and suffering. It was the joy set before Christ that helped Him endure the cross. The same is true for us.

If there is no resurrection, then there is no hope, and if we have no hope, then are we of all men most miserable.

But we aren’t the most miserable; we are the most joyful. Not because our present circumstances are great, but because our future eternity will be glorious.

Let this hope transform your life, make you willing to take up the cross and be a living sacrifice, and fill you with anticipation, joy, and peace that all will be well for eternity!

Faith and hope go together. Where there is faith; there is hope. You can’t have one without the other.

Faith and Death

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of thins not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1

This is how the great Chapter of Faith, Hebrews 11, starts.

Following this, you have a long list of people who were told to do something today because something was going to happen in the future.

Noah was to build an ark for 120 years because a massive flood was coming. Noah didn’t know the flood was coming for sure, there was no Doppler radar. But Noah built a large boat because he was told he’d need it later.

Abraham and the following two generations were going to live in tents, waiting for an established city to come. They never saw the city. They only saw tents.

Down the list he goes, touching on many lives, some whom we know and others we don[‘t, of people who all took scary steps of faith based on what God said.

We are told earlier in Hebrews 9, that it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.

How do you know what’s going to happen after death?

You have no idea what’s going to happen after death. You can’t ask dead people. You can’t see into the future beyond the grave. So, how do you know a judgment is coming after death?

There’s only one way: if someone who is beyond death could tell you. That someone would be God. He knows and He tells us a judgment is coming.

By faith I hear what God says about the future and take action today. That is the message of Hebrews 11.

In this world we will have tribulation, and then we die, and then there’s a judgment.

That’s what the future holds for you.

You can’t take the scientific method out and test this hypothesis. There is no physical proof that a judgment follows death.

Faith is proved by what is not seen. Think about that one for a while!

Faith comes by hearing. We walk by faith, not by sight.

You have no idea what’s going to happen after death, nor are there experiments you can do to find out. You are left with taking God’s word for it.

Now is the time of salvation. Now is the time to awake out of sleep. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Death is coming, which means judgment is coming. Current life is the time to prepare.

Get ready. It’s coming.

Faith and Proof

Faith is hard.

No really. Seriously. Faith is hard.

I’m shocked by how many people think it’s easy and further shocked by people’s responses to those who have doubts.

Faith can’t even live in a place without doubt.

We are a physical people who mind physical things.

Our modern scientific method has become our test for all things. “If there’s no physical proof; then it’s false.”

This is said with no physical proof that this is the case!

Granted, you can certainly learn things by making observations, not against that. But observing things can’t prove everything that needs proving.

At a certain point you will run out of physical proofs and yet still have questions left.

Faith, biblically speaking, is not taking a blind leap.

Faith is taking someone else’s word for something. A something that, although not proved, can still be found to be logical or not and then believed or not.

There is a dehumidifier running next to me as I write this.

You have no idea if that is true or not. So, how do you know I’m telling the truth?

Well, first of all, why would I lie about that? Is there anything I benefit from by saying that if it isn’t true? Has your past experience with me shown that I lie about stuff?

Second, am I known to be a believer in the effectiveness of dehumidifiers in basements? Yes I am. You can ask anyone who’s been in my basement if there is a dehumidifier there. Evey basement I’ve ever been in control of has had a dehumidifier.

Third, you can find out when I wrote this and see what the weather was. I am writing this on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. You can look up the weather and see that we had torrential downpours all last night. If a dehumidifier were to be running, it would certainly be on the day after a night of torrential downpours.

So, do you think there is a dehumidifier running in my basement as I type this? Am I telling the truth? You can’t know for sure, but you can analyze these points and probably believe that there is a dehumidifier running next to me.

At a certain point, with all the above facts taken into consideration, you still need to believe what I said.

Faith comes by hearing. We walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.

If you were standing next to me right now you would hear the dehumidifier running and you can see it shaking in the corner and see drops of water falling into its reservoir. Therefore, at that point when you see the thing in action, you no longer need faith; you just know.

Seeing is not believing. Seeing is the end of believing.

That’s why faith is hard. Faith believes what it cannot see. If I can’t see it, I must take someone’s word for it.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Is God known for lying? Does God say His word is true? Do you know everything the Bible says is true?

You can’t know it’s true for sure with absolute, infallible, physical proofs, but you can take someone else’s word for it and trust that they do know. That’s what faith does!

Faith says, “I don’t know, but I believe you do, so I’ll go with what you say.” Faith is humble and dependent. That’s why faith is hard!

If you don’t find faith hard, there’s a chance you aint doing it!

Humility Is Not A Work

God gives grace to the humble.

That bothers a lot of people, because they think there is nothing you can do to get grace. The following verse is trotted out as proof text:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
–Romans 11:6

This passage, in its context, is talking about the choosing of the nation of Israel for the Messiah to come through. The choosing of the nation that all nations would be blessed by. Salvation is of the Jews.

The Messiah was one Man and could be related to one race of people. That people was/is Israel. Romans 9-11 explains God’s plan of redemption and the interaction between Jews and Gentiles in the revealing of that plan.

I don’t think this verse has anything to do with how people receive salvation by grace.

Another verse quoted is Romans 4:4

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Paul’s point is that salvation is not achieved by works of the law, by circumcision, and keeping the old covenant law.

The context flows back into Romans 3, which is all about the Jews and their law. They thought doing Old Covenant law is what saved them. But never once did God ever tell anyone that keeping the Old Covenant law would save them. It was a covenant to stay in the Promised Land.

Abraham was before the law, therefore salvation, which was around in Abraham’s day, couldn’t be by the law. Romans 4 goes on to quote David, who lived under the law, also saying that salvation is not something you work your way into.

Therefore, if the Bible says there are things we do to get grace, and it does, then clearly those things cannot be the work Paul refers to in Romans.

The only way it could be is if the Bible is massively inconsistent on this issue, which some have staked their doctrine to such a claim. Not a good idea, but at least they are being more honest then most!

We are saved by grace through faith. Grace is what God provides; faith is how we respond. Faith is humble.

Every single human being knows they are bad. We have a conscience. A conscience is not proof of spiritual life; it’s proof that you are human. We all feel guilt. Yes, the conscience can be hardened, but it’s still there.

Knowing we are wrong wears a person out. We will seek mind altering chemicals to drown it out, or entertainment and distraction to get it to shut up, or sometimes even suicide.

All our desires of the flesh exist to quiet guilt. Yet the more we use the flesh to quiet guilt, the more guilty we become. It’s hopeless.

When the light of the Gospel shines in and a hopeless, guilt-ridden person hears that God loves them and wants to set them free from sin and guilt through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some grab onto that message with humble dependence.

When a person comes to the end, when hopelessness and guilt have trounced their soul, they respond to the Gospel.

This is not trying to fix the flesh, impress God, or in any way purchasing our own salvation. This is an admission that we got nothing and Christ is all.

I fail to see how this is pride and fleshly works.

Humility, love, and faith are exactly what the Gospel draws out of a person who seeks deliverance from themselves.

This is how the Bible speaks of how salvation happens. Any other theory plays fast and loose with Scripture and makes much of it false. Don’t do that. Be humble! Hear God’s Word and respond accordingly.

Getting Grace and Monergism

Many believe there is nothing you can do to get grace. That if you had to do something to get it; it wouldn’t be grace.

The question then is: OK, so how does one get grace?

If there is nothing I can do to get grace, then either

1) I can’t get grace, or
2) Something else must do everything with grace and me getting it without me doing anything.

Every believer knows some people get grace, so option 1 can’t be the answer. Therefore, we are left with option 2.

Option 2 is officially called “Monergism.” Here is a definition of Monergism accepted by Monergists:

“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

Humans cannot respond to God. Everything is done by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is regenerated, then they can believe the Gospel.

Regeneration before believing is nowhere stated in the Bible and often said in the opposite way, such as, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Nowhere are we told, “Be saved and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monergism is completely contrary to Scripture. Sure, you can bend a handful of verses to seem like they are saying this, but no, this is not how the Scripture speaks of salvation.

So neither option answers our dilemma of how we can get grace by doing nothing.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is to assume there must be something we can do to get grace, and this thing we do to get grace, does not mean I earned it or worked for it. It means I met a condition.

This simple understanding seems to fit quite nicely with Scripture.

“God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble,” the Bible says several times. If you’re not humble then you don’t get grace. How does this fit with Monergism?

Monergism would say, “Well yeah, God makes you humble so you get grace.” OK, well, wouldn’t God making me humble while I was not humble be a gracious thing? If so, then God does give grace to non-humble people.

Monergism is held true as long as you’re cool with making Scripture false.

Don’t let your doctrine get carried away and make you call the Scriptures a liar. Stick with the Scripture. Line your doctrine up with it.