Saturday, October 14, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 7): What About Personal Sins?

What about our personal sins in regard to salvation? Nothing. Nothing at all.

He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)


There is no regard for our personal sins in regard to salvation.
Personal sins do not count against us.
Personal sins are not counted against anyone.
None of our personal sins are counted against us.

No, not one!

To be saved, don't we have to stop sinning? No!
Don't we need to at least promise to stop sinning? No!

Why not?

Because personal sins are not an issue in salvation. Not at all!

How is this possible?

We know God's perfect righteousness demanded complete justice, and someone had to pay the price of sins. Well, Jesus Christ fulfilled that requirement perfectly, once and for all. It was paid once, and it was paid for all.

All personal sins that were ever committed or would ever be committed were counted to Christ when He suffered and died on the cross. Christ paid the entire price in full for the sins of the whole world, even for sins that haven't even been committed yet.

Therefore, anyone can be truthfully told, "Christ died for your sins," because He did, whether they believe it or not. That is, even if sinners do not believe Christ died for their sins, it's still a fact that He did die for their sins.

However, ...

"I knew it! There's a catch." No, not exactly. There's no catch, just a point of clarity. Christ dying for the sins of the world does not automatically result in individual reconciliation with the Father. The sacrifice Christ made completely satisfied the Father's justice and righteous requirements. But, sinners remain lost if they resist the Holy Spirit's testimony that Jesus is the Christ. Individual reconciliation with the Father is a result of belief (trust and reliance) in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Scripture references:

How do we know from Scripture (not opinion) that the Father was completely satisfied with the sacrifice Christ made for the payment of the sins of the whole world?

He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

What further evidence do we have that this means our personal sins are not being counted against us?

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:18-19)

When or how are we saved and reconciled to the Father? Salvation is as simple as John 3:16. (See other posts in this blog series, Salvation 101.)

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

How do we know that those who resist the Holy Spirit's testimony about Jesus Christ remain lost?

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)


Final Comments...

The Gospel is not just Good News, but really Great News because of this, because personal sins are not an issue. Christ destroyed that barrier for reconciliation with the Father.

Salvation, as a result, is simple; simple, but not always easy. It's our sin nature that begs to have a part in being justified. Surely, we must do something to please God whom we've offended. But, righteousness does not come from us or anything we do, it comes from God as a gift. It's what He has accomplished through Christ. We only need accept the work He has done. Believe and be saved.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe
(Romans 3:20-22a)

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 
(Romans 3:22b-26)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
(Romans 4:4-5)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 6) - Who Can Be Saved?

Question: Who can be saved?
Answer: Anyone! Anyone in the whole world.

By this time, I hope it only makes sense, from Scripture, that anyone can be saved. I hope I've demonstrated from God's word, not my imagination, that Jesus Christ has executed all the work required. Salvation is not by works. Salvation cannot be earned. I hope it is also clear from the word of God that no one, no not one, has any advantage for being saved (Romans 3:9-12).


I've already addressed many objections and reasons why. Yes, I have a few more questions I'd like to address in future posts for this 'Salvation 101' series. But, the solid foundation has been established; Jesus Christ has completed all the work necessary. It is finished. 

He [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

The end result of looking at more of what God's word says about salvation will be an even greater understanding and assurance regarding His message and method of permanent reconciliation. 
  • There is no wiggle room. 
  • There is no margin of error. 
  • There are no other sacrifices required.
  • There is no other name by which we can be saved.
  • There are only absolutes regarding salvation.
  • Neither Jews nor Gentiles have any advantage.
  • There is no distinction among all before salvation.
  • There are no contradictions about salvation in Scripture.
  • If the context is not about salvation, don't make it about salvation.

Click here to see all the 'Salvation 101' posts so far. If you're new to this blog, you may also be interested in "Why Scripture?" and "Scripture Q&A."

Note: In this post, I'm addressing the question "Who can be saved?" Not, "Who will be saved?" While it's true anyone can be saved, not everyone will be saved. Why not? Because there will be those who reject Christ as God's solution to condemnation, which was His judgment after Adam sinned. 

There will be those who will resist the Holy Spirit. (Acts 7:51) That is, no one is incapable of receiving the grace of God as a gift except those who would disqualify themselves by refusing to accept God's gift. To phrase that another way, if one is capable of rejecting Christ, they are also capable of receiving Christ. 

Consider these verses and phrases from God's word to be sure His word says that anyone can be saved (ESV unless otherwise noted):
  • And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
  • Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:36 NIV)
  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (Romans 3:21-22)
  • And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; whereas God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and putting the word of reconciliation in us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
So, who can be saved? 
Anyone! Anyone in the world.

That definitely includes you.
That definitely includes me.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

How a Misfit Like Me Fits In

Dear Father,

This world is both confusing and confused. The complexity of human-generated problems in the world is beyond my comprehension.

Much of what the world praises doesn't make sense to me anymore. At one time it did because I didn't think much on it. Now, it amazes me how upside-down our priorities can be.

What am I to do? 

Conformity is not my specialty if I don't understand why and agree with the reasons. You've given me so many reasons and validation for believing in You.

Yet, I've wasted so much time trying to fit in to this world, teetering between feeling like a misfit and trying to conform to the patterns of this world, which are simultaneously particular and peculiar.

There is no fitting in. 

There is no place for me here. I am no longer of the world. Rather, my goal is to stop being conformed to the patterns of this world and be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2*).

Of course I'm a misfit! 

I'm a sojourner in this world. But, my sojourn is not a vacation where I lie in a hammock in the tropical sun sipping piƱa coladas to my heart's desire. It's more like a tour of duty overseas where I risk getting my heart ripped out.

Am I giving up? Not at all!

Quite the opposite, in fact. I consider Your rewards in Christ, Father, for example, there's joy, peace, love, and freedom - and all for eternity, versus the temporary satisfaction and pleasures of the world.

At the very least, there's striving to reduce the painful experiences of poverty, ill health, suffering, and loss. There's a time for everything under the sun, including fun and pain. Yet, all is vanity and striving after the wind if I simply try to fit it all in before I die.

I'd rather take at least some time to store up treasure in heaven...

I'd rather search Your word for the unsearchable riches that are in Christ (Eph 3:8). I'd rather know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and filled with Your fullness (Eph 3:19). I'd rather learn from You who can do exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask or think (Eph 3:20).**

I'd rather discover Your secret and hidden wisdom that was destined for my glory before time began (1 Cor 2:6-10).***

What a perfect fit!

Love,
Dwight

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

** To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ(Ephesians 3:8)

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God(Ephesians 3:19)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+3&version=ESV 

*** Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Cor 2:6-10 ESV)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 5) - What does it mean to "work out your own salvation?"


Salvation, all of it, is by grace. None of it, is by works. It is a gift of God.



This phrase, "work out your salvation," comes from Philippians 2:12 which reads...

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12 ESV)

Work out our salvation? It's not done? Fear and trembling? Fear of what? Condemnation? Fear of bringing up this verse because it doesn't seem to fit a salvation that is by grace?

Yikes!

Salvation by works? It can't be!

Salvation is a gift of God. Isn't it?

Salvation is not of works. Is it?

Yet, here is Scripture that seems to indicate works are involved, heavily involved, with fear and trembling no less. So, how do we resolve this phrase with a salvation that is by grace? Does this mean salvation requires at least some personal effort? Is grace conditional based on something I perform? Are we supposed to work for a gift? Is it initially given by grace as a gift, but then somehow maintained by works?

By no means!

This verse does not contradict with my opening assertion and previous lessons. It was the intent of this Salvation 101 series to show that, according to Scripture, salvation is indeed by grace, completely. In fact, grace and works cannot co-exist. Work earns wages, which cannot be counted as a gift.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

Salvation is a gift of God, plain and simple, it is not of works (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus Christ already completed the work when He pronounced, "It is finished." (John 19:30) What began in the Spirit by hearing with faith cannot be perfected by the flesh (Gal 3:2-3).

So, why does Paul tell us to work out our salvation here?

What can this possibly mean?

Paul is communicating about having the proper attitude as a Christian in this chapter to the Philippians. An attitude doesn't get one saved, it gets changed and matures over time. Salvation is not even the subject, sanctification is.

That is, the subject is growing up in Christ. Now that you are saved, which does not require works, the goal is to grow up in Christ, which does require works: show up teachable to God's word.

First comes salvation by grace...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Then we learn why we were saved...

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

If you don't work, or you work on the wrong things, you're still saved.

That doesn't change.

If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:14-15 ESV)

But, there is treasure far beyond comparison to anything in this world in knowing Christ Jesus and the One who sent Him. That doesn't just happen at salvation. You need to grow into it. Just because you were born in the flesh doesn't automatically mean you'll mature as an adult. It takes effort.

In the same way, just because you were born of the Spirit doesn't automatically mean you'll mature to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-14). This is all about walking in the Spirit once you have the Spirit in you. And if you have the Spirit in you, you also have Christ and the Father in you.

Think of it this way. Salvation bought you a permanent membership at the fitness center. Use it! You won't lose your membership if you don't. But, you will miss out on the unimaginable benefits of regularly getting a cardio and muscular good workout.

We'll address the topic of sanctification another time, perhaps Sanctification 101. There's much to be said about this process, this spiritual journey. Most of what Paul wrote in the NT is about growing in grace: leaning forward in the chair, as it were, to focus more intently on the Instructor's voice, while eliminating the unproductive behaviors of the flesh that only grieve the Spirit.

For now, let's just know that when we're saved by grace, we're completely saved by the One who did all the work on our behalf. There is no other sacrifice required. Even if there were, there would be none qualified to do it. Only Christ could execute the Father's plan. The work of Jesus Christ completely satisfied the requirements of reconciliation with the Father, not only for us, but for the whole world, so that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV)

Amen!  And...

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Gap in the Kitchen

I don't picture eye contact when reminiscing my youth. I just don't, I don't recall it. Maybe it was there. I recall my mother's eyes were dark brown, like mine and my siblings. So, I must have looked. But, I doubt any of us saw past the pigmentation of the others' irises.

From the time around the kitchen table of my youth, what I do remember is disconnect, empty space, and vast distance. Inches were miles. Visibility was low. Like the gap between the kitchen table and the sink, where you couldn't look at both at the same time, being on opposite sides of the kitchen, so was the gap between our souls. We couldn't see each other and be seen at the same time.

In our family, we often had our backs facing each other, largely because we were busy being self-absorbed. It was all we knew. We seldom faced each other. Not that we were angry. We just had nothing to say. Even if we did, we had no skills with which to say it. Silence, we knew well, and talking to strangers. Even the strangers in our home.

If some family member were to blurt out, heaven forbid, "I love you," or something senseless like that, it wouldn't bridge the gap. Not even close. It'd be like trying to skip a pebble to the opposite shore of Lake Michigan. Why? There was no one there who would believe the pronouncement. Not I. It wouldn't fit our family dynamic at all. Besides, as far as I could tell, no one knew what it meant.

I perceived my mother's soul, her heart, was as cold as that porcelain sink once full of ice. Only, the ice had melted leaving it cold and empty.


No, that's too harsh. I'm certain she was a child at one time, too, though she never spoke of it. Surely, nurture had something to do with her nature.

"My mother did the best she could," I tell myself. Others nod. Though she has died years ago, 21 to be exact, I give her this excuse to deliver to me. She didn't ask for it. But if I don't give it to her, I will have to take responsibility for my experience of the parenting transaction. Yet, I want it to be done.

"Isn't it over already?" No, I answer myself, afraid of the truth. "Why does this past cling to me? Didn't I grow up and out of it, like my childhood asthma?" Another negative response comes to mind.

The truth is, so long as I deny it, such childhood trauma will live like a parasite in my heart, sucking the warmth from it, until I acknowledge its damaging existence and agree to open heart surgery. I didn't come up with this awareness by my lonesome; it needed to be rubbed in my face by a person I could trust, until I cried.

I realized someone had been filling the porcelain sink of my heart with chips and chunks of ice. That someone was me. I was doing it myself. Someone else I trusted pointed that out to me, gently guiding me. I didn't want to believe the hurtful gap in the kitchen, in my youth, was now the gap between my soul and another's. And unless I intentionally did the emotional work to heal that gap, it would only grow worse. Fellowship is a 2-way street. I had skills to learn and triggers to disarm.

I longed to bridge that gap by hearing the rich and meaningful sound of, "I love you." I longed to say such words and understand I wasn't merely lusting after attention I could die for.

I learned it's never too late to have a wonderful childhood.

It was time to grow up for the first time.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 4) - What does it mean to be saved?

What does it mean to be saved? 
It means to be justified. 

Not "just if I had" never sinned.
But justified as opposed to condemned.


Is it ever good enough that I behaved?
Let me look into Your Word,
And not depend on what I heard,
Then I'll understand how I was enslaved.

Salvation is not about behavior. 
Salvation is not even about personal sin.

Salvation is about going from condemnation to justification.
And by works of the law, no flesh shall be justified.

No one born of Adam escaped the sentence of condemnation.

No one does good. 
No one seeks after God. 
No one understands God.
No, not one.

That is what God decreed,
So we would see our need,
To depend on the love of a Savior,
And turn from self-righteous behavior.

We are absolutely saved by grace. It is a gift of God. 

There are no works involved; there can be no works, for works and grace cancel each other out.

We talk about a divine calling, but understanding that calling comes after salvation. 

Being born again is the starting point of understanding Spiritual things that pertain to us. God wants ALL people to be saved. 

Salvation is wonderful, don’t get me wrong.
It is also permanent and not dependent on any behavior, not even a lifestyle.

But salvation is not the end; it is the means. 
There’s more that God wants for us, much more!

To have the opportunity to discover how rich is this calling, be saved.

Do not resist the Holy Spirit, who is hard at work in your life to persuade you of God’s love. Christ has done all the work required to save your soul. 

Trust Him. 

Rely on Him for your soul salvation. 

Let Him do what we cannot do no matter how hard we work. 

So we can boast in Him.


Scripture References sprinkled throughout:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 
(Romans 3:23-24)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 
(Romans 3:28)

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 
(Romans 3:20)

as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 
(Romans 3:10-12)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

(John 3:18)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 

(Romans 4:4-5)


Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 
(John 16:7-11)


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Wild Acres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC

Yesterday, the warm sun bathed the mountaintops with smooth rays. The breeze playfully unable to make up its mind from which way to come and to where it shall go. Refreshing blue skies with dabs of white cotton, afloat and unburdened.


Today, rain drains from clouds so close you're in them. Heavy drops tapping their arrival. "I'm here! And here, and here, and here!" God orchestrating these gentle beats while shiny green leaves dance in delight, one with the music, choreographed yet free.

Note to reader: I went to this place for a writer's retreat hosted by The Sun Magazine on May 19-21, 2017. It was my first ever, filled with workshops from wonderful instructors. There was also relaxed time to read, write, and network. I met some wonderful people and learned valuable lessons. I hope it's not my last. I loved it. (Special thanks to Mark for making it happen!)