Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Marvelous Journey into God's Hand and Heart (Letters to My Father - January 21, 2017)

Dear Father (Jan 21, 2017),

Yes! Absolutely I love You. You know I love You. But, what I need to emphasize in my writing is why. I learned to love You by learning the truth from Your word by Your Spirit.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)

I may have been saved and born again many years ago. But, I didn't understand from Scripture just how thorough and consistent is Your message of Your amazing grace. I didn't fully appreciate just how rock solid is the assurance of my salvation from Your word.

But, now that I do, the blessings of that knowledge are my responsibility. They are also a tremendous privilege. You know I've spent years and hours studying these things and other doctrines. It took a long time to undo the assumptions I previously held tightly.

But, I sought You and You rewarded me. I have been blessed with a wonderful pastor/teacher, used by the Spirit to guide me into all truth, even the deep things of God. Now it's time to share what I've learned. This is the real essence of my blog title, Revelations For Life.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)

[It's as if God is telling me...] Do not be afraid to teach, go deep, and stay off the surface. Seek to exhaust doctrinal topics, such as salvation by grace. Ask the questions I had and answer them directly. Let my yes be yes and my no be no. Illuminate the coherency of God's perspective of humanity's problem and its condition with God's solution, desire, and eternal plan.

[Back to addressing my Father...] Let everyone who asks know the reason for the hope that is in me. May I answer with all gentleness and patience, compassion, clarity, enthusiasm, and boldness. If I have gained any insight from Your word of truth, Father, grant me the courage to declare it boldly and make it plain to everyone.

You know I love You, Father. Now I desire to let the world know why. May they also know the abundance of joy and peace that comes from knowing You, not as the world gives, but as You give.

All my love,
(w/ minor edits)

Dear Reader,

I had tons of questions about being Christian both before and after I was saved. The phrase I just uttered, "I was saved," was loaded with questions.

  • Saved? Saved from what?
  • Why do I need to be saved?
  • How can I be saved?
  • What does it mean to be saved?
  • What does it mean to "work out your salvation?"
  • Is salvation the same or different from being born again?
  • Who can be saved?
  • What of my sins before I'm saved?
  • What of my sins after I'm saved?
  • Does salvation have any prerequisites?
  • Was salvation always available?
  • How does salvation differ in the OT versus the NT?
  • Is salvation permanent or temporary?
  • Can my salvation be lost? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • When can I consider it done?
  • How can I be sure I'm saved?
  • What is not salvation?
  • What does 'salvation by grace' mean?
  • Is there anything keeping me, or anyone else for that matter, from being saved?
  • Were only certain people chosen to be saved?
  • What about infants and those with cognitive challenges who can't comprehend the gospel?
  • Who will not be saved? Yikes! Why not?
  • Is there an unpardonable sin? What is it? Have I committed it?

Those questions are just a small sample of the ones I studied in His word. This is only the doctrine of salvation. I tried to address one common assumption in my post, "Can a person's lifestyle condemn them?" But, there are many other doctrines. In all of them I wanted to understand these things from His perspective. I didn't want to grab something just because it sounded good and holy. I was hungry and thirsty for the Bread from Heaven and the Living Water only He could provide, no matter how good the filet mignon and Maine lobster tail sounded on an empty stomach. I had a soul to feed.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 
(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

I learned to delight in Him as He provided answers, and that made me want to learn more. Surely, he gave gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. But, I would still question what others taught to see if it was true. The title alone was not enough.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who [diligently (KJV)] seek him. 
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 
(Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV)

I frequently checked myself by examining my motives and asking, "Why do I believe what I believe?" Was I simply following what sounded good from someone who seemed like an authority on the matter? After all, they studied it for years, went to seminaries, had Masters and Doctorate degrees. (And yet, there's no shortage of authorities who disagree.) Or maybe they were among the poor and serving the suffering with profound compassion. Maybe they were popular on TV or the Internet and in books and appealed to the masses. Could they all be wrong?

Or did I confirm what was being said by reading and studying the Scriptures myself, and seeing if His Spirit was testifying with my spirit that these things were so? You may be familiar with some of my other posts about "Why Scripture?" and "Scripture Q&A." (If not, please check those out.) Those lessons were a large part of my starting point. Let this moment be another point at which I do my best to teach what I know for anyone who is asking or seeking.

Please! By all means, do not settle for popular opinion or the status quo. Neither is a school of thought correct merely because it is narrow path. Verify everything in God's word.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so
(Acts 17:11 ESV)

The truth is not popular. You might think it would be. But not God's truth. Not only do people want to inject their own positive human goodness into it, which is not necessarily God's perspective. But, the enemy of God also wants to distort this information and is very good at it. That's partly why we have so many denominations, yet little unity. (See the reference from Ephesians 4 above.)

Tradition also, no matter how solid or how long, is not an indication of truthfulness. It might feel good because it's familiar, or look divine because it's been going on forever. But, God's word breaks through traditions to give a much deeper meaning to being Christian.

Be humble and open to what God has to say in His word, and do not go beyond what is written. Everything He wants us to know has already been written in the Scriptures. There's no need to go outside the Bible for additional information, as if He left out some critical piece or clue to a puzzle. Rather, some outside information may be useful in helping us understand Scriptures, this blog included. But any outside information should be tested by the word of God, including this blog.

Lastly, as you assimilate the word of God and His thoughts and heart into your own mind and heart, you will be able to discern what is His will, and recognize what is not. This is not to puff us up in anyway. Rather, we should have the same attitude as that of Christ Himself: humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

All that being said, I will continue on to my next set of lessons, a series which I will call "Salvation 101." Please join me on this marvelous journey into God's hand and heart.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand
(John 10:27-29 ESV)

In Christ,

PS - I use a Bible program called e-Sword available from from which to read, study, and quote Scripture. While I sometimes need to understand the Greek and Hebrew words of the original texts (dictionaries also available in e-Sword), the English Standard Version (ESV) is one I found to be a decent translation to understand the thought God is expressing. ESV copyright says I can quote from it, just so long as I note its origin when giving the verse. Note also, I may have underlined part of a verse for emphasis, but generally I intend to emphasize the whole passage.

We need to remember it's about understanding God's thoughts on His terms. Is the correct translation in John 14:23, for example, obey or keep? What's the difference? We cannot automatically assume we know. What if the thought, upheld by the definition of the Greek word being translated, means "to guard" or "to protect." The thought is then different than simply doing what you're told to do. We should seek to understand the context, the thought being expressed, and perhaps visit a Greek dictionary to make critical distinctions. Remember, He is trying to tell us something that we have not thought to ask. We are carnal; He is spiritual. It's information we couldn't even imagine.

I also refer to the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NASB on occasion. I feel the ESV and NIV in comparison, along with some Greek dictionaries, best accomplish this, understanding His thoughts, trying to be as literal as is readable. I tend to avoid translations that have taken the liberty of injecting their own thoughts into the text, such as MSG, NLT, TLB, and CEV. I feel they often dilute or miss the significance of what is being communicated. I am very careful about the dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries I use. Again, the emphasis is on understanding God's thoughts. I do not entertain books celebrated by certain denominations as being equivalent or more important than the Bible, nor do I consider and church denominations to be on equal footing or greater than the authority of God.

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