Now that you’re married to Christ, what does your spousal commitment to Him entail?

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,   “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”  then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:15-18 ESV

When we are saved and forgiven, God delivers us out of slavery to sin and condemnation and into this special relationship, this new state of being where we grant God access to our hearts and minds.  We submit both to Him, and He transforms our thoughts, desires, and characters. The two go hand in hand. This is the saving covenant relationship with God that we enter into when we accept Him as Redeemer and Lord.

The verse that says there is no longer sacrifice for sins is both thrilling and chilling: thrilling, because we can know that Christ’s sacrifice for us is completely, absolutely effective – chilling because as vs 26 and 27 clarify, if we go back to a sinful way of life after we come into covenantal relationship with God in Christ, there will be nothing left for us except a fearful expectation of judgment without Christ’s covering over us. The outcome of that judgment would be our eternal loss.

What is God’s Spirit saying to you through this text?

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Don’t hate yourself because of your sin.

Don’t hate yourself for your sin. You are a sinner, but God valued who you are so much that He died so He could redeem you and work in your life. He knew you would make mistakes, but He didn’t choose to throw you away.  He wants to SAVE you, and save the parts of you that truly define the real you (which is NOT your sinfulness).  There are things about you that make you truly unique and special, apart from the mistakes you’ve made, and THOSE are the things that make God so CRAZY ABOUT YOU.  Those are the reasons He said, “I just can’t give you up.”  He knows He can HEAL your sin and brokenness and TRANSFORM you into that person that you so desperately long to be.

Jesus loves you so much, just as you are. Come to His feet in your heart, right now.

Do you really not need Jesus?

It’s hard for me to imagine how some people just don’t seem to desire a relationship with God. You feel happy about being a husband, a father, you take joy out of life without sensing any greater calling for your life. It’s interesting that you don’t desire the presence of God in your heart, and yet you couldn’t continue to be alive if He withdrew his power from your organism, for by His intentional and constant power all existence holds together. It’s funny that you could derive a sense of happiness and meaning from an otherwise godless life from the joy of being with other human beings and having, raising and loving children, when it is by God’s design that human life, and procreation, are possible. He is the inventor of marriage, the original Creator. The triune God is also the original social being.

You were made in His image – social, gifted with the capacity for pro-creating and loving and making your dreams and plans a reality (within certain bounds). You were made by Him. You exist as the precise individual that you are, only because before you came to be, He imagined you in his heart, He envisioned your face in His mind’s eye, He said, “Let there be you.”

So you get busy making a life for yourself and you make it as full and enjoyable as possible. But why don’t you recognize what has been made evident to you, that there is something more? In disregarding God, you’re disregarding not only the hand that feeds you, but the hand that made you, the mind that saw you before you existed and wanted you, the Person that willed you into existence; the heart that loved you aeons before you came to be; the arms that long to hold you even as you run from them; the soul that gave it’s life for you, before you could even be alive to appreciate it, in the hopes that one day you would choose to reciprocate His love, and accept His invitation to belong to Him forever.

How can anyone not seek to truly know the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus, really?”

It’s easy to think of talk of Jesus as empty. You could say, “Christians are silly little people who don’t have the strength of character to face reality.” But what if you’re wrong? What if the devotion of millions to a Savior they’ve never laid eyes on stems not from foolish denial, but from the gratitude of a healed heart? What if He really did die for you? What if He really lives now, and will truly one day assume the throne of the entire universe and reign over all existence, and you rejected Him when He offered you His hand in friendship? What place will there be for you in that everlasting kingdom, the only one that really matters?

I’m just asking.

Rebuttal: “Does the Bible Teach Eternal Security…?”

 

Grafting of olive tree (Olea europaea) Mallorca.

Image via Wikipedia

 

I came across a blog post promoting the concept of eternal security, or “once saved, always saved,” and I wanted to share my response with our readers. I gave other biblical evidence to support what I believe to be the true biblical position on this topic here.

I think a lot of the verses you mentioned do indicate that a person must abide in Christ in order to remain saved. Just as entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ requires a choice on our part to give our hearts and lives to Him, each day we must choose to remain in that relationship much the way a married person must choose each day to remain in that relationship and honor the vows they made on their wedding day. It’s a commitment which lasts a lifetime, so long as both people choose daily to honor the commitment.

Consider Christ’s use of the vine and branches in John 15 as an analogy of our lifelong relationship with Him. I pose that all the branches who are connected to Him are saved. How can a branch who is drawing his or her life from the Vine, Jesus Christ, be anything but saved? Indeed, Jesus says in verse 2, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit, He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” Thus the people who are branches are people who are *in Him.*

And yet, even though they were once saved – connected to the Vine – Jesus says,

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” John 15:5-6.

What does abide mean if not to remain in Him?  And we me must already be in Him in order to remain in Him.  Once we are saved/connected to Him, we still have a choice: remain in Christ, or don’t remain in Christ. If we choose not to abide in Christ, we are cut off from the Vine, apart from which there is no life as per John 15:6.

Consider also Romans 11, in which Paul uses the imagery of the grafting in of branches into an olive tree to talk about salvation (verses 17-23):

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Paul said we were grafted in (saved) by our faith (this is the same concept of righteousness by faith taught by Paul in Romans 3:22, 24-25, 28). “Do not be conceited, but fear,” Paul warns. He’s saying, don’t be haughty, don’t be presumptuous, but fear – for “if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either”; if we do not “continue in His kindness,” we will be “cut off”. If we later lose our faith in Christ, we will *not* be spared. This shows a clear picture of how a saved person can choose to stop abiding in Christ, to separate him/herself from His kindness, and in so doing, lose his/her salvation. For there is no salvation apart from Christ.

This does not mean that just because a saved person makes a mistake and falls, that they have lost their salvation. It’s only if they abandon the faith and start living a life of habitual sin with no more regard for Jesus’ commandments, and they completely grieve away the Holy Spirit, that their name can be blotted out of Christ’s book. If we taste the best that God can give, if we partake of the heavenly Gift, and then fall away (not meaning stumbling and getting back up, but again, meaning abandoning the faith), Hebrews 6:6 says “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance”, for “ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (Hebrews 6:7-8)

Lest anyone misunderstand, the Bible does teach that we can have assurance of our salvation. But we have no assurance of salvation apart from Christ. We must ABIDE in Him, and as long as our very lives are as intimately dependent on Jesus Christ as the life of the branches depends on the Vine, the Root of that divine tree, we have full and complete assurance of salvation. We just can’t trample Jesus underfoot (Hebrews 10:29) by abandoning our faith in Him and returning to an unrepentant life of brazen, abandoned, habitual sin and claim to still have salvation in Him. To say that because we once verbally accepted Christ we can now never be lost is tantamount to saying the same thing that the Jews said in Jeremiah 7:9-10:

“Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–that you may do all these abominations?”

The obvious answer is, of course not. Salvation is not a license to sin. And although I know that wasn’t your premise, can it honestly be said that the doctrine of eternal security doesn’t lead down a slippery slope that ends with just such a license?

What do you think?

(Note: The author of the above site deleted my comment without responding to any of my points.)

Once Saved Always Saved?


Guaranteed_rev1, originally uploaded by brian_holt.

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…” (Hebrews 3:1, NASB).

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…” (Hebrews 3:12-14, NASB)

The above passages are part of the same chapter. In Hebrews 3:1, Paul calls his audience “holy brethren” and tells them they are partakers of a heavenly calling. My impression is that these people are already saved, in the fold. Yet, he warns these very same people to take care not to let their hearts “fall away from the living God” or be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”.

If you doubt that he’s speaking to already saved people, what do you say about the next verse (14) which says, “For we have become partakers of Christ”? Would Paul really tell unsaved people that they had already become partakers of Christ? He then adds a condition to their staying partakers of Christ: “if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…”

Would it make sense to soberly warn people who were already saved to guard their hearts against being hardened and falling away from the living God if it were already impossible for them to be lost? Or, as I am strongly inclined to believe, does the passage indicate that we must choose to remain committed to Him through the exercise of our free will in order to remain in relationship with Him?

If you still have any doubts, read another warning in verse 4:1:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

And then, a recommendation (4:11):

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

Let us be diligent, therefore, to keep covenant with Jesus, the covenant based upon his sacrifice on the cross.

The Gift of Brokenness

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18

Do you feel like you’re falling apart inside? Like life has a personal vendetta against you? Consider it your moment of opportunity.

It sounds completely crazy, I know. But having a broken spirit can be a priceless gift.

Think about it. How many people have you met who choose to bottle their pain up instead of dealing with it? How many people destroy their bodies and shorten their lives using alcohol and drugs to cover up their hurts? How many crave the sensory overload of a night club but never ask themselves why? How many become pleasure addicts, seeking a dopamine rush from food, sex, gambling, compulsive shopping, or any number of quick fixes? If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you know that addiction is slavery. (If you don’t have first-hand knowledge of that, this new show on TLC will convince you.) How many people out there would rather be enslaved to vices than face the truth of their brokenness, the truth that always screams louder in the stillness and quiet?

When you’re numb, or high, or otherwise over-stimulated, it’s easy to desensitize your heart to the pain and forget yourself. The fear of coming back to that quiet, still place keeps you running away. The saddest part is, when you run like that, like a dog chasing it’s tail, you’re only running from yourself.

But if you feel broken, and you think you’ve got nothing left, then you’ve actually got something that the people in denial don’t have: hope.

Yes, you read that right. Hope. Because if you’re not aware that you’re broken, you’ll never try to get better. As long as you refuse to own up to your brokenness, you will never stop looking for a fix. But, if you know you’re broken, you actually want to be fixed. You’ll ask the question that can change everything:

What do I do now?

When the jailer charged with keeping Paul and Silas imprisoned saw that they had been set free by an angel, he resolved to kill himself rather than face the punishment that awaited him; but when Paul told him all the prisoners were still there, the jailer fell at their feet and asked this very question.

“And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:29-30).

Likewise, when Peter boldly laid out the gospel at Pentecost, the book of Acts tells us that those who accepted his message were “pierced to the heart” by God’s truth (Acts 2:38). Their sin was laid bare before them. Accepting their brokenness, they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?”

The answer?

  • Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.  (Acts 16:31)

If you are broken, it’s because you haven’t found anything in the world that can give you what you need the most. Drugs will mask the pain. Pleasure-seeking will temporarily distract you from it. But when you’re ready to stop running and take an unflinching look at your broken life, the Savior is waiting to pick up the pieces.

And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with falling to your knees, if you fall at the feet of Jesus. If you’re broken, there is hope for you, if you will reach for the outstretched hand of God.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in…”  (Revelation 3:20).

The Magic Words of Salvation



John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4, NASB)

Have you ever heard a preacher on television or on the radio say something like this?

“If you want to be saved, repeat after me: I repent of all my sins. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior. That’s it! You are now saved!”

Of course, it is true that through repentance our sins can be forgiven. The prayer above can certainly be effectual if the words come from a place of honesty in the person’s heart. But sometimes, when we see an appeal like this on television, the preacher seems to be inferring that just repeating their words somehow saves us.

Is that true? Does the Bible teach that we can obtain salvation just by saying certain words?

The Word of God teaches that our belief and repentance must be deeper than that. Here, we will focus on repentance. Sin is a heart disease, and repentance requires a heart change. If in our hearts we are truly sorry for our sin, and confess it to God, then we obtain forgiveness (1 John 1:9). However, we cannot expect that a mere recitation of the words “I repent”, or any words for that matter, will in any way take the place of actual repentance.

This point might seem so obvious that it doesn’t merit mention. But is it really? Aren’t there people who even today believe that reciting specific words gains them some kind of favor with God? Throughout history many have fallen to this deception. In Jeremiah 7:9-10, we see that the Israelites were breaking God’s commandments – committing adultery, stealing, worshipping idols, even committing murder – and then entering the temple called by the name of God, thinking they had forgiveness, and a license “to do all these abominations…” They truly thought that because they were in the temple, they were automatically right with God; like they could recite some magic words and gain salvation.

So, it’s not so inconceivable that people might feel that the truths of the Word of God could be used in much the same way as a magic spell to make them right with God. It’s one thing to say the words. It’s another thing to mean them.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector who both enter the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood up and loudly prayed, thanking God that He was not like the tax collector, bragging to God about how good he was. The tax collector, though, simply threw himself upon the mercy of God, recognizing his utter helplessness. Between the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus said the tax collector was justified and not the Pharisee. (One translation says that the tax collector had been “declared righteous”.)

What did the tax collector do? Did he just casually ask for mercy? The Word says that he was beating his chest. This is what the Hebrews did when they were experiencing serious grief and mourning. Check out Jeremiah 31:19:

“After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”

Beating your breast meant profound mourning, shame and humiliation. It signified a grief too deep for words. It was more than a casual request for mercy. He begged for mercy. He was desperate. He knew he was an abject sinner.

What did the tax collector do that the Pharisee did not? He begged for mercy (the Pharisee didn’t even ask); acknowledged his lowliness (the Pharisee was high on himself); and humbled himself before God. That Pharisee was being trite; the tax collector meant what he said with all his heart. Jesus summed it up by saying, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now let’s take a look at the words of Solomon regarding what true repentance looks like:

“… if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You … saying, ‘We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly’; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul … and pray to You … then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place … and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You…” (1 Kings 8:47-50)

We can fool a lot of people, but we can’t fool God. His eyes see the darkest corners of our hearts, and he is aware of every motive within us even when we ourselves are not. If we are trite and unrepentant, there’s no guarantee God will even hear us (Psalm 66:18; 2 Chronicles 7:14).

Solomon was aware that when we as sinners go to God, we must do so with all our hearts and souls. Remember, repentance is about our relationship with God, and how we are seen in His eyes is what counts, not anyone else’s. If we’re just mouthing words, but not meaning them in our hearts, who do we think we’re kidding?

Heavenly Father, today let us experience true repentance not only for any unconfessed sins, but also for the sinful condition of our hearts. Let us feel Godly sorrow which leads to repentance and no regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). Once we are forgiven, help us to let go of the unhealthy guilt and give us Your peace (Romans 5:1). True to Your promise in Ezekiel 36:26, give us new hearts and put a new spirit within us.

Thank You!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

photo by Jacob…K accessed via flickr