≡ Menu

Does the Assurance of Salvation Lead To Sin? Part 1

A few years ago I visited a Catholic Cathedral in Santa Fe New Mexico.  I purchased a pamphlet called, “Why Be a Catholic?”  The first section was called, “Are you saved?”  It begins with a story of a man who got saved at a protestant church and told his family that nothing could keep him from heaven.  He now believed once saved always saved.  Unfortunately, several weeks later this same man burned himself to death as a violent act of suicide.  The family concluded the suicide was the direct result of the “once saved always saved” doctrine.  They believed this false teaching gave him permission to kill himself.

The pamphlet goes on to say how harmful and simplistic this fundamentalist teaching is concerning salvation.  It says this idea of heaven being guaranteed from the moment a person accepts Jesus is not Biblical and obviously dangerous.

The booklet concluded by saying, “We will be saved if we accept Jesus in baptism (which according to Catholicism removes sin) and live by the teachings of His Church.”  It continued adding “The Catholic teaching is that we cooperate with God’s saving grace every day and put our trust in God.  So when a Catholic is asked ‘Are you saved?’ the response should be “Yes, I’m being saved every day!”

Anyone who is Catholic has no assurance of salvation.  They will live their lives always wondering if they are good enough to get into heaven.  The same can be said about a person who is a Nazarene or Wesleyan.  These denominations also believe we have no assurance of heaven.  They teach we have to continue to do good to get into heaven.  By holding this teaching a person actually believes in a works salvation.  If we have to do something to insure our salvation then it is no longer God’s free gift of forgiveness.

I don’t believe the Bible communicates this.  The Bible teaches we can do nothing to merit heaven.  Our good works will never earn heaven.  We are saved by God’s grace and by His grace alone.  What some people don’t seem to understand is God’s forgiveness is complete at the point of belief.  When we trust Christ we are forgiven for all past, present, and future sins.  Jesus cried out on the cross, just before he died, it is finished (teleō) which means to bring to an end; that sin was paid in full.  What he meant was the penalty for sins has been paid completely for all who would believe.  All true followers of Christ can have the assurance all their sins are forgiven.  We can know for certain we will someday we will be with Jesus in heaven.  Romans 8:31-39 assures all believers that nothing but nothing can separate us from the love of God.   That is GREAT NEWS!

Grace is something we cannot earn or lose.  Grace is all of God and none of us.  It is a free gift.  Paul says it best in Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Grace is God’s gift to us and nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to help this grace or we can lose this grace.

My conclusion is we cannot earn heaven by doing good deeds or by sinning lose our salvation according to the Bible.  What that means is all true believers have assurance of salvation.  If that is true and the pressure of earning heaven is nonexistent, then what keeps us from sinning?  If we are guaranteed we are going to heaven then we can do whatever we want, right?

Go to part 2 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Part 7 Controversies – Blood transfusions and holidays

English: Blood Transfusion Service, Longley La...
English: Blood Transfusion Service, Longley Lane, Sheffield It is many years since the National Blood Service was known as the Blood Transfusion Centre … but this sign on Herries Road still points the way … and the general public still know what it mean! 1065750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As part of examining the Watchtower Organization I’d like to touch on a couple of controversial topics that have implications for society.  These include blood transfusions and holidays.

Blood transfusions:  According to the Watchtower Society, a Jehovah’s Witness must refuse blood transfusions in all circumstances – even when doctors say death is inevitable without such a transfusion.  Also the Society requires parents to see to it children never receive them.  They believe a transfusion is the same as “eating blood,” which the Bible prohibits.  Watchtower theology teaches that a proper view toward blood is critical to a right relationship with Jehovah.  Their scriptural support can be found in Genesis 9:4 (NIV) “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”

The Watchtower Society says that if according to the Bible a person is not to eat blood, then they should not have a blood transfusion.  The way they reason is to say if a person is to stop drinking alcohol through his mouth, it would then be wrong if it is fed to him intravenously.  The same goes for a person who is prohibited from drinking blood.  The whole issue is whether or not a blood transfusion is in fact eating blood. Intravenous feeding, supplying life supporting nourishment, is different than a blood transfusion.  The word “feeding” immediately tells us there are differences.  Blood transfusions are not given as food; in fact the body does not receive it as food.  It has nothing to do with eating, which is literally taking food through the mouth and chewing it up and digesting it.  Blood transfusions in no way qualify as eating blood.  To make their case that intravenous feeding, liquid nourishment is the same as a blood transfusion is deceptive.

In a conversation on this topic you might also want to point out that thousands of Jehovah Witnesses have died because they put their confidence in previously distorted Watchtower passages on health issues.  Over the years infants have died in front of Jehovah’s Witness parents who followed the teachings of the church.  The following are some examples of so called Biblical teachings that in the past governed the actions of their adherents.

In 1931 the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization would not allow vaccinations because it was a direct violation of the covenant God made with Noah.  For twenty years no child or adult of a Jehovah’s Witness could have a vaccination.  However, the society dropped the prohibition and since that time children have been vaccinated.  I wonder how many Jehovah’s Witness children died as a result of the 20 years of vaccine prohibition.

In November 15, 1967 Watchtower Magazine said that organ transplants amounted to cannibalism and were not appropriate for Christians.  Organ transplants were forbidden for the next 13 years.  During that time many Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered and died from this decision.  Then in March 15, 1980 The Watchtower Magazine said that organ transplants were not necessarily cannibalistic and began allowing them.

Ask the Jehovah Witness, with this track record of prohibiting vaccinations and organ transplants and then years later allowing them, how long will it be before they change their mind on blood transfusions?  How many more lives will be lost before they change?

Holidays:  Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, birthdays, Easter, or any holiday they consider non-Biblical.  They say if it wasn’t celebrated in the Bible, then we shouldn’t celebrate it today.  They try to make the case that Christendom (that is what they call Evangelical Christians) worships those holidays above Jehovah by making them such an important day.  They would claim Jehovah’s Witnesses are a more pure religion worshiping only Jehovah.  Yet, they do celebrate anniversaries.  Where in the Bible does it teach we should celebrate anniversaries?

This idea to celebrate is equal to worship is absurd.  I am certain the typical Jehovah Witness celebrates milestones in their family all the time and yet, doesn’t consider those practices as worshipping.  Celebrating does not lead to worship.  Evangelical Christians worship the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ.  Worship is to serve God with our entire being.  Celebrating neither qualifies as worship nor prohibits the ongoing practice of full devotion to God.

In addition to blood and holidays, many Jehovah’s Witness will want to discuss additional side issues such as war (they are pacifists), end times, and other topics.  Their emphasis on holidays and blood is a red herring, a way to distract the discussion from the truth of their beliefs.  I do my best to change the subject, as these topics move us from what are the important issues; such as who is Jesus and salvation.  My suggestion during a discussion is to major in the majors and change topics to Jesus as soon as you can. Holidays and blood transfusions are just areas where they exhibit pride, trying to show their religion is better than yours; don’t get trapped trying to compete. Go to part 8 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

You Cannot Lose Your Salvation! Part 5

What do we do with those who seem to have walked away?

  • Constant Prayer for them – Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to either bring them back to their previous commitment to Christ or convict them of their sin so they trust Christ.  I have individuals in my life who seem to have walked away I am praying for them continually.
  • Consistent life before them – We need to model how a spirit filled life is a victorious life.  Many walk away disillusioned when they see believers living lives that are far from what the Bible teaches.
  • Communicate to them with gentleness and respect – This is not the time to say things that could cut off communication.  Ask questions and help the individual work through what stands in the way of a full commitment to Christ.  There may be circumstances where we have to confront the person living in sin.  If we do confront we must speak the truth in love.  Other individuals will have questions about Christianity and we need to be prepared to answer or find the answers.  The one thing we don’t want to do is tell them, “Just have faith.”  This is a useless statement.  We must take their questions and doubts seriously and help them seek the truth.

So what can I conclude about my two friends who turned their backs on their wives and their families and are living with other women?  First I don’t believe the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, so that’s not a possibility.  My conclusion is they are either a disobedient believer or a religious person who never truly was born again.  Only God knows for sure.   They just may be going through an apathetic period and with God’s help and the help of friends they may be able to turn their life around.  However, with these two men prayer is my only option because I have no contact with them.

Many of you have the same challenge.  We need to be shinning lights who help individuals like my friends back to the outstretched arms of Jesus.

Our hope of eternal security is the work of the Triune God of the universe.  Only by grace through faith can we be right with God.  Once we trust Christ we are secure in Him and can enjoy God forever.  We see this teaching summarized in the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”  We read in verse 4 about heaven: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation; and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!  Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there [in heaven] proclaim, my God, how great Thou art.”

Because of God’s great love and great power true followers of Jesus Christ are guaranteed heaven.    We have the assurance of eternal life.  In heaven we get the pleasure of proclaiming to God how great thou art.  An yet, even before we get to heaven we can proclaim the very same thing on earth as we bow in humble adoration…“my God, how great thou art.”  This is our blessed hope.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

You Cannot Lose Your Salvation! Part 4

If someone cannot lose his or her salvation, what about the people who have walked away?

Then only 2 possibilities remain:

  1. God still sees them as Christians as they live in sin.
  2. They never were a Holy Spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ.  They were religious and came close to a full commitment to Jesus Christ, but in the end simply fell away.

I believe churches today have many individuals who fall into those two scenarios.  In the end only God knows His true followers.  We can only look at a person’s life and wonder what God thinks.  Yet, the Bible seems to give us some clear indications of a spirit filled believer.

1.  They must believe the right doctrines – For example they need to believe there is only one God.  Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.”  If you believe in more than one god you are not a Christian.

You have to believe Jesus is fully God and fully man, 2nd person of the Trinity.  We read in John 1:1, 14 (NASB) In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:14a  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…”  There are many New Testament verses that say Jesus is God (Titus 2:13; John 20:28). You cannot deny this teaching Jesus and believe He was just a good man.

You have to believe we are saved by grace through faith alone.  Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If you believe you can earn your way to heaven or add works to grace then you are not a follower of Jesus Christ.

These are a few examples of key doctrines of Christianity.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons reject these doctrines and are therefore outside the body of Christ.  (Go to the web site for six essential Christian doctrines)

2. They must demonstrate a changed life – This is what James taught; faith without works is dead.  We first trust Christ and then our lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be times when we live lives that are less than honoring to the Lord.  However, over the long run we will move in the right direction, trying to minimize sin and live more like Jesus.

3. They will endure until the end –Matthew 10:22 [Jesus speaking] “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”  According to Jesus a follower will endure to the end.

In Romans the Apostle Paul wrote about the faith of the gentiles (non-Jews) and the unbelief of the Jewish faith.  Romans 11:20-22 “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches [Jewish], He will not spare you [Gentiles], either. 22 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.”

Some say, these verses teach you can lose your salvation.  They say according to verse 22 we have to continue in God’s kindness or lose our salvation. Those who don’t endure to the end indicate they have lost their salvation.

However, I think there is another way to look at all endurance to the end verses.  I firmly believe these verses are evidence of a true believer.  A person who is a spirit filled Christian will endure to the end and will never fall away.  Let me give you two reasons for my conclusions.

  1. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation based on the strong scriptures I shared in parts 1-3.  Knowing the Bible cannot contradict itself I therefore conclude there must be another way to read the endurance passages.
  2. I believe the Bible teachers enduring is a mark of a Christian.  We find this in 1 John 2:18-19.  John writes Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”  John, like all the other 1st century writers, was writing to an audience that was living during a time of intense persecution.  It was likely many who called themselves Christians were walking away because of the risk of losing their life.  John says these individuals were not true believers because if they were, they would have never left.  Basically, he is saying those who continue on and endure to the end are the true believers and those who walk away, are not.  Therefore, I believe the Bible teaches enduring to the end is a mark of true Christian.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road, times when you and I feel far from Jesus.  Look at the life of Peter.  Remember when he followed Jesus after his arrest and was seen by people who recognized him, what did he do?  He denied he even knew Jesus on three different occasions.  Here is one of the closest disciples of Jesus afraid to say he knows who Jesus is.  So what happened to Peter?  After the resurrection, Peter became one of the most fearless and powerful evangelists in the early church.  He led thousands to the Lord and was crucified upside down for his faith.  Mistakes do not disqualify you a being a Christian.

If we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, when we try to walk away from God, He will make our life miserable.  After denying Jesus 3 times we read that Peter wept.  I am certain he was completely broken; yet he was going to rebound in an incredible way.  When we trust Christ we are His and as much as we may want to get away and live in sin, God will always bring us back.  Endurance is the mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

I have provided three marks of a true believer in Jesus Christ.  A follower of Jesus will believe the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, demonstrate a changed life becoming more like Jesus, and endure to the end.

Go to part 5 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

You Cannot Lose Your Salvation! Part 3

Here is my fifth and final set of scriptures I will use as I make my case for eternal security (see part 1 and part 2).

Once we trust Jesus Christ…

 5.   We cannot be snatched out of God’s hand

If I wanted one set of scriptures to make my case for eternal security I would use John 10:27-29.  When I have presented them to people who believe you can lose your salvation they struggle to give any type of answer.  Usually, they want to change the subject and talk about other verses.

Throughout John 10 Jesus called His followers sheep.  John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”  Jesus says he knows all his followers and will give them eternal life.  Eternal life means to spend eternity in heaven with the Triune God.  Verse 28 teaches once we are right with Him we can NEVER perish.  Perish means to be separated for eternity from God.  The Greek word for “never” can also mean impossible.  It is impossible to be separated from God after He has given the believer eternal life.

Jesus then says no one can snatch the believer out of His hand.  Let me ask you, who can take a follower out of the hand of Jesus?  The answer is NO ONE!  My brother-in-law once told me a believer can walk out of Jesus’ hand.  When I first heard that I asked, where do you see that in the text?  He said the text doesn’t rule it out.  I then said, yes it does!  It is ruled out according to John 10: 29.  “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.”

The reason you cannot walk out or jump out is because Jesus closed the door on that possibility.  You cannot because God the Father is greater than all!  In order for you to get out Jesus’ hand or the Father’s hand you have to be greater than God.  Who is greater than God?  The text clearly says God the Father is greater than all; so therefore no one can be snatched out, walk out, or jump out because God the Father is greater than all.

As I said before no one has adequately answered these passages or any of the previous verses I utilized in support.  Not only does John write we have eternal life and we can never perish, he says once we are in the hand of God we cannot be snatched away.  Only if you are stronger than God can you walk out.

The five sets of scriptures I have posted make a strong case for eternal security.  The few verses that possibly support losing your salvation, pale in comparison to all the verses that teach you cannot lose your salvation.  All true believers in Jesus Christ have eternal security.

Once after teaching these passages I had an 80 year old woman come up to me and tell me this was the most uplifting sermon she had ever heard.  This was a woman who had heard thousands of sermons.  Why was it so uplifting?  She knew her time here on earth was limited and understanding the clear teachings on this issue of eternal security reassured her she’d be in heaven with Jesus when she died.  This teaching was like providing water to a person on a desert island.  She was thirsty for the truth.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Set Apart Christ as Lord Part 2

Answering the Tough Questions

1 Peter 3:15

This series is based on 1 Peter 3:15.I will begin with some background information.The author Peter walked with Jesus and probably was the one disciple that had the closest relationship with Jesus.This is someone I am going to listen to.Peter is writing to persecuted Christians; individuals suffering for living out their faith in a hostile environment and courageously telling others about Jesus.They needed to hear words of encouragement; they needed to hear that what they were doing, sharing Christ to everyone, was good and needed to continue.History tells us persecution was so bad during this time period, Nero was burning Christians alive to give off light for his celebrations.They were continually being tortured and executed for their faith.

Peter is going to share a way to live courageously in the face of persecution. He tells them in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

I believe the key sentence is “In your heart set apart Christ as Lord.” When Peter refers to the heart he is focusing on their entire being.This would entail their emotions, will, and intellect.The words “set apart” in this case means to separate Jesus from everything that would get in the way.They were to devote themselves to Jesus with their entire being.The words, “Christ as Lord” Peter is telling them to focus on the fact Jesus is God and as such He is their king.They were to totally submit to Him; nothing less would do.

This is a message that should resonate with us.We too are to exalt Jesus to the highest because Christ is Lord; He is God and He is our king and worthy of our complete devotion.

To summarize, “In your heart set apart Christ as Lord,” means to devote our total existence to Him because Christ is God and is ruler over our lives.So how does that work?What does it look like?Peter is going to show us how to set apart Christ as Lord.I will continue this discussion in part 3.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

You Cannot Lose Your Salvation! Part 2

Continued support to my contention the Bible teaches eternal security (see part 1).

Once we trust Jesus Christ…

3.   God has plans for our life

Christians have been saved for a reason.  God wants us to become like His Son Jesus Christ and be His witnesses.  Paul writes to the church at Philippi “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

The word “perfect” simply means complete.  God is going to complete what He starts.  And when will He complete this work?  “He…will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  This is a repeated Biblical theme.  It will be a time when believers will be glorified; their salvation will be made complete or perfect.  It will happen at the time Jesus comes back.  What Paul does not say is “It will happen only if you don’t turn your back on Jesus.”  Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see this theme.  It is always we are saved until the time when Christ comes back.  The God who begins is the God who completes.  These passages point directly to eternal security.  Fourth, once we trust Jesus…

4.   God has given us eternal life

Some have pointed to the words “eternal life” and believe this speaks about our life here on earth.  However, the problem is the word “eternal,” which means everlasting.  Our life here on earth will end someday but life in heaven will go on forever.  It seems better to see eternal life as beginning as soon as we trust Christ and continuing on forever.  This is strongly supported in the following verses.

Jesus states in John 6:39-40 “This is the will of Him [God the Father] who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

This is great news!  We can have assurance that Jesus will not lose any individuals who place their trust in Him.  The word “lose” refers to perishing, being separated from God for all eternity.  Verse 39 is simply a reemphasis of what Jesus said in John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”  To cast out is to drive out or to be lost. No one given to Jesus by the Father will be lost.  This whole section of scripture screams eternal security!

Jesus speaking in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Here once again we see Jesus emphatically stating he will raise up a believer on the last day.  This “raising up” has to do with believers being resurrected to eternal life.  Jesus doesn’t say I may raise you up or I might raise you up.  He says I WILL RAISE YOU UP!  If Jesus says He will raise us up; then I think we can safely say believers will be resurrected.

In summary, every believer given to Jesus by God the Father will never be lost; Jesus is going to raise us up.  If it was possible for us to lose our salvation then Jesus was a liar.  Eternal life is given to those who believe in Him.  No scripture says we can somehow lose eternal life once we have it.

So what have we learned so far?  1) We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit until Jesus comes back; 2) God has secured our salvation with his power and love; 3) God has a plan for our lives and is going to complete that plan; 4) we have eternal life and can never perish or be separated from God.  Part 3 I will post what I consider the strongest set of verses on eternal security.

Go to part 3 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 5

The second and probably most famous verses to support you can lose your salvation are Hebrews 6:4-6.

Hebrews 6:4-6 “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”

People who say you can lose your salvation believe these verses are talking about Christians. They point to words and phrases such as tasted of the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God as speaking of a believer.  Then in verse 6 it says “and then fallen away.”  If these words refer to a Christian then a believer can fall away and lose his salvation.

First nowhere in verses 4-6 do you see the scriptures directly say you can lose your salvation.  Nothing is said about salvation, justification, sanctification, the new birth, or regeneration.  None of the normal terminology for salvation is used.  However, still some read into these verses and believe it teaches you can lose your salvation indirectly.

Second, if you can lose your salvation then the verses say there is absolutely no coming back.  If someone turns their back on Christianity, after having been saved, then the author writes, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”  Most people who believe you can lose your salvation refuse to concede the person is now lost forever.  But this is what the verses teach if you hold this view.

Third, why is there so much emphasis placed on verses that are difficult at best to understand.  A good rule is to never base a theological stance on difficult passages.  Basically, Hebrews 6:4-6 uses language that isn’t used for believers any place else.

Fourth, notice he begins the chapter talking to fellow believers using we and us.  Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.”  Now let’s read the words of Hebrews 6:4-6.  Notice a change in the subject of the verses.  “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.  

The writer seems to shift from writing to believers to this other group.  It seems to be a shift from true believers to religious persons who came close to a saving faith but fell short.

Fifth in verses 4-6 you see words such as enlightened, tasted, and partaken.  What you don’t see is words like believe or trusted in or repented or placed their faith in, etc.  This is the usual Biblical language of people who have trusted Christ.  The words in verses 4-6 seem to indicate someone who came close to trusting Christ; someone who may have led Bible studies, went to church each Sunday, shared Jesus with others but never truly trusted in Jesus alone.  Instead they tasted, they partook, and they were enlightened and yet, it appears they fell short of true belief.

Sixth and finally, the writer of Hebrews makes a contrast of believers versus unbelievers in Hebrews 6:7-12. I begin with verse 7, “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God.  The good soil represents a believer andhe will receive a blessing from God.  Verse8, “but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”  This verse seems to speak about what the writer describes in verses 4-6 indicating people who come close to accepting Christ but fall short; like thorns and thistles their work will be burned up.  We continue in verse 9, “But, beloved, we [Changes subjects back to believers] are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. [10] For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”  He is now describing the fruitfulness of the good soil, a follower of Jesus.  Verse 11, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, [12] that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  He is encouraging believers to press forward and do good works.  God will recognize their faith and they will inherit the promises of God.

I don’t believe these verses teach you can lose your salvation.  Truthfully, I think the writer is giving us a peak at individuals that came close to true faith but fell short.  I believe Jesus addresses such individuals in Matthew 7:21-23.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

Both the writer of Hebrews and Matthew believe there are people who seem to be Christians but do not have a true faith.  In the end these individuals will be judged and according to Matthew Jesus is going to say I never knew you.

I feel this is what happened to the high school ministry leaders (part 1) who after becoming college freshmen walked away from Christianity.  I believe they came close to a true faith but now are far away.  Some would say they lost their salvation?  I don’t believe so; I think they were religious and never truly trusted Christ with their intellect, will, and emotions.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 4

How do explain the verses that seem to say you can lose your salvation?

I am going to tackle some difficult passages.  People ask me, why are verses of the Bible so challenging?  I want to give you 3 reasons.

  1. In order to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from kids to scholars.  Due to its ability to reach all levels it can challenge us as we grow in our Bible knowledge.  We can never reach the point where we say we know it all.  In fact it seems the more we know the more we know we don’t know.
  2. Tough passages humble us and make us study more.
  3. Difficult Scriptures drive us to prayer.  We realize our utter dependence upon God and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.  God through the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures but doesn’t interpret them; that is our job.
  • You can have your name erased from the book of life so therefore, you can lose your salvation.

Revelations 3:4, 5 – [Jesus states] But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.”  Here in Revelations John is writing to the church in Sardis.  Jesus is referring to believers whose names are written in the book of life.

The argument:  If God will not erase a believer’s name from the book of life then the opposite is true; God can erase your name.

First, what is the book of life and who is it for?  Philippians 4:3Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”  Here we see Paul’s fellow workers in the book of life.  Only believers are in the book of life.  And what is it?

 John in Revelation 20:11-15 points to the great white throne judgment that will occur at the end of time.  Those people who are not written in the book of life will be judged according to their sins and cast into the lake of fire.  We read in Revelation 20:15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  Unbelievers are not written in the book of life.  The names in this book are for those going to heaven.  Revelation 21:27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  

Second, those who believe you can lose your salvation say, “See a person can have his name written in the book of life and then walk away and God will erase or blot his name out of the book of life.”

However, my question is, does this passage say this?  To move from the statement, “I will not erase his name from the book of life” to God can and will erase a name from the book of life is a large jump.  Even if God could erase a name, nowhere in the Bible does it say He ever did.  If this is such an important teaching it would have been emphasized throughout the Bible.  And yet it is never taught.

I believe instead the focus is on eternal security of salvation.  Revelations 3:5 actually says God will not erase our names from the book of life.  Eternal security and not insecurity is John’s focus.

 Third, there is a passage from the Old Testament that also refers to God’s book of life.  We read in Psalms 69:24-28 Pour out Your indignation on them, and may Your burning anger overtake them. 25 May their camp be desolate; May none dwell in their tents. 26 For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. 27 Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.”

Who is David writing about?  He is writing about how he wants God to deal with his enemies.  He is not writing about individuals who were once right with God and now have walked away.  Instead these are individuals who hate David.  They mock him and he says in verse 27 in the NIV “…do not let them share in your salvation.”  He is crying out to God for judgment against these wicked individuals; don’t let them into heaven! Then he says in verse 28, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.”  He is simply asking God not to save them; not to make theses enemies righteous or right with Him.  He is not saying they once were right with God and now have become enemies.  Nothing in this verses indicate these individuals had their names written in the book of life only later to have their names removed.

My conclusion is Revelations 3:4, 5 is talking about eternal security and not insecurity.  These verses actually support a true believer cannot lose his or her salvation.

Go to part 5 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

Abortion Kills a Child

Last Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I would like to temporarily break from my series on Salvation and post an outstanding article by Pastor John Piper.

We Know They Are Killing Children—All of Us Know         January 22, 2013

One biblical principle of justice is that the more knowledge we have that our action is wrong, the more guilty we are, and the more deserving of punishment (Luke 12:47–48). The point of this blog post is that we know what we are doing — all America knows. We are killing children. Pro-choice and Pro-life people both know this.

But before I show that, let’s clarify what the Supreme Court did forty years ago today. In Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court in effect made abortion on demand untouchable by law. The way this was done was with two steps.

One step was to say, laws may not prevent abortion, even during the full nine months, if the abortion is “to preserve the life or health of the mother.” The other step was to define “health” as “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.”

For forty years this has meant that any perceived stress is a legal ground for eliminating the child. We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.

1. Anecdotally, abortionists will admit they are killing children.

Many simply say it is the lesser of two evils. I took an abortionist out to lunch once, prepared to give him ten reasons why the unborn are human beings. He stopped me, and said, “I know that. We are killing children.” I was stunned. He said, “It’s simply a matter of justice for women. It would be a greater evil to deny women the equal right of reproductive freedom.” Which means women should be no more encumbered by the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy than men. That equal freedom from the burden of bearing unwanted children is the basis for abortion that President Obama refers to again and again when he talks about equal rights for women. We know we are killing children.

2. States treat the killing of the unborn as a homicide.

We know what we are doing because 38 States (including Minnesota) treat the killing of an unborn child as a form of homicide. They have what are called “fetal homicide laws.”

It is illegal to take the life of the unborn if the mother wants the baby, but it is legal to take the life of the unborn if she doesn’t. In the first case the law treats the fetus as a human with rights; in the second case the law treats the fetus as non-human with no rights.

Humanness is defined by the desire of the strong. Might makes right. We reject this right to define personhood in the case of Nazi anti-Semitism, Confederate race-based slavery, and Soviet Gulags. When we define the humanness of the unborn by the will of the powerful we know what we are doing.

3. Fetal surgery treats the unborn as children and patients.

High risk pregnancy specialist, Dr. Steve Calvin, in a letter some years ago to the Arizona Daily Star, wrote, “There is inescapable schizophrenia in aborting a perfectly normal 22 week fetus while at the same hospital, performing intra-uterine surgery on its cousin.” When the unborn are wanted, they are treated as children and patients. When they are not wanted, they are not children. We know what we are doing.

4. Being small does not disqualify personhood.

The five-foot-eight frame of a teenage son guarantees him no more right to life than the 23-inch frame of his little sister in her mother’s arms. Size is morally irrelevant. One inch, 23 inches, 68 inches — does not matter. It is morally irrelevant in deciding who should be protected. We know what we are doing in killing the smallest.

5. Not having developed reasoning does not disqualify personhood.

A one-month-old infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, does not have reasoning powers. But only a few dare argue that infanticide is therefore acceptable. Most know better. Outside and inside the womb the infant cannot yet reason, but is a human person. We know what we are doing.

6. Being in the womb does not disqualify human personhood.

Location or environment does not determine a right to life. Scott Klusendorf asks, “How does a simple journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform the essential nature of the fetus from non-person to person?” We know what we are doing.

7. Being dependent on mommy does not disqualify personhood.

We consider persons on respirators or dialysis to be human beings. The unborn cannot be disqualified from human personhood because they are dependent on their mother for food and oxygen. In fact, we operate on the exact opposite principle: The more dependent a little one is on us, the more responsibility we feel to protect him, not the less. We know what we are doing.

(Those last four observations, #4-7, were summed up by Scott Klusendorf under the acronym SLED: Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependence — none is morally relevant for the definition of human life.)

8. The genetic make up of humans is unique.

The genetic make up of a human is different from all other creatures from the moment of conception. The human code is complete and unique from the start. Once that was not known. Now we know.

9. All the organs are present at eight weeks of gestation.

At eight weeks of gestation all the organs are present. The brain is functioning, the heart pumping, the liver making blood cells, the kidney cleaning the fluids, the finger has a print. Yet almost all abortions happen later than this date. We know what we are doing.

10. We have seen the photographs.

The marvel of ultrasound has given a stunning window into the womb that shows the unborn, for example, at 8 weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. Watch this four-minute video of the developing unborn child. We know that they are children.

11. When two rights conflict, the higher value should be protected.

We know the principle of justice that when two legitimate rights conflict, the right that protects the higher value should prevail. We deny the right to drive at 100 miles per hour because the value of life is greater than the value of being on time or getting thrills. The right of the unborn not to be killed and the right of a woman not to be pregnant may be at odds. But they are not equal rights. Staying alive is more precious and more basic than not being pregnant. We know what we are doing when we kill a child.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 1 comment }

Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 3

Why do some believe you can lose your salvation?

I will share four reasons I encounter most when I discuss this topic.

1.   They believe the position of their church.

For some their view is tied to a foundational belief their church holds concerning salvation.  Some churches are Calvinistic (teachings of John Calvin), which teaches followers of Jesus Christ cannot lose their salvation. It is an essential part of this system of belief.  God sovereignly chooses the elect (those who will believe) and cannot lose anyone He chooses.  Examples of Calvinistic churches are Presbyterian Church in America, Dutch Reformed churches, and Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The other major view on the opposite side is an Arminian belief (teachings of Arminius).  A person freely chooses to follow Jesus and can freely at any point in time reject Him and leave Christianity.  Some churches that teach this are the Roman Catholic Church, the Nazarenes, and the Wesleyans.

People holding either of these two positions may not know the reasons why they believe a person can or cannot lose their salvation.  They simply believe it because their church teaches it.

 2.   They know people who made a confession of faith and turned away.

We all know people who have said they trusted Christ and yet today reject Christianity.  To some it seems if they at one time were saved and today turn their back on Christ, they obviously lost their salvation.  In my own experience I knew a young college student named Mike who helped me do ministry at a church and seemed to be on fire for the Lord.  We spent hours praying together, talking about Jesus and teaching others about the Bible.  Then after going away to graduate school he came back changed.  He now rejected Jesus as His Lord.  Mike told me my faith was built on the opinions of others and that I blindly believed their characterization of Jesus.  He said he had finally started thinking for himself and was now an atheist.  I was in shock!  He had seemed so grounded in what he believed.  One explanation some people would have is he lost his salvation.

 3.   They believe it helps keep people from sinning.

Some people believe if we cannot lose our salvation, we have opened the door to a person sinning all she wants.  What’s to stop us without the carrot of losing our salvation?  Therefore, these individuals conclude once saved always saved cannot be true.  They say we need to stay on our toes through the fear of losing our salvation.  If not the sin door will swing wide open and then anything goes.

 4.   There are passages in the Bible seem to teach you can lose your salvation. 

If there weren’t passages in the Bible that seem to show someone could lose their faith, I don’t think the above reasons would make a strong enough case.  I have to admit there are some passages that are difficult to understand and seem to indicate a person can be a follower of Jesus and then later reject Him.  I will tackle the two primary Biblical passages utilized by many people to demonstrate someone can lose his or her salvation.

Go to part 4 here

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 2

As I tackle this question I am not doing it without some personal investment.  I too have family members and close friends who have at one time professed a faith but currently reject Christianity.  This is not an easy subject.

What does salvation mean?  Salvation is to be right with God through faith and upon death to come into the presence of God.  Salvation cannot be earned by doing good works.  The Apostle Paul writes, Ephes. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  Salvation is by grace alone by faith alone.  Both the Old and New Testaments teach the same salvation.  Moses writing about Abraham, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)  Abraham was right with God through belief or by faith.

What are the elements of salvation or a saving faith?

The Bible seems very clear that saving faith involves the entire person; mind, emotions, and will.  Let’s look at each one.

    • Intellectual accent – True belief involves the intellect

Information is vital to growing in knowledge. In Christianity the facts matter.  Biblical faith is defined as knowledge that leads to action.  Knowledge is supported by evidence that appeals to our intellect.  When we hear the truth we respond with belief.

Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Paul writes a non-Christian cannot believe unless someone brings him the good news.  This makes a good case for why we need to not only live like Jesus but we also have to talk about Him.  Once we hear about Jesus we can either accept or reject. Faith is a personal commitment to believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins.

However, knowledge is not enough.  We read in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”  Here we see knowledge alone will not save anyone.  Even the demons have spiritual knowledge and are still condemned.  Their problem is they refuse to submit their will to God.  This leads to the second element of saving faith.

    • Commitment of the will – True belief involves the will

Romans 10:9-10“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Here we see believing and submitting our will to the authority of Jesus working side-by-side.  Our confession that Jesus is God and authority over our life comes as an outworking of the belief in the heart.  A true confession is part of right belief.

In the early church the heart symbolized our entire being; to believe in the heart was to encompass our heart, soul, and mind.  The point of the passage is an outward confession stems from an inward conviction resulting in a submission of the will to Jesus.  We become followers of Jesus; we make Him ruler over our life.

Further we see in John 1:12 saving faith is more than an intellectual exercise.  “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” John 1:12 (NASB).  The receiving is an act of the will.  Remember saving faith is knowing that leads to action; the action here to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace and commit our lives to Him.

    • Brokenness – True belief involves the emotions

Here we sense our brokenness over our rebellion against God.  God is not interested in us telling Him how lucky He is to know us.  Jesus spoke of a Pharisee who once did that in the temple. He told God all the good things he did and he was not like the lowly tax collector, who was also in the temple praying.  God was not impressed with this Pharisee.  However, he was impressed with the tax collector.  He came before God with his hands empty, his heart heavy, and knew he fell short of God’s standard.  He simply said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”  No arrogance, no strutting his stuff; just heartfelt sorrow over breaking God’s laws.  Jesus then says this man, the tax collector and not the Pharisee, left the temple right with God.

With our mind we intellectually believe the truth, with our will we receive the free gift and follow, and with our emotions we humbly bow before God broken and asking for God’s mercy.  Paul writes about this…2 Cor. 7:10 (NASB)  “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Worldly sorrow leads to death but Godly sorrow, admitting we have broken God’s commandments leads to eternal life.  Repentance of sin is turning from our moral wrongs and turning to God.

The vital elements of a saving faith are intellect, will, and emotions.  They are all essentials of a true salvation.

Go to part 3 here

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 1

Question:  After becoming a Christian, can you lose eternal life?

I am beginning a new series.  The focus will be theological. Inside the Christian Church there is disagreement on this issue.  Some believe you can lose your salvation and others say once saved always saved.  I am going to make the case a person who is a spirit filled believer cannot lose his or her salvation.  However, I will acknowledge there are good people on both sides of this issue and I am open to counter arguments.

Mike, a youth pastor friend of mine, visited two former high school ministry leaders who had graduated and were now attending San Diego State.  He had not seen them for months and was curious how they were doing.  These individuals were strong Christians and the previous year were great leaders for his High school group.  Both were popular, athletic and on fire for the Lord.  What he found out stunned him.

At breakfast the first young man told him he was now a baptized Mormon and believed strongly that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Mormon Church was the one true church.  Mike was stunned.  He tried to reason with him but couldn’t convince him otherwise.  The doctrines this young man now believed contradict the Bible.  Mike thought to himself, how could this have happened? He left discouraged but was ready to meet his other student leader.

At lunch he encountered a second shock.  His other high school ministry leader now was an outspoken atheist.  He said intellectually he could no long embrace the Christian faith.  Mike again made an effort to reason with him but to no avail.  He was more than ready to argue with Mike against the Christian faith.  It was a very depressing visit.

How could this happen?  How could two young men, both under 20, drastically turn against classical Christianity?  Just months ago both would have staunchly defended their Christian beliefs; now they were ready to attack them.

The vast majority of us know someone who has at one time professed to be a Christian but today reject the teachings of the Bible and Christianity.  The tough part is that some of these individuals are family members or close friends and we ponder how God is going to deal with them.

Does God still see them as Christians?  Did they lose their salvation?  Or were they never a Christian?  These are the questions I will tackle over the next few weeks.

Go to Part 2 here

 

{ 0 comments }

Should Abortion be Legal?

Question:  How do you argue against abortion being legal?

Answer:  Science and philosophy both support the pro-life arguments.  However, science cannot dictate morality, it can only inform morality.  The following is a philosophical argument that demonstrates why abortion should be illegal.  It was written by Clinton Wilcox in a blog called, “Philosophical Arguments Destroy ‘Pro-Choice’ Case on Abortion[1].”

A syllogism is simply an argument composed of premises that lead to a conclusion. A basic syllogism has two premises and one conclusion, but arguments can have more premises, and even more conclusions, than that. Here is a basic example of a syllogism:

P1: All men are mortal.
P2: Socrates is a man.
P3: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is an example of deductive logic. Deductive logic argues from a general idea (that all men are mortal) to a specific case (that Socrates, being a man, is mortal). A premise is made up of a statement that can either be true or false. If all the premises are true, then the conclusion can’t be false.

If the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises, then the argument is valid. An invalid argument is one where the conclusion doesn’t follow from its premises. An argument is sound if it is valid, and all of its premises are true. If the argument is invalid, or if it can be demonstrated that one or all of the premises are false, then an argument is unsound. So an argument can be valid, but unsound. An argument can even be invalid, but have a true conclusion (you just arrived at it through bad reasoning). But an argument can’t be invalid and sound.

The argument I generally make for the pro-life position is as follows:

P1: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.
P2: Abortion kills a human being.
C: Therefore, abortion is immoral.

Premise one can be supported because human beings are inherently valuable based on the kind of thing they are, human beings. All human beings have the inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. It is just as immoral to kill an infant as it is to kill an adult.

The term prima facie is Latin for “at first sight.” I insert this phrase because most pro-life advocates agree that sometimes killing is justified, such as in self-defense. Some pro-life people believe that capital punishment and just war are also justified forms of killing. The idea here is that under most circumstances, it is wrong to kill a human without moral justification. Abortion is an unjustified form of killing.

Premise two is supported through science. We know that all human beings are living human organisms from fertilization.  So the conclusion necessarily follows. If it is immoral to kill human beings, and the unborn are human beings, then it is immoral to kill them.

So we see that it’s immoral, but should it be illegal? Well, I add a premise and a conclusion to show that abortion should also be illegal. My updated argument looks like this:

P1: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.
P2: Abortion kills a human being.
C1: Therefore, abortion is immoral.
P3: The unjustified killing of human beings is illegal (e.g. murder).
C2 (from P2 and P3): Therefore, abortion should be illegal.

Premise three is supported because we do make the unjustified killing of human beings, like murder, illegal. In all civilized societies, murder is always illegal (although we sometimes disagree over what constitutes murder).

So conclusion two necessarily follows that abortion should be illegal.

This is sound reasoning making the case why abortion should be illegal.  When I discuss abortion with people who call themselves pro-choice they almost always use two tactics.  First pro-abortionists move away from logic and science and try to make their case for keeping abortion legal emotionally.  Especially, when confronted with someone who understands the pro-life logic and can make a rational case.  They will ask you if you are against abortion in cases of rape, extreme poverty or Down’s syndrome in order to justify killing them.  In these instances and others similar to these, there is only one question that needs to be answered.  Is the baby human?  If the baby is human then according the logic above, it is wrong to kill an innocent unborn baby and should be illegal in all cases (an exception is life of the mother).

The second tactic is to focus on the needs of the woman and avoid mentioning the baby at all.  I’ve read pro-abortion article after article that speaks about a woman’s right to her body and avoid talking about the baby.  This is why visual images are so important in this debate.  The images move the debate from abstract arguments and woman’s rights to reality.  I offered a friend a 5 minute video that shows actual abortion baby limps and bodies, along with a video sequence inside the womb of a baby during a saline solution abortion.  I admit these images are disturbing and graphic but they strongly make the case a human baby is being killed, not just a thing to be discarded.  He has yet to accept my offer.

Armed with logic, truth and graphic images I believe it is possible to move society and lawmakers towards making abortion illegal and saving millions of lives.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

What if They Never Heard About Jesus? Part 2

Understanding the Christian Worldview

Question:  Are people who have never heard of Jesus going to hell?

Answer: In Part 1 I covered the first false assumption a person makes in asking this question.  No one goes to hell for not accepting Jesus; they go to hell for breaking God’s law.  Here is the second false assumption. There is such a thing as a noble savage; that there exist people in the most remote parts of the world who are truly seeking after God but can’t find Him.  No one was there to tell them about Jesus.  Are you saying God holds them responsible?

God has not hid himself.  He has revealed himself to everyone.  Acts 17:27, “God did this [created the world and gave all men life] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”   God is close to this “noble savage” no matter where he is living.  Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  Here we see the heavens reveal God’s existence; they pour forth speech.  Everyone can look to creation and see God’s handiwork.

Romans 10:18 the Apostle Paul is speaking about the unbelieving Israelites and quotes Psalm 19:4, “But I ask:  Did they (Israelites) not hear?  Of course they did:  ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’”  God did not leave us without a witness of His existence.  When people go out to the desert and in the evening look into a cloudless sky they blurt out the words, “Oh my God.”  They see the massive number of stars.  All creation shows the truth of God.

The clearest Biblical evidence about God’s judgment and revelation is Paul’s writings to the church in Rome.  He was addressing all mankind.  Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  Man says I never knew about you and God says yes you did.  The noble savage is without excuse because he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.  He doesn’t want the God of the universe to exist.

Who should we believe?  Do we believe God or people who claim they are looking but cannot find Him?  Yet we look at the cross and read the Gospel narratives to see what it cost God to rescue man.  You realize God is not going to all that trouble to save people through the death of His Son Jesus Christ only to hide eternal life from us.  All that pain, humiliation and then go out and trick people.  Romans 1:19 says God has made his presence known within all of us.  How do people respond to this God that reveals himself to them?  They run away!

What is God’s response to those who reject Him?  God will hold them accountable for their sins.  Psalm 5:5 “. . . You [God] hate all who do wrong.”  Psalm 11:5 “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.”  God is going to judge men who break his laws and reject him.  Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Everyone on earth has broken God’s moral laws and earns judgment and spiritual death.  We deserve only punishment.

But God actively pursues us.  1 Tim. 2:4 “. . . who [God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  1 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  God wants ALL to be saved.  However, men reject this salvation, so God has to act.  And He does.  John 6:44 “No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  The word draw in the Greek literally means to throw a net over the top and drag them.  We are not looking for God, we are running from God.  He pursues us.

People say, “I thought God didn’t tamper with our free will.”  This type of statement is not found in the Bible.  When we pray for non-Christians, what do we pray for?  We say, “God change the heart of my brother or my parents.”  We are asking God to interfere with their free will.  This is not to say we don’t have free will.  But if God doesn’t tamper with it nobody would believe in Him.

Paul was on the road to Damascus minding his own business. God blinds him and he falls to the ground.  Do you think God tampered with his free will?  God seeks guilty people because He loves them.  God’s love is an act of mercy when nothing is deserved but hatred, condemnation and punishment.  God’s love cost him something.  God pays for what he loves.  God sent his Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty we deserved.

When it comes to the noble savages, God always responds to the seeking heathen with revelation.  If anyone is seeking the true God, He will always respond.  Why?  God has already been working in that person’s life to draw him to Himself.  God wouldn’t pull the person to the door of salvation then slam the door in his face.  The heathen that seeks Him, God may respond by sending a missionary or by direct revelation of Himself in the form of a vision.  In the book by Don Richardson, “Eternity in Their Hearts,” he gives many modern day experiences where God reached natives in extremely remote areas.  If people anywhere in the world want to know the one true God of the universe, He will make Himself known to them.  However, most don’t want to know Him.  Unless God moves first they will not respond.  And He has moved.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

What if They Never Heard About Jesus? Part 1

Question:  This is one of the toughest questions to be asked in the public square. What about the heathen in Africa?  Are you trying to tell me that these people that live on another continent, live in another culture, worship another religion that they are going to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus?

Answer: One possible response is to say a person in Africa, who never heard of Jesus, cannot be held accountable by God.  Therefore God would have to automatically let him into heaven.  Is this what Jesus and his disciples taught?

If this was true then Christianity should immediately end all missionary trips and hide all Bibles.  We could stop all information about Jesus from being spread, which would prevent anyone from being held accountable for their sins.  If we were able to keep Christianity a secret then everyone would go to heaven.

This certainly doesn’t seem to be what Jesus had in mind when he gave the great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:19.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus throughout the New Testament sent out his disciples instructing them to tell people about Him.  In multiple passages the Bible says we are to tell the world about Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  The Scriptures also teach that everyone commits moral wrongs (Rom. 3:23) and is accountable for their sins (Rom. 6:23).  The scriptures say Jesus is the only solution to the sin problem (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  So how do we answer this question?

We must deal with two false assumptions people have who pose this question.  First, no one goes to hell for not hearing the name of Jesus.  Jesus is not the problem but the solution.  People go to hell because they have broken God’s laws.  It is sin that separates people from God.

Many Christians have a mistaken view of the nature of salvation.  Usually we tell people the good news and leave out the bad.  We share God loves them and He will do great things in their life.  Go to a Buddhist and say accept Jesus and you will have peace.  The Buddhist will say I already have peace, why do I need Jesus.  Go to a New Age believer and say accept Jesus and you’ll get the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, and work miracles.  This person will tell you I already speak in tongues and do miracles so why do I need Jesus.  What are you going to do now?  What we mistakenly do is present Jesus as if we are asking the person to join the Jesus club.  People are not condemned because they don’t believe in Jesus.  The fundamental issue is not belief but of behavior.

If there was such a thing as an innocent heathen, when he died he would go straight to heaven.  God does not punish the innocent.  Non-Christians don’t go to hell for wrong belief; they go to hell for behavior.  The real issue is not who has heard of Jesus, the real issue is who is innocent.  Where is the innocent heathen in Africa, South America, and Australia?  He doesn’t exist.  Every single person has broken God’s law and will be judged by God.  Rev. 20:12, “…The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”  In this passage nothing is said about accepting Jesus.  They are not being judged for their belief but behavior.  The books that are opened contain every wrong the person has committed.

Jesus says we will even give an account of every idle word we speak.  Breaking God’s law is the issue.  If you never have had a traffic ticket and you run a stop sign, you will still get a ticket.  You get a ticket, not for being good all your life, but for breaking the law.  God doesn’t give us credit for following the law; it is what is expected.  Justice means if you break the law you pay.  James 2:10, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  James says that if you break just one law you are a lawbreaker.  The point is God only punishes the guilty!

God does not owe us a pardon.  Some people think God owes us forgiveness.  In our government if we break a law, does the government owe us forgiveness?  Absolutely not!  We deserve punishment.  If we get leniency we don’t call that justice we call it mercy.  A woman receives in the mail her photographs and goes back to the photographer and complains, “These photos don’t do me justice.”  The photographer replies, “Lady you don’t need justice you need mercy.”  That’s what we need.  When it comes to the law we don’t want justice we appeal for mercy even though we deserve punishment.  God looks at mankind and if they are guilty of breaking His laws, He doesn’t owe anyone forgiveness.  We do not deserve mercy.  If He wants to pardon some it’s up to Him to do so.  The rest will get justice.

On Friday I will complete this post.

Go to part 2 here

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

A Son will be given

Isaiah penned these words over 700 years before the birth of Christ.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB)

These verses from Isaiah are a prophecy of a coming Messiah, one who will sit on the eternal throne of David and rule over His kingdom.  In the one person of Jesus the Messiah, there were two natures (one person, two natures): 100% undiminished deity and 100% true humanity.[1] Jesus was truly God and truly man. Isaiah 9:6 suggests the dual nature of Jesus.

  • In His humanity we read, “A child is born.”
  • In His deity: “A Son is given.”

Jesus, clearly, was a different person from the Father.  Sometimes He spoke in reference to His deity: “I and the Father are one [‘one essence,’ lit.].” (John 10:30) Jesus meant he was one divine essence with the Father, meaning only one God two persons.  Sometimes He spoke in reference to His humanity: “…the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Greater in terms of station not quality. The Father has a higher station because of the humbling, the Son coming to live as a man.

At other times, Jesus refers to different perspectives.  Jesus the man becomes hungry, tired; God cannot be hungry or tired.  “In Jesus’ humanity, He is subject to the Father because the Father is greater than His humanity. But in His deity, He is coequal with God the Father because He is of one essence with Him.” (Lindsey, p.81).

As we celebrate this Christmas, the baby born in Bethlehem, born to a virgin, born in a manger, we need to make sure we honor Him for who He is.  Jesus was more than a good teacher, more than a prophet, He was God incarnate.  And He told us what honor is due to Him.  Jesus said in John 5:23, “…that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the father, who sent him.”  Jesus is to be honored equal to God the Father because He is.

Isaiah 9:6 predicted a future king would be born.  At Christmas we remember and celebrate the fact that Jesus came to live the life we should have lived and on the cross, pay the penalty we couldn’t pay.  Only through Jesus can we be rescued from our moral wrongs.  Only by believing in this truth can we have eternal life.  This is the meaning of Christmas; a truth made evident in the Scriptures and fulfilled at the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas,

Steve Bruecker



[1] Lindsey, 80. [precise source unknown, Ed.]

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Ministering to Mormons in Utah Day 6

Friday July 6, 2012:  Again we tried to do a free car wash and this time the weather cooperated.  We had a handful of customers and some great conversations.  I had two that stood out.  One was with a LDS restaurant owner who volunteered at rest homes to give the last rites.  We spoke briefly about grace before his car was done.  I tried to leave him with the truth and a crack in his worldview foundation.

Another gentleman couldn’t believe we were giving free car washes.  I explained we were doing this to serve the community and to share the love of Jesus.  He said he was LDS.  We discussed the issue of the Book of Mormon and the lack of archeological evidence.  He said the LDS church had a special vault in Salt Lake City where they kept the sword of Nephi and other artifacts.  They kept the evidence locked up so they wouldn’t get stolen.  I said this practice was highly unusual because Biblical artifacts are freely displayed and they help establish the historical reliability of the Biblical record.  These artifacts in the vault would help the Book of Mormon.  And I asked why they don’t use them to lend historical support. He said he didn’t know.

I then began to talk about the burden of Mormonism.  I asked if he had assurance of reaching the highest possible heaven according to the teachings of the church.  He said he was working on it.  He then said he was trying to live by all the commandments.  I asked him how he was doing and he said not so well.  I told him in the Bible God said he needs to be perfect.  Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  1 Peter he wrote something similar: 1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 

I asked are you following the commandments perfectly.  He said no.  I then shared why we need a savior.  Jesus lived the life we were supposed to live.  He lived a sinless life and then went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  He did what we could never do.  I said because of Jesus I have assurance of being in the highest heaven with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As he was leaving I challenged him to read Matthew and 1 Peter.  He said he’d look into it.  He seemed extremely interested in what I had to say.  It was a great conversation!

On our last evening in Salt Lake City we met with Rob Silvulka and his family.  He invited the team over for dinner.  Rob currently is the president of Courageous Christians United–a ministry that reaches out to all sorts of cults, false religions and philosophies. His mission work is primarily street preaching to the LDS.  Rob also runs a web site called Mormoninfo.com.  I enjoyed my interactions with Rob.

It was a great evening of relaxing and sharing stories of our week.  I told the group the week was like fishing in a hatchery.  It was so easy to get into a spiritual conversation with people who are out to convert you to their religion.  All you had to do was to be friendly, ask questions, and soon you would be talking about Jesus.  It was great!  I loved the entire week!

Temple Square from the roof of the Conference Center

 

Saturday July 7, 2012:  After a quick breakfast we drove the 13 hours back to Escondido.  All of us had special memories of the week.  We were now headed back to an environment where it is difficult to get into spiritual conversations; we are going to have to work much harder.  Looking back, our hope is through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will use our conversations and friendly demeanor to convict the hearts and minds of the LDS we spoke with.  We share and God saves.  Lord thank you for letting us participate in your plan.

Steve Bruecker

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

This is the last of the challenging Scriptures I recommend to share with Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Over the years I have used the John 2:18-21 to demonstrate Jesus raised Himself from the dead and therefore must be God.  As before, the answers I have received from the typical Witness at my door have been rather weak.  However, through research I found that Bob Passantino of Answers to Action had taken that argument to another level.  It is his argument, with two additional points, I would like to present here.

      3.   John 2:18-21:  The Biblical Toolman: Three Biblical Doctrines in One Handy Passage

Next time you’re frustrated trying to share with your Jehovah’s Witness friend about how he’s been taught false doctrine by the Watchtower, don’t give up in frustration because there are too many issues to cover at one time. Instead, do what I do and ask your friend a simple question: “What would you do if I could show you one passage in Scripture that teaches the deity of Christ, Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead and that death does not mean that you cease to exist?”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that humans cease to exist when they die, that “resurrection” means to be recreated from Jehovah’s memory. They are taught to deny the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also taught that Jesus was not raised physically from the dead, but was raised as a spirit creature.

It could take many hours to help a Jehovah’s Witness understand the errors he’s been taught by the Watchtower, to help him understand that the Bible really does teach that Jesus is and always has been God, that he did not cease to exist when he died, and that he was raised immortal in the same physical body that had died on the cross. Next time, use this one passage to show all three teachings at once.

John 2:18-21 contains a conversation Jesus had with Jews in front of the Jerusalem temple during his ministry. In this passage, John quotes Jesus, notes the response of those he is speaking to, explains what Jesus meant by what he said, and explains how his disciples came understand what he meant.  The passage reads this way:

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Let’s look at the passage step by step. First, the basic meaning of the passage is that the skeptical Jews were asking Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah. He replied that although his body would die, he would raise himself from death to immortality to prove to them that he was the Messiah.

Jesus is claiming that after his death he will still have conscious existence – he must exist and have consciousness in order to raise himself. If Jesus continues to have conscious existence after the death of his body, then death must not mean that one ceases to exist. In fact, as we know well from many other passages, the dead are conscious and face the judgment of God, either of salvation through faith in Christ, or of condemnation by rejecting Christ. Matthew 25:46 promises, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to life eternal.”

Jesus is also claiming (and John is affirming) that his resurrection would be bodily – in fact, the same body that was crucified on the cross. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again.” John defines “this temple” as his body. Therefore, Jesus is declaring and John is affirming that Jesus was resurrected in a human body, the same body in which he lived and died. In fact, as we know from many other passages, Jesus’s resurrection is a bodily resurrection, not a “spirit” resurrection. Luke 24:39 quotes the resurrected Jesus assuring his disciples, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Finally, Jesus is also claiming to be God Almighty by claiming that he will raise himself from the dead. Although sometimes prophets were used by God to resuscitate people who have died, and Jesus raised others during his ministry, the power to resurrect someone from the dead never to die again, belongs to God alone. The Bible clearly declares that it is God who raised Jesus from the dead (see, for example, Acts 2:22, 24, 32, 36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 10:9). In John 10, Jesus explains how it is possible for him to die and yet raise himself from the dead: as God he has the power to raise himself from the dead. He declares, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again(John 10:17-18).

If you study John 2:18-21 in its context and understand exactly what Jesus and John mean by what is said in the passage, you can have an effective “multi-purpose tool” for sharing with your Jehovah’s Witness friends the truth about life after death, the deity of Christ, and Christ’s bodily resurrection. Remember to wait patiently for your friend to answer “What would he do?” if you could show all three teachings from one passage. When eternal life is on the line, one should be willing to follow Scripture no matter where it leads – even if it leads to renouncing what the Watchtower has taught and clinging to what Jesus declares in God’s Word.[1]

This is a powerful tool to share with your Jehovah’s Witness friend at your door.  As before my encouragement is to write some notes in the margin of your Bible to help you remember the key points and any supporting scriptures.  My hope is the entire series of scriptures I have shared to challenge a Jehovah’s Witness will be useful.  God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can use these arguments to move an individual closer to the truth.   As ambassadors for Christ we need to be prepared to give an answer to the next Jehovah’s Witness we meet.  Study and share the truth in love and let God do the rest.



[1] Bob Passantino, “The Biblical Toolman: Three Biblical Doctrines in One Handy Passage” 2003, http://www.answers.org/theology/john2_19_21.html

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 4 comments }

The Watchtower Organization claimed a great apostasy occurred after the death of the apostles and the Christian Church went into darkness.  Only a remnant of true and faithful followers kept the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.  As I showed in part 5 there is no historical evidence for believing this mass apostasy happened.  In fact the ancient writings of the early church fathers demonstrate the opposite.

The group of individuals that followed the death of the apostles was named the early church fathers or sometimes called ante-Nicene Fathers.  Some of them were disciples of the apostles themselves. As a group they stressed the importance of passing on the teachings of those that went before them.  Any introduction of non-apostolic doctrine would have immediately raised red flags and opposition would have formed from those who knew the truth firsthand.

We see examples of the apostolic teaching forming the foundation of the church in their writings.  Irenaeus, speaking about Clement of Rome, said, “He had seen the apostles and associated with them and still had their preaching sounding in his ears and their traditions before his eyes –- and not he alone, for there were many still left in his time who had been taught by the apostles.”[1]  Irenaeus then said, “Now the Church, although scattered over the whole civilized world to the end of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples its faith in one God, the Father Almighty…and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit.”[2]  These quotes plus others make is reasonable to assume, when it comes to the key doctrines of the Christian faith, the writings of the early church fathers are a great source for discerning apostolic teachings.

The Watchtower booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity,” tries to make the case the ante-Nicene Fathers (writers prior to the council of Nicea or early church fathers) taught their doctrines.  The following was taken directly from the Jehovah’s Witnesses booklet.

“THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ’s birth. What they taught is of interest.

Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things.” He said that Jesus was inferior to God and “never did anything except what the Creator . . . willed him to do and say.”

Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the “One true and only God,” who is “supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.”

Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence “a creature” but called God “the uncreated and imperishable and only true God.” He said that the Son “is next to the only omnipotent Father” but not equal to him.

Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: “The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent.” He also said: “There was a time when the Son was not. . . . Before all things, God was alone.”

Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is “the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,” who “had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him . . . But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before,” such as the created prehuman Jesus.

Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that “the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence,” and that “compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light.”

“There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a [Trinity] within the Godhead.” – The Triune God [James Fortman].

“Summing up the historical evidence, Alvan Lamson says in The Church of the First Three Centuries: ‘The modern    popular doctrine of the Trinity . . . derives no support from the language of Justin [Martyr]: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son, and . . . holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact.'”

Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.  [Exert from the booklet, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”]

I will demonstrate how the Watchtower deceitfully misrepresents the early church fathers and falsely tries to use them to justify their anti-Trinitarian beliefs.

Go to part 7 here



[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.3, in Cyril C. Richardson, Early Christian Fathers (NY: Macmillan, 1970).

[2] Ibid. 1.10.1.

{ 0 comments }

Does Prayer Change Things?

Question:  If God knows the outcome of our lives, does prayer change things?

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo.

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Answer:  It is true God knows all things.  In theology it is said God is omniscient.  What that means is God knows all true propositions of the past, present, and future.  God knowing all things doesn’t mean He causes all things.  Let me illustrate this truth.  By simply knowing the past events of my wife’s actions today doesn’t mean I caused those events.  I know she went to the store, had a hair appointment, and made dinner for me.  You could say I have knowledge of her past free will actions.  In the same way God knowing the past, present, and future events doesn’t mean He causes them.  His knowledge of what we will do is based on our free will actions.

Since God is all knowing (omniscient) He cannot grow in knowledge.  Therefore, when we pray we don’t surprise God with new information.  He knew we were going to pray and what we were going to ask.  God can begin answering our prayers even before we pray them.

Here are some examples of an omniscient God answering prayer.

  • Genesis 25:21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
  • In the Old Testament God judged David’s actions and Israel was punished for his sins.  We read that 70,000 Israelites died at the hand of an angel sent by God.  David prays for the plague to end and we read 2 Samuel 24:25, David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the LORD was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.”
  • The following is a great example of where the God of the universe responds to the prayers of Hezekiah and allows him to live 15 more years.  2 Kings 20:1-6 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’  2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 ‘Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 ‘Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.'”
  • In the Book of Acts a God-fearing military officer had his prayers answered by an angel of the Lord.  This angel sends Peter to Cornelius for the purpose of bringing the good news of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.  Acts 10:30-31 Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments,’ 31 and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.’”  Cornelius and his men hear the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit respond in faith.  God clearly answered his prayer!

When we pray we know God hears us and will answer our prayers.  We must remember that God will either fulfill our requests now or in the future or He will say no.  All our prayers will be answered in some way.  God is in control and will do what is right and good.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

Do Jews and Christians Worship the Same God?

Question:  Is the Jewish God the same as Christianity?

Answer:  The simple answer is no…but that answer isn’t so simple.  Let me explain.

Following the fall (Adam’s rebellion) God exacted a plan by which all humanity could be restored to a right relationship with Him.  This restoration of internal righteousness would not be accomplished by doing good works but by believing in God as He has revealed Himself.  This is clearly articulated in the life of Abraham in Genesis 15:6.  Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”   To be declared righteous in the Old Testament times meant the individual had to place his trust in the one true God.  However, a more detailed description of this God had not been revealed.  This would not occur until the New Testament.

The key issue was the nature of God.  The Christian God is Triune in nature.  A definition of the Trinity is: One God subsists (continues to exist) in three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal and co-eternal.  God in His wisdom did not fully reveal His tri-personal identity until the incarnation (birth of Jesus).  The Old Testament Jew was not expected to believe in the Trinity because the doctrine was progressively revealed in Scripture.  Up until the New Testament we only find partial revelation of the multiple persons of the Godhead.  Why did God delay full revelation?  Here are two good reasons; 1) Without the birth of Jesus it would be difficult for people to grasp the Trinity.  God had to patiently wait for second person of the Trinity (Jesus) to enter into the world, and 2) Abraham and the nation of Israel were surrounded by polytheistic cultures.  During this time God would only require belief in the one true God to separate believers from the surrounding societies.

From a theological standpoint the Christian God has been Triune from all eternity past.  There never was a time when God was not a Trinity.  In Judaism they believe in one God and one person (the Father).  They reject one God subsisting in three persons.

There are passages in the Old Testament that seem to point God’s Triune nature.  Here are some of them:

  • Genesis 1:26a “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”
  • Genesis 3:22a “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…”
  • Isaiah 6:8a “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’”

These verses demonstrate a plurality of persons in God Himself.  Nowhere is a number defined and nothing approaching a complete description of the doctrine of the Trinity can be found in the Old Testament.

The God of Christianity is Triune and only through faith in Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, can someone be forgiven.  Judaism rejects the Trinity and rejects Jesus as the Messiah. The Jew who doesn’t place his faith in Jesus is without a savior for sins.

Therefore, Christianity and Judaism worship different Gods.  For a more in-depth study of the God of Christianity see my series called “Loving the Trinity.”

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

Are there Contradictions in the Bible?

Question: Are there contradictions in the Bible?

Answer:  What is a contradiction?  Something cannot be one thing and the opposite at the same time and in the same way. For example an animal cannot be a dog and not a dog at the same time and in the same way.  In the Bible Jesus cannot be God and not God at the same time and in the same way.

Whenever I am told the Bible is loaded with contradictions I love to hand the Bible to the person and ask him to show me a contradiction.   The majority of time the person says I don’t know where one is.  If they have one you’ll either have to answer right there or get back to them.  If the Bible is God’s Word, when properly understood, it cannot have contradictions.  It is impossible for God to contradict Himself.  Good resources I have used to solve some of these problems are the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer and When Critics Ask by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.

The following are a few study techniques for solving so-called contradictions.

  • Read the passages in context.  Sometimes just reading the paragraphs before or after will solve many of these problems.
  • Use the clear Biblical passages to interpret the unclear.  An example is the issue of faith versus works.  Some people believe the Bible teaches we are saved by doing good works.  However, the clearest passages say we are saved by grace through faith alone.  It is either a contradiction or we have to have to come up with an interpretation of the less clear passages so they don’t contradict the clear.
  • Sometimes the writers used hyperbole to emphasize a point and didn’t always worry about precision.  In Mark 13:1-2 Jesus tells his disciples the temple will be torn down  and  not one stone will be left on one another.   The temple was destroyed as Jesus said but there were some stones left on one another.  Jesus used hyperbole too emphasize the complete destruction of the temple.
  • The Gospels were written thematically and didn’t write sequentially as we would today.  Do not expect them to have the same historical flow.
  • Many times they skipped events to make a point.  We do the same when we make a sound bite explanation versus a more detailed explanation of the same event.
  • Sometimes they focused on one key individual ignoring others.  For example Mark talks about an angel speaking (Mark 16:5) and Luke said there were 2 angels (Luke 24:4) at the tomb of Jesus. Nowhere does it say there was only 1 angel.  Mark wasn’t interested in the other angel; he just highlighted the one who spoke.  For a personal example let’s say I talk to a friend about a family gathering and I mention I spoke with Bill.  With another friend I tell him I spent time at the gathering discussing teaching with Mary and Sarah.  Does that mean Bill wasn’t there?  No!  I didn’t mention Bill because he wasn’t my focus.  The writer Mark only emphasized the one angel that spoke and ignored the other one.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 2 comments }

Part 11 Who besides unbelievers will be judged?

Questions: Will others be judged?  Who will be the judge?

Answers:  1)All followers of Jesus will be judged.  However, we will not come before the great white throne judgment seat and be judged for our sins.  Jesus already paid the penalty for our moral wrongs.  Instead our judgment will be to give account for our lives as believers and to be rewarded for our good works.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:10-12But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”   Paul tells us that we are not to wrongly judge and criticize other believers because we are going to be held accountable for our own shortcomings.  Barclay writes, “We stand before God in the awful loneliness of our own souls; to him we can take nothing but the character which in life we have been building up.”[1]

We read further in 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  Here again see that all believers will be judged in the end times.  This is when we will be recompensed or rewarded for certain actions outlined in the Bible.  Jesus gave some examples of future rewards in Matthew.  Actions such as giving, praying, and fasting will be rewarded in heaven (Matt. 6:1-6).

Paul writes that once we become a follower of Jesus all our works will be tested by fire at the believers’ judgment.  Fire is simply a symbol for testing.  1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

We will be rewarded for using our gifts to further the Lord’s work.  Some works are more valuable than others.  Some people occupy their time with religious busy work and Paul calls these works wood, hay, and straw; when tested by fire and these works will burn up.  Other works, such as investing in the spiritual lives of others through discipleship or serving others in need or accurately teaching the Word of God, are labeled precious stones and expensive metals and will survive the fire and be rewarded by God.  In the end we will be held accountable for using the gifts God has given us.

2) Angels will also be judged.  Peter writes in 2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.”

Interesting is the Bible teaches believers will help in the work of judgment and will judge angels.   1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”

3) In the end it will be Jesus who will function as the judge of the world.  2 Timothy 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom.”  Peter makes a similar statement about Jesus in Acts 10:42 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”  The right to judge the entire universe has been given to the Son by the Father.  For everyone living or dead Jesus Christ will either be their deliverer or their judge (Matt.25:31-46).


[1] New American Commentary – Volume 27: Romans.

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Part 10 Are there levels of punishment in hell?

Question:  When an unbeliever dies will there be levels of punishment?

The Bible seems to teach people will be judged by the severity of their sins.  For example Jesus pronounced judgment upon cities where He had performed miracles but they refused to repent and believe.  Jesus speaking, Matthew 11:21-24 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”  They had received all the proof they needed to follow Jesus and yet they didn’t.  The unbelieving people in these cities will be judged more severely than other cities because they had been given greater revelation but still refused to believe.

Again we see this same theme in the Book of Luke.  Luke 12:47-48 [Jesus speaking] And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”  The more opportunities people have to believe in Jesus, when they reject, the greater the punishment.

God as a righteous judge will dole out punishment based on what they have done.  Our justice system works the same way.  A murderer will receive a more severe penalty than someone who stole a television.  Where do you think we got that internal sense of justice that our court system is based on?  God has written His moral law on our hearts and revealed it through the Scriptures.  The Bible teaches the severity of the penalty should match the severity of the crime.  It was a foundational principle of God’s justice system for Israel.  Deuteronomy 19:21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”  God’s pure moral nature is revealed through is righteous judgments.

In hell people will receive the penalty they deserve. God has recorded all the moral wrongs we have committed during our lifetime and either we pay the penalty for our sins or Jesus pays for them.  In Revelations the Apostle Paul was given a vision of the future judgment of unbelievers in front of the great white throne judgment seat.  Revelation 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  All unbelievers will be cast into hell and will receive whatever level of punishment their deeds demand.

In the end all unbelievers will get exactly what they deserve.  They have rejected God and his pardon for sin and they will receive the due penalty for their moral crimes.  However, the follower of Jesus doesn’t get what she deserves.  The Apostle Paul writes that everyone commits moral wrongs.  Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And yet through faith in Jesus she is pardoned by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He takes the penalty on the cross that we deserve.  This is called grace.

The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of this grace and the justice of God.  He is going to let us know that what we earn from our unbelief is eternal separation from God.  He begins with the bad news and then follows with the good news.  Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  The bad news of sin is hell and levels of punishment and the good news is we will spend eternity with Christ as a result of the free gift of God.  

Go to part 11 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Question: What do you say to the religious person (Muslim) who asks, “How can anyone believe in a God who would let a murderer go to heaven and me a good Muslim be cast into hell?”

Answer:  I had a Muslim taxi driver ask me this question.  I told him this was a great question.  I was trying to be nice but was actually stalling for time to think about how I was going to answer.  I then asked him do you know the two greatest commandments.  He said no.  I said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)  According to the Bible, rejecting God and His Son is extremely bad and committing murder is horrible.  I then asked him which is worse, to reject God and His Son or to commit murder?   He didn’t answer.  I told him if the greatest commandment was to love God, then the greatest sin was to reject God; greater than even committing murder.  Both are extremely bad but from God’s point of view rejection of Him is greater.  If you turn your back on God and His Son you cannot be forgiven.  However, God can forgive a murderer.  Jesus died for all sinners.  I asked him, does that make sense?  He said yes but he didn’t like it.

God desires to forgive anyone who places their trust in Jesus Christ and that even includes a murderer.  God’s great mercy extends to everyone who wants to follow Jesus.  Yet, God will not forgive someone who rejects him.  Rejection of Christ, God’s Son is the same as rejecting the God the Father.  Jesus speaking in John 15:23, He who hates Me hates My Father also.” 

Question: Why do you believe in hell?  Why would Christianity hold such a horrible teaching?

Yes I do believe in hell.  Here are my reasons and why Christianity cannot change:

  1. The Bible teaches about it.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am under the authority of the Bible.
  2. Jesus taught more about hell than anyone else.  Am I going to call Jesus a liar?
  3. Hell provides for ultimate justice.  Stalin, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Khrushchev, and Hitler murdered over a 100 million people (1995 Guinness Book of Records).  They will receive the punishment they deserve for all eternity.
  4. Punishment in hell preserves the holiness and justice of God.  If God just winks at moral wrongs and simply forgives people without a penalty, then He is an unjust God and not worthy of worship.
  5. The Christian Worldview is a systematic belief that tries to explain reality. If hell is real then Christianity cannot get rid of the doctrine.  Either hell exists or it doesn’t.  Jesus taught hell is real and therefore is part of Christianity.

Do I like the doctrine of hell?  It is not about whether or not I like this teaching.  It about whether it is the actual destiny of non-Christians.  It is about truth and not about feelings.  I don’t like thinking about hell or even talking about it.  Hell is not something anyone would dream up.  It is a doctrine that is a stumbling block for many people who are investigating Christianity.  I believe hell exists after death because the Bible clearly teaches it.

Go to part 10 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 4 comments }

Ministering to Mormons in Utah Day 1

This new series will be a daily account of the Utah Missions trip I co-lead with Kristeena Cardoza July 1-7th, 2012.  We went to help Mormons move away from the false beliefs of Joseph Smith and assist in their journey to find the Biblical Jesus.  Other members of the team were: Brandon Sims, Nick Perkins, Teresa Barlow, and Norma Puerta.

The Utah Missions Team consisted of volunteers from the post college group at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido.  I was asked to join primarily to help equip the team on how to share with Mormons.  We all raised support from friends, family, and members of the church.  Our objectives for the week were to 1) Grow in our understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS); 2) Connect with various ministries reaching out to the Mormons; and 3) Engage in spiritual conversations with LDS.  We wanted to challenge their false beliefs.

I joined the team near the end of May and only had a month to get them ready for Utah.  I focused on both content and tactics.  I was asked to teach on Mormonism to the entire post college group for two consecutive Wednesday evenings.  The first evening I came as Mormon Elder Bruecker.  It was a great evening as I fooled many and had a few individuals angrily walk out of the room.  They thought I was a real Mormon and didn’t appreciate my attacks upon historic Christianity.  An intern chased them down and let them know who I was and they returned to the room.  One of my goals was to show the group the importance of knowing what and why they believe what they believe.

The night went great as there were at least 3-4 hands up the entire evening to ask questions and try to pin me down.  My experience with sharing with Mormons helped me escape all challenges.  What they didn’t know was how much I was struggling as I attacked my own beliefs; I felt like a heretic.  Finally, I revealed who I was and why I portrayed a Mormon.  I told them I’d return the following Wednesday to share why Mormonism is false and why our beliefs are solidly based on the Bible.

On consecutive Sunday afternoons, I met with the team only.  I focused on the doctrine of the Trinity and tactics in conversations.  On another training day we had James Wallace Warner come out to train the team.  He is an apologist with a great knowledge of Mormonism.  He runs the ministry web site called Please Convince Me.  James brought his son Jimmy to portray a Mormon based on his vast experience of sharing on the streets of Salt Lake City.  This was a turning point for our team.

I knew ahead of time Jimmy would act as a Mormon missionary so I decided to sit back and let the team ask all the questions and answer his challenges.  Our team applied what they had learned the last couple of months.  At first the team sat back too much and tried to be too nice.  James Warner, Jimmy’s dad, told them that if he was an observer of this conversation he’d have to say the Mormon was making the better case; they needed to step it up.  This invitation was all they needed, as they made stronger challenges the rest of the afternoon.

Over the years I have met with many Mormon missionaries and Jimmy acted just like any of them who have sat in my front room.  He was the best Mormon imposter I’d ever seen!  I later told the team he would be by far the toughest LDS they would ever encounter.

From this training I knew our main task was to become better listeners.  I told them they let Jimmy off the hook way too many times.  He made assertion after assertion and they let him get away with them.  They needed to ask the why question to force him to justify his conclusions.  Brandon said he was too focused on what to ask next, which got in the way of listening to Jimmy.  I listed at least 10 assertions Jimmy made that should have been challenged.  This experience helped me as their trainer to work more on asking the two main questions, “What do you mean by that” to get clarification and “Why do believe that to be true” to force the person to justify their belief.  This was the last training experience before we traveled to Utah.

Sunday July 1, 2012: Following a family wedding in Chico, CA I flew in from Oakland to Salt Lake City Utah (SLC) to join the team driving up from Escondido.  I met Russ East, founder of the Utah Partnership for Christ, at the airport.  His ministry provided the housing and agenda for our team.  We drove to SLC to meet the team at a restaurant.  After dinner we went to temple square to begin our trip with prayer.  Bobby Gilpin, an intern for UPFC and UK apologist, gave us tour of the LDS facilities and provided an overview of what the various buildings represented.  At each stop we then prayed around temple square for wisdom of speech, open hearts, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for our upcoming conversations with LDS.  We then returned to the “Blue House,” our housing for the week, for last minute instructions and sleep.

Go to Day 2 here

{ 2 comments }

Part 8 What about the people who have never heard?

Question:What about those people who have never heard?  Are they going to go to hell because they never believed in a Jesus?  How is that fair?

Answer: Remember in part 6 I wrote in some detail that a person goes to hell for sins committed against God and not his lack of belief in Jesus.  Jesus is the solution and not the problem.  However, a person does have to believe in Jesus to be cured and thus forgiven.  This doesn’t seem fair to the person who has never heard of Him.

First we need to deal with the issue of moral wrongs committed against God.  Sometimes a good tactic to use is to make it personal.  The individual you are talking to needs to realize he is in trouble for breaking God’s laws.  I will quote Greg Koukl from his article entitled “Am I Going to Hell?

I asked him this question. Do you think that people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished? He said, “Yes.” I said, “Good, so do I.” Second question, “Have you ever committed any moral crimes?” Pause. Then he said, “Yes, I guess I have.” You know what I said to him? “So have I.”

This just took 30 seconds, right? Then I reflected back to him, “Look where we’ve come so far. We both believe that people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished. And we both believe we’ve committed moral crimes. You know what I call that? Bad news.” And it is bad news.

As you can see in just a few seconds you can establish the fact that everyone commits moral wrongs and therefore, everyone deserves punishment.  All who have never heard about Jesus have the same problem as those who have heard.  We have all committed moral wrongs against the creator and justice demands punishment.  Jesus taught this punishment is hell and separation from God for all eternity.

All religions have to deal with this moral wrong problem.  Christianity’s solution is Jesus. All the other belief systems try to solve it with ‘good works’ to appease God.  The Bible clearly teaches this solution will not work.  Doing good or following God’s laws are what is expected and doesn’t pay the penalty for breaking the laws.  Good works saves no one from punishment.  Even in our own justice system following the laws is expected.  There is a penalty every time we break the law and get caught.  From God’s perspective, only Jesus can pay the penalty for all our moral wrongs.  We have to place our trust in Him to receive forgiveness.  Some will ask is this fair to those who have never heard of Jesus?

In Romans 1:18-31 the Apostle Paul writes that God has clearly revealed Himself in nature.   Then in Romans 2:16-22 he writes that God has also written His moral law on our hearts.  Paul says in verse 18 that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness; they don’t want to believe in the one true God.  God revealing Himself through creation and the moral law leads to the conclusion in Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.   Those who have never heard about God suppress the truth and therefore God’s punishment is justified.

Aren’t there some who have never heard of Jesus truly seeking God?  Are they going to hell?  I believe God will reach those individuals with the truth about Jesus through a variety of means.  Throughout the Bible we have examples of people responding to many different experiences such as direct speech, dreams, and visions.  God called Abraham directly; He gave Pharaoh dreams; He appeared to Cornelius in a vision which resulted in his being saved.

I have heard stories from missionaries to the Middle East who speak about Muslims who have come to Christ because of visions they’ve had involving Jesus.  God is working throughout the world and will reveal Himself and His Son to anyone truly seeking to know Him.

Those who have never heard about Jesus have to pay for their moral wrongs.  If they truly seek after God, if they seek Him with a sincere heart, I believe He will make Himself known to them.   The person then has to place his or her trust in Jesus to receive a pardon for all personal moral wrongs.

Go to part 9 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Part 12 Problems with transitional fossils

Is Darwinian Evolution a Fact?

What about transitional fossils?

What should we find if evolution is true?  We should find millions and billions of transitional fossils.  A transitional fossil is a living creature that forms a bridge between two other living organisms.  For example Archaeopteryx is supposed to be a transitional creature between a lizard and a bird.  This creature had wings and feathers like a bird but it also had teeth, a long lizard-like tail, and claws on its wings.  This was hailed as confirmation of the evolutionary link between reptiles and birds.  Scientists finally had evidence for Darwinian Evolution.

However, the joy soon turned to sorrow when paleontologists determined Archaeopteryx was one of the earliest birds and not a missing link.  What is also interesting, this bird is not in the line of modern birds.  In fact modern bird fossils were found in the same geological strata as Archaeopteryx.  What we have is the earliest known member of a totally extinct group of birds.  This creature leads to a dead end.  What was hailed as a transitional fossil is now just an interesting fossil of an early bird.

What Darwin believed was the fossil record would reveal all life resulting from a single source.  This is where we see drawings of the tree of life.  All life started from one point, the tree trunk, and then over years and years moved from simple to more complex and branched out in different directions; similar to the branches of a tree.

Is this true?  Unfortunately, for Darwin what we discover in the fossil evidence is the tree is not alone, it is part of a forest.  In the geological strata, during the Cambrian period, extremely complex life appears out of nowhere.  Instead of life coming out of a common trunk we see life erupting suddenly from multiple directions with no fossil explanation.  It is such an abrupt appearance in the fossil record that scientists have nicknamed it the “Cambrian Explosion.”  Darwin’s tree doesn’t work; the fossil record is a forest of trees; many fossils suddenly appearing in the same time period and in the same geological strata.  This has led many scientists to be skeptical of Darwinian Evolution.

Niles Eldridge, one of the world’s leading experts in vertebrate fossils says this:  “No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seems to happen….When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else.”

What Eldridge is saying is there’s no evidence of a gradual step by step variation from one organism to another; no macroevolution.  In the fossil record we don’t see gradual change leading to new species; instead we see fully formed organisms; many of which come and then go out of existence; they lead to dead ends.  The fossil record is a forest, not a tree.  Without transitional fossils, Darwinian Evolution is proven false.

The Bible teaches God created individually a variety of living creatures. (Genesis 1:21-25)

Genesis 1:21, “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.”

The reason the fossils appear in the geological strata suddenly and without explanation is because God created all life.  Organisms can only reproduce after their own kind.  A fish cannot reproduce a lizard, a dinosaur cannot eventually become a bird after millions of years.  The Bible confirms the law of biogenesis, like begets like.

Genesis 1:24-25 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

What the Bible teaches is exactly what we see in the fossil record; living creatures reproducing after their kind.  God is the creator and He is the reason we see fossils appearing out of nowhere, suddenly without an explanation; a forest instead of a tree.  This puzzles scientists but not theologians, not Christians.  This is exactly what we should expect according to the Bible.  God created individual living creatures according to their kind; fully formed organisms.  The fossil record confirms the Bible is right and true.

In summary, we see is that scientists have no idea how life comes from non-life, how early life is so complex, and why there aren’t millions and billions of transitional forms.  DARWINIAN EVOLUTION IS NOT A FACT!  Instead it is a theory with major flaws or an implausible modern day creation story.

Go to part 13 here

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }

Question:Isn’t eternal damnation for temporal sins overkill?  Why should God punish forever those who have only sinned for a short time?

Answer: One view that tries to deal with this question of eternal punishment is universalism.  In this view when people die everyone goes to heaven.  Therefore, there isn’t any eternal punishment.  Since this view goes against the clear teachings of the Bible I consider it false.  I will not spend time refuting it.

A second view some theologians have proposed is called annihilationism.  Until recently only heretical groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses held this interpretation.  According to this view when the unbeliever dies he or she goes out of existence.  The believer goes to heaven and the unbeliever is annihilated.  Arguments in favor say 1) the Greek word for destruction of the wicked implies they are no longer in existence, 2) eternal damnation provides an inconsistency between the love of God and eternal conscious punishment, and 3) there is a discrepancy between sins committed in time and eternal punishment.

The first argument against annihilationism is all the Bible verses that speak about eternal punishment.  By reflecting on these scriptures this view is untenable.  I will examine a few of these verses.  Following the judgment of unbelievers and believers we read in Matthew 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  In Mark 9:47-48 Jesus tells His disciples,If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.”  Hell here is described as a place where the worm lives on and the fire does not go out.  John the Baptist told the Jewish religion leaders that the wicked will be “burned with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).  Fire produces pain described as “weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Matt. 8:12;

English: Print by Gustave Doré illustrating th...

[By Gustave Doré parable of the rich man and Lazarus  (Wikipedia)]

13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  Eternal punishment is depicted as a “coming misery,” “easting flesh with fire,” and the “day of slaughter”(James 5:1-5).  This suffering is constant because it is said that those in hell “will have no rest day or night” (Rev. 14:11) and “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10).  And finally, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 gives us a glimpse of heaven and hell.  The rich man was conscious as he suffered in hell.  Pastor John MacArthur writes, “Though human sensitivities may balk at the doctrine of eternal punishment, it is both the explicit teaching of the Bible and demanded by God’s justice and holiness.”[1]

Many passages speak about ‘destruction’ as the punishment for unbelievers after death.  For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”  Additional passages include Matt. 7:13, Rom. 9:22, 2 Peter 3:7, and Rev. 17:8.  The Greek word for destruction doesn’t have to mean gone from existence.  The same word has multiple meanings in the New Testament.  It can mean the harmful and destructive effects of final judgment on unbelievers; also personal ruin.  When combined with the many clear verses on eternal punishment the best definition seems to be personal ruin or the destructive effects of judgment.

What is inconsistent between love and punishment?  Doesn’t a loving father discipline his children?  Does God have the right to punish moral criminals?  If punishment is justified, then what difference is there for the length of time God can punish?  If God has the right to punish for some length of time, the span of time is a non-issue.[2]  It is the prerogative of the one whose laws have been broken.  To claim the length of punishment is disproportionate to the crime is assume we can know the extent of the evil done against God.  Who are we to judge God?  Who are we to make suggestions to God what is and isn’t appropriate punishment for the sins of the world?  Plus sins against an infinite being should have an infinite punishment.  If not then once they pay for their sins, they should be allowed to enter heaven.  Similar to human justice, we let criminals go free once they have paid their debt.

The amount of time it takes to commit the crime doesn’t factor into our justice system.  To murder someone takes seconds and yet, in our courts the person either gets the death penalty or life in prison.  Time perpetrating the wrongdoing isn’t the issue; the penalty is assessed based on the severity of the crime.  Who are we to judge the severity of our crimes against the eternal creator of the universe?

CS Lewis once said the doors of hell are locked from the inside.  People receive the desires of the hearts.  Since God has created creatures who consciously will live forever, then the penalty of rejecting God is separation forever.  Why would God force into heaven someone who would rather worship self rather than worship the creator?

Finally, where is the justice if all unbelievers get the same annihilation?  Hitler and Stalin get the same punishment as an unbeliever who has lived a good moral life.  Under this system if you are not going to follow Jesus you can be as evil as you desire; there is no ultimate justice in the universe.  This viewpoint is clearly wrong.  God is not only a loving God but He is just.  Eternal punishment preserves the eternal justice and holiness of God.  Praise God there is justice in the universe and a person like Hitler will get what he deserves!

Go to part 8 here

 


[1] John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Revelation 12-22.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic theology, Intervarsity Press 1994 pp. 1150-1151

Enhanced by Zemanta
{ 0 comments }
About Us | Statement of Faith | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Site Map
Never Miss an UPDATE Simply Enter Your Best Email 
x