Dec 022012
 

I don’t usually blog about the sermon that was preached at my church, but where God has my heart lately and the sermon preached by my pastor intersected, so I am going to blog it. My church has been going through the first three chapters of Revelation, through the seven churches, and I was especially looking forward to the seventh church, that of Laodicea. It addresses something I struggle with in my heart for those I love, for my culture. 

I have struggled with the salvation of those around me, so much so that I had studied decisional salvation and lordship salvation which is what sparked my previous blog post on that subject. While that answered a lot of questions that I had about the salvation of those closest to me, it also showed me how much our culture impacts our view of Christianity.

Laodicea is said to have been an affluent, wealthy society. It is said that the people were highly educated and influential. The homes that have been found in excavation have been huge for that time period (several thousand square feet) and had indoor plumbing. The city was highly developed and commerce driven. Sound like anywhere you know? It sounds similar to America to me. While most places surrounding them had houses of several hundred square feet, theirs were several thousand. While people in the areas around them were in need, they were rich. They were proud.

 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22

I grew up believing I was a Christian. It was like it was part of the culture, most people considered themselves a Christian whether they attended a church or not. I have loved ones who do not attend a church, do not read the Bible, pray to make requests of God, and believe themselves to be a Christian. They believe they are going to heaven. I use the phrase that ‘they believe’ not in a way of insinuating that they are not, I have no way to know as I cannot know hearts as Jesus does. I am also not saying that being a Christian is about what you do, you cannot earn salvation through attending church, reading the Bible, or praying. It is about your heart, your heart being broken over your sin and turning to Jesus. Realizing that you can never be good enough and that it is by grace alone that He created a way for us to be a child of God through His sacrifice on the cross. What I do know is that I was the same way. I grew up believing that I was a Christian, it was as matter of fact, like that I am American. I see this same matter-of-factness in my loved ones association with Christianity. Now that I am a Christian I see that I was not before several years ago. Even though I believed in Jesus’ existence and prayed to ask things of Him, there was no relationship. The Bible says that even demons believe in Jesus, so what sets a Christian apart if even demons believe? Worship. When I first became a Christian I struggled with what was suddenly different. I had always considered myself a Christian, so why was this so new? I felt God whisper the answer to my heart when I read James 2:19, the difference was worship. The demons do not worship Christ, just as I had not been, but they know that He is real and therefore intellectually believe in Him. The other part of matter-of-factness “Christianity” is being lukewarm. When we intellectually assent to Christ’s existence and sacrifice but are not worshiping, then we are not cold (as in against Christianity or not believing in Christ) and we are not hot (on fire for Christ and seeking relationship with Him), we are lukewarm. The example was used today of coffee, people either like hot coffee or iced coffee, not lukewarm coffee. As a society overall we are rich, we can provide for ourselves and therefore pridefully do not recognize our need for Christ. Even if we spent our entire lives living in a beautiful house, having nice clothes and possessions, always having enough food, and being generous here and there with our wealth, we are still wretched, poor, blind, and pitiable to Jesus. We are wretched outside of Him. We are spiritually poor and blind. We are pitiable because He has so much more for us and yet we do not humble ourselves before Him in order that we may share in it. Lukewarmness, being on the fence, not worshiping, cultural Christianity is so repulsive to Jesus that He says He will spit us out of His mouth. And yet He still follows that with saying that He is still knocking on the door and anyone who hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and have a relationship with. 

There are areas in my walk with Jesus where I am lukewarm, where I need Him to light a flame, and I believe there always will be until I am in heaven therefore I repent and ask Jesus to grow me. I believe one area of lukewarmness is American cultural Christianity. It is almost like the subject was too close to home to want to delve into, or maybe because it seems there are so many resources at our disposal in America, nonetheless a person void of a relationship with Jesus is heartbreaking  whether they are living in a mansion or in a hut in a third world country. But, my lukewarmness is not about my relationship with Him, I am not on the fence about whether or not I want Him or need Him in my life. I love Him and desperately want Him in my life. I recognize my need for Him. I pray for that same zealousness for Jesus in my loved ones. I want them to experience Him, to experience His love and His healing.

Jun 052012
 

Does true repentance lead to Lordship salvation, or making Jesus lord of your life? In other words, is it possible to come to a place of true repentance of your sins and a saving faith in Jesus without making Him Lord of your life? For clarification I do not mean simply acknowledging that He is the sovereign Lord but also a surrendering of your life to Him.
Or, is an “easy-believism”, intellectual belief and a repentance enough to be considered a saving faith?

Looking at only my journey through life it seems to be a head versus heart issue. I attended Sunday school for a few years as a child and so believed in a distant, intellectual way that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins and was raised from the dead three days later according to scripture. It was head knowledge. I always assumed that I had a saving faith because I believed in Him. But is that enough? I have to say that a few years ago when something in my faith changed, I believed that all of those years I was not a Christian or therefore have a saving faith. At first I couldn’t pinpoint what was different. I still believed the same things. What had changed? Using a Bible study I was doing at the time, God showed me through a verse.

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!” James 2:19

I realized, through the Spirit, that I had believed and that’s where it ended. “Even the demons believe” so at that point in my life I did not have a saving faith. If demons believe, what don’t they do? In the moment when this verse spoke to me, the first thing that came to mind was worship. They don’t worship Him. And at that point I realized it was a heart issue. I had grown up with head knowledge of Him, I did not have heart knowledge. Which brings me back to the question, is it possible to have true repentance without making Him Lord of your life? Or first, can you have true repentance without some sort of heart knowledge? Meaning, is it really possible to be truly repentant without being broken and heart sick over your sins? And is it possible to be broken and heart sick over your sins without a true, worshiping realization of who He is and subsequently who you are in relation to Him?

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

So wouldn’t it suffice to say that in order to come to repentance you have to truly see and accept that you are a sinner? And isn’t the only way to see that as heart knowledge, as opposed to just head knowledge that you have been taught, to have a glimpse of who He is and therefore your identity in relation to Him? I am not talking about your identity in Him as right now I am speaking of before an initial repentance. At the very least an acceptance of His character as the creator, the Sovereign and the Savior of the world, which shows, in the very least, in relation that we are His creation and sinners in need of a savior.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5

By having a strictly intellectual belief or “easy-believism” aren’t we presuming on His kindness? That the knowledge only reaching our head would indicate an impenitent or remorseless heart?

Paul wrote, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

In order to feel a godly grief over your sin would require heart knowledge instead of just head knowledge, as grief is an emotion and requires our heart, as in our emotional center.

Jesus told the parable of the sheep, “So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:3-7

In respect to the subject at hand, something hit me from this passage. Would someone arriving at an intellectual belief of Jesus, or “easy-believism”, which does not penetrate the heart leading to true repentance and eventual Lordship salvation, spur joy and rejoicing in heaven? Could the hosts of heaven look on and be joyful over someone accepting an intellectual belief?

Now I am in no way saying that making Jesus Lord of your life is an instant surrender when coming to Him in true repentance. I know I didn’t. But, that if you are coming to Him out of heart knowledge, or revelation of Him, and truly repenting, that from there progression and growth would lead to seeing Him even clearer, as you seek Him, and therefore a realization that He already is Sovereign over your life but a need to make Him lord of your life by surrendering it to Him and His will. One of my favorite passages when I need reminding that He is in control is Job 38, I won’t include the whole chapter here, but how is it possible to see God, with your heart, as the omnipotent Ruler and also the Savior of the world, as read in Matthew chapters 27 and 28 and not make Him lord over your life? So, if saving faith requires true repentance, and true repentance requires a heart knowledge of Him, does saving faith and true repentance lead to surrendering lordship over your life?

 

Do over. Since my last blog post I have been continuing to research the debate between lordship salvation and decisional salvation, or “easy-believism”. I believe through my further research that I was on the right path but somehow ended up just left of it and missed the mark. The problem was, in viewing in black and white, I agreed that one was not enough and therefore the opposite option must be correct. I never took into consideration that both options missed the mark. I was so against that decisional salvation was enough that I added works to His grace without realizing it.

“The good news is that Christ has done something about sin and that He lives today to offer His forgiveness to me. The direction is from Christ to me. It is never from me to Him. I do not offer Him anything. How could I? What could I possibly offer that would help meet my need? To offer the years of my life is to offer something very imperfect and something which can do nothing to forgive my sin. To vow my willingness to change is to affirm something I will not consistently keep; and even if I could, it would not remove the guilt of my sin. Of course, when I receive eternal life from His hand, I bow before an infinitely superior Person. But I bow as one totally unable to do anything about my sin. I bow as a recipient of His grace and never as one who donates anything to Him. In salvation I am always the recipient, the donee, never the donor. If I try to donate anything with respect to becoming a Christian, then I have added a work, and salvation is no longer solely and purely of grace. Keep the direction straight, and keep His grace unmixed with any work.”~Charles C Ryrie

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

I still believe it is a head versus heart issue. Decisional salvation, or accepting a head knowledge of Christ is far from believing in Him with both your heart and your mind. Heart knowledge is infinitely different than head knowledge.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Romans 10:9-10

Charles C. Ryrie posed a series of questions in response to lordship salvation that included the following:
“1. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without acknowledging Him as the Lord God?
2. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without acknowledging Him as Lord/Master of my life?
3. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without being willing to place my life under His control?
4. Can a dedicated Christian take back part or all of his commitment?
5. If so, does he (or she) lose his salvation?”

Just in answering these questions in respect to my acceptance of Christ, I know that I did not acknowledge Him as lord or master of my life at the time of accepting Him as my Savior. And I was definitely not willing to relinquish control of my life to Him, that was actually a struggle that came a few years after my acceptance. And of course because I am a sinner I take back, in some form, my commitment to His will being supreme and obeying Him as lord of my life. Since the Bible teaches we are sealed at the time of our acceptance then I believe the Bible teaches we cannot lose our salvation.

“What makes the difference between those who believe and are not saved and those who believe and are saved? Apparently those who believe and are not saved know the facts of the Gospel and may even give assent to it’s truthfulness, but they are unwilling to trust the Savior for their personal salvation. Knowledge and assent without being willing to trust cannot in themselves save.” ~Charles C Ryrie

So in reference to my accepting lordship salvation, I believe it is because what I was saying was that there would be proof, or fruit, of someone genuinely accepting Christ. Where I missed the mark in this is that lordship salvation requires this proof, or fruit, before salvation, when really after our genuine acceptance we are given the Holy Spirit, which is truly what leads to fruit. We cannot produce fruit apart from God, therefore the fruit would be after the genuine acceptance of Christ versus being a prerequisite.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

“Today the Lord Jesus, the God-man, offers His feast of salvation freely, and He can do so because He is God who became man. The same Lord Jesus through many New Testament writers asks those who have believed to submit to His mastery over their lives. Some do to a great extent. No one does it fully and always. Some do to a lesser extent. But He was, is, and always will be Lord whether He is acknowledged as the God-man Savior or whether He is acknowledged as Master of the believer’s life. He is Lord.” ~Charles C Ryrie

All of this brings me back to the original start of this question and research, which was differentiating saved from unsaved. Granted, I have accepted that only God can truly know and it is not for us to judge, but to instead be a testimony for Him when He places someone before us and prompts. But, why is it possible for unsaved to believe they are saved, whether that is through decisional salvation or following religious legalism? Meaning, why isn’t there a noticeable difference between those who truly have salvation in Christ and belong to Him and those who do not? Why does the Spirit-led church not stand out more in contrast to a church of religious works and legalism, one that does not point to Christ as the way? Has Christ’s church become so internalized that it hinders the unsaved from recognizing the difference and causing a delusional belief they are saved?

Jun 052012
 

I have encountered many times in the last several years the attitude of “Life is short…why be good”. Generally speaking when this is directed at me it is because the person is aware of my faith. One of the reasons I have such a hard time with this is that I know there is nothing I can say to allow them to feel what I feel or convey the awe of experiencing God’s presence. That can only come by their seeking Him in an effort to personally experience Him and a relationship with Him.

One of the obstacles of this debate is the way nonbelievers view Christians and the way they live their lives. The preconception that they just follow rules and keep up the appearance of being good. I will be the first to admit that this view is true in some cases, as when I was a child I remember being dropped off at church every Sunday because it was the right thing to do, and beyond that there was no mention of Christ in my childhood. So I definitely understand the view that Christians go to church on Sunday mornings to appear good. It does happen. But on the flip side, are you then prejudging all Christians? Are you subconsciously saying that it is not possible to have a personal relationship with Christ because you have seen others just go through the motions? I know I did.

As soon as I was old enough to recognize the charade I wanted out and managed it. After all, if it was just a matter of believing then I could do that without keeping up appearances and playing the game. It was my incorrect, sinful response to an unfortunate situation. I have the advantage now of seeing both sides of the argument and understanding why others, who have not experienced Christ, deny it’s possible. I did.

After exiting the game of charades with distaste, I lived most of my life how I wanted. After all life is short, right? I believed I was a “good” person. A moral person.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine…When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”

That’s exactly where I was. Nothing that I thought would make me happy actually did. And I know what my response used to be, in my head, when someone would talk about God speaking to them or showing them something. It was never of belief. I get it.

But if doing things my way wasn’t making me happy then doesn’t that shoot down the theory of “Life is short, too short to be good.” So wouldn’t it also suffice to say “Life is too short to be unhappy”? When you are alone, just sitting and thinking, are you happy? Content? At peace? If not, how is that lifestyle working for you?

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

I honestly never knew those emotions before truly allowing Christ in my life. And really they fall short, as it is not just happiness but joy, not just content but fulfilled and peace that surpasses all understanding.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Life is too short to not feel this way. I wouldn’t be able to walk away from this, nor would I want to. I have also since learned that my sense of church was completely wrong, as there are vital and thriving churches out there that truly worship Him and teach and equip the body of believers. Christianity isn’t a legalist form of earning heaven by following rules- it is a personal relationship with Christ which involves trusting Him and welcoming Him to transform you. You see, the Christians that you may be prejudging as just keeping up appearances and “being good” may actually be Christians that have been completely transformed and are doing things that are considered as “good” because it makes them happy. That they have experienced God-given joy from doing His work and want to just keep doing it. I assure you He knows what will make you happy better than you do. I dare you to hand over control to Him and accept the joy He will give you in return.

A Season of Affliction

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Jun 052012
 

In looking back on my seemingly short spiritual journey to this point, I realize that most of “my” seasons of suffering have involved watching everyone around me, family and friends that I love, suffer while I could do nothing but pray. The worst of these times was right after committing my life to Christ and, probably due to my inexperience, I did not even recognize what was happening until it was almost over. Yet this time it is like standing on a trail in the darkest part of the woods, with the trail leading back to where I was, to my place of comfort and security, blocked with no chance of reentry. I am presently squinting my eyes to see God’s path for me lit up. However, I have this suspicion that I am supposed to be suffering during this time and so therefore I will not see a path until I have endured this according to His perfect timing.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:6-7

Reflecting on my time before consigning my life to Christ, I recognize difficult times that altered who I am today and forced me to grow as a person, so I should know by now that this time will produce growth as well. But in my sinful flesh I am impatiently awaiting the happy ending because, in my selfishness, it involves my being uncomfortable for a period.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, andhope does not put us to shame, because God’s lovehas been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Charles Spurgeon said, “Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.”

Out of my appreciation I should be joyfully taking up my cross to bear, because my inconveniences in life, whatever quantity piled on simultaneously or however big they may seem at the time, are minuscule in comparison to Jesus taking on the past, present and future sin of the entire world. All while being mocked and tortured as He paid our debts. Something I, in my limited capacity, cannot even comprehend.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” Isaiah 45:9

So who am I to beg to be rescued and be made comfortable again? He is the potter and I am merely the clay. I should be begging to be formed. After all, doesn’t it show His love for us? I am not a potter but I cannot imagine spending lengths of time making and molding something to my liking and not loving it. And yet the analogy of a potter and his clay only goes so far. For although we are molded like clay, we are loved like sons and daughters. A love that defines what love is, a love that is so pure and undefiled we cannot accomplish loving the same way.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may beperfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

So while I am in this place of blindness I will keep my eyes and heart on Jesus and try to be joyfully patient..