Sunday, September 21, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part III B - Predestined

For some the previous argument isn't convincing. "Yes," they say, "I can do nothing to save myself, and true, God is faithful and doesn't change His mind, but it's not like he predestined us to eternal life or anything."

My friend you have not taken the idea of the timeless immutability of God seriously enough. When He purposed to call you out of darkness and into His marvelous light you were not yet born. An for a true Christian to be lost God would have to have been flat wrong when He predestined you. Because predestined you He did, and if that means anything it means once you're saved, you're saved.


The Argument

God has made an immutable decree to save us before the foundation of the world, predestining us to eternal life.
All those whom God predestines will be saved.
Once the predestined reach the moment of faith, they can never lose it.

Acts 13:48

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."
When I didn't believe in Once Saved Always Saved I had an answer for almost every verse but this one. It defied me, requiring me to do incredible gymnastics to avoid coming to terms with it. According to my theology men believed, then as a result God appointed them to eternal life. 
But no matter how I protested I found my belief structure to be exactly backwards from what the Scriptures say here. It is clear: God appoints men to believe, therefore they believe. It is because in eternity past God predestined you personally to be conformed to the image of His son by faith that you at some point in time became a believer. Full stop. Therefore your salvation was planned a long time ago by a loving God, outside your ability to meddle and ruin. If you are a believer, it's because of God's sovereign plan.

Revelation 13:8

"And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain."
In Revelation 13 the first beast comes out of the sea to conquer the world, and enslave those who reject Him in unrighteousness, wooing everyone to bow down to him in idolatry. Everyone that is, except the elect--those whom God chose personally, before the universe was created, to inherit eternal life. It's these who are secure in their salvation, overcoming every trap Satan laid down against them, because before time began God wrote the names of those who would live in His book.

2 Timothy 1:9

"[God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began."
I used to think God foresaw a Christians faith, then turned around and predestined them on that basis. I repent of this too. The problem with that is that's the opposite of predestination. Faith doesn't generate predestination, it exposes it, and this passage is proof.
The verse opens with the an affirmation of the effectual call, and goes on to deny the reason for it lies in us. Why did He call? Because of our good works? Because of foreseen faith? Because of our future good works? No. Because He has a purpose and a plan. Because He's gracious and loving. How do we know this? Because He predestined all of this before the ages began.


Romans 8:29-30 

"Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
Foreknow here means something akin to 'foreloved.' He saw what He wanted us to be, and predestined us to be molded after the shape and fashion of Christ Jesus accordingly. That is to say, He didn't predestine us for salvation because of what we would go on to do, but so that Christ could have all the glory. God was determined to bring Christ glory and nothing was going to stop Him.
And once you have this doctrine pointed that way, (that is, the right way up) you can understand verse 30. All of those whom He predestined He called with that effectual, life giving call. And all who were called in this way He justified, declaring them to be absolved of their sins and blameless. And all those whom He pronounced blamelessness on He brought safely into heaven.
If these two verses don't mean exactly that then they mean nothing at all and ought to be cut from the text. They either teach that your salvation is secure in Christ or God's book ought to be thrown out.

Ephesians 1:4-5, 11

"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will...  in Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."
Before I believed in Once Saved Always Saved I argued that the object of predestination in passages like this means "the church." God predestined the idea of Christianity, but didn't predestine individual, specific people. Today I shake my head in sorrow that I could be so committed to the idea that God could call out an assembly of people without calling out the people themselves. That you could have an individual church without being made up of individuals within in the church. Further, if predestination meant that God was calling the church in general, but nobody in specific, then this passages, and passages like it lose all their potency.
I'll refrain from defending it by explaining or expounding it. Just read it. Read it again. Read it four times. Read it until you see the glittering riches contained here for you Christian. You are blameless, adopted, predestined. You have an inheritance, and He's working out everything according to His perfect will. You cannot be harmed, or stopped, or shunted aside. Your future is the love of God, written in indestructible ink into the lambs book of life before the foundation of the world. Hallelujah, what a savior.

The Immutability of the Decree of Election

The elect of God are predestined by Him. The elect are chosen by Him for conformity to the image of His Son. The elect are called and kept by God. Once the elect are saved, at the moment they have true faith, they pass forever out of wrath and condemnation and into eternal life.
Once Saved Always Saved is true because, well, predestination.



Next: Part IV - The Efficacy of the Merit and Intercession of Jesus Christ

Friday, September 19, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved Part III A - Called


Last time we looked at Total Depravity and realized that if it's true eternal life and man are natural enemies, then salvation must belong totally to the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and it's entirely his His business to save. Thus we backed into Once Saved Always Saved.

Now we'll build on the consequences of man's fallenness and point out the necessity of being born again--a doctrine also known, as regeneration, or the effectual call. This provides a similar, but even stronger argument for Once Saved Always Saved because while Total Depravity argues that since man cannot even put his hand to the plow salvation must be external to him, the effectual call adds that if have tasted of salvation it means God has begun a work in us He will certainly finish. Total Depravity argues, 
"No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit."
But the Effectual Call says, 
"Lazarus, come forth!"
Since this is a big topic I'll discuss the immutability and God's faithfulness of the call in this post, then prove the immutability by it's timelessness in the next.

Defined

Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ as offered to us in the gospel. He gives us new hearts (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26-27) teaching us, (John 6:44-45) enabling us, (Phil 2:13) and making us alive (Eph 2:5). In other words the effectual call is when God makes us both willing and able to overcome our Total Depravity and put our faith in Jesus. This is elsewhere spoken of as God granting repentance (2 Tim 2:25, Acts 11:18, 16:14).

From This, Once Saved Always Saved Argued 

The effectual call is the necessary first step in salvation that only God can do. Quite obviously, if God intends to save someone He will need to call them, and if He calls them, then He intends to save them.
We also know that God does not change His mind (Num 23:19, 1 Sam 15:29, Is 46:10-11, James 1:17).
Therefore all of those He effectually calls go on to eternal life. Once they are saved, they are always saved. 


Romans 11:29 

"The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."
Not much needs to be said about this verse. Our faith is generated because of our new heart, and so as long as we have that new heart we have new life. Fortunately for us the effect of the effectual call is permanent, and will not be taken back. The gift of a new heart is not going to be recalled, and those who receive a mind that leads them to faith will not have that mind removed. Therefore our faith will not fail and our hope is secure.

Philippians 1:6 

"I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
This also needs little explanation. If God has begun the work of eternal life in us then He will be sure to carry it on until the day of completion. There is actually no other way to understand this verse other than to declare that the God who began a good work will continue working until we are safely with Him.

1 Peter 5:10 

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
The effectual call always results in faith; that's why it's named the effectual call. But what about faith itself which is the result of the call, can that be broken, or lost, or tampered with? Let's jump to the worst case: suffering and persecution. If anything can do it, that can. But can suffering destroy out faith? Peter says "No!" If God has already called you to His eternal glory in Christ then why would He not see you through to the end? Even in your worst difficulties He will not fail to strengthen and establish you, for why would He quit part way through? No matter how difficult things get, even in the worst circumstances, take comfort that your salvation is securely beyond you.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."
God's purpose for the saints in Thessalonia is that they be holy, blameless, and pure from sin until the coming of the Lord. Given this, and the fact that it is God who must sanctify them from sin completely for them to be saved, it's fair to ask, will He? Given our sinfulness that's a tall order. But look at the confidence Paul has knowing that God is faithful, and if He calls someone to eternal life, He will surely do whatever else is required to save. Paul is absolutely certain that God is faithful and will surely save them, body, soul and spirit.


Next: The immutability of Election Part B   



Monday, September 15, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved - Part II

The first type of Scriptures which argue for eternal security are those which teach the doctrine of total depravity, because the logical consequence of not being able to gain salvation by 'free will,' means it cannot be held by it either. If we have not the strength to stand up then we lack the strength to walk. As the Apostle Paul says,
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 
Indeed not. So in this post we'll introduce total depravity, and from there back into the argument for Once Saved Always Saved.

 

Terminology 


Total Depravity is admittedly a confusing title. It doesn't mean man's fallenness is total in the sense that he can't possibly get any worse, or that people can't be decent folks to one another. The total instead refers to the fact that man's fallenness is everywhere and in all places: his heart, intellect, emotions, volition, desires, reasoning, all that he is has been corrupted and ruined by sin. The result is that the natural man is no longer able to submit to God. He cannot, because he absolutely will not, bow the knee.

 

John 6:44

"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." 
John says that nobody, not a single person, is capable of even coming to faith or Christ on their own. Of course we know people do come, so what is the solution to the puzzle? John says the Father first draws them. And a let's take a moment to mention that word draw (Greek helkĊ) is a forceful word rendered elsewhere as compelled or dragged. Here it's drawn because God is pulling us upward, like a bucket out of a well, inexorably, powerfully, overcoming our objections and breaking away the tendrils of our old nature. (incidentally this is the doctrine of regeneration, but we don't need to get into that yet.)
The result of those two truths is the third part of this verse: Jesus raises as such drawn on the last day to eternal life. Not might raise, or could raise, but will raise. All the fallen are doomed, but all those born again may be fully confident in His guarantee to save them.


Romans 8:7

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot."
Paul says that the fleshly mind, the mind consumed with this world and life, is hostile to God. It despises God, His nature, His ways, His plans. Look no further than todays evangelical atheists who believe there is good news and great freedom by being stupidly vicious and needlessly cruel to all those who love the Lord. The natural man does not submit to God's laws, he will not acknowledge that he's a created being in need of a savior. He flaunts the ten commandments, rejects the law when it tells him he is a sinner, he believes himself above it. He does not submit.
Because he cannot. Salvation is so far out of reach for the natural man that it's impossible for him to be saved apart from the work of God.


1 Corinthians 2:14 

The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
The natural, fleshly, every day, normal man does not accept the things of God. He will not believe, he flat refuses to, because they are folly to him. "Your savior who is supposedly all powerful came down, was beaten and killed, and you expect me to sign up to receive similar treatment? That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard." Christianity is folly. What is the man lacking? Understanding. he cannot get his mind around the weakness and foolishness of the cross because such things are spiritually discerned and he is spiritually dead, and the dead do absolutely nothing.

 

2 Corinthians 4:4 

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul again reminds the Corinthians of another truth while he's at it: Satan has control of the minds of unbelievers and is using it to keep men from seeking after God. It's not enough that their own hearts are fallen, broken, misguided, prefer evil, refuse to submit, it's also true that Satan is actively working to feed them their desires and so see them perish. He has blinded their minds. As a result they are incapable of seeing the truth of the gospel and turning in faith to Him to be saved. No ability, no salvation.

Not Upon Their Own Free Will


More could be said about Total Depravity. We could add Is 64:6, Jer 17:9, Ps 51:5, Eph 2:1-5, Jn 3:19, Rom 3:10-11, Jer 13:23. Or more verses. Or we could go to Romans 5 and discuss original sin, but we won't, these four verses are enough to conclusively prove that the Bible states that man is by nature lost, incapable of getting back on his own, and can only be saved when God saves Him.
 

This corrodes the pelagian notion that we can either save ourselves, or prepare ourselves for salvation, neither of which is true. If you doubt that, go back and read John 6:44 again.We are therefore removed from the equation of salvation altogether.
It is a matter entirely in God's hands.
But as good as this is, the next argument is even better.



Next: Part III - The Immutability of the Decree of Election


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved - Preliminary Remarks

There are many good short articles and long books addressing the doctrine of eternal security, but none that I've found that work exhaustively through the Scriptures as it touches other doctrines. It's time to remedy that.
Let's begin with a more complete definition of what I'll be seeking to prove:

"They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
The perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves."
I know, I know. You Calvinists are thinking, "What are you doing, perseverance of the saints is the appropriate title!" To which I say: I don't like the TULIP acronym, and anyway this series is for skeptics, or the fence sitters, and those people are going to argue with me no matter what I call it. You might think that by calling it perseverance of the saints you can head off a potential objection, but I have not found that to be the case. So I'm calling it "once saved always saved" because it's both true and I think better highlights the eternality of the moment of faith. In this series I'll be channeling Matthew Henry by pointing out that the verses mean exactly what they say, and John Owen by working so extensively that by the time we reach the end the reader will feel as though the matter was settled. 

One more thing: there are a number of good and logical arguments we could make to prove the doctrine, but I'll skip on those. Instead, in this series, we'll be looking at only what the Scripture has to say about the topic, and making our judgments based on that alone.
So enough talk, let's get to the good stuff.


Next: Part II - Not Upon Their Own Free Will

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved

In these series of articles I consider the Biblical basis for the doctrine of once saved always saved.

Part I - Preliminary Remarks

Part II - Not Upon Their Own Free Will

Part III - The Immutability of the Decree of Election
               Part A - The faithfulness of God

               Part B - The timelessness of God

Part IV - The Efficacy of the Merit and Intercession of Jesus Christ

Part V -  The Abiding of the Spirit

Part VI - Justification and the Covenant of Grace
               Part A - Salvation in the Old Testament
               Part B - Salvation in the New Testament

Part VII - Our Confidence in Christ

Part VIII - Explaining the Warning Passages
                  Part A - An Introduction
                  Part B - Not What you Thought
                  Part C - The Faithful Persevere


Part IX - Final Words

Once Saved Always Saved Part V

In the previous posts I made the case that a low view of the effectiveness of the work of Christ leads to a refusal to believe in Once Saved Always Saved. Believing our ability to sin is stronger than His ability to save is for a lack of a better word, insulting. Christ is a savior.
Now we'll consider the necessity of Once Saved Always Saved given that the Holy Spirit lives inside believers.
I suppose it could be argued like this: if Holy Spirit lives in the heart of believers, then a believer going to hell would take the Holy Spirit with them, and since that's absurd, it must be the case that anyone the Holy Spirit lives in goes to heaven.
But that's not where this post will go. Instead I'll just point out that the Scriptures make a plain assertion that since the Spirit lives in believers so that they will be saved, Once Saved Always Saved must be true.


The Argument, Formally Stated

The Scriptures say that because of the Spirit, believers will be with God forever. 
Therefore, believers will be with God forever.

Ephesians 1:13-14

"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of his glory."
This is without a doubt the most famous and powerful verse to the point. When someone hears the word of truth and believes in Christ they receive not just adoption, nor even justification, but the Holy Spirit Himself as a seal of their salvation. And that's significant because when the ancients would write a letter they would seal it to ensure its security and authenticity, and for us the Spirit is that seal, stamped and melted over our very lives, to ensure nothing separates us from God again.
But if that weren't enough, this verse goes on to say that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. He's the down payment. He's the earnest money which proves God is interested, willing, able, and certain to stay the course in our lives. Until we acquire a glorified body we can rest secure knowing that we have a guarantee of salvation from God Himself--God Himself!


2 Corinthians 1:22

"And [it is God] who has also put His seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."
In Acts 19 Paul discovers that the Ephesians had not yet heard of the Holy Spirit. Because of the work of Apollos, they were all still being baptized into John's baptism, not knowing the rest of redemptive history to that point. So when Paul writes his letter to them it's not surprising he's quick to point out just what the Spirit has done for them, namely being a guarantee of their inheritance. But when Paul writes the second letter to the Corinthians he begins by saying he intended to visit but was unable, then follows it up with a reminder that they can always trust God, because the Spirit is there forever. It seems to just rise up and burst out of him, demanding he proclaim the Spirit to be ours, our guarantee of our inheritance. Because that's what the Spirits indwelling is about--He's the promise, the seal, the surety. God knew we would be tempted to doubt Him, or His workers, so just for good measure He wrote it down twice telling us that because we have the Spirit we have eternal life.

Romans 5:5

"Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
In context Paul has been arguing that in light of justification our sufferings are good because they grow in us hope, and hope doesn't disappoint. It's at this point that the argumentative cynic would pipe up, "Why not?" and the apostolic rejoinder comes to the rescue: because we have the Holy Spirit. Because He lives inside of us. Because He's been given to us. And that means we will never again be put to shame.  Our hope in eternal life will certainly pay off. Therefore we may take comfort in both our hope and our God, because we have His Spirit.

1 John 4:4 

"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
The Apostle John loves this form of address--little children. It reminds both him and them that they are adopted to Gods family, heirs of His glory and co-heirs with Christ. But John does not dwell on this, it was just his introduction, because his real point is that Christians have already overcome sin. Notice that it's in past tense. Believers are overcomers, sin can no longer touch them. Our enemy the devil simply doesn't have the strength to regroup and capture us again. Why not? Because as John says, "He who is in you is greater." Greater than anything in the world, greater than the sinful world itself. Our God is greater and He is imminent. That means that we are securely in Him because He is in us.

The Abiding of the Spirit

What more needs to be said? What other verses should be added? The Spirit lives inside us. How shall we be lost? His very presence is proof that we are eternally secure. 

Next: Part VI - Justification and the Covenant of Grace


Once Saved Always Saved Part IV

By this point we've pretty conclusively established that God has an elect--a predestined people. This notions is not only crucial to understanding Bible passages like Matt 24:24, but as we've shown provides a strong argument for Once Saved Always Saved.
So with the idea of elect fresh in our mind we are ready ask the following question: why did Jesus come to earth and die? Was it so that everyone could be potentially given a chance to maybe be kinda saved if they wanted it? Given what we've been over about total depravity that's very unlikely. Did He come so that anyone who places their trust in Him might be saved? That's probably getting closer. John reported that Jesus said,

"I lay down my life for the sheep."
Which points to the fact that He came to save His people. Let's answer the above question like this: He came so that those whom God chose before the foundation of the world would certainly be saved. For it is written by the prophet, 
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.
And again,
"With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation."
The point there is that Jesus has no intention of letting His death go to waste by allowing the elect perish if they so desired. His death is efficacious to save. But even if it wasn't, He is even now standing at the right hand of the Father, interceding for the believer so that their faith wouldn't fail.
Consider how effective this was for Peter after he had denied Jesus three times. What was it that brought him back? Jesus praying in the garden, and God granting the prayers of His Son.
His blood is effectual. His prayers are effectual. And He bled, died, and prays for you, believer. To deny eternal security at that point is to deny the strength of Jesus.


The Argument

After dying for the elect, Jesus prays for their salvation.
If the elect are lost in spite of this then Jesus blood and prayers are worthless.
But that would be an absurdity. Therefore, we can be assured of salvation.   

Romans 8:24 

"Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
This verse is exactly the point the preceding paragraphs is making. Who shall condemn the elect given that Jesus has given up the splendor of heaven to be born into poverty just so He could die a painful death on their behalf and pay the penalty of their sins? Is it in anyway conceivable that after paying for their sins He will let them slip into hell because of those sins? No. He rose for them. He's interceding from them. He is not going to rest until they are with Him forever. There is now nothing, and no one, who may bring a charge against the redeemed.

John 17:11-12

"Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled."
The whole of John 17 is the record of the high priestly prayer, two verses of which are excepted here. In this section we are given both a glimpse of the kind of prayers Jesus is offering to the Father for us, and a personal testimony as to its efficacy. Jesus began His earthly ministry with the goal of losing none of those whom the Father had given, and at the end proves He was successful. He kept His elect as far as the garden, confessed His faithfulness to them, then kept them until their deaths. (And keep He did, all eleven died in faith, the apostasy of Judas does not factor in here since it was prophesied of by the Scriptures.) The point is directly applicable to us: if the savior who made a point of telling us how He would save His own prays for us in this fashion (John 17:20) then we have security in knowing we are going to be saved. If we receive the same intercessory death and prayer the Apostles did, doesn't it follow we will end up safely in heaven like them? Indeed it does.

John 10:28-29 

"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
There are three emphatic denials here: no man can pluck the elect from Jesus hand, the elect shall never perish, and the elect cannot be plucked from the hand of the Father. This is as strong a passage for eternal security as they come. "But wait!" cries the protestor, "can't I lose my own salvation? After all, free will." To that these verses answer, "no man, no man, and no man can do it. Are you a man? Then you can't do it."
But there is yet another argument lurking in here, and it comes directly out of the definition of salvation: if you lose your eternal life, then you didn't really have eternal life did you? You had temporary life. If you could be unsaved then you really weren't saved. That's why once you're saved, you're always saved.

1 John 2:1

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
"But I know that I can lose my salvation, I sin. I'm a sinner. What if I sin so much that I'm done for?" John writes his letter instructing you to doubt less and believe more. Yes, sin is decidedly not good, and yes, the Scriptures were given so that we wouldn't sin, this is true. But if we do sin, even after Christ died, we can trust that Jesus is there interceding for us. Just to head off the objection that the Father wouldn't listen to a petition given on behalf of a sinner John adds that this is Jesus the righteous. It doesn't matter what Jesus asks in His name, He's righteous, He's the one God listens to. And He's your advocate, the one who comes alongside to help. Your sin simply isn't strong enough to keep you out of heaven; His intercession is stronger.

The Efficacy of the Merit and Intercession of Jesus Christ

Jesus isn't someone who might save, He's the one who does save. So while it's true to say He can save, it's much more accurate to say He's the one who will effectually save. We don't have a potential savior in Jesus, we have an actual one.
John 10:11 testifies to us that the Lord not only knows
who are His, but works tirelessly to save them. And if it says that, we should believe it.


Next: Part V, The Abiding of the Spirit

 

Friday, September 5, 2014

What's being missed about the Osteens

Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately you know about the Osteens latest crack up. Now it's time for what all three of you have been waiting for--my thoughts. I've read a lot of responses to their idiocy so far, from Cosby, to Horton. My person favorite was Lutheran Satire, and I would commend to you to go now and read what Matt Walsh (said here) and Al Mohler had to say. But of them only Walsh seems to almost grasp what is really going on here when he says,

"...From real, redemptive, hopeful, and triumphant, to shallow, corny, and incomplete. From a promise of eternal salvation, to promises of a bigger house and a nice car, until we die and all of these things turn to ash, leaving us alone with our neglected souls."
And as good as those are, the one who really nailed this was C.S. Lewis. I'll give you the three relevant quotes from Screwtape letters that I had in mind.
"We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbows end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the alter of the future every real gift which offered them in the present... An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. . . . To get a man’s soul and give him nothing in return–that’s what really gladdens Our Father’s heart."
Bingo. That's the real problem here. What Osteen said about giving glory to yourself makes everyone run around like a rock hitting a hornets nest, but the problem lies in what the prosperity gospel is, which too few people are pointing out. I don't mean to say that all the others have not correctly identified the fact that this prosperity gospel isn't glorious, or Christ dishonoring, or evil, because they have. What I do mean to say is that nobody is pointing out how this is a program straight out of the deepest pit of hell that might have been penned by Wormwood himself.

See, the insidious killer is that the Osteen message first teaches you to be dissatisfied with your current blessings. Forget counting them one by one, now's the time to demand more! It encourages you to sell your current happiness with everything to buy the mere potential of being happy with more stuff later. You liquidate everything you already have, including your current joy, to maybe one day sorta if you're lucky get more of that material stuff which might make you happy. Go up and read that Lewis quote again. That's exactly it. And the tempter keeps them from asking themselves, "If I'm unhappy with all my current possessions, why should I be any happier with more of them? Does my life really consist in the abundance of my possessions?"
The Osteens would have you burning all of the present upon the fire of the uncertain future. We give up our cake on the promise of eating a mouthful of ash. And when the time comes to eat our ashes we can't even get that.  

The fall of the churches of Christ

I've got it now, I feel it in my bones. I understand where the churches of christ went wrong.
But first, a story told in parts. 
2 Chronicles 18:1 "Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab."

2 Chron 21:1, 5-6, 19 "Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead... Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab [Athaliah] as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD... And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases."

2 Chron 22:1 - "And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead.

2 Kings 8:26 - Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.

2 Kings 11:1 - And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal seed.
So let's recap shall we? There was a King named Jehoshaphat who was clearly good, but very softheaded, for he gave his son in marriage to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. (I mean, honestly, it's not like he couldn't figure out that Jezebel and Ahab of all people were evil.) That son Jehoram was not good, and he strayed from the Lord. After his death his wife Athaliah killed the rest of the sons of David.

That's the story of the Churches of Christ.
If you go in to those churches today you will still see the Jehoshaphats, the 70 and 80 year olds who are loving, committed, faithful, and almost gone. They're fairly hardline usually, they'll tell you that if you don't go to their church you'll go to hell, but they do care deeply for people, even if their doctrines are off-kilter. These saints are beloved, and when they die they are mourned.
You'll also see the 50 and 60 year old Jehorams. They are more numerous, often cruel, legalistic, and show little of the good humor of their parents. Their doctrines are skewed like their parents, but they don't seem to have the humility to accept it.
You will not see the grandchildren. They are dead now.

The church of Christ has always been wed to the spirit of the age, going all the way back to Campbell and Stone. That wasn't much of a problem when America was full of pioneers and independent families and generally everyone was Christian, but it did become a problem when the culture really moved, some time around the 1970s. That time when the culture moved and the church moved with her it would be fatal. Sadly, the Jehoshaphats, since they had grown up with the idea of being married to the culture didn't think anything of consigning their children to it either. They didn't see the fundamental change this one represented, so they gave their sons in marriage to Athaliah, spirit of the age. They put away their hymns and began singing Gather songs. Out went talking about the attributes of God, in went how God makes me feel and what I promise to do. They had knowledge of the old ways and doctrines, but they failed to pass it down to their own children, whose loyalties switched from their parents to their wives. Christianity isn't like brown eyes where you automatically get it from your parents. If it's not properly translated that's the end.

And that's where it went. That's how it happened. Jehoram grew up cruel and legalistic, in a time of selfishness taking the form of his wife. She, the spirit of the age put an end to his progeny. There would be no more children, those my age. That missing and barren generation is gone and the churches of Christ have reached the end, failing to pass on the gospel to their youth.

Because they wanted to be relevant and cool and in touch with their feelings. The lesson here is timeless.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodbye to FBC