Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Todd Saunders Sings a Blessed Song

You may have seen Todd commenting on my blog from time to time. His blog is here.

He sings and plays piano. He posts his songs. I told him about one of my favorite songs. It is so powerful. He was nice enough to compose some music and sing it and publish it to his blog! Here is the most powerful stanza of the song: (the entire lyric is listed at his blog.)

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev'ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho' stretched from sky to sky.

Those words are so powerful they bring tears to my eyes. I wish I could write something like that. God is holy, just and loving. In our tolerant and politically correct society, we Christians sometimes feel pressed to emphasize His holiness and justice more than His love... to counter balance our culture. However, we must never forget how very loving He is. If we think we love people.. if we have any capacity for mercy and benevolence... how small it must be compared to that of our loving Creator.

For a real blessing, click on the link below and listen to the song at the top entitled "The Love of God."

Todd's Music

Thanks, Todd! :~)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Believe in Jesus for Everlasting Life

(I am working through something and I have decided to let you help me!)

My brothers Antonio and Matthew have been challenging me for a while to define the content of saving faith. I once had an idea of what it was but I have come to view my former approach as an uncertain checklist. I do not want to have a checklist to answer this question of "What is the content of saving faith?"

I think one of the best and most provocative issues that has been brought forth on this issue is the faith of children. How much can a child know about my checklists?

Anyway, I really feel like "Believe in Jesus for Everlasting Life" is a pretty good description of saving faith according to the Scriptures. It defines what is different between myself and my Roman Catholic relatives (they don't really trust Him for their eternal well-being, although they believe a lot of the things that I think are important in my checklist). However, as I have read about this issue, the statement "Believe in Jesus for Everlasting Life" leaves something a little up-in-the-air for me. Here's what: when I see that statement, my mind zeroes in on the "Jesus." I ask: who is this? All Christians would agree that He is more than just a name. So I start to list things about Jesus that come to mind... and then I wind up with a checklist all over again!

This is the mental exercise I have been going through in the last few months.

A couple of months ago, I was drawn to this idea in the first epistle of John:
"Receiving the witness of God which He has testified of His Son."

I have been mulling that over a lot. (Receiving the witness that God has given about his Son.) I tried to apply this idea to many situations, including the faith of children... and the scenario with the man reading the gospel of John and believing in Jesus for eternal life before he reads about the crucifixion and resurrection.

This seems to me to gel with my idea of saving faith. A person who "believes in Jesus" and has saving faith receives that which God has testified about concerning His Son. I don't think there is a person who is exersizing saving faith who does not receive something (on my checklist or not) that God has testified to regarding His Son. He is not going to actively deny the first chapter of the gospel of John if he is receiving the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. A person who is believing in Jesus for eternal life is not going to reject His deity if it has been revealed to Him from the Word of God that this is part of that testimony that God has given about His Son. If the person hasn't heard it yet, then it is not a matter of him rejecting it. But a person who is looking to Christ is not going to reject the testimony God has given about His Son when he hears it.

Now what is the main item that God has testified to regarding His Son? It is found in 1 John 5:11

9If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)
Jesus Christ can guarantee our eternal well-being; He can give us eternal life. This life is in Him, no other. This is the main thing that we must be telling potential converts about. This is not the only thing, but we must, BY NO MEANS, ever, ever leave this out. It is the crwon jewel of God's testimony about His Son.

If a preacher or an evangelist does leave this most important issue out of his presentation, then can a person still be receiving the witness of God which He has testified of His Son? Well, yes, provided that the other things he is being told are true and accurate representations of that witness of God which He has testified of His Son from the Bible. But must he come to the crown jewel of that testimony, which is that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son in order to have that eteranl life? I do believe so.

Q. What must the potential convert know about Jesus Christ the Son in whom he is believing for eternal life?
A. Whatever the Bible says about Him that he can understand and is made aware of. (I am sure this is not detailed and precise enough for some, but it works for me at this point)

There is a testimony God has given about His Son. When people receive this testimony, they have eternal life.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name... (John 1:12)
Now tell me where the holes are in my thinking!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Son of God, Love's Pure Light

It always amazes me when I think of what happened two thousand years ago. God became a man! What an incredible happening! The Son of God: God of very God... became man of very man... and made His appearance here beginning as the smallest and most vulnerable of us: a tiny newborn baby.

He was the most revolutionary person of all time. Love's pure light - this was the most perfect individual... we are talking about the person who holds the entire universe together by His very essence. The Words He spoke were, and still are, sharper than any two edged sword. They are life and light and truth and grace.

He thought of us!
He cared for us.
He made a way for us.
He lit the world!

Praise the Lord.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Examining A Popular Quote Further

If you havene't participated yet, please answer both questions, if you will. If you already have, please add your answer to the comments for question #2. You all are great!
"Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone"

QUESTION #1: Can it be stipulated to that what the quote implies is that there will be works along with the faith?

In other words, this quote does not say what specifically it is that accompanies faith, but I think that the quote implies that there will be works, evidence of a changed life, love of the brethren and all the things that we know the Bible teaches that a Christian will have as he walks in the Spirit. Can we all, those who enjoy the quote, and those who question it, agree that this is what the quote is saying? Do we all see that these things I have listed are the implied accompaniments?

QUESTION #2: Is "being saved" (as in justification) a thing that happens in a moment of time... or is it a process? Do we all agree that when the Bible says we have "passed from death to life" that this was something that has already happened at a "point in time"?

I need to know these things. Thank you for your participation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Attitude of Job in Song

We sang this song at church yesterday. I am not always a fan of some of the songs (especially the super-repetitive choruses) that church's sometimes sing. This song, however, (although it has the flavor of one of those choruses) it is so meaningful to me. It makes me think of Job and his attitude in the midst of trial. I hope when trouble comes I will be able to sing and grow in the outlook that says "Blessed be your name" no matter what my circumstances. I have had small trials in my life that demonstrated to me the moment-by-moment dependence on the Lord. ...but I have never gone through some of the darker trials. I often think of dreadful things that could happen and I fear the sadness. I fear losing a child to death and the great sorrow that would accompany something like that. The Lord has given me much and I have trepidation when I think about Him taking it away. If this doesn't sound so spiritual, well, at least I am honest! Nevertheless, I hope that I will be found faithful when and if those sorrows come my way. God is good all the time and His name is great.

Blessed Be Your Name
by Matt Redman

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name

Friday, November 16, 2007

Examining A Popular Quote

UPDATED - new illustrations at the bottom
"Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone"

I think everyone who is in church nowadays has heard this quote at least once.

I have been trying to analyze it. Something - I am not sure what it is - but something doesn't logically sit right with that statement.

(Disclaimer: I do believe that most every Christian will love other Christians and have good works. Most, upon conversion, exhibit a change of life. I do believe that the world will not know we are Christians unless they can see evidence of this, that being our confession of the same, love for one another and good works. However, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, a convert who has no Bible [or even one who doesn't ever read his Bible] or a convert who has no Christian church to be with or no other Christian to disciple him... Does faith in Christ save him despite his lack of growth and fruit? I say yes... the Bible says we are saved by faith alone in Christ, His having COMPLETED the work. So in that case, his faith may very well be alone, but he would be saved anyway.)

"Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone"

This leaves no room for exception and is very unclear. I take issue with it.

This saying has two the parts:
Faith and Works
(Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone [implied is that it comes with Works]

I am trying to think of an illustrative example for this saying that will support it or oppose it. I came up with a few unsatisfactory ones:

Fire and Oxygen
"Fire alone burns, but the fire that burns is never alone." (it comes with oxygen)

Fire and Ashes
"Fire alone burns, but the fire that burns is never alone." (it comes with ashes)

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide
"Oxygen alone gives breath, but the oxygen that gives breath is never alone." (it comes with carbon dioxide)

Does anyone have any thoughts on this or any better illustrations to either support or oppose the idea in the quote?

A couple of new illustrations! Contributions from my guests!
Supporting the quote as representing the truth of salvation by grace, Daniel: (rephrased to be consistent with my structure)
Envelope and Letter
The mailman delivers the envelope only, but the envelope is never alone.

Opposing the quote, as not representative of salvation by grace, Antonio:
Sales Agreement and Money Changing Hands
Signing a sales agreement alone (apart from any money changing hands) makes you a car owner, but the signing of a sales agreement by which you are a car-owner is never alone (apart from money changing hands).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Means-less Salvation

When looking around the internet at religious posts, you find some really interesting people. I have mentioned this guy before somewhere (this is NOT Darwin Fish). This guy seems to have taken "unconditional election" a bit far. (I don't want to link to his site or give his name, because... well... I have my reasons.)

I can imagine that most people of the "regeneration preceding faith" persuasion would go along with this:
He says:
Jesus Christ, as the only creator, speaking with His own voice, in a singular creative act, to an individual soul, thereby [quickens] that person, implanting eternal life, by Himself alone!

and further (does anyone want to say "amen" here? I think I hear it?):
Jesus does not need you to accept Him as your personal savior in order to save you eternally – nor does He want your help at all!

But then, he says:
There will be people in heaven who have never even heard the name of Christ or been converted to the Gospel? That’s right... eternal salvation [is] totally independent of any human means what-so-ever.

Finally... and this was the most thought provokling question I read the whole week. It actually is quite profound.
"Does the objective fact of redemption by Christ depend on man’s subjective perception or understanding of that fact? If so, then wouldn’t it be true that perception determines reality?"

I think that perception determining reality can be a problem when discussing theology. That is why in all the discussions about atonement, I am getting more and more comfortable as I am trying on Christ's "taking of sin out of the way" as a done deal for all. Yet, receiving Christ's life is by faith, and is needful, not having been accomplished until that moment of faith.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Making God a Liar

I have noticed an interesting aspect of Calvinist gospel preaching. They who believe in particular redemption do not tell unbelievers that Christ died for them. They tell them that Christ died for as many as will trust in Him. Christ’s death was for as many as are willing to believe that God will save them from their sin.

The shade of meaning is a little tricky to get your mind around if you are not familiar with Calvinism. In Calvinism, it is a done deal, signed, sealed and delivered. None were going to be able to believe the gospel, so God chose a select few way back then, He died for them and only them, making provision for their eternal life on the cross. He draws them and only them to Himself in a way that guarantees their belief in this provision, by REGENERATING THEM and GRANTING THEM THE GIFT OF FAITH to believe the gospel.

In Calvinism, Christ did not die for the sins of the whole world, because then everyone in the whole world would go to heaven, according to Calvinist logic.

I was thinking about this and I happened upon this Scripture in my studies.

1 John 5:6 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
What is the record?
1Jo 5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. This Scripture grabbed my attention and I started asking questions.
Q. Who makes God a liar in this passage?
A. The unbeliever.

Q. How does He make God a liar?
A. By not believing that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

So if the unbeliever does not believe that God has given to us eternal life in His Son, then He makes God out to be a liar.

However, according to Calvinism, if a person does not believe, then eternal life is not available in the Son, (for that person) because as we have seen in Calvinist teaching, Christ has only provided eternal life for as many as God chose beforehand. This was a set amount that have life available for them, and the unbeliever is an unbeliever because he is not a part of that set. (NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, in Calvinist teaching). If the unbeliever does not believe that eternal life is available in the Son (for him) then he believes Calvinist truth.

Well, which is it? Is he believing truth or making God a liar?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Careful Words?

Can we look anyone – any man, woman or child - in the face and tell them, “Jesus Christ loves you and died for you.”? Can we go on to explain the awfulness of separation from God and the wonderful thing that Christ has done to remedy this problem for mankind? Can we tell anyone, without doubts, that He has done this for them? The bad news is that sin has caused mankind to be separated from God or “dead in sins.” The good news is that Christ has taken sin out of the way and that anyone in mankind can receive life from Christ because Christ holds the keys to death, having triumphed over it.

Now if we were to imagine that Christ only did this for a certain, select group of “elect” - people that were chosen before the foundation of the world – if we understood that these were the only ones on His mind as He suffered and died, we could not honestly look into the face of any man, woman or child and tell them that Christ had done this for him/her, because the fact is, we would have no way of knowing if he/she was one of these “elect.”

Having talked to many of them who hold to this limited work of God, we know how they deal with this. These don’t use the words “Jesus Christ died for you.” These do not personalize the gospel in that way. These say “Jesus Christ died for sinners.” Or “Jesus Christ died for those who will believe.” (These are confident that they will not be pressed into answering the “next” question – “Yes, but did He die for ME?”)

So by saying “sinners” or “those who will believe” – these carefully, and in an unspoken way, limit the scope of those for whom Christ died, without coming out and saying so. IOW, “sinners” in this presentation means “some sinners” and “those who will believe” is an end-run around the scope of the provision, but is rather a reference to those who appropriate the provision.

I find this all to be a bit crafty. If one holds to the “glorious truth” of the doctrine of eternal predestination and election of individuals to faith, why not just tell people that?

It might sound something like this, unless I am mistaken:
“God has chosen to save a small number of people before they were ever born. He did x, y and z to accomplish this. He may give you the gift of faith and works to prove that you are one of them. Won’t you trust Him today?”

That would seem to be more of the honest gospel invitation of those who hold that the saving work of God is limited to a preterdermined and limited group who are unconditionally elected. Or does someone have a better one?


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