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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eternal Security (Part I)

So here we are again, tackling yet another “biggie” in the Body of Christ. Namely, the question of whether a Christian can truly fall away? Many individuals I truly appreciate have written books on this topic, from BOTH sides of the argument. Men like Calvinist Pastor Charles Stanley, H.A. Ironside, Brethren Pastor & Dispensationalist & on the other side, Carl J.E. Nelson and Ray B. White among others. I even saw this title “Eternal Security, License to Sin!” So there is certainly enough in print out there about the subject, but again let us take a journey though the Scriptures & see what the Bible says & what we can draw from the Word of God. Now, again I want to emphasize that although I will be drawing a conclusion from this study, I am very respectful of those on EACH side of the argument & when I am finished, I refuse as many others, especially on the one side, to call anyone a “heretic” as we are limited in our understanding as long as we live in this body of flesh & bones, which is not a cop out, but must be something as humans, we always remember, especially when we get overly dogmatic! Certainly the following passage is used often in defense of Eternal Security, also btw known by many as “once saved, always saved”.
We read this in:

John 10:27-29 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I have heard these verses used many times in the argument for E.S. (we’ll call it that from here in) and I concur that indeed a Christian cannot be “snatched or taken” out of the Father’s hand upon His finished work in them! So this gives rise to the following thought: can a Christian then “walk away” from Christ, or can a Christian receive Christ into their life & then continue on in a life marked & dominated by sin, yet still be ‘saved?” The Apostle Paul stated this concerning a person who has meet Jesus as Savior, but perhaps not Lord, although they did pray perhaps to ask Christ to come in:

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Further on this the Apostle John states the following:

1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, (perhaps practice sin?) because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

And the writer of Hebrews emphatically states this:

Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,

So if we piece all these verses together, certainly we have a picture that simply “praying a prayer" or saying one thing & doing another is not sufficient unto salvation! This would tend to gives us a picture that salvation is a “progressive’ (ongoing) work in a person’s life. Made complete by continuing in a life that is pleasing to God & no longer practicing sin, this neat term I once heard applies here: “Christian are not sinless, but they do sin less!”. Meaning we no longer practice sin, but are tripped up by it due to our “Adamic” natures which we came out of the womb with according to the Psalmist in:

Ps 58:3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.

But Hebrews 10 does give us a picture undeniably that if a person lives a “double” life, even though they have invited Christ in, or maybe never missed a Sunday service, or like a women in Middlebury, Ct. once told me so many years ago when I was going door to door: “Al, I know I am going to Heaven because I sing in my Church’s choir”, or whatever external thing that seems right on the outside, they are still lost in context to salvation! I heard it put this way: “just because you join the lion’s club, it doesn’t make you a lion!” So one may argue that what I am saying is that we are then ‘earning” our salvation, NO! We can’t earn it as that is already established in Scripture friends. (Eph. 2:8-9 & Titus 3:5-6) But we must “work or walk it out” as the Bible teaches us in:

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

And the Lord Jesus Christ said these very words concerning the faithful members of the Church at Thyatira found in Revelation 2:24-26:

“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

So even in addressing the faithful here, the Lord Jesus tells them to stay true “to the end”.

In Revelation 3, Jesus warns members of the Church at Philadelphia to beware lest they have their crowns taken from them, so we can see that there is a sense of “progression” in salvation, that we simply can’t “sit” on what we have been given. In fact, the parable of the talents is an excellent example of this, what happened to the one servant who “buried” his talent? Yes, he was thrown into that place of weeping & gnashing of teeth. I see a great parallel between that parable & salvation in general. And of course the Apostle James really opens up the window to show us what happens when we get “fat & happy” so to speak with our salvation
And begin to think that “it’s a lock”. Let’s read his words found here in:

James 2:20-26 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

In fact the question is posed, can a man who says he has faith without works be saved by “that” kind of workless faith? James states this which has an obvious response:

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Of course not friends! So in this opening, I think we’ve established that a person certainly cannot simply “pray a prayer” & that’s it, they can go off & live whatever way they want & still be “saved”. We’ve also established that salvation is a “progressive” work that is ongoing. Many would disagree here, especially High Calvinist & that is okay! We further know that our faith MUST, again MUST be accompanied by works in order for it to be valid friends. For how else can God judge us? Just imagine how many people are going to stand before Him & say things like, “but Lord I loved you, I this & I that, etc”. Will not God then direct them to specific instances that would prove there can be no doubt that they spoke the right words with their lips, but by their actions denied Him all along? So these things truly go hand in hand and an over-emphasis on either is wrong! And we must endure to the end, we must remain faithful. This I find most intriguing because if salvation is a “one time” it’s a done deal over with proposition, then why must we “endure” or “walk out or work out” our salvation as the Scriptures teach? Arminian Theologian John Wesley had much to say about this, what is the sense in asking people to endure & continue on unless there is indeed a sense of the importance of walking through this life & being found faithful unto the death, whenever that time my come should the Lord tarry? Next, we’ll get more into the possibility of being able to fall away & whether or not we are indeed “once saved, always saved”.

Stay Tuned,
Al

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lakeland "Outpouring"

Well,

Once again I am going “where no man likes to go” I guess, lol! In this post, we’ll talk about what is happening down in Lakeland Florida where there has been meetings going on night after night for quite awhile lead by a young Canadian man named Todd Bentley. And the reason I want to talk about this is because whenever something like this sprouts up, there are ACTUAL sign’s friends we can look at to see if this is something that is just good intentioned or is it a “God thing” along the lines of a Azusa Street or what God did back in the 50’s when Billy Graham came to New York City. Bottom line is can we really check things out to see if they are genuine? I truly believe we can! Now I know many will say “Al, why even bring it up, people are getting healed & some good things are happening, aren’t you for that, etc”? Believe me I am friends! I want nothing more than to see the Power, Glory & Majesty of God show up in this World & through us & our Fellowships, but just because some “good things” are happening. That is certainly NO reason for us to turn a deaf ear when we see Godly principles & order being shrugged off because of what is taking place, always remember this Christian, THE WORLD IS FOREVER WATCHING US & we need to be accountable & so if various organizations, inside & out of the Body of Christ want to see if Todd Bentley has been accountable there along with the local leaders of that meeting, then there can be nothing to fear or hide from such an honest investigation, especially if it is a Christian organization! So we’ll allow the record to speak for itself. World Magazine is an excellent source of information & a magazine I would highly recommend & one who did try to contact Todd & the people there, but sadly what they were told was far from accountable…. Mr. Bentley was quoted as saying something to the effect of: “I just don’t have time for interviews & need to be about God’s business, etc. Also when World Magazine asked about the ATM machine’s being placed in the lobby for the offerings which ran approx. 30- 40 minutes each evening, per eyewitnesses of World mag. and also began to ask general questions about offerings & funds coming in, again they were given the “we’re about the Father’s business” answer.

The truth is friends, someone there needs to let those on the outside know exactly what is happening with the finances, as by all reports, massive amounts of money are flooding into their books there. You may not know this, but whenever Billy Graham has held a Crusade in an area, within a Month or so afterwards, they release a full disclosure of all the finances. Perhaps that is a big part of the reason that the B.G.E.A. has been so blessed throughout the years, because they have always been accountable. In this age of Ministries carrying Lear Jet’s in their arsenal & so forth, never has there been a greater need for accountability!
I am sorry, but ATM’s in the lobby trouble this person greatly, as does 30-40 minute offerings, regardless of what is happening there! Sadly, all too often Christians look at outward things like “sincerity” instead of inward things like integrity! Show me a place that is accountable & I’ll show you a place that is indeed seeing a move of God. Yes, there are great things happening there because of who our God is, even when we miss it, he promises to lead us still in the paths of righteousness & be with us simply for “His names sake”. (Psalm 23)


Back when a similar thing was happening in Brownsville in Pensacola, Fl. I never forgot that when they looked at the local statistics, they saw that despite the claim of “Revival”, the crime stats & all similar stats across the board remained unchanged! I think there was a simple reason for this, it was because what was really happening was that 70-80% of the people who were coming to Brownsville were from other areas! There was a revival alright, but it was a revival of people visiting & not so much getting saved! I am afraid, that although this is being called an “outpouring”, the main pouring has been people pouring in from other areas! I do rejoice with all those who have received from the Lord, but like many others, including MANY from Charismatic circles, which I include myself, there is much concern for the local leaders refusal to “open” all things up & be accountable. There have also been many questions about Mr. Bentley's rather "un-orthodox" methods of things ranging from kicking to slapping folks as well as more than once re-canting claims of healings, including rising from the dead, all things that God has & continues to do friends, but we must defer to Jesus & His example of love & humility & not "showmanship". So time will tell, but it may be too late because my guess is that Mr. Bentley will be taking his show on the road all over no doubt to a town near you!

Stay Tuned,
Al

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Defense of God's Desire, Nature & Character (Opening)

Hello Again Friends,

I have been in the long process of writing my 1st book entitled: "In Defense of God's Desire, Nature & Character, as found in Arminian Theology". This is a book which is birthed from the "heart" of "Classic" Arminian Theology, it is the "engine" if you will, that runs this view of our Heavenly Father. Friends, at the heart of Arminian Theology is the rejection that God, in the beginning only chose certain people for salvation & although being the Creator, He in some way shape or form, left people out of His salvation plan! I ask & appeal to you with simply this....is there anything in Scripture that we know & have studied about our God that would lead you to believe that He created certain people to salvation while others to spend eternity in Hades/Lake of Fire by leaving them out of His plan of salvation? I thank the Lord that I am FAR from alone in seeing the mis-representaion of God in this. I can say however, that time & time again, I see the opposite in Scripture, we see God speaking here in:

1Ti 2:4 "who (God) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time"

Notice that God desires that "all men" come to know Him! Further please notice that Jesus was a ransom given for "all men". If God's desire has been that He wants all men to come to know Him, could it still be possible that He left many out of His plan of salvation? For Jesus told us this in Matt. 7:13:

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it".

Notice that Jesus, God's only Son, just stated that most people are heading the wrong way, to destruction, so if God only saved an "elect", then the hard fact can ONLY be that He created MOST/MANY people only to be left out of the Salvation plan, as Jesus clearly stated here that most people are heading the wrong way! Friends, how can this be true? I submit that upon a clear & close examination, this just cannot be true from a Scriptural basis, despite the fact we all respect John Calvin & those who agree with his Theology & the good work he was able to accomplish during his lifetime realizing that ALL of us are far from perfection, thus unlike many Calvinists, I will not "mock or chide" their views & do & have always considered them to be my brothers & sisters in the Faith, albeit we have a very different view of the Desire, Nature & Character of God! So we see that God's desire is mis-represented when we hear High Calvinists making claims that God provided salvation for ONLY certain people.

And so then comes God's Nature... let's look at a bit as this & see a few things about the Nature of God.
  • Ps 147:5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. We are told here that besides how powerful our God is, that His knowledge (understanding) is infinite. I often ask myself, if I being human, have trouble with a belief system that NEVER gives a person a chance, then what must this doctrine sound like to God?
  • Ac 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this 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.

Here's is Paul at Mar's Hill giving his discourse on who our God is & notice that in verse 27, Paul says things are this way so that men Would seek after God & even perhaps find Him! Needless to say, what would be the sense of seeking or even finding God, if everyone was already "predestined"? In short, yes we must allow for God's Sovereignty, which Classic Arminians do & so God can certainly do "what he wants, with whom he wants, and how he wants", etc., but we see in God's Nature that He desires for man to long after Him, to seek Him, that He (mankind) may find Him! Jesus Himself stated in Matthew: "seek & you shall find, knock & it will be opened to you" In Exodus 20, where we find the 10 commandments, God states this to us about His Nature: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

He is a jealous God, thus it would seem logical that He truly desires our hearts & that he truly wants us to be with Him, not away from Him friends! Also notice the great balance here contrasted in verses 5 & 6, God truly is the "perfect balance" & in keeping with this thought, Arminian Theology is likewise a Theology that is balanced in that we believe in God's direct intervention, while maintaining man's 'freed" will, which God has seen fit not to infringe upon, outside of His Sovereign will in specific situations. And last, but certainly not least is God's character & perhaps to many Arminians like myself, this is what concerns us most. One could clearly argue that if these things we've stated above from High Calvinist's are indeed not true, then one can argue that God's character has been badly maligned throughout the ages! And I shutter to think of the repercussions of such a teaching, for instance, how many people upon hearing this, felt it to be "unreasonable or un-balanced" have then turned away from the Living God? I am of the mindset that many have sadly..... Think about our lives friends, are they not filled with choices? How is it that we would somehow have this "freed" will to make choices daily & yet many/most have NO choice in regards to salvation? I submit it simply just doesn't add up... Well, you at least got the introduction to what I am writing!

Stay Tuned,

In Christ,

Al