Judgement

Salvation: Answering the What? Why? How?

Most people in today’s society have heard expressions liked ‘saved,’ ‘born again,’ or ‘converted.’ Yet, no matter how many times they may have heard these terms, throngs of people have never made the effort to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. Ironically the reason for this may not be because they have never been approached; but for the simple fact they do not know what salvation is or how one obtains it. It is my hope that if you have somehow stumbled across this article, by the time you are finished reading it you’ll be able to walk away with a much clearer understanding of three very important questions concerning God’s plan for salvation. These questions are; What is salvation? Why do you need salvation? And, how do you obtain salvation?

One of the most renowned biblical verses in all of Christianity is, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). As this verse shows, salvation is a free gift of everlasting life that is only made possible through Jesus Christ. However, what is the definition of salvation? For believers in Christ we know that our source of life stems from God the Father. Yet, due to the entrance of sin we were forever separated from God. In essence, our only source for eternal life has been separated from us. Salvation is God’s plan that was designed to bridge the gap between sin and man. It is though Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we are reunited with our father and provided everlasting life. As Thorsen states, “Salvation ultimately represents a gift from God, secured by Jesus, and affected in the lives of people through the Holy Spirit” (Thorsen 277).

With salvation now defined, you may be asking yourself, “Why do I need salvation?” Most people have heard of the story of Adam and Eve and how they lived in harmony and love with God in the Garden of Eden. Yet, man was tempted and disobeyed God’s Word when instructed not to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil. It was this action that brought irreversible death to us all. An event so sinful in God’s eyes that man would inherit this sinful nature for generation to generation to come. And since God can’t have a harmonious relationship with sinners, we are each born apart from our Creator from the very moment we take our first breath. As the scriptures confirm, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Thus, because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, we are forever banished and separated from God. Yet, the good news is, everyone has the ability to be saved. The removal of sin can occur, and we can be brought back in fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Salvation is the answer and it provides us each with an eternal lease on life. When one believes in the Gospel and gives up his or her life for Christ, we receive benefits unimaginable to the non-believer. These benefits include our sins being forgiven, a realignment with our relationship with God, eternal dwelling in Heaven instead of Hell, and a new life lived in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Now that we have recognized that everyone needs salvation, maybe you’re wondering how do you go about receiving it? In short, it is a determination to make a life-long change. “To become a beneficiary of Christ, one must first repent – become sorrowful for ones wickedness and forsake ones evil ways. Then in the second place, one must accept Christ by faith, and commit ones soul to ones Savior for salvation” (Webb 272). When one takes these first two steps a justification between man and God occurs. We are reinstated in the divine favor we once had before the Fall of Man. To better understand this, one can look to 1 Peter 3:18 which states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). “God’s remedy through the Lord Jesus is justification. This means that if we believe in the Lord Jesus, He looks upon us as though we are righteous. It may help us to think of it like this. When I am justified it is JUST-AS-IF-I’D never sinned” (Sherring 7).

If before reading this article you never fully understood the true meaning of salvation, I hope that you are now able to walk away with a clearer understanding. I really hope you recognize that God loves you no matter what. And He wants nothing more than to deliver you from sin and the assuredness of spiritual death. I also want you to know that if you desire to receive God’s free gift of salvation, it doesn’t have to occur in a church. You don’t have to wait. Your eternal security can be changed, right here… right now as you read this. And it begins by praying something like this to God:

“Dear God, today I turn away from all of my sins (name them). This day I put my trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. He is the only way for me to be saved. He is ‘The way, the truth, and the life.’ Please forgive me, change my heart, and grant me Your gift of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If you’ve taken the time to say this prayer I would like to congratulate you for making the commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Your obedience to God is proof of your love for His Son. From here you should go out and find a good church to help you grow. Don’t wait for an invite; if you have questions, call a local church and ask to speak to a pastor. The decision you have just made is not taken lightly, and it comes with eternal rewards. As the Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Today is the beginning of your new life in Christ Jesus!

If you’ve made the decision to commit your life to Christ or have any questions, please use the contact me form at http://pastordodd.com/about/contact-me/ to reach out and let me know.

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

 

Works Cited
Legge, David. “Love the Lost.” Preachtheword.com. March 2005. Web. May 2, 2011.

Sherring, Brian. The Meaning of Salvation. London, England: Berean Publishing Trust, 2000. Print

Thorsen, Don. An Exploration of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010. Print.

Webb, Robert Alexander. Christian Salvation: Its Doctrine and Experience. Richmond, Virginia: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1921. Print.

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Live Like You Were Dying

An unexpected or sudden death holds the power to shatter our world as we know it. When these events occur, not only does the loss not make any sense to us, but also we come face to face with the knowledge that life truly is not fair; and bad things do happen to good people. This sudden loss places us into a tailspin of uncertainty and vulnerability because the loss is intensified by the fact that there was no opportunity to prepare, complete unfinished business, or just say our last good-byes. It’s no wonder that those left behind are overwhelmed with feelings of depression, shock, anger, hopelessness, and guilt. But what about you? How much time do you spend thinking about your own mortality?

If suddenly you realized your last day on this earth was today, would you regret how you have spent your time in the past? What about how you are spending it now? Sure, things like playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading the latest celebrity gossip magazine can be fun. However, as your last hour approaches, how much comfort are you going to find in the knowledge of how you once wasted your time?

Most of us live our lives with the mindset that we will live to a ripe old age; but the reality is, we don’t know where we are in our own life’s cycle. Maybe we’re a young teen, or a sassy thirty-something. We could live to be 100; or we could go tomorrow. The reality is, we just don’t know. And some of us may be further along in our life story than we realize. Which brings us to ask ourselves, “Now that I am a follower of Christ, what purpose does God have in mind for me?” Better yet, when I do leave this earth, “How will God judge me?

No matter who you are, we all have a self-loving narcissist side to us. We gather our possessions, puff up our chest with our job and education accomplishments and live the lie that this is what life’s all about. *Pop*! Let me be the first to burst your bubble. If we consider ourselves to be devout followers of Jesus Christ then in life only one thing matters. We walk this earth for one thing and one thing only; to bring glory to God- “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) – nothing more, nothing less.

Today, the human race has been led farther and father away from God’s perfect plan. We live in a culture that makes us feel obsolete if we don’t measure up or obtain those things that we “must have” to feel successful. Instead of living a life set apart for God, our media tells us to look at another person’s success and say, “I need that to feel better about myself.” This is not what God has called us to desire and seek for our own lives. Instead, God desires for us to turn away from the trappings of this world and say, “Lord, use me! How can I best glorify You with my life?”

There’s no question, nothing’s for sure in this life other than death and taxes. When God decides it’s time for our last curtain call, are you going to feel more pleased standing before God in judgment saying, “Look at all the things I’ve amassed while on this earth.” Or are you going to be more gratified to stand before our Father while giving a testimony for all the occasions of spirit filled living when you have obeyed Christ? Won’t you be more proud of those times in your life that you spent in prayer, reading the scriptures, evangelizing, worshipping, and serving our Father in Heaven? I’ll be the first to admit I like nice things. But at the end of the day, they mean nothing to me. What matters most to me is the rewards that God says I will receive in Heaven. And while hearing “Nice House or Nice Car” can stroke your ego. No words of affirmation are going to hold a candle to hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time,

Pastor Steve

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The Unpardonable Sin

Most people are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and the account surrounding the “Fall of Man.” They are also aware that God came to this earth in the form of Jesus Christ and paid the ultimate price to free us from our sins. Unfortunately there are those who believe that all sins have been pardoned by Christ’s death and therefore believe “once saved, always saved.” Yet, in the confines of sin, there is a sin that God Himself considers “unpardonable.” With respect to the Bible, can we unknowingly disqualify ourselves? When looking at scripture one finds that the book of Hebrews states, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6). Therefore, can man lose their salvation? This answer depends on three differing positions. First, the view of the non-believer who outright denies Christ existed. Second, those who have heard the Word of God yet do not necessarily accept it. And third, those who accept the truth, yet still turn away from Christ’s sustaining and redemptive grace.

Today, society is representative of cross-cultural social acceptance. It is no wonder that many exist who may have heard the Word of God conveyed to them at times, and even professed a sense of faith, but not accepted Christ’s true saving grace. In essence they are non-believers. These people reject the belief that Christ came to this earth and paid for our sins. This is viewed as the intentional rejection of the salvation that Christ provides to man. “Such impenitence, if it continues throughout a person’s life, will lead to eternal separation from God because of the unwillingness to turn from sin” (Thorsen 159). And while many may elect to believe that this rejection is simply a singularly act of defiance. “It is crucial to recognize that the unforgivable sin is not a single act but a continuous, ongoing rejection. Anyone who has committed this sin would have no desire in this life to repent and believe in Jesus” (Hanegraaff 22).

Next, there is a link between Hebrews 6:4-6 and the parable that Jesus conveys in Mathew 13:2-23. This parable reflects one of a crop and soil that relates to a person receiving the Word, but due to their non-acceptance, is not essentially saved. In the eyes of the Lord, this is rebellion. As Thorsen warns, “Ongoing rebelliousness may, in fact, result in hardness of heart – a recalcitrance – that reduces a person’s ability to recognize and repent from sin” (Thorsen 159). In the confines of this rebellion, the unpardonable sin is looked upon as a sin that is developed over time; it is not a sin that one commits impulsively. It advances from ones opposition of the Holy Spirit, into a denial against Him. The final result is the permanent rejection of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, which results in the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

The final approach that I feel takes on the most understanding is found in Hebrew 6:6, “If they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:6). The key words here are “fall away.” “Those believers who adhere to the notion of eternal security have often suggested that the ones who are described as “falling away” were not really true believers” (Powers). As I Timothy 4:1 attests, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). “The terms ‘fall away’ or ‘falling away’ means: ‘To fall away; to turn away; to commit apostasy. To turn aside; to deviate’” (Jackson 7). As such, the term “falling away” is not addressing those who are considered “backsliders.” On the contrary, this is a deliberate act to turn away from Christ and reject the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. These people are viewed in the same confines of those described in Hebrews 6. They were turning away from their faith and from the very salvation that Jesus provides.

In the confines of ministry context, I believe that there is substantial evidence to support the truth behind ones ability to lose their salvation. A good starting point is to convey the message of Mark, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29). This passage seems to be very clear; the only true way that one can lose their salvation is if they choose to deliberately make the effort to do so. Furthermore, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). As scripture confirms, contrary to popular belief, losing ones salvation is not done by accident. Thus, believers do not have to worry about inadvertently losing their salvation by a mere slip or indiscretion.

In summary, although the term “unpardonable sin” is not found in the Bible, there is one sin repeatedly described as “eternal,” and that is the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately there is much misinformation surrounding this unpardonable sin. As one has learned, it does not occur in one single act of defiance or rebellion. “It is the intentional and persistent rejection of salvation offered through God’s Holy Spirit. Truth be told, when one intentionally, with full knowledge, chooses to ignore the cautions provided by scripture and the Holy Spirit, they are leaning toward committing the unpardonable sin. Their decision to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is considered a “willful” act. And as such, this blasphemes the work of our heavenly Father and constitutes being cast away into the eternal flames of damnation.

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

 

Works Cited:
Hanegraaff, Hank. The Bible Answer Book. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2004. Print.

Jackson, Michael. “Sins for Which There is No Pardon.” Nlag.net. 2011. Web. March 30, 2011.

Powers, Daniel G. “Observations from Hebrews 5-9.” Online.nbc.edu. 2009. Web. March 30, 2011.

Thorsen, Don. An Exploration of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010. Print.

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The Bible Says Not to Judge Others… Or Does it?

Recently, I came a across a news article focused on an uproar that Miley Cyrus has caused with her new tattoo. The quick version is, she got an “=” sign on her middle finger supporting gay marriage. Tweeting, “All love is equal.” Where the news story picks up is that the former Disney darling quickly triggered a flurry of her twitter followers to respond. Some not so favorable as one tweeted, “Where in the Bible does it say homosexuality is okay?” This prompting Miley to fire back with, “Where does it say in the bible to judge others?” she Tweeted to one of her fans. Concluding with, “Oh right. It doesn’t. GOD is the only judge honey. GOD is love.”

“Judging others” is an issue that has confused many people. Unfortunately, when you hear “Don’t judge me” or “The Bible says” it’s usually flowing from the mouth of someone who couldn’t even tell you what Testament the book of Job is in; or the believer that paraphrases certain biblical verses without reflecting on others. First and foremost, I don’t care who you are, we ALL judge. Let me prove my point. When you see a guy sitting at a corner with a cardboard sign, most people think “Homeless.” ~ Judgment. A teen girl holding a baby… “She must have gotten “Knocked-up.” ~ Judgment. Here’s one for ya. The elderly lady who smiles at you in the grocery story, you think “What a sweet lady.” ~ Judgment. I threw that last one in for a reason. When we make an assumption about someone, even if it’s a good one, you just passed judgment upon them.

This debate has two sides. On one side, Jesus did say, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). On the other side, the Bible provides clear urgency that we should not hang out with wrongdoers. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). If we are to listen to this guidance, then how are we to discern whom the “wicked” that the Bible is speaking of, if we do not pass some sort of judgment upon them?

Why are Christians often labeled as “judging” whenever we stand up and speak against sinful actions? To say that we are not to judge others is a complete fallacy. In John we are called to, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). In this verse we are called to not judge others simple by appearances, but by using careful discernment. Next, one of the most quoted versus that people use to proclaim that we are not to judge is found in Matthew 7:1, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” What many are failing to realize is the context that Jesus is making this assessment. For the passage continues to say, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). The reason Jesus is telling us not to judge is not to say that we are “not to judge,” but He was telling us not to judge hypocritically by making self-righteous judgments of others. It is in these verses that we come to realize that Jesus is not saying that we should not pass judgment, but warning that we should not be passing judgment on others for their sin, when you are committing the same sin or even worse.

Judging for the sake of judging is wrong. However, when a believer sees another person sinning whether its committing adultery, homosexuality, theft etc.; Jesus did say that it is our duty as Christians to confront the person that is engaging in the sinful act; “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17).

To make the statement that we are “not to judge others” is simply and biblically untrue. Paul himself wrote, “Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.” (1 Corinthians 5:3). In this verse the Apostle Paul was referencing the judgment he made regarding the sinful actions of a man who was committing adultery with his father’s wife. He did this just as we are instructed to do. We are not called simply to point the finger at the one committing the offense, but in hopes of rather pointing out the truth with the ultimate goal of bringing repentance and restoration in the person; James 5:20, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

I believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. It cannot be used, twisted, or manipulated to condone sin. In this case, Miley Cyrus chose to take a snippet of the Bible to try and condone sin. I always have the same response when someone tries to condone sin or use a verse that seems like all sins are encompassed. “Where in the Bible does it say (enter sin here) that God specifically say that it’s okay?” In this case homosexuality; where in the Bible is the word “homosexuality” used prior to or following statements saying that it is okay? Answer: Nowhere. In fact, do you realize that scripture twisting is a sin in itself? In his book, Peter reminds his audience that Paul wrote things that are hard to understand, which the unstable and wicked twist to their own destruction, “Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

If you take nothing more form this article; I hope you would at least embrace this fact. Just as a person that is engaging in sin, in this case homosexuality, is imperfect. So are the adulterers, thieves, liars and so on and so on. We as Christians are imperfect as well. No matter how we try, we cannot love flawlessly; nor are we capable of judging others flawlessly. Fortunately, we serve a God that has the ability to do both. He can love and hate without any malice afforded toward the sinner. He can pass judgment on the sinner, yet be willing to lovingly pardon the sin at the moment of that sinner’s repentance and reliance upon Him. This can be found in (2 Peter 3:9; Malachi 1:3; and Revelation 2:6). One thing that Miley Cyrus did get right is that “God is love.” The Bible is abundantly clear that, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8-9). He sent His Son so that we all might live through Him.

If we call ourselves “Christ Followers,” then we are not called to hate sinners. Just as Christ calls us to do; I love ALL sinners… to include thieves, murders, and homosexuals. I just do not love the sin. I can openly love the sinner, but I cannot sit back and condone the sin or act like it’s okay. Choosing to remain quite as to not offend makes you just as guilty as the one committing the sin. Did Jesus remain quite not to offend? When the opportunity presents itself we must remind ourselves to “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Which if you weren’t aware, is actually a quote from Gandhi not the Bible. But it is a biblical principle. The Bible is filled with accounts such as the woman caught committing adultery, Jesus refused to condemn her, but He insisted that she stop sinning. Throughout the Bible Jesus never condones the sin, but He also never condemned the sinner. We should live our lives with the goal of being more Christ-like. Like it or not; at times we are called to judge others. We do it not in hate, not yelling at them saying “You’re going to hell!”; but for the very reason the scripture says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

In closing, although this view may be met with opposition, we as Christ followers are called to proclaim what God’s Word says about sin. “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). The next time someone tells you “Don’t judge me” or “The Bible says”; convey to them that we are actually called to “judge” the sinful act, but this is always done with the goal of presenting that there is a solution for sin and its penalties ~ our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

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