Thursday, January 22, 2009

Saved for Sure

Earlier this week, my husband and I had a "Costco" date. We got our Polish dogs and salad and sat down in the food court to eat. The fellow across from us immediately struck up a conversation. He was a pretty jovial fellow, and we enjoyed friendly banter back and forth. Mike gave the man a Gospel tract, which he readily accepted with the comment that he doesn't really see the need to go to church. I asked him about G-d, to which he replied that, "Oh Ya---I believe in G-d!" Mike encouraged him to read the tract, and the fellow said he would.

I wish I had thought fast know how you always think of things afterwards?! I should have followed up my question by asking him if he believed in Hell!

People do not see their need of the Savior, not because they don't believe in G-d, but because they don't believe in Hell and the possibility of going there! Their thinking is that G-d is so loving and so merciful and good, that He would never send anyone to that place. After all, they, themselves, are basically a good person! So, they reason, as long as they pay their bills and treat everyone right, they stand a good chance of getting to heaven.

In talking to that man the other day, he also made it very clear that he just doesn't really think about G-d, or find the need to read the Bible. G-d is just not in his thoughts. This reminds me of the verse in Romans 1:28---"
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"

I find that this kind of thinking is pervasive in our society. Many people do not give any thought to their souls or eternity. They meander through life with no need or hunger for G-d. What a rude awakening awaits them!

Truly, I believe that this thinking stems from the fact that people in our society have not been taught the Ten Commandments. This reminder that we are sinners and that G-d is Holy has long been removed from our schools and public meeting places.

The Apostle Paul explained why the Ten Commandments are so important: they are a schoolmaster, teaching us what sin is. Once we know what sin is in G-d's eyes, the Holy Spirit can then bring conviction to our hearts. Galatians 3:24--"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

Before we can know that we need a Savior, we need to know that we are sinners, right?! Why a Savior if we can get to heaven by being good?!!

Once we realize that we are sinners before a Holy G-d, then we realize that we need a remedy. This leads us to the point where we must decide to repent of our sins or remain in them.
Repentance is not merely being sorry. Many times people are sorry---sorry they got caught, sorry they made a bad decision and things turned out wrong, sorry about the consequences----but not truly sorry for their sin, enough to turn from it. That is true repentance.

This is why I believe that it is so very wrong to tell people that all they need to do is pray a prayer, accepting Christ as their Savior, and they will be saved. In our generation, huge churches have built their bus routes and memberships on telling this lie. I have read their materials instructing others how to win souls. They go something like this:

"You want to go to heaven, don't you?" Nod your head yes as you say this. "Jesus died on the cross for you so you can go to heaven. If you will just pray and accept Jesus as your Savior, you will be saved and can go to heaven. Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for you?" Nod your head as you ask this question. "Well, then, will you pray and ask Jesus into your heart? I'll pray with you."

They then lead this person in a prayer, and put one more notch on their tally sheet. They get the person to come to church and be baptized and involved in activities. Later, when the person does get convicted of sin and the Holy Spirit deals with them about the condition of their soul, they reason that they already prayed, so they're already saved. How tragic is that?!

I believe it is important that we realize our responsibility in evangelizing the lost is this: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;"--II Tim. 2:25

Before anyone can be saved, they must acknowledge that they are a sinner. Going through some of the Ten Commandments is a good way to reveal that none of us can keep them! "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of G-d."

Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron illustrate this so well, using the Ten Commandments, on their website, . They also provide some great Gospel tracts to use in showing people their sinful condition and what to do to be saved.

Belief is a good start, but James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."

Believing in Jesus Christ, worshipping Him, praying to Him is not salvation. Today, the word "believe" is understood as an intellectual assent to something. Believing on Jesus Christ, in Bible terms, is more than just a mental acknowledgment, it is a complete trust in and reliance upon His finished work on the cross to save us.

And, if we truly believe with our hearts, then we will have first acknowledged the fact that we are sinners, and that we need to repent and then trust in the Blood of Jesus Christ alone to save us.

Matthew 7:21-23 is a very sobering passage:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Paul admonishes us in II Cor. 13:5---"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"

I believe the L-rd is coming soon. It would be good to do as Peter says in II Peter 1:10---

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Need for Discernment

I think most of us, if we're in the Word and seeking to follow the L-rd, strive to be discerning. And, this is most commendable!

The Scriptures show that being able to discern "between good and bad" ranks very highly in G-d's eyes.

In I Kings 3:9 we read part of Solomon's prayer, answering the L-rd's question put to him as to what he desired most from the L-rd: "
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?"

The L-rd took note that Solomon didn't ask for other things that he could have lavished upon himself, "And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;"---vs. 11

G-d did grant Solomon his request, and in addition, gave him the other blessings he didn't ask for. This same principle is taught in the New Testament when the L-rd Jesus admonished His disciples, "But seek ye first the kingdom of G-d, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

How can we seek after the kingdom of G-d and and His righteousness without discernment to know and recognize these when we see them? We must, with Solomon, ask the L-rd for this discernment to judge between what is good and what is bad; what is of the L-rd and what is not.

It's interesting to note that of the few New Testament Scriptures that use the word, "discern", or a form of it, two of them quote the L-rd Jesus instructing His disciples about the times at hand:

Matthew 16:3---"And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?"

Luke 12:56---"Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?"

Even more, as we find ourselves in these last days, we sense the need for greater discernment.

While we are told that discernment is a gift of the Spirit: I Cor. 12:10a--"To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits;" we are also told that we are all to, "...believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." I John 4:1

While some believers are especially gifted with discernment, we are all to use discernment in our daily walk with the L-rd. How do we acquire the ability to discern, if we do not primarily have discernment as a gift of the Spirit?

I believe that Hebrews 5:14 reveals the answer to us: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

This passage in Hebrews is talking about the milk versus the meat of the Word of G-d. Evidently, there were some believers who should have been more mature in their spiritual development, but were still nursing on the milk of the Word, i.e., the basic things of salvation, for instance. They were choking on the meatier portions of Scripture that taught more deep principles and doctrine, and thus they were still babies, not able to discern heresies, errors, deceitful spirits, and so forth.

Hebrews 5:13---"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. " This was definitely not a good thing!

Here, then, is the key to having discernment-----become skillful in the Word of G-d! This skillfulness requires knowing what G-d's Word teaches and using G-d's Word in our daily lives as we make decisions, judgments, friendships, etc!

It's much like acquiring muscles. The more we exercise those muscles, the stronger they become. The more we know G-d's Word and use it in our lives (who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil) , the more discernment we will have.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Conviction or Condemnation?

As Christians, we talk about being convicted or having convictions. Convictions are a result of being convinced of something. When we read G-d's Word or hear the Word of G-d preached, the Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts and reveal things to us. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of G-d, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of G-d may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." II Timothy 3:16,17

Paul, in the next chapter, verse 2, exhorts Timothy to, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."

G-d's Word is what it should take to convince us......or rather, convict us. Whether we read it or hear it preached, the reproof, the correction and instruction are used by the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, if we will yield our hearts to Him.

Notice that the word doctrine is important, as it is mentioned in both passages. The reproof, instruction, correction when coming from G-d's Word, must be in line with sound doctrine.

John chapter 8 recounts the story of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus wrote something on the ground, then told the accusing Pharisees in vs. 7, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Then he wrote on the ground again. Verse 9 tells us, "And when they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one...."

These Pharisees condemned this woman; but the L-rd had mercy, telling her to go and sin no more, and turning to the Pharisees, used their consciences to convict them.

G-d gave each of us a conscience. We can heed it and feed it, or we can ignore it and sear it. When we read or hear the W-rd of G-d, the Holy Spirit uses the words of G-d to prick our conscience, convicting us of sin in our lives. The ball is then in our court to decide whether to repent and forsake that sin, or to ignore and harden our heart against the Word.

The Apostle Paul had to instruct and reprimand the church in Corinth over some serious issues. He did it out of love, but nevertheless, it wasn't an easy message to get across. But the folks in that church took it to heart, and the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts, which caused Paul to, "rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner......For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." II Cor. 7:9, 10

Paul further went on to explain how their godly sorrow brought forth fruit in their lives: "For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." vs. 11

So here we find two kinds of sorrow: G-dly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. These two different sorrows produce two different results. We are told that g-dly sorrow produces repentance to salvation. Worldly sorrow produces death. How is that?

G-dly sorrow is produced when we see that we have sinned against G-d. When we have g-dly sorrow, we want to make things right. Like the Corinthian church, this kind of sorrow causes us to do whatever we need to do in order to make things right and revenge the sin in our lives!

Worldly sorrow results when our conscience condemns us, but we don't know what to do about it, so the sorrow we have is destructive. The enemy uses it against us to defeat us, and to cause us to try to escape by various other means. Depression, discouragement, despair, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness are a result of that kind of sorrow.

Herein lies the confusion that many have between conviction and condemnation.

The L-rd made sure that Paul penned these very reassuring words for us in Romans 8:1---
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

When we have been convinced and convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, according to His Word (sound doctrine), and have repented and renounced that sin, we are forgiven! When we then walk after the Spirit, seeking to live for the L-rd, not living a carnal, flesh-fulfilling life, then we should not know any condemnation!

When we are in Christ, we are no longer condemned, under sin. The enemy will do all he can to defeat us by throwing our past sins and failures into our face, making us feel that there is no hope. That is NOT conviction, dear friend. True heart conviction comes from the Holy Spirit; condemnation comes from the enemy.
I think, perhaps, that when we get away from the L-rd, there is a nagging on our conscience that goes beyond conviction of sin, to one of condemnation as well.

Next time you feel worthless and under condemnation, examine your heart. Have you repented and forsaken these sins? Are they under the Blood of Jesus Christ? If so, then recognize that the enemy is trying his best to put you under his condemnation to rob you of your joy in the L-rd, and thus your strength to serve the L-rd.

For the believer, conviction of sin is from the L-rd; condemnation is not.