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What Must I Do to be Lost?

Sometimes people get caught up in discussions about what sins will send a man to hell. Usually, the “really bad” sins, like adultery or murder, top the list with little question. Then there are the “little sins” – sins society tolerates more-or-less – like cursing, coveting possessions, recreational drug and alcohol use, or lust.

Perhaps we could talk about how even Christians often turn a blind eye to some sins. To our shame, it is not hard to find Christians full of pride, selfishness, ungratefulness, anxiety, and worldliness. The truth is any sin, no matter how small, can damn Christians. As Isaiah told God’s people:

Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isa. 59:1-2)

“Is it a Sin to…”

Yet many Christians still ask the question, “What must I do to be lost?” Not with those words, of course, but with other questions. “Do I have to go to every church service?” “Is _____ a salvation issue?” “How far can I go with _____?” “How many drinks is too much?”

These can be legitimate questions. And if we are willing to listen, the Bible answers all of these questions with great clarity. But the problem is usually not the question itself; it’s the attitude behind the question.

What I mean is this: Many Christians are no better than the servant who was given one talent and went and buried it. When the master returned, the servant handed over the one talent. To which the master responded:

Cast this worthless servant into outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:14-30)

The attitude behind, “What must I do to be lost?” is akin to, “What is the least I can do/get right/believe/commit and still be saved?” When we start drawing lines in the sand, we start forgetting that what belongs to our Master is our complete devotion.

All or Nothing

Of course, the Lord is patient and wishes for all to come to repentance. Yet that does not negate the fact that He is still coming, and will do so without warning. As a result, we are commanded to “be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish” (2 Pet. 3:8-17).

Peter did not command us to learn the art of distinguishing between so-called “essentials” and “non-essentials.” He did not tell us to “know how much we can handle” when it comes to alcohol, drugs, crude jokes, unbecoming language, lust, tempers, gambling, and “things like these” (per Gal. 5:21).

Instead, we are commanded to love God with every ounce of our being (Mark 12:30). We are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Pet. 3:18). We are to fleenot draw lines in the sandevery flavor of sin (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).

Jesus told the Laodicea church of Christ that they were lukewarm. He told them He’d rather them be hot or cold – anything but lukewarm. God doesn’t want our partial, hairsplitting, apathetic, unbalanced, hypocritical devotion. He demands we sacrifice it all (Luke 14:33) and count everything as loss (Phil. 3:8).

What must you do to be lost?

Be indifferent. Get as close as you can to sin without sinning. Take a chill pill. Only worry about the “salvation issues.” Presume on God’s grace. Do nothing.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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A Tale of Two Gods: How Calvinism’s God & the Bible’s God are Two Very Different Gods

One very popular denominational preacher and writer, John Piper, is famous for saying that “all things” – even down to the subatomic level – “are ordained, guided, and governed” by God.[1] The idea that God determines everything can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century and is particularly popular among a branch of Protestantism known as Reformed theology.

Reformed theology, more commonly known as Calvinism[2] (we will use these words interchangeably), is a religious philosophy that follows the teachings of John Calvin and other Protestant theologians from the Reformation era. It is should be noted that Reformed theology, or Calvinism, is experiencing a resurgence in America today. So popular is Reformed theology that any Christian who reads relatively conservative denominational literature is well acquainted famous Calvinistic authors. Understandably, younger preachers thirsty for truth tend to be particularly fond of their writings because of their often passionate, yet conservative, approach to many Biblical issues. (And as a result, their Calvinistic influences sometimes unknowingly creep into the young preacher’s respective pulpit.)

The reason it is important to examine Calvinism as it relates to this study is because Reformed theology has traditionally emphasized God’s sovereignty and predestination over everything else. In fact, the idea of the sovereignty of God is the basis of Calvinism itself. Reformed theologians take great pride in the lofty ways in which they talk about God. Ben Warburton writes, “The one rock upon which Calvinism builds is that of the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah.”[3]

But herein lies the problem: The sovereign God of the Bible and the sovereign God of Calvinism are two very different Gods. Calvinists have redefined the meaning of the word sovereignty. To the Bible-believing Christian, sovereignty simply means God’s ability and right to rule the world (chapter 5 of You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God). However, to the devoted Calvinist, sovereignty means “divine determinism.” Divine determinism is the belief that God determines, causes, and orchestrates everything in history according to His preconceived plan, including sin and evil.

Calvinists erroneously believe that God is the reason for sin, since – according to Calvinism – “sovereignty” is somehow synonymous with “total control.” Thus, they create a false dichotomy,[4] claiming that if God is sovereign, He must orchestrate and control everything that ever happens – and if He does not control everything, He supposedly cannot be sovereign. Arthur Pink, a famous Calvinist, writes, “Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own Will, or be thwarted by His creatures.”[5] In the words of Jack Cottrell, Calvinists “equate sovereignty with causation, and say that the only way for God to be sovereign is if He is the sole, ultimate cause or originator of everything that takes place, including events in the natural world as well as human decisions.” Consequently, Cottrell continues, “there is no truly free will”[6] for mankind in the Calvinist worldview.

As a result, according to Calvinism, if someone commits a horrible atrocity, it is ultimately because God must have willed it to happen in the first place. Edwin Palmer, a well-known Calvinist, said it bluntly: God “has foreordained everything […] – even sin.”[7] How horrifying a thought. R.C. Sproul Jr., another leading Calvinist today, terrifyingly said, “God in some sense desired that man would fall into sin […] He created sin.”[8] Chilling, right?

Just as egregious is the Calvinistic idea that God subjectively causes individuals to have faith. To the Calvinist, the words “I have personal faith in Christ Jesus” have no real meaning because God is supposedly the cause of all things. To the Calvinist, you cannot choose to have faith; God must put it in you. According to the Synod of Dort,[9] God chooses who will believe in Him and who will not.[10] This, of course, makes the words of Jesus powerless: “whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why? Because you can’t “believe in Him” without God causing you to believe in Him! To call this cruel would be an understatement. It is like dangling crutches at the top of the stairs, saying to a paraplegic below, “Come and get them!”

Historically, Christians have distinguished between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto. De jure is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s right to rule; De facto is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s meticulous control over all events. Ardent Calvinists see this distinction as a mere formality; they believe God is both sovereign de jure and de facto all the time. Yet, New Testament Christians have always acknowledged that God is always sovereign de jure and chooses to limit His sovereignty de facto. In other words, God has the ability to meticulously control everything, but in His wisdom and love for mankind, He has chosen not to determine everything yet.

We find the distinction between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto when Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). If God is already micro-managing every detail of history, why would anyone need to pray for God’s will to be done on earth? If God is sovereign de facto, it would already be done.

Any honest observer must acknowledge that the Bible is permeated with the implication that God has given men the choice to serve Him. We could fill this book with examples of God giving mankind the freedom of choice. How otherwise could God extend His kindness if people are unable to choose repentance (Rom. 2:4)? How otherwise can we be commanded to “grow in the grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ if are unable to choose to do so (2 Pet. 3:18)? Why would Joshua tell the Israelites to choose whom they would serve if they could not actually choose (Josh. 24:15)? How could God not “show partiality” if He individually chooses on whom to force faith (Acts 10:34)? How calloused is God if He “commands all men everywhere to repent” if they are unable to repent (Acts 17:30)?

The Bible does, in fact, teach that God is sovereign, but it certainly does not teach that God determines mankind’s decisions and preordains mankind’s actions. Let’s be very clear: You can be entirely dedicated to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being absolutely sure of mankind’s free choice.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Coming August 2017

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] John Piper, “Confronting The Problem Of Evil,” DesiringGod.org

[2] Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is basically the body of religious teachings and traditions started by John Calvin (1509 – 1564 A.D.) and other Reformation-era theologians such as Ulrich Zwingli and Jonathan Edwards. Calvinism can be summarized in five false religious ideas: (1) Total Depravity (babies are born guilty of the sin of their parents), Unconditional Election (God arbitrarily chooses – independent of any known standard – who will be eternally saved and who will be eternally damned), Limited Atonement (Christ did not die for everyone), Irresistible Grace (you do not have a choice as to whether or not you will obey the gospel), Perseverance of the Saints (it is impossible for a Christian to rebel against God).
[3] Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 63
[4] A dichotomy (pronounced “die-kot-uh-mee”) is the division of two mutually exclusive things or ideas. Thus, a false dichotomy is the division of two things or ideas that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, it is a false dichotomy to say, “You either like bacon or sausage.” Why? Because real men like both bacon and sausage.
[5] Arthur Pink, The Sovereignty Of God, p. 14
[6] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, p. 81
[7] Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points Of Calvinism, p. 25, emp. added.
[8] R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All, p. 53
[9] The Synod of Dort was a very important meeting in denominational history ultimately deciding the future of Calvinism. It was held between the years 1618-1619 in the town of Dordrecht (“Dort”) in the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort was held to silence honest, Scriptural challenges to Calvinism, and at its conclusion, the traditional five points of Calvinism were formalized, namely: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
[10] See Article XIV of The Articles Of The Canons of Dort (1619). “Faith is the gift of God; not in that it is offered to the will of man by God, but that the thing itself is conferred on him, inspired, infused into him. Not even that God only confers the power of believing, but from thence expects the consent, or the act of believing: but that He, who worketh both to will and to do, worketh in man both to will to believe, and to believe itself, […] and thus He worketh all things in all.” (Translated By Thomas Scott, p. 301).

 

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A Tale of Two Gods: How Calvinism’s God & the Bible’s God are Two Very Different Gods

One very popular denominational preacher and writer, John Piper, is famous for saying that “all things” – even down to the subatomic level – “are ordained, guided, and governed” by God.[1] The idea that God determines everything can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century and is particularly popular among a branch of Protestantism known as Reformed theology.

Reformed theology, more commonly known as Calvinism[2] (we will use these words interchangeably), is a religious philosophy that follows the teachings of John Calvin and other Protestant theologians from the Reformation era. It is should be noted that Reformed theology, or Calvinism, is experiencing a resurgence in America today. So popular is Reformed theology that any Christian who reads relatively conservative denominational literature is well acquainted famous Calvinistic authors. Understandably, younger preachers thirsty for truth tend to be particularly fond of their writings because of their often passionate, yet conservative, approach to many Biblical issues. (And as a result, their Calvinistic influences sometimes unknowingly creep into the young preacher’s respective pulpit.)

The reason it is important to examine Calvinism as it relates to this study is because Reformed theology has traditionally emphasized God’s sovereignty and predestination over everything else. In fact, the idea of the sovereignty of God is the basis of Calvinism itself. Reformed theologians take great pride in the lofty ways in which they talk about God. Ben Warburton writes, “The one rock upon which Calvinism builds is that of the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of the eternal and self-existent Jehovah.”[3]

But herein lies the problem: The sovereign God of the Bible and the sovereign God of Calvinism are two very different Gods. Calvinists have redefined the meaning of the word sovereignty. To the Bible-believing Christian, sovereignty simply means God’s ability and right to rule the world (chapter 5 of You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God). However, to the devoted Calvinist, sovereignty means “divine determinism.” Divine determinism is the belief that God determines, causes, and orchestrates everything in history according to His preconceived plan, including sin and evil.

Calvinists erroneously believe that God is the reason for sin, since – according to Calvinism – “sovereignty” is somehow synonymous with “total control.” Thus, they create a false dichotomy,[4] claiming that if God is sovereign, He must orchestrate and control everything that ever happens – and if He does not control everything, He supposedly cannot be sovereign. Arthur Pink, a famous Calvinist, writes, “Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own Will, or be thwarted by His creatures.”[5] In the words of Jack Cottrell, Calvinists “equate sovereignty with causation, and say that the only way for God to be sovereign is if He is the sole, ultimate cause or originator of everything that takes place, including events in the natural world as well as human decisions.” Consequently, Cottrell continues, “there is no truly free will”[6] for mankind in the Calvinist worldview.

As a result, according to Calvinism, if someone commits a horrible atrocity, it is ultimately because God must have willed it to happen in the first place. Edwin Palmer, a well-known Calvinist, said it bluntly: God “has foreordained everything […] – even sin.”[7] How horrifying a thought. R.C. Sproul Jr., another leading Calvinist today, terrifyingly said, “God in some sense desired that man would fall into sin […] He created sin.”[8] Chilling, right?

Just as egregious is the Calvinistic idea that God subjectively causes individuals to have faith. To the Calvinist, the words “I have personal faith in Christ Jesus” have no real meaning because God is supposedly the cause of all things. To the Calvinist, you cannot choose to have faith; God must put it in you. According to the Synod of Dort,[9] God chooses who will believe in Him and who will not.[10] This, of course, makes the words of Jesus powerless: “whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why? Because you can’t “believe in Him” without God causing you to believe in Him! To call this cruel would be an understatement. It is like dangling crutches at the top of the stairs, saying to a paraplegic below, “Come and get them!”

Historically, Christians have distinguished between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto. De jure is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s right to rule; De facto is a Latin word which in this context refers to God’s meticulous control over all events. Ardent Calvinists see this distinction as a mere formality; they believe God is both sovereign de jure and de facto all the time. Yet, New Testament Christians have always acknowledged that God is always sovereign de jure and chooses to limit His sovereignty de facto. In other words, God has the ability to meticulously control everything, but in His wisdom and love for mankind, He has chosen not to determine everything yet.

We find the distinction between God’s sovereignty de jure and de facto when Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). If God is already micro-managing every detail of history, why would anyone need to pray for God’s will to be done on earth? If God is sovereign de facto, it would already be done.

Any honest observer must acknowledge that the Bible is permeated with the implication that God has given men the choice to serve Him. We could fill this book with examples of God giving mankind the freedom of choice. How otherwise could God extend His kindness if people are unable to choose repentance (Rom. 2:4)? How otherwise can we be commanded to “grow in the grace” of the Lord Jesus Christ if are unable to choose to do so (2 Pet. 3:18)? Why would Joshua tell the Israelites to choose whom they would serve if they could not actually choose (Josh. 24:15)? How could God not “show partiality” if He individually chooses on whom to force faith (Acts 10:34)? How calloused is God if He “commands all men everywhere to repent” if they are unable to repent (Acts 17:30)?

The Bible does, in fact, teach that God is sovereign, but it certainly does not teach that God determines mankind’s decisions and preordains mankind’s actions. Let’s be very clear: You can be entirely dedicated to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being absolutely sure of mankind’s free choice.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, You Are A Theologian: Thinking Right About God.

This is another volume in the You Are A Theologian book series. Thinking Right About God challenges readers to think more Biblically about God’s attributes, His triune nature, and His sovereignty. Like the first book in this series, it is ideal for a broad range of applications: personal study, small group discussions, and college/young adult/adult Bible class curriculum.

Coming August 2017

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] John Piper, “Confronting The Problem Of Evil,” DesiringGod.org

[2] Calvinism, also known as Reformed theology, is basically the body of religious teachings and traditions started by John Calvin (1509 – 1564 A.D.) and other Reformation-era theologians such as Ulrich Zwingli and Jonathan Edwards. Calvinism can be summarized in five false religious ideas: (1) Total Depravity (babies are born guilty of the sin of their parents), Unconditional Election (God arbitrarily chooses – independent of any known standard – who will be eternally saved and who will be eternally damned), Limited Atonement (Christ did not die for everyone), Irresistible Grace (you do not have a choice as to whether or not you will obey the gospel), Perseverance of the Saints (it is impossible for a Christian to rebel against God).
[3] Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p. 63
[4] A dichotomy (pronounced “die-kot-uh-mee”) is the division of two mutually exclusive things or ideas. Thus, a false dichotomy is the division of two things or ideas that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, it is a false dichotomy to say, “You either like bacon or sausage.” Why? Because real men like both bacon and sausage.
[5] Arthur Pink, The Sovereignty Of God, p. 14
[6] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, p. 81
[7] Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points Of Calvinism, p. 25, emp. added.
[8] R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All, p. 53
[9] The Synod of Dort was a very important meeting in denominational history ultimately deciding the future of Calvinism. It was held between the years 1618-1619 in the town of Dordrecht (“Dort”) in the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort was held to silence honest, Scriptural challenges to Calvinism, and at its conclusion, the traditional five points of Calvinism were formalized, namely: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
[10] See Article XIV of The Articles Of The Canons of Dort (1619). “Faith is the gift of God; not in that it is offered to the will of man by God, but that the thing itself is conferred on him, inspired, infused into him. Not even that God only confers the power of believing, but from thence expects the consent, or the act of believing: but that He, who worketh both to will and to do, worketh in man both to will to believe, and to believe itself, […] and thus He worketh all things in all.” (Translated By Thomas Scott, p. 301).

 

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What Must I Do to be Lost?

Sometimes people get caught up in discussions about what sins will send a man to hell. Usually, the “really bad” sins, like adultery or murder, top the list with little question. Then there are the “little sins” – sins society tolerates more-or-less – like cursing, coveting possessions, recreational drug and alcohol use, or lust.

Perhaps we could talk about how even Christians often turn a blind eye to some sins. To our shame, it is not hard to find Christians full of pride, selfishness, ungratefulness, anxiety, and worldliness. The truth is any sin, no matter how small, can damn Christians. As Isaiah told God’s people:

Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isa. 59:1-2)

“Is it a Sin to…”

Yet many Christians still ask the question, “What must I do to be lost?” Not with those words, of course, but with other questions. “Do I have to go to every church service?” “Is _____ a salvation issue?” “How far can I go with _____?” “How many drinks is too much?”

These can be legitimate questions. And if we are willing to listen, the Bible answers all of these questions with great clarity. But the problem is usually not the question itself; it’s the attitude behind the question.

What I mean is this: Many Christians are no better than the servant who was given one talent and went and buried it. When the master returned, the servant handed over the one talent. To which the master responded:

Cast this worthless servant into outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 25:14-30)

The attitude behind, “What must I do to be lost?” is akin to, “What is the least I can do/get right/believe/commit and still be saved?” When we start drawing lines in the sand, we start forgetting that what belongs to our Master is our complete devotion.

All or Nothing

Of course, the Lord is patient and wishes for all to come to repentance. Yet that does not negate the fact that He is still coming, and will do so without warning. As a result, we are commanded to “be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish” (2 Pet. 3:8-17).

Peter did not command us to learn the art of distinguishing between so-called “essentials” and “non-essentials.” He did not tell us to “know how much we can handle” when it comes to alcohol, drugs, crude jokes, unbecoming language, lust, tempers, gambling, and “things like these” (per Gal. 5:21).

Instead, we are commanded to love God with every ounce of our being (Mark 12:30). We are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Pet. 3:18). We are to fleenot draw lines in the sandevery flavor of sin (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).

Jesus told the Laodicea church of Christ that they were lukewarm. He told them He’d rather them be hot or cold – anything but lukewarm. God doesn’t want our partial, hairsplitting, apathetic, unbalanced, hypocritical devotion. He demands we sacrifice it all (Luke 14:33) and count everything as loss (Phil. 3:8).

What must you do to be lost?

Be indifferent. Get as close as you can to sin without sinning. Take a chill pill. Only worry about the “salvation issues.” Presume on God’s grace. Do nothing.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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Just As Saved (But Not Like) The Thief On The Cross

just as saved as the thief“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” The precious blood of Jesus is so powerful that even a sinner like me can be saved. Sweet, incredible grace!

The greatest news in the world is this: Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10). Even a sinner like you – with all that baggage and feelings of regret – can be saved. In the words the Hebrew writer, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). I would give anything for that.

We don’t exactly know what crime the thief hanging next to Jesus had committed. The Bible just calls him a “robber” or “criminal” (Luke 23:39-43). Whatever it was, he knew he was guilty (Luke 23:41). But he confessed his sins to Jesus, after which Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Sweet, incredible grace! Imagine how that thief must have felt when he heard those words. Think about the assurance he must have felt. Hanging there on that cross, abused and in utter physical agony, he felt a sense of peace and security he had never felt before.

Don’t you want to feel that confidence in your salvation, as if Jesus had personally told you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

Totally Secure In Your Salvation

The apostle John says that it is possible to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). We can be absolutely sure that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). You can have just as much confidence in your salvation as you would if Jesus personally looked at you and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” You can be just as saved (to the same degree) as the thief on the cross.

How can you get that security?  

You must be obey the words of Christ. Jesus says,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).

He’s talking about you, Christian! When we follow Christ, we receive eternal life. And how can we feel secure in His grace? By knowing we are keeping His commands. “By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:5-6). Sweet, incredible grace!

God’s grace saves us, and we come to know His saving grace through our faithful obedience (Eph. 2:8; cf. John 3:36). By His grace he has offered salvation to “all people” (Titus 2:11), and we in turn “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

God doesn’t ask for perfection; He just asks for your best.

You cannot purposefully sin and have any hope of salvation. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Nonetheless, God doesn’t ask us to be perfect; He simply wants us to give Him our best by serving Him from the heart (Mark 12:30).

John says it this way:

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

We must “walk in the light.” In other words, we must continually try to obey Jesus faithfully. When I follow Him (however imperfectly), I have the absolute confidence that “Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Sweet, incredible grace!

Saved, But Not Like The Thief On The Cross

It is common to hear some well meaning soul say, “I just want to be saved like the thief on the cross.” The only problem is: you can’t.

No one today can be saved like (in the same manner as) the thief on the cross.

You can’t be saved like the thief on the cross, just as you can’t be saved like Elijah and Moses.

There is no doubt that that the thief on the cross was saved, just as there is no doubt that Elijah and Moses were saved (cf. Matt. 17:3-5). But the thief, Elijah, and Moses lived under a different law than anyone today.

Let me explain: As long as you are living and breathing, you can do whatever you want with your money and possessions. Likewise, Jesus, while on earth, had the authority to forgive sins whenever he wanted (Mark 2:10). However, when you die, your last will and testament will determine what happens to your money and possessions. In the same manner, after Jesus died and ascended into heaven, His last will and testament became the way in which He offers people forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:13-17). And the way in which Jesus today has decided to forgive sin is through obedience, starting with repentance and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.).

You can’t be saved like the thief on the cross because the thief lived under a different law. Jesus’ last will and testament was not yet in effect. The law the thief was under when Jesus pronounced him saved was the very law Jesus was nailing to the cross (Col. 2:14).

Here’s the irony: If you try to be saved like the thief on the cross, you will be rebelling against the last will and testament of Jesus, and you’ll end up eternally damned like the other thief!

We are saved by following Jesus. And you can’t follow Jesus without first repenting of your sins and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Mark 28:18-20). Today, you must be saved like the crowd on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35-39), Saul (Acts 9:17-18; 22:6-14; 26:12-18), Cornelius (Acts 10:34-38), the jailer (Acts 16:25-34), Lydia (Acts 16:15), and John’s disciples (Acts 19:1-7).

You can be just as saved as the thief on the cross, but you can’t be saved like the thief on the cross. Belief in Christ must translate into obedience to Christ (John 3:36). Have you been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

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What Must I Do To Stay Saved?

I know some who live in constant fear of being lost. They are keenly aware of their flaws and failures, and believe their soul is continually in jeopardy. Deep down they feel they are safe only immediately after they have prayed to God, “Please forgive me of my sins.” I am sure a few even hope they will die “in church” or right after asking God for forgiveness, because beyond this (they feel) their salvation is anyone’s guess.

They believe in Jesus and love Him with their whole heart, are committed to good works, and are trying to live a pure and godly life, but are not experiencing the joy and peace that comes along with assurance. What a tragedy! They are so conscious of their shortcomings that they have no hope.

On the flip side, I know many others who feel they can never be lost once they have been saved. This popular (yet flawed) belief in Christendom, called “once saved, always saved,” teaches that once a person is saved from sin, there is nothing they can do to be lost (and if they are lost, they were never saved to begin with!).

Never mind the frequent biblical accounts of Christians being urged to remain faithful – or risk being damned (Acts 14:22; Heb. 4:1; Heb. 12:15, etc.). Never mind the early Christians who returned to practicing Judaism (Gal. 5:4) or paganism (2 Pet. 2:20-22). Never mind Jesus telling entire churches to repent otherwise He would remove their lampstand (Rev. 2:5). Never mind the apostle Paul’s belief that he too could become “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).

Hoards of people believe in “once saved, always saved” because they trust in some man (whether it be Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, or their preacher) rather than the abundant warnings of Scripture.

So if it is possible for a Christian to once again become lost, what must I do to stay saved?

Ask If You Are In Christ

Many think they are Christians when – according to the Bible – they are not. Only “in Christ” can we have “redemption through His blood” and “forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). Only “in Christ” can we be free of condemnation (Rom. 8:1). There is salvation in no one else but Jesus (Acts 4:12). How do I get “in Christ?”

Baptism is the only way to get into Christ. Baptism is how we identify with Jesus and begin our new walk with Him (Rom. 6:3-4). The Bible instructs: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).

Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, upon being asked by the believing crowd what they needed to do to be saved, commanded: “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Walk In The Light As He Is In The Light

No Christian is immune to sin and temptation. If a Christian had to be perfectly sinless, then no one could ever be saved. Furthermore, if a Christian claims to have never sinned post-baptism, he/she is being dishonest (1 John 1:8-10).

So what’s the difference between a non-Christian and a Christian? Christians are actively fighting against sin (Rom. 6:1-2; 1 John 2:1a). Even though a Christian may occasionally sin (perhaps unknowingly), sin is still a foreign element in his/her life.

Despite these moments of weakness and imperfection, faithful Christians can still have assurance! Note what the apostle John writes:

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Christ’s blood continually cleanses me, even at times when I am guilty of sin (1 John 2:1b).

Do you hear me, Christian? You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven! You must simply “walk in the light.”

This offers no hope to people who willingly or consciously sin. This offers no assurance of salvation to anyone who knowingly breaks one of Christ’s commandments – unless they repent. Remember, “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).

But for those who “keep walking,” Christ “keeps cleansing.”

We must simply give Him our best. While Christians will never be perfect, perfection must always be the goal. Why? Because we are to love God with every ounce of our being (Mark 12:30).

Develop Humility & Contrition

But we can’t stop here. We must develop the right attitude about all of this.

While God has given us a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” in His Word, Christianity is more than just completing a sort of “checklist” (but it is certainly not less). Being a Christian is about developing our character until we are more perfectly in compliance with Him.

God said,

This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word (Isa. 66:2).

In other words, following God isn’t just about getting short answers to technical questions. I must cultivate a close relationship with God – one that causes me to grieve over things that cause God grief – and to rejoice over things that cause God to rejoice. And at all times, we must recognize that we are not worthy of God’s grace (cf. Luke 18:13-14). Humility is the answer.

I can’t develop this kind of relationship simply by listening to someone else or reading self-help books from the “Christian Living” section of the bookstore. It requires personal contact with God.

God has spoken through Scripture and put the power in His Word to convict and convert us. And He has promised us this conviction if we will just pay attention.

Then, He waits for us to speak to Him in prayer – with the promise that He will listen. We need to do this daily, just as we eat daily. To be so-called “religious” without personally communicating to God is to risk rejection. Jeremiah wrote:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. (Jer. 17:7)

We can have the assurance of salvation if we are willing to walk with the Lord.

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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Five Things

It’s the most important question you can ever ask. Yet if you ask ten different churches, you’ll get ten different answers. But what does the Bible say? We cannot afford to get this one wrong.

5 Things God Wants You To Know

1. You need a Savior.

Everyone – from the best to the worst – is lost without Jesus. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecc. 7:20). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

2. You cannot save yourself.

No matter how good you are, you will never “earn” your way into heaven. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov. 14:12). “ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

3. God wants you to be saved.

He takes no joy in a lost soul. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

4. You have a choice.

God did not predestine you personally to be saved or be lost. He wants you – and everyone – to be saved, but He isn’t going to force you one way or the other. “…not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

5. God has provided a way for you to be saved.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).

5 Things God Wants You To Do

1. Believe in Jesus Christ & His Kingdom.

You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). You must believe that He is the Lord and King. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). You must believe in His kingdom (the church). “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13; cf. Acts 8:12).

2. Repent of your sins.

You must submit your life to the Lordship of Jesus. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, cf. 3:19).

“Repent” is kind of a churchy word – but we need to get comfortable with it. Someone who is repenting means they are (a) making amends for the wrongs they have committed in life (cf. Luke 19:8-10), (b) continually fighting against sin in their life (1 John 3:19), and (c) committing a lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus (Gal. 2:20).

3. Confess Jesus before men.

Not just one time, but for the rest of your life. Your life must be a living testimony to the Lordship of Jesus. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:10).

4. Be baptized.

This is not a mere formality. If preceded by belief & repentance, it is the very point at which the grace of God saves you. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).

We must point out that you must be baptized before you can be saved (1 Pet. 3:21). It is the moment your faith comes in contact with the saving blood of Jesus (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is how we enter into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).

5. Live for Jesus.

By repentance and baptism, motivated by faith, we become God’s children – adopted into the royal family. But our salvation is not secure unless we live faithfully to God. We must walk in the light of Jesus. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

For the rest of life on earth, we must add to our faith the Christian virtues (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Our salvation is conditional on our continuing as God’s children. And if we are His children, God will dwell in us. And if He is in us, His fruit will be obvious in our lives – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

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How To Determine If Something Is A Salvation Issue

The question about whether something is a “salvation issue” gets thrown around occasionally among some circles. “Is using instrumental music in worship is a salvation issue?” “Is what you wear to worship a salvation issue?” “Is church attendance a salvation issue?” Used this way, the phrase “salvation issue” (never found in Scripture) is employed to describe an issue that Christians must get right in order to go to heaven.

I’ve always thought that this theoretical distinction of whether something is a “salvation issue” is kind of silly – if not outright arrogant. After all, it doesn’t matter what I, or any other human, thinks is a “salvation issue.” Are we willing to embrace a pseudo-Christianity that categorizes certain commands of God as being either “important” or “non-important?”

If There Were Such A Thing As “Salvation Issues” vs. “Non-Salvation Issues…”

…Who Gets To Decide?

The phrase “salvation issue” was coined only a generation ago in an effort to justify those who failed to believe what the Bible taught on a given issue. “You can be mistaken about a host of different Biblical issues so long as you believe the truth about Jesus or salvation,” or so the argument goes.

With that being said, what issues can I label as being “inconsequential” to my salvation? No one has the right to walk up to God’s throne and tell Him to scoot over. If I disobey God regarding any issue He has addressed in His word (either explicitly or implicitly), I am guilty of sin. Sin is the violation of God’s will on a given issue (1 John 3:4; 5:17; Jas. 4:17; Rom. 14:23; Prov. 24:9). All issues – from “big” matters to “little” matters – have the power to damn my soul (Rom. 6:23).

Who gave me the right to compartmentalize issues such as sexuality and marriage, worship, gender roles in the church, baptism, and denominationalism as either “essential” or “non-essential” matters? Which of these am I willing to be wrong about and still be found pleasing to God?

…What is the least I have to do to be pleasing to God?

One of the dangers of categorizing things as “salvation issues” is that it fosters a sort of “checklist” mentality when it comes to Christianity. (“As long as I’m good on these things over here, I don’t have to worry about those things over there.”) Yet Christianity has never been a merit-based system. It is a system of salvation granted to us only by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9). God’s free gift of salvation of course has some requirements of receipt (belief & obedience, cf. Mark 16:15-16), but a saving relationship with God is a result of our obedient love for Him. Someone who is deeply in love with God never tries to categorize His law into “essentials” and “non-essentials.” Jesus rebuked the ancient scribes and Pharisees for forgetting the basis from which their obedience was to spring (cf. Matt. 23:23-24).

…Which of God’s commands can we sacrifice on the altar of relativism?

When I take matters on which God has spoken and depreciate them to mere “matters of opinion,” I have sacrificed the conviction that God’s Word can be known and understood. God has never spoken out of both sides of His mouth on an issue. There is no Biblical teaching about which all interpretations are equally valid.

If I don’t get everything right in my understanding of the Bible, it isn’t because God could not adequately communicate His Word – it’s because of me. The human heart itself is the most common limitation in understanding God’s Word. The heart that does not recognize or desire truth is the most common and pervasive pitfall in Bible interpretation.

We need to be levelheaded about this question. The first order of business is to get our baseline right: God, and God alone, gets to decide what is a “salvation issue.”

Things We Must Get Right From The Beginning

Of course, the Bible teaches, in no uncertain terms, that there are things one must do and believe in order to be saved by God’s grace, despite the sincerity of someone to the contrary.

  • I must have faith in God and His reward for the faithful (Heb. 11:6; cf. Rev. 2:10).
  • I must repent of my sins, entering into a covenant with God to conform to the identity of His Son (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; Gal. 2:20).
  • I must have at least a basic, though no-less fervent, understanding of what it means to yield to the Lordship of Christ (Matt. 28:28; Acts 2:36; 10:36; Rom. 10:9-10; Jude 4; Rev. 17:14).
  • I must be baptized for the express purpose of (a) receiving forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:21) and (b) being added by Jesus to His church (Acts 2:47; cf. Col. 1:13).
  • And, I would argue, I must have at least a rudimentary concept of the kingdom of God, since it was so central to the preaching of the gospel during the beginning of the church (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; cf. Col. 1:13).

In other words, sincerity is not enough. There will be plenty of people – a heartbreaking number – who honestly believed they were Christians but did not satisfy the requirements of salvation so clearly stated by the New Testament (Matt. 7:21-23). There are simply some things a person must get right from the beginning in order to be saved.

All Christians Are On A Learning Curve

When someone becomes a Christian, do they have to understand everything about instrumental music, denominationalism, modesty, the Lord’s Supper, the church organization, the division between the Old and New Testaments, etc.? As important as these issues are, certainly not immediately!

Once someone has become a Christian, he/she begins a lifelong period of growth. We must remember that all Christians have varying degrees of spiritual maturity – some growing faster than others. [Much of the “speed” of this development is based upon desire (1 Pet. 2:2)].

We need to be patient with Christians if they have not yet attained a coherent knowledge of the truth (cf. Rom. 14:1; 15:1; 1 Cor. 8:9). Someone may hold to an incorrect Biblical position for the time being, but still be searching for the truth.

Not only are we to teach our fellow Christians the truth, but we are to do it with “complete patience” (2 Tim. 4:2). The apostle Paul, knowing Christians mature at different rates of speed, wrote:

We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thess. 5:14).

…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:12-13)

Some Christians used to be members of various denominations, and many will likely have some theological baggage to overcome. Someone who grew up being a Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Baptist, etc., will likely be disadvantaged in adapting to pre-denominational Christianity. They will have to “unlearn” several of the false beliefs they had previously been taught.

Other Christians grew up being taught a postmodern worldview, and thus will have some philosophical baggage to overcome. The truth claims of the Bible will run counter to the relative truth culture has taught them through the years. Yet other Christians grew up in an abusive household, or suffer from learning disabilities, and thus will have some psychological or emotional baggage to overcome.

Christians of course have an obligation to contend for the faith if false religion is being taught (Jude 3). Yet, at the same time, those who harshly insist their brethren immediately drop what is deemed to be a wrong belief, without being willing to first patiently teach them, are often a cancer in the church.

So long as a person is still breathing on this earth, he/she must always be in pursuit of the truth (2 Thess. 2:12). It is when a Christian rejects God’s Word about something that an issue – any issue – can become a “salvation issue.”

God Often Grants A Period of Grace

God is often merciful and gives us a period of grace. Consider the “seven churches of Asia” in Revelation 2-3. Jesus critiqued each congregation, telling them what they needed to change if they still wanted to be saved. To the Ephesian church of Christ, for example, He said:

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Rev. 2:5)

By the phrase “remove your lampstand,” I suppose God still considered the names of those Christians still written in the book of Life (cf. Rev. 3:5), but He was placing them on probation. They were guilty of sin – and all sin is a “salvation issue.” But by His grace He gave them a period to repent.

When does God’s grace period end? To the Thyatira church, Jesus said:

I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works (Rev. 2:20-22)

Did Jezebel get to decide when God’s grace period ended? Perhaps her preacher tried to comfort her by saying, “Yes, sexual deviancy is a frowned upon at this church, but it isn’t a salvation issue.”

Only God, in His sovereignty, gets to decide how far His grace will extend. We are not promised an opportunity to repent always (Acts 5:1-11). But when we refuse to obey the words of Christ, any issue can become a “salvation issue” (2 Thess. 1:8).

Conclusion

Before entering into Christ, all sins are salvation issues (Rom. 6:23; 3:23). After the gospel has been obeyed, Christians must “walk according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-2); otherwise any sin can once again become a “salvation issue.”

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that I don’t have to get everything right – I just have to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). I simply must continually try to get everything right. It is when I become dispassionate about serving God – categorizing His commands as “salvation issues” and “non-salvation issues” – that I jeopardize my salvation. I cannot afford to stop pursuing the truth of His Word.

I might not get everything right concerning the various teachings of the Bible (in fact, I’m confident I won’t). I might be honestly mistaken when it comes to issues like church attendance, modesty, gambling, the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit, the “end times,” the proper use of church funds, etc. This doesn’t mean the truth can’t be known; this doesn’t mean there is “room for disagreement.” But there is, however, room in the church for greater patience with those who are honestly mistaken on these issues – but are still searching for the truth. [And if someone is publicly teaching something that he/she is honestly mistaken about, we should gently pull them aside and explain the truth “more accurately” to them (Acts 18:25-26).]

I must continually strive to better understand the gospel of Christ, because everything becomes a “salvation issue” when I stop seeking the truth and obeying God. By God’s grace, He will let my lampstand burn long enough for me to come to a better knowledge of the truth.

And even at my best, at the end of the day, I will just be an “unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:10). Thank God for His grace.

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Why The Trinity Matters (Practically Speaking)

A.W. Tozer said, “What you think of God is the most important thing about you.”[1] This is certainly true in relation to idolatry, where the Bible repeatedly warns that we will become like our idols (Psa. 115:8; 135:15-18; Isa. 44:18-20; 2 Cor. 4:4). Idolatry is not only repugnant to God, it is a deadly disease of the heart.

Idolatry is anything that exchanges the glory of God for something else (Rom. 1:23). One of the ways we trade God’s glory is by failing to appreciate His triune nature. When we do this, it effects us in deeper ways than you might think.

What If God Were Not A Trinity?

To see the horror of a god who is unitarian (instead of triune), look no further than Islam. The Muslim god, Allah, is exclusively one person; he has no Son or Spirit. Before creation, Allah was completely alone – a sort of divine hermit. He had no one with whom to share his divine nature for eternity. He was always just a solitary being. So he created the world so he could have something over which to rule.

In contrast, the God of the Bible has always existed – even before Creation – as Father, Son, and Spirit. And one of the eternal attributes of God is that He is “love” (1 John 4:8). Love must always have an object to love and by which to be loved. The Bible never teaches that God became loving after He created the world. So for God to have always been love, He must have always had someone to love. Thus, before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son, and Spirit were (and always will be) an indivisible God of infinite love. One in essence; three in Person; perpetually loving one another. This is why the Son said to the Father in John 17:24, “You loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Remember, how we think about God affects us in monumental ways. Islamic theology is founded on the principle of totalitarianism and absolute submission. The merciless Muslim view of Allah is projected onto their view of civil government, marriage, and religious life. Every institution is based upon the theory of subjection and control. To them, there is no such thing as “separation of church and state” — all must bow to Allah. The highest level of spirituality in Islam is that of submissive fear towards the autocratic Allah.

Christianity is just the opposite. When we understand the true God is a Trinity, it results in love, grace, and obedience to Him from the heart. This in turn is projected onto the Christian’s view of government, marriage, and religion. Christianity is based upon giving and mutual respect in every arena of life, because that is what God has given us. The highest level of spirituality in Christianity is that of obeying God from the heart because we love Him as “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Why are the religions of Islam and Christianity so radically different? Because, ultimately, the god of the Quran and the God of the Bible are two very different Gods. Consequently, human cultures saturated by Islam and cultures permeated by the Biblical worldview are like night and day. Allah says, “I exist so you will die serving me.” Our Triune God says, “I died for you so you can live for Me.” The God we choose to serve will change us in fundamental ways.

The Trinity Makes Us Sweeter

Christians Have Been Adopted Into A Family, Not Made Into Slaves

When we understand that God is a Trinity, we get a better picture of our salvation. The apostle Paul shows us that Christians have been adopted into the family of God:

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:15-17)

God sent His Son into the world to pay the penalty for our sins against Him. Now, through the Son, we can be welcomed into the household of God and be made brothers of Christ Himself (Heb. 2:11).

This is incredibly different than the picture of followers of the solidly monotheistic Allah.

Christians Are To Love One Another As God Loves Us

When we understand that God is a Trinity, we become a more loving spouse, friend, and church member.

The Spirit reveals to us what was once an incredible mystery of God (Eph. 1:13-14). God has shown us the relationship He has with His Son and His Spirit. We stand in awe as we read the words of Jesus: “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you” (John 15:9). Nothing better teaches us that love than the Trinity. The Son traded His life for the life of His bride (you and me, the church). Likewise, we are to model this love in our marriages (Eph. 5:25, 28-30) and within the church among one another (John 13:35).

Conclusion

In the words of C.S. Lewis:

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested,’ because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one.[2]

God loves us. We see this love between the Father, Son, and Spirit, and now He has offered His love to us. But with this love, comes responsibility and obligation. Greater knowledge of God demands greater commitment from us.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Endnotes
[1] Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. Page 1.
[2] C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. Page 39.

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Why It’s Wrong To Keep Truth And Grace In Balance

We want to be balanced people. It is considered a good thing to have a balanced diet or to keep a healthy balance between work and pleasure.

But sometimes, balance is a bad thing. For example, finding a balance between fidelity and infidelity in marriage – or between honesty and dishonesty – doesn’t make any sense.

With this in view, sometimes people express the funny notion that grace and truth somehow need to be kept in balance. “We want a preacher who will preach about grace as much as he preaches truth,” says the preacher search committee. “Grace is a wonderful thing, but you have to keep grace and truth in balance so you don’t go to extremes,” says the Bible study teacher. (After all, no one wants to be thought of as an extremist!)

The problem with this reasoning is that it separates grace from truth – as if they are opposed to one another.

Grace and truth are not opposites; they are conjoined twins! You cannot have one without the other.

Grace is truth, and truth is grace.

Both are perfectly united in Jesus, who is the “only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Thus, we have “grace and truth through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16).

You can’t talk about grace without talking about truth.

What does grace without truth even look like?

It is a mistake to emphasize God’s grace while neglecting the necessity of obedience. If a church hears not much more than a constant drivel of “self-help” and “God is love” sermons, it won’t be long before the members start to conclude that costly obedience is not very important.

But this wouldn’t really be “grace” in the first place. If God’s grace is taught in any way that somehow lessens the seriousness of sin, undermines the importance of obedience, or cheapens the necessity of holinessthat isn’t grace; that’s license (Rom. 6:1, 15; Jude 4).

You cannot have grace without truth. By God’s grace, He has saved us and instructed us how to live obediently to Him. Note Paul’s words:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12)

Those who do not love the truth of God’s Word – both the “hard” parts and the “easy” parts – have forfeited God’s grace. Knowledge of the truth of God’s Word is what gives us freedom (John 17:17; John 8:32). The fact that God has extended His grace to those who are perishing, and has given us instruction on how to be free from the slavery of sin, is truth!

You can’t talk about truth without talking about grace.

The core of Christianity is God’s grace. That’s why Paul refers to salvation in Christ as a “grace” system (Rom. 6:14).

To preach that we are saved purely by perfect law-keeping and therefore need no grace is errorIt is a false gospel (Gal. 1:8; 5:4).

Yes, we must obey God from the heart (John 14:15). Yes, we must obey 100% of God’s commands to the best of our ability (Heb. 10:26). Yes, we will be in some way “judged according to our works” (Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13). Grace, after all, is only found through the obedience of faith (Eph. 2:8).

But why do we obey? Because of God’s grace. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And – even after our best efforts to obey the truth – we will still be “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10). God, by His grace, still cleanses us of sins and shortcomings (1 John 1:7). That is why the gospel is still the good news for Christians!

Thank God for His glorious grace, which makes me want to obey Him even more!

They aren’t opposites.

The lie that we need to somehow find a balance between grace and truth might sound good to those who don’t know any better, but it is a devastating idea.

Grace and truth are not opposite sides of the coin – they are on the same side!

If you’re going to draw a line, draw it between rebellious, immoral living and thinking you can make it to heaven simply by our own meritorious works. And in that case, both are equally wrong (and we don’t need to find a balance between them).

Thus, we begin to see that there is technically no such thing as being too far to the “right” or too far to the “left.” Moderation, or “balance,” between these two is just a mirage. There is only right and wrong, and we must be fully committed to the grace & truth that is found only in the last will and testament of Christ.

Grace and truth are synonymous because they are both found in Jesus. Therefore, let us be 100% committed to both.

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