The Death of Religion

The Death of Religion[1]

The Christ event, the death and resurrection of Christ, symbolizes many things like the end of the old order and the beginning of the new  “It represented a new way of approaching God and a new and better covenant. However, many fail to see that the first part the equation, the death of Christ marked the end of religion as a way to approach God.  So, we could say that when Christ died, all religion died with him, along with all of its idols.”  In view of this statement, I thought it good to give the readers a working definition of what we mean by religion.

The most common idea that comes to mind when we hear the word religion is one of ceremonial and other worldliness.  However, when we look deeper we begin to see a sense of religion in just about everything we humans say and do.  We see it in our devotion and ceremonialism in regards to our professionalism and nationalism.  Robert D. Brinsnead goes so far as to say, “To be a person is to be religious, because a person is by nature homo religious.”  One man said, “that a man’s religion is his ultimate concern” and we all have an ultimate concern.

We can also understand the word religion in a narrow sense to mean an institution that forms the foundation of a society and gives it the moral fabric that holds it together[2].  Religion as an institution can be created by humans as in the case of the world’s great religions like Buddhism,  Islam, and modern Christianity, or it can be a divinely created religion like ancient Judaism or primitive Christianity.  It can be organized like the great religions around the world, or unorganized like American civil religion or New-Age religion.  It may even take the form of non-religion like atheistic communism, which itself has become a religion.  It is religion in the form of institution that we will be discussing in this article.

From the above we can gather that we can never be completely free from religion in its broadest sense and probably not in any sense of the word.  However, we can strive to be free of bad religion in every sense of the word.  We might say that anything we do or say that does not lead to life is bad religion.

If you didn’t notice, let me draw your attention to the fact that in talking about religion I did not classify primitive Christianity as a religion.  I did this for the simple reason that it is not a religion but rather a way of life.  Jesus Christ never founded an organized religion nor did he intend his followers to fabricate one.  In fact, Jesus’ intent was to destroy religion as a mediator between God and man.  Therefore, primitive Christianity in the first century, like its Lord, stood against all institutionalized religion.  It called upon all men everywhere to cease building the institutions of religion, which is a call for man to stop making idols and to start having a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The command of God in the gospel is that all men must come out of religion into his Son (II Cor 6:14-18).  This calling out of religion includes modern Christianity, which is a total subversion of primitive Christianity.

In order to understand the degree of this subversion, we must further understand the contrast between modern Christianity and primitive Christianity, the latter we will refer to from now on as the Faith.  We will see from this contrast that the Faith was subversive to all religion and that modem Christianity is nothing more than a total perversion of the true Faith, which we will see has very little in common with religion in any of its form or institutions.

As we begin to observe organized religion, you will begin to see a common thread that runs through all religion.  That thread is that religion is the mediator between man and his absolute.  In some cases, this absolute is God, in others it is an idol.  An idol is anything made by man and exalted by man as his absolute.  This would include ideologies and theological belief systems that have been created to serve him in his understanding of God and reality.  Given time these systems usually are exalted to be absolutes.  When this happens they become idols and men soon found that these systems of belief that were intended to serve and liberate them, have in fact enslaved them[3].  The religious traditions and institutions that he has made to serve him by giving structure and form have become his master.  A modem example of this enslavement to an ideology is Marxism.  First, you have the ideology that was meant to enrich mankind.  Then you have the subversion of it by the followers of the founder.  Then you have the institution that enslaves while claiming to be the perfection of the ideas of its founder.

This subversion and movement away from the founders intentions can be seen equally well in the Christian movement.  The Christian church in its institutional form has watered down and has even subverted the teachings of its Lord to make them and itself acceptable to the masses.  This perversion is often done under the cloak of evangelism and the love of souls.  However, the truth about of the matter is that the institutionalized church loves numbers because it loves power and the status of the numbers.

Subsequently, in order to protect and propagate itself, the institution must also exalt itself to a place of being the sole mediator between its members and their absolute.  It usually also claims the right to invest the authority of mediation on certain sacred people, places, codes, and times.  Thus we have the creation of the distinction between the sacred and the profane.  As long as the institution has control over the sacred, it has a tremendous power over its followers.  It is in this area of distinction between the sacred and the profane that primitive Christianity became hostile to all religion.  For it proclaimed that in the resurrection of Christ, that God had declared all things clean or sacred, for He is the Lord of all things and all people.  In this act of raising his Son, he forever abolished the distinction between the sacred and profane.  Therefore, this act of God is also the abolition of all religion, which raises the question; can one believe in the resurrected Christ and religion at the same time?

We have already made the statement that religion mediates though the channels of sacred people (priests or clergymen), sacred places (temples, shrines, etc.), sacred laws (creeds, theological systems, laws, etc.) sacred times (Sabbath day, Sunday, etc.).  However, when we look at primitive Christianity we see an amazing absence of these sacred mediators.  Instead, we find that there is only one mediator between God and man, and that one mediator is not a religion nor any of its forms of mediation, but rather a man.  “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.  The testimony given in its proper time” (1 Tim 2:5,6).  If we build on this teaching of the apostle Paul, we must conclude that when Jesus Christ appeared, all religion ceased to mediate the presence of God.  In other words, when Jesus came to life, all institutionalized religion was put to death along with all its forms of mediation.  At least in the mind of God.

It was religion and its laws that judged Jesus to be the accursed one, but God reversed that judgment by raising him from the dead and declaring him to be the just one.  In justifying Jesus in this mighty act of raising him from the dead, God condemned to death all religion, placing it in the old order of things that was done away with through Christ (John 19:7,  Col. 2:13-17).  He also shows in this act that the real intent and purpose of the Law (religion) was to point people toward Christ and to bring them to faith in the perfect revelation of God which is Jesus Christ (John 1:17, Gal 3:23-25).  In restoring Law [religion] to its proper place and fulfilling it by his very presence, Jesus dismantled one of the main forms of mediation of religion.  In religion law rules as the absolute.  In the Faith it is the living Christ that rules and we could go so far as to say that his standard of rule is not a written code but rather the well-being of man (Mark 2:27).  When God raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned him at his right hand, He dethroned all religion.  The living Christ has replaced all religion (a system of law or theology).  To be involved in making new laws, religions, or systems of theology, is to stand opposed to the living Christ.

Moreover, where institutionalized religion rules there must also be a sacred group of people to teach and enforce the law, for the profane or common people as defined by religion, have no right to handle the sacred law.  Thus we have the need for the professional clergy that is set apart for the sacred.  However, when we look at primitive Christianity we find no evidence of a professional clergy that was set apart from other members of the community of Faith.  In fact, we find evidence that would contradict and even condemn any professionalization or sacralization of any group in the Christian movement.  The message we find in the New Testament is that in Jesus Christ all men are equal and have equal access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the apostle Peter could refer to all believers as priests of God (I Peter 2:9).

In the act of making all believers priests, God has forever done away with a separate or professional priesthood or clergy system.  In his book entitled “The Church” the Catholic theologian Hans Kung says, “all human priesthood has been fulfilled and finished by the unequal final, unrepeatable and hence unlimited sacrifice of the one continuing eternal high priest.  The perfect self-offering sacrifice replaces all cultic sacrifices offered by men; the perfect priest replaces all human priests” (page 469).  In commenting on 1 Peter 2:4, Kung says, “the word ‘priest’ ” occurs again here, not used in the sense of an official priesthood, and not in reference to the one high priest Christ, but applied through him and in him to all believers.  The WHOLE people, filled by the Spirit of Christ, becomes a priesthood set apart; all Christians are “priests”[4] (page 475). In making all Christians priests, God has made them equal and has forever destroyed the religious concept of mediation through sacred groups of men or women.  In this we again see a marked distinction between religion that promotes a sacred group of men and primitive Christianity that makes all men equal before God.

Religion tells us the temple or Holy Place is the place where man will find and worship God.  In religion the temple or shrine is the symbol of the presence of God.  However, when we turn to the New Testament, we find the very opposite message.  In fact, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was killed for telling religious people that God does not dwell in earthly dwellings made by man (Acts 7:48).  The apostle Paul proclaimed the same message when he visited Athens.  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples (church buildings) built by hands” (Acts 17:24).

In His polemics with the Pharisees, Jesus contrasted the physical temple in Jerusalem with his own body. In this, he was claiming to be the new temple of God.  No longer would men find God in earthly temples made out of brick and mortar, but now they would find him in a person.  As God dwelled in the physical body of Jesus, He now dwells in the spiritual body of Jesus, which is made up of all that believe in Jesus as their Lord (II Cor 6:16).  This group of people is referred to in scripture as the church.  In the Bible the word church is used to denote a people, never a building.  This is why the apostle Paul could refer to the church as the new temple of God in the new order.  From this it becomes obvious that the only place that God dwells in all of creation, is in the only thing that was created in his image, that is man.  God dwells in our brother and only in our brother.  Therefore mankind and only mankind is sacred.  What we do to our fellow man therefore, we are actually doing to God.  This is why Christians put such a high importance on human life.  This is why we must go to the aid of our brother; for helping our brother is helping God (Matt 25:26).  We that are brothers in Christ should remember this teaching when we begin to tear each other apart in the name of truth.  What truth is more important than our brother?

We also see in religion an emphasis on sacred times.  Both in Judaism and paganism we find a distinct separation between the sacred and the profane in regards to time.  In paganism, the times vary greatly. In Judaism, we find the Sabbath day or the seventh day set apart with a number of additional feast days as the sacred times for the Jewish people.  However, when we turn to the New Testament, we find the distinction between times abolished in Christ.  In the new order in Christ, all time becomes sacred because it all belongs to Christ.  For he is the creator and Lord of all time (Col 1:15-18).

The apostle Paul in writing to Gentile Christians that had been converted out of paganism, exhorted them not to go back to religion by observing special times and days.  “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not Gods.  But now that you know God or rather are known by God how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (Gal 4:8-11).  He goes on to say, “therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat, drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col 2:16-17)  Some have misunderstood this passage thinking that Paul was saying that the reality behind the Sabbath was Sunday.  However when we look at the passage in its context we quickly see that the reality behind the Sabbath was not just another or different sacred day, but rather the person of Christ himself.  It is Christ that is the final and perfect rest for the people of God. (Heb 3:7-11).

By Through Christ, God has made all times sacred by entering into ALL of time in the person of His son Jesus.  In everything that Jesus did, he did it to the glory of God.  Therefore, everything he did was worship to the Father.  In this, Jesus demonstrated that God is present in all times and activities.  For in Jesus (God with us), God has entered into the very times and activities where Christ was involved.  In this God was telling us that the everyday and ordinary has become sacred.  Therefore, Christians no longer worship God at a particular time or place, for they worship him at all times in everything they do (Col 3:17).  This also means that our work, play and even our rest is worship to the Father, for we see Jesus involved in all of these things making them acceptable to the Father.  Christians do not come together to worship God in the traditional sense but rather to encourage and to exhort one another unto good works, which is worship in its true sense (Heb 10:24-25).  The good works that we do outside of our meetings are the highest form of worship for the spiritually mature.  Putting the emphasis on coming together to worship God in a sacred place at a sacred time is a digression back to religion and a movement away from God.  Note Herman Ridderbos, “Paul: An Outline of His Theology” (Page 481).

The modern church’s emphasis on corporate worship with its ritual, form, and structure is a move back to religion and an effort to take God out of the everyday or ordinary and place him back into the sacred.  Great attention is given to create the atmosphere that will give the worshiper the sense of the presence of God.  This sends the message that God is somehow more present in this religious atmosphere than in the nonreligious everyday.  It matters little whether the religious atmosphere is created by icons, ritual, esthetics or emotionalism; it all represents a return to religion.  When religion does this, it presents God as the totally other, that is, totally removed from the everyday, a God that must be approached through sacred people and sacred places.  However, in the New Testament we see a very human God that draws close to man in the everyday.  A God who has come among his people in the form of a man.  A God to whom all have equal access.  A God that is near and can be called on in any place and at any time.  A God that has hallowed the everyday with his presence.

Moreover, religion makes worship something you do in a sacred place and is directed toward God.  In contrast, when we look at the Faith, we find that worship is something you do in the everyday and is directed toward God through your fellow man.  “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:16)  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)  From this we can gather that true religion and true worship is something that is done in the everyday and has very little, if anything, to do with what the modern church calls worship.  True worship is loving your brother and sharing the message of God’s love with your neighbor.

From all this, we can conclude that religion, instead of bringing or drawing us closer to God, actually distances us from God.  But if this is the case, how do we explain this phenomenon?  How could a faith that started out as a simple way of life turn into a religion?  How could God be taken out of the ordinary and placed back into the sacred? The answer is that the Christian faith was subverted by religion and human wisdom.  The tracing of the evolution of this subversion is beyond the scope of this article.  However, for those who would like a complete treatment of this subversion, I recommend “The Distancing of God” by Bernard J. Cooke and “The Subversion of Christianity” by Jacques Ellule.  These two books will forever change the way you look upon the Christian religion.

[1] This article may help some to see that religion and faith in God are not the same. A person can question religion without questing the existence of God. In like manner, a person can believe in Jesus Christ and yet reject many aspects of the Christian religion.

[2]  Some of the new atheist type have postulated that religion has nothing to do with shaping the morality of a culture. This position is so ridiculous that it’s not worth commenting on.

[3] These idols can consist of ideologies, pseudo-religions like scientism and political ideologies like nationalism, etc.

[4] Hans Kung

Securing the Future

Securing the Future

We live in very uncertain times.  So how in the world can we secure our future? I don’t have all of the answers to getting a hold on the future, but I do know that there is one thing which you’ve got to get a handle on before you can get a hold on the future.  That is death. The reason for this is that death robs all men of a future. Consequently, some men get a handle on the future by accepting their fate.  In essence, they accept that they have no future in the face of death.

That may seem brave but only if it’s true and only if it’s the only alternative, otherwise it’s foolishness.  Others (the majority) simply deny their death by refusing to think or talk about it.  I personally believe that there is another alternative.  It’s called hope.  You see hope is faith reaching into the future and pulling it into the present.

For faith to work you’ve got to make sure that when you send your faith out into the future that it finds something big enough to overcome death or a place where death cannot go.  When you do this you must be sure that the thing it brings back is powerful enough to overcome the fear of death.  In order to do this your faith must find something or someone who in themselves has overcome death.  You see I have heard from a lot of men who have made promises about securing the future and yet they themselves had no future.  To secure the future we need to have hope and faith in one that has himself secured the future.

Let me share with you a vision of the future that you might explore.  It’s worked for me and millions of others.  This vision of the future is a vision of a man.  Like all visions it is filled with symbolism so put on your thinking hat. Here it is “I (the apostle John) turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:12-18).”

If you have not guessed yet, this is a vision of the resurrected Christ.  When a person has placed their hope in the resurrected one they need not be afraid of death or anything else for someone else has secured the future for them. If the Book of Revelation teaches anything, it teaches that the future belongs to Jesus. God bore witness to this by raising him from the dead.  He was dead and behold He is alive forever and ever.  The gates of death and Hades can never shut in those who believe in the one who holds the keys to those gates. LD

The Cursing of the Fig Tree?

The Cursing of the Fig Tree?

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it ( Mark 11:12-14).

What is the spiritual meaning of the cursing of the fig tree?  The answer is tied to the very person of the Lord Jesus. He is the creator and the fig tree should have recognized its creator and produced the fruit he was looking for. Its failure to produce fruit for the creator cannot be justify by the fruit being out of season, for seasons matter little to the creator who sets them. Therefore, the fruit tree is accursed because it did not recognize and honor its creator.

Like any allegory the story of the fig tree will break down if you try to take it literally or make too many applications. Therefore, you should look for the main application which best fits the context of the passage. It seems to me this allegory corresponds well with the parable of the Vineyard found in the 12th chapter of Mark verses 1-12. There the people of the Vineyard were accursed and destroyed because they did not recognize the son of the Vineyard owner. Both sections of Scripture seem to be talking about the fate of the Jews for not recognizing the son of God who had appeared among them. The Jews should had recognized their creator among them and bore the fruit of faith. There was no excuse for their blindness and they would be accursed, wither and die as foretold in Chapter 13. Note my article, ” Conflicting Visions of the Second Coming” on https://lyleduell.me/          http://wp.me/p5pJxI-lRS

ETERNAL SECURITY Questions To Ask Yourself

 

ETERNAL SECURITY
Questions To Ask Yourself
 

Thanks to Charles Stanley 

My Answer and questions to Mr. Stanley.

I found these question by Charles Stanly on the net. My responds to Mr. Stanly is based on the simple belief that we are saved in Christ. To be in Christ is to be in a loving relationship with Christ and His Father. This relationship is entered through faith and is maintained by faith. However, I believe a person can lose their faith and fall out of this loving relationship with Jesus and be lost.

QUESTION #1

If Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost, and yet we can somehow become unsaved – and therefore undo what Christ came to do – would it not be wise for God to take us on to heaven the moment we are saved in order to insure we make it? Isn’t it unnecessarily risky to force us to stay here?

Satan and Man have been undoing the things of God since the fall. If this was not the case, we would have no free will. If we have no free will, we are simply a part of a comic rerun where everything has all ready been determined.

I  personally have not reached the point where I can judge what is wise for God to do, or not to do. I guess Mr. Stanley has.

It seems that Mr. Stanley’s questions come from the presumption that Gods eternal purpose is to save mankind.  Really?  Is mankind the center of Gods purpose? I was under the impression that God and Christ were the center and their purpose is, and was, to restore Gods rule or the kingdom of God? Could it be that God only wants the tried and the true to serve him in his kingdom?

If a person cannot be unsaved who was saved before, how can a small child who is saved or at least safe become unsaved? If people are elected in eternity to be saved how then did they become lost or unelected requiring Jesus to die for them?  Why did Jesus  come, to seek and to save the lost, if saved people cannot become  lost people and the unsaved people could not respond to his preaching because they were not elected in eternity? Is the coming of Christ just a cosmic deception or joke?

QUESTION #2

If our salvation is not secure, how could Jesus say about those to whom He gives eternal life, “and they shall never perish” (John 10:28)? If even one man or woman receives eternal life and then forfeits it through sin or apostasy, will they not perish? And by doing so, do they not make Jesus’ words a lie?  Is Christ a liar???

The gift of eternal life is given to those that hear and follow Christ, which means that the promise of eternal life is conditional.  In verse 10:27 of the book of John, He tells us who his sheep are. They are those that hear his voice and follow him which are two conditions.  In this section of scripture Jesus says nothing about the gift being free or coming without conditions, or by some prior election by God.  These ideas are read into the passage by Mr. Stanley. In actuality, the text has nothing to do with whether a person can fall away from Christ (stop hearing his voice and following Christ). This section of Scripture is not talking about the sheep falling away, but rather them being force or captured against their will by Satan. It is very similar to the thoughts of Paul when he says that no temptation is to great to overcome the believer (1 Cor 10:13). The real question is can a people lose their faith in Christ and stop listening and following Christ? Does a person lose their free will when they become a Christian?

When Christ gives a gift, he surely guards the gift so that no one can take it from the one receiving it. However, he does not force one to accept or keep the gift. If that was the case we would not have free will, something I wonder if Mr. Stanley believes in. Where in the Bible does it teach that a person loses their free will when they become a Christian? Can something be rightly call a gift if it is forced on someone?

Moreover, from the context it is very doubtful that Jesus is talking about people losing their salvation through personal sin. Rather, he seems to be talking about Satan pulling the Lord’s sheep out relationship with the Father. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:29). Jesus is simply saying that God  will never let Satan tempt us beyond our ability to endure. He is not talking about eternal security. In Christ we enter the protective care of God, similar to the relationship that Adam had with God in the garden. He was protected from the power of Satan (Satan powers were limited), but Adam had the free will to succumb to temptation and walk away from his relationship with God. It was Satan who told Adam “you will not die”. Do not let anyone tell you, you will not die. Satan is still saying you shall not die and God is still saying, “The wages sin is death”.

QUESTION #3

Why should God let you into heaven? If your answer includes words such as try, my best, church, believe in God, Sunday School, teach or give, chances are that you still haven’t come to grips with the simple truth that salvation is by faith alone. 

The Bible teaches us that we are saved by grace through faith. Why does Mr. Stanley add the word “alone”. Could you please give me a passage in the Bible where the phase “by faith alone or by grace alone” is used? Can real faith be separated from obedience? What is real faith? Is true faith simply mental assent?

Let me ask the question another way: What are you trusting in, to get you into heaven? Is it Christ plus something? Or can you say with confidence that your hope and your trust are in Christ and Christ alone

Mr. Stanley is right if you are a person who trusts in their own effort and goodness to get themselves into heaven. No human being can obligate God to save them by being good enough. Questions like those above are appropriate when talking to a people who are self righteous.  However,  their presumption really doesn’t have much to do with the question of unconditional salvation, for that question hinges on the definition of faith. What is saving faith and what does it do, i.e. what does faith look like?

QUESTION #4

If salvation wasn’t permanent, why introduce the concept of adoption? Wouldn’t it have been better just to describe salvation in terms of a conditional legal contract between man and God?

The Bible teaches that our adoption is finalized at the resurrection, not at the point of faith (Rom 8:23).  After one has put their faith in Christ they enter a time of testing and growth just like the first Adam, Israel and Christ himself. Unfortunately, like the Israelites in the wilderness some will not pass the test. Was the promise of entering the Promised Land conditional or unconditional? If unconditional then why did so few make it in?

QUESTION #5

The authors of the New Testament left us with detailed explanations of how one becomes a child of God. If that process could be reversed doesn’t it make sense that at least one of them would have gone into equal detail explaining that as well?

In the letter of 1John the apostle John go into great detail about who is a Christian and how they can have the security of knowing that they have eternal life.  His letter rules out the majority of people that claim to be Christian, and his criteria for knowing that you have eternal life would limit that knowledge to very few (Matt 7:13-14).  By the way, he does not list believing in unconditional security as one of the proofs of salvation or even being a Christian.

QUESTION #6

What is the significance of a seal that can be continually removed and reapplied? What does it really seal?

The seal is not a seal like the one you put on a jar of canned goods. It was the mark or seal of the king. Yes, we are sealed or marked by the Holy Spirit. The mark of the Holy Spirit is a life lived in holiness and love. If one continues to live in sin after believing in Jesus he probably was not saved to begin with and therefore never received the seal of the Spirit (living like Jesus). Then you have those who become Christians and begin to live like Jesus which is the seal of the Spirit and then they fall into sin. At that point they simply no longer have the mark or seal of the Spirit, which is living like Jesus. “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.  Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.  This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6

The seal of the Spirit is not some mystical mark or seal. It is simply living like Jesus. This is too simple for those who want to live like the devil and at the same time have the good feeling that they are eternally secure in Christ by accepted Jesus into their heart sometime in the past which the Bible nowhere tells people to do for salvation.

QUESTION #7

If a man or a woman ends up in hell, who has at some point in life put his or her trust in Christ, doesn’t that make what Jesus said to Nicodemus a lie? Or at best only half true?

In his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus was not talking about a person losing their salvation.  Again as in many places, Mr. Stanley uses the silence of the Scriptures to argue his point.

QUESTION #8

If my faith maintains my salvation, I must ask myself, “What must I do to maintain my faith?” For, to neglect the cultivation of my faith is to run the risk of weakening or losing my faith and thus my salvation. I have discovered that my faith is maintained and strengthened by activities such as the following: Prayer, Bible Study, Christian Fellowship, Church Attendance and Evangelism. If these and similar activities are necessary to maintain my faith – and the maintenance of my faith is necessary for salvation – how can I avoid the conclusion that I am saved by my good works?

 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.  Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. “ Peter 1:5-11   How does Mr. Stanley’s ideas square with what Peter says?

Here Mr. Stanley shows his real colors in making faith, a good work. He misunderstands Paul’s understanding of good works and in doing so, embraces the totality of the teaching of Calvinism, which one would have to do to be logical and consistent in accepting unconditional security. It appears that Mr. Stanley believes that faith is a gift from God and is given to those that God elected in eternity. In this Mr. Stanley demonstrates himself as a true Calvinist. I respect Mr. Stanley’s consistency, but totally reject his Calvinism.

In Ephesians 2:8 the apostle Paul says, “For it is by grace  you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves for it is the gift of God”. Calvinists misunderstand this passage and interpret the gift as faith. However a close reading of the passage seems to indicate that God’s  gift is salvation, not  grace or faith. The gift comes out of God’s grace and is  accepted by faith. The gift is salvation or eternal life. The wages sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23).

QUESTION #9

If our salvation hinges on the consistency of our faith, by what standard are we to judge our consistency?

Can we have doubts at all? How long can we doubt? To what degree can we doubt? Is there a divine quota we dare not exceed?

Mr. Stanley is great at asking questions.  Questions that are similar to the faulty and loaded questions, such as  “When did you  stop beating your wife?” or “Who created God?”  However, I do not find them helping his position on unconditional security. Here are a few realistic questions. Can you find one plain passage of Scripture that teaches that a Christian has unconditional security?  Is the term unconditional security or any of its equivalent phrases such as, “once saved always saved” or even “eternal security”, ever been found in the Bible? Why  has the doctrine of unconditional security  not been found in the early Christian fathers manuscripts which record the historical faith for first 400 years of the Christian movement, right up to the time of Augustine? What about the hundreds of warnings in the Bible that teach that a person must have faith to be saved and the fruit of faith to know that they are saved?

To answer Mr. Stanley’s questions about faith and doubt, Jesus said that if we had the faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains.  It does not take a lot of real faith to be saved. The question is, do we have any? Moreover, true faith does not spend its’ time introspectively looking at itself. It is too concerned with doing the will of the Father. It is the faith of the  Gnostic who would  look inward for confirmation. True faith looks outward at its fruit. The fruit does not make the tree, but  it sure tells you what kind of tree it is.

Watch the following video to see what the early Christians believed about this subject

 

The Centrality of The Resurrection Part II

The Centrality of The Resurrection

Part II

In part one of our series on the centrality of the resurrection we pointed out that in the earliest proclamation of the Gospel there was a heavy emphasis placed on the resurrection of Christ and his corresponding lordship.  We saw that in the book of Romans the apostle Paul spent equal or more time on the subject of the resurrection than he did on the death of Christ for our sins.  In fact, he contributes justification and salvation to the resurrection (Rom. 4:25, 5:9-12).  He also points out that the resurrection is the proof God has given to all mankind that Jesus is His one and only unique son (Rom. 1:4).

In speaking about the centrality of the resurrection, we are not inferring that Christ crucified or dying for our sins is not central to the Christian gospel.  Both the death of Christ and his resurrection are central to the New Testament witness.  They are actually two sides of the same event.  We can call this event the Christ event.  The apostle Paul in speaking about the Christ event says that the death and resurrection are the central elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ and spoke about them as one happening or event (I Cor. 15:1-4).  In one aspect we could say that his death was the beginning of the resurrection for it marked the beginning of his exodus from this world into glory (Luke 19:31).  He has promised that all those that will put their faith in him will join him in that great exodus on the final day.  His resurrection is a guarantee that they will be fellow sojourners with him into the heavenly places.

In part two of our series I would like to look at a few of the sermons of the early disciples found in the book of Acts in the New Testament.  The first one is found in Acts chapter 2:22-36.  The speaker is the apostle Peter and he is speaking for himself and the other apostles who were all witnesses of the resurrection.  The following is his message to the very Jews, who crucified  Christ.

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 

29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘ 

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

In the above section of the book of Acts, we find the apostle Peter making a series of arguments for Jesus being the Christ.  In making his arguments he calls upon five witnesses to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  In verse 22, he points people to the witness of the life of Christ and the miracle’s God did through Christ.  If nothing else the miracles were a witness to the fact that this man was approved by God.  In verse 23, he points out to the people that even though God demonstrated his approval of Jesus through working signs and wonders and miracles through him, still the people put him to death.  Then in verse 24 he again says that God bore witness to Jesus again by raising him from the dead.  In verse 25 Peter points to the witness of Old Testament scriptures, pointing out that the resurrection was the fulfillment of the prophecy made by David in the Old Testament.  In verses 29 through 31 Peter explains exactly how this prophecy was fulfilled by the resurrection.  Then in verse 32 he points out the witness of the twelve apostles who all personally witnessed Jesus raised from the dead.  Finally, in verse 33 he points out that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to Christ and the resurrection by fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy, which predicted God would pour out his Spirit on his people in the last days, which was the very experience that Peter’s listeners had themselves witnessed (Acts 2:14-21).  How could they deny what they were seeing and hearing?  So we have the witness of the life of Christ, the witness of the resurrection, the witness of scripture, the witness of the apostles and the witness of the Holy Spirit all pointing to fact that Jesus is the Christ the Lord.

Some might object because they do not believe in the miraculous, but let me submit  that the conversion of these 3000 people in itself is an evidence to the miraculous.  In verse, 23 Peter said he was speaking to the very people who had crucified Jesus.  His audience accepted his remarks about the miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus worked and his miraculous resurrection.  If there ever was a group of people that could have disputed the miracles of Jesus and his resurrection, this was the group, but they did not.  This also would have been an excellent time for the enemies of the Jesus movement to produce a body or for someone to have disputed the life and miracles of Jesus.  However, there were no counter-witnesses to anything that the apostle Peter said.

I think it’s quite evident that we do not have the complete sermon that the apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 2. What we have is an abbreviated version of the sermon.  It is evident from verse 38 in the chapter that Peter also spoke to the multitude about the forgiveness of sins.  In verse 40, it clearly stated that he spoke many other words to the audience.  However, one thing we do know is that the Holy Spirit saw fit to record in Scripture this emphasis on the resurrection and lordship of Jesus. Which we will see is a pattern throughout the Book of Acts.

 

To be continued

Rom 10:8-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

 

Other Worlds

Other Worlds

 

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:10-13

There are many worlds—the ones created by God and the ones created by the imagination of man. God has often accommodated us in our worlds the way a parent would accommodate a young child who was playing in a make-believe world. He even talked baby talk to us at times. You know, He really wanted us to grow up. He spent a lot of time and energy maturing us, getting humanity ready for the coming of the Teacher who would give us the truth about God and ourselves. He spent a lot of time telling us the most amazing and imaginative “bedtime stories” that point toward the Teacher. Now they are called “myths” by many. He used the nation of Israel to reveal a moral code to the world and her prophets predict His coming. He used the Greeks to mature our thinking and He used the Romans to connect the world with a universal road system and language. When things were just right, He placed The One among us, and thus began the greatest story ever told.

You see, now and then the real world of God breaks into our world through different people and events. The events we call miracles. The people we call prophets. They usually come into our world to tell us that our world is a mess and that we need to put things in order. We usually respond in less than a cordial way. We often angrily reject the prophets and ignore the events.  Afterward to justify ourselves, we made some saints or heroes to make us feel good about how we and are ancestors have behaved. We then enshrine them in a mausoleum that we call religion, and there they rest as mummies of the past, safely hidden from the real world of us mortals.

When the Teacher came into this world He told the us that God’s patience was wearing thin and everyone needed to grow up and open his eyes to the new world which God was about to create.   It would be completed in and through the coming of The One.  He warned people and told them to “wake up for the Kingdom of God is near”.  However, the Teacher also pointed out that He would be our last wake-up call.  No one else would be coming to wake us up. The One was delivering the final warning.

It was predicted that The One would speak and talk to us in a unique way.  He would speak in parables and hard sayings.  It was said that only the elect, those with an undivided heart who were prepared for His coming, would be able to understand His message. They had been watching God’s activity in the world and knew that everything was just right for the coming of The One. When they heard the Teacher proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand they understood immediately.  that God was about to create a new world order. When the Teacher spoke, He always spoke of the kingdom (the new order) and was continuously inviting people to join Him in building the new Kingdom of God.  He is still inviting people.  Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will continue to enter and experience the new world of God or what the Teacher called the Kingdom of God.

Before leaving this world The One told those who were of the elect that He was leaving this world to prepare an eternal home for them, another world that was much different than this one. He explained He had to do it that way, because the old order was so broken, it could not be fixed. He told His friends to wait patiently for His return. He instructed the elect ones that their mission until He came back was to tell others about Him and His coming return. They were to shed His light into the darkness that filled this world. He even gave them a list of peculiar happenings to watch out for while they were waiting and working. He also cautioned them to watch out for the trappings of religion they would find all around them. They were not to spend so much of their time collecting the things of this world, since this pursuit would distract them from their mission of spreading the good news of the new world that was coming.

Have you heard the voice of The One who said, “Come follow me”?

 

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