Archive for the ‘ Grace ’ Category

LOSING SALVATION

Can ONE Lose Salvation in Christ Jesus - 201 Blog

TO MY FRIENDS WHO THINK THEY CAN LOSE SALVATION, although they know it is a gift from God (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9): Did the prophet Samuel preach a wrong concept of God, teaching that the Lord will NOT forsake his people?

SAMUEL’S REASONING

When he reasoned with the Israelites about their insistence upon having a king in order to be like all their neighbor nations (I Samuel 12:7-25), Samuel told them that God was going to grant their desire (v.13) although it was evil (v.19). Yet, he told them not to fear despite the wickedness they had done (v.20), challenging them to “turn not aside from following the Lord” (although he reminded them that they had both “forgat” and “forsaken” the Lord). (v. 9,10)
Significantly, Samuel summarized his reasoning (v7) by saying FOR THE LORD WILL NOT FORSAKE HIS PEOPLE FOR HIS GREAT NAME’S SAKE: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.” (v.22) He promised to pray for them to not turn aside (v.23). He ends with the reminder that if they continue to “do wickedly” they will be “consumed” (v.25).

UNTIMELY DEATH

John explains that when a “brother” (a believer who is saved) sins a “sin unto death” prayers for him will go unanswered because he has crossed a deadline. Even though it is right to pray believing God will grant what we ask, there are cases in which the prayer will be denied. In such cases, the “brother” will die an untimely death (I John 5:11-16). This does not mean that he has lost the gift of Eternal Life which God gives on the basis of His Grace (favor which is not based upon merit of the one receiving it). It does mean that he has lost his opportunity to serve the Lord in this life and gain eternal reward with which to show his gratitude for undeserved salvation, which he will lay at Jesus’ feet.

SAUL’S CARNALITY

King Saul, the King so greatly desired by Israel, and who when personally converted, was “turned into another man” (I Sam 10:6) by the Holy Spirit, eventually chose a sinful path of jealousy and murder, consulting with a witch, and eventually dying an untimely death. Saul is perhaps the ultimate illustration of the carnal believer (I Corinthians 3:1-4) contrasted with the natural man (I Cor 2:14) and the spiritual man (I Cor 3:1). Many examples of those who sinned the sin unto death are found in scripture.

DAVID’S SPIRITUALITY

The contrast to Saul’s carnality is also presented repeatedly in the Bible. David is the most obvious contrast. He too, was a believer. He too, committed sins worthy of death. But, when challenged by the prophet Nathan, David repented wholeheartedly. David’s is one of the most detailed of biographies in Scripture. It is a story of many sins and many repentances. All the heroes of faith were flawed persons who sinned, but who chose heart repentance (as contrasted with false repentance -see II Cor 7:9-11). God, who looks on the heart, knows the difference. Notice that Paul tells us that there is a “salvation not to be repented of” (II Cor 7:10).

SALVATION IS PERSONAL

This is not to say that every individual Israelite during Samuel’s era was truly a believer. Salvation, throughout human history, has always been a personal matter. We are easily deceived. Tares look a lot like wheat (Matthew 13:30,40). It is difficult for us to determine whether or not another person is truly saved. That is why we must learn to pray for one another as Samuel did. Our wayward Christian friends need to repent and return to faithfully following the Lord in obedience, submitting to the correction of our loving Heavenly Father.

GOD IS FAITHFUL

The Lord’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people remains in place “for His great name’s sake.” (I Sam 12:22) David reminds us of this truth in Psalm 23:3, “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” It is not for the sake of my eternal salvation, but for HIS NAME’S SAKE. His name is at stake. Jesus taught us that before we pray for forgiveness or deliverance, we should pray “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt 6:9).

HIS NAME’S SAKE

When we wholeheartedly desire to hallow His name, our attitude toward sin changes. Realizing that His name is on the line, and that he has chosen that we should bear his name, we honor His sinlessness (holiness) by acknowledging that His viewpoint about sin is accurate. When we embrace His outlook about it, He empowers us to be delivered from it, or perhaps to not be led into temptation at all (Matt 6:13). His name is on the credit card. He has guaranteed payment in full of our sin debt. He says, “him that cometh to me I will in now wise cast out.” (John 6:37) The only requirement is “believe” wholeheartedly, which implies repentance.

WORKS

If your works cannot pay your sin debt, how can they avail to keep you from sin or keep you saved? If human righteousness is equal to “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), how can it deliver you from evil? Peter proudly proclaimed his loyalty, but human righteousness failed him and he denied Christ. But he did not lose his salvation, even though he quit the ministry and returned to fishing, taking six other disciples with him. Only the Lord Himself could restore Peter to the path of righteousness, which He did for HIS NAME’S SAKE.

WHOSE RIGHTEOUSNESS?

Maybe that was what David realized when he prayed, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” (Psalm 4:1) He saw the inadequacy of his own righteousness and opted for God’s. In his distress, he longed for mercy, because like us, he was inclined toward shame and vanity. He understood that only the Lord could “set apart him that is godly for himself.” (v.3) My own efforts to become set apart from sin are useless. Both salvation and spirituality are gifts of grace, received by faith alone.

SINKING SAND

If you ever were saved, your only righteousness is HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Only Christ’s work on the cross, and his continued work through your life by the power of the Holy Spirit, are truly righteous. All other ground is sinking sand.

Grace Shines Best in Dark Times

“The impiety of the times is a foil to set off grace all the more, and give it greater lustre,” wrote Puritan Thomas Boston in his masterful analysis of Malachi’s statements (3:16-17) about the evil days after the second temple was built in Jerusalem more than 300 years before the birth of Christ. A Christian “is most lovely, when he is (as Ambrose says) like the cypress, which keeps its verdure and freshness in the winter . . . An upright man is always worth beholding . . . he is most to be admired when like a bright star he shines in the dark, and having lost all, holds fast his integrity.” (The Great Gain of Godliness by Thomas Boston, The Banner of Truth edition, 2006, p. 8)

Boston, or even Malachi, would be astounded to see the impiety of our times. Still, their observations could not be more appropriate if they were on the editorial staff of the New York Times today.

Let every believer remind himself that though we were not present to stand with our Lord in Gethsemane, nor to kneel at the foot of the cross, we have the greatest opportunity of our generation to let His Light shine. We must take time to “speak often one to another” as they did in Malachi’s era, and “behold the upright man” as the Psalmist reminds (37:37).

 

Amazing Grace: A Witnessing Tool

photo

There is a universal familiarity of Americans with the song Amazing Grace, and an excellent gospel tract about its story. Some time ago, I discovered a unique and compelling way of using the song and story of the songwriter in witnessing to a wide demographic of the populace. Although I have not used this approach much with children, I find it is useful with most people, from young teens to senior citizens.

 CONVERSATION OPENER

Here is the way I employ this excellent tool: When I meet a person, in almost any setting, I find a way to ask, “Do you know much about music?” (I really don’t care how they answer, because I am only using this question to launch the conversation. So, it doesn’t matter whether they say “Yes” or “No.”) Some may reply with an explanation of their interest or lack of interest in music. A few may begin to tell me about childhood music lessons, or a particular genre or stye of music they prefer. This is fine with me, because as I listen to whatever they wish to say, I know that any resistance to me talking about my point of view is dissipating. In fact, by listening with interest to their comments, nodding agreement if possible, smiling, and even offering encouraging comments, I am already on my way to winning a hearing for the Amazing Grace story.

My next question is, “Have you heard of a song called . . . um . . .  Amazing Grace?” I usually hesitate as if I’m having trouble recalling the title of the song in order to further lower their defenses. If they imagine that I am speaking off-the-cuff, they are more likely to allow me to continue, since curiosity often overrides suspicion.

Usually, the response I get at this point is laced with incredulity, something like, “Oh, everybody knows Amazing Grace.” To which I immediately reply, “Who wrote it?” Few are able to answer that, so again, this approach puts them off balance for a moment, keeps them focused on answering my queries, and intensifies interest.

 HUMOR

Soul-winning often provides a venue for humor. Once, I asked a man in Florida about Amazing Grace, and he replied, “Ever’body know’ Amazin‘ Grace.” I asked, “Who wrote it?” He wrinkled his brow, “W-w-was it Ray Charles?” I nearly lost my composure!

I wait a few moments while they try to recall who wrote the song, then I follow up with another question: “How old is it?” This question has provided some comic relief also. One young lady said, “Oh, it’s really old.” So, I asked, “How old?” She said, “At least fifty years.” I grinned and said, “Don’t insult me like that.” We both snickered, because I am over sixty.

 THE MAIN PRESENTATION

Next, I launch into the main part of my presentation: “It was written by a guy named John Newton, who lived during the 1700’s. He was Captain of a slave trading ship. His Christian mother begged him not to go into the slave trade, but his Dad was a slave trader, and he knew he could make a lot of money. So he bought people captured in Africa and sold them in slave auctions in the American colonies. So you see, the song is over 200 years old. Another amazing thing is, it is still recorded year after year.”

Continuing, I say, “Now you can see why he wrote the lyrics he did: ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a WRETCH like me.’ – He knew he was a wretch! He abused and probably killed a lot of people, treating them worse than livestock. He was so cruel and vile that his own crew of sailors despised him. Once, he was drunk and fell overboard. He couldn’t swim. They argued whether to just let him drown. Finally, they harpooned him like a whale and dragged him back on board half drowned. He could have died from the wounds. Later, his ship was overtaken by another ship. They flogged him and nearly beat him to death! During that time, he remembered his mother’s prayers and began to cry out to God in prayer, begging the Lord to save him. Amazingly, his prayers (or his mother’s) were answered. He made it back to England. There, he became a Christian, married a fine lady, and eventually became a preacher. He wrote over 500 gospel songs, but the only one we still sing is Amazing Grace.”

 A ONE-WORD DEFINITION

There are usually some comments about the story, so I listen and offer my own remarks in response to whatever they say. As soon as feasible without rude interruption, I ask my next question: “May I ask you a question that I ask people all the time? Could you give me a one-word definition of the word GRACE?”

It is my experience that it is best to ask for a one-word definition. Otherwise, they may filibuster, repeating platitudes and ideas to impress or simply to “muddy the waters.” By limiting the request to one word, you also eliminate the likelihood of religiously trained people spouting definitions they’ve learned in catechism or Sunday school. Most will be stumped, and will stall, trying to think of an appropriate answer. Many offer various one-word answers, such as “faith,” “God,” “love,” “hope,” or “Jesus.” I smile approvingly at each attempt, but shake my head indicating it is a wrong answer. Most will only attempt one answer.

Then I say, “The word grace comes from a Greek word Charis (pronounced Kair-is). Some people name their daughter Charis. Have you heard of that? The word derives from a word that means ‘gift’ – but not just any gift. This is an undeserved, unearned gift. That is what John Newton was writing about in the song. He knew he was a wretch, who did not deserve God’s mercy and kindness, but God gave him that Amazing GIft anyway. He realized that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sin, to provide that undeserved gift to each of us.” 

Depending upon their responses, I may go ahead with a simple appeal to believe the promises of God: that He provided Eternal Life as a gift to undeserving sinners, which includes all of mankind. If I sense conviction and an open heart, I go directly to my closing questions.

However, if I’ve sensed some resistance to the idea that he is a sinner; if I sense doubt about the deity of Christ, or the certainty of God’s Judgment, or sense any indication that they need a more thorough presentation of the gospel (the good news of God’s grace), I usually ask them to look with me at verses like these: Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 5:12, 10:9-10, John 3:15-18, I John 5:11-13. Using a question – answer approach, I try to ascertain what may be the problem in their mind, repelling them from Christ. I try to provide Bible answers to resolve these issues. Many people in America have some understanding of gospel truth, but most do not understand the concept of grace.

 THE CONTRAST

Frequently, I use this approach at some point in my presentation of the gospel: “There really are only two categories of religion (or 2 kinds) in the world. One is a religion of works. Works religion always says, ‘Here is a list of things you must DO, and a list of things you must NOT DO, in order to go to heaven. If you DO all the do’s (or most of them) and DON’T all the don’ts, you’ll ‘make it.’ But the Bible says ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us’ (Titus 3:5). Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ‘by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.’ If we could ‘make it’ by our works, we could brag about it, but we have no right to boast, because our best works are insufficient.”

“The other kind is the religion of Grace – ‘by grace are ye saved through faith.’ Romans 6:23 says, ‘the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin (and mine) with His blood on the cross. He offers eternal life as a free gift to all who will receive it.”

CLOSING QUESTIONS

Always, my goal is to get to my closing questions: “Let me ask you an open-ended question. Salespeople usually ask questions that hint at the answer they want you to give. Such as, ‘You’d like the red car, wouldn’t you?’ (nodding head vigorously). But, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I just want to help you think this through. I don’t intend to offend you by asking in this way, so you can just give the first answer that comes to mind. Here’s the question:

“If Jesus Christ would take you just the way you are, would you be willing to take him as your Savior right now, and really mean it?”

I introduce the question this way because they may be offended if they think I am suggesting that they do not believe in Jesus Christ. But, by asking this way, I find they usually respond immediately with a heartfelt reply, if they are seriously considering the information already provided, and especially if the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction to their heart. The heartfelt response will usually be one of two possible options: They will immediately say, “Yes.” Or, the alternative reaction is, “I’ve already done that.”

IF THEY SAY “YES”

 If they say “Yes,” I ask them if I may pray for them right now. I immediately pray aloud, but softly (especially if others might hear) a very short prayer: “Lord, Joe is willing to take You as his Savior. I know You are eager to hear his prayer . . . Joe, while our heads are bowed, just go ahead and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save your soul and forgive your sins, right now. Pray aloud, and I’ll be your witness.”  I remain silent, with my head bowed, not looking for eye contact. If he is sincere, he will usually begin his prayer. I listen carefully. If his prayer is not specifically asking Christ to save him, I wait for a pause and then suggest, “Say, ‘Please forgive my sins and take me to Heaven when I die.’”

Telling the prospect “Pray aloud, and I’ll be your witness” is to encourage him to pray aloud. For many years, I asked people to pray, waited respectfully, but heard nothing. Then I would have to ask, “Did you pray?” Or “Do you need some help wording your prayer?” Often, they would say, “I prayed in my heart.” The fact is, they do not need a witness, but I want to be the witness to their prayer. Hearing their prayer helps me to know how to help them further. If the prayer is silent, I go away wondering if they really prayed. And, I think many of them were left wondering if their prayer was heard.

I realize some will criticize the idea of coaching or suggesting words for the prayer. It really boils down to the heart motive of the soul-winner. If my motive is to run back to church and brag about “winning” someone, my suggested prayer is probably already being subverted by spiritual enemies (demonic) at work to distract the prospect from real salvation anyway. If my motive is purely a compassionate heart, longing to win souls and snatch them from a burning hell, the prospect has probably already sensed that in me, and is willing to receive my guidance as he prays.

I’VE ALREADY DONE THAT

When the soul-winner has properly set up the question, he can be pretty certain that “I’ve already done that” is an honest response. There will be other indicators if the prospect is merely trying another ploy. In any event, I accept the response at face value, and begin moving toward final remarks and courtesies. However, this is a very good time, if you are convinced the prospect understands and is truthfully responding, to ask, “Have you been baptized in deep water, like Jesus, since you received the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart?” This may provide a wonderful opportunity to lead them on to baptism, membership, and discipleship through a local church. We need to remember that in His great commission, the Lord Jesus sent us not only to “preach the gospel” and make disciples, but also “baptizing them” and “teaching them to observe all things . . .” (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:19-20) When people pray, receiving the Lord by faith (John 1:12) in our presence, we have only helped with the birth of a babe in Christ. Obeying His commission has just begun.

 AN ADAPTABLE TOOL

The Amazing Grace method is adaptable to very brief conversations also. In such situations, I merely ask the introductory questions and comments, and then offer to give them a shortened version of John Newton’s story. I don’t call it a “tract,” or “pamphlet,” because those terms are used to describe political and religious literature, which many are predisposed to reject. If my time is limited and the conversation is ending, I offer the tract: “Hey, here’s the whole story about the song and John Newton, that you can read when you have time.” 

For several years, I have used an Amazing Grace tract written by Lindsay Terry and published by the American Tract Society (www.ATStracts.org). Scripture references are from the King James Bible (my preference). There are other variations of the Amazing Grace story in print. I like this one because it transitions from the story into a point by point presentation of the gospel with Scripture texts included. This is especially good for the quick contacts where there is not enough time to whet the prospect’s appetite with the warm up about who wrote the song, and other details.

– C.T.L. Spear

WHERE GRACE GROWS

After a conversation with a Christian leader several months ago, I revisited his assessment of a well-known fundamental church: “Grace doesn’t grow well in the legalistic environment.” I thought about that indictment.

 

Evangelicals seem to have plenty of grace. Their grace extends to giving frequent top billing to quotes of C.S. Lewis, or Neo-Orthodox theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner (whose neo-orthodox view of Scripture teaches that the Bible contains the Word of God; that it becomes God’s Word if it speaks to you, rather than boldly proclaiming “The Bible IS the Word of God”). Evangelicals often have grace to overlook or even espouse the hyper-calvinist theology of the Reformed movement (which ignores “whosoever will” and accuses God of electing some to damnation). They hold hands with Charismatics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Nazarenes, American Baptists, and others in common causes like the National Association of Evangelicals, and National Religious Broadcasters. I do not wish to imply that these are not worthy causes, but only point out the camaraderie that exists in these relationships while simultaneously marginalizing any who separate from what they perceive as “worldly” practices and associations.

 

One pastor was addressing the topic of Christian conduct with leaders in the church he serves. A deacon spoke up, “Nobody is going to tell me whether or not I can have a drink. If I want a beer, I’ll have one.” Such lack of grace toward believers who adhere to separation principles is becoming ever more common. A Christian training institution (Colorado Christian University) that once prohibited students’ involvement in “worldly” amusements now promotes a dance recital.

 

For many, grace seems to be in short supply when the discussion turns to those who insist on standards of conduct – separation concerns that were standard expectations at Moody Bible Institute, BIOLA, and most of the evangelistic schools and movements which grew out of the revivals of 1865-1930; institutions that gave birth to the preponderance of evangelicalism today. There is little or no grace for those who have dress codes or who proscribe amusements like movies, dancing, social drinking, card-playing, and even gambling. Those who abstain from such practices are expected to have grace in their hearts for those who run roughshod over their preferences, while being branded legalists if they so much as question the wisdom of such interaction with the world’s system.

 

I readily admit that I “went to seed” on the preaching of standards, probably doing damage to Christians by giving the impression that the works of separatism are, along with soul-winning, the primary core values of the faith. In my zeal to pluck some out of the fire (Jude 23), and to warn youth against the wiles of the devil, I overemphasized the wrath of God against sin, without providing the balancing force of conviction about His abundant mercy and grace. Jesus unequivocally accused the scribes and Pharisees of this same error, labeling them “hypocrites.” Their fixation on exact tithing was an obsession with specific standards of performance that made them leave out “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” (Mt. 23:23-28) Jesus did not suggest they should stop tithing, or eliminate standards of conduct, but summarized, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” He condemned their obsession with external appearances, and turned the spotlight on their inner defilement, declaring “ye…are within full… of all uncleanness.”

 

A study of the term uncleanness in scripture reveals a link with sexual immorality, along with a connection to the spirit world (Num. 5:19, Ezra 9:11, Rom. 1:24, 6:19, II Cor. 12:21, Gal. 5:19, Eph. 4:19, 5:3, Col. 3:5, I Thes. 4:4-7, II Pt 2:10, note: “unclean spirit” Zech. 13:1-2). Demonic influences encourage uncleanness, corruption, and defilement. Some proudly insist their understanding of spiritual matters is superior to that of earlier generations, but satanic influence continues to expand, undermining our ministries.

In recent years, scandals among Fundamentalists, Charismatics, Evangelicals, and every category of Christendom abound, providing evidence that Jesus would make the same accusation that he made against the Pharisees. Jesus’ evaluation reached its crescendo when he said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Mt. 23:33) Indeed. It is high time that “all men” pay heed to “the grace of God which bringeth salvation.” (Tit. 2:11) Salvation is not delivered by the law. The law only spotlights our desperate need for it. Deliverance from condemnation is only provided “by grace through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) If it is accurate to apply Jesus’ words to today’s milieu, we must be prepared to acknowledge that many evangelicals are in fact unredeemed; unconverted.

 

Is your kind of Christianity a place where grace grows? Are people saved to a life that exhibits what the Lord spoke to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee…” (II Cor. 12:9)? Or are you saved by grace to a life of external appearance-maintenance? Do you still battle with infirmities (weakness toward temptation), trying to corral them with rules and regulations, and even straining at gnats while swallowing camels? Do you evaluate the spiritual walk of others on the basis of their conformity to a few “gnatsty” standards, while turning a blind eye to blatant violations of spirituality like gossip or lying?

 

Paul said he learned to praise God for infirmities, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  The Lord permits “infirmities… reproaches… necessities… persecutions… distresses…” (II Cor. 12:9-10) to continue tempting and testing to keep us aware of our moment by moment need for grace – spiritual power to overcome, provided by the Holy Spirit himself.

 

God did not drive out all the enemies of Israel immediately when they invaded Canaan. His purpose was to keep his people in a position of dependence upon his undeserved favor (grace) and supernatural strength despite their weakness. He told Paul, “…my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Cor. 12:9) His strength reaches full maturity (perfect), reflecting all the credit back to His Glory, when in our weakness we glory in our infirmities, rejoicing that here is another opportunity to demonstrate our weakness over-compensated-for by His Strength.