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Pastors get asked lots of questions. It’s actually one of the best parts of the job. When a person asks a question, it means they are really wrestling with discovering truth. My three year old has recently been asking a ton of questions: What does “beginning” mean?” What does “purpose” mean? What does “abuelo” mean? She’s interested in discovering the truth. So, when a church member (or non-church goer, for that matter) asks a question, I’m excited to give a response. We can attempt to get at the truth together, with some help from God’s Word and His Spirit.

The question today was, “Does God Hate My Marriage?” Ok, maybe the question wasn’t quite the strong. But, the sentiment was there. Have I been having a hard time in my marriage because my marriage isn’t honorable before God?

I think we must first note that this is not simply an academic question. Marriage is a very personal thing, a union between man, woman…and God. So, it’s personal. As such, any response must keep in mind the greatest commandments (according to Jesus, if you are in to that kind of thing). The first: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second: Love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, love has to be a motivating factor and central theme in the response.

Usually when someone asks this question (Does God hate my marriage?), it’s because either the marriage is struggling, or this was a second marriage, or both. If it’s that the marriage is struggling, utilize extreme caution. This is a tough time for the individual and couple. If it’s that the marriage is a second marriage, utilize extreme caution. If it’s both, you guessed it, utilize extreme caution.

The point is that marriage between man, woman, and well, God is a sensitive and important topic. Here are some guiding thoughts from the biblical perspective.

1. God doesn’t hate your marriage; he hates divorce.

When God says in Malachi 2:16 that he hates divorce, he means it. He takes marriage seriously. That’s because it’s a lifelong committed relationship between man, woman, and the God who ordains it. In Genesis 2:24, God gave the reason he has ordained marriage. It’s so that the man and woman will leave their first family, form a new family, and make a life together. It’s a life centered on the God who ordained it, and he takes it seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he gave another set of instructions: be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion over the earth. Marriage is God’s way of putting a man and a woman together to fulfill his purposes. Divorce gets in the way of those purposes in drastic ways and it tears apart the union that God has established. And so he says in Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined, let no man separate.” But, no, God doesn’t hate your marriage, he hates divorce.

2. God’s purposes, instructions, and warnings about marriage apply both to men and women.

Some have taken the interaction between Jesus and the woman in John 4:18 to mean that Jesus had a different standard for women than he did for men. That line of thinking accuses Jesus of setting up one standard for men and a completely different one for women. Why can men divorce and women can’t? Is Jesus saying that women should stay in an abusive relationship? Is infidelity really the only reason that God excuses divorce? With these questions, it is important to understand that God’s standards for marriage and divorce apply equally to men and women. Jesus was not a misogynist. In fact, we see examples of Jesus lifting up women throughout his ministry. Remember the woman caught in adultery in John 8? “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more,” says Jesus.

3. There is not only one legitimate reason to divorce.

Jesus does not teach that remarriage is adultery in every situation. Further, he does not teach that adultery is the only legitimate cause for divorce. Just use good exegesis and common sense on this one, guys. I’ve heard in many places and for many years that women have to suck it up in an abusive relationship because, well, the guy hasn’t cheated. And yet, we laugh at the legalistic Pharisees that Jesus scolded. At the very least divorce is permitted or accommodated in Scripture when there is infidelity, abandonment, abuse. God doesn’t desire for people to be “stuck” in marriages that are abusive, adulterous, etc. Also, there are situations in which remarriage is appropriate. Here is a helpful podcast on this issue: Vox Podcast with Mike Erre: Divorce. Mike Erre correctly exegetes the passage in Matthew 5:31 to show that Jesus was actually refuting what was known and practiced as “any cause” divorce during those times. Like many other times in his ministry, Jesus was actually raising the standard here and elevating women.

4. Men and women are not “disqualified” for ministry if they have been remarried or divorced.

Paul had people killed and is an apostle. Peter denied Christ and is an apostle. God uses broken people for his purposes and can use those who have been remarried, divorced, or even committed adultery for ministry. Paul tells us in two places in Scripture that an elder is to be the husband of but one wife. This does not mean that a divorced or remarried man cannot be an elder. (This also does not mean that women are outlawed from ministry – See Priscilla, Aquila in Acts 18, Phoebe in Romans 16, and others). Instead, like the other qualifications, Paul is saying this is the character of a person who is to be an elder. Notice he says “not given to drunkenness,” not that the person must have never been drunk in his life. He says “not quick-tempered” and not that the person has never lost his temper. Similarly, the teaching is “faithful to his wife” or “husband of but one wife,” and not that the person has never had a divorce or has never been remarried.

5. God does not want a remarried couple to now get divorced to “fix the problem.”

If you got married under poor circumstances, made mistakes along the way, and committed sins in route to getting married, God has not “cursed” your marriage. If you are married, you should stay that way. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:20 that each one should remain in the situation that he is in. Remember God hates divorce. If your marriage started poorly, don’t look to please God by getting a divorce. That isn’t happening. Instead, God stands ready to hear our confession and forgive us our sins. There is no passage that says, “except the ones dealing with marriage.” You are his child. If there were mistakes made (and sins committed), confess them to him. He forgives. Move forward asking for his blessing. That doesn’t mean continue sinful behavior. If you are engaged in sinful behavior, stop. “Go and sin no more,” He says. And remember, he loves you more than he loves your ability to follow commandments. (But, in loving you, he gives you commandments). If there is a problem in the marriage, look to God for his reconciliation. After all, 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that He loves reconciliation, sent Jesus to reconcile God to man, and has given us a ministry of reconciliation. No matter what your status is today (single, complicated, married, divorced, remarried, let’s get started in a ministry of reconciliation with God and each other!

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Have you ever believed something so strongly that you would do anything to prove it? Sometimes, that might be a good thing, but when we are trying to prove a false thesis, that can be a problem. We leave ourselves open to a life dedicated to something that isn’t true!

 

I studied a passage this week in preparation for a sermon this coming Sunday. As I approached the passage, I had a thesis in mind and kept trying to prove the thesis, only to find that my thesis was off and God had something much better in mind!

The passage is Luke 5:27-39, a passage where the religious leaders of the day approached Jesus at a feast (trying to prove a thesis about him, by the way).

I approached this passage trying to prove the thesis that God wants to do new things and we all better get with it or else we will be left behind! I looked up Elon Musk (Tesla / Space X) and Alan Mullaly (Boeing, Ford) hoping to find inspiring stories of people moving forward with innovation. I read Henry Cloud and Karl Vaters looking for self help and church help. All these guys are studs by the way and we have a lot to learn from the; I just didn’t find what I was looking for.

What I expected to find in this passage: Get with the program people, Jesus is doing something new.

What I actually found in this passage: Something much more beautiful. Whether you are young or old, jew or gentile, Pharisee or tax collector, white or black, republican or democrat, Jesus wants you to feast with him.

  1. In this way, he isn’t what we expect.
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party.
  3. And in this way, life in him is entirely new.

When Jesus Isn’t What We Expect (vs. 27-33)

In the opening portion of this passage, we see that Tax Collector (Levi) gave his life to Jesus, left everything, and followed him. Understand that the tax collector in this day is considered a despised and scandalous individual by many. Think of such an individual today (and it may be different for each of you reading). Jesus approached, gave life to, and feasted with a despised and scandalous outcast. Those who follow Jesus must do so today.

Then Levi throws a party for Jesus. Isn’t this exactly what Levi should have done? If you are with Jesus, you are feasting. It’s what he does. He created the world and all that is in it. He prepares a place for us to lied down and a table in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23). He offers his very body as the bread and the cup. He will throw an elaborate wedding feast for all his friends one day.

But, the religious leaders show up and try to bust up the party. I picture the brief conversation going sort of like this:

Religious Leaders: Jesus, you’re not we expected. We expected a Messiah who would come and pat us on the back.

Jesus: No, I’m the Messiah who came to put you on my back. I’m one who has called for sinners to repent. I’m a doctor who has come for the sick.

Do you see the religious leaders trying to prove a false thesis here?

When Jesus is at the Party (vs. 34-35)

The religious leaders accused Jesus and his disciples of just going on an eating and drinking on the Sabbath. But, the disciples doing exactly what they should do! When you are with Jesus, you feast. This is why Jesus asks, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast when he is with them?”

  1. When one is celebrating, can you force them to stop?
  2. Jesus is calling himself the bridegroom. Who is he marrying? Who are his friends?
  3. How are we to behave as friends of the bridegroom? As his bride? While he is with us?
  4. A time for fasting. Have you ever done it? What does it say? What does it do?

Jesus and his disciples feasting is a statement of what life in Christ is. It’s an affront to those who do not live this way. And, it’s an invitation to those who want to.

When Jesus Does a New Thing (vs. 36-39)

Jesus then tells two parables: (New patch on an old coat / New wine in old wineskins). Here we learn a few things:

  1. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the new is better than the old (new wineskins).
  2. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the old is better than the new (nobody wants new wine).
  3. If we stop trying to prove our thesis, we can step back for a moment and see Jesus’s actual message: whether you prefer an old coat, a new patch, old wine, or new wineskins, we need Jesus to make us new.

Jesus Wants Everyone to Feast (young and old, male and female, jew and gentile, black and white, rich and poor, tax collector and religious leader)

  1. In this way, he is not what we expected
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party
  3. In this way, life in him is entirely new

This kind of life is available to you, a life beyond our expectations, a life with the one who is the life of the party, and a life that is entirely new with Jesus Christ.

Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a spouse or friend. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a job. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about ourselves. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about Jesus.

If we are not careful, our whole life will be spent trying to prove a thesis that isn’t true. May be flexible enough to let Jesus prove our expectations wrong, show up as the life of the party, and do a new thing in our lives, our church, our families, our jobs today. Will you take him up on this life today? Will you let him make you new? Will you join him at the feast?

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5)

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Because a member at the church asked today, I have put together some thoughts regarding the event with Jesus, the demons, and the pigs in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39. How does this messy event teach us about the goodness of God?

(1) there are things that God allows in order to show the nature of Himself, the nature of evil, and the nature of humanity.

(2) Job was one such example. God allows Satan to destroy. Anything Satan does, He does not by God allowing.

(3) we cant quite understand why he would allow evil at all. But, it has to do with dignity, will, choice, etc.

(4) We as humans have the choice to rebel as Satan did.

(5) God delays his final judgment so that more may come to know him, love him, obey him, etc.

(6) until that time, people continue to have choice and Satan is allowed to still do his work.

(7) Jesus could have ended them and sent them into the Abyss.

(8) this is why the demons beg him to allow their work to continue. Jesus gives them permission to go to the pigs, he didn’t send them to the pigs.

(9) Jesus values human life above life of pigs, etc. this shows dignity God gives to humanity.

(10) one appropriate conclusion would be that God would rather ALLOW 2,000 pigs to be destroyed than to see a life destroyed.

(11) also, note that it still was not Jesus destroying. He is not guilty of destroying livestock. The demons do this.

(12) also note that sending them to the pigs keeps them from entering any of the other HUMAN lives there.

(13) Jesus is saving 1 human life and protecting many others.

(14) the whole scene puts on display the nature of evil, spiritual battle, deliverance, power of a God, etc.

(15) God saving us is messy. Deliverance comes at a price. Spiritual warfare is costly.

(16) some will still choose to have no part of it, as some here were overcome with fear and asked Jesus to leave.

(17) The Good News goes forward. Jesus instructs the delivered man to go give testimony to his sphere of influence regarding God’s ability to save.

 

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As Christians, we must decide if we will set a table as though the whole world is invited to feast. While there is no evidence that all will feast (though one can hope), the hopeful Christian must live as though the whole world is at minimum invited.

The parables of Jesus were one such place where large crowds were given a taste of what the Kingdom of God and its feast are like. These stories have a real place in the actual, crowded world. Jesus’ answers (often given in questions) have teeth that penetrate the hearts of mankind. Or, as Mike Erre puts it, “The Gospel Isn’t Just Something that exists somewhere in people’s hearts. It has edges and can actually impact the world.”

Sadly, today’s church can often feel like an exclusive dinner where only a few privileged souls have a place at the table. Often times, we leaders in the church can act more like gatekeepers than bridge-builders. If you are an invited guest (long time attender or member), you may be more interested in reserving your usual seat than making room for a visitor. If you are an outsider (first time visitor), you may be wondering if it is okay that you are even at church. 

Things would look a lot different if we as the church intended for people very different from us to have an invitation to the Table. D.A. Carson writes,

“Ideally the church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends.’ It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says—and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”

The parable of the foolish rich man puts much of this conversation in extreme focus. The situation is that there is a crowd of people following Jesus and looking to see what He is all about. One of the people in the crowd fires a question at Jesus about how an inheritance should be divided between him and his brother. Jesus answers the question with another question and gives a stern warning about the effects of greed.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Jesus

Then, Jesus launches into a story about the foolish rich man who didn’t quite know what to do with all of his wealth. (Talk about a “first world problem”: I just don’t know what to do with all this money I have!)

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

A pair of thoughts about this parable in Luke 12:16-19: First, life as God intended it includes abundant harvest. The desire of God is that your labor results in rich harvest. Unfortunately, a fallen world means that this is not always the case. The result is that there are times for celebration and times for sorrow, times where sowing results in harvest and times when sowing does not result in harvest.

Second, in the times where the harvest is plenty, there are foolish solutions and wise solutions. As we see in the parable, the foolish rich man concludes that he should build a bigger place to store his wealth. That we he can take life easy and live off the fat of the land.

At this, Jesus puts God into the parable (this is rare!). God asks, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” In other words, all the stuff in the world will do you no good the eternity that comes after this life. The stuff is only good in this life and can be used properly or not.

I know a man who is in the later years of his life and is trying to give away money as wisely as possible. This is a man who understands that he will not be able to see his stuff used for eternity after he has left this world (though his stuff may, in fact, continue to be used this way!).

When God asks, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” he gets to the heart of the matter. Will we use our stuff for eternal purposes or not? And, who has access? Who is invited?

Jesus indicates that there is a better way, a properly wise solution to the issue of excess. And, there is a God (even a Father) who enters the situation to give direction to the “divided brothers.”

In God’s economy, He is to be remembered in the midst of all the stuff. Proverbs 30:8-9 says,

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

In other words, we must remember God whether we have much or have plenty (see Paul in Philippians 4:11-13). And it is actually better to have just what we need for the day (see Exodus 16 and Matthew 6:11). We must remember God in our stuff.

Also, we must be willing to share our stuff with all people. There is a reason that God instructed the people of Israel not to harvest the edges of their fields during the Festival of Weeks. Leviticus 23:22 reads,

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”

In other words, God desired that the outsider would have room at the table. God desired that those who see themselves as gatekeepers would actually become bridge-builders so that insiders would become room-makers and outsiders would belong. We are to share our stuff with people, as though the whole world is invited to the feast.

Lastly, we do this so that we can live in abundance together. It is no accident that Jesus makes mention of great feasts in Luke 14 and 22. And, it is not accident that Revelation 19 tells of the marriage supper of the Lamb. God intends for his people to feast together for all eternity. John 10:10 indicates that the devil sought to steal, kill, and destroy while Jesus came that we might have life in abundance. The abundant life may not necessarily include an abundance of things, but we are foolish to think that God’s abundant life doesn’t impact our things.

Scripture tells of an eternal feast with God. Our things on earth can be used to set a table for the whole world. Let’s remember God in our stuff, share our stuff with all people, and live in abundance together.

(This is a post in which I may stolen lines from or hopefully accurately paraphrased Mike Erre. Thankfully, Mike has publicly given permission for anyone to do this. My hope is that I have not altogether misquoted Mike or acted boorishly like a Wolverines or Spartans football fan.)

 

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Growing up, I believed that I had to answer every question asked of me as directly, honestly, and completely I possible. I believed that anything less than this was a lie. For example, if someone asked me how my day was and what I did that day, I would almost immediately swell with nervousness that I was going to leave part of my day out or mess up the order of how things happened. If I didn’t include all the details, was I really answering honestly? If I said my day was great and it was really just good, did I tell a lie?

I quickly learned that I had a moderate case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and specifically one that is termed Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Religion became a trigger for my OCD to the point that telling a lie was the bulk percentage of the pie chart and telling the truth was something that happened only in the rarest of cases when I made sure to give all of the details of all of the facts in the exact correct order. I soon felt like I was lying when I talked most of the time.

You can imagine my relief when I encountered the Jesus of the Bible. You see, most of us have a picture of Jesus in our heads that we learn from parents, friends, youth group events, or poorly made Hollywood movies. Often times, this image doesn’t match up to the Beautiful Person that we see in the pages of the Word of God.

In Jesus, I found a Person who was God and man. At the same time. We was fully divine, yet spent more time in the dirt than I ever have. He was fully man, yet without sin. And, when He was asked a question, sometimes He gave an answered. But, more often, Jesus answered a question with another question.

You see, Jesus was able to discern the motives of the questioner in an instant. I ordered a book today called, “Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered,” by Martin Copenhaver. Did you read that? 307 questions that Jesus asked and 3 that he answered. Most of the time, it turns out, Jesus was content to let questions go unanswered. This was especially the case when He knew that the answer to the asked question was not the Answer that the questioner needed.

More often than not, Jesus redirected the conversation immediately to one that would be more fruitful. One example of this was in Matthew 9:14-15. The text reads:

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

Do you see what Jesus did there? The questioners wanted to trap Jesus in a question about religious observances and Jesus redirected the question to one of His identity. “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” Jesus asks. The questioners are left with the decision to engage or not in Jesus’ question and wrestle with what Jesus asked them. In an instant, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter at hand and forces the questioner to wrestle with his own question.

Questions, rather than answers, have the unique and profound impact of forcing the hearer to wrestle, seek out, and discover Truth. Jesus understood that He could spoon-feed Truth all day long if He wanted, but it wouldn’t have same effect as if He invited those around him to wrestle with the questions ask. He Himself was the Answer, and He asked questions to empower people to wrestle with that Truth.

I have become fascinated with this approach to education, as mentors like John Mark Reynolds and friends like Adam Johnson have worked tirelessly to question people into Truth. The goal of education, after all, is not to teach people what to think, but how to think.

We serve a God who is Himself the Answer and all of life’s questions rest on His identity. What question is on your heart today? What do you ask of Jesus? Don’t be surprised if He asks you something back. And don’t be surprised if, when you find yourself confronted with your question, it reveals that Jesus is the Answer. May we wrestle with the questions on our hearts today, knowing that the Truth, in fact, is out there!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

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It was never “just” a prayer.

I received this question from an attender and wanted to address the important question what it actually means to give your life to Jesus.

I think the heart of your concern rests in the following questions that you asked:

Why did the people who accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior go to hell? If all you have to do is say that Jesus is Lord and repent for your sin once, then why do we need to strive to be more like Jesus? It seems like you should but don’t have to. Why does the Bible tell us to always be aware, to not drift away? Why would it say it if once we say the sinner prayer, we are saved for good?

Let me respond as best I can here by email, understanding that conversation in person will usually be more helpful and thorough. As you have heard me say before, I do not believe that people can lose their salvation.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says

“you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

If you believe in Christ and become a follower of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit, who is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” In other words, the Holy Spirit in you is a sign to you that you have saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved.

In John 10:28, Jesus indicates that none that He has been given can be snatched from his hand.

Romans 8:33-39 says

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This means that we don’t have to be fearful of losing our salvation or of someone taking it from us. If we are chosen by God and have chosen to follow Him, we do not need to live in fear of being taken away from His promise. In this way, I do not believe that anyone who accepts Christ as Savior is sent to hell.

What I would do is say that we need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. You asked, “If all we have to do” is say a prayer once and repent, then why do we need to become more like Jesus. I believe the Bible teaches our growth and includes warnings about falling away because the Christian life was never just about one prayer. The prayer is an outpouring of the heart of the believer towards God, it is not a one time transactional contract. We have instead a covenant with God that lasts a lifetime. God didn’t intend for the Christian life to be a one time magic set of words that got us out of hell and into heaven. The Christian life is indeed about a relationship with God and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (says Paul in Philippians 2). This does not mean that we can earn our salvation or save ourselves, it is a gift of God (Romans 6:23). What it does mean is that it is much more than a one time prior. Giving our life to Jesus means just that; that we give our lives to Jesus. Not just our words. Not just our prayers. We become more than believers in Christ. We become followers of Christ that walk in relationship to and with him.

The Holy Spirit is given as a seal to be able to accomplish the work of God in our lives and apply to us the work of Christ on the cross. It is a relationship. Think of the relationships in your life. None of them are just a one time meeting or a one time set of words. They are on going. Gordon Fee says it this way

“For Paul, life in the Spirit begins at conversion; at the same time that experience is both dynamic and renewable.” – Gordon Fee

Fee is saying that while we are given the seal of the Holy Spirit at conversion, the relationship is one that grows, is renewed, and expands. That is what we look for in our relationship with God, and if we indeed have the Holy Spirit in us, we do not need to worry about salvation being taken from us. In the end, the prize that we get is God himself!!

Denominations have many different takes on these issues and I think it is helpful to learn from the denominations and the truth that they present. There is no one denomination that has the corner market on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. And so, we learn and discern what the denominations have to say. Much of that is a lifelong process as well. We discern what the traditions say, compare them with the Scripture, discuss them with others, and ask the Spirit to guide us into all truth, as Jesus said he would. I agree with your assessment by the way, that Orthodox churches seem to have a lot of traditions and protestant churches seem to have none. It may be helpful for both sides (and there are many more) to center upon Jesus and submit their rules (or lack thereof) to His Spirit as we work out our salvation together.

I’ll conclude with a story about a man who once came up to the world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman and said, I would give my whole life to play the violin the way that you do. Perlman grinned and said, “I did give my whole life.” What showed that Perlman was a violinist: saying the words that he was a violinist or spending a lifetime playing? (See James’ talk about faith and deeds!) It’s a fantastic reminder to see that we have an opportunity as followers of Christ to give our whole lives (selves) to him, not just a one time prayer. And the good news is that our being save doesn’t rest on us, but on the Savior who will not lose one that the Father has given (John 6:39). You can’t earn your salvation, but you can give him your life. And that is a lot more than a prayer!

 

Friends, I received another question that I wanted to respond to on here. On power and authority.

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Jesus said he has all power and authority in Earth and Heaven, yet I’ve also heard Satan the “The Prince of this world” or is in control of Earth.  When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days fasting, Satan told him he would give Jesus the Earth if Jesus would kneel to Satan, reinforcing that Satan has control over Earth.  I’ve also read that we humans were given Earth to have domain over.  It seems confusing.  If Earth’s domain is our gift from God, why can’t we cast out Satan.  If Jesus has all power over Earth, what is stopping him from booting the devil out now?  I’m not sure if there is an answer or not but would love to hear your thoughts.

God, as Creator of the universe has authority over all of the universe. We learn that all things were made through Jesus in John 1:3. As such, He is Lord over Creation. God (meaning the Father, Son, and Spirit: one God, three Persons) has supreme authority over all Creation and all creatures. By nature, Creation worships (obeys) the Creature. Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God.” But, creation does not worship/obey (the words are often connected) by God controlling or dictating. He is not a tyrant. There is choice involved and Satan chose against the Lord. In doing so, Satan removed himself from participating in the authority of God and instead simply became under his authority. When Adam and Eve sinned against God (and chose against his authority), the human race also removed themselves from participating in the authority of God and simply became under His authority. God did not lose authority over Creation, over Satan, or over humanity. But, Satan, a third of the demons, and humanity chose to operate outside the authority of God. God, being a good and loving God, gave the option for this choice.

I hope you are seeing the picture here: you can operate in the authority of God (as part of His authority) or you can operate outside (against) His authority. Either way, He does not lose His authority, but He allows for choice to operate in His authority or not. So, Satan is cast out of heaven and allowed to roam the Earth. Again, God does this lovingly, knowing that He will give humans the same choice. Ultimately, this is to display not only His power and His authority, but also his love.

When Jesus comes, we are told in Philippians 2 and John 17 that he had the glory as God prior to being born as human. He was fully God already, which means that He fully had authority as God. But, He didn’t consider it something to be grasped. Or, in other words, He didn’t see being God as something to be used for His own benefit, but for ours. And so, He placed Himself under the authority of the Father and submitted to His authority throughout His life. He said, I only do what I see the Father doing. He said, not my will but yours be done. He was the perfect example of acting in the authority of God. And so, it makes perfect sense that He says, I have been given all authority on heaven and earth. Yes, Satan has been given the option to operate outside (against) the authority of God on this earth. As such, any authority that Satan has comes from what God has allowed in His lovingkindness to give people choice. When Satan temped Jesus, the actual temptation was for Jesus to operate outside (against) the authority of God and join Satan. This is why Jesus responds that you should only worship (obey – remember the words are connected) the Lord your God. Jesus chose to continue to participate in the authority of God, rather than operate outside the authority. Now, we have the same choice. God gave the Adam and Eve authority over the earth, but it is only rooted in participation with God’s authority. As soon as we act outside (against) that authority, we are no longer participating with God. In reality, we are now participating with Satan. This is why Jesus says you are with me or you are against me.

If we choose to operate in God’s authority, following in the footsteps of Jesus, we participate with him. We reign with Christ (see 2 Timothy 2:12)! That is why Jesus says that all authority has been given to Him (in Matthew 28) and why the disciples were told they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them (Acts 1:8). It is by the power of the Spirit that we are able to operate in the authority of God continually. So, Jesus saves from the effect of sin but also from the power of sin. We are not under the power (authority) of sin, but rather under the power (authority) of God. 1 Peter 5, John 16, and Hebrews 10 note that this situation on the Earth and its battle regarding authority will only go on for “a little while.” This is because God has not lost any of His authority in the process. He is instead “patience toward you not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Hi friends! I received this question today and wanted to spend some time to give an answer. On Salvation and Overcoming Sin.

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The question that has been bothering me for a while is whether or not people can loose their salvation? If not, then who does 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (and other verses like that) refer to? What does it mean that Jesus gives us the power to overcome sin (since I know that we all keep sinning)?

(1) Some hold that you can lose your salvation if you are not faithful.
(2) Some hold that you cannot lose your salvation, but that you can choose to no longer follow Christ.
(3) Some hold that once you are saved you are always saved.
I am in the third camp, personally. I believe that once you have been saved, God will not allow you to be unsaved! See John 6:39 – “I shall not lose one that the Father has given me, but shall raise them up at the last day.” Also, John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life…No one can snatch them out of my hand.” The emphasis is that Jesus does the saving, that salvation is a gift, and that giving the gift, he will not take the gift back. That is my view based on what I see in the Bible.
The most important verse in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is verse 11, which says: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Paul is describing what life WAS like without Jesus. Fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, etc. These are some of the sins and lifestyles that carry with them consequences of separation from God, death, and eternity in Hell. (There are many more, lest we think that these are the only ones). Romans 6:23, the “wages of sin is death.” Apart from Jesus, these things keep you from inheriting the Kingdom of God. But, Paul says, such WERE some of you. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God. In other words, Jesus has done the saving and has kept you from the penalty of the sin. In the next post, I’ll respond more about the power of sin. Because, God saves us also from the power of sin. When we talk about going on sinning and overcoming sin, we need to be saved from the power of sin. And so, we turn to the Spirit. Stay tuned.