Tag Archive | Bible

FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE?

salvation 2

 

If I were to ask any Christian the question: For whom did Christ die? I believe a simple answer to this question is “for the sinner”. In a broad sense that’s absolutely true. Yet, there’s more to it if we delve a bit further. In fact, it’s a question that has set theologians to task for years. I’m not about to claim that I can even scratch the surface, but I’d like open up the dialogue because I find the theology behind the question very interesting.  It can be viewed in three scenarios:

  1. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to save all men without exception. That is, everyone who has ever lived will immediately or eventually be saved.
  2. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer a potential salvation to anyone who would believe in Him. In other words, His death could potentially save, but it would depend upon whether the sinner choses to accept Him as Savior or not.
  3. Christ’s intent in dying on the cross was to offer an actual and secure salvation for those He had chosen before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4).

Let’s look at each of these:

Did Christ die so that all may be saved without exception?

This view holds that Christ died to save all men; therefore, all men will be saved. Known as Universalism, it states that everyone is eventually going to heaven. The issue here is that it is in direct opposition to scripture, which is clear that faith in Christ, and Christ alone is required for salvation (John 14:6).  False religions deny Christ, and evil is rampant in this world. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, it is clear that all cannot be saved. The Bible also states that there is a hell for the unrepentant (Rev. 21:8). If all are saved, then why is there a hell?

Did Christ die for those who would potentially come to Him?

Some would hold the view that although Christ died on the cross, His death does not become effectual until an individual “decides for” Christ and is thereby saved. If this is so, then His death only had the potential to save. It could potentially save everyone or it could potentially save no one, depending on who would (or would not) respond to it. First let me say that this view is held by many Christians that I love and respect, and it sounds good on the surface, but it brings up many questions, especially when we consider the broken, sinful nature of man in light of a high and holy God:

  • Did God cross His fingers and hope that someone would heed Christ’s sacrifice?
  • Why would Christ die for those He knew would not accept Him?
  • Did God leave it up to sinners to decide whether or not Christ’s work will be effective?
  • If so, how then, can the sinner make the right choice for Christ in the first place, if he is dead in trespasses and sins and is unable to appraise spiritual things, as Ephesians 2:1 tells us?
  • Does it make sense to say that God was satisfied to punish His Son, (even for those who reject Him), only for them to be punished again in hell? (Romans 3:26)
  • If Christ died for all without exception, and some chose to accept his sacrifice while others do not, is it possible for God to fail?

Did Christ die to secure an actual and sure salvation for those He chose “before the foundation of the world”?

This last view states that Christ died positively and effectually to save a certain number of hell-deserving sinners, that is, those “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

It views the atonement as a secure and actual transaction, not just that which merely makes salvation possible.

The point is, if God already knew and predestined those who would come to him, (Eph. 1:4), if He gave them the ability to reach up to Him in the first place (Eph. 2:1), then it follows that Christ’s intention was to render a complete and sure satisfaction of  the Father’s will to those individuals.

That is: For whom, (and only whom) the Father would chose is to whom (and only whom) the Son would sacrifice His life. The purpose of God is the mission of the Son, as Christ stated in John 6:37-38:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me”.

This last view, I believe, does justice to the purpose of Christ’s death. It was the extension of God’s love set upon those he has chosen from the beginning. It accomplished that which is according to His sovereignty, that which is successful.

Even so, we as Christians are called to heed the great commission to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations”, (Matt. 28:19).

This sounds contrary to the doctrine of election. “What’s the point?”, you might ask, “If God has already ordained His own?” The response, I believe, is that God does not ordain the end (salvation), without also ordaining the means to the end, (evangelism). He gives His children the privilege of being the means to accomplish His will.

Do you trust in Jesus for your salvation? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? If you hear this call to salvation, do not turn a deaf ear. Come to Him today!

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

Comments welcome!

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY? (PART 3)

Dear Friends,

Are we constantly being shaped by the forces of our own society? I mean, how many times are we enticed or pushed by the masses to compromise on our principles or beliefs to protect our status or popularity?

Last week we read about three men who stood strong in the face of a much greater threat than just social acceptance. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew young men who were threatened with losing their lives if they didn’t bow down to an idol. However, they never abandoned their convictions and obedience to God. They refused to bend their knee to none other than Him alone. Their story is found in Daniel 3:1-30, and we’ll continue to the conclusion today.

FireYou may recall that King Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone in Babylon to bow down to an idol he made of himself or be thrown into a furnace. Everyone in his kingdom were all willing to do whatever they had to do to be in favor of the king, (and keep their lives), except these three.  When it came time for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow, I don’t believe that their courageous decision was made in a vacuum. Character like that just doesn’t happen overnight. I believe it was a result of an already ingrained commitment to uncompromising principle. If you look at the opening chapter of Daniel, (Daniel 1:8-21), we see them already living out a life of discipline and honor in terms of their diet, refusing to eat food that was offered to idols. So by the time their feet were at the edge of the furnace, their minds and hearts were already made up. A question I ask myself and propose to you today is the same: If we are found in a similar situation, can you and I say that we have built a level of authenticity, love, and devotion to our Lord that we, too, would stand strong in our faith?

Are we alert enough to see the subtle (at least for now) distractions and sin that chips away at our faith on a daily basis?

Do we hold on loosely to this world or is it with a clinched fist?

Are we aware or oblivious to the persecution of brothers and sisters that experience physical threats every day?

As the story goes, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were indeed tied up and thrown into the fire (Daniel 3:21). When the furnace door closes behind them, King Nebuchadnezzar sees not three, but what appeared to be four men within the flames.

Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was astounded and rose up in a hurry and spoke and said unto his counselors, did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men, not bound but loose, walking around in the midst of the fire and they have no hurt. And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25).

None of them were bound; none of them seemed afraid or looking for the exit. They were all just walking around, unscathed. Many believe that fourth man was Christ Himself, in a pre-incarnate appearance. Others believe it was an angelic being. Either way, they were comforted and protected.

In reference to God’s presence, John MacArthur says,

“How wonderful to know that we go through no experiences where God is not there in divine companionship and the hotter the fire the sweeter the fellowship. I can tell you…in my own experience, that whenever I get into a situation where I decide to take a stand for something and it’s the unpopular thing to do and you start getting flack, you have this tremendous sense of divine companionship. It’s what Peter talked about when he talked about the fact that when we go through persecution, the spirit of grace and glory rests on us.”

He articulates a thought I’ve had often, and that is that I have to believe that God gives a special strength, a greater sense of His peace and presence to those who suffer these unimaginable assaults.  It is the peace that passes understanding that He has promised (Philippians 4:7).

They are taken out of the fire not even smelling of smoke! (Daniel 3:27). They went into the fire resolved of one thing: God could deliver them if it was His will, and they would praise Him whether they got a miracle or not. I love that. They were confident in God’s sovereignty. They didn’t think that if they just prayed hard enough and believed enough that God would have to do their bidding. He was still God no matter what happened… and it was God who got the glory that day, not them or the strength of their faith. After witnessing this miraculous deliverance, the King himself said,

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:28-30)

We may never have to choose between life or death, but we can take a lesson from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, right where we are today.

Are there any ways we can demonstrate uncompromising principle in our lives, in our workplace or homes?

Is there an area of compromise right now that the Lord has been nudging you to change?

How can we prepare for opportunities to express our faith in a loving yet confident manner?

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

We’ve all read the headlines and heard it on the news. Present day Muslim terrorist like ISIS shout “renounce your faith or die” to the “infidel” (anyone who isn’t a Muslim), and they are following through on their threat. As I thought about what I might write this week, I considered the fact that this threat is the same spirit of evil that has been expressed throughout history. In fact, there’s a story in the Old Testament that describes a very similar scenario.

It’s found in Daniel 3:1-30, the story of three Jewish young men by the name of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar after he besieged Jerusalem in 600 B.C. Even though captive, the King favored them and hand-picked them as administrators in his court. He saw their wisdom and trusted them enough to put them in positions that carried great popularity and prestige.

The day came when King Nebuchadnezzar created a golden image of himself, and demanded that everyone under his reign to bow down to it. If anyone refused, they would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Fire“Now if you are ready, [he said] at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15)

 

In other words, “Renounce your faith or die”

Now Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a lot to lose, that is, besides their very lives. You would think that they would want to support their leader…guard their own popularity, you know, be politically correct. A number of thoughts could have run through their minds:

  • “It’s just an idol. All we have to do is bow. We can just go ahead and bow physically, but we’ll be praying to God instead.” 
  • “God wouldn’t have taken us so far in life only to die this way. It’s not in His plan. We need to comply in order to reach people in the long run.” 
  • The king is an authority figure and we need to be compliant to the demands”.

 Instead, what was their response? They said,

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you O king that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

They didn’t rationalize in any number of ways that they could have. They didn’t even want to have the appearance of evil. They didn’t presume upon God but saw the circumstance for what it was. They also knew that no authority is to be obeyed if they are in conflict with God. They wanted to live, but their desire to worship the one true God was even greater.

I am amazed at the courage these three men had to answer so boldly, and yet what amazes me even more is that thousands of Christians have responded to this same threat in the same way over the last 2,000 years. There are many who are facing it right now. God dramatically rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but for many others, He has given strength to see them on to Heaven.

If you and I were told to renounce our faith or die, what would we say? Are we girded with a strong and focused faith that can stand strong in the face of evil? Is our relationship with God so close and abiding that we long to see the far greater eternal reward?

My hope is that you and I as believers would be strong and ready if and when a time of decision comes, that we are always ready to give an account for our faith.

 

WHAT IF THE WORDS I SPEAK WERE WRITTEN ON MY SKIN?

Words on hand

Why do I suddenly feel the need to cover up? And when I say “cover up” I mean head-to-toe cover up. I wouldn’t mind adding a second layer, and a cap, and a pair of tall boots.

Maybe that’s because there would be many words I wouldn’t want anyone to read.

Words that spew out in anger at people who least deserve it.
Words that I add for shock effect just to see the reaction and bring attention to myself
Or what about that one extra thought that crossed the line the minute it came out of my mouth,
but I said it anyway.

Not to try to make anyone feel worse, but the words we speak are just as obvious to God as if they were written on our skin.

And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by our words you shall be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36).

I’m going to have to give an account for every word I speak (or write for that matter). It says in this scripture that I’m going to be justified or condemned by my words, so it seems to be saying that God judges our salvation based solely on what we say. It seems to support a works mentality, a doctrine that says that our salvation is based on what we do or don’t do.

However, if you read over both the Old and the New Testament, you’ll see a consistent message that we are saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8, John 3:16, 2 Corin. 5:21, Romans 3:28, Psalm 32:1-2). Therefore, we cannot be saved or condemned on the basis of our deeds or words; instead, they are evidence of salvation.

Words (and deeds) are not a means to an end, (salvation), but a manifestation of our spiritual condition, an accurate gauge of what’s in the heart. What’s more, no matter how hard we try, they will give us away:

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (James 3:8-12)

When we are full of our angry, mean selves, it comes out, but this passage isn’t just talking about words spoken in passion. The Greek transliteration for the word “careless” is “Argos”, meaning “useless, barren, unproductive, inappropriate.” 1 It also refers simply to words that reflect the idleness and the pride of life.

Lord knows there’s plenty of that. It reminds me of a phrase my dad used to use when we were kids. He would say “Callam fodi”, which is literally translated from Arabic to mean “Empty words”. It was no surprise that we would hear that phrase almost any time the TV was on because of all of its useless, wasteful material. A question to ask ourselves: how much of it are we pumping into our hearts and minds on a daily basis?

Thank God that although our words are exposed to Him, He offers His righteousness as the best cover-up to those who believe in Him. Better than a cover-up. They are washed away.

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

What were your conversations about today? Can you say that they were life-giving and encouraging or useless and wasteful, even angry?

Why do you suppose it’s so hard to tame the tongue?

1)      The McArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 8 – 15, P. 319

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?

I was watching an online clip not too long ago that featured a woman in her 20’s that has literally not grown since she was 5 years old. She looks and acts like a toddler, leaving doctors mystified about her condition. More than once the narrator used the term “frozen in time” to describe the lack of normal aging and maturing .*

We tend to see only the physical, but we are both physical and spiritual. In much the same way as someone born with a physical abnormality, it is possible to never get out of our spiritual infancy. This is shown in the Apostle Paul’s writing in1 Corinthians 3:1-3:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.”

Let me break down this scripture:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ”

Paul was talking to the Corinthian church, pointing out that although they were Christians, they showed no signs of spiritual growth. He “could not speak to [them] as to spiritual men, that is, they were acting more like “men of flesh”, a term used to describe someone who does not know God, or knows little of God. They were “babes in Christ”.

“I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.”

Baby bottleBabies drink milk, a substance that’s easy to take in and handle to a baby’s body; it’s contains the basics of nutrition. Using the illustration of a baby drinking milk, Paul draws a spiritual analogy. The “milk” he provided them was the basics of the gospel. Like many Christians today, the Corinthians seemed content to stay on milk. They don’t want their teachers to give sermons that had a lot of “meat” on them, that would get “too deep”, or “too specific”. The problem with this is that once you have heard the gospel and believe, then what? Do you just keep listening to the same evangelistic message? How do you learn the myriad of principles in God’s word? How do you apply it to your life and soul? Like today’s listeners, they may have claimed that teachings of any substance had “too much doctrine” or on an unspoken level, exposed their sins and godless lifestyle.baby

Living off of spiritual milk is like nodding my head at a sermon that skims the surface of the gospel, understanding the truth in concept alone. I’m content to being passive and spoon-fed, not just because it’s easy, but because I don’t have the spiritual muscle mass that would crave solid food because I haven’t flexed them. I haven’t burnt too many spiritual calories so I can’t get strong. My spiritual self is flabby and plump from inactivity.

Steak dinnerOn the other hand, what does it mean to crave solid spiritual food? When I think of solid food, I think of a substantial, wholesome meal, not sucrose filled, junk food –like messages we often hear today. These messages taste good at first – they offer nothing but prosperity and ego-boosting self-motivation, but have little to do with the gospel (they are neither “milk” nor “meat” but false, misleading teaching!). Solid spiritual food is grounded in the word of God, given through careful study of the text. It exposes sin and challenges the believer to godly living, establishing him in the fundamentals of the attributes of God, man, sin, salvation, judgment, and eternity. It gives the basis for each. It may not always feel good going down, but it is necessary for the healthy believer.

Indeed even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.”

Even then, we can’t leave our growth (or lack of growth) on the shoulders of our teachers and pastors. If we are going to grow beyond the baby bottle, we must take the responsibility to take in God’s instructions on a daily basis. We have to exercise our spiritual muscles by reading the Bible ourselves. Together with the Holy Spirit, this will begin to create the appetite for solid food. Then we can’t be called “fleshly”, as those who have no desire to grow.

Believer, where do you think you are in your growth chart today? Are you a new believer starting out on “milk”? Are you weaning yourself by learning more and surrounding yourself with good teaching? Are you stuck on “milk” and should be eating “meat”? Do you remember a time when you were…or are you enjoying a full course meal on God’s word?

*http://singularityhub.com/2010/05/17/what-secrets-are-in-the-dna-of-a-17-year-old-girl-with-the-body-of-a-baby-video/

 

“AN INVITATION TO FORGIVE” – NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Dear Friends,

Just wanted to let you all know that my Bible Study, “An Invitation to Forgive: A Study of the Book of Philemon” is finally  available on Amazon ~ I’m so excited to share it with you!

(Click on “Amazon” to order)

AnInvitatiotoForgive_FrontCover_Final

Suppose you were to open your mailbox and spot an unusual piece of mail. A glimpse of your name, handwritten in calligraphy, tells you this isn’t just another bill. Pushing aside the junk mail like tares from the wheat, you snatch the envelope and open the gold-lined seal to find –

An invitation ~

It is from a friend, offering you the chance to mend a broken relationship.

“An invitation to forgive?” you may scoff…

Why would anyone want to get an invitation like that?”

And yet that is exactly the type of invitation the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to Philemon. In a manner that is both brilliant and appealing, Paul urges Philemon to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus. He challenges Philemon to see forgiveness as a privilege; an invitation to be accepted or declined. It was Philemon’s choice to make.

Would he have the character to see past his anger to the benefits this invitation would offer him, or would he hang on to resentment and miss the blessing?

This verse-by-verse Bible Study is written for anyone who has ever struggled with forgiveness or longs to see the reconciliation of broken relationships. It will address and examine the questions involved in the dynamics of forgiveness, such as:

  • Can true forgiveness ever be commanded?
  • Does loyalty and harmony come by compulsion?
  • What is the character of someone who forgives?
  • On what basis should we forgive someone who has offended us?

This study will not only shed light on the answers to these questions but also present the rich Biblical principles on which they are based. It is written in an easy-to-read, interactive format, guiding the reader to identify his own invitation to forgive—an invitation ultimately written for all of us.

If you would like to stay updated on this project and others, (and also win a chance for a free copy), please fill out this form. Your privacy is my highest priority!

CONFESSIONS OF MISS INDEPENDENT

Miss independent 2

So I’m jogging at the park to the sounds of a little smooth jazz and R&B

Not my usual groove, but it goes with the cool breeze, setting the pace as R&B Artist Ne-Yo coos in my ear:

“She got her own thing that’s why I love her
Miss Independent
Won’t you come and spend a little time
She got her own thing that’s why I love her
Miss Independent
Oh the way you shine”

 “Yep”, I think. “That’s me”. I got my oowwwnnn thing. “Yep, I gotta hand it to myself – I’ve made it on my own, lo these many years”.

Now, I don’t know much about this singer or any other song of his, but at this moment, I think he has a point!

“Ooh there’s somethin about kinda woman that can do for herself
I look at her and it makes me proud
There’s something about her”

“Cool groove”, I think. “It is something to not have to depend on ANYONE. I’m proud of that. Yeah, I GOT THIS”.

Now I’m really got a good clip going, and apparently the voice in my ear agrees:

“Her favorite thing to sa, “ Don’t worry I got it”
And everything she got best believe she bought it…”

By now this ego-puffing song has me nodding along. “Yep, everything I got, you best believe I bought it”!

I think about how self-sufficient I am, and how I like it that way.

Now I’m really groovin’, with diva wrist snaps and singing along:

“No doubt, it’s somethin about her
Cause she work like a boss
play like a boss
Car and a crib she bouta pay em both off
And the bills are paid on time yeah (1) 

Like the screech a record makes when you yank the needle away, another thought crossed my mind:

It’s so easy to think we are invincible, especially when it comes to material ease. It’s easy to look around at our “stuff” and credit ourselves for every material trophy: the car, the house and everything in it.

Yes, I believe in hard work, and I’m not taking one sliver away from us single women who work hard to earn a living. It’s an accomplishment to work hard and thrive as we carry our own load. (And in killer heels, I might add!)

In fact, the Bible describes the strong and resourceful woman in Proverbs 31 as one who takes care of her household, (v. 15) one who buys and sells and makes a profit, (16), as someone who is creative, (v. 22) and constantly productive. (v. 19, 27).

However, it also describes her as one who fears the Lord, (v. 30), which means to revere the Lord. According to the commentary from the MacArthur Study Bible, (NKJV), this reverence involves a state of mind in which one’s own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds, and goals are exchanged for God’s. (2)

Even as I was listening to this song about “independence”, I knew better. You can be successful and begin to believe that your “prosperity” will never go away until something happens that shakes that security. Then we see that our “independence” is as thin as a pink slip. For me it was the dire reality of illness. Staring at the ceiling for many days during a bout of Chronic Fatigue will do that. I believe in persevering, but we can’t heal ourselves. Only God can do that. He provides the doctors and medicine, even the nutrition and strength to heal. As sure as I was jogging around, I knew He did for me.

Illness can strike, but so can job loss, or betrayal, or a natural disaster…you name it. Anything can happen in a heartbeat, so in that sense this message would apply to anyone.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”. (Proverbs 16:9)

We may have the abilities, the confidence, the ingenuity and intelligence to accomplish so much, but who do you think gave us any of this to begin with?

“…A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven”. (John 3:27)

Think about the opportunities that seem to come by chance; it’s rare to stumble across a job opportunity by simply filling out an application directly on a company’s website, but that’s how I found my present job. I don’t think for a minute that wasn’t God’s doing.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Who do you think places us in the positions we have, no matter what they are? We all fit in somewhere to make this world go around.

“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (Ruth 2;12)

Let’s praise Him in the good times, and know that He will provide in the struggles.

Have you ever thought you were invincible? What is it about human nature that makes us think we are? Have you ever experienced something that changed your perspective?

1)       “Miss Independent”, from “Year of the Gentleman” 2008, M.Eriksen, T. Hermansen, S. Smith, Def Jam Label
2)       The John MacArthur Bible, Copyright 1997, Word Publishing