Tag Archives: Salvation

To Trust Obedience is to Fail, Bro.

The way to be eternally secure is to cleave to, trust, rely on and have faith in (believe in) Jesus Christ!  The way to be eternally insecure is to cleave to, trust in, rely on and have faith in anything else, even one’s obedience to God’s perfect law.  The latter will fail a person.  The first will secure a person.  His name, Jesus, means God is salvation.

When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I fail to see my own terrible lack and deficiency, my own disobedience.  I fail (come short of, be deficient in, cease to be furnished with, be cut off from the supply) in life by focusing on the idolatrous illusion of my own obedience to the detriment of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I am blinded to the miserable, pitiful decay, lack and deficiency of my own need – the very reason Jesus died.  Therefore when I trust in my obedience to God’s law and commandments, my obedience is idolatrously exalted and the Source, the very Source of Life is relegated to an inferior position.

To believe in (be habitually, routinely committed to) Jesus Christ is to trust (assured resting of the mind in the veracity, integrity, justice or other sound principle of another person; confidence; reliance) in Jesus Christ (i.e. God) for my salvation. One path to failure in salvation is to trust and believe my obedience to God’s perfect commands or commandments will save me.  My obedience will fail me because I am human.  The source of life is not obedience.  The source of my eternal life is none other than Jesus Christ, who judicially declares me justified, sanctified and to be glorified.

To be saved then starts with a simple belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12) which over time will grow to a confident assurance (strong belief) and absolute resolved single-minded purpose and determination in Jesus Christ first and foremost, above everything else and to then obey out of thanksgiving for what God has done.  As we grow we learn to not just to obey because of His gifts or His blessings, but in all assaults and barrages of lies and deceit from the enemies, in all of physical life’s circumstances we grow in Him through good times, as well as terrible suffering.

To God be the glory – He is the source of our salvation!

Update (3-21-14):

John 11:5 (Amplified Bible) “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]”

When I read this verse this morning, it occured to me, I don’t view Jesus in the same way as Martha, Mary (her sister) and Lazarus did.  That’s tragic.  Why is that?

As I thought and prayed about that, it occurred to me that I still struggle in my view of God.  I still see Him too often as a Being who is watching my every move to catch when I disobey so He can correct it.  Do we really think thoughts like mine were the thoughts of Martha, Mary & Lazarus toward Jesus?

It’s their relationship with Jesus that better proclaims the beauty of the Gospel – God coming into His creation to build a relationship with fallen sinners, even an intimate friendship.  Friends and even marriage partners don’t worry about obedience, it’s more about respect for one another.  They don’t fret about obedience because obedience is not the focus of the relationship.  It’s deeper than obedience, love and gratitude toward the other person are the focus.  The focus of obedience is on the self.

Now certainly disciplines, “ought to’s,” and even at times “commands” are part of love.  But aren’t commands and obedience more of a framework, rather than a way of life?  Doesn’t the question from Jesus, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments?” a question targeted more toward those who are immature or are children than a mature friend?

Obedience certainly is clearly addressed in the New Testament, but it seems to me (and I need more time to process this and would appreciate feedback here), that obedience issues in the New Testament relate more often to non-believers and to immature believers who need warning about going astray, using grace as a license, and taking God far too casually, etc.

Think of it:  “a friend of Jesus – one who is free.”  It’s a relationship concept that I trust we all desire to have with Jesus, instead of a slave relationship (which involves oppression, not freedom).  That friend relationship is not to mature to a trust in obedience, but should mature into a strong relationship of trust in Jesus, the One who died for us.  He’s the object of our desire, right?  Or is the object obedience?  I think Jesus is the object.  For “a slave (a person oppressed to obey and keep commandments, who points to his obedience as to whether he is worthy enough) does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).  Free to be a child, a maturing believer, a dear friend and eventually an intimate spouse of the King – in His very house relating to and with Him.

Advertisements

Jesus Was No Sabbatarian

Luke 6:1-11 For purposes of this blog, a Sabbatarian is defined as a person who obstinately holds to the 7th day Sabbath command so much as to define who a true Christian is.  Jesus was no Sabbatarian.

In my experience as I have watched xCG’s they always have within their organizational walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath.  The Sabbath in Jesus’ time was the core religious belief, the identifying sign.  For the Pharisees the Sabbath was a complex set of rules.  Those extra Biblical laws they created resulted in the Sabbath becoming the worst day of the week.  In the Bible the 4th commandment, the Sabbath, was simple:  Keep it holy by no work.  That’s it. Simple.

The 4th commandment is silent about attending worship service.  Does that not imply 7th day worship service was a tradition or ceremonial?  And does that not imply worship should be a 7-day-a-week practice?  There is no command in the 10 commandments to go to synagogue or church on the 7th day, although that was certainly done by Jesus, and it was commanded in Leviticus 23.  Paul went to synagogue until Acts 18:6 when the Jews opposed him and blasphemed.  Paul shakes his garments and he says, “Your blood be upon your own heads…from now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  From this point forward Luke no longer records the Christian leaders going to synagogue on the 7th day Sabbath.

One thing that bugged me when I was in Worldwide Church of God (WCG) was that I knew I was a Christian because I went to church on the 7th day.  The 4th commandment is rest, not church attendance.  Yet my ticket to salvation was 7th day church attendance and rest.  That was my security.  That was my salvation – my obedience.  The other six days, I needed to live a moral life and be a good person.

Now read carefully, after Jesus heals another man on the Sabbath in John 5, Jesus says in John 5:39 to the Jews who sought to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.”  Stop right there.  I thought my security for eternal life was in Sabbath observance – that identified me as a child of God similar to how the Jews thought their eternal life was in the Scripture.  What does Jesus say?  And these (the Scripture) are they which testify of Me.”  The purpose of Scripture and Sabbath is pointing to the reality, the One who possesses and gives eternal life.  The purpose of the Scripture and Sabbath is to point to Jesus.  When we elevate either to eternal life security, we fail and miss the fulfillment; the Savior and the relationship with Him.

Jesus comes along, and He doesn’t just crush the extra-Biblical laws the Pharisees created, He uncovers their deceit by actually fulfilling the shadow of 7th day Sabbath observance and presents Himself as the reality and fulfillment of the shadow – the Lord of the Sabbath who says, “Come to Me all who labor and I will give you rest.”  This was prophesied in Isaiah 30:15.  You want true rest?  “Follow Me,” Jesus says.  Then your salvation will be a delight.  “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.”  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:37, 47)

But Sabbatarians ask, doesn’t following Jesus require observance of the 7th day Sabbath? Herein lies the crux of the issue:  if you didn’t keep the 7th day Sabbath, you were not a true follower of God.  In the new covenant there is no problem resting or worshipping on the 7th day Sabbath.  If the Holy Spirit leads you to do that, you should obey the lead.  The problem exists in denying the work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in the lives of other people whose lives and work evidence fruits of repentance.  That problem was the same problem the Pharisees had – they could not, would not, let Jesus work in their hearts and minds because they myopically limited the very work of God.  They stubbornly and obstinately refused the work and life of Jesus Christ.  They held to their 7th day framework.  Jesus said, “you will know false teachers by their fruits.”  To deny Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in lives of sinners outside the 7th day observance, that is borderline blasphemy.  It is denying the work of God through Jesus.  It is the same sin the Pharisees had.

The Pharisees missed both the Savior (God) and God healing the man with the withered hand!  They overlooked God and the miraculous healing.  Why?  In order to differentiate and reject Jesus from themselves and their religion.  They denied the work of God in Jesus in order to protect themselves, their positions and their religion.  They had control and they were not about to humble themselves and lose it for God’s glory.  After all they were God’s people.  They followed Moses.  They were children of Abraham.  Yet, Jesus came and messed all that up and they would kill Him because they hated what He brought – God’s fulfillment.  They didn’t need Jesus’ salvation, theirs was secure in their religious framework, heritage, obedience and Scriptures as opposed to being secure in Christ.

What about you?  Have you missed the healing today – I’m referring to the spiritual healing of sinners outside the walls of 7th day Sabbath observance?  Is it because you refuse to acknowledge that Jesus heals spiritually outside of the 7th day religious framework?  Sinners lives are being dramatically changed.  If you deny Jesus works outside of 7th day observance, it’s not a simple mistake.  You are denying the very work of God Himself to draw people to Himself.  That’s dangerous ground.  The Pharisees did the very same thing – denying that God would even work in a sinners life.  Those sinners never measured up.  The Jews  could not answer the healings, but in turn they refused to believe Jesus’ work and miracles in other peoples lives so as to stubbornly hold to their history, heritage and framework.

Think about it.  When the early church received news of the salvation of Gentiles, the true believers rejoiced.  The problem came from those hypocrites and Pharisees who wanted to burden the new converts with requirements of circumcision, Moses laws, eating clean meats, and 7th day Sabbath observance (Acts 15).  Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was made for man to point man to the true salvation rest found in its Maker, Jesus.  Jesus is the true, pinnacle fulfillment of the 7th day.  It’s Jesus who calls the shots on the Sabbath, not religious leaders or churches.  It’s Jesus who decides who is saved and He secures sinners.  Did He not say, “I will lose nothing” (John 6:39) and “neither shall anyone snatch them from My hand” (John 10:28)?

Don’t miss the symbolism in Luke 6:6-11.  This man’s right hand was withered, probably from paralysis.  The right hand represents the strength of a man, work.  It was withered.  The Pharisees watched carefully to see if Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath.  They knew He could heal.  Was the paralysis healed on the Sabbath so the man could do Kingdom work?  It’s an interesting thought, but the text reveals Jesus did this healing defiantly, right in front of them as a witness and testimony of who He is.  The result was rage!  It got them mad enough to kill Him!

xCG’s always have within their walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath.  Why?  They don’t want to lose that identifying sign.  That sign is their security, while Jesus is minimized; secondary.  They cannot and some will not, see Jesus as their salvational security.  They essentially don’t trust Him.  “If I mess up, make a mistake, God is so harsh He may kick me out,” they reason.

Isn’t that the idea of the man who received one talent, who did nothing with it because he knew Jesus to be a hard man?  Matthew 25:26 Jesus says of this man, “you wicked and lazy servant.”  This man didn’t work, he physically rested.  His hand of work you might say was withered because he was paralyzed with fear of God as opposed to joy; obstinately holding to what Jesus had given him, hiding the gift and ultimately denying the Lord and Savior, the true Jesus.

Piper

Desiring God above His Gifts

Turn to Jesus, our true rest.  Leave your salvation in His capable hands.  He will cause you to rest, but also do His work.  If you are convicted by the Holy Spirit to observe the 7th day rest and gathering for worship, do so.  Just do not commit divisions, disunity and borderline blasphemy by rejecting the work of God amongst other Christians who follow Jesus within the Body and have fruits of righteousness and lives that glorify God.  This is what true atonement means – being at one with God because of what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus will never disappoint.  If Jesus were to ask you, “Why are you saved?” and you answer, “Because of my obedience,” you’ve got the cart before the horse and you’re resting in failure, for He is the power to repent, love and obey.
Some of the thoughts and ideas from this blog and it’s title come from John MacArthur’s sermon on this piece, as well as my own research and experience.  See http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/42-70/

Try Answering This Question…

Try something and see what you think.  This won’t take but a minute to do.  Get a Penpen, pencil or open Word on your computer.  Then ask yourself the following question, “Am I a good person?”  Answer honestly.  If you want to know what you really think, take a moment right now before reading further and write down your answer before continuing.  I’ll give you time.  Be sure to get it in writing so you can see how you responded later.

This week Michelle, Alexis and I went into Jinja town for some groceries.  As we pulled up, a charming young boy, about 8 years old, approached the vehicle and handed us a sheet of paper telling us about his background and requesting money for his elementary school fees – here in Uganda it’s up to the students to pay for their fees on their own, rather than the government taxing the adults’ paychecks.

As the young boy and I were standing under a small palm tree on Main Street outside the grocery store, I questioned him about his fees.  We were interrupted by an older male teen, whom I did not recognize.  This teen Henry (not his real name) knew me.  Months ago when we first arrived in Jinja, I had invited him to church, and given him my phone number.

About three weeks prior to this meeting on the street, Henry had started callingcell phone and texting me about medical and school fees.  He continued this almost on a daily basis, sometimes 4 or 5 times.  I could not remember his appearance and physical features, but he sure remembered me.

I must admit I was a bit irritated that he had called our phone for requests for money instead of visiting our church.

Henry greeted me with a very large and pleasant smile, which changed my irritation to a more receptive greeting.  This guy was a young, handsome kid and he proudly wanted to show me his recent report card – 19 out of a possible 20 points!  I acknowledged his good work and asked him what type career he was going to pursue.  He liked computer technology.

Henry quickly got to the point, asking again about me covering his school fees.  Instead, I desired to get to know more about him, and returned back to the topic of our original meeting a few months ago.

“Henry, are you a Christian?” I asked.

He smiled and assured me he is.  I then thought about asking him a probing question to determine where his faith rested.

“I want to ask a question,” I stated.

Henry seemed puzzled, but was willing to go along.

Suffice it to say his answer to the question failed.  His answer was like most people’s answer to the question when asked.  Henry gave many reasons for why He was a Christian, yet he failed miserably at the crucially most important answer.

I still gave him the benefit of the doubt, but wanted to explore further.  With his permission I then held God’s lawLaw up to him as a mirror.  “Have you ever lied, Henry?” I asked.

“Oh, no.  I never have!” came the surprising response.  I was quite astonished.

“You have never lied?” I continued.

“I have not,” Henry assured me.

“Not even when you were a boy?” I asked.  This guy is 17 years old.

He would not admit to lying.  “I think you are lying now,” I said, laughingly.  He chuckled a bit, but assured me again he has never lied.  Wow, not many people are that bold.

“OK, have you ever stolen anything?” I asked.

Henry thought for a few seconds.

“I did steal one time,” he replied.

“Only once?”

“Yes,” he insisted.

“Ok, what does that make you?  If you steal, even once in your life, what does that make you?  What do we call people who steal?”

I could tell Henry began to realize what my question implied.

“A thief,” he quietly and sheepishly admitted.

“Ok, have you ever disobeyed your parents?” I asked.

A few seconds pause and then, “Yes,” was the reply.

“What do we call a person who disobeys?”

Henry had a little more difficulty with this answer.  After a bit of time I tried to help him.  “Would you call that person a rebel?” I asked.

Again, he sheepishly answered in the affirmative.

“Henry,” I said, “you have just admitted to being a rebellious thief.”  In reality he is a rebellious, lying thief, but he honestly could not see that.

Henry was a bit taken aback.  So he naturally sought to justify his position, providing excuses.  We talked about this, but it only got worse.  He even (from his own mouth) claimed he was “not in the same category” as sinners.

My heart sank.  I had been giving the guy the benefit of the doubt about his faith in Jesus Christ.  But he clearly set himself apart from drunkards, drug addicts and other filthy type sinners.  He was not in that category he boasted.  Like the Pharisee in Luke 18, he was better than they were.  In fact Henry revealed to me his reasoning for this conclusion.  One of the reasons being, “I pray twice a day.”

In interest of time I won’t go into detail about the remainder of the discussion.  Bottom line, he could not see his need for a Savior.  I longed for him to recognize his eternal need, but he just could not see it.

As the rich young ruler, Henry walked away sorrowful.  He didn’t have great possessions, but Henry had an imposing idol that blinded him to the reality of his spiritual poverty.  His obedience sufficed in his eyes.

John MacArthur asks, “You want to cut the heart out of the church’s Gospel message?  Just convince the (listeners) that people are good.”  Most people think they are good, especially church going people.  James Boice quoted a Gallup poll revealing 75% of evangelicals believe man is basically good.

Try this yourself and see what responses you get from others, “Are you a good person?”

Now after reading the above story, how does your answer stack up?  In my experience most will somewhat sheepishly admit at first to making mistakes or doing wrong (almost never have I had someone use the word “sin”), but most will quickly follow up by saying something to the effect that overall their good outweighs their bad or they do their best.  The more arrogant ones will boast of their goodness.  Those who have difficulty with confidence or are down on themselves often will answer something to the effect, “I’m terrible” or “I’m really bad.”  And if the question is asked by someone else in a verbal conversation or chat the vast majority are so ashamed of Jesus they won’t even mention His name in response to a question about goodness.

Although some may generally refer to their belief in God in their answer, the apostle James warns about that, “You believe in God?  You do well, the demons believe, and they tremble.”

This answer is no small matter.  Not once in the conversation did Henry turn to Jesus.  Not once did he claim his need for a Savior.  In fact, the opposite happened.  As spiritually destitute as we all are, Henry’s pride got in the way.  He greatly erred by assuming he was in with God, based squarely on his goodness and probably somewhat his errant belief that God will somehow overlook his sin if he (Henry) means well.

My purpose here is not to condemn Henry.  If God saves Henry by His grace, then I am a blundering fool.  Thus let God be praised and me be a fool.  However, Jesus said, you will know a tree by its fruit; and from the heart, the mouth speaks.  My purpose is to use this real life example to point out how we can easily think we are resting in Jesus, when in reality we are ignorantly resting in our commandment keeping, obedience or good works.  No doubt those things are extremely important.  The Bible clearly testifies of the obedience of the saints, but true followers of Jesus are not ashamed of Him, nor are they resting in their works, obedience or commandment keeping.  They are resting in none other than their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pride is a deceitful enemy.  It thoroughly permeates our being.  We get focused on so many peripheral issues.  We all have pride, but are we truly trusting and resting in Jesus Christ for our salvation?  Or are we trusting and resting in something else?  Anything else, even religious commandment keeping, is an idol.

If you believe or feel like you’ve failed and can’t make it, that’s the awesome Good News:  Jesus saves sinners.  The power of our salvation is not “doing” or “obeying.”  BibleThe power of our salvation is Jesus Christ, who causes us to obey and do from the heart.  Rest in Him.  Abide in Him.  Trust in Him.  Repent of your pride.  Accept Him into your life.  The result will be the power of salvation showing forth repentance, obedience, commandment keeping from the heart, and good works that glorify and honor God through our Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory forever and ever.

“The effort of liberal and borderline modernists to woo men to God by presenting the soft side of religion is an unqualified evil because it ignores the very reason for our alienation from God in the first place. Until a man has gotten into trouble with his heart he is not likely to get out of trouble with God.”

The Fear of God, AW Tozer

What Does Jinja Remind You Of?

The city of Jinja rests at one of the northern points of Lake Victoria.  We can see the lake in the distance from the house we rent.

The city was founded in 1906 and has a current population of at least 80,000 at night. It is estimated that the population during the day more than doubles, some official estimates are as high as over 200,000. It is Uganda’s second largest city.  Sources vary on the average income in Jinja between $100 – $500 US dollars per year.  Per year, not per day or month.

IMG_6023

Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, to the North of where Ripon Falls used to be. Ripon Falls is now covered by water due to a dam being created on the Nile in 1954. Jesus said if we believe in Him, out of our hearts would flow rivers of Living Water, which He said was symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

Jinja is the “Source of the Nile” – the place where the Nile River begins flowing from Lake Victoria towards Egypt.

Years ago large rivers like the Nile separated people groups, formed some protection from enemies, but also hindered trade and forming of relationships. But here in the Jinja area near the source of the Nile, large rocks created a pathway across the large river near Ripon Falls.

IMG_6003

The Nile River north of Jinja. This photo is taken looking to the south toward Jinja and Lake Victoria. The lake being just over the mountain in the background.

Because of this rocky path the place was named Jinja, a word which comes from the two tribes, Baganda and Basoga, on either side of the Nile. In both tribal languages the name “Jinja” means “rock.”

This history of the Jinja area has deep spiritual symbolism. In a number of places in the Bible God and Jesus are referred to as a rock and the rock of our salvation (Deut 32:15; 2 Sam 22:47; Psm 95:1; Matt 7:24; etc.).  In the New Testament Jesus also said of Himself, “I am the way” (John 14:6) or path.  Our sin separates us from God and the only way or path to an initial and ongoing relationship with God is the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6).

Additionally, Jesus said He was the source of eternal life and the Holy Spirit (John 4:11-14 and 7:38), metaphorically illustrated in the Bible as (rivers) of living water.

Living in Jinja reminds us of the insurmountable and impossible task of trying to overcome the oppression of poverty and sin, but more importantly Jinja reminds us of the true answer to life’s problems, the refreshing source of living water, the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.