Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved

Those promoting the idea of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) claim very strongly that the belief is firmly rooted in Scripture. Based on the passages used by one such group, here is an examination of their claims:

John 3:15-18. The phrase the OSAS fixate on is that merely believing in Jesus is sufficient. You only need to declare Jesus as Lord in your heart, they claim. The apostle Paul made a similar declaration at Acts 16:31 to a prison guard that was awestruck by the circumstances surrounding Paul’s miraculous release from prison. But what is involved in believing in Jesus? Commenting on this, the publisher’s foreword to the 1965 edition of the Amplified Bible wrote: “Webster defines it: ‘to place credence…apart from personal knowledge; to expect or hope…to be more or less firmly persuaded of the truth of anything, to think or suppose.’” The Foreword then continued: “In this sense, most people believe in Christ—that He lived; that He was a perfect Man Who sincerely believed Himself to be the Son of God, and that He died … to save sinners. But this is by no means the meaning of the Greek word which twenty-two New Testament versions out of twenty-four consulted render ‘believe.’ They do so because there is no one English word that adequately conveys the intended meaning. Actually, the Greek word used here for believe is ‘pisteuo.’ It means ‘to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on.’ Consequently, the words, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…’ really mean to have an absolute personal reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Yes, believing, as taught in the Bible is much deeper than most realize. It goes beyond a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ, it reaches deeper than the emotional outbursts that some make. It is an informed decision of commitment and dedication. Really, examining the context of scripture it is easy to see that is so. For example, Acts 16:32 states that Paul went on to relate “the word of the Lord” or, as some translations render it (more accurately) “the word of Jehovah.” Really, reflect on the bulk of writing in the Greek scriptures (aka New Testament)—If merely believing was all that was necessary, why would there be so much written (four gospels, a detailed record of post–resurrection activity known as the Book of Acts, 21 letters on Christian belief and conduct and one far-reaching prophetic book known as Revelation)? Obviously, God wanted us to know much more than who Jesus was and what he did for us.

One website promoting OSAS claimed that Hebrews 6:4-6 supports the OSAS belief. I could not help but chuckle when I read the heading from the link they provided to that scripture because the heading plainly says “Warning Against Apostasy.” They actually went out of their way to completely convolute the plain teaching that salvation CAN be lost for those disowning their belief. Instead, they try to make the scripture sound as if it is saying it is impossible for someone to renounce their faith. Is that so? Is there any example in scripture that would demonstrate that one way or the other? Yes, there are at least two. The first is the case of Ananias and his wife Sopphria. Their devious action resulted in direct condemnation and their immediate death from the very hand of God. Next is the case of Dimas. At first, Paul gives this man a compliment, referring to him as a “fellow worker.” But later sadly observes that Dimas left off serving God because he preferred what the world alienated from God had to offer. Really, those claiming that it is impossible are arguing against logic—that is, that God gave man free will. To say that once we become believers, we forfeit free will is wrong. Think about Adam and Eve. Before they sinned, they were perfect yet they expressed their free will, lost their lives and will never live again. Are those purporting OSAS saying that we imperfect offspring of Adam are not allowed to have free will after we accept Jesus? That truly does not make sense.

What other scriptural evidence is there that OSAS is wrong? Consider this list:
Matthew 24:13 Jesus pointedly states “he that endures the end is one that will be saved.” Now ask yourself. If we are "saved" upon becoming believers, then why would Jesus say we wouldn't be saved until "the end"?

Romans 10:9,10; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 John 2:4. These three passages, taken together, help us appreciate that “exercising” faith through active obedience and proclamation of our convictions, is what saves. Faith is much more than a mere belief. Just claiming to know that God is real does not get his approval.  (See also James 2:19)

Romans 11:20-22 To be lopped or broken off the main tree meant losing their approved state with God and hence reaping not a reward to everlasting life, but one of condemnation to death.

Galatians 4:11 Why would Paul fear for those in Galatia if they were saved for all time? Obviously, they must not yet be saved eternally, otherwise Paul would not have been concerned.

Galatians 6:7-9 “Mocking” God by expecting that he will tolerate any conduct on our part is merely self deception.

Philippians 3:12-14 If Paul believed in once-saved-always-saved, he would not have written these words.

Hebrews 10:26,27 Paul makes it very clear that willful disobedience means losing the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice.

2 Peter 2:20-22 Here, Peter makes it quite plain that those not remaining active and firm in the faith have a worse outcome than those who had never known.

Revelation 2:2-5 Here, Jesus counseled a congregation that at first was very zealous but then got complacent that if they didn't repent of this complacency they would have their lampstand removed, in other words, they would be rejected. (See also Revelation 3:16)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Not Mere Hearers

There is not a business or field of activity that I can think of where merely listening, even eagerly and attentively, is enough to curry the favor of those promoting the activity. Everything from little league to salesmen to corporate leaders are required to act on what they hear. Consider the salesman that gets very excited about the product when he hears the features of the product, the easy sales pitch, the support system, and the money he will make. But then, immediately after leaving the meeting, does nothing with that. If he were to expect any compensation for producing nothing, generating no sales, would the company show him anything but “the front door” (firing him)?

That is thrust of Jesus words at Luke 13:26,27. By illustration, Jesus said that people would feel they should be rewarded for merely listening to Jesus. In our time, what sort of people are these? One group that comes to mind are those stating that they “go to church.” Even if they listen attentively, is that all that is expected? The blunt answer is found at James 1:22-25.

What then is expected; what is does it mean to be “a doer”? Read these citations and see if you can get the sense of what a true Christian should do.

Mark 5:18-20. In this account, it was a man Jesus cured that turned around and started to declare his faith--he was not a trained preacher. Is this not the way each of us should feel about publically declaring our faith?

Luke 9:60. Consider: The ones spoken to here were those being invited to follow Jesus. These were not one of the twelve apostles.

Acts 8:4. In the surrounding verses, it is mentioned that a persecution arose against the congregation. It was the members of the congregation that were scattered. All of them were declaring the Good News.

Romans 10:9,10. Consider: Is this only directed to preachers, ordained ministers, priests?

It is my conclusion that each of us are required to declare our faith. What is your conclusion?

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Implicit Trust

There is a phrase in scripture that seems to have a few “colors” (nuances). That phrase is “the fear of Jehovah” (or, “the fear of God”, “the fear of the Lord”). In some cases, this might be understood as having implicit trust in God, regardless of the situation.

Let me illustrate: A young person has been raised by his (or her) parents to reject any offers of drugs. But one day at school, he is approached by peers and offered drugs. Now, out of peer pressure (a fear of displeasing his peers), that young person hesitates, looks around, and sees no one else. He (or she) then accepts the drugs. But now, what if there were police watching this and the child got arrested? Later his parents are summoned to the police station.

The parents look at their child without a word. Can you imagine the shock, embarrassment and sadness the child would feel? The child may have actually truly loved his parents, just not enough to stand up to peers. If that child had greater respect (fear) of displeasing his parents, he should have rejected the offer without hesitation. Apparently, the child didn't have such respect. (Some may want to argue that perhaps the child was just trying to avoid a confrontation and actually planned to throw the drugs away, but that was not the training and instructions he received. Even if he tries to explain his actions that way, what will be the likelihood of his parents or the police believing him?)

The fear of Jehovah is the same way. We fear displeasing God more than we fear whatever others may do to us. Just as the wisest action the child should have taken was to completely and immediately reject the drug offer, the wisest action those claiming to worship God in truth can take is to act exactly as God directs. One of the greatest (in my mind) scriptural examples of this are the three Hebrews who were threatened with being burned alive if they didn't fall down and worship a statue that pagan king had made. Their unwavering loyalty to God was demonstrated in their response. (Daniel 3:16-18)

Contentment, A Mark of A Mature Person

Search Google for the keywords “money” and “happiness” (or unhappiness), and you’ll find polar differences in opinions. There are those that, from experience, realize that money and the things it can buy really do not “make” people happy. I realize this more every day when I read online posts by those intent on having the latest mobile phone. I’ve been reading and contributing to a few sites for enough years to know that every year, those that felt that the latest and greatest would make them happy are, just a few months or maybe a year later, dissatisfied and no longer happy with their phone. It is not that their current phone is defective, it is just not the latest/greatest on the market.

People of that sort actually demonstrate the truth of the statement that money and the things it can buy do not, cannot, and will not ever buy real/true happiness. If a person were truly happy with what they have, they wouldn’t become so quickly and easily discontented. It really is a vicious cycle that is akin to a dog chasing its own tail—even if it catches itself, it eventually has to let go in order to catch it again. (Admittedly, in my own experience, my happiness with a product lasted up to the point that the next model came along.)

In contrast to this is Jesus’ observation that insatiable greed does nothing to extend a person’s life. Hence, the Bible advises true Christians to be free of the love of money. Contentment is one real key to true happiness that is not short-lived. Once a person realizes that chasing the never-ending, insatiable desire for the “next best thing” actually doesn’t have any ability to make one truly happy, they can start to live a contented life.

However, does being content mean that you will never want to treat yourself? No, it doesn’t. But the difference is akin to a donkey being led by a carrot dangled on a stick in front of its face as opposed to a donkey being fed at the appointed meal time. Is what we want just desire built by marketing or is it something we truly need and can put to use?

Based on the two aforementioned scriptures, mature Christians should weigh carefully why they feel they need and how they will be benefited by whatever it is they have their eyes set on.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Achan Impulse

The ancient account of Achan and his impulsive greed is an event Bible readers know very well. He was part of the invasion force entering the enemy city of Jerico. Before the invasion, everyone was told they were to destroy the city, but to bring back precious metals to the treasury of the Israelites. Achan must have come across the residence of a wealthy man because of what he found. Instead of following explicit instructions, he kept certain plunder for his own selfish desire. The results of Achan’s disobedience was far-reaching. The Israelites suffered a devastating defeat in their subsequent invasion of Ai because God was not protecting them as a result of Achan’s earlier actions. After Achan’s actions came to light, he and his family were sentenced to death.

In parallel, just as Achan’s account occurred when the Israelites were taking possession of their “Promised Land,” Christians are on the brink of entering the new system. Is there potential for the same drama to unfold at that time? As the survivors start to organize, picture this scenario: Some are sent out to find as much food as possible and bring it back to a central location for equitable distribution. Others are sent out to find clothing and bedding. Let’s say that in this particular expedition, the scavengers are told to leave jewelry alone because it is deemed non-essential valuables at this time. But as individuals go through the ruins, one person finds a stunning piece of jewelry. They reason in their heart, “It is only one piece. No one is going to miss it.” Therefore they take it, in direct disregard for the instructions they were given.

It may seem like a very small thing, but it comes right back to the root issues of disobedience and greed. I’m not suggesting that anyone is going to die as punishment. The point is, as Jesus himself put it:  “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Human Compassion And The Vagus Nerve

The TV program “Brain Games” is an interesting Discovery channel science program. Although it typically espouses the evolutionary theory as an explanation of why our bodies are the way they are, there was one particular episode on the subject of Compassion (Brain Games S04E01 Compassion) that caught my attention. Starting at 07:13 and running to 08:00 (a 47-second segment), the observation was made that the “vagus nerve….runs from the base of the brain to the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and intestines.”

As a Bible reader, I found this very interesting because from that above list, the heart, kidneys, and intestines are all mentioned as related to the person we are inside. True, the application that modern readers attach to those passages are in a figurative sense, but the question remains why would Bible writers pick those organs? Believers are convinced that the major reason that is true is that God is the real author of the Bible and the creator of our bodies. Although he may not have explained it, he knows full well how we are made and the secretaries (human writers) of the Bible faithfully conveyed those thoughts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Plagiarized Fables?

This video (“Garden of Eden - In search of The Real Location of The Garden of Eden (Biblical origins of Mankind)”) claims to pinpoint the location of the garden of Eden as being at the base of the Persian Gulf.

Jonathan Kirsch  is interviewed as are a few others. He is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times in California who briefly studied Jewish history and he is a lawyer. At the bottom of the wikipedia link I just provided, note the Amazon books link. Read the comments of those that gave his Bible commentaries one star. There is adequate reason to be concerned about his writings, perceptions and viewpoints.

Bible’s Treatment of Women: Quote from Mr. Kirsch in this video (starting at: 03.:20): “Woman is shown again, and again, and again, in the pages of the Bible and long thereafter as the tempter, the seducer, the corrupter.” First of all, lets get rid of the “and long thereafter.” The misuse and misinterpretation of the Bible is not the fault of the Bible for whatever was written “long thereafter.” Now, consider the generalization “again, and again, and again.” Women, collectively and individually have been depicted in scripture in favorable light, but no mention of that is made. The reality is that men have also been depicted as acting in evil ways. In fact, more often than women, men who were supposed to be setting the example as leaders committed crimes that resulted in either severe punishment from God or in some cases even the death penalty. To this point, Mr. Kirsch has actually written a book about King David that portrays all his failings. So the point about the Bible picking on women as evil (implying that men are elevated above women) is false.

Creation & Contradictions? 26:02. “The Bible is apparently inconsistent and full of contradictions… It says that humans were created twice.” No, it doesn't, but nice try. The creation account gives a panoramic overview of the creative days in chapter one, which actually ends in Chapter 2, verse 3. Starting in verse 7, the writer “zooms in” to details related to mankind’s creation. No dual creation account. (And no, I didn't conveniently ignore verses 4 through 6. I’m just not going to treat those verses here because the point being discussed is the number of accounts of human creation--of which there is only one.) One cited contradiction is at  27:00. There, a Mr. Jason Boyett, author of “The Pocket Guide to the Bible,” states “in the first chapter of Genesis, Adam is created in the ‘image of God.’ In the second chapter he is created from the dust of the ground.” When I heard this, it sounded as if Mr. Boyett felt there is a contradiction between being made in the image of God and being formed from the dust of the ground. However, some feedback from a friend indicated he didn't think Mr. Boyett found that the contradiction as much as Genesis 1 speaking about humans being created as a pair in contrast to chapter 2 which indicates they were created separately.

If the claimed contradiction is as I understood it, that there were first humans “in God’s image” (thus implying they lived in heaven as spirit creatures) and the second was from the dust the ground, please note that first Genesis 1:27 says God created humans in his image and then he directs that they “fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving on the earth.” Then he says that the vegetation of the earth would serve as food. (vss.27-29). So chapter one definitely points to an earthly existence, not a heavenly one. What then of the phrase “in God’s image”? The word “image” can also be understood to refer to higher character traits not associated with other physical life on earth such as love, wisdom, and our ability to govern. The point, in context, is that humans were considered something different, something better, than animals. Chapter two continues on the thought of physical, earthly human creation by drawing attention to the fact that, like the rest of life on earth, we are carbon-based creatures made from the elements of this earth.

If however, the perceived contradiction is as my friend heard it, that chapter one seems to indicate that mankind was made as a pair whereas chapter two definitely shows Adam and Eve were created at separate times, then we need come back to what I originally stated about the differences between those two chapters--the first is an overview where each creative “day” (period of thousands of years) is addressed individually as major accomplishments; whereas chapter two concentrates its details on the sequence of humankind’s creation. (I can understand that many would be confused with the sequence of Genesis 2:4-6. For me, the key thought to always keep in mind is we should always vindicate God as the truth-teller, not ourselves.)

The Zohar Is Not In the Bible: There also mention (27:24) of “Biblical tradition… Adam’s first wife, Lilith.” But this is not a text even located in the Bible. It is referring to the Zohar, which is nothing more than Jewish fables. The video calls the Zohar “Jewish texts” and tries to link them to scripture. That is like comparing the writings of Doctor Seuss to history books. At 30:38, Mr. Kirsch is back at his shenanigans claiming that modern, liberated Bible-reading women can relate to Lilith. Really? That’s interesting, because the use of the word "Lilith" in the Bible is not directly related to humans, male or female. And there is absolutely no mention of that word in the Genesis account of creation.

The Four Rivers: Starting at 35:00 through 37:30, quoting the video, “the Bible says that they [the four rivers mentioned in Genesis] met at their source, but Juris Zarins believes they met at their base.” Mr. Zarins found two “fossil rivers” that extend from the Persian Gulf and concludes that this marks the location of paradise. Yes, this man is an archaeologist. But no, just discovering two, now non-existent, rivers at the base of the Persian Gulf doesn't prove we have found the location of the garden of Eden. If fact, since the Bible says that all four rivers “issue” (started at) the garden, the discovery of fossil rivers cannot be it. (Now, is it possible that where the Persian Gulf is today, there was once a mountain, therefore being the point of issuance instead of the point of termination? There is old saying, “Speculation yields frustration.” The fact is, knowing the location of the garden of Eden is not at all important to our current relationship with God. Our knowing and obeying Jesus, on the other hand, is absolutely vital for our lives.)

Faith Is Not The Possession Of All People: Before this video was made, I would not doubt that many 19th, 20th, and 21st century youth and adults would have said that the whole Genesis account is complete fiction. Now, science believes they may have found the location of Eden. Science has always shown itself to be adversarial toward the Bible except when they get archaeological finds shoved down their throats proving how wrong their claims against the Bible are. Then they eat humble pie and are amazed how accurate the accounts in the Bible are. Does this move the majority of people to take a second look? No. Did this video encourage or detract from the Bible? It very cleverly detracted, claiming the Bible is nothing more than plagiarized fables. (It really is laughable that this video claims to identify the location of Eden and then still feels the Bible is fable.)

In defense of Genesis.