Tag Archives: salvation

Luke 2

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Luke 2 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation

31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Luke 1

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.

Don’t let the length of this first reading worry you.  Most chapters are less than half this size.

Luke 1 (ESV)

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

53 he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

55 as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

for he has visited and redeemed his people

69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of his servant David,

70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

71 that we should be saved from our enemies

and from the hand of all who hate us;

72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant,

73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

might serve him without fear,

75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

78 because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Repent.

Kevin DeYoung is a terrific pastor who wrote a great piece on repentance: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand.  I encourage you to read it all.  It is a key part of Jesus’ message that is so easy to leave out.

Revelation 9:20-21 “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

God’s word to the peoples of the world is not only an offer of grace, nor even less simply a call to live rightly, nor even less still a promise to make all our dreams come true if we just have faith. We have not heard all that God wants to say to us unless we have heard his command to repent.

Ezekiel said “Repent and turn from your transgressions” (Ezek. 18:30). John the Baptist said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus said “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Peter said “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). And Paul said God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

Repentance has never been easy. No one likes to be told “Die to yourself. Kill that in you. Admit you are wrong and change.” That’s never been an easy sell. It’s much easier to get a crowd by leaving out the repentance part of faith, but it’s not faithful. It’s not even Christianity. Of course, there is a whole lot more to following Jesus than repentance, but it’s certainly not less. “Repent,” Jesus said, or “you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

If you don’t repent, you will perish.

His section on how repentance isn’t remorse, embarrassment or apology is important, because we often confuse those things and think we’ve repented.

. . . So regret is easy, embarrassment is easy, and apology is easy. Repentance, on the other hand, is very hard and, therefore, much rarer. Repentance involves two things: a change of mind and a change of behavior.

Repentance means you change your mind. That’s what the Greek word metanoia means– a changed (meta) mind (noia).

You change your mind about yourself: “I am not fundamentally a good person deep down. I am not the center of the universe. I am not the king of the world or even my life.”

You change your mind about sin: “I am responsible for my actions. My past hurts do not excuse my present failings. My offenses against God and against others are not trivial. I do not live or think or feel as I should.”

And you change your mind about God: “He is trustworthy. His word is sure. He is able to forgive and to save. I believe in his Son, Jesus Christ. I owe him my life and my allegiance. He is my King and my Sovereign, and he wants what is best for me. I believe it!”

Repentance is hard because changing someone’s mind is hard. In fact, when we’re dealing with spiritual matters of the heart, God’s the only one who can really change your mind. People are simply not predisposed to say “I was wrong! I was wrong about God and about myself. My whole way of looking at the world has been in error. I want to change.” That’s repentance. And it’s amazing when it happens.

. . .

Repentance also involves a change of behavior. It’s like a train conductor driving his train down the tracks straight for the side of a mountain. It’s one thing for him to realize and admit that his train his going in the wrong direction. It’s another thing to stop the train and it get it going in the opposite direction.

. . .

If we preach a “gospel” with no call to repentance we are preaching something other than the apostolic gospel.

If we knowing allow unconcerned, impenitent sinners into the membership and ministry of the church, we are deceiving their souls and putting ours at risk as well.

If we think people can find a Savior without forsaking their sin, we do not know what sort of Savior Jesus Christ is.

There are few things more important in life than repentance. So important, that Revelation, and the gospels, and the epistles, and the Old Testament make clear that you don’t go to heaven without it.

Is Christianity too narrow?

Shouldn’t there be other ways for God to save the world?  John recently asked if there were Too few means to salvation?

One common complaint against Christianity is the doctrine of exclusivism.  The teaching that there is only one true God and only one true religion is something some people just find objectionable.  Whether they find this to be arrogant, narrow-minded, elitist, or worse; they think the idea that there is only one way to God in order to be saved is distasteful.  But what if Jesus wasn’t the only way and there were more than one way to salvation?  How many would be sufficient?

It is a logical question to ask, especially in our culture.  Even many of those filling church pews each week sit in judgment of God and his word and think that the truth that Jesus is the only way to salvation is too restrictive (because there are “only” 100+ passages affirming that truth).  They are ironically exclusive in demanding that others be inclusive.

And of course, if Jesus isn’t the only way then He isn’t a way at all.  If Christianity — and Jesus himself — claimed that He was the exclusive way to salvation, then if even one other religion is correct then Christianity is false.  Those who claim the name of Christ while saying that other paths can lead to salvation should reconsider their views.

It is hard to imagine something more obvious than this: You must meet the creator of the universe on his terms, not yours. He starts off perfectly fair, giving all what they deserve. Then He becomes extremely unfair by offering grace to those who accept the sacrifice made on their behalf.

God is completely inclusive in the sense of offering salvation and forgiveness to all who come to him on his terms. Any type of sinner, any age, any culture, any gender, etc. is welcomed.

God is completely exclusive in that if you reject his terms then He will reject you.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Complaining that there is only one way to salvation is the height of ingratitude and another symptom of Romans 1-style rebellion and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. If God offered two ways, then people would complain that there aren’t three, and so on.

Just get on your knees and thank him that there is a way at all!

One of the commenters at the link said this:

Of course, it is difficult enough to exonerate god for the behavior of god (such as described in the Bible).

He expressed the typically incoherent thoughts of atheists. They insist on the fantasy that the universe came into being without a cause, that life came from non-life, that life evolved to caterpillar/butterflies, elephants, humans, etc. and that there is no ultimate accountability for your actions. And then they can’t go three sentences without making moral judgments! If they were slightly consistent with their worldview they’d “know” that Darwinian evolution was the sole cause for all religions, including Christianity and my conversion from atheism to the belief in the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So why are they critical of the products of evolution? Why do they make moral judgments when they would “know” that there is no such thing as universal morality that and that we would agree with or even care about their standards? These Romans 1 poster children tip their hands at every turn.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

More bad news: You’ll be judged on the standard of Jesus, not by comparing your best traits to your neighbor’s worst traits. All your deepest, darkest secrets will be brought to light and judged by a holy and perfect God.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like. Repent and believe while you still have time. Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your foolish pride. Seek God on his incredibly gracious terms and not only will your past, present and future sins be completely forgiven, but you will have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you.

Jesus — fully human and fully divine — came to live the perfect life in your place and to die for your sins.  That is worth celebrating.

Jesus, the only way, in 2 Timothy 2

As I pointed out the other day in A simple way to out theologically Liberal Christians for the tares and wolves that they are, it is a plain and repeated teaching in the Bible that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  The world hates that message, as do theologically Liberal/Progressive people who call themselves Christians.  They rarely have any idea how repeated and clear that teaching is.

Stand to Reason offers a great booklet listing 100 passages teaching that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  Just flip open the New Testament and start reading.  You’ll find that little makes sense outside that truth.  If you claim to be a Christian this a view you must hold.

But when I read the Bible I often come across more and more passages that affirm that truth that aren’t in the list of 100.  I was listening to 2 Timothy 2 the other day and noticed all these truths, none of which make sense if other religions are equally valid paths to God. Here are the verses (in italics) along with my reasoning.

2 Timothy 2 (ESV)

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus – it isn’t in someone else.

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. – He is the leader.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel – Paul’s Gospel is all Jesus, all the time.

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. – Salvation is in Jesus.

11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. – Multiple notations there – by implication, if we die without him we will live without him. You deny him, He denies you.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – This doesn’t apply to the theme of this, but I love that verse! It should be one of the first verses people learn.  We won’t be perfect, but we should do our best to read the Bible properly.  There are right and wrong ways to do it, and it is shameful to do it improperly.

19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – Some are his, and some are not. Believers name the name of the Lord.

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. – You are his servant or you are not his servant. Those who don’t follow him are opponents.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – They are with him or they are in the snare of the devil, captured by him to do his will.

Keep in mind that none of that chapter was in the Stand to Reason booklet.  There are well over 100 passages teaching this vital truth.  Christians should never deny it.  The early Christians called themselves the Way for a reason.  It isn’t bad news that there is “only” one way, it is Good News that there is a way at all!  Do not sit in judgment of God and demand an additional way out of your problem of sin.  Just fall on your knees and accept his grace.

A simple way to out theologically Liberal Christians for the tares and wolves that they are

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to “out” false teachers is to ask if they believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  They very rarely do.  They’ll defend their false view with some tidbit they’ve heard then try to change the subject.  Some, like false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie, come up with entire sermons designed to rationalize away plain texts like John 14:6 (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.).

Theologically Progressive/Liberals who claim the name of Christ mock the cross and the blood of the martyrs.  They refer to a few Bible verses, though almost always out of context, but if you keep them talking long enough they deny nearly all the essentials of the faith.

What they don’t know is that there are more than 100 passages supporting the truth that Jesus is indeed the only way to salvation.  When you point that out they work overtime to ignore you or change the subject.  Don’t let them do that.  And keep in mind that many of them have Masters or Doctorates in theology yet they have read the Bible so little that they don’t even know that truth!  

Just ask them this: Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, or do you rationalize away the 100+ passages affirming that truth? Follow-up question: If you deny those passages, then you are denying that the Holy Spirit inspired the original writings, so what is your evidence that the original writings were wrong but that the Holy Spirit is now accurately revealing truths to you?

Here’s what one theological Liberal said on the Sojourners’ blog:

I consider myself Christian although I do not believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. I consider myself Christian because I seek to obey and to imitate Christ.

My response:

How do you know anything about Christ? Presumably it is from the Bible. But if you dismiss over 100 passages affirming the truth that He is the only way to salvation, why do you find the other passages to be trustworthy, such as the one you quoted (assuming you understood that in context)? If people just hold to the passages they like, then they aren’t following Christ, they are following themselves — that is, the god they have made in their own images by judging the real God and choosing which of his revelations are “real.”

I encourage you to scan the NT and reconsider your views. Jesus prayed in the garden and asked for another way. There wasn’t one. To teach otherwise mocks his work on the cross by implying that it was just one option of many, but not a requirement to save sinners. It also mocks the blood of the martyrs and those being persecuted today. For if Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation, why are these people suffering needlessly for their faith? If those on the theological Left really believed what they said and really loved these people they’d send Reverse Missionaries to de-convert those Christians and encourage them to adopt their local religions. After all, why suffer if Jesus isn’t the only way?

Here’s another typical theologically Liberal comment:

I don’t think it’s possible to bring ‘evidence’, in the sense of rational proof, of the revelations of the Holy Spirit, whether these come through Scripture or through direct experience.

My response:

We agree that the Holy Spirit has a large and unique role. Spiritually dead people will not understand the word. But I encourage you to scan the book of Acts and others to see the Gospel presentations there, and how the Christians referred to facts and logic (OK, and a few miracles) to present their case.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

BTW that isn’t even on my list of 100+ passages, but it implicitly shows that you are a follower of the true Christ or you are perishing. You are an unbeliever blinded by the god of this age or you see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the image of God.

Just keep pointing the Progressives back to the Bible — all of it — and not just their misinterpretations of their favorite verses.  Plant a seed of truth so that whenever they claim to be Christians they’ll know that they are disagreeing with a truth taught more than 100 times in the Bible.

And when they tell you not to judge, point out that they are reading Matthew 7:1 out of context (just read the next 4 verses to see that Jesus is teaching not to judge hypocritically) and show them that they are judging the word of God, which means they are judging God.

Stand to Reason offers a booklet listing 100 passages teaching that Jesus is the only way to salvation, though I have found many more.  Just flip open the New Testament and start reading.  You’ll find that little makes sense outside that truth.

What was he thinking?

Update: From the “this is awkward” category, the Vatican clarified that not only do they believe that atheists go to Hell, but so does anyone outside the Catholic church.

So the Pope is taking a Second look at letting atheists into heaven?

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

The Pope made one of two mistakes. The first is really bad, the second is off-the-charts bad.

1. He was very sloppy in his use of “redeemed.” If he didn’t mean it in terms of eternal salvation, then he mislead a lot of people.  He was basically channeling Major Burns from the M*A*S*H TV show and saying, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”  It could logically lead to a conversation like this:

Pope: You, my atheist friend, have been redeemed by God with the blood of Christ!  Let’s do good works together.

Atheist: Huh?  You mean that even though I don’t trust in Jesus and don’t even think God exists that I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with him with no punishment for my alleged sins?

Pope: Oh, no, my bad — you are still going to spend eternity in Hell as punishment for your sins.  But in the mean time we’ll do a few good deeds together and your torment in Hell will be slightly less unpleasant!  When I said “redeemed by the blood of Christ” I meant _________. [Sorry, this blogger can’t even think of a pretend way to finish that sentence.]

2. He ignores that the New Testament has over 100 passages noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation (it isn’t just John 14:6). That isn’t what makes it true, of course. His resurrection does that. But it does mean to claim to be a Christian means that you should hold that view. Anything else would be silly.

I don’t expect good theology from him (OK, more specifically, I expect bad theology from him), but I do like his pro-life and pro-family views.  But once again he fails on the salvation issue.

The Reformation happened for a reason. Actually, 95 of them. And they haven’t changed.

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Update: More from the Pope’s speech.

“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

He appears to be twisting the passage about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9). But that wasn’t some random good deed that atheists might do (even though it wouldn’t be truly good if done out of self-interest). They were <em>casting out demons in Jesus’ name</em>. He implies that atheists are regularly doing that!  I shouldn’t be surprised when people like him can’t get the simplest passages right.

And then there is this:

Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible.

We are not all “children of God.” John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

And the article wraps up with him praying to a dead person.  In an odd way, I appreciate that the guy who is allegedly God’s #1 man here on earth is so clearly and profoundly anti-biblical.  It removes any doubt about core Catholic doctrines being false — at least for those who actually read the Bible.

Several point Calvinists?

Some Christians go into full freak-out mode when the term Calvinism* even comes up.  While some have done a very careful study to arrive at their opposition to the 5 points of Calvinism, much of what I come across falls into the straw-man category.  That is, they don’t have a proper understanding of what they are criticizing.  I’m not going to address the merits of the view here, and I ask that commenters do the same (if you really must say something, feel free to link to your favorite defense of your view).  I view this issue as important but not worth dividing over.

My point here is simply that many non-Calvinists often talk like Calvinists.

If you read the newspaper — or even look carefully in the mirror — you should agree with the doctrine of total depravity.  That doesn’t mean that we’re as depraved as we could be in all aspects of our lives, just that we were conceived as sinners and our words, thoughts and deeds always fall short of the glory of God.  That should make you at least a 1 pt. Calvinist.

I’ve previously asked, Ever notice how Arminians sometimes act and pray like Calvinists?, where I noted that they do so when it comes to evangelism and salvation.  If you talk about evangelism they are quick to say it is all up to God, and they’ll pray for God to change people’s hearts.  It is a humble sentiment, but it doesn’t seem to fit in with their Arminian theology.  I wonder if it is an excuse to avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism?  They don’t seem to want God to “woo” people, they seem to want him to really change them — forever.  Either way, it sure seems to hint at irresistible grace.

Many non-Calvinists hold to the perseverance of the saints, or the belief that you can’t lose your salvation — aka “once saved, always saved (OSAS),” or as I like to call it, “once really saved, always saved.”

Critics of OSAS often point to Hebrews 6:4-6 to defend their view that we can lose our salvation:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

It is an admittedly complex passage.  But if it means that you can lose your salvation then it would also mean you can’t get it back. There would be no hope for backsliders, which is not something that the “you can lose your salvation” group typically believes.

So quite a few people seem to be at least several point Calvinists.

* I prefer the term Reformed Theology over Calvinism, but I am going with the latter here as more people are familiar with it.

Good news, bad news on what pastors and church members believe

pluralism.jpgRoughly 80% of pastors believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, according to  Lay Christians less likely than pastors to hold to exclusive salvation.  While it should be 100%, I was pleasantly surprised that the figure was that high.  There are so many imposters out there.

Yet only 48% of church members hold to that truth.  That says that roughly half of those attending church are lost or, at best, saved and confused.  Very, very confused.  It means we should be evangelizing and educating those in the church and not just outside it.

Nearly eight in 10 Protestant pastors strongly disagree that eternal life can be obtained through religions other than Christianity in a new survey.

The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research, of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents for their reaction to the statement, “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.” A full 77 percent of pastors strongly disagreed while 7 percent somewhat disagreed. Another 7 percent somewhat agreed, 5 percent strongly agreed and 3 percent were not sure.

[…]Pastors’ beliefs regarding the exclusivity of Christianity differ from those of their parishioners, according to a new study conducted for the upcoming book “Transformational Discipleship” by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelly and Philip Nation. When presented with the same statement, just 48 percent of adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more disagreed strongly and 9 percent disagreed somewhat. A total of 26 percent agreed, including 13 percent who agreed strongly and 13 percent who agreed somewhat. Sixteen percent indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed.

“One fact is clear: pastors are less universalistic than their church members,” Stetzer said. “A few heads nodding or an occasional ‘Amen’ does not indicate everyone believes Christianity is the only way. Church leaders will never know where their congregation stands unless they ask.”

I have a simple message for anyone who claims the name of Christ. The Bible has at least 100 verses saying explicitly or implicitly that Jesus is the only way to salvation (it isn’t just John 14:6). That isn’t what makes Christianity true, of course. Jesus’ resurrection does that.

But it does mean that it is something that all Christians should affirm. If you can’t state that Jesus is the only way to salvation then Christianity isn’t the religion for you. Please get on board or get out of the way and stop confusing people by identifying as a Christian.  Yes, it will make you unpopular with the world, but if you crave the love of the world then that is another foundational problem.

Here are 10 passages to get someone started. Then just skim the New Testament and note how nothing makes sense without the truth of Jesus’ exclusivity.  Also see religious pluralism is intellectually bankrupt.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Acts 4:11-12 He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:30-31 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Luke 10:16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Luke 12:8-9 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 10:7-8 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

Is forgiveness possible?

ER

A friend reminded me of this clip so I wanted to run it again.  The video is fictional, of course, but the premise occurs countless times every day around the world: People need and want forgiveness, but the world tells them lies.

Christianity has the truth and the Good News, but far too many people claiming the name of Christ are unequipped and/or unwilling to share it, even when asked.  If that applies to you, then do something about it.  Right away!  I recommend Tactics by Greg Koukl as a great way to learn how to share your faith as an effective ambassador and apologist for Christ, just as the scriptures command.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

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It was surprising but so encouraging to see that the clip below was on the TV show ER a couple years back.

The chaplain is the classic fake Christian you’d expect to find in most theologically liberal churches today.  I love how the patient doesn’t buy her “just make up a god in your own image” type of platitudes.

The money quotes from the dying patient:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I don’t have time for this now . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I don’t need to “ask myself,” I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

Hey Christians, time to fire up!  Some people don’t want the truth.  But there are lots of real people like this in the world who need and want the truth.  They must be so sick of the lies and the politically correct “God is whoever you want him to be” nonsense taught by the world and by far too many churches.  Is it really so hard to understand that you do not get to tell the creator of the universe how eternity works?  You don’t set the terms and conditions of salvation any more than you get to tell your boss to triple your pay and give you 50 weeks of vacation, or tell your teacher that he must give you an A without you coming to class.

Are you ready to tell people the truth and the Good News?  Forgiveness, redemption and eternal life are possible, but only through trust in Jesus.

A great ending to Habakkuk

Reading through the Old Testament prophets can be a little depressing at times, so I really enjoyed this passage:

Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord

Habakkuk 3:17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Update: The music leader read this during service the next Sunday.  That was a nice coincidence!

Once lost, always lost?

Stan at Winging It brought up an interesting point about the “once saved, always saved” debate.  I’m on the “once really saved, always really saved” side.  I add “really” as a deliberate redundancy to emphasize that the conversion must be authentic.  Countless people can say a few words and hang out in church and not be truly saved (I know, because I used to be one).

Here’s a wrinkle that I liked:

Well, both sides have had various manifestations. On the “conditional security” side, it appeared in most cases like you could certainly lose it if you didn’t remain faithful, but if you lost it, you could get it back again. No problem. Just repent again. Poof! You’re saved again. Rarely did they face the specter of Hebrews 6, although they liked to use the passage as proof against the Calvinists.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt (Heb 6:4-6).

“There, see? If you ‘have fallen away’, then you lose your salvation!” Okay, fine, but note that it says that “it is impossible … to restore them again to repentance”. So if you go with “conditional security”, rather than the “Once Saved, Always Saved” view, you would necessarily need to hold the “Once Lost, Always Lost” position. So some Arminians would concede the point and others would deny it.

So if the “you can lose your salvation” camp wants to cite Hebrews 6 (an admittedly challenging passage to exegete) then they should be consistent and say that once it is lost, it is gone for good.

Why the decline in church attendance?

See Why I don’t want to come to your church.  The money slide:

Presbyterian study – why people stay in church: In our study, the single best predictor of church participation turned out to be belief – orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ.

Virtually all our baby boomers who believe this are active members of a church.

That’s one reason I focus so much on the exclusivity of Jesus and blast the false teachers who deny this.  The only good news is that the fakes will keep shrinking.

There are 100+ passages in the New Testament that state directly or indirectly that Jesus is the only way to salvation (I submit that the NT doesn’t make sense outside that idea).

And of course the Old Testament has nearly continuous reminders not to worship other gods.  Of course, repeating things a lot isn’t what makes them true.  We trust in the truth of Christianity because we believe that Jesus really rose from the dead.

But the abundance and clarity of those passages means that anyone claiming the name of Christ should hold those views.  Anyone denying them is either a false teacher or is saved and very, very confused.

The key is to preach the truth of God all day, every day.  If we really believe in God then that should be obvious.  Church attendance will then take care of itself.  The churches playing the bait-and-switch game – and worse yet, forgetting to switch – mock the cross.

 

Ugh: “Most Evangelicals Believe Good People are Heaven-Bound”

Sad but true: via StreetFishing: Author: Most Evangelicals Believe Good People are Heaven-Bound

The majority of Protestants and evangelicals believe that good people and people of other religions can go to heaven, according to author David Campbell.

Campbell, who co-wrote American Grace, How Religion Divides and Unites Us, contends that surveys of 3,000 Americans, used to write the book, show that American people of faith, though devout, are very tolerant. So much so that most believers also believe that good people, despite their religious affiliation, can go to heaven.

I wouldn’t describe those people as “tolerant.”  A more accurate term would be “ill-informed,” “wrong,” or even “rebellious.”

The Bible teaches 100+ times that Jesus is the only way to salvation and you can’t flip too many pages in the Old Testament without seeing strong warnings not to worship other gods.  Here is just one of those passages:

1 John 5:12-13 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Those things aren’t what make the claims true, of course.  We have other evidence for that.  But no Christian should ever claim that other paths lead to God.  At best people who say that are “saved and confused.”

Biblical ignorance in the church is appalling, especially on matters as clear and foundational as this.  It isn’t like I’m expecting people to compare and contrast the various views of eschatology (end times).  This is simple “everyone is a sinner, Jesus is the Savior” stuff.  If churches can’t get that right, then why do they exist?

If you are a Christian, please commit to doing everything you can to study more yourself and encourage others to do the same.