Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Question #1: Assurance of Salvation

Can we know we are saved before we get to Heaven?

I mean... can we?...really? How?

It seems to me, this is the biggest question asked by individuals of my generation. We NEED an answer. What good is Jesus dying on the Cross to us if we don't even know it applies to us? What good is forgiveness of sin if the guilt is still lying on our shoulders? 

"My church always talked about the Sinner's Prayer" says Dani. "That if I said the right words, I was saved." 

(The Sinner's Prayer)
"I know that I am a helpless sinner before your holiness. I understand that I can never be good enough. I know I can never earn your favour. But I believe You died and rose again to purchase a place in heaven for me. Lord Jesus,come into my life; take control of my life; forgive my sins and save me. I repent of my sins and now place my trustin You for salvation. I accept the free gift of eternal life. " -Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge, Alberta 

"I never heard that growing up." replies Jacob "I was taught about Jesus from a young age, about His work on the Cross for me, how my sins were forgiven because of Him, not because I was good. I understood that. I knew I was "naughty", but that if I trusted in Jesus to save me, He would. So I did... that is... till someone told me I had to say "the prayer" or it didn't count." 

Is that really true? 

If we don't say a certain formula of words, then we're doomed to Hell? If so, why isn't the Sinner's Prayer anywhere in Scripture? Sure, one could kinda pull it from one place or another... but if it is so important... if it truly saves us... it should be somewhere prominent and obvious... right? Then why isn't it?

"The part that always confused me was... well... my little sister just said it because she wanted to be a "Christian" like everyone else. She didn't know what it meant. She just didn't get it. Being a Christian was the cool thing to be. She didn't know what the words she was saying meant or really who God was... she just said them. Does that make her saved? Or does that not really count." interjects Austria

"My pastor always taught about once-saved always-saved. It meant that if we said the words and really meant it, then we can never be "unsaved". We're always Christians." Dani says. "It made sense at first. But then some of my friends who had said the prayer left God and decided to do their own thing. My pastor said they must not have meant it. They were never really saved. But... we grew up together and did all the same things for Jesus. We shared our faith with friends, and memorized verses. We read the Bible every day and prayed to Him all the time. What makes me any different from them? Did I not really mean it? Am I saved? And even if I said it again now, how could I know I meant it more now? Does salvation really depend on that?" 

"That's not what I learned at all." Jacob replies. "Who's right and who's wrong? Doesn't the Bible say?"

Thankfully, yes, it does. 

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." -Romans (which, by the way, if you ever have deep theological questions, go to Romans. It's like Theology 101!) 3:21-26

This pretty much lays it out, but I'll pull from a few other places too:

 "And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” -Matthew 9:2

"And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” -Luke 5:20

"And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” -Luke 7:50

"For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." -Romans 3:28

"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." -Galatians 2:16

"So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." - Galatians 3:24

Starting to see a pattern here?

Scripture says we are saved by faith. Not by works (which words you say would count as works). Faith in Jesus Christ is what saves us.

Note: in Jesus Christ. 

Very important.

Faith in Jesus Christ. 

So, in whom do you have faith? You, or God? 

When you get to Heaven and (hypothetically) St. Peter says to you: "Why should I let you in?" what will you reply?

"Because I went to church." 

"Because I was a good person."

"Because I said the right words."

Sorry. These are all depending on works.
Let me repeat: "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." -Galatians 2:16

But, if your answer is:

"Because Jesus died for me."

That, my friends, is faith in Jesus Christ. And that, according to the Bible, is how you know you are saved. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Does anyone have the answers? Part 1 of an Expository of Real Christian Life

“You know, I don’t think we’re all that different… you and me. Sure, I like pink and you like blue… but who we really are… I mean, can you honestly say that you’ve never felt hopeless? That you’ve never felt as though your faith has only gotten smaller and your sins greater since you started all this? That you’ve never wondered if it was really worth it? That you’ve never looked to heaven for help, only to feel completely alone? If not, you’re incredibly blessed. I sure have, and think most of us have.
I was talking to my friends about it, and was so relieved to find I wasn’t alone. It’s really easy to feel alone, isn’t it?
My friend, Austria, she told me about having this sin that she just couldn’t shake. It made her feel so guilty, so shameful, and yet, no matter what she tried, she couldn’t get rid of it. Have you ever been there? I sure have. She told me how she looked to others for help, but it was so hard. She felt like she couldn’t share what was really happening because nobody really talks about sin. Sure, we talk about little stuff… but nothing serious. It was so hard for her… stepping out… admitting her guilt. But… that didn’t help. People couldn’t handle it. Some blew up in her face and told her straight out they couldn’t believe she would do such a thing. Some tried to give her answers… But they didn’t work. Nothing worked.
That’s where my friend, Dani, stepped in. She talked about spending her whole life looking for answers… and never finding them. Her parents said one thing, her pastor said another thing, her heart said something else…And then there was the Bible. So confusing. She would sit down and read it… thought she had the answer. Only to be told it was wrong… heretical… sinful … too easy. No answers. Nowhere. Or, rather… too many answers.
And then there’s Jacob… He went looking for answers too. Thought he found them. Changed his whole life to conform to it. Clothes. Food. Schedule. Everything! He thought he had the truth. Shared it with all his friends. Clung to it with everything he had… and then it all went south. He couldn’t do it. After giving up, he found he’d been wrong all along… still no answers.
Doesn’t anyone have the answers? Doesn’t anyone have the truth?
We look to our parents… only to find they’re as lost as we are.
We look to our pastors… but they’re lost too.
All of us… wallowing in sin and pain and hopelessness.
The Bible has become stale to us. We have to strain to “get anything out of it” and even that is forgotten before the day is done. We might get a “Jesus high” for a week or so, maybe at summer camp or a retreat… but that soon fades too. We smile at Church, say we’re “fine”, but those who have real smiles on their faces… it’ll be gone by the end of the week. 9 times out of 10.
Jesus said that he came to give us life and life in abundance. This? I think I’d rather be dead.
Jesus said that our joy can be full. I don’t think I even know what that means anymore.
Is this what being a Christian is all about? Is this what they mean by daily carrying my cross, because I sure feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m beginning to believe that we’re meant to suffer every day of our lives in order to anticipate Heaven.
But on the other hand…
That’s not how Paul or Peter sound in their letters. They sound happy, content, joyful.
How did we lose that?
Where did it go?”
-To be continued

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Truth: A Poem in two parts


Many years ago, a man saw a need
For joy to be restored, and hope to plant a seed
The people walked in darkness, loud their hearts did plead
For salvation and redemption and a Savior whom to heed

He upon a stage, began his crusade
To tell the people that their sins had all been paid
The people's hearts were opened, began a cascade
Of joy, peace, love and forgiveness, and a movement thus was made

Moved on the next, people left behind
A spark within their hearts, a code for them to mind
"Leave behind your olden self, new self now to find.
Be a beacon of light and truth, your heart to Him you shall bind."

The fire burned bright, they fought the good fight
Their zeal, their joy, their hope to see was quite a sight
But then the fire wavered, then found was the blight
Their newly found life could not stand the vast darkness of the night

Night did overcome, people fell to sin
Desperate and helpless, the people looked within
No hope was there for them to find, no light shining in
Condemnation ruled over all, the voice of doubt raised quite a din

An answer was found, "Surely, it is me,
For it cannot be God or my theology"
The people looked to right their wrongs, back,back did they flee
Straight back to the feeling they had lost, back to the only way they could see

A cycle of pain, no glory to gain
Repeat, repeat,repeat the circle to obtain
Some feeling of hope and joy, all other ways disdain
Not knowing, not seeing, not feeling that this way was their bane

And over the years, the people did fall
Into ruts; apathy, only revived by all
The same messages again, only e'er to maul
The truth they had long rejected, the hope they wanted still to call


She wondered and thought
"Is there a way that's not fraught
With hopelessness, pain, and despair?
I've been down this path
I've felt the fear of God's wrath
The hope and the peace is not there."

She watched her friends fall
And felt their pain through it all
"There is no solution we see!
This cannot be all!
I want to answer His call!
But does He even hear my plea?"

She went to the large
Church, they that seemed to lead the charge
They spoke about passion and love
"But comes from within
The true solution to sin?
I do not have it within me!"

"I have tried, "said she
"No one has harder than me.
I don't think that's what we should do
What about His power
His grace that o'er sin does tower
Can't He really help me and help you?"

Disgruntled and sad
She looked beyond the Church fad
To look within for the answer
"What else is out there?
Does anyone really care
To look at the Truth of God's Word?"

"He says it's not us
It is in Him we should trust
He gives us the strength to believe
To live as He said
For in His Word we have read
To the Cross, it's Truth we must cleave."

"For there is our hope
It's the only way to cope
Not cope... find peace and joy and love
We're save by His blood
The Holy Spirit to flood
Our lives with the strength from above"

She looked past the hype
The new songs and flashy lights
That covered the pain and despair
She threw out the fears
She left the pain and the tears
To search for the Truth everywhere

When dim grew the lights
Faded the voices and the hype
She found the Truth in a group
Not phased by the change
The people did not range
From what they had known all along

Not flashy, not bright,
And very strange at first sight
They spoke of the Truth of God's Word
Salvation by grace
And life centered on His face
Quite different from what she had heard

There she found peace
Her condemnation to cease
"There is none under His grace!
He takes my life
And He has beaten the strife
For He's the One who won the race!"

So peaceful is she
"For I am free to be me"
He is the One who helps her stay
Obeying His Word
Living the life one has heard
For joy and peace are His way

Not showy, not smart
And not needing any art
For the Truth can speak for itself
We don't have to change
And we should not have so ranged
The Gospel got put on the shelf

We NEED the Gospel
Indeed, we of all people
Have the answer to joy and to peace
For HE is the way
HE causes us to stay
And in Him, all sorrow shall cease