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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Faith Alone

Faith Alone

The Word of God is extraordinarily clear that we are saved simply by placing our faith in the person and works of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” By faith we believe that the blood Jesus shed cleanses us from all unrighteousness, freeing us from the power of sin and death, and gives us everlasting life. By faith we enter into relationship with God denying ourselves in pursuit of His will and His way as Lord of our lives. We walk by faith and not by site faithfully following Jesus on this earth knowing we are here but a short while awaiting eternal joy and bliss with Him and through Him.
There have been some since the beginning of Christianity that have tried to add works to the grace of God. Paul told both Timothy and Titus to speak out boldly against such false teachers. Paul also told the church of Galatia in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Anyone who adds anything to grace as a requirement for salvation falls under the category of being accursed. God takes tampering with His gospel very seriously.
Even deeds of righteousness are not sufficient to save us. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” If anyone adds any requirement for salvation above and beyond faith in Christ they are a false prophet. Even if it’s righteous deeds such as baptism, using spiritual gifts, church membership, or anything of the like. Yes, these are righteous deeds of God. However, they are intended for those who are saved; not a means to Salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Salvation by faith alone through grace alone is a fundamental truth for biblical salvation. It is what makes Christianity, Christianity. Every other religion in the world is rooted in works where people have to make their own path to God through their good works. However, the bible says that no one is good, not even one. For this reason Jesus came down to this earth to pay the price for us and lead us to the Father. He and He alone is our salvation. He is our way. Only by faith in Him are we saved.
When sharing our faith we need to make this abundantly clear. If we are not carful we can lead people astray into a works based mindset by telling them that they need to go to church, read their bibles, and pray, but never share the fact that they need to believe in Jesus for salvation. Yes, we tell people of the importance of going to church, of reading their bibles, and of praying. We should even encourage it. However, we let them know that this is not a means to salvation and that only faith in Christ saves us.
I have seen and heard many well meaning Christians lead people astray. They come across people who are hurting and searching for a way out of the mess that their lives have become. The Christian will then says something like, “You need to start going to church,” without ever communicating the gospel. Sure, they need to come to church. However, going to church will not save them. Yes, they can get saved at church. They can also sit in church for years without accepting Christ as their Savior thinking their works of church attendance is sufficient. After all, that’s all they were told they needed to do. I believe this is the very reason many of our churches are full of unsaved people who are committed to church attendance but are not committed to Jesus.
I have also seen and heard well meaning Christians lead people astray that desire to be delivered from sin. The Christian will give the advice to the sinner that they need to read their bible more or pray harder. I have even heard Christians tell sinners that they need to think positive thoughts when they are being tempted. The bible is clear, only the blood of Jesus can deliver us from our sin. One needs to simply believe.
We are saved by faith alone. As Christians we do Christian acts, such as going to church, reading our bibles, and praying. We don’t do those things for salvation, but as a result of our salvation. Anything contrary will lead people into a false doctrine that is dangerous and deadly. We are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, period.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Loves the Brethren

The True Christian Loves the Brethren

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” I John 5:2

John made it abundantly clear that true Christians will love their brethren. He said in I John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” He said again in I John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” A third time in I John 5:1 he said, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

Who is the brethren? It is the church. The church is the ecclesia, which is a Greek word meaning assembly. It is the body of assembled believers that make up the church. It isn’t a building, an address, or a piece of property. It is the brethren, fellow brothers, and sisters in Christ. To say that we love the brethren is to say that we love the church, the assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. To say that we do not love the church is to say that we don’t love the brethren. Loving the brethren is loving people; people who are saved and are now one family as adopted children of God and joint heirs in Christ.

One of the clear tests of whether or not one is a true Christian is whether or not he loves the brethren. When one is saved, they are transformed from death to life, from flesh to spirit, from wrath to godliness. The one who is saved receives the Holy Spirit, which then transforms them giving them the divine nature of God. God’s nature is one of love. I John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Does this mean we always have to like what our brothers and sisters do? Of course not. It does mean that we have to love them regardless of what they do. The love of God is able to love the most unlovable. All too often Christians and churches do things that aren’t Christ like. God still loves us; and we too need to love our brethren. They are our family in Christ. There are times my children do things that I am displeased with. I still love them. I displeased my parents on many occasions. They still loved me. Families love despite the failures and the church is our spiritual family. There are times churched people act mean and cruel. This does not represent the nature of Christ. This is an act of the flesh directly contradicting Christ. Do we then stop loving them? Of course not. True love isn’t given to those who give love in return. That is fleshly and selfish. Jesus loved us even while on the cross. What worse can anyone do to us than what our sins did to Jesus?

Loving the brethren connects directly with keeping God’s commandments. John said in I John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Remember, Jesus told us what His commands are in Matthew 22:36-38, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If we are truly saved, we will love the Lord and love other people without this love being a burdensome tedious task. If it is burdensome, it is not true love and the true nature of God is not at work in our lives. The test of love is not about love in and of itself. It is about whether or not the divine nature of God is at work in one’s life being manifest through the act and life of love. If we are walking in the light as God is in the light the love of God will be manifest within our lives as an evidence of our salvation. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Walks in the Spirit

The True Christian Walks in the Spirit

“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” I John 4:13 NASB

In this, “by this we know, statement John is teaching, if we are in Christ His Spirit is in us. In John 14:16 Jesus began teaching His disciples about the Holy Spirit. He said in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” Jesus closed this verse with a very interesting statement. He said that the Spirit abides with you now but one day will be in you. Prior to Pentecost the disciples, as well as the folks in the Old Testament, knew the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus said a day is coming when the Holy Spirit will be in you.

When Jesus began to conclude His teachings on the Holy Spirit He said in John 16:7, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus was saying, if I do not ascend, the Holy Spirit would not descend. After Jesus death, burial, and resurrection He spent forty days with His disciples opening their eyes to the scriptures. When the time came for Him to ascend to be with the Father He took them up onto the Mt. of Olives and instructed them what they should now do. Recorded in all four of the gospels and the beginning of the books of Acts Jesus instructed His disciples to go into the entire world and proclaim the gospel to all creation. However, Jesus knew that although they had spent three years with Him in ministry, and another forty days having their eyes opened to the scripture they were still incapable of fulfilling this task. They needed the Holy Spirit to empower them. Head knowledge of the things of God are useless on their own. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to enact this knowledge and live it out. For this reason, Jesus instructed His disciples to go back into Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, the power from on high, which is the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49).

The disciples obediently went back to Jerusalem waiting and praying for ten days for the promise of the Father. Then in a miraculous display of power and glory, the Holy Spirit fell and rested upon each one on the day of Pentecost. Now that the Holy Spirit had come, they were able to put the teachings of Jesus into action. Prior to the Holy Spirit’s coming, they were incapable.

Today, when one receives salvation by placing their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ they immediately receive His Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” In other words, if you have the Son you have the Spirit and the Spirit has given you life. If you do not have the Son, you do not have the Spirit and therefore you do not have life. The very first act of the Spirit in a believer is to give them life-eternal life.

The Holy Spirit has many functions. He testifies of Jesus, He convicts, He teaches, He leads, He comforts, He empowers, He equips, and He gives gifts to the believer to enhance the work of the kingdom. According to I Corinthians chapter two, the Holy Spirit searches even the deep things of God and reveals those truths to those who are in Christ. Even the things that the, “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Those who do not truly abide in Christ do not have the Holy Spirit. Since they do not have the Holy Spirit, they do not have life and are incapable of truly living for Jesus. They can try to live for Him but will utterly fail for they do not have the power. Not only will they be incapable of living for Jesus, the things of God as a whole will not make any sense to them. II Corinthians 2:14, says of the one who is unsaved and therefore void of the Holy Spirit, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Only those who are truly saved can understand, and therefore apply the truths of God to their lives through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

“We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” I John 4:6 NASB

            John started the fourth chapter of I John with a warning. He said in I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How are we to test the spirits? John stated “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us.” As established earlier, John was an apostle who taught with authority. We see in Acts 2:42 that the New Testament church among other things was devoted to the apostles teaching. What did they teach? They taught the Word of God.

Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection opening the apostle’s eyes to the Scriptures. The Scriptures He opened their eyes to was the Old Testament, thus they taught the Old Testament. We also know that one of qualifications for a book to be included into the New Test was that it had to be written by an apostle or someone directly associated with an apostle. When John stated, “We are from God.” Who is the “we” he is referring to? The apostles. Clearly, the teachings of the apostles that the New Testament church was devoted to was the whole of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

Here John warned of the false prophets who have gone out into the world. We test those who claim that they are of God with the authority of God’s word. If they fail to line up with God’s word, they are false prophets. Let’s be clear though. We can have doctrinal differences with other Christians who are truly Christians. We simply disagree on certain subjects. One can believe in a pre-tribulation rapture while the other believes in a mid or post-tribulation rapture and another doesn’t believe there will be a rapture at all. I am a very solid pre-tribulationist. I personally believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is abundantly clear in scripture. Does this mean that I should view anyone who believes otherwise as a false prophet? Of course not. Christians can and will disagree on a variety of issues. However, a false prophet is one who denies the fundamentals of the faith such as the person and the work of Christ, along with the means and method of salvation. John said in I John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Remember, John told us who the antichrist was in I John 2:22 when he wrote, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”

In Revelation Jesus told John to write to the seven churches in Asia. The first of those churches was the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7).  Jesus praised this church for putting to the test those who called themselves apostles and were not. By proving that they were not apostles and indeed false prophets, they protected the integrity and true teaching of the church. We also find Paul in II Timothy 6:20 instructing Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you.” What was Timothy entrusted to? What did he need to guard? The church. Timothy was the pastor of the church of Ephesus. Guarding and protecting the church from false teachers was planted in Ephesus DNA from its very beginning. For this reason, Jesus praised the church.

The Bible warns that in the last days false prophets will be in abundance. II Timothy 4:3 warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” I have no doubt that we are now living in that day.

While the world is easily led astray, Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice. (John 10:4). John has declared that the evidence of the one who knows God is that he listens to them, thus listens to the true teachings of the Word of God. The one who doesn’t know God may hear the Word of God and know the Word of God but refuse to listen to the Word of God. For this reason, he has not discerned what is good and evil. He thinks he knows best and is therefore in rebellion against God. However, the one who knows God will test the spirits through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which we will discuss in the next section, and the truth of the Word of God. Since he listens to God, he will obey God accept His truth and reject evil.

 
 

The True Christians Identity is in Christ

The True Christians Identity is in Christ

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” I John 3:24 NASB

John said in the verse just before this, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” John said the commandment is to believe in Jesus and love one another. Jesus said the commandment was to love God with our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Is John contradicting Jesus? Of course not. In fact, John is affirming Jesus. Truth be told, we cannot love God or our neighbor apart from faith in Christ. Once we keep the commandment of believing in Jesus, we enter into a relationship with God, abide in Christ, and are able to love God and one another.

In the fifteenth chapter of John Jesus described Himself as the vine and us as the branches. He said in the fourth verse, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Jesus said the word abide ten times in this section of scripture emphasizing the importance of this truth. By abiding in Christ, we can bear fruit, but when we don’t abide in Christ, we can do nothing. Abiding in Christ is the evidence that you are in Him and He in you. John said, “We know by this that He abides in us.” By what? By the fact that we have kept His commandment and believed in Him.

To abide in Christ means our identity is found in Christ. If our identity is found in Christ, the fruit we bear will represent Him and not ourselves. He is after all the vine and we are only the branches. The vine can survive apart from the branches but the branches will die apart from the vine. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul stated that he has died to himself and come alive to Jesus. He said the life He now lives is a life of faith in Jesus Christ thus his identity is no longer found in himself, it is found in the person of Jesus. He found the source of life, the vine, and allowed God, by faith, to graft him into the vine where the true source of life is found. In order to do this he had to lose his identity and receive a new identity in Christ. Now, the life he lives abides in Christ.

Jesus said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John that unless one is born again he cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God. To be born again means that we must die to ourselves and come alive to Christ. Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” The consistency of scripture is that we die to self and come alive to Christ. In other words, we no longer live for self, we live for Jesus.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” First of all, Jesus said you must. In other words, this is non-optional. He said you must first deny yourself. We must stop living for us. Secondly, He told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. The cross is an instrument of death signifying we must die to self, deny self, and follow Him. This is true faith in Christ.

The one who abides in Christ has his identity in Christ. He doesn’t live for self, promote self, or glorify self. He has died to self. He lives for, promotes, and glorifies Jesus Christ. By this, he has kept the commandment of God to love God with all His heart, soul, and mind through his faith in the person of Jesus Christ. By this, we know, if we abide in Christ.

 
 

The True Christian is Anointed in Truth

The True Christian is Anointed in Truth

“Children it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” I John 2:18 NASB

Although the same term “we know” is used in this verse it is used a little differently than the other “by this we know” statements. All of the other “by this we know” statements directly link us to God. This one does not. In the context of this verse, John is linking those who have been faithful to God despite the attack and lies from the antichrist contrasting them with those who have believed the antichrists lies and have fallen away.

Who is this antichrist? Most often, we think of the antichrist as the man of lawlessness that will rise up at the end of days just prior to the return of Christ. No doubt, he will be the antichrist. However, John said there are many antichrists. John defined the antichrist in I John 2:22 saying, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” A well-known example is Oprah Winfrey, who adamantly denies Jesus is the only way to God while promoting her brand of “spirituality,” which is a doctrine of demons. This is the spirit of the antichrist. The one who denies the true nature of Jesus is of the antichrist. I John 2:23 says, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

Oprah’s own testimony is that she was raised in church her whole life. One day, as an adult, she heard a pastor make a statement that God is a jealous God, which He is. Her flesh didn’t like this statement, and walked away from the Christian church. Upon hearing this, Satan, the master deceiver, whispered in her ear, “don’t believe that, you don’t need God, you can be your own God.” Isn’t that what he told Eve? Just like thousands of others who have walked away from the truth, Oprah liked what she heard from Satan more than what she heard from God, turned her back on God, and followed Satan. I John 2:19 says “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” According to this verse, not only are these unsaved, they never were.

Of the true Christian John writes, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:20-21). The true Christian will not be deceived by the lies from Satan leading them to fall away from the truth. They know the truth; therefore, they know a lie when they hear one. They know the truth because they abide in the in truth, which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. (I John 2:24). Since they abide in Christ, they have an anointing that will keep them in truth, keeping them faithful to God. Just as salvation is by faith and not of works, so is the sustaining of our salvation. It is an act of God’s anointing and grace.

Oprah is just one example of many who have fallen away from the truth. Do these who have fallen away have an opportunity to be saved? Absolutely! Clearly, God desires all to be saved. They must realize the error of their way and turn to the truth-Jesus. Jesus said of Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 
 

The True Christian Keeps God’s Word

The True Christian Keeps God’s Word

“But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” I John 2:5 NASB

The second by this we know statement from John is about keeping God’s word. John states here that “Whoever keeps God’s word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.” When we keep God’s word, it is a sign that the love of God has been perfected in us. It is not God’s love that has been perfected, it is ours. John stated in I John 4:8 that “God is love,” therefore, His love is perfect. Man’s love, however, is in great need of being perfected.

Prior to entering into fellowship with God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ we were enemies of God. Our choice of the world and sin above God proved that we had no love towards Him. Jesus said in John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” The proof of whom you love is whom you choose to walk with. Jesus also said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He didn’t say “If you keep My commandments you will prove your love for me.” Rather, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If we love Jesus, we will obey Him, if we don’t love Jesus we will care less about His commandments and will not obey Him.

Be reminded that John said in the first chapter that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” ( I John 1:5). He continued to explain that if we say we are walking in the light yet we are walking in the darkness we are liars. In other words, if we are walking in sin we are not walking with God. I John 2:2 says, “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Then he explained in I John 1:7 that if we are walking in the Light, as God is in the Light, we have fellowship with Him. Oil and water doesn’t mix; nor does God and sin.

The key word in I John 1:5 is walk. Walking portrays the pattern and consistency of one’s life. If the walk is consistently in darkness, it is not in the light. If the walk is consistently in the Light, his fellowship is with God. Paul said in I Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” The drunkard is not one who has been drunk a time or two in his life, rather, drunkenness is the defining factor of his life; he is a drunkard. The people Paul lists are people whose lives are identified by sin. They walk in darkness therefore, they are a drunkard or whatever the defining sin is in their life. Paul said they would not inherit the kingdom of God therefore, they clearly are not saved. They are unsaved by their own choice. Their choice was that they loved darkness rather than light. They have chosen the lusts of their own flesh over the love and grace of God.

However, for those who realize the error of their way and repent of their sin, God offers forgiveness. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” After Paul declared, the unrighteous would not inherit the kingdom of God in I Corinthians 6:9-10, he said in the next verse, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” These chose God over sin. They loved God more than sin. Therefore, they repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus.

God loves us perfectly. For this reason, He sent His Son to become an atoning sacrifice for our sin. When we come to the point where we realize our sin is at odds with God and choose God over sin, we ask Him by faith to forgive us of our sin knowing that by the authority of His Word and the power of the blood of Jesus He can and will. God then gives us His Holy Spirit that writes His Word on our heart to perfect our love for Him, and by this, we know we are in Him.

Keeping His word, living in obedience, and walking in the Light is not the means to salvation, it is the proof of salvation. It is the evidence that God is at work in our lives perfecting us in Him and for Him. When we turn to Jesus and trust in Him by faith, we are saying to Him that we love Him more than self and sin and are willing to surrender ourselves unto Him. When we take this step of faith, we give God permission to work His perfection into our lives. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” If God is not at work in you, you will have no will to work for His good pleasure. In fact, working or living for His pleasure would be utter foolishness to you. However, if we love God enough to keep His word, “by this we know that we are in Him” for, His work of perfect love has been enacted.