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Archive for August, 2011

Many people have taught that a person can “lose” his/her salvation. If people don’t do the right things, go the right places, and so forth, then they won’t be saved.

I agree that there are some fruits of the spirit that Christians will begin to show–not always right away–because they ARE saved. But to lose their salvation?

How big is what Jesus did for you? What He did for me was huge. Enormous. So big that it’s impossible to ‘lose’. I could reject it, perhaps, but if I am really saved, would I? And still, again, how could I lose something that big? I’ve lost my keys… I’ve even lost my car a couple of times amongst all the others in the parking lot. But those are so small in comparison. For me, to ‘lose’ my salvation would be akin to someone ‘losing’ the Empire State Building or the Great Wall of China. A person could get lost and miss it (though if they’d stop and ask for directions that might be a bit difficult, too), but they couldn’t ‘lose’ it. It’s too big to be lost.

Above that, how does this work, anyway? Is some poor angel trying to keep a score board in Heaven? Saved: IIIIIIII Lost IIIIIII… Oops! Another tally for lost. Nope, saved. Nah, lost again! Aha! Sav–los–save–ah, forget it. Silly human! I hardly think so.

We see things ‘in time’. One moment to the next. But God is eternal. His vision stretches far beyond our own. We may FEEL closer or further from Him in a moment, but that doesnt’ mean He actually IS more or less distant.

He promised never to leave us or forsake us. Never. No matter what.

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Originally posted Sept 5, 2010
On my way to Missouri last weekend, I heard Hank Hanegraff on the radio responding to a question about suicide:
“First of all, you can’t say that suicide is the unforgivable sin, because no single act is an unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is a continual ongoing rejection of forgiveness. And those who refuse forgiveness through Christ will spend eternity separated from his love and grace. Those who sincerely desire forgiveness can be absolutely certain that God will never spurn them…”

I’ve heard that anyone who killed themselves would die with unrepented sin in their lives and go straight to hell. I was taught that blasphemy was the unforgivable sin and was taught that even joking about tongues (kidding around and imitating someone speaking in tongues, for instance) might be blasphemy and shouldn’t be risked, because no one knows where God might draw the line and strike down.

Both these concepts show a judgmental, angry God, not an Abba Father. So Hank’s statement really stood out to me, like this:
“First of all, you can’t say that suicide is the unforgivable sin, because no single act is an unforgivable sinThe unforgivable sin is a continual ongoing rejection of forgiveness. And those who refuse forgiveness through Christ will spend eternity separated from his love and grace. Those who sincerely desire forgiveness can be absolutely certain that God will never spurn them...”

This helped me a lot. I don’t have to be afraid that I might make a mistake and then die in a car wreck before I could ask forgiveness of whatever it was and go to hell. I don’t have to be scared that I might accidentally blaspheme the Holy Ghost by shouting “in the flesh” or uttering some syllables in imitation of tongues when it was really just me. I don’t have to run around all day muttering “forgive me, oh, God, I’m sorry. Forgive me!” in order to insure salvation. Wow, what a relief.

Then I got home, and someone gave me some books. One of the books was The Shack. I’ve been avoiding that one. It was preached against at my former church. Really, really bad book, right up there with Christianity without the Cross. Duh. I should have known by that alone that I should definitely read it! There are some good points in it… including a discussion about how God is often viewed as judgmental and wrathful, but Jesus is looked at as Savior. That people pray to God when they want revenge or expect anger and judgment, and pray to Jesus when they want forgiveness. And as I read that I realized how few times I heard Jesus preached at my former church, unless it was as an image of the ultimate sacrifice and the wrath and judgment of God!! Jesus is God in flesh, and Pentecostals are supposed to be oneness, but the ones I knew still focused on an all-powerful God ready to squash us at any moment, rather than on the Savior who had made a way for us, and done what we couldn’t do!

Anyway, I’m still working through this thing called grace. That was a whole lot to think on in just one week. Grace is kind of going to be a quantum leap for me, since I never was really taught about grace as a child or an adult. But I’m beginning to really like the sound of it!

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Grace vs Works

Originally posted Nov 4, 2010

What can we ever do that will be considered good enough for an almighty, righteous, holy God? We’re human, He’s God. We’re born in sin and shapen in iniquity, He’s the creator of all things. Will skirts or long hair or a lack of jewelry ever be sufficient?

I know the standard answer in churches I’ve been to has been that we do those things because we love Him, not to be saved. Yet if a person doesn’t do those things, are they considered saved? The answer to that is generally “by their fruits you shall know them.” What fruits? The Bible nowhere mentions clothes or hair as fruits. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, kindness, gentleness, meekness. And thorns are definitely not cut hair, pants and makeup. Attitudes can get prickly, but the way we dress doesn’t hurt others any time we get near them. If your imagination immediately jumped to a hooker or stripper and the way she dresses, and you thought, yes, the way they dress can hurt us, I’ll remind you that the way that person dresses doesn’t hurt you unless you have a fault that keeps you from fleeing that situation or leads you to lust. But lying, backbiting and slander can hurt a person even if they haven’t done anything wrong.

Thinking about all of this last night I realized that when we do certain things to try to be saved or look down on others as unsaved if they don’t do them, we place ourselves in a very dangerous situation: we lift ourselves up on an equal with God. God is holy and righteous. Our righteousness, the very best we can do, is as filthy rags to Him. No matter how “good” we try to be, we still fall short, because He knows our hearts. He knows the greed or pride that motivates, even if it’s just a tiny bit of our motivation.

That doesn’t mean that we should stop doing the right things or stop being good. But being good is not a list of rules and dress codes, it’s a mindset. It’s a matter of a right heart and a clean conscious. And it doesn’t involve judging others for the ways we think they might not measure up to us.

What is good? Jesus himself asked a man why he called him good, since there’s none good but God. And what should we do, if Christianity isn’t about being good? Well, when we live in Jesus, and He lives in us, won’t His goodness shine through us? But what is His goodness? It’s not dress standards, it’s love. Compassion, mercy, gentleness… grace. Those are the things we should focus on, not externals. Anyone can dress a certain way, but true fruit-love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, meekness-who can imitate those for any length of time? Who can even live like that most of the time?

If those Christian attitudes are more difficult to display than long sleeves, shouldn’t they be the focus? And if we know we can’t produce those fruits in our lives consistently on our own, then can we take pride in living that way? Absolutely not. Because living with love, joy, peace, patience… having those in our lives takes something more than a credit card and the right clothes in the closet. It takes Christ.

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I’ve been reading a book that explained grace in less than 306 pages.

Quote:
“So in Christ God did for man what neither he, no one else, nor anything else could do for him. That is the very essence of grace… grace means that God gives us what we need, not what we deserve.
“Originally the Greek word rendered ‘grace’ meant to make a gift, then to forgive a debt, then to forgive a wrong, and finally to forgive sin. So basically grace is a gift, as expressed in Romans 3:24. Literally, ‘Being declared righteous as a gift by his grace through the full redemption, the one in Christ Jesus.’
“Note that salvation is not ‘out of yourselves’ or ‘out of works’ as the source. It is ‘of God the gift’. It is by grace made possible in the individual through his faith. Good works are the fruit, not the root, of salvation.” (From the Baptist Faith and Message)

I’ve never heard it explained that way. Grace is a gift. We can’t earn a gift. A person doesn’t beg for a gift. A person can’t ask for a gift and it still be a true gift. A real gift-at least to me-is undeserved, unexpected, unmerited, and completely free (it doesn’t come with strings attached-such as ‘do this and you’ll get it’, ‘do that and you can keep it’).

Also a gift, by it’s very nature of being a gift, cannot be something we earned. (If we earned it, it’s a wage. We earned our wage-Rom 6:23. Don’t like the wages. The gift is much better!)

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But wait… we shouldn’t stray too far that way, or we’ll get an “anything goes” attitude! No, not if we’re sincere. If I get a gift from someone, what should I do with it? I’d be ungrateful if I flung any gift away, but if it’s something I need, I know I need it, and I refuse to use it, then how much more so!! Yet the giver doesn’t take that gift back. He doesn’t come, knock on the door, and say “Pardon me, I noticed you haven’t used my wonderful gift. Give it back so I can give it to someone more appreciative!” He might not give me more gifts, but he certainly won’t take away the gift I’ve been given.

Sure, we could toss a gift aside. We could refuse it. But if we love the giver, we’ll value and treasure the gift, and the gift will mean that much more. And in loving the giver, we’ll want to give back what small tokens we can.

And to me that’s freedom. We can follow rules because we have to in order to earn something unobtainable, or we can rest assured knowing we’ll be given what we need, responding freely, in love, to the One who gave so much to us. Each might look the same outwardly, but one is done from fear, while the other is done through faith, from a cheerful, willing heart, the overflow of an abundance of the Giver’s love.

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