Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All kids argue.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

"He that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" -Romans 14:1

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." - Philippians 2:3

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." -John 13:35

I love facebook. I love the interaction between friends and colleagues. I love meeting new people who are part of the body of Christ. I enjoy the conversation, the testimonies, and (surprise to those who know me- wink, wink) the debates. If I have a life verse, as they call it, outside of ACTS 2:38, it would probably be the Proverb that says "As Iron sharpens Iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." In short, put another way, I'll have to begrudgingly admit that- long pause as I gather courage to say it- I enjoy a good argument.

I don't look at it as being hard headed or thinking that I'm always right. My mother, however, used to say that there is a right way, a wrong way, and Mike's way. I guess that means I'm a bit peculiar. I am, in short, opinionated.

I don't mean to come across as a "know it all", at all. I can be a little sure of my opinions, however. To some, this has come across like I think I know it all. Let me be clear- I do NOT know everything. I don't claim to know everything. I will never know everything in this lifetime.

That said, I love to study the word of God and share what God illuminates to me there. Sometimes this sharing has rankled a few feathers of my fellow preachers. Let me say to you all, I'm sorry for upsetting you.

You have your walk with God and I have mine. Some of you and I can agree and get along well. Others of you and I tend to agree to disagree a lot. That's ok, too. We are all at differing levels of understanding of God's word in differing areas of that word. Some of us may know more in one area than others. Others know more in other areas than still others. All of this is ok. We are all God's children and God's kids will argue and disagree from time to time.

The problem comes where we, and I do say WE (me included 4 fingers pointing back at me), get so upset over the others arguments that we go too far. We push so hard to prove a point that we make the other one tend to feel like we think we're better than them, or that they're stupid, or some other such nonsense.

Scripture tells us to esteem each other as being higher than ourselves. I can heartily agree with Paul when he said he was the "least" of the Apostles. We may all be preachers, but many of you have done far more for the kingdom than I've ever dreamed of doing. Truly, I am the least of my brethren.

Scripture also says that we will one day come to a unity of faith. I'm not talking about the basic Bible doctrines like the oneness of God and the plan of salvation. Indeed, we should all have these down pat. It's the other stuff: definitions of holiness, what a Christian can and can't do, who were the sons of God, etc, where we get a little hung up on.

I believe the day of unity in these things will be the day he calls us home and explains it all to us.
I, and all of us, will probably be surprised, both at what we had right and what we had wrong. If we'll just hold on to Jesus- together-, pray with and for each other, show love TO each other, we'll make it. It's the love of God that will show the world that we are God's people, not our scripture quotations or our knowledge.

So, I said all of that to say this: To all those that I have offended in trying to prove a point, to all that I have hurt by the tone of what I said- or the inference of the words- PLEASE FORGIVE ME! It is not my intention to prove to you how great I am! I am nothing! Jesus is everything! For those who are higher up than I on God's food chain, pray for this hard headed preacher to learn to show a little more love!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grace and unconditional security

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Ephesians 2:8

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify the son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
Hebrews 6: 4-6

"But I keep under my body, and bring it under subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
1 Corinthians 9:27

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed , not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:12-13

There are some teachings that are very popular in "Christendom"- namely, Grace as God's unmerited favor, and unconditional eternal security (that we are saved once for all time- irregardless of what we do after salvation). Many base the unconditional teaching on the "fact" that Grace is God's unmerited favor.

After all, if we are saved by God's unmerited favor, then what can we do to add to that? How can we ever "fall away" from something that has been given to us, even though we haven't done anything to earn it? If salvation is a free and unearned gift, how can we ever lose it?

Here's the problem with this: the passage above in Hebrews, and many others, clearly refute unconditional security. Scripture says that - once a person has been born again and reached a certain level in their walk with God- and falls away from God, it is then IMPOSSIBLE to renew that person to repentance. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians that he worked hard at keeping his body under subjection to the Lord, because he feared becoming a castaway if he didn't!

If a person can become a castaway AFTER salvation, and a person can reach a point AFTER salvation where they can no longer get into a repentant place with God, then that person (or those people) can be lost AFTER salvation! Therefore, "unconditional eternal security" is a lie. It is true that, if a person desires to stay saved, and that person stays in right relationship with God, then they WILL hear, "Well DONE my good and faithful servant, enter ye in...". God will move heaven and earth to keep you saved. There is only one thing that God will not do in this regard: he will not break your will.

God has given us something he gave no animal nor Angel- free will. Animals do what they were made to do. Angels do God's will or become fallen Angels. God never tried to redeem Satan and the 1/3 of the Angels that rebelled with him. Yet, we fall, and God himself, as Abraham prophesied ("God will provide HIMSELF a lamb"), became a man- the lamb of God- and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This opened the door for, "whosoever will" to take part in the salvation he bought and paid for with his OWN blood (Acts 20:28).

Yet, for all this, we have freedom of choice. We can choose to enter into relationship with God, or not. Once we've chosen to enter that relationship, we can chose to leave that relationship as well. That's why scripture tells us to "work out (our) own salvation in fear and trembling." It's a choice. If we chose to leave our relationship with God, we lose our salvation, unless God grants us repentance- which he doesn't have to do.

God died for a bride that would love him. It is not his desire to have an "arranged and forced marriage." We either love and serve him out of genuine and loving relationship, or we don't. It's up to us.

As I've pointed out on this blog on other occasions, Grace is NOT the unmerited favor of God. Grace is a partnership relationship with God- see my earlier posts on Grace to see what I refer to. Unmerited favor from God is MERCY! Some say that the words mercy and grace are used interchangeably in the scriptures. Yet, there is not one place in the scriptures where this is true.

Mercy and Grace work interactively. Without mercy, we have no access to his grace. With Mercy, we CAN be in relationship with God. His Mercy drove him to the cross for our sins. His Grace opened his arms to say "whosoever will". His Mercy allows for us the chance for forgiveness. His Grace helps us to STAY forgiven. If grace is "God's unmerited favor", then how do we "grow in Grace" as Peter admonishes us to do? If, however, Grace is that divine partnership WITH God, then THIS we can grow in.

Some are saying that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. What does it matter if someone's definition of Grace is wrong? So what if they believe that Grace is "unmerited favor", what difference does it make? It makes all the difference in this world- and the next.

I'm not saying that a person will go to hell simply because they have a wrong definition of the word. However, we tend to act out what we believe. Our actions, in fact, always follow what we believe. That's why James says for someone to show him there faith without works, but he will show his faith BY his works. Paul said we are to "work out" our salvation in fear and trembling.

We have two beliefs. They cannot both be correct. They are diametrically opposed.

"Unmerited favor" as Grace leads to the belief that salvation is a finished work. WE have no part to play in it. After all, we are "saved by "unmerited favor". It's a done deal. This belief flies in the face of the many scriptures that say we CAN lose out with God. Are there contradictions in the word of God. It also leads to ungodliness and worldliness in "the body of Christ." Why try if it's a done deal?

If Grace is a divine partnership, then it is a RELATIONSHIP with God that we can enter into because of his mercy (unmerited favor). A relationship that, like a marriage, must be tended to and worked at. God gives us the power and even the desire to do what he wants us to do, but the obedient choice is still ours to make.

This view of Grace is the scriptural one. This view tells us that "whosoever endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved." This view allows us to "work out our salvation" and "grow in relationship (grace)". This view leads to us striving to stay in right relationship with God. This opens the door for us to know God more- to know him deeper. This allows us to go from "glory to glory." That's why Paul himself worked hard at keeping his own body under subjection. He had to, out of love and out of fear, stay in that right relationship with God. If he didn't, he said he would become a castaway.

Anything less than a partnership with God (in which both God And we, give our all), is simply not biblical grace, it's a religion that bears no resemblance at all to the relationship that the Lord died to create.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Correction builds God's fruit into our lives- if we let it!

" All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 timothy 3:16-17

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child: but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Proverbs 22:15

"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Hebrew 12: 6-11

There are many people leaving the church these days. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a preacher that says you have to stay in the church you were born again in, or your a sinful church hopper. It is my belief that we are the body of Christ. God knows the best place for each part of his body to be. If he is leading someone to leave one good church and go to another, it is for the benefit of everyone involved. Go with God!

There are also some bad churches out there. If they are not teaching the truth, if they are getting worldly and allowing ungodliness to come in, pray for them- say something to the pastor (respectfully) if God wants you to. If, it gets too bad, AND God gives you the go ahead, leave there and go somewhere else.

My problem is with the ones who break with churches- and Christian friendships- for bad reasons. Namely, correction. Our society hates correction! Scripture says for us to spank our children in order to drive the foolishness far from them. That used to be an accepted practice in our world. Now, kids are told to call the police if their parents spank them.

The results of this nonsense has been devastating to our country. Murder is way up. Armed robbery is way up. Rape is way up. Divorce is way up. Homosexuality is not only accepted, but you can face legal problems if you stand against it. Our prisons are filled to overflowing and our society is spiraling out of control. All because we've left God and his ways!

We're seeing similarities in the church. If God leads a preacher or a brother/sister in the Lord to say "Be careful...", "Thus saith the Lord...", "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God..." and the like, many "Children of God" get offended and act like spoiled brats. HOW DARE THEY SAY THAT TO ME! You can almost hear the unspoken "Don't they know who I am? I'm a child of the king!"

Well, princes and princesses, scripture is replete with warnings to preachers to correct the saints and warnings to God's children to accept correction. I'll admit that some "men of God" have gone overboard. Some of us may actually misunderstand some of God's words. Some of us aren't as tactful as maybe we should be. We are "men of God", but, in the end, we ARE men. As such, we are not perfect and stand in need of correction from time to time, just like any other child of God.

However, Scripture tells us all that if we will endure his correction, from wherever he chooses to bring it, it will bring forth HIS righteousness (not ours) and HIS holiness (not our own) in
our lives. I didn't enjoy the spankings I got from my parents when I was growing up, but I'm now glad I received them. I don't enjoy it when God spanks me, either, but I KNOW it's for my good and HIS glory.

Through it all, I MUST "Buy the truth and sell it not". I MUST receive a LOVE for the truth, an unconditional AGAPE' love for his holy words. That kind of love will allow me to submit my will to God and allow him to continue to mold and make me into the "man of God" he wishes to make me to be. That kind of love will allow me to accept a gentle word from a concerned fellow Christian, or from a concerned preacher, with meekness of heart.

Instead of getting all bent out of shape about it, I can go home and enter my prayer closet with Bible in hand saying, "Lord, are you trying to tell me something here?" Instead of breaking fellowship, I can allow God to show me my own heart.

If I'm wrong, I can repent and ask forgiveness of whomever I need to ask it. If I'm right, I can then know that I'm standing on solid ground, look my accuser dead in the eye (with a heart filled with love) and tell them, "I understand where your coming from, but you're wrong on this one and here's why"- always with a heart towards reconciliation.

If it becomes a spiritual must for us to part ways, I can do it with a clean conscience towards God and love in my heart for my accuser. Always, we must strive to keep the unity of the faith. In order for this to happen, however, we must learn to humbly accept correction- for the greater good of us all!

After all, correction shows us our spots and blemishes. Repentance allows the blood to cleanse us and God to mold us into the image of Christ. No spots will enter heaven. It's that simple. It really is that simple.