Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eternal Life & Security

The Scriptures clearly promise everlasting life:
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

(John 3:36) He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
But what about security? Can this gift from God be possessed and then lost?

Salvation Is Of The Lord
It is important to realize that salvation is a gift from God that is provided by the grace of God and is implemented by the power of God.

The person was spiritually dead, but God made him spiritually alive.
(Ephesians 2:1-5) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 ¶ But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
The person was spiritually blind, but God caused him to see.
(2Corinthians 4:3-6) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
He was a sinner and condemned, but God made him a new creation in Christ.
(2Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
If God has done this spiritual work of salvation, how do you think anyone could undo it? Notice what Jesus said about the salvation that He provided.
(John 10:27-30) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
30 I and My Father are one.”
Salvation is as secure as the promise and the power of God! Besides - it is logically impossible to have "temporary eternal life."

We Can't Tell Who Is Really Converted
People do make professions of faith in Christ without genuine conversion. Remember Jesus saying that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" is a true disciple.
(Matthew 7:21-23) ¶ “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
These people claim to have followed Jesus and they even did "ministry" in His name, but their hearts were never changed by God. That is why Jesus calls them, "you who practice lawlessness."

In Matthew 13:3-23, Jesus talked about the seed of the word of God sprouting in shallow, rocky soil or in the edge of a field in the weeds. In these cases there was an initial promise of a crop because the plants sprouted. Ultimately, however, these plants whithered in the sun or were choked out by the weeds before they bore fruit. Only the seed that fell on good soil bore fruit. Not every professor of Christ is a genuine possessor of Christ.

In Matthew 13:24-43, Jesus tells the story of the man who planted good seed in his field, but whose enemy planted "tares" in the field with the wheat. The tares cannot be sorted out without uprooting the wheat too. The harvest is the time to sort things out. Jesus is saying that genuine believers and false professors will be mixed together until the time of God's judgment. Then things will be sorted out.

Can We Tell If WE OURSELVES Are Really Converted?
This is what is really at issue in the question of eternal security. Can you know with certainty that you have eternal life? A genuine believer may have doubts from time to time. A false believer might have unshakable confidence. (Look at what the false disciples said to Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23).

On the one hand, the Scriptures offer evidences that should give confidence to true believers. On the other hand, the Scriptures suggest that you should always live as if you have something to prove about your devotion to Christ.

Followers of Christ follow Christ and they persevere to the very end of their life. A person who stops following Christ but says, "I'm o.k. because I can't lose my salvation" is just deceiving himself.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I like fishing.

I like fishing in the coolness of early morning when the surface of the lake is completely still and a wraith of fog drifts just above the water. I like fishing in the hot afternoon sun when the fish are hiding under the submerged logs under the dark shadows of the overhanging trees on the shoreline. I like fishing in deep, crystal clear and achingly cold water of Saddlebag Lake where I grew up. I like fishing in mountain streams where you need to fool the trout with tiny fishing flies delivered just so delicately to the head of the pool in which they are lurking.

Now I am a fisherman for souls here in Canton! And I like it!

Just like with any fishing - there are long periods of casting and retrieving - and short bursts of surprising action. You get more strikes than bites. Some follow awhile then disappoint you by turning away after ogling you with their fishy eye. Others take the bait and must be carefully handled to draw them into the safety of the boat.

Things go wrong when you are fishing - but they don't keep you from fishing. Sometimes your line gets tangled or caught in a tree or on an underwater snag. You work it out (hopefully without falling in the lake) and keep fishing. You get sunburned on the back of your neck. You keep fishing. The wind blows your boat around and away from the fishing hole you wanted. You row back and keep fishing. You lose another $10 lure in a tree. You grit your teeth and keep on fishing.

Generally - if you stay with it long enough - you will catch a fish. I expect we will see some souls "caught" here in Canton. How many? Who knows? Is the number of fish the point? Isn't the point to be fishermen? If I just wanted a bunch of fish I could go to Sam's Club. Here the object is not to generate a huge crowd, but to introduce individuals to life through Jesus Christ.

I love fishing because I love Jesus Christ. He is so worthy of praise that there is nothing more pleasant than to talk to people about Jesus.

He is the "I Am." He is the Eternal Word. He is the Creator. He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. He is the source of Living Water. He is the door of the sheep. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Light of the World. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the True Vine. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is the One Who is and was and is to come, The Almighty. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Eternal Son of God Who became flesh, lived among men, was crucified, was raised from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven and is coming again in glory - Our Lord and Savior!

So - here I am. Fishing. Dreaming of fishing. Planning more fishing. Looking at fishing equipment. All for the glory of God in Jesus Christ!

Praise God!


Every now and then I think of something to blog about. If I can remember it long enough to write it down, I put it in my DayTimer and try to get to it later.

But I really want this blog to be a means of extending my role as pastor and my conversation with people about life and ministry. Most of the time I get very few comments - which leads me to think that 1) very few people read the blog and 2) most people don't have any opinion about what I've written.

But it occurs to me today that maybe you (few) who are reading might have ideas about things you would like me to write about. Maybe you have questions. Maybe things you do have opinions about.

If you do, please send them to me and I'll see what I can do with them. Either put them in comments on this blog, or send me an e-mail at pastor@pastordenny.net.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Grace And Truth

(John 1:14, 16, 17) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
I have been meditating on the pairing of grace and truth in Christ.

Grace is not just another truth. It is not just a fact about the salvation God provided through Christ. Grace is the kindness. Grace is the unmerited love. Grace is the sweetness of the way God deals with sinners. Grace is Jesus looking at the rich young ruler and loving him even though He knew the man would walk away in the end. (Mark 10:21)

It is my opinion that we suffer from graceless truth.

If you shout the truth at the top of your voice and harangue people with the truth, but do not have grace, your truth is indistinguishable from error.

If Jesus is "full of grace and truth," can you preach Jesus in truth gracelessly? Would you not be preaching a false Jesus? When truth is presented gracelessly - is it still truth?

In our society, the art form of obnoxious opinion is a garish parody of the preaching of truth. Let us show the world the difference by being full of both grace and truth.

(Ephesians 4:15) but, speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We Are Terminal

"A guy who was terminal..." This quote was in something written by a cancer survivor and it kind of took me by surprise.

I am sure there are proper definitions for who should have the "terminal" designation. The doctors have said that there is no hope of arresting the disease. It will advance and end the person's life. Maybe the predicted life expectancy has to be under a certain limit. I don't know.

Moses said, "The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalms 90:10)

Something bothers me about "A guy who was terminal..." I am not wild about believing something just because a doctor said it. Doctors are making an educated guess about the situation - and they may be right or wrong. They may be close or way off. It seems kind of premature to call yourself terminal just because a doctor says you probably won't live very long.

But my real issue is that everybody is terminal. A doctor might predict that you will die of your disease soon, but he doesn't really know. The more telling issue is that he cannot say with any assurance that you will live long enough to die of your disease. Death is just a heartbeat away. Every breath might be your last.

Death is a universal reality. Sometimes we live longer lives. Sometimes shorter. No doctor can keep you alive forever. He might help you dodge a bullet only to have you hit by a bus. (Writing this gives me chest pain. I am a hypochondriac.)

People live in denial. "That guy is terminal, but I am not."

Oh, yeah? How long are you going to live? Another year? Ten more? Twenty? Thirty? How do you know? Will you still be alive 100 years from now?

If not, you had better face the fact that you are also "Terminal." You are on your way out. You better make sure you know what to expect on the other side of death, because it is coming for you - probably sooner than you expect.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11:25-26)

The Martyr's Ethic

In modern use of the word "martyr" brings to mind a wild eyed fanatic -- the suicide bomber exploding himself in a crowd of innocent shoppers.

The Christian martyr is an entirely different thing. He is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, but has no idea of doing any harm to his neighbors.

The modern martyr kills himself in the pursuit of his own pleasure, profit or purpose. The suicide bomber thinks he will ensure his place in paradise and various rewards. The suicide shooter at the mall thinks he will be famous and will no longer need to face the difficulties of his life.

The Christian martyr wants nothing more than to live for the glory of God by displaying the fruit of the Spirit of God -- "...love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23) He is already assured of his place in heaven and knows he will arrive there when God wills it to be so.

The modern martyr wants to take other people with him. He will do as much damage as he possibly can - not in battle against armed assailants, but in a massacre of innocents. The more bloodshed and destruction, the better.

The Christian martyr wants to take other people with him too - but not in a violent attack. Rather, the Christian martyr wants other people to join him in being followers of Jesus Christ. He pursues this through a life of faith and godliness - loving God and loving his neighbors.

The modern martyr chooses the time for his death by his own actions. When he triggers the detonator - it is time. When he carries weapons into a school - it is time.

The Christian martyr is willing to die if the only other option is to betray the Lord Jesus. But his death will not be at his own hands. Those whose spiritual ancestors killed Jesus Himself are the killers of the Christian martyrs too.

The Christian martyr is willing to live and not afraid to die. While he lives, he devotes himself to living in obedience to the word of God which says, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Love your enemies" and "bless those who persecute you - bless and do not curse." (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 12:14)

The Christian martyr lives by God's word and for God's glory.
(Romans 12:19-21) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.