Christianity 201

February 15, 2023

Convictions Worth Dying For

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That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. – 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. – Romans 1:16 NET

So then, my dearly loved and longed for brothers and sisters, my joy and crown, in this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. – Philippians 4:1 CSB

Today we are introducing a new author to readers here for the first time, Jesse Hoffman who writes at The Coin Jar. Click the title below to read this where it first appeared.

Convictions – How They Point to God

As I’ve pondered my faith and life, an apologetic view on convictions has come into the forefront of my mind in the recent weeks. Once again, this thought stemmed from my reading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography. As I read and thought about one of the worst times in human history, WW2, I also began to admire some of the challenges that were overcome in the same period. The man, Dietrich, held fast to what he knew to be right, even in the face of death. This is what I would call “holding fast to your conviction/belief”.

For the sake of this piece, I should define what I mean as “conviction.” A conviction is a strong and fixed belief. Dietrich’s conviction was to hold firm to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, even when societal pressures claimed otherwise. Apologetically, the fact we have convictions, I believe, points toward God and gives a good “brick in the wall” of defense for a Biblical worldview.

First, let’s ask why the world often looks admirably upon those with firm convictions when they give their life for truth. No matter how hard people try to suppress the truth, there is a piece of everyone that knows what is true and good. For example, people may not understand why Christianity says Jesus is worth dying for, but they easily admit that a martyr for the faith was genuine in their convictions and not a hypocrite. Everyone can admit there is nothing admirable about hypocrisy, so the martyr then did something good by standing firm in their convictions and they were true to their convictions, regardless if they were based in something true.

This level of sacrifice is something desirable to most people. Even if one wouldn’t sacrifice their life for their convictions, they admire the fact that someone else did. I say that confidently because we see many movies and books in our culture that have sold millions of copies revolving around this type of heroic sacrifice for a conviction (i.e. The Giving Tree, All Quiet on the Western Front, Unbroken). Whether it be the sacrifice of life or comfort, when it is for a truly honorable cause, there is reason to applaud and thank the sacrificer. This is because it points to something outside of the individual, yet something held deep within them as well. It points to a deeply held conviction that something more valuable than comfort or life exists.

Now, as a Christian myself, I will readily admit that there are people who sacrifice themselves for causes that are not honorable. These people may sacrifice themselves for their convictions, but they aren’t honored. For example, the men who hijacked the planes on 9/11 sacrificed themselves for what they believed in, but we don’t look at them and honor them. Only certain extreme Muslim sects would honor this type of sacrifice because they are persuaded to think that type of action will be rewarded. Yet the majority would admit it was innately an evil action. However, sacrifice that is honorable is never, at the same time, evil.

Second, it is because of God that we have the ability to hold firm to our convictions. We as humans, being made in God’s image, are given certain innate characteristics and qualities according the the Bible. The ability to hold firm to the Truth in the face of evil opposition is something derived in God, because He is a rock to those who put their faith and trust in Him. Think of this. What if there was no ultimate Truth? What if there was no right and wrong? Why would anyone have convictions if these things were the case? If there was no established order to the world, then why would there be sacrifice? Nobody would live for the betterment of others and nobody would have a reason to! Holding firm to a conviction is made possible because there is a God that doesn’t change. If God changed, we wouldn’t be able to hold firmly to any beliefs because there would be no ultimate assurance of what was good, reliable, and true.

There is, however, a perversion of this God-given ability to hold firm to a conviction; it shows up in two ways. We see people hold firm to wrong beliefs (i.e. beliefs harming to society, to the individual, or against Truth) because they are extremely proud and/or deceived. These convictions are wrong because they are not rooted in the ultimate Truth and are instead rooted in something man-made. We as a society honor sacrifices most when they are rooted in something proceeding from God’s character (i.e. not caving to bribes because of a desire to be honest, since all truth is rooted in God).

Why do people view someone who resists corruption as honorable? Because God has made us to want honesty and truth. Why do people show interest in the one who moves to a third-world country to serve/help the poor? Because God is love and is the reason for us to show love. What intrigues the world about the person who sacrifices their life in standing up for God-given, Truth rooted convictions? It is because a transcendent Being, someone bigger than the individual, is pointed to. It breaks the mold of self-worship that many have submitted themselves to and shines a light on the fact that there is more reason to live than for yourself.

This blog post is part of a series. Click the links which follow to read:

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is the one who does not condemn himself in what he approves. – Romans 14:22 NASB

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sakes. – 1 Thessalonians 1:15 NASB

April 18, 2015

Being Assured and Giving Others Assurance of Salvation

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I chose this to run today simply because we don’t hear enough these days on this topic, the assurance of our salvation. The author is Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings whose writing first appeared here four years ago, and you can click the title below to read this at source.

How can I have assurance of my salvation?

This is a common question many Christians have. I think it stems from the reality that we are saved by grace through our faith. In the minds of most people (for many years this described me as well), being “saved by grace through faith” feels like salvation was out of our hands. This means salvation is a gift from God, and we receive this great and wonderful gift through our belief.

The problem with viewing salvation this way is that there is no tangible standard for us to know that we have truly received the gift of salvation. If it was based on what we did, at least we could keep a score card on our behavior so we could know if we were living up to the right standard.

Without a tangible standard, many people rely on a subjective experience to tell them that they are saved. The problem with this is that over time the feeling of the experience fades, and we are left with the same question: Am I saved?

Life is going to take us through a series of ups and downs. In one moment we feel like we are close to God and that our salvation is secure, but the next moment we wonder if God has abandoned us. If we are going to rely on a subjective experience as evidence for our salvation, then we are going to constantly doubt our salvation. What we need is an objective standard to tell us that we are saved, and thus give us confidence of our salvation.

The way I moved away from the constant roller coaster of doubt and certainty of my salvation was to focus on God. Our salvation begins and ends with God and His grace, and therefore I can know I am saved because of God. The apostle Paul wrote,

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6; NLT)

We can trust God to save us and mold us into the people He wants us to be.

Why can we have this confidence? This confidence comes from the fact God is a Covenant Keeper and we are in a covenant relationship with Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 says,

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (NLT)

Being in a covenant relationship with God gives us assurance of our salvation. How do we know if we are in a covenant relationship with God? We enter into a covenant relationship with God through faith and repentance as expressed through baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-8). The New Testament is clear on the importance of baptism, and baptism is always connected to the ideas of faith and repentance. That means without faith and repentance (trusting in God and declaring your loyalty to Him alone) baptism is meaningless. Baptism is the means of entering into a covenant with God when it is accompanied by faith and repentance.

The guarantee God gives us that we are in a covenant relationship with Him is the Holy Spirit. The sign that the Jews were in a covenant relationship with God was circumcision, but through Jesus that has changed. The apostle Paul wrote;

“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1;13; NLT)

The Holy Spirit circumcises our hearts and sets us apart as God’s people.

If we break the terms of the covenant, these terms are summarized in the two great commandments of loving God and loving people, God promises to forgives us (1 John 1:9). He also gave us a way to renew our covenant with Him: Communion. We enter into the covenant by being united with Jesus, the covenant sacrifice. In communion we affirm our intention to be part of God’s covenant by consuming the body and blood of the covenant sacrifice (Luke 22:19-20).

The objective standard of being in a covenant relationship with God should give us assurance of the salvation that we have.

Another way we can be certain of our salvation is through life change. We can’t follow Jesus and be guided by the Holy Spirit without our life being changed. As we reflect on our lives we should be able to see that there is a change that has happened.

The book of 1 John was written to help us to be confident about our salvation:

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13; NLT).

One of the common themes through the book is the love that we have for each other. For instance 1 John 3:14 says;

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (NLT)

If we want to know whether or not we are saved, then the evidence is going to be seen in the love we show to other people.

Can we be confident that we are saved? Yes, we can live with confidence, knowing that God has saved us. This confidence doesn’t come from a subjective experience that may fade over time. Rather, it comes from the objective standard of God’s faithfulness. We can know we are saved because God keeps His covenant. Our hope for the future can be a confident hope because it is founded on the covenant faithfulness of God, and that is the firmest foundation we can have for our faith.

Check out more of Paul’s writing at Paul’s Ponderings.

October 3, 2011

Well… I Hope I’m Saved…

For the past several days,  Ferrum, VA pastor Terry Covey at the blog Seeds of Faith, has been dealing with the issue of “assurance of salvation.”  It was once more frequent that people would respond to altar calls because they needed assurance, perhaps it’s time for churches to return to this subject.

It is sad that some who profess to be a Christian are uncertain of their salvation. ‘I hope I am saved’, they say. They believe that no one can know for sure until they die. What a great risk they are taking. After death it will be too late. Our eternal destiny will already be settled and there will be no turning back. We need to know for certain that what we believe is biblical and that it will take us to heaven.

With that in mind, consider these words from the Apostle John –

1 John 5:13 KJV These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John says that the purpose of his writings is to give us rock-solid security of our salvation. These things have I written that you may know with confidence that you have eternal life. What can we know and why can we have confidence? Over the next few days we will consider some of these important truths.

1. What We Can Know With Certainty

A.  We can know with certainty concerning the character of God

Earlier in this same letter John wrote –

1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

By stating that God is light, John is saying that God is perfectly holy. Light is a symbol for purity and darkness is a symbol for sin. Other portions of scripture support this truth about God’s character:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is. 6:3)

“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” (Ps. 99:9)

“A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut. 32:4)

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. (Ps. 18:30)

Can God’s character change? Can He sometimes sin or tolerate evil?

Malachi 3:6 KJV For I am the LORD, I change not…

When Moses ask God His name, the LORD replied – “I AM THAT I AM.” (Ex 3:14) Some interpret this name to mean –

“I will be in the future who I am in the present
and who I have always been in the past.”

Because God’s character never changes, we can know with certainty that whatever He promises He will perform. Consider this great promise of God regarding the security of our salvation.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

B.  We can know with certainty the condition of man

What do we know about the condition of man? Consider these portions of scripture:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way , they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

What is the condition of man? How does the Bible describe his character? Is anyone righteous? Is there anyone who can go to heaven because they are a good person? How many among us have sinned?

But the Lord is not condemning everyone. Surely there are some good people. Consider what Isaiah the prophet wrote about the religious people of Israel-

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…

When comparing ourselves with each other we think that we are pretty good; yet when comparing ourselves to God, even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.

The Apostle Paul is a perfect example of this. Before Paul was saved he was a very religious man. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Yet note Paul’s words concerning his true spiritual condition.

Philippians 3:4 I once had confidence in the flesh too. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. 7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

As far as any other man could tell, Paul was doing everything anyone needed to get to heaven. Paul the Pharisee was blameless. He dotted all of his ‘i’s’ and crossed every ‘t’. However, how did view himself in light of the character of God? Paul considered his righteous deeds to be like filth. The actual word used here mean – ‘manure.’

Dear friend, this I can tell you with certainty – you are not good enough to go to heaven. Regardless of how religious you may try to be, you will never match the character of God. In order for anyone to go to heaven, we must come to the same conclusion as Paul –

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

“All of my religious deeds are nothing in comparison to God. I must have the righteousness of Christ!”

The reason some question about the certainty of salvation is because they are depending upon their own sufficiency to merit heaven. “What if I do this or what if I don’t do that?” Yet the certainty that scripture emphasizes is not based upon man, but upon Christ.

C.  We can know with certainty the condemnation awaiting sinful man

Some people think that they will have to wait until they stand before God in order to know whether or not they will be permitted into heaven. Yet the Bible tells us with certainty that mankind is sinful and the destiny awaiting him is eternal condemnation.

One night a very religious man came to talk with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he wanted to talk about miracles. But notice what Christ said.

John 3:36 He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. (KJV)

Some people believe that God has a giant balance or scale in heaven and that in the end God will weigh the good against the bad in order to determine whether or not someone is worthy of heaven. But that is not what the Bible teaches. According to scripture, what determines our eternal destiny is our personal relationship with God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is reinforced in this same passage.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He that puts his faith in Christ is not condemned. But he who does not put his faith in Christ, is condemned already. He is condemned because God is holy and he is sinful.

Dear friend, you will never earn your way to heaven. You will never be good enough. Consider once again these words from Jesus.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? For more information, go to: HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

D.  We can know with certainty God’s plan of salvation

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Note that the certainty of salvation is based upon believing on the name of the Son of God. What does it mean to believe on Jesus’ name?

It is more than believing that there was someone called Jesus. Note these words found in the Bible.

James 2:19 You believes that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The demons believe that there is one God. The demons also believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew 8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Mark 1:24 Saying , Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

The demons believe ‘in’ Jesus, but they do not believe ‘on’ Jesus. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe that they are sinful and worthy of judgment. Yet they do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

John says that we must believe ‘on the name’ of the Son of God. Names carried great importance in scripture. Names often identified someone’s character. Names also established authority. To act ‘in the name’ of someone meant to act ‘in their authority.’ To believe in the name of Jesus means to believe that He has the authority to forgive sins.

Scripture teaches us that God’s plan of salvation requires us to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Regarding such faith, Jesus said –

John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

That represents four solid days at Seeds of Faith, and at the end of part four, having looked at the “what”, we look at the “why.”

2. Why We Can Have Confidence

The questions some might ask at this point are – “Why can we know these things with certainty? What gives us such confidence? Aren’t we being a bit arrogant to think that we can know that we are saved?” These are very important questions and therefore we need to know with certainty that we have the right answer. We can know these these things with certainty because every principle I have shared with you comes straight from the pages of scripture.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Therefore to say that we cannot know with certainty whether or not we are saved is to question the authority of Scripture.

~Terry Covey, Seeds of Faith