Christianity 201

October 12, 2016

Standing on Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but perhaps what they are looking for is “a little less faith and a little more certainty.” Is that what they really want?

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is, in contrast, also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The sometimes controversial musical, Godspell, introduced a generation to the following prayer:

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith. At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together. Faith is relational, a personal thing. It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper! It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing. For most of us, it has a quiet beginning. It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week. We can’t create faith, or command it. It is the gift of God. But we can receive it, and nurture it. And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding. We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that. Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow. Only God can do that. But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much. If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die. And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

Read more:

September 27, 2014

Dealing with Religious Spirits

Some days we post articles by mainstream Evangelicals, some from people from liturgical churches, on other days we’re Reformed, and today we’re decidedly Pentecostal/Charismatic. This is actually part two of an article which in turn is an excerpt from the author’s book. To read the entire piece you need to click this link in which the author explains how she was familiar with the practice of deliverance, but never had considered that religion might be something for someone to be delivered from.

Spiritual Housekeeping = Kimberly Danielsby Kimberly Daniels

What Does the Bible Say?

The Word of God has something to say about religion. In Acts 25-26, we see that Jewish religious leaders wanted Paul put to death and had petitioned the Roman authorities to have him executed. In Acts 26:4-11, as Paul defends himself before the Roman ruler Agrippa, he confirms that since the beginning of the church the enemy has been using believers to persecute one another.

He states:

“My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first … that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 

“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. For this hope’s sake … I am accused by the Jews.

“Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

One of the main ways to recognize the work of religious spirits is this: Under the disguise of religion, they persecute the righteous and faithful.

Paul makes a clear distinction between his time growing up as a leader under the religious law and his born-again experience after he met Christ on the road to Damascus. The road to Damascus represents more than the dramatic conversion of Paul’s life. It also reveals the plot of the enemy to persecute and trouble God’s elect from within the church. Paul told the Galatians:

“For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:13-14).

Through his own testimony, Paul reveals that the traditions of men are the strongholds of religion. Jesus highlighted this as “vain” worship in Mark 7:7-8:

“In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men. You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men [keeping it carefully and faithfully]” (AMP).

Vain worship is like a person going to the gym seven days a week and working out with no results. God says vain worship produces no results. This is why many people accept defeat in God and backslide. But the Word tells us there is no failure in Christ! This victory can be manifested in our lives if we give high regard to the commandments of the Lord and take our attention off the traditions of men.

The traditions of men flow through generational religious spirits. People literally pick up religious habits that have nothing to do with the commandments of the Lord and are more faithful to them than to the Word of God.

Colossians 2:6-23 teaches on freedom from human regulations through a new birth in Christ. It warns us of man-made traditions and speaks of the cancellation of “the written code” and its regulations.

This code worked against the believer in Christ, not for him. It made people set unattainable goals that gave birth to the fruits of failure, defeat and misery. It literally opposed the abundant freedom in Christ that was meant to be.

Galatians 5:1 commands that we stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. It adds we should not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The Greek meanings of words Paul used are important to understanding the verse:

» “Stand fast” (steko): To stand firm in faith and duty; to have a constant flow that causes one to persevere.

» “Liberty” (eleutheria): To be blessed with generosity and independence that is bestowed upon a person as a result of the economy of God’s grace, which was not made available under the law of the Old Testament. To also have independence from religious regulation that is rooted in the legal restrictions of man. James 2:10-14 teaches on “the perfect” law of liberty in Christ:

“For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it. For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, also said, You shall not kill. If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become guilty of transgressing the [whole] Law.

“So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love]. For to him who has shown no mercy the judgment [will be] merciless, but mercy [full of glad confidence] exults victoriously over judgment. What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? (AMP).

» “Entangled” (enecho): To be held subject to or be under the control of. To struggle over or to quarrel with.

» “Yoke” (zygos):  Something that attaches two things together. It couples things and causes them to be connected by a burden that’s hard to bear.

» “Bondage” (douleia): Servitude that promotes dependence upon a person, place or thing; the state of a man that prevents him from freely possessing abundant life and enjoying it.

Based on the Greek definitions, anything that causes a believer to struggle or be double-minded about something to the point that he becomes attached to a burdensome load and cannot enjoy abundant life in Christ is devilish. It is not of God. To sum it up: The spirit of religious bondage is demonic.

Many believers are stuck in ruts whereby they are not experiencing new growth in Christ. When there is new birth, it must be confirmed with new growth. With the genuine new birth, old things are cut off and pass away. Once the old is pruned, the new can grow.

If a believer continues to return to the old yoke of bondage, he will be bound by spiritually arrested development. He will not experience the level-to-level, glory-to-glory promised him in the Word.

He will be condemned to a form of godliness, which makes a person appear to be victorious in Jesus on the outside. But actually they shut down the power on the inside of them that is greater than what is coming against them in life. There is no victory in the life of the believer who succumbs to the regimens, rudiments and habits of religious forms.

May 15, 2014

If Our Faith Stops at the Cross

Recently, this blog affiliated with The Fellowship of Christian Bloggers and I’ve been able to get a window into a whole new group of people who are pursuing the same aims at their blogs and websites as we do here at C201.  You can read a list of the 50-or-so listed in the Devotional category at this link.  Today I discovered Hajnalka Elleh who works as a translator and is therefore well-equipped to post every day in both English and Hungarian.  (As I was reading, her traffic meter showed all the other people online were from Hungary and Romania.) To read this at source, in both languages, click here.

The women had brought spices, expecting to find Jesus’ body wrapped in burial garments, lying in the tomb. “He is not here — He has risen!” said the angel. (Matthew 28:6)

Too many Christians look yet for their Christ, among the dead. They do not get beyond the cross and the grave. They see Christ, as only the Lamb of God who takes away their sin. They think of Him as accomplishing in His sufferings and death, the whole of His work of human redemption. They do not think of a living Christ who intercedes for them in Heaven, and who walks with them on earth in loving companionship.

The cross must never be forgotten! In a certain very real sense — Christ saved His people by giving Himself for them. The cross was the fullest, most complete revealing of divine love, which earth has ever seen! There the heart of God broke — that its streams of life might flow out to give life to the perishing world. To leave a dying Christ out of our creed — is to leave out salvation. The prints of the nails are the proof-marks on all doctrine, on all theology, on all Christian life. He who dims the luster of the cross of Christ — is putting out the light of Christian hope, by which alone souls can be lighted homeward. We must never forget that Jesus died — died for us!

But if our faith stops at the cross — it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ.

We do not merely need a Savior who nineteen hundred years ago went to death to redeem us — but one who also is alive — to walk by our side in loving companionship.
We need a Savior who can now hear our prayers. 
We need a Savior to whose feet we can now creep in penitence, when we have sinned. 
We need a Savior to whom we can now call for help, when the battle is going against us. 
We need a Savior who is now interested in all of the affairs of our common life, and who can assist us in time of need. 
We need a Savior who can now be our real Friend — loving us, keeping close beside us always.
We not only need a Savior who saved us by one great act wrought centuries ago — but one who continually saves us by His warm heart throbbing with love today, walking ever by our side.

Nothing less than a living Christ will do for us! That is what the gospel brings to us. It tells us of Him who lives. He was dead — the nail-prints are in His hands — but He is now alive forevermore! He is risen! He loves us now, today, always. He is ever with us!

It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ — that our hearts are satisfied. We crave a personal friendship which will come into our life with its sympathies, its inspirations, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us.

“Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them!” Hebrews 7:25

**********

A living, loving, personal Savior (J.R. Miller)

We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense this is true. We never could have been saved, if He had not died for us. 

But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior—into whose hands we commit all the interests of our lives; and who becomes our friend, our helper, our keeper, our burden bearer—our all in all. 

Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives! 

“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!” Galatians 2:20


Today at Thinking Out Loud we posted a video produced by a local church which was also installed in their lobby for Easter Sunday. You can read more about it at this link. I wanted to also share the short, 3 1/2 minute video with readers here.

February 3, 2014

Salvation: Still Free (Last Time I Checked)

Although I don’t use eBooks, I’m always intrigued by the concept that publishers now routinely offer books completely free of charge. There are Christian bloggers who regularly advise their readers where to find the daily and weekly bargain downloads, but sometimes I’m reading an old blog post, so even though I don’t have an eReader, I’ll click through to learn more, only to find the offer is no longer in effect and there is now a price to be paid.

Fortunately, when it comes to salvation, there is currently no closing date on God’s offer. True, a day will come when that will change. Also true, you don’t know long you have to take advantage. But it’s a free offer.

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

For some, this is simply too good to be true. “Surely there is a cost;” they say, and truthfully they are correct. While Salvation itself is a free gift, God offers so much for us for this life, and that is going to involve taking up your cross daily. It might mean sacrifice or it might mean being ostracized by your family, friends and co-workers.

But in our original coming to Jesus, we find the offer to “taste and see” is both easy and simple. The problem we have is putting this idea across to those outside the church, and I believe part of the challenge is that we are living in a culture that is not Biblically literate, and therefore are not, as music and literary people say, “familiar with the literature.”

The story that needs to be kept told for me is the story in Numbers:

Numbers 21:7-9

(NIV)

7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This Old Testament story foreshadows, as do so many OT stories, what Christ is going to do. As God’s people sojourn, they are given pictures which are somewhat for our benefit. Sometimes we impute this into the text from a New Testament perspective, but sometimes Jesus spells out for us in words unmistakable:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…

Again, some of you are thinking, “this sounds really familiar,” and that’s because we covered this here in August, just a few months ago. But I felt directed that we need to return to this Old Testament picture, and furthermore we need to teach people how to teach people this story. While a testimony of “what God has done for us,” and a rudimentary knowledge of basic salvation scriptures are both helpful, it’s needful to be able to construct the offer of “God’s gift” in terms unrelated to the deeper, doctrinal considerations of Romans or Hebrews which the novice believer can’t fully process.

That’s why, for the fourth time, I’ve returned to this theme today. It can be explored more in each of the blog posts listed below.

But what if salvation is being commodified too much in this approach. As with all things, we need to be careful; we need to strike a balance. Tomorrow, we’re going to explore this in a way we haven’t in any of the preceding articles. Stay tuned.

The Great Exchange from Adam4d

Go deeper, read more:

Graphic: Adam4D (click graphic to source)

July 4, 2013

Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but what if they needed was “a little less faith and a little more certainty.”

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The musical, Godspell, made the following prayer famous.

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

  104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)

[source]

The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith.  At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together.  Faith is relational, a personal thing.  It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper!  It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing.  For most of us, it has a quiet beginning.  It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week.  We can’t create faith, or command it.  It is the gift of God.  But we can receive it, and nurture it.  And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding.  We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that.  Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow.  Only God can do that.  But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much.  If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die.  And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

 

Read more:

July 23, 2012

Constancy

Anyone who has worked with mathematical or scientific formulas knows that often there is one factor which is known as a “constant,” sometimes represented by the letter kConstancy, or if you  prefer, consistency, should be the mark of every Christ-follower. People should see our ‘k-factor.’ Today’s post is ‘borrowed’ from Daily Encouragement, my go-to click that starts most days online. It appeared there under the title Delilah Road.

“After this it came about that he (Samson) loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4).

“When he (King Darius) had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Daniel 6:20).

I just read the inspiring story of a businessman who took a bold, principled stand against the grain of political correctness and confusion abounding in our land. When criticized rather than backing down from his convictions or capitulating he merely stated, “Guilty as charged.”

Wednesday, on the way to the shore, we passed a road sign in New Jersey that caught our attention and prompted some good-natured teasing in our van. Delilah Road is a most unusual name and I can’t help but wonder if it was named after a real person or even the Delilah written about in the Bible. I teased my friend Jesse and said, “We must not go down Delilah Road.” (The ladies amened that in the second row!)

It’s interesting that we saw the sign as we were headed in the direction of Atlantic City just before we got on the Garden State Parkway and down the shore about ten miles to Ocean City, which is very different than Atlantic City!

Delilah was the temptress who beguiled Samson. (See Judges 16).

Today let us consider two famous Bible characters, both who had great potential. The first person, Samson, had faltering faith and is more famous for his weaknesses than his strengths. The second person, Daniel, is one of the sterling characters of the Bible who consistently served God in his worship and lifestyle as characterized in the phrase from the daily text, “your God, whom you constantly serve.”

This is a remarkable testimony from the lips of an observant secular king! Daniel had spent his entire adult life in the service of a series of secular kings and had acted with absolute integrity. His enemies were unable to bring a charge of any dereliction of duties for “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (6:4). They finally found a way to trap him in regard to his religious convictions yet he faithfully stood the test. He faced a hungry den of lions rather than compromise his lifelong, steadfast walk with God.

Today I want to especially take note of the phrase, “your God, whom you constantly serve.” Daniel had been faithful to the king in regard to his employment. But the king noticed something additional. Daniel had demonstrated his faith in God with continual service. This was toward the end of Daniel’s long life, after being removed from his homeland during the Babylonian exile and his conscription into service, first for King Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar of Babylon, and at the changing of the kingdom, under Darius, king of Persia. His early resolve not to defile himself with the king’s food established a pattern of lifelong, uncompromising obedience to God’s commands (1:8).

What do those around you observe in your life?  Are you steadfast in your walk? Is your testimony consistent with your lifestyle or are you like a chameleon trying to blend into every setting. By the grace of God and with a resolute heart we will be faithful to His cause even when we’re in the minority. After all it’s been that way throughout the generations, so why do we expect it to be different for us today? In agreement with the Psalmist I pray in earnest, “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” (119:5). Will you join me?

Daily prayer: Father, though there are many ups and downs, highs and lows one thing we hope others observe about our life is that we are continually serving our Lord and Savior no matter what. May we never sell out to appease others or due to fear regarding the consequences of our public stand for You. More important than what is spoken about us on this side are the words we long to hear You say in the hereafter, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of heaven…” How we look forward to that future blessed event, through the mercy of Jesus our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.

 ~ Stephen & Brooksyne Weber