Christianity 201

August 16, 2012

Salvation: Invisible Transaction

…and the transaction so quickly was made, when at the cross I believed…

~lyrics, “Heaven Came Down”

The moment of salvation is an invisible transaction.  For some people there is an inward witness that verifies that step of faith.

John 9:24-25

(NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

But for some people, there is a desire to understand the underpinning of how that invisible transaction takes place.  An entire branch of theology is devoted to this:

so·te·ri·ol·o·gy

[suh-teer-ee-ol-uh-jee]

~noun Theology.

   — the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So while the healing of the blind man provides its own satisfactory proof if you are, in fact, the blind man or his parents; for everyone else we have the books of Romans and Hebrews to understand the depth of salvation doctrine.
But we often miss a basic fact of how salvation works:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up
The verse recalls a story from the book of Numbers often overlooked in times of increasing Biblical illiteracy:

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.

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.” 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.

The concept of the invisible transaction was once entrenched through a hymn written by William Ogden in 1887 that was popular in some circles, the chorus inviting you to…

“Look and live,” my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

Youth ministries in the late 1960’s borrowed a phrase from a popular Clairol commercial and suggested that the invisibility of the transaction was such that “only your hairdresser knows for sure.” In other words, there isn’t necessarily a physical manifestation of salvation.

But as with so many things in God’s kingdom, there is a balance to be found on that issue, since the visible manifestation of salvation ought to be the presence of the fruit of the spirit.

Ultimately, the invisibility of the salvation transaction ought to be central if putting our trust in Jesus Christ to both redeem us and then from that point guide us is to be considered part of the realm of faith. You don’t get a certificate, or a wallet card — though sadly, some churches do just that — when you decide to become a Christ follower.

We cross the line of faith to become Christ followers at some point, but the line itself remains seen only in the spiritual world.


Today’s music:
For complete original lyrics to Heaven Came down, click here.
For an abridged version of the original redone in a modern style by David Crowder, click here.
Go Deeper:
To see an index of the main subjects that form a study on soteriology, note the ten sessions covered on this page.
To go extra deep on this topic, check out this teaching page.
Finally, here are links to dozens of other resources on the doctrine of salvation.
~PW

September 11, 2011

A Day Set Aside to Remember

September 11, 2011

Seen enough of the TV specials? Tired of hearing of “9/11?” You should know there’s a good reason why we need those programs and magazine features and internet tributes:

People Tend to Forget

Jesus understood this. Scripture tells us that on the night he was betrayed he took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.”

But you already know that. Those words from I Cor. 11 are often the most-repeated words in most churches during the course of a church calendar year. “For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto you;” is somewhat how I think the KJV renders it. The section from verse 23 to approx. verse 30 forms what is called “The Words of Institution” for the communion service aka Lord’s Supper aka the Eucharist. Even if you attend a church where things are decidedly non-liturgical, these verses probably get read each time your church observes “the breaking of bread;” and even if your pastor leans toward the New Living Translation or The Message, it’s possible that he lapses into King James for this one.

Why did Jesus institute this New Covenant, Second Testament version of the Passover meal?

Because people tend to forget.

Want proof?

Let’s look at the section we almost never read when we gather around the communion table, Luke 22. In verse 19 and 20 he tells them to remember. He tells them his life is about to be poured out for them. What a solemn moment. A holy moment. But unfortunately, a very brief moment.

In verse 24, Luke makes it clear that he’s trying to capture an accurate picture of what happened that night. Even if it makes the disciples look bad. It’s the kind of stuff that you would never include in your report to Theophilus if you were merely trying to make Christianity look good. If you were writing propaganda.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Luke might as well have written, “At this point, one of the disciples looked out the window of the upper room and announced, ‘Guys, you gotta come here for a minute; there’s a girl out there that is totally hot.'”

I’m serious. It’s that much out of place with what’s just happened. Jesus is telling them — trying to tell them — all that he is about to suffer in order that a plan laid out from before the foundations of the world will be fulfilled. And they’re arguing about who is Disciple of the Month. How could they go from one extreme to the other so quickly? In a matter of seconds?

Easily. People tend to forget.

Whether it’s what happened in New York City, Washington, and that Pennsylvania field ten years ago; or whether it’s what happened in Roman occupied territory in the middle east two thousand years ago; we need to continually rehearse these stories in our hearts and pass them on to our children.

This is a day that is about remembering and like the upper room disciples, we can get so totally distracted. September 12th comes and everyone moves on to the next topic or news story. We must not let ourselves lose focus so easily. We must not forget.

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

June 26, 2011

To See The King of Heaven Fall In Anguish To His Knees

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A seven minute listening experience for you today with one of the UKs top worship composers, Stuart Townend; the song simply titled Gethsemane. 

April 14, 2011

Looking For (God’s) Love in All the Wrong Places

About fourteen months ago, I ran a profile/interview with Kevin Sanders aka Kuya Kevin, a guy from Alabama who finds himself doing youth ministry in The Philippines.  Yesterday, I dropped by his blog and found something I thought would fit in really well at C201.  It appeared at his blog under the title, The Cross:  God’s Revelation of Love.

Easter Sunday is quickly approaching. It’s the time when we think more about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I’d like for all my readers to reflect on the cross as God’s ultimate revelation of love to us.

Let’s think about this whole concept of revelation.  Here’s what it means: we would not know God completely unless He chose to reveal Himself to us.

We can know some things about God by simply observing the universe in which we live.  Paul talks about this in the Book of Romans:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
-Romans 1:20

But these general observations (called “general revelation” by theologians) can only take us so far.  We need more information to know who God is and what He is like.  This is where the Scriptures come in: they teach us about a holy, loving God whose character is nothing like ours.

The apex (high point) of God’s revelation comes in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross.  The Bible describes it this way:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
-Romans 5:8

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
-John 15:13


Here is our problem: we often look to the wrong place to “see” God’s love. Sadly, this is true of believers and non-believers alike.

Here’s what I mean–we tend to ask questions like this:

  • “If God loves me, why did this happen to me?”
  • “If God loves me, why am I in so much pain?”
  • “If God loves me, why isn’t my life going the way I want?”

Do you understand the problem?  We will always be disappointed if we simply rely on our life circumstances as “proof” of God’s love. It would go something like this:

  • I had a good day today.  God must love me.
  • I’m heartbroken.  God must not love me.
  • I got a pay raise.  God must love me.
  • I got stuck in traffic.  God must not love me.

It reminds me of the “he loves me, he loves me not” game that children play with flower petals.

Please don’t misunderstand me here–I know that disappointment with God is a very normal human emotion.  God understands these feelings, and even allowed them to be recorded in Holy Scripture (the Psalms, for example).

But disappointments in life do not change what Jesus has done on the Cross. Do you want to know how much God loves you?  Don’t look at your difficulties.  Look instead to the cross!  Jesus has already proven His love through his sacrificial death.

~Kevin Sanders

June 5, 2010

Can One Sin Separate Us From God?

Martinez calls himself “The Seeking Disciple” and blogs here.   This is the second section of a June 3rd post:

…My question is how much sin can a person get away with before they fall away? The carnal Christian teaching of some has created three types of people. Lost, Saved, and Carnal. For example, Charles Swindoll teaches that the truth of the carnal Christian is the one truth that he wishes people in the world could understand. The carnal Christian explains how people who claim to follow Christ can commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, murder, lust, etc. Others, such as John MacArthur, point out that the carnal Christian teaching is an insult to the cross and to God’s grace that teaches us to deny sin (Titus 2:12).

And yet MacArthur believes that believers do fall into sin and commit horrible acts. He does believe that believers should pursue holiness but he also teaches that the sinful nature still indwells the believer along with the Spirit of God and that often the sinful nature wins the conflicts (Galatians 5:16-17). Many Bible teachers (and not just Calvinists) teach that we do sin (sometimes daily) and that we can sin willfully and grossly.

Can we? Some Arminians such as Daniel Corner teach that one sin can separate us from God. He defines sin as willful and unwillful sins. He points out that the Law of Moses allowed sacrifices for both types of sin (Leviticus 5:14-6:7). Corner asks the question, “How many times must a man sleep with another woman before he officially becomes an adulterer? How many times must a person steal something before they become a thief? How many lies must a person tell before they become a liar?”

I would point out that Jesus said that sin is not just an issue outwardly but inwardly in Matthew 5. Jesus also said that sin begins in the heart (Mark 7:20-23). When a person comitts adultery, it is a heart issue. Calvinist John Piper says that the issue of sin, at its very root, is unbelief in God and His authority (Hebrews 3:12, 14). Piper in fact preached a series of sermons entitled, “The Unbelief of Sin” with titles such as “The Unbelief of Adultery” and “The Unbelief of Lying.”

My answer is that only God knows a person’s heart. We can judge by His Word (John 7:24) and we are called to judge in the Church those living in sin even putting them out of fellowship if necessary (see 1 Corinthians 5). Jesus spoke about brothers sinning against brothers and how to deal with that in Matthew 18:15-20. I do believe that we need to heed 1 Corinthians 10:12 and abide by 2 Corinthians 13:5 and make sure that we are in the faith. We are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11) by striving for holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). When we sin, we should confess that sin to the Father (1 John 1:9). If need be, we should confess that sin to a brother or sister in the Lord (James 5:16). If we see a brother or sister in sin, we should warn them that no unrighteous person will inherit the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:3-10). We should warn them to forsake their sins lest they become ensnared by sin (2 Peter 2:20-22).

May 31, 2010

Discarding Bibles

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I know a lot of people who find it impossible to throw out a Bible.   Given the situation, I’m probably one of them.   There’s something just inherently wrong about tossing a Bible in the recycling box.   I guess it’s because we know how powerful a thing scripture is, and how, in other parts of the world, they would give anything to have access to what is written on those pages.

I’m not tossing out a Bible today, but I feel the need to change the scripture verse that appears on my regular blog.   But I recognize the power of the words, and find I can’t just hit the “delete” button.   I always feel that some individual may land at that blog for some completely random reason and be gripped by the power of the words printed in the sidebar.

So here it is, as it has appeared there for the last six months or so:

…By giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. ~Colossians 1:22-23 (Msg.)

April 6, 2010

Stuart Townend: Behold the Lamb

This is truly one of the most beautiful Communion hymns I’ve ever heard from one of the foremost praise and worship leaders in the UK, Stuart Townend.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away
Slain for us and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ
Torn for you eat and remember
The wounds that heal the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin
Shed for you drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth
As we share in His suffering
We proclaim Christ will come again
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King

composed by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

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