Tag: Faith

How Many Conditions Must We Meet in Order to Believe in Jesus? None

Perhaps the most deadly feature of hyper-Calvinism is the idea that one must first discover certain qualifications of the Spirit’s work in his heart before he has warrant to believe in Jesus. Over the centuries hyper-Calvinists have taught, either implicitly or explicitly, that a certain amount of remorse for sin or love for Christ must be located the soul in order for a person to know that he is elect and has warrant to believe in Jesus for salvation.

Once accepted, however, this damnable notion can keep many souls from Jesus and salvation. Happily, the New Testament does not require any qualifications of the sinner before he come to Christ. The call is to “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus calls to sinners, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).   Continue reading “How Many Conditions Must We Meet in Order to Believe in Jesus? None”

Sleep, Exercise, and Assurance of Salvation

Assurance of salvation is God’s will for Christians. A continual lack of assurance and doubting of one’s standing before God may appear ultra-spiritual, but it is actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians to pursue assurance and assumes that it is possible to attain it.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb 6:11-12; emphasis addded)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13; emphasis added) Continue reading “Sleep, Exercise, and Assurance of Salvation”

Should We Encourage Unbelievers to Ask God for Saving Faith?

As the debate over evangelistic methods continues among fellow evangelicals, important theological questions are sometimes ignored in favor of pragmatic concerns. When it comes to the actual practice of evangelism, however, there are some theological questions that will have immediate influence on our approach to gospel proclamation—whether we realize it or not. One question over which I have mused for many years is the question of whether or not we should encourage an unbeliever to ask God for saving faith. Continue reading “Should We Encourage Unbelievers to Ask God for Saving Faith?”

Spiritual Drought: Thoughts for Refreshment

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that spiritual passion, sight, and affections ebb and flow. At times our sense of spiritual realities can be strong and vibrant; other times, our hearts feel like lead weights and we find ourselves longing for God to visit us once again and bring refreshment (Psalm 85:4-7). These seasons are usually referred to as times of “spiritual drought” or “spiritual dryness,” and find intimate expression in many of the Psalms. David often cried out to God in times where his soul seemed like dust, and he yearned to be refreshed by the presence of the Lord (Psalm 13; Psalm 63). Other Psalmists expressed their longing to have their parched souls to be replenished by the Lord (Psalm 42). Those who have tasted of the goodness of Christ know what it means to be without that taste; it leaves us pleading, “light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:3)

Continue reading “Spiritual Drought: Thoughts for Refreshment”

Looking to Christ, not to Faith

I have been noticing lately in my own life how joy and assurance comes not from introspection and an intense investigation into my faith, but rather by looking to Christ. There seems to be a subtle yet significant difference between placing faith in my faith, and turning the eyes of faith to Jesus Christ. In his excellent little book, When the Darkness Does not Lift, John Piper instructs one who is counseling a person struggling with doubt to encourage that person to stop looking at their faith and start looking to Jesus. He writes,

Or, second, we might say, ‘Stop looking at your faith, and rivet your attention on Christ. Faith is sustained by looking at Christ, crucified and risen, not by turning from Christ to analyze your faith. Let me help you look to Christ. Let’s read Luke 22 through 24 together. Paradoxically, if we would experience the joy of faith, we must not focus much on it. We must focus on the greatness of our Savior.

It is easy to begin to turn inward and look at our faith for assurance, especially since we understand the vital role faith plays in our salvation and sanctification. Yet, experience tells us that constantly looking inward usually doesn’t help—it often leads to despair and even more introspection as we search and search our hearts for sincere faith. All the while, we are missing the crucial truth that sincere faith looks to Christ and rests in Christ; it doesn’t look to and rest in itself.

This is why reading the Bible, listening to Christ-exalting preaching, hearing the Scripture read, and talking with other Christians about Jesus (not just about books, or our Christian responsibilities, or even our own struggles, although these are good things to talk about) is so important: these things are designed to turn our faith toward Christ. And I also should add that those of us who know that we tend toward unhealthy introspection should be careful to not spend too much time alone and make special effort to regularly fellowship with other believers individually and in corporate worship. Otherwise, we risk becoming ensnared in a downward spiral of despair and hopelessness as we fall prey to a preoccupation with ourselves and, ironically, our faith. God has designed that we look to Christ with the help of the community of believers (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Therefore, anytime we find ourselves sinking into the depths of doubt and despair, this must drive us to the body of Christ, not away from the body of Christ. Even Piper’s counsel is given in the context of community and relationship. It cannot be otherwise. Our faith will be nurtured by looking to Christ, and we will be enabled to look to Christ by the encouragement of Christ’s people, the Church.

So if you are currently feeling the weight of doubt and confusion, and it seems as though God has deserted you; although you may feel like being alone, it is probably best that you are not—at least not for very long. Get yourself around other Christians; get yourself to church; call trusted Christian friends—seek out others who will help you look to Christ so that your faith might be renewed and your joy might be again made full.

Photo: Janus Y

Two Friends and a Marathon

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”Hebrews 4:1 

“…Let us run with endurance…”Hebrews 12:1

Two friends set out to run a marathon together.  They had never run a marathon before so they thought it would be a good challenge.  So, in order to prepare, the two men began to train together.  Soon after they started their training, some of their other friends who had learned that they were running a marathon began to offer them advice and counsel.  These friends had themselves run marathons in the past and therefore could offer some good instruction on how to run, how to train, and what to be careful of.

However, there was a noticeable difference between how each of the two friends received the counsel they heard from their other friends.  The first friend appeared very serious about running the marathon and especially about completing the race and therefore readily accepted all the counsel that his friends gave him.

They told him how to train, how to pace himself during the race, and various things to be careful of.  They told him that he needed to be very cautious to not indulge in fatty foods during his training months; they instructed him to purchase good shoes so that he would not hurt his feet  during the long runs; and they told him to make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the race.  The first friend listened intently to these directions and set himself to diligent training.

The second friend, however, did not receive the counsel in the same way as the first friend.  Although he had expressed interest in the marathon when they first began dicussing it together, the second friend found that his desires to run and finish the race were not very strong.  He found that he would rather watch TV and eat whatever he wanted.  He also did not think it was worth it to purchase new shoes for this race so he settled for his old ones.

After several months, race day finally came.  The first friend was excited to run.  He had trained well and was looking forward to completing his first marathon.  The second friend, on the other hand, was not as eager to run and it showed.  He was not in the excellent shape that his friend was in, nor did his shoes look as though they were fit for another three yards much less 26.2 miles.

After the gun sounded, the first friend quickly got out in front of the other friend.  The first friend’s stride was smooth and consistent.  The second friend, however, was already breathing hard and his stride was choppy as he ran, head down with his feet pounding hard against the pavement; nothing, of course, like his friend whose strong and poised gait pushed him beyond eye-shot.

It was evident that the second friend was not going to finish the race.  Shortly after the fifth mile, the second friend gave up.  He stopped running, took off his number, lifted the rope that kept the spectators from crowding the running path, and walked away from the race.  What happened?  To those who knew him, the reason for his early departure from the race was clear: the second friend had not heeded the warnings given to him months before the race and therefore was not prepared for the long and difficult run that lie before him.  But more than that, the second friend’s sudden exit from the marathon revealed something else: it revealed that he neither desired to finish the race, nor did he believe the warnings applied to him.

Hammers and Heat: Thoughts on Hebrews 3:12-14

Hebrews is a sobering book.  It is a frightening book.  And, it is a book that when taken seriously, can make one very happy.  Why?  Because the author of the book of Hebrews is laboring diligently to ensure that all of his readers go to heaven.  The author of Hebrews is a very loving person and, in his love, he uses strong warnings and exhortations to keep true Christians persevering in their faith and wake up those whose assurance of salvation may not be grounded in reality.

One warning that the author of Hebrews extends to his readers is found in chapter 3:12-14.  He warns professing Christians to “Take care” and make sure that neither they, or anyone in the community of professing believers, acquires a heart of unbelief and falls away from the living God.  It is important to note, here, that “falling away” does not merely mean one who is struggling with sin in their Christian life.  It refers to one who is in the throes of unbelief.  It refers to someone who once appeared to be a Christian, but who now demonstrating, by their rebellion, indifference, and rejection of Christ that they were never truly saved to begin with (I John 2:19).  So this is serious business.  The author is instructing his readers to “take care” to make sure that none of the professing Christians around them (including themselves) falls away from God; i.e. goes to hell.

In order to keep each other away from falling away from the living God, the author of Hebrews prescribes a remedy.  Verse 13 reads, “But encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Do you see safeguard that the author gives us in order to make sure no one in our community of professing Christians acquires a hardened heart and proves themselves to be an unbeliever?  It is regular, everyday, encouragement.  Some versions translate the word for “encourage” as “exhort,” instead.  I think both words express what we should be doing with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We should both exhort and encourage; or, in other words, we should be hammers and heat.

In order that our brothers and sisters in Christ do not get hardened by sin, we must be the hammers of exhortation that chisel away at their hearts with firm warnings when we see them follow after sin.  “Brother, I notice that you are really becoming far more interested in popularity and and being cool then you are about living for Christ at school.  Have you considered the warnings of Jesus when he says, ‘Whoever denies Me before men I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven?’  If you keep living like that, you are proving that you do not truly belong to Christ and He will deny you when you step into His presence someday.  Snap out of it, brother!”

But, we must also come alongside of that same brother with with warm heat of encouragement in order to melt his heart with the sweet allurements of Christ.  “Brother, you are missing out on so much joy when you compromise your life like that.  Jesus promises us unfathomable joy in Him when we walk in loving obedience to Him.  The enjoyment of Christ is infinitely better than the temporary enjoyment that popularity offers.”

Hammers and heat.  This will keep our brother and sisters from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  This combination will chip away the hard rock of rebellion and melt the cold heart of unbelief.  May we be hammers and heat and help our brothers and sisters persevere into the kingdom.

Photo: Jerry Swiatek