Theological Commitments of the Biblical Gospel: Preserving True Saints to the End

eternal-security

Preservation of the True Saints

This doctrine will have an impact when we come across a person (whether inside or outside of the church) who says that they received Christ as Savior at an earlier time, but that they have “backslidden” or lost their salvation and need to be saved again (or similarly, “rededicate my life to Christ”). But as we are assured in Rom 8:28-39 and other passages (Jn 6:37; 10:27-29; 17:12; 18:9; 1Cor 1:8-9; Phil 1:6; 1Thess 5:23-24; 2Thess 3:3; 2Tim 1:12; 4:18; Heb 7:25), our assurance of salvation is based upon the bedrock of the gospel. This is primary.

But a close corollary that cannot be missed is the need to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4), bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8), renewing our minds to conform to Christ (Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:10), putting off the old self, putting indwelling sin to death and putting on the new man(Rom 6:6; Eph 4:2; Col 2:11; 3:9), walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Rom 8:4; Gal 5:25).

All of these together, and more, mean that a person redeemed by Christ is a new creation and should not walk in their former manner of life. If that has not happened, then that person may need salvation for the first time and has not come to grips with the fulness of the truth of the gospel. Another possibility is that they are a true believer, but they have been disobedient to the Lord for an extended period of time, are immature, and in need of loving correction and to be discipled.

The bottom line is this: many of those in America who profess to be Christians know little to nothing about the true gospel and are in need of salvation. Some have been “Christianized” through exposure to the church, but their lives demonstrate a rebellion to our King. They too must be evangelized.

Those who are sincere and broken will need further conversation and observation to conclude their spiritual state, along with many gospel conversations that will either bring them to Christ or bring them to stability and point them toward maturity.

Just Do Better…Tell that to Martin Luther!

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Is salvation merely a message of “do better?” Is Christianity simply a moralistic religion that teaches that all we need to do is obey God? That is what the self-righteous Pharisees thought, and it is what many people in churches think. To them, Christianity is a list of rules that can be kept–albeit with a lot of sacrifice. But is that what Jesus taught?

In Romans 1:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:17, ESV). This text traumatized Martin Luther before his conversion to Christ. Here was a man that sincerely wanted salvation. He had dedicated his life to holy living in a monastic community where he sacrificed on a daily basis. Yet his soul was tortured. Here are Luther’s own words, written a year before his death on March 5, 1545 following a long life of joyful blessing in true salvation through Jesus Christ.

I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was … a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], “In it the righteousness of God is revealed,” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteous wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ ” There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which [the] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Here a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.… And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. [Emphasis added]

The “gates of paradise” were opened up to Luther because he no longer depended upon his own law-keeping to satisfy the perfect demands of God. He saw salvation as a gracious act of God alone. Christ was perfectly righteous, fulfilling the whole law in our place. He died in our place and we are justified because of his perfect life and substitutionary death.

The hamster wheel of self-righteous deeds done in order to save ourselves is endless and endlessly disappointing. But the worst thing is that it does not end in heaven, but hell. The one who rejects the perfect finished work of Christ on the cross in favor of his or her imperfect works should expect nothing more, and will get nothing less.

The Prodigal

Every time I watch this video it gets me. I see myself in the prodigal. Jesus is my hero.

How to Pray, pt. 5 (Matt 6:11)

As we’ve been learning how to pray over the last posts, we have looked at the God-centeredness of our prayers. We have seen that our prayers should be about God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. But as I stated before, we are not to think that we cannot come to God with our needs. We just need to begin with the right priorities. If we begin our prayers with a God-centered attitude, we will more than likely be unable to continue in a selfish man-centered manner.

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In this post we are going to begin with the first of three petitions that address the needs that we have:

  • “Give us this day our daily bread”-Addressing our physical needs
  • “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”-Addressing our own soul’s need
  • “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”-Addressing our spiritual needs

As we consider the fourth petition, we will see two lessons concerning our prayers, so that we will ask for our physical needs with greater understanding as to how we should ask:

  1. “Give us”: All of our needs are supplied by God

We can’t forget the original audience that Jesus was speaking to: the Jews of Galilee. Every year, continuing even to this present day, the Jews remember an event that forever shaped them-the Exodus from Egypt. Immediately after the Jewish people left Egypt, they found themselves in the wilderness—a desert wasteland that would not supply for a million people food or water. They had to learn that God would supply all their needs.

Where do you find food for a million people in the desert? God had to supply it: Ex. 16:1-7. We live in such a different world, don’t we? Where does our food come from? The market. Costco. We have massive farms and huge distribution chains. It can become easy to forget that God is the one who supplies our needs.

The stock market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929. It was called Black Tuesday and the start of the Great Depression. The depression had devastating effects in virtually every country, rich or poor. International trade plunged by half to two-thirds; as did personal income, tax revenue, prices and profits. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by roughly 60 percent. Thirteen million people became unemployed. Industrial production fell by nearly 45% between the years 1929 and 1932. Homebuilding dropped by 80% between the years 1929 and 1932. From the years 1929 to 1932, about 5,000 banks went out of business. By 1933, 11,000 of the US’s 25,000 banks had failed. In 1933, 25% of all workers and 37% of all non-farm workers were unemployed. Between 1929 and 1932 the income of the average American family was reduced by 40%.

We are in fear of a return to such an economic disaster, but this scare can have one benefit: It can remind us of what wealthy nations often forget, our prosperity comes directly from the hand of God, and we are dependent upon Him for everything.

  1. This day our daily bread”-All our needs are satisfied daily to teach us to trust in God

Again, as the Jewish people were listening to Jesus teach about how to pray, they would have immediately thought about the manna given in the wilderness: Ex. 16:13-27. Notice a couple of things here:

  • God gave the manna daily, so they couldn’t stockpile it. Every day was taken on faith.
  • They had to gather and cook the manna. God gives to us our needs, but this doesn’t preclude effort on our part. In general, he won’t send you checks in the mail. You need to go to work. But this work is given to you as a gift from God.

This daily dependence upon God means that we aren’t to be anxious, because God will supply all your needs: Matt 7:7-11. He supplies your needs, but we need to understand the difference between a need and a want. He supplies your needs out of love. As a father loves his child, so our heavenly Father takes care of us, his adopted children.

With all of this, let me ask you a question. If at the end of the day, you have a full stomach and a warm place to sleep and clothes to wear, is that all that you need?

Look up John 6:25-40 in your Bible. The feeding of the 5,000 had just occurred. Jesus proved that He, the Son of God, was able to provide for their physical hunger. After leaving them, they sought him out to meet their continued physical needs, but Jesus wanted them to look beyond that. He wanted them to see their real hunger was deeper—a hungering for their souls’ desire to be satisfied. He said that He was the bread of life.

We continue to hunger after every meal. We hunger after every shopping spree. After every physical desire. We hunger for more.  Jesus satisfies what our soul longs after. He is the bread of life. Have you come to partake of Jesus, the bread of life?

How to Pray, pt. 1 (Matt 6:9a)

Prayer is a difficult thing to do. It may seem to be easy, and we can form words and make statements that seem to be prayers easily enough, but if we stop and consider a few things, we will see that true prayer is difficult.

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Consider this quote from Dr. Lloyd-Jones:

Man is at his greatest and highest when, upon his knees, he comes face-to-face with God….It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life. Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer….Prayer is undoubtedly the ultimate test, because a man can speak to others with greater ease than he can speak to God. Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God….So that it is when we have left the realm of activities and outward dealings with other people, and are alone with God, that we really know where we stand in a spiritual sense. It is not only the highest activity of the soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition. [Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 322]

Obviously, the disciples sensed the difficulty of prayer themselves. In Luke 11:1 it says,“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” After watching Jesus pray, and seeing their own lack-luster attempts, they ask Jesus to teach them. So, we have in Matthew 6:9-13 not only an answer to the negative idea of not praying like the hypocrites (see Matt 6:5), but the Lord’s model prayer was for teaching the Lord’s disciples, then and now, how to pray.

This prayer has a preface followed by six petitions. We will look at each one in turn and see what Jesus meant to teach us about prayer. Let’s begin by looking at the preface, or opening words of this prayer, “Our Father in heaven” or “Our Father who art in heaven.”

 

1. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God with holy reverence.

We are about to speak to the One who is “in heaven.” This is not an earthly conversation with another man, but a holy conversation in which the lowly creature is about to speak to his heavenly Creator. The hypocrite of our context has forgotten this. He speaks for his own pleasure and self-promotion forgetting that he is standing before the Lord’s presence.

Psalm 95:6: Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

When you come before the Lord in prayer, is it like you are John in Rev. 1:12-17? We are addressing this same Lord and God whom John fell dead at his feet. How can we rush flippantly and irreverently into his presence?

2. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God with confidence.

He is “our” Father. Luke’s version of this prayer (given on a different occasion) doesn’t include this word, but I am so glad that it is here. This prayer is not for the pagans and the unbelieving world. He is not their Father. Their father is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). But, because he is our Father we can have confidence as we draw near to Him. This confidence is based upon the finished work of our Savior Jesus Christ. The cross is the doorway by which we enter into the throne room of God with confidence.

Eph 3:12: [Christ Jesus] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

3. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God as Children to a Father.

This is closely related to the last point, but it is more intimate. Matt 7:9-11 says, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Rom. 8:15 comforts and confirms this for us when it says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Gal. 4:4-5 also calls all believers God’s adopted sons, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Listen to Thomas Watson regarding this incredible reality:

See the amazing goodness of God, that he is pleased to enter into the sweet relation of a Father to us. He needed not to adopt us, he did not want [for] a Son, but we wanted [for] a Father. He showed power in being our Maker, but mercy in being our Father. That when we were enemies, and our hearts stood out as garrisons against God, he should conquer our stubbornness, and of enemies make us children, and write his name, and put his image upon us, and bestow a kingdom of glory; what a miracle of mercy is this! [A Body of Divinity]

4. The Preface teaches us to draw near to God, who is able and ready to help us.

Jesus assumes this by his own personal practice of prayer and his willingness to teach the disciples how to pray. He didn’t say to them, “Well, I’ll teach you, but remember, God helps those who help themselves.” Wrong. He is able and ready to help us. He is the same Father whom Jesus said he could call out to and who could easily send 72,000 angels to come to his side to deliver him from the cross.

Eph 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us [that is, the Holy Spirit (v. 16)], to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God’s children need to recognize that prayer is not a duty, but a privilege. When we come to times of need, our Father ought to be our first resource that we go to.

We need to think about how each of these lessons impact our current way of praying. Do you draw near to God with holy reverence or with a flippant casual attitude? How does this show up in our choice of words and our hastiness to pray? Do we ever take the time to collect our thoughts before we enter his throne? Boldness does not mean rashness!

Do you draw near to God with confidence because He is our Father who is in heaven? There may be some who don’t have confidence when they approach God in prayer because He is a stranger, not a Father. Confidence comes in the relationship that we gain through our Savior. If you haven’t received Jesus Christ as your substitute, as your Savior, then you can do so today.

Do you draw near to God as children draw near to their loving Father? Put aside all twisted ideas of poor and evil fathers. We are speaking of our loving heavenly Father who drew near to us first. Do you seek His face, not merely to ask for your needs (although that is important), but also just to adore Him as Abba, Father?

Finally, do you draw near to God confident that he is able and ready to help you? This can be seen in the amount of time, effort and energy you spend in prayer as compared to your striving to achieve what you secretly believe God cannot or will not do.

How will your prayer change? Hopefully it will. Hopefully, as you think about these four lessons, you will be challenged to pray more fervently and actively in faith than you ever have before.