Archive for the 'Salvation' Category

He Who Confesses Me Before Men

yellow flowers small

Last post I talked about the Greek word for “confess,” homologeo, and said it was only found 8 times in all the NT. That was not correct.  Homologeo only turns up 7 times; the word in James 5:16, rendered “confess” is actually exomologeo, which means “to acknowledge.”

In all but one case, both words are clearly used for verbal declaration or proclamation to others (men or angels) and almost always in declaring belief in Christ. The only usage of the word that is not clear is 1 John 1:9. Take a look:

Mat 10:32  “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. [~JESUS as reported by Matthew}

Luk 12:8  “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; [~JESUS as reported by Luke, who was associated with Paul]

Rom 10:9  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; [~PAUL]

Php 2:11  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [~PAUL]

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [~JOHN]

1Jn 4:3  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. [JOHN]

Rev 3:5  ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. [~JESUS as reported by John]

And finally, the word exomologeo, meaning to acknowledge and here translated “confess”:

Jas 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [~JAMES, written to dispersed Jewish Christians before Paul, the recipient and primary communicator of “mystery” or church age doctrine, was even saved]

So, leaving aside the latter verse, the word homologeo is used five times in the New Testament in the context of believing in Christ, and once for proclaiming or announcing overcomers’ names to the angels in heaven.

This aggregate of usage seems important to me in helping one come to a conclusion regarding what is meant in 1 Jn 1:9)because…

1. If John is addressing believers and unbelievers in chapter 1 of 1 John, and he is…

2. And if he is running through a series of contrasts between what makes a believer versus an unbeliever, which he is…

3. And all the other times in the New Testament (including John’s own uses of the word) homologeo is used in  its public confession/declaration connotation, with most of those relating to salvation…

It seems most compelling on the basis of the aggregate to put “confess our sins” in the same category as “confess Jesus as Lord.”  That is, it’s referring to salvation, not confession of post-salvation sins.

However, some have insisted that since Jesus and the Apostles grew up and lived under the Old Testament, we cannot come to a conclusion merely on the basis of what we find in the New Testament. Rather we must go back to the Old Testament Hebrew and look at the meaning and usage of  the Hebrew word for “confess” in the “many” instances in which it appears there. And in the OT, as we all know, it was used mostly for confessing sins, right?

I agree that we should take a look at those usages as well, so that is what I did. But that is not what I found…

Surprised by Jesus

Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ

Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ

Awhile back, the weekly WordPress Writing Challenge prompted bloggers to “tell us about a moment when your life was changed in a split second.”

That’s easy. The moment I believed in Jesus Christ.

It happened in August I think, in my twenty-first year, at the beginning of my senior year in college. During my time at the University, I worked in the drafting department of the Steward Observatory, doing hand drawn ink renderings of various charts and graphs that the astronomers needed to accompany their articles in various publications.

I usually had no idea what the charts and graphs meant, but I enjoyed the work and the paycheck. I shared a tiny office with a man old enough to be my father and who was in fact a grandfather.

He was a dyed-in-the-wool Introvert. I like to say I forced him to give me the Gospel.

That was back in the day when I was the rabid evolutionist, hardly surprising given my field of study which was a double major in Wildlife Biology and straight Biology. More than that, ever since the sixth grade I’d thought the theory of evolution was just the coolest thing imaginable. “Look at the way all these creatures line up!  The progression is just obvious to anyone who wants to see!” (they never tell the sixth graders that the data simply does not support the theory, but that’s another matter and maybe another post).

In any case, I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was quite smug about it, as well. Not just about evolution, but about religion in general. I remember telling my mother several years earlier during one of our “religious” discussions (she was just getting into reincarnation) that I didn’t see how religious types could hold to the views they had because clearly no one was really bad enough to deserve going to hell (I lived a somewhat sheltered life) but at the same time, no one was good enough to go to heaven, either.

I had it all figured out, yes, indeed.

Well, that particular summer, when I worked in the Steward Observatory Drafting Department, I conceived the notion that I would reconcile the Bible’s account of “Creation” with evolution. Right off I discovered where the Bible went astray — it had God creating the plants before there was any sun!  How could plants live without light from the sun. See? Ridiculous!

I spent a lot of time going on about all this with my associate, whose  name was Dave. He bore with me patiently, mostly just asking questions — I don’t recall any arguing — but later he told me that we could talk about God and the Bible and creation and evolution and the church and so forth but the moment he mentioned Jesus Christ it was like the cookie jar lid slammed shut and there would be no more discussion.

Even so, I kept reading the Bible, using one of the study booklets he gave me. It made no sense to me. I would read the stuff, but it was just… inscrutable.  Still, I felt as if there was something there, and kept with it. It was weird.

I also read The Exorcist and in the middle of reading it one warm windless day (we had no air conditioning or even swamp cooler so the windows were open) I came to a really creepy part involving demons and suddenly, in perfect timing to what I was reading, a cool wind rushed through the window.  It totally creeped me out and I wondered if maybe there really were demons.

Then I read the biography of Maria Von Trapp, and was especially struck by her depiction of the power of the Holy Spirit at one of the church meetings she’d attended later in life, after she’d become born again. I thought it was cool, but didn’t really know what to make of it…

Then, about two weeks before my fateful appointment with Jesus I was confronted by a strange guy on the steps of the UA Student Union. He was friendly, if a little weird, had a clipboard, asked me if I was satisfied with my life and myself, and if not, would I like to take a personality to test to find out how I might improve things? He reminded me of those cartoon people with the spiraling circles in their eyes.  Even so I thought the personality test might be fun.

He made an appointment for me to take my test in the Scientology building which was not far from where we were on a different day. It was a written multiple choice test that asked me the same basic questions repeatedly in slightly different guises.

In the end, the test showed me to be somewhat critical of other people. He asked me if I thought it  a fair assessment, and I did. Then he asked me if I’d like to fix that, and I said, “And I suppose now you’re going to tell me Scientology will help me do that?” He seemed surprised by my question, but yes. That was exactly the deal. For a price his organization would make my life wonderful.

Yeah, right.

I wanted none of it and left.  It was my first and thankfully last experience with Scientology.

I went back to peppering my friend Dave with my questions about religion and Christianity. Finally he told me he felt inadequate to answer all my questions, but he had a friend who could. Would I like to come over to his house after work to visit with him and his wife Daisy and their friend Orville?

For some reason I said yes.

When the day came, I remember clearly thinking as I locked the door to my house that “they think they’re going to convert me, but they’re wrong. There’s no way they can prove which view (evolution vs creation) is right or wrong.” I recall feeling quite smug and even amused.

Well, the meeting went down as advertised. Dave and Daisy opened their home, provided snacks and drinks and participated in the discussion, though primarily it was Orville and me. I don’t even recall evolution coming up. I do recall asking all sorts of questions (like what about the people who have never heard about Jesus?) and for every one Orville would send me to a scripture which I would dutifully read and have NO idea how it correlated with the question! But I would nod as if I did, and he would go on and show me another and another… and I was clueless.

I lived, first hand, the experience of the natural-minded man (in my case young woman) who “cannot understand the things of the Spirit for they are foolishness (incomprehensible gibberish) to him.” (I Co 2:16)

And then somehow they got around to the fact that I was a sinner — a fact I struggled with — I had no idea what sin even was and I saw myself as a goody two shoes — despite the earlier encounter with the Scientologist and his assessment of my judgmental mindset. I never once thought that might be a “sin.” Nevertheless I knew I wasn’t perfect, so … maybe I was a sinner… And as such, I needed a Savior who was  Jesus Christ, the son of God who died for me and rose again. All I needed to do was believe it.

About that time Daisy, who had earlier left the room, returned with the news that she’d called her daughter and family and that all of them were praying for me.

And then… the weirdest thing. In an instant I saw Him in my mind. Just a sense. A picture, not anything I’d call a vision, but a mental image of Him coming up over a hill toward me. And suddenly I knew He was REAL and I wanted to know Him. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to accomplish that.

If they wanted me to pray the sinner’s prayer, I’d pray it. Which I did, admitting I was a sinner, even though I had no clue what it was. Believing that He was my savior, probably asking Him to come into my life (even though clearly He already had).

I went home a changed person. I prayed that same prayer two more times that night, because I wanted to be sure “it took”. And from then on, I couldn’t get enough of the Word. I went to all the church gatherings every week (except the door to door witnessing night… that was much too far out of my comfort zone at the time) I told my mother and my sister and my roommate about Jesus. My sister and my roommate also believed in Him and were baptized  when I was (Dave and his friends attended a Baptist Church, so that’s the one I went to). My mother came to church a few times, but later grew angry and wondered what “that church” had given me to make me so weird.

I told my boyfriend of two or so years about my salvation and urged him to believe in Christ as well. He regarded me with a sad air of condescension and assured me it was a passing phase I would soon be over. No, it turned out that our relationship was a phase that would soon be over. Like that same night.

I went to a weekly Monday night Bible study with my roommate and not long after a new boyfriend (who  later became my husband) which Orville taught for new believers. It included a memory verse program oriented around key doctrines of salvation, Jesus as God and 1 John 1:9. He also taught the college students class on Sunday Mornings using Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Major Bible Themes as a textbook. (I still have it in my library).

In addition to Monday evening and Sunday morning, we also attended Wednesday evening and Sunday evening. My roommate and I sang in the choir.

As for my dedication to the theory of evolution, it was thrown out faster than my old boyfriend. From then on the Word of God was my standard and even if I couldn’t explain just yet why evolution was wrong, I knew that it was, because the Bible said so.

I had one friend (another Biology major) write me specifically about this matter and that’s what I told her. She thought I was a flake, I’m sure. I know now why it is wrong, of course, and can explain its flaws at length (and have done so on this blog.)

I also believe that it’s not the theory that defends itself in its proponents’ eyes, it’s the attitude of the proponent in desiring an “explanation” for everything that doesn’t include God that powers their belief in it.  I’ve read their statements purporting as much.

Anyway, that’s the day that changed my life literally forever.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” ~Acts 16:31

The True Mission of the Church

In yesterday’s post I hinted at the notion that “as go the Christians, so goes the nation.” I am not by this saying that the Christians should get on a program to “take back the nation;” not at all. Nowhere in the Bible does it say taking back the nation is the mission of the church.

Our mission is two-fold: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and, to those who believe in Him, to teach the unadulterated word of God so as to make disciples of them. (1 Ti 2:5; Mt 28:19,20)*

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ we’re to proclaim? — that He was God come in the flesh, that He died on the cross for the sins of ALL men (believer and unbeliever) that He was buried and resurrected on the third day, and that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (1 Co 15:3,4; John 3:16-18)*

The Gospel is good news — the good news that, though we were born sinners and have all sinned in various ways, our sins are no longer a hindrance to us having a relationship with God.  Jesus bore the penalty for those sins on behalf of every one of us in His death on the cross so that we can have a life with the God who is love, justice, and righteousness, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, gracious, generous, wise…

No one’s sins will ever send him to the Lake of Fire; it is only the refusal to believe in and accept the work Christ has done on one’s behalf that sends him to hell. By doing so this person is saying, “No thanks. I don’t really want anything to do with you, God.” And God says, “Okay then. I will remove Myself from your presence and leave you to yourself. You can be with all the others who feel the same way.” (John 3:18)*

The choice is ours. Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved, or reject Him.

The second part of the Church’s biblically mandated mission is to teach the unadulterated Word of God to believers so as to make disciples of them.

Just because one has believed in Christ doesn’t automatically make him a disciple. The Greek word translated “disciple” is mathetes and it means pupil, learner, student, an adherent, a follower. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary) The apostles were instructed to teach believers from every nation “to observe all that the Lord has commanded in His Word,” with emphasis on the New Testament epistles which are directed specifically to the church.

In addition to the apostles, the spiritual gift of Pastor-Teacher was (and still is) given to individual men to  instruct the believers “in the commandments of the Lord.” With the passing of the apostles, this gift is now the primary source of the teaching needed to make disciples of believers in Christ. (Eph 4:12)*

But again, the choice is ours.

Those with the gift of pastor-teacher can choose to actually study the word and teach it, or focus instead on works programs, social activities, social action, entertainment, etc.

The would-be disciple can then choose whether he wants to be a true student of the Word, or would rather pursue the works programs, social activities, social action, and/or entertainment.

The more both parties deviate from God’s instruction in these matters, the more the nation as a whole will suffer.

It was the same way with Israel with her priests in the role of the pastor-teacher. They could either learn the commandments of the Lord (and I’m not talking about the 10 Commandments — there are WAY more than that) and carry them out, or they could go off on their own, following false gods and doctrines. When they did that, the nation inevitably suffered, as much from the immediate results of their bad decisions as from the discipline that God brought in on them to get them to wake up and return to Him.

And so it will be — is, in fact, occurring now —  with us.

**

 * 1 Ti 2:4 “[God, our Savior] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mat 28:19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

I Co 15:3,4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Eph 4:12- 15 “[pastor-teachers] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

     As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”

The Free Stuff Tree

Recently, with all the to-do about free birth control I came across a comment on Power Line Blog referencing what the commenter thought might have been a quote of Ayn Rand’s in her book, Atlas Shrugged. I couldn’t confirm or refute the claim, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve heard others express more or less the same notion. That is,

“You want free birth control? So go collect it. Pick it off the tree where you think it grows.”

Of course we’ve all heard many times the epigram that “money doesn’t grow on trees…. ”

Well, it hit me as I was considering these phrases that there’s a profound connection between the Free Stuff Trees and the Garden of Eden.

Because in the Garden, before the Fall of man,  Free Stuff Trees really did exist.

In the Garden the man and woman could go to any tree but one, pick off the free fruit and eat to their hearts’ content. At any time they wished.

Eventually, as we know, they disobeyed the only “rule” they’d been given, by going after the one tree whose fruit was not free — The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There was a price to be paid for eating it — a rather steep price, in fact —  they died spiritually on the spot were kicked out of the Garden, shortly thereafter and eventually died physically several hundred years later. And nothing earthly has been free since.

Man’s curse was to work the ground to get his food. No work, no food. That curse has yet to be lifted.  I wonder if that might be why people keep yearning for stuff to be free, seeking after that provision they’ve lost.

Then again, it may be because in their depravity they are lazy and want only what they want when they want it…

The striking point, however, is that the only thing that’s really free in this life is salvation. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

You pay no coin, no dues of time or effort, do no work, keep no law… you have only to believe in the person of Christ and the work He did on your behalf and you will be eternally saved. It’s God’s free gift to us.

Free to us, but not still free. Someone had to pay the price for our sin, and that someone was Jesus Christ. He gave up everything for us: His position in heaven, His power, His glory… For thirty-three years He walked this earth, and not as one of the rich and famous surrounded by wealth and comfort. No, He lived as a lowly carpenter, the eldest son of at least six children, who weren’t always nice to Him as we learn from the passages where His brothers mock Him for His miracles…

More than all that, though, He gave up His very life for us, dying spiritually before he died physically. During the three hours of darkness on the cross, the sins of the entire world, of every person who ever lived or will, were poured out on him and judged. He who, like a lamb before his shearers had been dumb throughout all the beatings and whippings and mockery and even the ordeal of being nailed to the Cross, yet when the darkness descended on Golgotha and the sins were poured upon him, screamed,

My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?

And then, after the screaming stopped and the darkness was lifted,

“It is finished.”

that is,

“Tetelestai”

He did it all, the price was paid. And for us, salvation is Free.

Life Needs Death

Believe it or not, I am still getting snail mail for my mother. Recently I received yet another missive from PETA, one of the organizations she supported, pleading with her to renew her membership, as they are in dire need of her funds. To guilt her into submitting, they sent along several sheets of cute mailing labels and a complimentary copy of their quarterly magazine informing her that while she should have gotten it last month, she apparently did not, and maybe she didn’t notice, so they are sending it to her in a special envelope along with the letter badgering her to re-subscribe. If they had included an SASE I might have sent them notice that she’s deceased and they should remove her from their mailing list.

Hmm… come to think of it I believe I already did that.

Anyway, when it comes I always take a moment to peruse the magazine. I’m not sure why. It’s so stupid. They make such a big deal out of nothing. I read the articles and always feel like I’m only getting a third of the story, along with a good dollop of hysteria.

This issue was particularly provoking to me. Mind you, I’m only skimming, but here are some of the titles, bullets and side notes that hit my eyes:

 “Did my meal have a mother?”

“Where did veal come from? Baby cows. Waaah!”

“How about the turkey? The steak? That succulent piece of lamb?”

Oooh. Those were once living creatures… a nice, feathery turkey, a sweet, lovable, innocent cow, a cute woolly lamb. How can anyone eat such things! Only because they haven’t really thought about what it is they’re actually eating — or they happen to be a horrid, cruel and vicious barbarian!

You are urged to always “Try to relate to who’s on your plate!” This statement was accompanied by an illustration of a plate with vegetables, potatoes and a tiny naked person… (Which turned out to be a photograph of an actual person lying on a huge plate at one of their “events” of the same name.)

It’s all emotional, overwrought and rife with anthropomorphizing the animals — ie, giving them human feelings and attributes they do not possess. I’m sorry, but turkeys do not have the attachment to their young that human mothers do. I’ve raised turkeys and was not impressed with their intelligence or their demeanor.

I’ve worked with cows, which are one of my favorite animals, but they are still animals — beasts. Kinda dumb ones at that.

I’ve never worked with sheep, but the Bible consistently uses them as an illustration of how stupid and herd-bound the people of God can be when they are out of His plan and following their own ways.

The authors even agonize over the plight of fish as they are “impaled and pulled into an environment where they cannot breathe”.

The Dalai Lama is quoted as having been “particularly concerned with the sufferings of chickens for many years.”

SIGH…

I think a lot of this comes from living in an affluent society where we are more and more divorced from the actual realities of what it means to survive. We, as a society, are so removed from our food sources now, we can afford to indulge such absurd ideas.

I say absurd, because if you get down to it, life requires death in order to continue.

All life. If you look at the entire ecological system, it is, as that silly Lion King song trumpets, a circle. The grass grows, the cow eats it, makes a baby cow, dies, decomposes, feeds the grass which the now-grown baby cow eats as it makes a new cow, which feeds new grass… etc.

Right there, in front of everyone’s eyes to see.

I would also like to point out that when one eats the grass, the grass dies, as well. So too, the spinach, the onion, the lettuce that vegans are so fond of replacing their animal foods with. Worse, when you crunch into that fresh spinach leaf you are in the process of crushing and bursting and killing living cells.

Ohhhh noooooooo. And should you cook the spinach leaf beforehand, you are subjecting those cells to lethal levels of heat and again the cell walls burst, the cells die…

Animal or plant, the stuff we eat is living either as we eat it, or prior to preparation for eating. We don’t eat rocks. And after we eat this living stuff it is no longer living. Thus, life requires death to be sustained.

A perfect, everywhere present, three times a day reminder of the Cross, and the fact that there is no spiritual life for fallen man apart from death — the death of the son of God, which provides true life — eternal life — for all who believe in Him.

 

NFL PlayOff John 3:16

I thought this was very cool. I read last week that the playoff game between the Patriots and the Broncos was expected to be watched by a record number of people. So when my football fan friends told me about the commercial that Focus on the Family aired during the game I had to go searching. And found it. It’s cool enough and good enough and clear enough… I’m sharing it.

In the middle of the televising of the NFL Playoff games they have a “ad” like this. And it costs the viewer nothing. I believe this is directly the result of Tim Tebow having a platform and using it to draw attention to his Lord.  It’s amazing what God is doing in these last days…

Slammed With Jesus

Last weekend, quite by non-intent, I spent several hours rereading a good portion of the end of The Light of Eidon.

It started with a reader’s email informing me he’d gotten LOE free on his new Kindle and started reading it. At first he wasn’t sure he would like it, but by the time he’d reached Section 3, he LOVED it and downloaded the next three books in the series right then and there.

Curious as to what was happening by Section 3, I got the book down and checked it out. Section 2 ends with Abramm’s first battle in the arena where he becomes the White Pretender and Section 3 jumps ahead 2 years to Carissa’s finally catching up to him in Xorofin. I read/skimmed from there and in so doing came upon what I’m pretty sure are the problem passages that moved some disgruntled readers to leave one-star reviews on Amazon complaining about being “slammed by Christian theology at the end”, or “tricked into reading about Jesus.”

Take this exchange between Abramm and Trap on p 383:

“Of course not,” Abramm said dryly. “Nothing is ever enough with you nor will it be until I wear your shield upon my chest.”

Trap regarded him soberly. “Eidon is the only answer in this world, Abramm, and life is not about settling scores or being respected by people. It’s about his power and his worth and what he did on that hill outside Xorofin. You must come to him as nothing. But you don’t like that. You want it to be about you. Your sacrifices, your efforts to make yourself worthy.” He paused, studying the horses without really seeing them. “It’s pride, Abramm. That’s why you won’t believe.”

As soon as I read this I thought, Oh wow! Yeah, that would hit some people right between the eyes. The flesh hates the notion that it has nothing to offer, that salvation really is all about Him and His work and His worthiness while we are nothing.

Here’s another a some twelve pages later, Abramm’s viewpoint as he recalls the above-quoted conversation:

You want it to be about you. Your sacrifice, your efforts to make yourself worthy.

It was true. And yet it seemed with every decision he’d made, every action he took, he’d only made himself more unworthy. Almost as if he couldn’t help himself, almost as if some part of him insisted upon showing him how weak and helpless he was. Now he was trapped like a fish in a bowl, every good thing he might have accomplished wrenched from his grasp. He couldn’t deliver the Dorsaddi, couldn’t deliver Carissa, couldn’t deliver Kiriath — couldn’t even deliver himself.

I don’t remember having written this, and was kind of surprised how it went so straight to the point.  I was pleased, though. Yeah, those people with the 1-star reviews, they were being convicted. Whether they responded or not’s another matter, but who cares about 1-star reviews if something you’ve written has rattled them enough to react as they have?

Because another thing I’ve noticed is that the book is 432 pages long. Yet the parts that had provoked such offense are measured in paragraphs, not chapters and, with one exception, not pages. Okay, so his spiritual conversion does make for the resolution of a major plot line, but still…


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