Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts

Sunday, January 07, 2024

An Empty Stomach Will Do

When the prodigal returns to his father’s house in the Lord’s parable in Luke 15, his motive is quite self-serving and pragmatic. “I perish here with hunger.” For all the insight we have into his thought processes, his resolve to confess his sin to his father may have had more to do with his empty stomach than an abiding sense of guilt or an accurate assessment of the scale of his own perfidy.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Was C.S. Lewis Saved?

“In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

— From Surprised By Joy,
C.S. Lewis, 1955

I loathe theological debates.

To clarify, I do not dislike discoursing about God, and I have no objection to good faith arguments over what the scripture actually teaches to the extent they cleave as closely as possible to the language of scripture itself. The moment they drift off into coined, often pretentious theological terminology, however, we are in a marsh of our own making, and on our way under.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Inbox: Paul Denies All Righteousness

Anonymous writes:

“Paul denies all righteousness in the Old Testament by misquoting the Psalms and using them to make up his new doctrines on sin.

In Romans 3:10, Paul says that Abel was not righteous as Jesus said, Samuel did not understand, Moses did not seek God’s face, that Abraham has turned away, that Elijah and Elisha were altogether worthless, that Boaz had no true kindness, that Enoch’s throat was an open grave, the venom of the asp lay behind Jeremiah’s lips, Deborah’s mouth was filled with cursing and bitterness, Esther’s feet were eager to spill blood at any time, that Solomon knew nothing of peace, that they all deserve to burn in hell forever and ever. Jesus’s instruction to keep the commandments were obsolete, that, but that it is faith alone without works that gets you into heaven, not loving attitude, not good intentions, not benevolence, but choosing the right religion. That’s Paul’s message, and it’s nothing that Jesus taught, which was trusting that which is haShem of Jesus (righteousness and love), not intellectual assent that somehow magically makes you a new person.”

There’s lots to process here (some of it is almost poetic), but at least three points on which our commenter and I disagree. I’ll leave the first paragraph alone, because it stands or falls on the truth or falsehood of the allegations made in the second paragraph.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sincerity and Salvation

Proverbs 11:30 reads “Whoever captures souls is wise.” Does that mean a person is prudent to spend time in witnessing? Or does it teach us that when we succeed in winning souls we show ourselves to be wise or skillful in that activity? We will let you decide.

Sincerity is a virtue found in both sinners and saints. You cannot be saved if you are not sincere, but no one is ever saved simply by being sincere. Sincerity is a good quality to cultivate, but it will not make you righteous before God. Sincerity means you act without any pretense or hypocrisy according to the standards you have been taught and have accepted. Those standards may be right, partly right or altogether wrong.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Neglected Salvation

“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”

The “great salvation” spoken of in Hebrews provokes a variety of reactions. Some who hear it are offended by the message itself. After all, it tells them the very best they can do in this life is of no account to God, and that there is no way to approach the Infinite on anything but his own terms, which turn out to revolve around glorifying a Jewish carpenter rejected and murdered by the world of his day.

You can understand why people might initially find that proposition makes them grind their teeth. It seems like nonsense to them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sword, Self and Salvation

If you know the story of David’s life in any detail, you will probably remember that he had quite the collection of wives, as did most kings in those days. 1 Samuel 25 records the story of how Abigail came into David’s orbit. She was David’s second wife (or maybe third, depending on how you read some of the later historical comments about his family), and from the limited data given us in scripture, by far the shrewdest of the bunch.

Abigail’s remarkable discretion warrants an entire chapter of holy writ, which should be enough to merit a little consideration from the reader.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

I Want to Die

I was baptized young.

Not so young that I did not know what I was doing. After all, I believe in believer baptism only … just like the scriptures tell us.

I was around ten, I think. I asked for it to happen. No one pushed me. And at that time, I had a ten-year-old’s faith, and a ten-year-old’s understanding. Nothing wrong with that … it’s just not where I am today.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Anonymous Asks (193)

“What would you say to someone who thinks he is too sinful to be saved?”

I’d quote him the words of the apostle Paul: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

After all, prior to being saved, Paul beat and imprisoned believers and tried to make them blaspheme. As a member of Jewish leadership, he cast his vote against Christians when they were put to death by the Jews.

Can your friend top that?

Sunday, January 30, 2022

On Accepting and Receiving

Is the difference between accepting and receiving just a matter of semantics? Are we being picky about words that to most people amount to the same thing? We will attempt to show they don’t.

Admittedly, in many cases either word would do, both being used to describe a positive response to a gift or invitation, but there is a difference. The first is the better word to use if you want to leave room for the possibility of some disappointment or reserve on the part of the recipient. The second would be better if you want to go on to describe the great pleasure a gift or invitation evoked.

An illustration may help ...

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

“Are you a Christian?”

That’s not me asking. That’s renowned Bible teacher John MacArthur. He’s suggesting we all need to do a little self-examination to see if we are “in the faith”. And he thinks scripture supports the practice.

Hmm. I’m wondering if that might not make for a large number of miserable, panicky Christians questioning their salvation for no good reason.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Present Perfect

Everybody likes gifts, they say. Still, some are better than others.

A funny story: My in-laws were on their way to a wedding. Along the roadside, a hack artist was selling a number of truly horrible original oil paintings. (Doubtless this poor soul labored under the delusion he was some sort of Michelangelo.) Anyway, my relatives pulled over for a look. These ‘masterpieces’ were supposed to be landscapes, but they all looked like they’d been painted with a really fat brush using earth tones, pale blues and dark blacks. (If you imagine an explosion in a factory that produces toothpaste, peanut butter and licorice, you’ve roughly got the aesthetic here.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Livestock and Loved Ones

There are still a few wonderful things in this increasingly weird world. A good number of them are covered in fur, and occasionally wool.

You do not find many pets in the Bible. Life thousands of years ago was generally harder, and people were poorer, hungrier and more pragmatic. Most verses that mention animals have to do with wildlife and livestock, not domesticated creatures living indoors.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Anonymous Asks (164)

“Is is possible to be born again without knowing when it happened?”

I was once confronted by an older Christian who wanted to know the exact time and circumstances of my salvation. Apparently he asked many others the same thing. He was convinced the experience of becoming a believer only comes about in one way, and that it is impossible not to know how and when it occurred. If you can’t tell people when it happened, he insisted, it’s because you’re not saved.

That is not what Jesus taught.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Anonymous Asks (153)

“Do Jews go to heaven?”

Before we rush to give a pat answer to what seems an obvious question, we should stop to ask what the questioner means by “Jews”. The word is used several different ways today, and the answer very much depends on which sort of Jew the writer has in mind.

A discussion of how the term came to be used to mean so many different things to so many different people may be found here.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Anonymous Asks (134)

“Do I have to believe the Bible is inerrant to be saved?”

I believe the Bible is the product of men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”; that all scripture (as the Christians of the first century understood the word “scripture”) is breathed out by God and is not only profitable but fully sufficient to equip those who seek God for everything he will ever require of them. I believe the scripture cannot be broken. Its own writers claim repeatedly that God was speaking through them and that what they wrote and said was trustworthy.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A Second Opinion

One of Stand to Reason’s most popular posts last year was a Tim Barnett article entitled “What Must Ben Shapiro Do to Be Saved?” Barnett had been watching a 2018 YouTube interview in which the conservative pundit Shapiro got into a lengthy discussion with Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron.

Shapiro and Barron found plenty of common ground, as one might expect. Then things got interesting.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Anonymous Asks (120)

“Does your past play a role when you become a Christian?”

This is another one of those questions whose meaning is a little hard to nail down, but the answer is the same either way we read it: No.

A good past, even a past chock full of good works and moral excellence — if any of us could truly claim one — cannot qualify us for a relationship with God. Likewise, even a past rife with the most wretched sin and excess cannot disqualify us from getting right with God and seeking to live a life that pleases him. There is nothing impressive in our past that we can bring to God for his pleasure: “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” But there is also nothing in our past which will drive us from God’s presence forever if we truly repent: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people.”

What matters is whether your past is really your present. Let me explain that a bit.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (8)

The choice between my way and God’s way is always before us, isn’t it?

And yet, for many reasons, God’s way may hold little appeal. It didn’t appeal to Cain, so he slew his own brother rather than take it. God’s way surely didn’t appeal to Abraham when instructed to offer his own son as a sacrifice at Moriah — how could it possibly? And yet Abraham’s faith enabled him to see past the strange command he had received to the character of the God who gave it, and to trust him to remain who Abraham had always known him to be.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

A Unique Learning Experience

“That is not the way you learned Christ.”

Learning Christ is not like learning Marxism or Islam or Buddhism or Taoism. It’s not even like learning Christianity.

All religious and political movements have recognized founders whose words are studied, analyzed, memorized and followed dutifully, but their adherents are not “learning” Karl Marx or Muhammad ibn Abdullah or Siddhartha Gautama or Laozi; rather, they are learning propositions and theories these men set forth about life, the universe and the proper ordering of society.

Some religious and political leaders succeed, at least to a limited extent, in living out their own ideals. Others don’t do so well at that. Either way, it is pretty hard for us to learn them, even if we are determined to try.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Anonymous Asks (113)

“Does God give second chances?”

Absolutely. You might be having one right now.

By human standards of fairness, God gives people an inordinate number of chances. He is far more gracious when wronged than we are, and he is being wronged millions of times every moment of every day.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Right There in Front of My Face

From the Department of Missing the Obvious, let me present John 3:16, which I have been hearing my entire life without really hearing it.

This happens. Unfortunately it happens quite a bit. Bear with me. Perhaps the three things I am going to share with you today about God’s love are perfectly evident to you, and always have been.

Let’s just say they didn’t jump out at me, even though they were always right there in front of my face.

Sunday, June 07, 2020


In the upper room, Jesus sets out God’s program for his disciples. The Son of Man is to be glorified, and God glorified in him. This necessitates him going away, first to the cross, and then to the Father, where he intends to make his preparations to receive his disciples, and then return for them. Only three things are really required of the disciples in all this: believe, love one another, and wait patiently for his promised return.

This is God’s program in a nutshell. Unsurprisingly, three of the Lord’s disciples voice objections to it, and offer subtle improvements to make it more palatable to them.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Anonymous Asks (95)

“Do you have to say certain words to become a Christian?”

Entering into a relationship with God is not like signing up to play for a ball team, getting initiated into a college fraternity or joining MENSA. There are no tests to pass, no dotted lines to sign on, no secret handshakes and no code words like “Open, Sesame” which must be spoken to allow access to God.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Can a Mormon be Saved?

In a recent post, Amy Hall at Stand to Reason entertains the possibility that some Mormons may be saved. It’s a thoughtful piece, and Hall describes several conversations she’s had with LDS members that are enlightening as to the differences between Mormons and Christians in terms of our hopes, goals and understanding of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. In the end, she concludes a saved Mormon is theoretically possible but doubtful.

I found myself more or less agreeing with Hall: LDS theology is pretty far removed from the Christian faith in many respects. It would be difficult to imagine attending an LDS gathering for any great length of time without cluing in to that fact.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Anonymous Asks (85)

“Does the Bible say to ask Jesus into your heart?”

If there is anything in the Bible that may have given rise to this very popular expression, it is probably the risen Lord’s generous offer to members of the Laodicean church in Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Obviously it is not literal. Eating symbolizes fellowship, fortifying and encouraging the believer and delighting the heart of Christ.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

I Want to Die

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Anonymous Asks (44)

“If you are not a Christian and believe that Jesus died on the cross to relieve us of our sins, can you still go to heaven?”

There is a significant difference between believing about someone and believing in someone.

The book of James points out that even demons get some of their facts right. They are strict monotheists, for one. Mark’s gospel records that unclean spirits repeatedly fell down before Jesus and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” In that respect, the demons were better theologians than the Pharisees, who hotly disputed that very issue.

However, believing something correct about Jesus — even something very important indeed — doesn’t mean demons are on their way to heaven. Far from it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Numbers Game

“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth …”

A few years ago I sat through a summer camp message from an alumnus of Dallas Theological Seminary. I can’t remember the man’s name now, and it doesn’t really matter. The thrust of his message was that a very, very large number of people will ultimately come to the knowledge of Christ and be brought into the fellowship of the saints. Comparatively few, he said, would be lost.

I found him quite unconvincing.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Present Perfect

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Christians That Need to Be Saved

A man in a local church I used to attend had a habit of coming up to people and asking them exactly when and how they had been saved. He would probe for very specific details of the blessed event, presumably to confirm that the person he was interrogating was the real deal, genuinely a believer. I can’t remember what he did when he was dissatisfied with the answer but I’m not sure it was anything particularly helpful.

When he did it to me, it kind of threw me. Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond to him.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Want to Die

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

He May Be Right, But ...

A great multitude I can’t number
I have trouble with this statement for a couple of reasons:

“Great as the harvest of sin has been, we believe that the saved shall vastly outnumber the lost. Nothing less will satisfy Christ. Remember that in the first age, before mention is made of the latter triumphs of the Gospel, John beheld in heaven a multitude which no man could number. This was but the first-fruit sheaf; let who will compute the full measure of the harvest!”
— F.B. Meyer, Christ in Isaiah

I’ve heard this one before, and Meyer may well be correct. Who can say? Perhaps in the end more human beings will be saved than lost. Love certainly likes to hope so.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Recommend-a-blog (16)

“Inviting Jesus to come into your life in the past is not proof that you are genuinely saved.”
— John MacArthur

The idea of inviting Jesus into my life or heart is not to be seen anywhere in scripture, and yet it is found everywhere in Christendom. I’ve been hearing it since childhood. The concept is easily caricatured and rarely defended, but still it persists.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Present Perfect

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Like many statements about the Spanish Inquisition, that one’s not quite true.

Initially, at least, everyone expected the Spanish Inquisition. When the Inquisition rolled up on your city, the Inquisitor would publicly read out the Edict of Grace after Sunday mass, after which those who presented themselves within the next 30 to 40 days were able to reconcile with the state church without severe consequences.

So much for the cliché. Still, some people have a view of history that’s about as accurate as Michael Palin’s opening salvo from the famous Monty Python skit.

Monday, May 04, 2015

I Want to Die

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

My Daughter Says I’m Going to Hell

Cary Tennis at Salon fields a question from an atheist dad whose 13-year old girl is concerned for his soul. It’s an old post but a familiar problem for any Christian who has worked with teens. Tennis’s answer is intriguing, to say the least, coming from an advice columnist, former rock journalist, recovering alcoholic and avowed progressive. 

The letter writer is a single father with shared custody. His daughter is a professing Christian who has attended an evangelical church with her mother for most of her life. When dad broaches the subject of religion, evolution, homosexuality or other hot-button issues from his own worldview, he finds he is distressing his daughter, which is something he’d prefer to avoid.

Hence the request for advice.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

What Are You Worth to God?

I may enjoy sports a bit too much — I’ll watch virtually anything involving competition and victory or defeat. Being a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, I have become intimately familiar with the defeat side of the competition equation. 

But because I’m a sports fan, I’ve chosen a very common sports object — a baseball — with which to draw a parallel.

There are three distinct ways to value anything at all, including either a baseball or a human life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Impossible to Renew [Part 1]

This passage in the book of Hebrews has caused consternation to many a believer, and been the source of much controversy among Christians generally:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
Eternal Insecurity

Read superficially, it strikes fear into the heart, for it seems at first to imply that those who have put their faith in Christ for salvation can lose that salvation.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Will You Be Considered Worthy?

A worthy successor to Queen Elizabeth?
When we use the words “worth” or “worthy” in English, we are often thinking primarily of value or merit. For instance, when we ask, “What’s he worth these days?” we are really asking “What is the total value of his assets?” When we say, “I don’t think that’s worth my time”, we mean that the activity in question lacks merit.

So when the word “worthy” comes up in the New Testament, like when Paul talks about Christians being “considered worthy of the kingdom of God”, we may initially think he’s talking about eternal salvation.

Certainly some people do.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Judgment and Discernment

“This is a Christian country. I go to a Christian church. I believe in God and the Bible, so what right have you to judge me and tell me I’m not a Christian?” 
A question like this must be handled with care. It is certainly possible to conclude from a person’s life and actions that they are not living in a Christlike way; it may be discerned and pointed out that their beliefs about salvation and the Christian life are not in harmony with what the Bible teaches. But ultimately the question of whether a person is a ‘real’ Christian or not can be answered only by God, or in the case of a genuine child of God, by the individual believer.

Those who lack saving faith may not even be fully aware of it themselves.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mysticism and Salvation

I am about as far from a mystic as anyone I’ve ever met.

I lack the sort of conversion story other believers often point to; the type of testimony that includes phrases like “I asked God …” and “I felt a strange sense of peace come over me”; the type of experience that leads you to write a date in the front of your Bible and remember it the rest of your life. All I have is a vague recollection of an emotional moment as a child on a front porch somewhere and the dawning realization that Jesus died for me, but memory is malleable and inaccurate more often than not.

So, like I do with everything else, I check boxes: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” [check], and “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” [check], “you will be saved” [check and double-check]. 

That’s the word of God, and it gives me more confidence than the recollection of any experience or feeling.

Immanuel Can sums it up perfectly in this recent post: “So how can we know? The Father loves the Son. Surprisingly, this is the essential answer we have been looking for.”

No experience can be more reassuring than that. So, mysticism, yeah … not really my thing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Present Perfect

The most current version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Conversion vs. Coercion

A little while back I watched a TV mother’s horror at the dawning realization that her Christian daughter regularly prayed for her. It was an interesting moment and I thought it seemed like a pretty authentic reaction; something I’d seen once or twice myself.

I mean, what reaction should we really expect from people to the fact that we are praying for their salvation, hoping for their conversion and actively working toward that transformation when the opportunity arises … or vice versa?

Sometimes the fact that we take the issue that seriously can come as a bit of a shock.

Selwyn Duke at American Thinker has a good piece on the subject:
“I’m a man who takes his faith very seriously; I believe it is the Truth and that God should be at the center of one’s life. I also know a man who is Jewish and believes just the same. He is orthodox, praying at the appointed times every day — regardless of the situation — and abiding by every one of the 613 Judaic laws that pertain to his life. He is a very saintly, gentle man. And he also has expressed that his faith — not mine, needless to say — is the true one. Now, if I found out that he had prayed for my conversion to what he considers a superior faith, should I be offended? 
       In fact, neither his perspective nor such a desire would bother me a whit. While this may strike a Richard Dawkins type as strange, understand my position vis-à-vis his attitude: I’d expect nothing less.”
To me, this sort of response seems entirely rational.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Safely and Painfully Dead

The worst of all evils is death, or so modern thought has it. Death is to be avoided, evaded, delayed and denied at all costs. And definitely not discussed.

This prioritizing of the length of human existence over its actual quality is the reason that in most countries of the world there is no longer a death penalty. Even in U.S. states where it’s still legal, almost nobody gets executed anymore. Older concepts of justice, fairness and “an eye for an eye” have given way to a frantic collective scrambling around to keep everyone on the planet as long as possible, whether they deserve it or not.

Except for unborn children. Logical consistency is not our strong point.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Christians That Need to be Saved

The most recent version of this post is available here.