Saturday, November 10, 2012

More Answers to Questions about Grace - from Grace Church Orlando

Hey, here are more answers to those pressing questions people sometimes have when hearing about Grace!  These are from the people over at Grace Church Orlando.  Their pastor, Clark Whitten, has an awesome book out called Pure Grace, which I am enjoying right now and would recommend to all!

Enjoy being refreshed by these:

7. Is it possible for a Christian to lose his salvation?

The short answer is an emphatic “No!”  The long answer begins with understanding “what” salvation really is and “how” one obtains it.  Understanding those two things is the key to knowing the answer to this question.  In essence, salvation (or to be saved) means to be “rescued” or “delivered” from a place and brought to another place.  As Paul wrote:  “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13) Paul also writes in verse 14 that in this new place, in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son, we receive the complete forgiveness for all our sins (past, present and future) and an inheritance from God Himself.
When we say we are saved we are really saying that God has placed us in His Son Jesus, and He in us, evidenced and secured eternally by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  We are saying that we are in union with God Himself through Christ by the Spirit.  We are also saying that,
“By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

We are righteous as God is righteous – a gift from God;
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Union with God is salvation, and only God can join us to Himself.  We once were in the flesh, fallen and worldly, but now we are in the Spirit born from above, a “new creation” (Eph. 2:1-10).  As God powerfully brought the nation of Israel out of a dark place of bondage (Egyptian captivity) by opening a way miraculously through the Red Sea and later through the Jordan River into another land, a promised land, a land full of milk and honey; so is our salvation in Christ.
How does God do this?  How do we obtain “so great a salvation?”
We simply believe in Him.  Jesus died for all people so that all people could have their sins taken away in order that God could join all people to Himself by the Spirit.  To be joined to God is life eternal, for He is eternal life itself.  Not all people believe Him and because they do not believe they will die in their sins, but whosoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death completely removes all sins of the past, and all sins of the present and all sins not even committed yet in the future, shall receive exactly that:  the complete forgiveness of all sin!  (refer to Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Romans 5:8; Romans 10:9-10)
As John the Baptist declared:  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Simple faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on our behalf is what qualifies us to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus union with God and eternal life.  Because Jesus was raised again from the dead He ever lives, and through the gift of the Spirit Christ now lives within the believer.  The ancient High Priestly blessing that was spoken over the children of Israel to “invoke the name of God” had this phrase in it:  “The Lord bless you and keep you . . .”(Numbers 6:24-26) As then, so now.  What God blesses He also keeps and keeps forever!  “He is the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) and though He did not believe for us, for we must choose to believe Him, once that choice is made to receive Him, He is able to keep our faith strong in Him.  As Paul wrote:  “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until the end.” (2 Tim. 1:12)
That being said, one might ask what is meant by the writer to the Hebrews when it is said, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”  (Hebrews 6:4-6)
This passage is written to the attention of the Hebrews with the first verses of the chapter dealing with the necessity of their leaving the elements of their Jewish faith while choosing Christ as the Messiah.  The writer is saying that if they do retreat back to Judaism after hearing the gospel, all the religious “repentance” in the world will be worthless.  To forsake Christ is equivalent to crucifying Him again; especially if they were to express their repentance in Jewish terms (that being a resumption of animal sacrifice) thereby denying the completed work of Christ on the cross.  This passage in question is therefore not for Christians as is evidenced by verse 9 of the same chapter.
Remember, one can have spiritual experiences and still not be saved.  One can perform religious works and still not be saved.  Salvation is a simple and glorious result of placing one’s faith in Christ and the work of redemption He completed on our behalf.  The result of believing faith is the receiving of God’s promise of salvation, both eternal and secure.

8. Seeming Contradictions to Eternal Security

Contradictions or Weak Exegesis?

2 Peter 2:17-22

In the context of two scripture passages Peter is not speaking of those who have been truly born again.
Vs. 17    “There are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved,”

These people are not true Christians!  They have a measure of enlightenment but are not true believers.  The whole chapter is about false prophets!
Vs. 22    Peter says these people are like dogs that return to their own vomit and like hogs that return to the wallow after being washed.  Notice the language, it is a hog or a dog that returns, not a sheep!  The hog was still a hog and the dog was still a dog.  Someone who walks away from Christ never knew him.
John 6:66-69

The term “disciple” used by John refers to a “learner” or “follower”.  One cannot know Jesus and be born again without being a disciple, but one can be a disciple of Jesus without knowing Jesus.  These disciples did not know Jesus in a manner that is consistent with regeneration.  Peter responded to Jesus’ question, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” by saying, “we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (vs. 69).  Peter was a true disciple and those who left were not true believers.
Hebrews 6:4-8

This passage of scripture is not referring to true believers.  There is a reference to “those who have once been enlightened” (vs. 4).  These are people who had heard the word and the “unfolding of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:130).  Everyone who is born again must be enlightened but they must receive the truth and believe beyond mere enlightenment.
The reference to “have tasted of the heavenly gift” (vs. 4) only indicates they tasted but did not digest.  In Ezekiel 2:9, 3:3, God commands Ezekiel to eat the scroll and he begins chewing.  The Lord then commands him to “feed your stomach” (Ezek. 3:3).  He means to swallow and digest.  One who is born again must do more than taste, he must swallow and digest.  He must believe and receive.  These who had been enlightened and who had tasted were not true believers but had merely played around with the idea.
Look at Hebrews 6:9“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way”.  This verse indicates that the writer of Hebrews made a distinction between those who had truly been saved and those who thought about it and considered it, but never believed and received.
Hebrews 10:37-39

Some use verse 38 as a proof-text to say a Christian can “lose” that which Christ died to procure for him.  Verse 34 contradicts such a position, “knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.”  This refers to salvation and it is abiding and eternal.
Verse 39 also proves the point that the writer of Hebrews is not saying that a true believer can “shrink back” and lose his salvation, “but we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
We (true Christians) will not “shrink back” but our faith will continue!
Remember, 1 Peter 1:5, “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Our salvation is protected by the power of God!

9. What about some who say they are Christian yet continue in their sin?

To begin with, when approaching this subject we must be careful not to fall into the trap of judging one another.  Who can see the deep issues of the heart other than God?
Jesus taught that we were not to try to judge whether or not a person is a true Christian (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37).  Paul admonishes people to judge and examine themselves, not others, to determine if Christ is within them (2 Cor. 13:5).  The Spirit bears witness with our “new heart” which is a result of our being a “new creation in Christ”, and we can know that we are the children of God.  Jesus said to let the wheat and the tares grow together and do not try to determine which is “wheat” and which is” tare”, for in that process the wheat will be hurt (Matt. 13:29).  Jesus said to leave that to Him and His mighty angels who will at the end of time divide the wheat from the tares and the sheep from the goats.
Man looks at the outward appearance but only God can see the heart.  Having said that, sometimes it may appear that a person claiming to be a Christian is continuing in sin with little or no change in their lives.  One explanation may be that they are not yet born of God even though they “go to church” and do other religious or good things.  The best thing we can do for that person is to keep loving them and  telling them about our awesome King who died for them.
Similarly, it may appear that a person claiming to be a Christian is continuing in sin with little or no change in his life, and he really is born of God and thus really is a child of God.  Likewise the best thing we can do for that person is to keep loving him and telling him about our awesome King who died for him.  It’s the same answer and application for both situations.
God made this simple!  His Spirit leads the believer into all truth as we trust Him to do so.  “It is the goodness of God that leads a person to repentance” (Rom. 2:4) – changing one’s mind.  The goodness of God shines brightly through Jesus and enriches us to keep our eyes upon Him, while encouraging others to do the same knowing that everything will go and grow as planned.
Jesus said only one thing was needful in this life.  Only one thing!  He said Mary had found the one thing.  Remember, Mary was sitting, resting at His feet, looking into His eyes and listening to His voice (Luke 10:42).  One thing – resting in Jesus (looking and listening).  He is the one thing.
With these truths in mind, don’t fret about what someone else may or may not be doing.  Just do the “one thing.”  Do you recall when Peter asked Jesus about another believer and he said to Jesus, “What about him?  What about this man?”  Jesus answered Peter and said, “What is that to you, Peter?  You follow Me” (John 21:22).

10. What is the secret to becoming more Christ like?

It is truly a “secret” to the religious mind although God has not intended it to be so.  God desires every believer to understand how to become more like Jesus.  The first thing to consider is that His ways are not our ways.  “As high as the heavens are above the earth so are His ways different from our ways.” (Is. 55:9).  The things of God or of the Spirit are foolishness to the natural man so it takes a revelation from God to see this “secret” (1 Cor. 2:14)Who can know the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God has been given to us that we might know the things that have been “freely” given to us through Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:12)
Secondly, one should consider that God works from the inside out, while man works from the outside in.  In other words, God first gives the believer a brand new heart as an act of creation.  The outward manifestation of that new heart will come later and gradually, like a fruit tree bearing fruit.  Paul wrote that in this New Covenant “God raises the dead and calls into being that which did not exist.”  (Romans 4:17) Man, on the other hand, tries to modify outward behavior through fear of judgment or outward pressure or knowledge of good and evil, but that method is not God’s way and it cannot change the heart.
Becoming more Christ like is really a manifestation of what already is.  Did you get that?  That is the key.  A believer is not gradually becoming more and more like Jesus, more and more righteous, more and more holy, etc.  A believer is by an act of recreation made in the image of the risen Christ and inseparably joined to Christ.  A believer is complete in Christ now and nothing is lacking to make him or her fit for heaven.  Physical death, to be absent from the body, will mean the believer is immediately present with the Lord, blameless, complete and in great joy!
In this life it is a matter of the mind being renewed to what is true now in Christ.  As the mind is renewed to the new reality in Christ, thoughts change, words change, deeds change, etc.  Gradually, as the un-renewed mind catches up with what is true in the Spirit, the son or daughter of God produces spiritual fruit which comes forth for all to see – the invisible becoming visible and God is glorified.
The third consideration is that there is a heavenly dynamic which is active in the Spirit during this journey on earth with God.  God’s way in the Spirit is to direct our eyes to Jesus and see Him as He really is, and thereby seeing God as He really is.  As we do, a mysterious thing happens.  As we look to God and behold his countenance concerning us, everything changes.  We begin to see our identity in Him, for we have been created by Him in His likeness as a new creation.  Seeing Him and seeing who we really are in Him releases the power of God to renew our minds.
Paul writes about how Moses’ face began to shine as he simply beheld the glory of God and he writes that this is how it works in the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6-14).  We behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus and are transformed in the eyes of men (although the transformation has already taken place in the invisible – in the Spirit within) into the same image from glory to glory as we put on the deeds of the new man who already is,
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

Paul was telling us that when we behold Jesus as if He is a mirror reflecting back to us who we really are, and that we look just like Him!  As John wrote, “As Jesus is so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)
Through the Old Covenant of law came the knowledge of sin, the scripture teaches.  The law can only show us our sin in the flesh, but that sin in the flesh does not dictate the true identity of the believer anymore.
“by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,” (Eph. 2:15) 

We have been cut away from the body of the flesh in a great mystery, a spiritual circumcision, the true circumcision of which the Abrahamic circumcision was but a picture, and have been raised from the dead to experience union with the risen Christ.
“But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”  (Romans 2:29)

“The mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

That’s it!  That’s the secret.  No wonder they call Him “Wonderful Counselor”, for His counsel is not of man or of this world.  It is full of wonder!  How can these things be?  Because nothing is impossible for Him!  As He says, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Grace Church Orlando 

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May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14