Sinner, Save THYSELF?

I asked a question instead of making a statement for a reason. If I ended the title with a period or exclamation point, a lot of folks might end up with apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage). After all, I doubt that a believing Christian of any stripe (Calvinist, Arminian, Calminian, or otherwise) would dare suggest that we save ourselves. Also, at the end of the day, my personal opinion is not relevant. Thus, the question.

But ‘WHY the question?’, you might be asking. Well, I’m going to tell you why I ask it.

You see, concerning the salvation of lost men, there are only a few conceivable options concerning who does what leading up to someone actually being saved. The ‘actors’ involved are but two, God and lost sinners. Our options:

1. God saves us (sinners) all by Himself.

2. God saves us with our help.

3. We save ourselves with God’s help.

4. We save ourselves all by ourselves.

Of those four options, let’s get rid of No. 4, that we save ourselves all by ourselves, which seems to be a ridiculous idea. It’s not new and was actually articulated the 5th Century by a man named Pelagius (and his chief disciple Celestius) who taught that we are quite capable of living holy lives without God’s help – that the human will at birth is not inclined toward either good or evil, and whether we perform good or evil acts is a matter of unencumbered free will decision. We do what we do based on decisions we make, apart from anything outside of us pushing us in one direction or the other. We literally can ‘save ourselves’.

That leaves us with three remaining options. Let’s look at No 3. – that we save ourselves with God’s help. That option takes into consideration the sequence of actions that take place on the road to salvation, specifically that while God sent Jesus to die for our sins, it’s our free will decision that makes salvation a reality in our lives. In other words, God made it possible for us to be saved by the death of His Son, but we close the transaction with an act of the human will. I think there’s a bit of sound logic here, but I don’t know anyone who would sign up to the idea.

On to No. 2, that God saves us with our help. I think this is by far the prevailing opinion of most evangelicals, although we balk at the idea of ‘helping’ God save us. You could call it the ‘fallback’ position from No. 3, since we would never actually say we save ourselves, but at the same time, a human free will decision to follow Christ is still in play, as the deciding factor in our salvation. God did 99% of the saving, with our free will decision being only 1%. God did His part, now we do our part. That sounds good, but if we ‘contributed’ anything to our salvation, don’t we have ‘reason to boast’, whether we do or not? If yes, that would be a violation of Eph 2:8-9.

So…….that leaves us with No. 1, that God saves us all by himself. The other 3 options have been eliminated. You can believer that, or we can play at being ‘hypothetical’ and assume No 1 is the truth of the matter. IF No.1 is the truth of the matter, what does that have to say about our receiving Christ as Savior? It goes without saying that a human decision of some sort is involved, does it not?

Let’s get hypothetical again. IF a human decision is involved in the salvation transaction (and let’s assume it is), and IF a strictly human decision would give us reason to boast (prohibited), what does that say about our decision to follow Christ? Does it mean that God is the source of our decision?

Well, IF there are two ‘actors’ in our little scenario, God and a sinner, and IF the sinner can’t take credit for his decision, God, by default, must have brought about the decision. Not only that, God must have done something so powerful that when faced with the truth of the gospel message, the sinner’s greatest desire in this life is to say ‘yes’ to Jesus! What happened?

I think it was a ‘God’ opened heart! We see the perfect example in Acts chapter 16, with the conversion of Lydia in Philippi. Lydia listens to message of the gospel presented by the Apostle Paul, God opens her heart to really pay attention to Paul’s words, and Lydia is saved and baptized. Read the story for yourself.

God opens hearts to hear the gospel in order to save sinners, and God never fails. When sinners with God opened hearts hear their condition in sin, along with God’s solution in Jesus Christ, lost sinners run to the cross!

So there you have one old soldier’s thoughts concerning our starting question “Sinner, save THYSELF?”

I would love to hear comments, thoughts and questions that speak to the issue at hand, namely “Who saves whom?”

‘Celebrity’ Christians and Evangelical Idolatry

Needless to say, the whole Kanye West conversion story, Sunday Service performances and release of his ‘Jesus is King’ album is all the rage these days among evangelical Christians. Much of that is due to his success and fame as a celebrity in the music world. In fact, he recently appeared at Lakewood Church, home of Joel Osteen and some very questionable doctrine and theology. I first read about it and then listened to the on stage interview between the two.  Articles about the genuineness of Kanye’s faith are all over the place, with everybody who is anybody in evangelical Christianity sharing their opinion.

Now rewind back to 1978. The artist was Bob Dylan. Some of you are too young to remember his conversion from the Jewish faith to Christianity, but I am not. Certainly not as famous then as Kanye today, Dylan nevertheless made a resounding ‘splash’ with the release of three gospel albums. “Slow Train Coming” (1979) was my favorite. The song “Gotta Serve Somebody” from that album will be forever etched in my memory. Dylan was interviewed about his faith, but unlike Kanye he never made a big deal of it to the public. Through the years there has always been speculation about the genuineness of his faith, and in 2012 he said he still believes in Jesus. He still tours to this day.

There have been many more celebrities who have converted to Christianity or made professions of faith through the years, with varying degrees of public notoriety. We can all remember many of their names. The more famous the celebrity, the more excited we seem to become, and that’s my point.

I’ll cut to the chase here and ask THE question: Why is it that we seem to put celebrities who claim to be Christians on pedestals? Whether they come from Hollywood, the music industry, or the world of sports, we act like they are something really special because they are open about their faith. They become instant heroes of the faith, even when they are but ‘babes’ in Christ.

Food for thought on this Thanksgiving holiday morning. Speaking of thanksgiving, I am thankful that God saves people from all walks of life, including famous celebrities. We just need to treat them as God would, nurturing them in their faith, praying for their Christian growth and transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Perhaps Kayne West needs to take a step back from the entertainment business and find out who he is in Christ. I have a hint, It’s probably not ‘the greatest artist God ever created’.

There’s a lot more that could be said about the state of evangelical Christianity in our time, but I’ll just leave it right there and let you think about it. All comments are welcome.

Kanye West vs. Bob Dylan

I wrote an article (never posted) about all of the hubbub around Kanye’s conversion. It was about how we ‘evangelicals’ love to idolize every Christian celebrity that makes a profession of Christ, no matter how doctrinally and theological inept they might be (the natural state for baby Christians). After downloading the lyrics to what Kanye said is a song that God gave him, I couldn’t help but think of another celebrity that published a couple of Christian themed albums not long after professing Christ.

That would be Bob Dylan, who in 1979 published “Slow Train Coming” a year after receiving Christ in the home of a Messianic Jew he knew quite well.

So rather than posting the first article I wrote, for which I might get hammered for being critical (albeit in a good way) about Kanye, here are the lyrics to Kanye’s divinely inspired song and my favorite track from the “Slow Train Coming” album.

Yo, we at war – KanyeWest 2019

 

We at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all we at war with ourselves

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

(Jesus Walks with me, with me, with me, with me, with me)

You know what the Midwest is?

Young and Restless

Where restless niggas might snatch ya necklace

And next these niggas might jack ya Lexus

Somebody tell these niggas who Kanye West is

I walk through the valley of Chi where death is

Top floor of the view alone will leave you breathless

Try to catch it, it’s kinda hard

Getting choked by detectives yeah, yeah, now check the method

They be asking us questions, harass, and arrest us

Saying “We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!”

Huh! Y’all eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis?

We ain’t goin’ nowhere, but got suits and cases

A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis

My Mama used to say only Jesus can save us

Well Mama, I know I act a fool

But I’ll be gone ’til November, I got packs to move, I hope

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

(Jesus Walks with me)

The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now (I want Jesus)

(Jesus Walks)

And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs

(Jesus Walks with me)

I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long

(I want Jesus)

God show me the way because the Devil’s tryin’ to break me down

The only thing that I pray is that my feet don’t fail me now

And I don’t think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs

I want to talk to God, but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long, so long

So long

(Jesus Walks with me)

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers

(Jesus walks for them)

To the victims of welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah

(Jesus walks for them)

Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly

I know He hear me when my feet get weary

Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct

We rappers are role models we rap we don’t think

I ain’t here to argue about his facial features

Or here to convert atheists into believers

I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers

The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus

So here go my single dog radio needs this

They said you can rap about anything except for Jesus

That means guns, sex, lies, video tape

But if I talk about God my record won’t get played

Huh?

Well let this take away from my spins

Which will probably take away from my ends

Then I hope this take away from my sins

 

Gotta Serve Somebody – Bob Dylan 1979

 

You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage

You may be a business man or some high-degree thief

They may call you doctor or they may call you chief

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk

You may be the head of some big TV network

You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame

You may be living in another country under another name

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a construction worker working on a home

You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome

You might own guns and you might even own tanks

You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride

You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side

You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair

You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy

You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy

You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray

You may call me anything but no matter what you say

 

Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

 

 

We report, you decide .

Comments?

The Greatest Work In The World!

By Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe | 1972

There are many good things that a man can do in the world today. But I have a conviction that the greatest work any of us can do is to help lead people to Jesus Christ. You do not have to be a “full-time Christian worker” to be a soul-winner. In fact, many of our greatest soul-winners are dedicated men and women who hold “ordinary” occupations, but who use every opportunity to witness for Christ.

We use the word “soul-winner” so often, and yet I wonder if we really know what it means? Perhaps it would be helpful to us if we discovered from the Bible just what a soul-winner is and what he is supposed to do. As I was studying this subject, I was interested to find many pictures of the soul-winner in the Bible; and I want to share some of these pictures with you.

The soul-winner is a shepherd.

“Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

James is speaking particularly about Christians who may stray from the truth, but his words also apply to the lost. If it is important for us to guide wandering believers back into God’s way, how much more important it is to guide unbelievers! We are shepherds, out seeking the wandering sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). If the lost sheep is left to himself, he will die; and if the lost soul is left to himself, he will perish forever.

Here is one reason society is in a mess: people have strayed from the truth. It was a gradual thing. First men questioned God’s truth; then they criticized it; then they ignored it; then they laughed at it. The world would rather believe lies than face God’s truth, in spite of the fact that these lies are leading men to death.

Jesus told the story about the shepherd who went out into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. What a beautiful picture of the soul-winner!

“But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how black was the night that the Lord went through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

The most important characteristic for a shepherd is love. The Good Shepherd so loved us that He laid down His life for the sheep. Do we love lost souls enough to search them out and share the Good News with them? Or are we so wrapped up in our own plans that we do not have time to think about the other person? We are supposed to be shepherds who help to guide the wandering back into the fold.

The soul-winner is a hunter.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” That word “winneth” has the idea of “catching, as a hunter catches an animal.” We are supposed to “capture” souls!

In many ways, the lost sinner is just like an animal. Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). What is a goad? It is the sharp stick that the farmer uses to prod his lazy animals. God was “prodding” Saul; He was treating Saul like a stubborn animal! The lost sinner is just like a stubborn animal: he wants his own way, and yet he does not realize that his own way leads to death.

Just as it takes love to be a shepherd, so it takes skill to be a hunter. It takes skill to “capture” lost souls. The hunter is careful not to frighten the animal. He is very careful not to permit his scent to be carried to the animal. I wish more Christians were that wise! Too often unsaved people “get the scent” from the church and know all the things that are going wrong! We Christians must be very careful not to get in the way of the wind, but to let the “wind of the Spirit” blow as He desires.

Hunters will use different approaches in capturing animals. Many different kinds of traps are mentioned in the Bible, because you cannot use the same approach with different animals. Too often you and I use the same approach with every lost person, and we wonder why we often fail. It takes skill to be a hunter, and it takes skill to be a successful soul-winner.

The soul-winner is a fisherman.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Christ called four fishermen to be disciples—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And remember that fishing was not their hobby; it was their life’s work. To them, catching fish was not fun: it was a matter of life or death!

Do you know why Jesus called four fishermen? Because fishermen know how to stick with the job and get it done. You will rarely see a fisherman sitting around doing nothing. He is either casting his nets, or cleaning his nets, or repairing his nets. He is always wrapped up in fishing. So it is with the soul-winner: he is always involved in witnessing—and he stays at it! The most important thing about a fisherman is his ability to stick with it, because fishing can be a very difficult and disappointing vocation.

Too often, we “fishers of men” give up too soon. When the going gets tough, we decide to head for shore and give up fishing for a while. We sit around and discuss fishing instead of heading out to the depths to let down the nets! One preacher has suggested that most Christians have ceased to be fishers of men. Instead, they are owners of beautiful aquariums, and they spend most of their time moving the fish from one tank to another!

In Bible days, fishermen had three methods of fishing: hooks, spears, and nets. Peter let the hook down and caught the fish that contained the money for the taxes. If you plan to use a hook, be sure you have the right kind of bait, and be sure you stay alert so you know when the fish is there! It takes real skill and patience to use the spear, but this is a good way to get fish. Just keep your eye on the one you want, and spear him!

But the best way is the net, because you can catch more fish that way. It requires several men to use the nets; soul-winners must learn how to work together. To be sure, not every “fish” will be a good one. Jesus warns us that the net will contain all kinds of fish, some good and some bad (Matthew 13:47-50); but the presence of the bad fish is no reason for us to reject the good fish. Not every fish we catch for the Lord will be a true believer, but many of them will; and the more we try to catch, the bigger will be the percentage of true believers.

If we are going to bring souls to Christ, we must be like the fishermen that Jesus called: we must have persistence. Only God can give the catch, no matter how hard we may toil. And let’s remember that only God knows how big the catch is! Let’s not get so wrapped up in numbers that we forget how important one individual soul is to Jesus Christ.

The soul-winner is a harvester.

Jesus tells us to “look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35-38). It takes all kinds of workers to have a harvest: people to plow, people to sow and water, people to fight weeds, and people to reap the grain. But all of them are a part of the harvest! This is why soul-winners are compared to harvesters: we need to practice cooperation. Not compromise, but cooperation, a willingness to work together.

There is no end to what God will do for the Christian who does not care who gets the credit. The important thing out in the field is not competing for attention, but reaping the harvest. We are laborers together, and each one must help the other.

God has given us some marvelous tools for harvesting the grain: radio, television, literature, cassettes, computers, and a host of other tools. We are not to use these tools to impress each other, but to gather in the harvest. I fear that too often we harvesters are using the sickles on each other instead of on the grain! It is discouraging to see how one Christian attacks another Christian, or one worker criticizes another worker; and all the time the harvest is going to waste. One of the basic laws of the harvest is partnership: one sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase.

The soul-winner is an ambassador.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Imagine! We are God’s ambassadors! This certainly puts dignity into this business of winning souls! Instead of apologizing when we witness for Christ or make a visit in a home, we ought to act like dedicated dignitaries, sent by God—because that is exactly what we are! “As my Father hath sent Me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

As ambassadors, we have been chosen and commissioned; and our task is not to preach ourselves, but to represent the One Who sent us. “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We represent Him, and we carry His message of peace. When an ambassador is sent to a foreign country, all his needs are met by his government, and he is protected by their armies. So with us: God has promised to meet all our needs, and His protection is our assurance of victory. All that the government asks is that the ambassador be faithful, and that is what God asks of us.

God is not at war with the world, but the world is at war with God. Our task as ambassadors is to tell the world that God loves sinners, Christ died for sinners, and that men can be reconciled to God. One of these days, God will declare war on the world; but before that happens, He will call His ambassadors home! While we are waiting, let’s be faithful ambassadors, representing Jesus Christ in the way we live and the words we speak.

The soul winner is a fireman.

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23). “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2).

The lost soul does not have to die to be in the fire; he is in the fire of condemnation right now! “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). Lost people are already living in the “suburbs of hell,” yet they think their life is wonderful! Our task is to pull them out of the fire, because they are unable to save themselves. In other words, soul-winning requires urgency.

Perhaps this is why many Christians avoid trying to win souls: it is a bit risky to put your hands in the fire! Certainly soul-winners get “burned” occasionally but it’s worth a few scars to rescue somebody from eternal fire. Sometimes the situation gets a bit “hot,” but we must keep right on witnessing, because God may use us to snatch some precious soul out of the burning. And God has promised to be with us when we go through the fire, so there is really nothing to fear.

The next time you look at a lost soul, remember that he is already in the fire of sin and judgment. The worst is yet to come! Sin has so numbered him that he does not even feel the pains in his soul, and this is what makes his situation so tragic. Oh, the urgency of it! We must reach into the fire and help to pull them out! As those angels took hold of Lot and pulled him to safety out of Sodom, so we must lovingly snatch the brands out of the burning, before it is too late.

The soul-winner is a witness.

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? And shall He not render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The picture here takes us back to an Old Testament Jewish village. Here is a man who has been condemned to die. The elders are taking him outside the village to stone him to death, and you see the man as they go by. And you know that the man does not deserve to die! You have the one piece of evidence that will save his life! What are you going to do?

Some of us might say: “Well, I don’t want to get involved.” Or, “It’s too late to do anything now.” Or, “Who am I to tell others what to do?” God says, “Excuses! Excuses that will cost a man his life!” As soul-winners, you and I must be witnesses who have honest concern. It must burden us that men and women are being dragged off to judgment! It must concern us that we have the one message of life that can save them! The time has come for us to stop making excuses! Christ has left us here to be His witnesses, and our witness is the only thing that can save sinners from eternal death!

What does it take to be an effective soul-winner? It takes the love of a shepherd, the skill of a hunter, the cooperation of a harvester, the dignity of an ambassador, the urgency of a fireman, and the heart concern of a witness.

Let’s ask God to make us the kind of Christians that He can use to win others to Christ. Winning souls is the greatest work in the world—the most rewarding work in the world—the work that God blesses and that brings Him glory for all eternity!

______________

“Copyright © Moody Church Media. Used with Permission. www.moodymedia.org

A WORD ON TRUE HOLINESS

Most excellent!

A WORD ON TRUE HOLINESS

 William F. Bell

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  [Ephesians 4:24]. 

 But as He which hath called you is holy, so BE YE HOLY in all manner of conversation (conduct); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:15-16].

Evangelist Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969) once said that churchgoers in his day “were terribly afraid” of the word “holiness.” Today, many still are! I have often said that the only kind of Christian we should be is the “holiness” kind. God is the Holy One. We have a Holy Bible. We declare a holy gospel. Christ is the holy Son of God. The Spirit living within us is the Holy Spirit. The true children of God are called “THE HOLY PEOPLE” (Isaiah 62:12).

Note that Paul uses the…

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Reformation: Can the Roman Catholic Gospel Get You into Heaven? by Eric Davis

Tomorrow marks one of the most important dates in church history. October 31st commemorates that titanic movement of God whereby he unleashed the Bible and gospel of Jesus Christ upon a world in which they had been largely hidden under Roman Catholicism for centuries. This year is the 502nd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Among other things, the Reformation occurred as people discovered the true way of salvation from the Scriptures. The Bible had been obscured for centuries in Latin. Most then could not read Latin, thus, few understood the free gift of God’s salvation to sinners in Jesus Christ. But that changed quickly. As the Bible was translated, preached, and unleashed, so was the power of God. Contrary to Roman Catholicism, Protestants observed that salvation is a gift granted by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone.

This Reformation season, let’s look objectively at a critical question. Can anyone get to heaven through the Roman Catholic gospel? If so, how? If not, why not?

We will allow for Roman Catholic doctrine to speak for itself:

From the Council of Trent, 6th session, Canon 30:

If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporary punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that God’s grace in justification renders a repentant sinner righteous, with no remaining punishment or condemnation.

Canon 12 on Justification from Trent reads similarly:

If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that trusting alone in God’s mercy through Jesus Christ puts a sinner in right standing with God.

One more in case we are not convinced:

If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, 24).

Put another way, if you believe that, by faith alone in Christ alone, all of your sin—past, present, future—is completely forgiven, with no guilt or punishment from God remaining, with the result that you stand satisfactorily righteous before God, then you are damned. And if you believe that works are not efficacious towards justification, you are damned.

However, the gospel of God’s word teaches the very thing that Rome condemns:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

[A]nd may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9).

Our gracious God could not be more clear: justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Right standing with God is a gift of his grace granted by means of faith alone. Standing permanently and perfectly righteous before God is a gift granted in God’s grace on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Hallelujah and glory to God! In our natural state, we stand before God as moral mendicants, filthy in sin, condemned, and justly heading to an eternity of conscious torment (Rom. 3:10-12, Gal. 3:10). More than committing sin, our nature is sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Thus, we can no more do meritorious good works than a snake can jump to the moon (Rom. 3:20, Gal. 3:11). However, God the Father was moved by his own glory to shower wretches with mercy (Eph. 1:3-6). Consequently, he sent his impeccable Son; his only Son to rescue us (John 3:16-17). God the Son took on human nature to himself. Being truly God and truly man, he lived in the weakness of human flesh, facing every temptation as us (Phil. 2:6-7, Heb. 4:15). However, in the glory of his Person, he responded to unholiness with holiness; to hate with love; to frustration with compassion; to temptation with submission; to the cross with obedience (Phil. 2:8, Heb. 4:15); and to death with victory (1 Cor. 15:4). At the cross, God the Father unleashed the full, unhindered fury of his just wrath due us (Matt. 27:46, 1 Pet. 2:24, 1 John 4:10). Every drop of punishment was quenched in Christ at the cross for all who put faith in him alone. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Guilt is remitted. There remains no temporary punishment; no purgatory; no outstanding divine penalty for any sin ever (Rom. 8:1). All who simply cast their confidence and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone are forgiven of all sin and instantaneously declared in permanent and unchanging right standing with God. That is the good news of God’s gospel.

Tragically, however, Rome’s gospel could not be more different than God’s. The Roman Catholic gospel is the photo-negative of the true gospel. What does God say about such things?

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:8-9)

Rome’s requirement of works for justification is of catastrophic consequences. The difference between the gospel of Christ and that of Roman Catholicism is eternal. Rome pronounces a curse on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture pronounces a curse on any gospel that differs from that of the Bible. Therefore, the Roman Catholic gospel cannot save anyone. No one can be made right with God through Rome’s gospel. Not one individual will be reconciled to God by trusting in Rome’s way of salvation. Because it teaches a gospel by faith plus works, nobody will ever get to heaven by embracing the Roman Catholic gospel (“…a man is not justified by the works if the law…”, Gal. 2:16). Today, at this moment, there is not one person in heaven due to having embraced Rome’s gospel, and there never will be. This is not to say that no person who professed to be Roman Catholic will be in heaven. If they read the Bible and embraced the biblical gospel, they would. However, such an individual’s entrance into heaven would be in spite of Rome’s blasphemous gospel, not because of it.

Much more could be said regarding the erroneous nature of Rome’s gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news.” But in Rome’s case, it’s only bad news; bad news of a damning, unsavable system emptied of grace. Thus, Rome must repent of her heretical gospel and embrace the biblical gospel of God’s grace in justification attained by faith alone in Christ alone. This Reformation season, let us pray to that end.

“How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?”–by Jesse Johnson

This is an excellent article by Jesse Johnson that was posted at The Cripplegate.

How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?

by Jesse Johnson

How does a person know if they have been predestined by God for heaven? The shortest answer to the question is also the best: Do you love Jesus? If so, then you have been predestined.

Unpacking that short answer shows you the Trinitarian nature of salvation. The Father predestined us before time (Ephesians 1:4). This predestination is expressed through adoption into his family through faith in his Son, Jesus (Ephesians 1:5). This faith is expressed by confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:10), and nobody can do that unless the Holy Spirit is indwelling them (1 Corinthians 12:3).

When the Holy Spirit saves a person, He gives them a new nature—He gives them a heart of faith to replace their heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). The person goes from living for himself to living for Christ. The person goes from hating God to loving God through Jesus.

Thus an individual knows they have been predestined for salvation only when they believe the gospel, and see in their heart faith and love for Jesus Christ.

Taken together, our Triune God predestines, then sends his Son who accomplishes salvation, then sends his Spirit who applies salvation. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in our salvation. They have the same will, the same love, and the same intent. Thus the doctrine of predestination breaks into this world through every heart that loves Jesus.

A person obviously doesn’t need to know all that in order to be saved. Instead, what a person needs to know in order to be saved is that they are a sinner, and are unable to save themselves by their own good work. Yet Jesus, who is the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and rose triumphantly from the grave having atoned for sin. Because of depravity, nobody would savingly believe that unless the Holy Spirit was enabling them.

To approach this from yet another direction: a person can only know if they have been predestined when they are saved, and salvation is evident in a love for Christ. That love is imperfect, and waxes and wanes through life, of course. But the only window we have into the saving and predestining power of God in the heart of each person who trusts Christ. There is no way to trust Christ for salvation without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, He only saves those whom the Father has chosen, and all whom He saves will express that through a love for Jesus.

How do you know you have been predestined? The only way is by placing your faith in Christ.

Fortunately the opposite answer is not true—a person cannot say they have not been predestined simply because they don’t believe in Jesus now. Who is to say they won’t believe in the future? So if you are concerned you have not been predestined, ask yourself this: Do you want to believe the gospel? Do you wish you were going to heaven?

Then there is no magic to it, and no fatalism needs be involved. All who call upon the Lord can be saved. And once saved, they will see they were called by Him all along.