Having read one of your responses on fasting I certainly recognized how I fell into a few of the traps that you mentioned and I will do things differently in the future. I understand the recommendations given by Jesus, but once when I was fasting, my mother asked me what I was cooking - I told her the truth and said I didn't cook anything. Normally (even despite mistakes made and perhaps limited spiritual benefit achieved through fasting so far) I wouldn't tell anyone I engaged in fasting, but I would admit it if asked. Let me know your take on such a situation - would you 'mask' the fact of fasting?
On fasting, I can't think of how I might have done any different. I certainly wouldn't make something up or mislead someone I love if closely questioned. This is easier for a single person with no connections than it is for, say, a married man or someone living in close quarters with others. Jesus tells us not to give the appearance of fasting if we fast and not to trumpet the fact, but I don't think we are obliged to lie if put on the spot. The main purpose of fasting as I see it is for an intensified time of prayer in order to 1) seek God's will on an important matter or 2) petition the Lord on something equally important. In either case, we will probably want to be "closed off" from the world to a greater degree than normal, concentrating on the issue at hand, and this by its very nature will alleviate some of the problems of "discovery". However, since our Lord tells us to put on good clothes and use oil (elements of normal behavior and activity), it certainly seems to me that He is anticipating fasting situations where a person does have to be "out and about and visible to others". Also, there is the situation of a married couple who take time out for prayer and fasting – and they most certainly know about each others behavior since they are cooperating (1Cor.7:5 which I take to have fasting understood; for other examples of such cooperative fasting cf. Esther 4:16).
One question from your previous response that I wanted to come back to relates to the Corinthian women. You wrote: Paul therefore steps in and uses the Genesis curse as scriptural back-up for his command that the Corinthian women should stop interrupting, correcting and supplementing Timothy when in the process of teaching the Bible. After bringing up the Genesis curse in this forceful way, however, Paul (who knew this group and their tendencies very well) seems to have felt that it was necessary to stop these women from over-reacting to his statement so as to become fearful.
Could you explain why specifically did Paul use the Genesis curse? If it wasn't for them to become fearful (which you later state was not the intention, hence he felt the need to stop the women from over-reacting), then why did he bring the curse into the discourse in the first place - what was the intention and how specifically was it meant to help Timothy?
It's a question of authority. In the Church, women are full members of Jesus and each has her own spiritual gift(s). However woman are not allowed to have positions of authority not least of all because they are not given authoritative gifts by the Spirit (at least not those which would allow them to teach or direct men). Christian women tend to be strong women (a good thing) but in the absence of sound teaching and/or in the absence of firm authority, some of them sometimes challenge the authority of pastors. Men do this too, of course, and all the time. But on occasion, as was apparently the case in Corinth, there may be a woman or women who put themselves forward as teachers of the congregation. In instances where the male authority is weak and tremulous (as Timothy seems to have been), there will be a tendency for this problem to get out of hand. Paul is trying to correct the problem by reminding the women of Corinth that while in the garden Adam and Eve had no problems with the issue of authority, the Genesis curse established the principle of male authority in the family, a principle which will abide until the end of human history. Paul no doubt uses this passage because it is the first, the clearest, and the most memorable statement of female subordination to male authority within the family of God. Not all women to all men, mind you, but all wives to their husbands (who must act in love not abuse: Eph.5:25), and all members of the congregation, female and male, to the pastor-teacher and to elders (who must be, as it happens, all males).
You wrote: That said, examples (or assumed examples) of biblically endorsed public confession include the following . . .
In the section that follows you list the examples and explain these clearly. What I thought could enrich the content of this part of your text could be relating to some passages that RC church uses to justify their confession. I asked you about them and you explained them in very plain terms, clarifying the matter and reasons behind why confession should be done in the way you propose. I believe any current or former catholics (and maybe some other denominations use similar format) would benefit from such an addition.
I understand that your motive is to explain the Truth and not use your studies to criticise churches, but I remember being very curious about it, others might be too (maybe you could, or already have, put this clarification into one of your email responses). Particularly as it was an aspect of my life where I would be unable to distinguish between emotions and elements of Christian walk that have true spiritual value.
You make a very good suggestion. It may be some time until I am able to do major revisions to these already "published" pieces like the one you reference (link: "confession" in BB 3B: Hamartiology), but I will make a note to at least footnote some links in the meantime (when I post some of our discussions on this topic and/or other questions about this issue).
In Luke 14:25-35, why is the word 'hate' used there and what is its biblical meaning (some say that in biblical terms, 'to hate' means to 'love less', I'm not sure if this is correct)? Is 'counting the cost' being aware of the problems of discipleship? If so, does Jesus mean that those not willing to make the sacrifice shouldn't even start (example of building the house)? Finally, what is meant by sending delegation and asking for terms of peace?
On Luke 14:25-35, first, I think we have to understand this "hate" in the context of priorities. After all, Jesus tells us to "love" even our enemies – so we clearly ought not to hate our family literally. We are to love God with all our hearts. If we put our family above Him, we are not fit to be His disciples because then we will not be making the choices we ought to be making to serve Him the way He wants us to serve Him. Few of us our capable of measuring up on this score perfectly. As He often does, our Lord puts things in very graphic, absolute terms to show the uncompromising attitude we ought to have, and the humble realistic assessment of our less than perfect efforts we ought never to lose sight of. Second, yes, this passage seems to me to be clearly meant to point out that rather than an unlimited opening up of a cornucopia of heavenly blessings becoming a believer results in opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we are serious about getting to the point of finishing – winning the three crowns given for effective spiritual growth, progress in the testing of life, and production for the sake of the Church, we will need to have a realistic understanding of the cost that this successful living of the Christian life for Jesus will entail. I would encourage all to come to Him and be saved, and I think it is absolutely the case that the believer with the least reward in the kingdom will be just as happy as the one with the most – and inestimably happier than any unbeliever – when we find ourselves a united family in the New Jerusalem. But these verses do "say what they say". So I take both perspectives as absolutely true, even if they seem to human logic to be contradictory. Finally, the delegation sent asking peace may perhaps express this other side of the coin. If I am an unbeliever and I realize I have a problem regarding my eternal future, the best thing would be to do something about it before it is too late. Once the other King is present, it will no longer be possible to "reconcile" with him. Therefore everyone ought to reconcile with God through Jesus Christ before He arrives (or their lives end in the natural course of things). So in this dual parable Jesus gives us the positive appeal: be a believer and endeavor to shoot for top honors; and the negative appeal: whatever you do, don't abide in unbelief until it is too late.
Could you please explain Matthew 23:1-32? Why does Jesus say: 'therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them', if the Law has been fulfilled (or was the Law fulfilled only after Jesus was crucified)?
These religious leaders held positions of official state authority (unlike any religious leaders today: Israel, even under Rome, was a theocracy), and were therefore entitled to respect and obedience in the same way secular authorities are today, even though both these and those may be and have been far less than perfect (e.g., Rom.13).
Could you please clarify Col. 1:24:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
What does Paul mean by 'what is lacking in Christ's afflictions'? Since our Lord is the perfect sacrifice, I cannot understand this passage.
Yes, it is a difficult passage for just this reason: Christ's sacrifice was perfect. Not only that, but there is no "suffering" or anything else any human being could ever undertake which would be able to expiate the least part of the least sin ever committed. "Sharing the sufferings of Christ" is a common theme in the epistles, not only in Paul (see the link). I take this passage to be meant in that vein, namely, as Christ's Body we represent Him now here on earth. Consequently, we are the "target" for all of the devil's opposition. When we suffer from such opposition rather than as punishment from sin, we are emulating our Lord and glorifying our Lord, "sharing in His sufferings" in the sense of being persecuted for Him. The key phrase here in Colossians 1:24 is "what is lacking". This should be understood as applying to Paul in the sense of "what is yet destined for me to suffer in behalf of Christ and in behalf of His Church" rather than to our Lord in the (incorrect) sense of "what is yet needful to fill in for Jesus" (as if He did not suffer enough). This is another case where the word order in Greek is flexible and one needs to take care in how each element is attributed to its modifier. Paul's sufferings were enormous, but he valiantly continued to push ahead through the ever increasing suffering "for Christ and His Church", filling up thereby and completing every difficult task the Lord called upon Him to do and endure for His glory – and Paul's great eternal reward.
Good Morning Bill,
I have a friend that becomes very enthusiastic when a pastor has an altar call. I don’t recall seeing such a thing in scripture, and feel that this very practice goes to put something back in place, that Jesus the Christ did away with. Would you share your thoughts with me on this subject?
Bill, this world is a very distracting place, amen?
Thanks as always,
Good to hear from you. I couldn't agree with you more. Not only is this activity not scriptural, but of course anyone with good spiritual "radar" derived from paying attention to the truth (as opposed to legalistic and/or emotional fads) would be leery of anything of this sort (at least the first time before the conscience becomes degraded so as to accept it). You are also right on the money in your assessment that altars went out with the Law – and will remain out until the temple is restored. The presence of altars in Protestant churches is a holdover from Roman Catholicism (which has done its best to cast itself as the transformation of the Levitical rite and priesthood). Finally, the idea of making a public spectacle of oneself, whether as a means of "re-dedication"or as being part of a gospel presentation I find incredibly abhorrent. The only thing this is likely to accomplish is to cause some unbelievers present to re-think the whole idea of becoming a Christian (if that is the price). There are plenty of shy, circumspect, humble people who would never come down front in such a circumstance – but that does not mean and should never be represented to mean that they cannot be saved by a simple prayer of faith in Christ. Altar calls are only confusing for those who are Christians as well. In my experience with these things, the people that come down to altar calls (most of whom are already saved) tend to be 1) show-offs, or 2) those easily "guilted" into doing whatever the pastor is yammering on about at any given time. But for a visiting unbeliever such a performance is not likely to be endearing, while at the same time it may potentially confuse the issue, making salvation require such works – the public humiliation of the altar call. Here is something else I have written about this at the link: "Altar Calls and Emotionalism".
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Sometimes I catch myself getting upset and angry (sometimes really mad) when I hear teachings or doctrines being taught that attack Jesus. I didn't know that there was something called "indulgences" in the RCC where you can pay with money for your sins to be forgiven or something along those lines. Or how the vicar can take Jesus' place. My blood boiled when I heard this because Jesus is the one who we go to for forgiveness, and only He can save us. I usually get upset (not around others) when I hear teachings that attack Jesus or the bible in a serious way. Or these televangelists who try to dupe believers into sending them money so they can consume it for their own carnal desires and lusts. It makes me very mad! Am I wrong for getting angry and reacting this way? Thanks!
There is plenty to get angry about here in the world – that's for sure. However, "the wrath of Man does not accomplish the righteousness of God" (Jas.1:20), and we are also told, not to let the sun set on our anger, and when we are angry, not to let it get to the point of sin even if we are justified in being upset at something which is clearly anti-God (Eph.4:26; cf. Ps.4:4). As in most things of this nature, extremes are to be avoided. On the one hand, we do not want to be so oblivious to the outrages of the world that we become complacent and desensitized to them; on the other hand we always also have to keep in mind that God is in control of absolutely everything, that all things have been handed over to our Lord Jesus, that the Spirit is currently restraining much more that could go wrong (and during the Tribulation will go wrong when that restraint is removed), and that all that happens in this life has been foreordained in a perfect way to bring about the perfect result in working everything out for the good for those who truly love Him: the salvation of all who would be saved, the rewarding of all who would put Jesus first in their lives, and the just condemnation of everyone else, culminating in the New Heavens and New Earth "where righteousness dwells" and where there will never again be anything which can upset us in the least. Gaining God's perspective is not easy, but it is a fundamental part of spiritual growth – gaining and maintaining the point of view He has toward all that goes on in the world.
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 NASB
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
Isaiah 4:20-24 NASB
Please see also the link: "In your anger, do not sin."
In Jesus who is our entire hope,
Thank you for your help sir. I was really in a bad state of mind when I asked you this question. Even today I am not able to read or understand anything. I am irritated for no reason. And whenever this happens it continues for the whole day, and the whole day I just spend controlling my anger, because I am sure that I will be facing everything that irritates me. I know this is going to happen but I still fail.
I will get back to you when things get better.
I am sorry
You've certainly got nothing to be sorry for! I am always happy to answer questions, especially from those like yourself who really love the Lord and who are genuinely seeking to grow in grace and the knowledge of Him.
We all have soft spots and the evil one has a dossier on us all – especially on anyone who is trying to make a difference for Jesus. I am sure that you are making progress with this issue even if the progress seems slow. Hang in there and keep punching away. Christ has already won the victory and therefore we have already won by being in Him. Everything else down here in this miserable place is merely an opportunity to serve Him and earn more rewards day by day. That's the truth even if the world has no idea of it (and even if as true believers we often have a hard time completely appreciating it).
Looking forward to visiting your estate in the New Jerusalem.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
This is my other theological question, unrelated to eschatology. I noticed that you seem to advocate capital punishment in response to an individual who murders another individual. You point out how in Ecclesiastes, "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." Likewise, you point out how it's God's justice to return the murder of a life by taking the murderer's life.
I also saw your justification for why in a secular world we do not have laws against blasphemy or idolatry, and seeing that God is not the direct ruler of the state as in the case of spiritual Israel, I cannot help but agree.
However, I'm still concerned that this might be a secular idea taking the guise of a Biblical one. If we were to prescribe God's justice for murder, it must also be said that God also views that the death penalty should also be prescribed for disobedient children (Mark.7:9-13) as well, in addition to all sorts of sexual offenses (sexual intercourse with a woman who's having "that time", for instance) which, in reality, don't harm anybody else. All of the previous things, in God's eyes, are worthy of death. Doesn't that seem... a little harsh, for a lack of a better phrase? If these things are as bad as murder, according to the Bible, then shouldn't we also prescribe the death penalty for these offenses?
Not only that, but countries that do implement similar systems to these do not seem like blessed utopias-- far from it! They seem like evil, authoritarian, and nasty places to live.
So, to summarize, why shouldn't we give the death penalties for these other crimes? And if the answer is, "we should", why is it that countries that do implement such laws end up looking far from a God-blessed state?
As a Bible teacher, I am relatively sure that I would make a poor politician and absolutely certain that I would make a terrible king. Few men were better at teaching the Bible than John Calvin, but by all accounts the administration of Geneva was somewhat less than utopian. This is to say by way of introduction that looking for leadership capable of carrying out the administration of justice in anything like a perfect way would be a vain quest (and that certainly includes any advice I might give on the subject). And even if perfect and perfectly inspired leadership could be found this side of the Millennium, the fact that the body politic would still be woefully imperfect would condemn any attempt seek to impose a perfect standard. Nor did the people or nation of Israel ever fully adopt the perfect standard of the Law. Some of the laws you cite are not particularly easy to interpret, namely, whether the phrase "cut off from his people" refers to execution or excommunication (compare Lev.20:18 with Num.19:13 & 20). This is a not a question that greatly concerns me since the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled and gentiles are not required to operate under it (as has been recognized since the "Jerusalem council" of Acts 15). Indeed, when one reads carefully all of the strictures of the Law in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, and compares these with the history given in the Old Testament, it is very clear that Israel herself never came close to abiding by them:
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?
Acts 15:10 NIV
Since it is debatable as to what precisely the perfect standard would be, and since, more than that, much of that perfect standard was only potentially applicable to the nation God called, Israel, and was never meant for the gentiles, and since the Law has been fulfilled, and since, finally, no gentile nation could ever come as close to the standard as Israel did, and she fell very far short herself, for all these reasons this is a highly hypothetical question.
In my view, moreover, the imposition of more drastic or draconian penalties in some limited number of cases is not at all necessarily "more pleasing to God". Just as there is no particular polity given in the Bible for the operation and organization of the local church (i.e., precisely to allow flexibility on an issue which is not nearly so important as the objective of the church: teaching the Bible), so in an analogous way there is no precise set of laws given for the administration of secular states nor any recommended form of government – precisely to allow flexibility on this matter of slight importance in the interest of what is genuinely important: the provision of justice to provide freedom for seeking the Lord. Absolute justice is an unattainable ideal in a world where all human beings are, biblically speaking, corrupt. What Christians should desire beyond anything else is an environment where they are free to worship Jesus Christ and pursue the goal of spiritual growth, progress and service as He has called us to do. If that is possible, other considerations such as form of government are of far less consequence. After all, as I often point out, Peter and Paul are both very stern in their demands that Christians respect and follow authority, even though they both suffered grave injustices at the hands of those in power throughout their lives and ministries (Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-21).
If this country moved to abolish the death penalty entirely or on the other hand moved to institute it for all sorts of other offenses, I suppose I would have an opinion. But in either case voicing that opinion or more particularly getting politically involved so as to have that opinion "heard" would be represent a diffusion of my efforts and the resources which the Lord has given me to teach the Word, not to jigger with our political system (even at the far margins). In my view of things, the Lord blesses nations based upon the number and more especially the quality of the believers within that nation. The more believers there are who truly love Jesus Christ and who demonstrate that love in the proper way by growing closer to Him, walking closely to Him, and helping others do the same, day by day, the more we can expect God's blessing on that nation as a whole, regardless of what sort of laws it operates under.
Getting involved with the world is a trap. Getting completely involved with God in response to His Son who and the Word is the only way to bring up God's blessings upon us as individuals, and also on our country by way of association. Please see the link: Blessing by Association.
In Jesus who is our all in all,
How does one live up to ones full potential? What GOD WANTS for my sons, is not perhaps what my sons prefer. As a dad, help me please. BROTHER, are You a Dad?
Sorry for the delay in response – I was out of town with family for Christmas.
I'm a "step-dad". All I can tell you from my own experience is that every human being has been given free will and there is really very little we can do to control the free will of others. Setting a good example, teaching and telling them the truth, and praying for them consistently is usually all that we can do when it comes to those we love, especially our children. But God does know everything, and He does know our hearts and theirs, better than we do. It is often the case that children eventually "figure things out" even if, as my maternal grandfather is reported to have said, "they have to go over 'fool hill' first" to find out for themselves the right way. No doubt children are a test for us their parents. We would like to lay their lives out for them because we love them. This we cannot do. But if we do give them the best possible example of a godly life, teach them by means of the truth, and fight for them in prayer every day, there is certainly every hope that God will work things out for them for the good. It is up to us to have faith that this is so and to realize that it may take longer than we would like until it is so.
My prayers for you and your family in Jesus our Lord,
I've been reading a great deal on your site and I find it very enlightening and mostly, truth abiding. Apart from the bible and many other good books, your site has sadly become a place where I've found spiritual nourishing. I say sadly because I haven't found such nourishing in most of the churches I've attended. But that is another topic and one already well known by you. The reason I'm writing is to know your opinion on these issues. As a so-called disciple of our Lord Christ is it legitimate for me to....
sell luxuries and stuff people don't need, but want, in order for me to gain the financial sustenance for my family, myself and even my church?
turn a blind eye to the fact that luxuries and almost everything that is manufactured and/or serviced in this age only serves to provide us with distractions from path to the Lord and delusions regarding the true nature and value of the things we buy?
turn a blind eye that when I buy something manufactured under conditions of slavery and exploitation I'm contributing to the perpetuating of such dire work conditions upon those who are their victims?
turn a blind eye to the fact that luxuries are not nothing but excess and abuse of every type of resource, something that has had consequences on the living conditions of many people around the world, especially those "less fortunate"?
turn a blind eye to the fact that luxuries only feed the boastfulness, vanity, loftiness, hubris, idleness and materialism of those who buy and crave for them and by selling them I make myself partly responsible of their addiction?
turn a blind eye to the fact that what I sell makes me a cog in a great machine that is oiled by corruption, bribery, fecklessness, insensitivity and vanity?
turn a blind eye to the fact that consumerism turns almost every good and service into a luxury by taking away their true utility and transforming them as elements to be bought and promptly discarded with the hope that "money" is continuously running through the veins of the economy, regardless of the consequences? Should be part of this?
If not, should I find a worthy job, one that serves others, even if they are not believers in Christ, by producing things they really need, things that are good and wholesome, no matter if this job doesn't provide the same level of financial sustenance that my present job brings now? Or, as long as I have faith in Christ and provide for my family, church and myself I shouldn't I care if I feed other people's vanity, egos, and deluded sense of bliss found in material wares and trinkets? In this latter case, is my faith true to the teachings of my Lord Christ or am I deluding myself and, just perhaps, my faith is in money and wealth?
I have come to a conclusion and many people around me have attacked me when I have raised these issues, telling me I'm deluded. But somehow, in my heart, the decision I've taken, although costly, feels well and I'm at peace in my heart, although not so much in my flesh. However, your perspective on this is greatly appreciated.
May our Lord, bless you in His truth and light and according to His will, so you may continue to be of help to others.
Good to make your acquaintance. First, let me apologize for the delay in response. I was out of town visiting family and am only now beginning to "dig out". Let me say also that I certainly appreciate your good words about this ministry. They are greatly appreciated.
As to your question, this certainly seems to me to fall into the area of personal application of truth, meaning that this is the sort of thing to which there is no one specific answer for everyone. But that does not mean that there is not a definitive answer for you, personally. You are certainly approaching the issue the correct way: giving it very serious personal consideration and seeking out help when your own reading of scripture does not suffice to give a clear "yes" or "no". I would expect and would recommend that prayer be a large part of this process for you and for us all when we are grappling with similar problems. In the highly compromised world in which we live, it is inevitable that all believers will have questions from time to time about the nature and the degree of our involvement in it.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.
1st John 2:15-16 NIV
We Christians are not "of the world" (Jn.17:14) – but we are certainly "in the world", and even our dear Lord Jesus did not pray for us to be taken "out of the world" but that we might be "protected from the evil one" (Jn.17:15). Our role in this protection is to give ourselves over to "sanctification by truth" (Jn.17:17ff.), and to obey and follow that truth to the best of our ability through the guidance of the Holy Spirit – as in fact you are doing (and for which I commend you). Our separation and sanctification from the world, moreover, is not one of running off to the mountains and practicing asceticism, but of seeking out the truth and fellowship with other believers who actually believe and practice the truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
1st Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV
I often receive questions along the lines of the one you are posing here in a variety of aspects, and, as I often say, it is a rare profession wherein there is absolutely no compromise at all with the world, its lusts and false values. In fact, truth be told, there is probably no job or profession or business that can possibly be Simon-pure. Paul made tents. But he was certainly not responsible for the activities of those who bought the tents. Some of them may well have been bought by pagans and used for pagan religious purposes, the very thing that Paul was directly opposing through his ministry of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
My guidance, therefore, has to be general. Anything which is criminal or anything which involves the person in question in personally sinful activity should certainly be avoided. Beyond that, it is the individual person's conscience which needs to be consulted. We have to have faith that what we are doing is acceptable. That does not mean, however, that we are meant to pierce ourselves through with many pangs when what we are doing does not pass some sort of impossible perfection test. Conscience speaks to us when motivated by the Spirit but also when responding to the false standards of the world with which we were infused by it before we were saved (or even after salvation in the case of believers who are not advancing spiritually to any significant degree). How do we know the difference? Prayer and attention to what the scriptures actually have to say will give us the answer in the Spirit if we are patient and persistent. That is the test: is the qualm scriptural? If not, we are only responding to misplaced guilt. If it is, then we should by all means follow the Spirit's prodding.
It is no doubt very difficult to find products whose production or the production of their component parts are not in any way involved with any questionable activity somewhere or other. Did Paul know everything about the conditions under which the fabric he used for tent-making was manufactured – or the tools he needed to make the tents? Certainly, there are extreme examples where anyone would ask questions and have second thoughts. Being perfect is more difficult – in fact it is impossible.
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise--why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool--why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all [extremes].
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 NIV
This is Solomon's way of saying that there is happy medium here, and no doubt that sweet-spot – of not worrying about unnecessary things on the one hand, and of not turning a blind eye to things we definitely should care about on the other – is somewhat different for every individual. But a person who does not care that the diamond they are selling was bought with blood is steering towards trouble, just as surely as the person who is not willing to engage in any work or occupation out of over-scrupulous concern for "compromise" will also not end well. Eventually, we need to provide for our families. If we are careful to follow Jesus, He will show us a way to do so which does not involve any sort of serious compromise with which we cannot live – not necessarily a job or profession or business where there is no compromise with the world of any sort. After all, we are going to be dealing with unbelievers at every stage, and that would be a compromise except that God has sanctified our work and is protecting us here in the world.
In short, I think it is good and right to consider such things and to have an open heart to the Spirit's guidance. If you find yourself in a place where after due consideration and prayer your conscience continues to be troubled and it is certainly on account of the Spirit's speaking to you, then God will most certainly provide "the way of escape" for you to continue to earn your bread honorably (1Cor.10:13). I would ask you to consider that 1) we are all responsible to work and to provide for those dependent on us, and 2) since there is a level of compromise in everything, an honest profession honestly accomplished is an honorable thing, even when it operates in the world and for that reason necessarily by the values of the world – especially if we believers make it a point not to share those false values personally. As I say, there is a line which no believer should cross: criminality, outright sinful behavior, and anything which directly harms or destroys the innocent (which is different from any indirect harm or destruction they may bring on themselves). Nothing is perfect in this regard. My advice would be not to throw the baby out with the bath-water on the one hand, nor to blind oneself to a particularly outrageous and unacceptable level or personal compromise on the other. In all these things, if we knock, God will certainly give us the answer. Our part is to provide a supple and obedient spirit and a good measure of patience as God works all these things out together for good for us who love Him.
Finally, the answer to most questions of this sort and also to most behavioral questions is that a good offense does much to compensate for any problems of defense: "love covers over a multitude of sins" (1Pet.4:8), so that if we are operating out of a deep love for Jesus Christ and a deep love for our brothers and sisters, learning the truth, applying the truth, and serving the truth in the ministries into which we have be severally called, many of these behavioral concerns will subsumed in and consumed by our aggressive spiritual advance – not to mention abundantly illuminated thereby.
Yours in Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins,
I've been drafting some comments on this whole subject that, thanks to our Lord, I now see clearly and would like to share with you, but haven't finished it yet. However I don't want more time to pass by without expressing my appreciation for your kind, truthful and well supported reply. The verses you quoted were, among others, the same ones where I found enlightenment to take the decisions I've taken so far on this matter. Especially the one from Ecclesiastes, because I often thought, "I am trying to be too righteous?" In the end the answer was no, and the subsequent decisions were hard to my flesh, but light to my soul, but the why will be in my next message.
Thanks again Bob and may the Lord, keep on blessing you according to His will so you can be of support to others as you have been to me.
Thanks much for your encouraging email. One of the major issues in true spiritual growth is getting to the point of being able to distinguish scale. Obviously, everything is important, but for sanity's sake we need to keep some perspective. A believer who is convicted about the need to tell the truth and starts to torture him/herself about every single word and action lest anything be potentially misconstrued as anyhow even slightly off-center is making a mistake – just as someone who plays fast and loose with the truth is making a mistake. There is a "sweet-spot" of application wherein we can be good, sanctified Christians without making any normal functioning in this corrupt world impossible. As Napoleon observed, it is impossible to make an omelet without breaking eggs. It is impossible to wage a war without the loss of men and material. Likewise, it is impossible to run the Christian race without getting banged up. We are not perfect and will not be this side of the resurrection. That does not mean that we should not be concerned about sin and anything else which might compromise us. Indeed we should. What we cannot afford to do is to allow largely insignificant or entirely unavoidable "problems" to so paralyze us that we become hors de combat through our own hyper-scrupulousness (which results in its own legalistic sins of hypocrisy, truth to tell). We should be charging up the hill every day. In the heat of the moment amid the shot and the shell we are likely to do some things in a way that under perfect conditions and much reflection we would do differently. But we are in a war. And we are being targeted by the enemy and his dark forces. We don't have the luxury of being perfect (that is a false standard for human beings infected with a sin nature in any case). If we are to make a difference for Jesus Christ we have to keep moving forward, and that will mean taking and making some bad tactical decisions at times. But the alternative is making no decisions (which is a decision itself, and a strategically terrible one at that). There is no need to worry that we are going to overlook in this process of committed spiritual advance some important area where we need reform: God is entirely capable of providing us with sufficient divine discipline to get us to reconsider if we are indeed way out of line – and the Spirit acting with our consciences will have made that clear to us even before the hammer falls.
(15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi again Bob,
Your reply is once again very much appreciated. However I find it a bit confusing.
The whole issue I raised about buying/selling luxury items is something that has to do with recent temptations I've had of either going to work in that industry or buying more of those goods.
You see, Bob, for many years (I'm now 37) I lived a life of opulence and wealth and I loved them. I loved the feeling of superiority I had whenever I wore a luxury item, you name it: clothes, watches, shoes, etc. I loved the so-called financial "freedom" I had and even though the Lord blessed me with a strong conscience that prevented me from falling into many pits and even before I knew our Lord Christ, but when it came to material trinkets, I hushed it silent on quite many occasions for the sake of the feelings and thoughts I experienced whenever I bought something luxurious. I now know this is idolatry, for I projected into those items qualities like security, self-worth, beauty, magnificence, etc. that do not exist in them, but only in my mind. They were and are my ideas (from which the word idolatry stems) and to a significant degree, they were and are as futile, vain and worthless as those very items I sought. Something I suspected back then because no matter how happy I felt whenever I got something, no matter how struck I felt because of its beauty, no matter how great I felt for having the ability of buying it, the bliss faded away within a few days or weeks and I had to buy something else to keep the feelings alive. Very much like a drug addict. (Btw, the brain processes that we experience when we go shopping, ingest a drug, receive an acclaim, have sex, go hunting, and many other pleasurable activities are almost identical in their dependence of the release and interaction of neurotransmitters in our brains, something that further proves that the cause for pleasure is not in fact the activity or object to which we address our efforts, but our very own mind and perception of things).
After accepting our Lord Christ as my savior I, naturally carried many past habits into what was supposed to be a new life. In the case of luxury items, I kept on buying them and in fact, since my professional career had been significantly evolving (in financial terms, of course), I kept buying more! Until one day I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I knew that only in the Lord, our God, I was to find true security, worth, happiness, peace of mind and stillness.
To make a long story short, I quit my job almost two years ago. That last job was in the Public Sector of my country. It was handsomely paid and I had a great title to boot. Things that I had sought for a great deal of my life but somehow had increasingly become insignificant, pointless. Thanks to the Lord, I counted with the abilities and means to save enough to live on until now and provide my family while striving to write a book called "Because God is Love: Understanding the unalterable love of God and why it is the only path to life." It is a book that is being written under much prayer, study and reflection. A book I hope will help many people on their path to the Lord.
The story of this book and why I begun to write it is quite long, too. I can say now that it was something I never expected to do, ever. But something drove me to it and after going through many afflictions, the writing has progressed. I also tell you this, during all this time I’ve been tempted to go back to earning money and living a secure life under that guise, but it would be once again trusting in money, rather than God, for my peace of mind. On the other hand I do not expect to live on the proceeds of that book, for I intend to publish it at the lowest possible cost and that in itself will be a challenge. Someday not too far away, I’ll need to find a job where I can remain honest and where nothing of what I do serves to hurt others under the knowledge I have. By this I mean that, for example, I won’t have anything to do with luxury items anymore, because I don’t want anybody to be hurt the way they hurt me and the way I know they are meant to hurt (having been involved in that industry, I know the thoughts behind their marketing campaigns, the perceptions they strive to create and everything around luxury goods and I tell you this, none of it is good, not a single thing). I won’t sell alcohol neither (I know alcohol in itself is not bad, a glass of wine or beer is good for our health, but I can’t sell it because I know in all likelihood that the majority of its consumers do not take one glass or two, but they drink it to get drunk). There are many professions that can be honorable and where the thing produced hasn’t been perverted into shameful uses by human kind. I am thinking of making bread! Or teaching a second language!
Anyhow, I agree with you that we can’t have the luxury on waiting to become spiritually mature to make a decision, otherwise we may wait all of our lives and still not get there (although I believe it is possible to become spiritually mature –perfect- since that is a request done to us by our Lord Christ and a promise). However, because I also believe we are in a battle against evil (and lately, as I have progressed in the writing of this book, I have experienced things that I never before would’ve thought possible and at best would have thought they belonged to the mind of a superstitious lunatic that further convince me on this) I also think we have to be very, very careful on where we tread, what we say and how we behave. Not because we want to be seen as pious or saints, or because I don’t want to get banged up (I have been getting banged up more than ever in my life, but only in my flesh –that is, the perishable, the worldly aspects of me- but strengthened in my spirit!) but because we should not provide any fodder or ammunition to the opposite side through our neglected actions and words. The Lord is faithful and he grants us aid all the way if our faith is true and steadfast to him; but overconfidence brings calamity, too as you very well know and have explained in many of your postings.
As I have progressed in this path, let me share with you that my past life becomes more and more of a distant memory where even though I had lots of financial security, I never had the peace of mind and stillness of the soul I’ve experienced since I decided to leave those things behind. Again, I don’t mean I am always under that peace and stillness, because some days I am still assaulted by fears, anxieties, et al. But those episodes have become less and less common.
Yours in Christ, too. May the Lord grant us the wisdom and courage to abide in His glorious will.
Thanks for your testimony. I am encouraged by your example. I do admit to being a little "confused by your confusion" inasmuch as we seem to be singing off of the same sheet of music. We all need to respond to the Spirit. If the Spirit is convicting us of something, some behavior which is in some way out of line, then we most definitely do need to heed that voice, the prompting of our consciences by the Spirit of God. Scripture is very clear that immature believers sometimes have a difficult time correctly calibrating the difference between making use of the world for God's purposes and compromising with the world (Rom.14), and it is also true that adopting a too rigid approach to our normal interaction with the world is going to make for a rough road and one that might possibly lead us into legalistic sorts of behaviors. In all such things, close attention to scripture is what tells us whether or not it is the Spirit we are feeling or something else (e.g., the evil one's tricks, some kinks in our heart left-over from the past, etc.). Once we are solid in heart about what is right to do, we should do it without regret and without hesitation.
On the issue of money and possessions, there is no question but that these can become problematic, but they become so because of the attitudes of a person's heart, not because of the money or the possessions per se. For example, if I have a diamond worth a great deal of money, it may be an heirloom about which I give very little thought – or it may be something I have lusted for and done things for I should not have done in order to obtain it. In the former case, I see nothing wrong with having it; in the latter, the spiritual problems are obvious. It's the same diamond, but my attitudes are different. And if De Beers were to be taken over by a lunatic who flooded the world market with diamonds and created a trend so that the little rocks become almost worthless overnight, in the former case I might be a bit disappointed but it wouldn't really matter, but in the latter I would be devastated and it would matter far too much. It's the same little rock in both cases. Luxury is a matter of perspective. What we have today in the USA, even if we are of modest means or less, would have been considered incredibly luxurious by the standards of any of the ancient civilizations – where the lust for money and possessions was no less prevalent than it is today.
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
Envy and greed are the problems, along with whatever questionable or sinful or even illegal behavior these negative emotions produce in us. That is why it says "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" and "Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1Tim.6:10 NIV) – not because money (or "luxuries") are inherently bad, but because of what they may do to our inner spiritual life. If we are looking to money for security or luxuries for our purpose in life we are indeed wandering from the Lord because Jesus Christ is our only true security and He and serving Him is the purpose of our Christian lives. That is why greed – not the things lusted for themselves – is what constitutes the modern-equivalent of pagan idolatry (Col.3:5; cf. Eph.5:5).
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1st Timothy 6:7-8 NIV
It's not a matter of what or even how much; it's a matter of how we think about these things that counts (whether we actually have them or not). I have met very few people in my life who were above temptation in this area, so it's a good point to keep reminding ourselves of. We all are tested in the area of having sufficient provisions – and I suppose for those who are not in any danger of going bankrupt or going hungry or homeless, the test comes in the area of excess. But every Christian needs to understand that this world and everything in it is merely dust. It will all be destroyed before New Jerusalem arrives, and most of what we are now enjoying, especially the excess, will be destroyed long before that. To the extent that we are "hooked on stuff", be it a little or a lot, or merely the desire to have what we have not, to that extent we are only weakening ourselves just before facing the biggest test on that score the world has yet seen: the Coming Tribulation. For more in this vein, please see the link: in SR 4: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm".
In hopes of overcoming everything the Lord puts in our path through faith in Him and humble acceptance of His will.
Hi again Bob,
It is such a fantastic experience to see "eye to eye" with another fellow Christian (that is you) even if we don't really see each other. It is very encouraging! I wish I could see more eye to eye with others, because sometimes I feel alone (except and this is a big except, for my beloved wife who is incredibly steadfast!) and tempted to go the way I see almost everyone around me is going. I must confess that it has been tempting to assume a very compromised "faith" as pertains the "age of Laodicea" as you have called it. There was a time I gave this "faith" other names, not very kind ones, I regret to say. I guess it is tempting to expect the best of both worlds. All the pleasures of this and all the delight it will come from "going to heaven", but somehow that never felt right to me, as tempting as it might be, it always came across as farcical.
I like a lot what you say "To the extent that we are "hooked on stuff", be it a little or a lot, to that extent we are only weakening ourselves just before facing the biggest test on that score the world has yet seen: the Coming Tribulation." That is the marrow of why I left my job and my old life style. I was hooked on stuff. Addicted and that weakened me a lot. Even though I considered myself someone with a strong character, I have learned that it wasn't such, it was weak. Placing my security, self-worth and happiness on money and stuff made me shallow, arrogant and spiteful. Unable to understand, let alone truly care for others. I still have some left over symptoms from all that, but thanks to the Lord, they become less and less evident both on the surface and in the depth of my heart every day. And what you say about luxury is correct insofar that now I have learned to appreciate stuff, little things that I always took for granted before. Simple meals instead of fancy ones, a normal shirt, instead of a designer one and that to me is the definition of wealth, to be content, not lacking just as the apostle Paul writes he had learned to be by the end of the Philippians 4 (I am not quite there, though, but striving, always striving in the Lord). I had much more money and so-called "financial freedom" before, but I was poorer, much poorer than I am right now. How ironic. So, yes, whenever I talk about luxury I mean excess. Every excess is a luxury and being an excess it is unnecessary, it is more than needed. The financial crisis that began in 2007 and hasn't ended is testimony of all those excesses. Not only from the 1%, but also from the 99%. It is easy to point the finger, but all of us who have succumbed to the idolatry of money and wealth (no matter how much or less) are responsible in one measure for what is happening now around the world regarding this crisis ..... in fact I wrote something about all this, the idolatry of money and financial crises for the book I'm writing as they have a lot to do with its main subject. Love. I am attaching it in case you feel interested on reading it. If so, any comment you may have is welcome!
Thanks again Bob and may the Lord keep us in His true path, ever more full of courage, humility and wisdom, according to His will.
Thanks. Good words indeed.
I had a brief look at your paper and it seems quite well thought-out (will get back to it again a bit later).
If interested, here are links to some things I wrote on the topic as well (probably should have sent you these links before):
In SR 4: "Greed: the Manifestation of Satanic Lie #1: "I don't need God".
A Christian perspective on "financial security".
Are Health and Wealth a Part of the Gospel?
Keep on fighting the good fight my friend!
In Jesus our dear Lord who is our only true security in this life.
Off the subject! As a pastor, researcher, teacher, and scholar, have do you deal with the ignorance of people, in particular as dealing with the Word of God?
I teach deeply as you do, and I have people that ignorantly say that I am not teaching correctly, leave or denounce my teaching and stance with the Lord. This is rare, thank God!
Now, I hold to the fundamentals of Christianity clearly, not waving on any of them.
I have read the comments left by people who have written very offensive comments about your scholarship. How do you stand that? Is it because people will not buy research material? Is it because of what I call a "Religious Spirit"? Is it because they are just unable to comprehend the deep things of God? Or is it because they refuse to study? Probably a combination of all.
I accept that if a person believes in Christ, he is saved. I accept that just believing in and living by basically the Word of God will allow us entrance into heaven. However, I believe that there are levels of inspiration or revelation. Those who study and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit will be given insight into the deep things of God. This requires, according to me, knowledge in languages, knowledge in the Fathers, knowledge in the old Jewish Commentaries, knowledge in the scholarship of the last 2000 years and so forth.
I like saying it like this, "Knowledge is truly expensive, but ignorance is truly cheap."
Thanks for this encouraging and interesting email. I try not to take too seriously unwarranted criticisms, and I also try to make that my practice when people praise this ministry. The truth is the truth. In the best of all possible worlds, these teachings would reflect the truth perfectly. Nobody, however, is perfect. To the extent that I have hit the mark, I am pleased about it, but that is my "job", after all. We are only worthless servants, and we are only doing what we ought to doing in any case. And if we are not doing what we ought to do, or if any respect we err or fall short, then the proper response is humble correction. So I try to look at what people say objectively and, to the degree possible, leave my feelings out of it. If we ever find ourselves "preaching to the choir", that is, saying things in order to get a response rather than to teach the Word, we are out of line and in danger of lapsing into error (so we should not take praise very seriously, welcome though it may be). On the other hand, if we ever find ourselves shrinking back from the truth because we are worried about a negative reaction, then we are likewise in danger of falling down on the job (so we should not take criticism or the prospect of it too seriously either, as unwelcome as that prospect may be). I tend to let people have their say, as long as there remains some measure of manageable discourse. Even when the criticisms are entirely unfair (in my perception anyway), such give and take often forces me to look at things in a new light, even in cases where the truth ends up being verified precisely in the terms originally presented. The truth can stand up to any vetting or assault – so as long as what we are teaching really is in every aspect "the truth", there is nothing to worry about. And if we are wrong in any respect, well, we have to consider that such negativity might just possibly be God's way of showing us where we need to do some fine tuning (e.g., Phil.3:15), even if the individuals doing the attacking and their alternative views are dead wrong in and of themselves. In my view, that is the standard pastor-teachers should adhere to, namely, placing the truth and its integrity above everything else to the glory of God and edification of the Church of Jesus Christ no matter who it offends or disappoints.
For our exhortation [did] not [come] from error or uncleanness, nor [was it] in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God [is] witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.
1st Thessalonians 2:3-6 NKJV
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 NIV
"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him."
John 7:18 NKJV
Yours in Jesus Christ the dear Lord and Savior whom we serve,
I have had an awkward thing happen to me by a leader of our church. I was to bring something in for our church dinner but my income at the time wouldn’t allow me to. I gave the leadership of the church a call to let them know my finances wouldn’t allow me to do this at this time. I wanted to show some courtesy because I knew they were planning the dinner around what everyone was bringing. I actually called ahead of time in case someone else could bring in the food. I was made fun of and told perhaps I’d be allowed to have a small cup of soup or maybe I could even eat the crumbs from under the table. There were other people in the background and the leadership and these people just keep laughing and laughing at what was said. I being a coward just laughed and after all the laughter was done the person in leadership said to me it’s ok we have plenty and we hung up. Was I being too sensitive? Should I do as Matt 18:15 says and confront this sister in the Lord? Thank you for your time PS this isn’t the first time this same woman has done this to me.
Good to make your acquaintance. Every local church has "problem people" (everyone I have ever entered in my life, at any rate), that is, people who are a "burden to bear" for a variety of reasons. We who are mature are told to bear one another's burdens (Gal.6:2) and to "to bear with the failings of the weak" (Rom.15:1). So I certainly commend your conduct in letting the offense pass – not an easy thing to do sometimes (especially with individuals who have a way of "getting our goat").
Here is what I find in scripture regarding the standard of leadership, however:
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
1st Thessalonians 2:10-12 NIV
While it is true that any leadership would be hard-pressed to match this example of Paul's self-sacrifice, it certainly stands in stark contrast to this story you relate. I appreciate the use of humor – when it is employed in a sanctified manner. As I have said before, anytime we are "getting laughs" at the expense of others, we are in the wrong. That is true even if in our personal opinion the person who is being made fun of has a "thick skin". After all, it is not really possible to know whether or not harsh words are really harming others deeply, and they may succeed in doing so even if couched in humor (and sometimes especially when "humor" is being used). So it is best for Christians to stay away from making sport of others for whatever reason.
Honestly, to make fun of someone who is not as well-off as oneself, and especially to do so in the presence of third parties, strikes me as particularly cruel. I would have a hard time accepting that from anyone or even watching it happen, but it is especially disturbing that this is coming from "leadership". To my mind, this reflects very poorly on the church (as well as on the Church).
Here are some other links you may have already seen on the subject:
What does the Bible say about humor?
More on Humor.
To be honest, I don't think I would have found this "funny" at all. So perhaps this next set of links may be more applicable to your question and to your circumstances:
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.
Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity.
Red hot or lukewarm?
You will always be welcome at Ichthys!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior whom we are all here to serve.
I am wondering your views on Lordship Salvation. Thanks!
Always good to hear from you – I hope things are going well for you (I keep you in my prayers daily).
The answer to this question depends upon precisely what the person who subscribes to this false doctrine means by it. Jesus is Lord – whether we shout it out loud or not. In most of the iterations I have encountered, practitioners wish to split the salvation experience up into pieces. That is not necessarily a bad thing when doing a doctrinal study (such as the recent BB 4B Soteriology). But to suggest that a person is not saved because they have "missed one of the parts" is to grossly misunderstand the grace and the power of God. All who believe in Jesus are believers, even if they have not "repented" in the way some think they should, even if they have not been water-baptized as some (mistakenly) think they should, even if they have not said "the sinner's prayers" as it is as becoming ever increasingly popular to proclaim they must though erroneously so – and even if they have not publicly and verbally said "Jesus is Lord!". "Lordship Salvation" is a very dangerous misinterpretation of Romans 10:9-10:
. . . if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 NIV
These two things (i.e., believing and acknowledging) are really opposite sides of the same coin:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours.
1st Corinthians 1:2
As this verse makes clear, being a believer and "calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus" are synonyms to Paul (who is the author of Romans too, after all). That is because you can't acknowledge without believing, and if you believe you won't fail to acknowledge (in some way – though not at all necessarily in the way these sorts often say is necessary) that Jesus is your Lord. These verses in Romans do not say, mean, or even really imply that following some formula is necessary for salvation. For example, it says in verse 10 "it is with your heart that you believe and are justified" – but if a person is justified, that person is clearly saved. Paul is making the point that salvation is easy, not that it is hard, and is doing so by quoting the Law, specifically, Deuteronomy 30:14: "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart". Salvation only requires saying "yes!" to God, to God's way of salvation, Jesus Christ, and that salvation comes to all who do say "yes!" whether they do so in their heart or with their mouth (and really the two can't be split in the long run). Whether one believes quietly or shouts loudly, faith in Christ produces salvation and eternal life. If a person shouts it loudly, how could they not have first believed? If a person believes quietly in their heart, how would they not tell someone about it at some point or in some way demonstrate that they do believe? These are two sides of the same coin, not a requirement to make a specific verbal profession of faith in order to be saved. "Lordship Salvation" is one of many heresies which confuse the issue of salvation and as a result tend to turn those who believe away from the Church in despair and give those within the Church who actually do not believe a false confidence based upon the accomplishment of some ritual.
Here is what I have written before (in Peter #24) about Romans 10:9-10:
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul tells us that the same is true for us today: if we "confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead" we shall be saved. James makes it clear that Paul is not "adding" anything to the mechanics of faith. You can't really be a believer, he points out, without that belief being demonstrated in your life (2:18-26). As evidence, he quotes Abraham's successful passing of that most difficult test of faith, the command from God that he sacrifice his son. Rather than vacillating, Abraham had faith that the God in whom he had trusted would work it all out for good, and the deliverance of Isaac through a substitute provided by God becomes a picture of Christ's sacrifice for us to this very day. If we really do believe God in our heart, it is absolutely impossible that "confessing Jesus as Lord with our mouth" will not follow, along with any and all manifestations of our faith that God will perform through us in the Christian lives we go on to lead. Apart, then, from the clear picture we have of the saving work of the Person of our Savior, Jesus Christ as we look back on the cross, the way of salvation remains the same for Paul as it was for Abraham: believe. And while Abraham could only look forward with hope to the Sacrifice which God would provide on his behalf, we have sure and certain knowledge of the work on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowledge for which, as Peter tells us, "the prophets sought and searched" (1Pet.1:10-12). The "confession" part of Romans 10:9-10 is therefore not a prerequisite for becoming a believer, but Paul's way of assuring us (as God did with Abraham, and as James makes clear in his own way) that all true believers can be discerned by their works: i.e. in this case, no one who has really put their faith in Christ would refuse or be unwilling to confess Him as Lord.
And here is what I recently wrote about "Lordship Salvation" in BB 4B:
The lie: "It is necessary to acknowledge Christ as 'Lord' in order to be saved". The truth: Jesus Christ is Lord, and the truth of His deity is an important part of the gospel which all who are given to understand it by the Holy Spirit accept as part of their exercise of saving faith. No separate, public, demonstrative proclamation of this fact is necessary to be saved, and to the extent that a person relies on this or any other false addition to the gospel as the basis of their confidence (whether included on this short list or not), to that extent their salvation is problematic, because no one can be saved by works (Jn.6:29; Eph.2:8-9).
Thanks as always for your questions!
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for always keeping me in your prayers; it means so much to me and has helped me. The Lord has given me peace concerning the life I have with my husband, so much so that I feel Satan tugging at other areas of my life. It is so obvious that I sort of chuckle sometimes. It's sort of funny that I opened my email to find you had written back because I had just been, literally laughing out loud while reading your Peter's Series on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. I kid you not that I had tears. I quote you: "Paul is not telling the Corinthians to print up bumper stickers with "this ox-cart is bound for heaven" on them." I could not stop laughing and this was me trying to get into prayer mode about some suffering I am going through right now, but I keep finding myself having harsh feelings and I could not come before the Lord in prayer feeling this way. As soon as I read in the previous installment:
"Conclusion: Finally, let us not forget that God has given us his comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:16). If we only relax and trust the Lord, His Spirit will help us, comfort us, and fill our hearts with a joy that transcends our present pain, no matter how deep the pain, no matter how intense the suffering (1Pet.4:14; Rom.5:3-5)."
I finally felt the Spirit fill me and open me up humbly before the Lord. It was then I began reading the next section and read the above and felt His joy within me. I suppose I must thank you for that and you can realize what an impact you have in the lives of your readers. I am hoping that makes you feel that your work for our Lord does indeed help us in some very wonderful ways.
Back to the subject of my recent email on Lordship Salvation, I ran across this as someone has a website which speaks about Ray Comfort:
I thought it a bit harsh claiming that what Ray is doing is 'damnable', but is what Ray states such? Here is a quote:
Like all Lordship Salvationists, Ray Comfort errantly teaches that salvation by faith ALONE in Jesus Christ is not enough to save someone. That is a false gospel. According to Ray Comfort, a person MUST also cease from their sinful lifestyle and give up worldly living to be saved. Thus, eternal life ceases to be a gift in Ray Comfort's gospel, which has now been turned into a reward. It is much more than a matter of mere semantics. The Bible teaches one gospel, not two.
Ray Comfort is an extremely popular evangelist, with his ministries THE WAY OF THE MASTER and LIVING WATERS. Unfortunately, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron teach the heresy of Lordship Salvation...
"Merely being sorry for your sins, or confessing them to God won't help you. You must turn from sin (repent)."
SOURCE: LIVING WATERS ministry, SAVE YOURSELF SOME PAIN
On page 1197 of THE EVIDENCE BIBLE, Ray Comfort comments on Matthew 7:22,23...
"These are perhaps the most frightening verses in the Bible. Vast multitudes of professing Christians fit into the category spoken of here. They call Jesus 'Lord,' but they practice lawlessness. They profess faith in Jesus, but have no regard for the divine law. They tell 'fibs' or 'white' lies, take things that belong to others, have a roaming eye for the opposite sex, etc. They are liars, thieves, and adulterers at heart, who will be cast from the gates of heaven into the jaws of hell."
SOURCE: THE EVIDENCE BIBLE, by Ray Comfort, pg. 1197; 2003, Bridge-Logos Publishers, Orlando, Florida
Ladies and gentleman, Ray Comfort is teaching works salvation! According to what we just read by Ray Comfort, every believer who is still living in deliberate sin won't be allowed into Heaven. Mr. Comfort is teaching that you cannot get to Heaven unless you try really hard to stop sinning.
So, is this author stating that Ray is teaching a lie and that we are not to try and cease from living a sinful life? I find myself always examining my choices and trying to make sure they are in line with the commands of Jesus, but also realize that giving my life to Him, that He will also change me from glory to glory. I suppose I need to know that even though nothing I do will ever truly be good that I must still try to be aware of how I am living and pray for Jesus to change me. All of this sort of confuses me. There is much more at the site. Your thoughts are truly appreciated.
You are most welcome. I am happy to hear that you are embracing God's peace. It's so important for Christians to learn how to shut out the world and concentrate on the things which really matter, the "things above". I appreciate your prayers very much as well. We are in the midst of a deliverance here which I am fully confident that the Lord will bring to pass and soon. I will let you know when we have passed safe through the Red Sea – in the meantime, please keep up the prayer!
As to Ray Comfort, yes, this is what I meant when I said there are lots of varieties of every false doctrine out there in the ether. The particular point you ask about here really isn't so much about "Lordship" at all as it is about "sinlessness" or "sinless perfection" and what it might have to do with salvation. In the past, the false doctrine that claimed we should be sinless after believing in Jesus was the heresy of choice. And, well, of course we should be sinless – it's just that this is impossible. The Bible handles this truth in a very careful way, not backing off on the need to be perfect even while making it clear that no one is – and doing so in a way that allows no room for exploitation for those who want to live lascivious lives and claim that there is no problem with this. But as I have often remarked, there are only two ways a person can claim to be sinless: 1) lie; 2) redefine what sin is to such a degree that it may seem to such a person in their self-delusion that they really are sinless.
Not much time needs to be spent on point one. The only people who do this are cult leaders or those who are trying to gain a following of gullible sheep in order to fleece them and enjoy a good lifestyle without having to work too hard. Point two is a bit more subtle but not much, really. If only dancing, drinking, smoking, card-playing and movie-going were sins (the old Baptist quintet), then there would be a fair number of unbelievers who had never sinned (many of the inhabitants of the third world, for example, regardless of their intent). If only overt, carnal sins, and a few other somewhat obvious sinful actions thrown into the mix were sinful, then it might be possible for a person to claim that they were sinless on those counts. And of course believers should stay away from sinful, carnal activities and anything else overtly sinful (and sin in general). The problem, of course, is that sin is a vast and wide ocean of behaviors that may comprise almost anything we do or say or think – and whatever we don't when we should (Jas.4:17). We have it from one of the wisest men who ever lived, king Solomon, that everyone sins (1Kng.8:46). It is certainly easy to see why when we consider that lust, anger, fear, jealousy, arrogance, etc., etc. are sins. Who can really claim with a straight face that they have never committed these sins of thought? The self-righteousness (a sin) which drips from the snippets you include in the email bespeaks a hardness of heart that has closed itself off from the truth – and the number of sins involved in that are myriad.
The twist which this particular false teaching places on the issue is tying it to salvation. Essentially, this heresy wants to say that repentance which leads to salvation has to include first giving up and becoming immune to all sin – then believing and being saved. Now just on the face of it this would preclude anyone from being saved, because when we hear the gospel, we are convicted of our sinfulness and our need of a Savior to deliver us from our sins – but we who respond correctly do so by immediately believing and are thus saved by grace through faith. According to this heresy, however, we should not believe. We should instead go off and repent and cure ourselves of sin first. Now if it is impossible for a believer to completely master sin of every kind so as to be free from sin forever, what chance would an unbeliever ever have? No unbeliever would ever be "good enough" to come to faith in Christ.
This false teaching also bleeds over into harassing believers as well, challenging their salvation on the basis of their behavior. Anyone with a tender conscience, that is, anyone who has not yet hardened their heart against the truth (as proponents of this heresy have) will be somewhat susceptible to a teaching that says "you are not perfect!" (because, truth to tell, we are not perfect, and we may even be quite a bit more imperfect than we ought to be as progressing Christians). But then this heresy uses that opening, that false guilt, that self-doubt, to tell the person so afflicted that they "haven't really confessed Jesus as Lord" (whatever that might mean for the practitioner in question). You can see where this is going. Anyone who buys into this will have to surrender their free will to this group because they are the only ones who really understand what "confessing as Lord" means. They also are the only ones who seem to know how to achieve this "sinless perfection" we all desire but cannot achieve (because we are honest with ourselves). So the only thing for it is to give ourselves over into slavery to this cult-group. Before long, we will be looking to the approval of the leader to assure us that we are OK – not to the Lord or the scriptures in any sort of true confidence that we are really saved now and truly sinless (which, if we retain our integrity, we will still be aware that we most certainly are not).
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1st John 1:8 NIV
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1st John 1:10 NIV
There is much more about all this in BB 3B Hamartiology. Do feel free to write back if there are any aspects of this I have missed or about which you still have questions.
In our dear Lord Jesus who bore all of our sins on the cross that we might have eternal life.
I find the series work, "The satanic rebellion", on the net, and believe that this knowledge ought to be passed around for people to grasp. Hence, how can l be able to pass this message around via the hard copy, by way of publishing this series. I need to have a feedback in response to this question.
Thanks and God bless,
Thanks so much for your interest in this ministry. You will find the copy guidelines for all Ichthys materials at the following link: Copy Policy <http://ichthys.com/about.htm.
Please feel free to write back in case you have any further questions.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I've gone through the copy policies ... it was quite understood but what I tried to convey was, how on earth could it be possible to see that at least Christian homes have copies of most importantly, "The Satanic Rebellion" series? It is not a larger percentage of people have access to computer internet in my country, but, if it could be possible, they can have this work at ease. I don't want this work to be stored only on the net.
Thanks and God bless.
This is very much a personal ministry and I have no way of distributing hard-copies even here in my country, let alone overseas. As the copy policy suggests, I certainly have no problem with other believers downloading and printing out sections of these studies and sharing them with others (as long as it is done on a grace basis). I appreciate very much your enthusiasm for spreading this work. My own experience suggests that while a person may be very enthusiastic and for good reason about finding a "pearl of great price", that does not mean that other will react in the same way (usually they do not, especially if the pearl really is valuable). So it may very well be that you will find that not as many copies as you suppose are actually necessary in order to satisfy the demand of those who really are interested.
I will most definitely say a prayer for your efforts in spreading the Word of God.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I wanted to get some clarification on the biblical meaning of self-righteousness. I visited a JW site where the members had said how they were once self-righteous but now are humbled and realize how they were wrong when they once felt that way about themselves. However, they still maintain their fundamental JW beliefs such as they get to heaven by living a good enough life and doing good deeds. I always understood the biblical meaning of self-righteousness as any professed righteousness done apart from Christ. So thinking we can earn our way to heaven by good works or obedience apart from Christ and the Holy Spirit working in us is defined as self-righteous. Or anyone believing that they're righteous without being forgiven or cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Are all JW followers who hold to the fundamental beliefs of JW considered self-righteous?
Always good to hear from you. There is no term or word per se in the Bible "self-righteous" or "self-righteousness". The New Testament in particular draws a very sharp distinction, however, between the righteousness which comes to us by faith and the righteousness of works which cannot save. In our culture, people use the word "self-righteous" to mean acting "holier than thou" or being hypocritical in one's behavior and blind to one's defects. All of those things are bad, but they aren't necessarily the same thing as attempting to achieve salvation by self-works like following or keeping the Mosaic Law.
It certainly is true that if a group claims it is rejecting "self-righteousness" but also rejects the deity of Jesus Christ and/or His substitutionary work in dying for our sins, there is no other way to heaven, no matter how "good" or "non-hypocritical" such persons may think they are. Living a "good life" is clearly not acceptable to God for salvation. And talk about hypocrisy! God tells us what is "good": believing in Jesus and following Him (e.g., Jn.6:29). How utterly arrogant to presume to tell God what He must accept as "good"! Everyone who rejects the gospel ultimately does so because of a fundamental unwillingness to submit to God. God asks very little of us. Really, all He asks is that we not say "no!" to Jesus Christ. Everyone who is interested in salvation even a little bit is given to understand that truth, but it is amazing to me how many are not willing to bend their will to God in this and accept His Son as their Substitute. For whatever reason, once a person is unwilling to do this, namely, what God requires in accepting the Person and work of Jesus Christ through faith, nothing else that person can do will accomplish anything other than alienating that person even further from God and His truth. For once Jesus is rejected, all the "good" such a person does is really evil. For in doing this "good" they are substituting what they are willing to do for salvation for what God has told them they must do instead. This is precisely what the devil's rebellion is all about. Everyone understands these things on some basic level, at least at first. It is only after the arrogant decision to reject the truth is made that said arrogance begins to let in lies in place of the truth so that in the end the person in question actually begins to believe their own lies (see the link: in BB 4B: "the problem of unbelievers; and "hardening the heart"). At that point, absent a significant wake-up call from the Lord, there is very little hope that such an individual will change his/her ways.
Here's something I have written on this subject before: "Self-righteousness" (a manifestation of the devil's third lie)
Keep on fighting the good fight of faith in the truth of Jesus Christ!
I would like to ask you for prayer and advice regarding the choice I've got to make, and one that I have to make rather quickly.
A friend of mine invited me to his wedding well in advance. This wedding, which takes place overseas, isn't the most convenient event with regard to the time and cost, but then this is a very important occasion for him and he stressed he would really would like me to attend.
Importantly though, apart from inconvenience another problem makes the decision whether to go or not quite difficult - as I told you in my last email, my situation back home is not conducive to spiritual growth and a week (I would probably have to go for that long for the trip to make any sense) seems such a long time during so much work - reading and studying could be done. I will probably hardly do a fraction of what I could do here when I'm home.
And another thing is the ceremony. I was invited to another wedding of a close friend when I was at home just recently and I decided not to attend the mass, which is my decision based on the lack of acceptance of RC rituals and teachings. Acceptance towards some very serious doctrinal mistakes and overall lack of real importance of the Bible in this church (even though it's not always explicitly stated and a lot of catholics firmly believe and defend the view that this church is biblical) is not something I want to show (and before I left the RC church I had spent some time accepting these things), but, as you can imagine, many situations are not so clear cut. And so I have missed the actual moment when the couple got married and still I'm not sure what is the best thing to do - on one hand I would like to witness that moment and so my friend would like me to, on the other, the church being 'in charge' from start to finish and overall emptiness and hypocrisy of these proceedings (many guests go to the church, probably even take the communion, and there are problems with the communion itself too, despite in all probability not caring about the faith and our Lord at all) make me want to stay away.
I know you're reluctant to give advice and I really appreciate your attitude towards personal advice, particularly as someone who's been brought in a catholic church whereby pressure and coercion are methods from which many members of the RC don't shy away from when trying to influence the behaviours of others. Nevertheless, in this tough decision your prayer will be much appreciated and any guidance we have from the Bible (and we know our Lord attended a wedding too) would be much appreciated. Having been invited, and invited a long time ago, I'm more inclined to go, even despite the logistics being uneasy, but I'm really afraid of the pace of the real race we're running being slowed down again.
With constant prayer for you and in our Lord,
Always good to hear from you my friend. As to your present question, I think your analogy of Jesus' attendance at the wedding in Cana is perfect. Clearly, our Lord would not have agreed with many of the customs and practices that had grown up over the centuries (some of which are clear enough from the story), but He did attend. I think that makes it clear that attending social functions, especially those of an important and formal nature as in the case of funerals and weddings, is certainly not forbidden to Christians who may disagree with the particular religious form these may take. That is especially true in the case of weddings which are, after all, first and foremost a legal ceremony and a universal rite of passage rather than a religious ceremony per se (even though most of them do it is true take place under the guise of one religion or another). God designed marriage for the entire human race and it is in fact a worldwide and universal institution. I don't think I would have a problem going to a Hindu wedding, if asked by someone near and dear to do so (as in the case of Jesus' mother and the wedding at Cana). I would certainly not pay homage to Hindu gods, but I would have no problem witnessing the marriage ceremony. I do understand also about the distraction and the cost in time and effort. You are running a very good race and it would be silly for anyone likewise "in the flesh" like myself to quibble with your applications, especially on this question. However, taking a break once in a while, especially in a good cause, is not a crime. Sometimes choices are not about absolute right or wrong.
If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake.
1st Corinthians 10:27-28 NIV
Best wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable trip if you do decide to go.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,