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Question #1: 

Greetings,

I'm not really a Christian and I can't find my answers in the Bible either. Just only believe and accept people tell me. I believe but accept what I can't understand is very tough for me. I know you can't buy your way to heaven but you have to work for it, you may not see it the way I see it because your not in my position. I think it's more than faith and there is work . When I mean you have to work for it, means you got to follow the bible, anything you do that the bible says not to do, even if you believe in God, in all his ways but you break the laws of the bible, what happens then? eternal death? What I'm getting at is I don't do everything the bible says you should follow, regardless how small or big the problem I have and no matter what I believe, how can it be that easy to get into heaven? Just believe Jesus died for our sins? I wish it can be that easy but the bibles words is not making that believable. What am I missing? I am a born sinner and sin everyday of my life till I die, so how can it be possible it can be that easy? All I ask is God to help me get there and I will always ask that till the day I pass away. I want to be sure I can see the people I want to see there as well. I feel sometimes it's better to not have been born then to face consequences. Since the fact is only a very small percentage makes it to heaven and even those who think did righteous don't make it, it means it's that hard to make it right? There is no proof who makes it and who doesn't. How would you feel if I don't make it, or your Mom and Dad, brother, or anyone in your family? how would you feel about it that God erases your memory so you don't feel any pain from losing any family member or members? I would rather not go to heaven and just be a blank as if I was never born then to accept it like that. A person would have to be selfish to accept to live like that and in my opinion is like living a sin in heaven. How can there be a good answer to that one? I hate to bring all this up but I feel the time is near and I need to have my mind clear on my questions. Anyone ask you these kinds of things? anyone ask the church these things? Do you believe God can answer my questions before I leave this Earth? I hate to question these things but I feel these are very valid questions and not questions to go against Gods ways. We have no choice and that is to either follow Gods rules or die. All I ask is what happens and why? What do you think about my situation? what do you feel about what I said? you think I can make it to heaven? I need more clarification and the more questions that can be answered in a way I can accept, the better it will be for my situation.

Anyway I'll leave it at this for starters. Your life is probably so easy, you don't realize it the way I see it. You probably go to work to pay your living expense, go home, and it's the same routine everyday and no sin to it. I have to sin everyday just to live. I have it tough. Not easy. I have it worse than anyone in my family I feel. Please help!

Response #1:  

Good to make your acquaintance. In my opinion, you are asking all the right questions.

Let me assure you that there are answers. God put us here to ask these questions so that He might answer them for us.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 NIV

It is the truth that Jesus died for the sins of every single human being who would ever be born. The Father sacrificed His own dear Son for our sins, not to condemn us, but in order to save us. Jesus suffered and died for our sins, not that we might go to hell, but that we might have eternal life in Him. God's motives are very clear: He wants you to be saved; He wants you to have eternal life; He wants you to believe in Jesus Christ.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

The gift of salvation is absolutely free – to you and me. Jesus paid the price. By putting your faith in Him, believing that He is the Son of God, come into the world to die for our sins, by accepting Him and His work for you through faith in Him, you are saved.

It may seem simple – and it really should be – but most human beings are unwilling to bend their will to the Will of God. Most people would rather continue to be "gods unto themselves" rather than even to acknowledge the One true God in the way in which He has prescribed we must do to be saved: honoring Him by honoring His gift of His dear Son our Lord Jesus. That is why we are here on planet earth:

(24) The God who made the world and everything in it, He is Lord of heaven and earth. He does not dwell in man-made temples, (25) nor is he waited on by human hands, as if He needed anything from us. He is the One who gives us all life and breath and everything else. (26) From one man he created all the nations of mankind – that they should come to inhabit the whole face of the earth. He fixed and determined the specific times and extent of their habitations, (27) to the end that they should seek out this God, that they might go in search of Him and so might find Him – for His is not far off from any one of us.
Acts 17:24-27

Any genuine search for God, for truth, for eternal life, always ends up in precisely the place you find yourself: the issue of Jesus Christ:

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."
Acts 16:31

You are certainly correct that we are sinful, we human beings. We are conceived in sin and live in sinful, corrupt bodies all our lives. Being contaminated by sin, what in the world could we ever do for God? How could anything we would ever do be acceptable to One who is absolutely holy? And what would He ever need from us (Acts 17:25 above: "nor is he waited on by human hands, as if He needed anything from us")?

Being helpless, steeped in sin and destined for the grave, condemnation and hell, God in His ineffable unfathomable mercy intervened on our behalf, giving up what He loved the most to save us from eternal destruction:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 KJV

When we put our lives in God's hands through accepting the Sacrifice He has made for our sins, the death of His beloved Son Jesus Christ on our behalf, we are changed. Following the act of faith in Christ, we become one with Him, we are given the Holy Spirit and a "fresh start for our heart". We still have sin residing in our flesh, and in the course of the temptations of life we will certainly not be able to live without an occasional stumble, and are forgiven when we do upon our confession of these sins. But we are now able to begin to walk forward on the high road to Zion with Him. We are now able to learn the truth that the fleshly mind of unbelieving Man cannot grasp. We are now able to appreciate Him and love Him, to learn from Him and walk beside Him. We are now able to begin growing up in Jesus, passing the tests of life that come our way, and, eventually, to begin serving Him – not through fleshly works of our own devising, but through the proper function of the individual spiritual gifts we receive at salvation in the ministries He chooses for us. Our service to Him thus becomes not a means of salvation (for we are saved entirely by His grace through our acceptance of it by faith), but a means of eternal reward.

And the Spirit and the bride say "Come!"
And let the one who hears say, "Come!"
And let the one who is thirsty come;
let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
Revelation 22:17

I am happy to answer all of your particular questions and anything you may feel I failed to address in your email. But please do not delay to put your life in Jesus' hands. The issue is crystal clear and incredibly simple. It is a question of will. Will you obey God's will, His simple requirement of putting your faith in Jesus and His work for eternal life? If you are willing to do so, you will live forever with Him and with all of us who love the Lord more than anything in this very temporary and unforgiving world.

Please also see:

Salvation: God's Free Gift

God's Free Gift of Salvation

Free-Will Faith and the Will of God

Faith: What is it?

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.

In anticipation of our Savior's return and our resurrection unto eternal life.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

Hope all is doing well with your ministry and God bless you for it. I have a question regarding what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6)

I am often reluctant in using this verse because some people get the impression that I think that I am holier than thou for using it, but at the same time I know there is truth to it because our Lord told us that. I often give unbelievers the benefit of the doubt if they don't believe the Gospel at first or are undecided in accepting it as truth when explained to them for the first time. We are told to preach the Gospel to the lost and not keep the truth to ourselves and use Matthew 7:6 as an excuse not to spread the Gospel to unbelievers. Matthew 7:6 came to my remembrance as I was discussing the Gospel with a family on a recent trip. Needless to say, this person ended up very upset at the end of the discussion as I gave up arguing. I told said that evolution is a lie and schools shouldn't use tax payers money to teach such lies in school. The response was screaming, "how can you say that? I work in a lab and I'm a biologist and know for a FACT that evolution is true!!!" I know that macro evolution is scientific but one species evolving into another isn't. I know that they reproduce after their own "kind" as the bible says. A wolf is technically a dog (same "kind"), and a zebra and donkey are of the same kind but not a different species such as a zebra and a lion. Anyways, after going off on this tangent and I was also told that neither I nor anyone else can prove the bible was written by God: it was written "by sexist males and the bible is full of errors and prejudice". This is when Matthew 7:6 came to my remembrance and I stopped debating. The more I tried to explain about the Gospel or defend it, the greater the attack and the slandering of God's Word. Was this basically an example of Jesus spoke about in that verse? Or was I wrong in thinking that way?

God Bless,

Response #2: 

Good to hear from you. First, I certainly commend you for your tireless witnessing for our Lord. It is always a "judgment call" to determine when to give the gospel and when to refrain, when not enough has been said and when too much has been said. On the one hand, we would not wish for a person to be deprived of the good news about Jesus Christ because we have been too shy or not forthcoming enough; on the other hand, we would not wish to "poison the well" against a possible future response by being too aggressive in our approach, especially when we are getting nowhere. Much depends upon the person being witnessed to, but not a little depends on the person doing the witnessing. Even then, the particular time and circumstances can also change the calculus to no little degree. I tend to believe in "over-kill" in principle, but more often skew to understatement in practice. Sometimes a well-placed word can do more to get someone thinking than a pound of pamphlets and a peck of energetic persuasion. Plus, if a person is intrigued, they will let you know about it. Still, there is also a time and a place for the "hard sell", and, as I say, only the person in question can really make that call. The more we grow spiritually, the better we understand the Lord's purpose and the plan of God, the closer we are personally walking with Jesus Christ, the better we will become at discriminating in these matters, and the more effective our witness will be in any case – not just through our words, but also through our Christian walk.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.
1st Peter 3:1 NIV

The principle here applies to us all. When unbelievers see us happy in hard times, hopeful in desperate straits, blessing when being cursed, trusting God with all our hearts even when everything is falling apart, it will not be lost on them there is something "different" about us. Of course, if we are acting pretty much like the rest of the world, well, whatever "good words" we have to share will not be anywhere near as effective.

There is certainly a time to "cease and desist" in presentation of the gospel. We are to act towards all in love, and if they are yelling and screaming at our message of love, it is probably a good time to revert to the silent witness of love and a Christian walk, waiting for a more opportune time.

In all these things, we really do not have to worry at all. God desires all to be saved and will not permit any sliver of positivity towards His Son to go un-nourished. And when we do get a chance to give the gospel, it is the Spirit who is making the truth of the good news about Jesus Christ and eternal life through faith in Him and His work on the cross real, meaningful and understandable to the object of our attention. Our job is to get our personalities, our prejudices, our personal feelings, and our ignorance out of the way as much as possible. But God does the real work.

My advice is to keep on with your personal spiritual advance through studying and believing the truth of the Word of God. As you grow in the truth, you will make better and better applications to your life in all things, including witnessing, and you will gain in confidence about what is right to do and when to do it in all matters. This is a very under-appreciated theme in scripture, especially in our Laodicean age, but it is an extremely important one as the emphasis placed upon it the Bible surely shows (cf. also Rom.1:28; 2:18; 1Cor.11:28; 16:3; 2Cor.8:8; 8:22; 1Thes.2:4):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:2

Happy is the man who does not condemn himself in whatever he approves [as good to do].
Romans 14:22

Examine yourselves to see whether or not you are [standing firm] in your faith; evaluate yourselves [on this score]. Don't you believe as the truth (epigignosko) that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you have failed this test.
2nd Corinthians 13:5

And let each person evaluate his own work, then he will keep what he would boast about to himself and not [foist it upon] his neighbor.
Galatians 6:4a

[And be] discerning what is pleasing to the Lord [for you to do].
Ephesians 5:10

(9) And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [as you grow] in your belief in the truth (epignosis) and your application [of it] to all [circumstances], (10) so that you may discern what is best to the end that you may be without compromise and without blame in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., for the day of reward), (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that is [produced] through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Evaluate all things, [then] hold fast to the [things which are] good [for you to do].
1st Thessalonians 5:21

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties (i.e., consciences) to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

Beloved, don't believe every spirit [of every so-called prophet], but test the spirits [of these "prophets" to see] whether [or not] they are from God.
1st John 4:1

Keep on growing in Jesus, and all these things will become clearer with every step along the way.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18 NIV

In our dear Lord whom we are so privileged to serve, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

 Thanks for your response. I could have written a book when you posted "cults" recently. Back to my original email, the "church of Christ" still disturbs me. They are people who believe Christ was who he said he was, but have a 4 step plan for salvation. Repent, believe (what, I'm not sure), be baptized by immersion, walk in newness of life. Faith in Christ is faith in Christ, and I fear their faith is in their denomination. I have broken contact with them for spiritual safety, but for the sake of witnessing I need to understand. They introduced me to learning from scripture alone and not from Thieme. May he be blessed in his interim body, and I pray that the "church of Christ" has the Truth. I know that the Lord placed me in a position to firmly to once and for all eternity decide if my salvation needed to happen. Yes Lord! And did it need to happen His way or through works, the 4 step plan? And I brag only in Christ crucified that I made the right choice through The Father's calling and grace and mercy. When I witness to the aforementioned, can I leave them with their misguided faith, or do I insist on The Work of all works? Their insistence on debating only Scripture has me thinking they are good people, but I hope they don't reject The Work. But like we both know, only God knows their hearts.

Response #3: 

I admire you for your determination and for your good Christian heart. I doubt I would have the patience, but, clearly, these people need to be exposed to the truth too.

There are two issues here, in my view. On the one hand, it is very often impossible for a believer to know with certainty whether or not another person is "really saved". Given that we often have questions about our own spiritual status – at least until we have drunk deeply of the truth of the Word – that should not be surprising. But, on the other hand, even if a person is "saved", that does mean that said person is either spiritually "safe", or far less that said person is spiritually growing and progressing. The truth is the critical issue in all these matters, so that even in those instances where an individual really has trusted in Jesus for salvation (regardless of the additional claptrap they have subsequently submitted to and may now espouse) hearing the truth and responding to it is still the most important thing. Rescuing someone from the mire of legalism wherein no growth is possible and regression is the rule is a noble Christian deed. As I have often said, neither evangelism nor apologetics is not my personal forte, but I admire those like yourself who are called to venture onto that spiritual battlefield for Jesus Christ.

Standing on the scriptures is wonderful and right. But one has to be understanding the scriptures correctly to have any true and solid standing. Putting it out that "we are relying only on the scriptures" is really a canard if by that a group is trying to say that their doctrine can be expressed only in scriptural quotations. After all, the word "Trinity" never occurs in the Bible, and I would hope that all true Christians would be happy to argue for that fundamental doctrine, even though it requires explaining scripture and not just quoting it (and I am sure that in fact the group you mention does more than just quote scripture).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

I want to write and thank you personally for the prayers you or others close to you have offered in response to my emails on behalf on my friend. As I had related earlier, she is safely home now with her husband, continuing what will no doubt be a lengthy recuperative process. It has been a blessing to many that she remains in the land of the living.

I recall having forwarded her husband's report to you and the other people on my short prayer list regarding one of her doctors' reactions to seeing her in a wheelchair in the hospital corridor one day ("his jaw literally dropped!"). Another story he related to me later over the phone was that an additional doctor assigned to her case was so moved by her recovery that tears filled his eyes as he spoke with them. Both these reports evidence her truly tenuous state of health at the time. Her subsequent recovery - to the astonishment of her attending physicians- makes this story all the more remarkable and wonderful. I trust this has been a great encouragement to those who have prayed for her, as it is a poignant reminder that we serve a faithful God, abundant in tender mercy and loving-kindness, and One who hears and answers us when we call upon Him in truth - for ourselves as well as on behalf of others, and especially our brethren in Christ Jesus our Lord and Redeemer. Maranatha!

Dr. Luginbill, I continue to benefit from your Ichthys articles and appreciate so much your really excellent work - particularly the Satanic Rebellion Series. I am sure you would like to hear a "praise report" regarding how it has been received by a "neighbor" of mine (I live in a rooming house, actually- he lives next door). After 3 years of becoming friends with him, I've learned of his at times rather obsessive reading about and fascination/admiration with "all things Mafia," more than several other things "Nazi," and at times patiently endured his stories, glories, rough-house and violent tales, off-color jokes, racist viewpoints and his former struggles with alcohol addiction (which quite nearly killed him) and his subsequent commitment to the 'recovery' program through AA. Lately, though, something quite thrilling has begun to change his thinking, focus, and what might be called "worldview" - he discovered your "Satanic Rebellion Series."

For the past 10 days or so, the subject of conversation between myself and my neighbor has changed dramatically. I sometimes hardly recognize him! A genuine humility has "peeked out" of his personality that I never would have thought in a hundred years would be there at all. He has been daily "gushing" enthusiasm about what an eye-opening experience his reading your series has been to him. He continually thanks me and thanks me again, and thanks me again the following day. He has said that over the past 11 or 12 years of praying as he focused on staying sober and committed to his AA program, he has never understood "what it was really all about." - He is just floored! You can only imagine my astonishment when he said, quite of his own accord, that he finally understood that the purpose of life was to glorify God! I can't begin to list the amount of things he has said as his understanding of the angelic conflict and his role in it enlightens him. God bless you, Dr. Luginbill!

Sincere Regards,

Response #4:  

So good to hear all this good news from you! I am most pleased to hear that she is on the mend, and will continue to keep her in my prayers. Kudos to you for standing up for your friend in this way and being tenacious about praying and having others pray for her recovery (Lk.18:1-8).

Good work with your friend too! Sometimes it is just a question of a person waiting for the truth like a ripe apple that the worker in the vineyard just needs to give a little tug to. Often, however, as in this case, it may take more than one tug! But without conviction, persistence, and a genuine love for the Lord, who else would be entering into this field and reaping the fruit?

May you have many stars in your crowns on that great day of glory!

Your enthusiasm for the work of the gospel is most encouraging! Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ.

In our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #5:

Dr. Luginbill:

I am wondering what gospel in Acts are they talking about that Paul and the others are preaching about Jesus since only a few books of the NT existed?

Thank you,

Response #5: 

Good to make your acquaintance. The word "gospel" in English represents the Greek word euangelion in translations of the New Testament or, alternatively, is rendering the verb euangelizomai. The noun "gospel" only occurs twice in the book of Acts (15:7; 20:24), while the verb "give the good news" occurs 15 times. That is really indicative of what is going on. The "gospel" is the "good news" about Jesus Christ, not a particular book of the Bible. In fact, the full names of the gospels, i.e., "The Gospel according to Matthew", etc., are probably not original to the books themselves. "Gospel" was a natural name to place upon the four books which give us such a deep and blessed picture of the life and words and work of our Savior, but the word "gospel" used in that limited sense (i.e., a book of the Bible rather the message of salvation which the book contains) is not biblical but a later development. That is not to say it is wrong in any way to call Mark "the Gospel according to Mark" – far from it – only that when we read "gospel" in the Bible we have to do with the essential message about Jesus Christ, namely, that salvation comes through faith in Him, in His perfect divine-human Person and in His work in atoning for all sin on the cross – and not with one of the first four books of the New Testament.

Hope this helps – feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:   

Bob:

Good to make your acquaintance too. I appreciate your knowledge on this subject and it has been very helpful to discern between the verb and the noun. It is what I assumed but, In this context it is a much clearer picture. I think about Paul and the others spreading the word of Jesus to the cities where the dwellers were not taught Judaism and wonder what intellectual tools of persuasion they had to convert Idol worshippers to Believers in Christ. With the Jews they had the Old Testament and then the story of the resurrection. It makes me think of the traveling salesman of the 50s who struggled to sell door-to-door. Do you have any insight about this subject?

Sincerely,

Response #6: 

The Book of Acts doesn't tell us everything that happened by a long shot, but it does tell us what we need to know. We know, for example, that Paul made a habit of starting his evangelism in the Jewish synagogue in any given town (or wherever the Jewish population met; cf. the Jewish "place of prayer" at Philippi: Acts 16:13), then branching out to gentiles at large after beginning with those gentiles who were already seeking God through Judaism. Since the Old Testament was the way to seek God before the coming of Jesus and the revelation of the gospel "in His Name", those who had associated themselves with a local synagogue were likely to be genuinely interested in the truth. This situation was unquestionably anticipated and orchestrated by God for the salvation of these individuals and for the expansion of the entire Church. And of course it would be remiss not point out that the apostles were given to do many miraculous acts and healings for the express purpose of providing a hearing for the gospel (e.g., Acts 19:11-12). It is in this context of a Jewish base and a powerful witness of the Spirit that Paul, for example, attempted to "persuade" his hearers to accept the gospel:

Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Acts 18:4 NIV

And, again in Paul's case, the "persuasion" was deliberately non-rhetorical for a very good reason:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1st Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

This tells me that the truth of the gospel is what is important. If we get the message right, the Spirit will never fail to make it completely understandable in the heart of the hearer for all who really do want to have eternal life and are willing to accept God's Substitute for their sins, Jesus Christ, in order to be saved. The real limitation in evangelism is certainly not the power of God or even the insufficiency of we His servants; the real limitation is the hardness in the hearts of those who have determined not to respond. I written about this subject in some detail, especially in the most recent major posting: BB 4B: Soteriology: the Study of Salvation.

Please feel free to write back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ, the One who died for all that all might live forever.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Bob,

I always give thanks for the reliable reference and guiding spirit of your work.

I was asked to preach a sermon as a stand-in for our minister who will be on vacation, and shortly after being honored with this offer, one of the Deacons mentioned with enthusiasm reading Jonah and being confused about the ending of Chapter 4. I'd appreciate your words of wisdom about this as well as any additional aspects of this topic.

I'd like to bring this topic into the breath of moment-by-moment life in our individual, day-to-day opportunities and challenges.

Bob, I've read your "The 'baptism which now saves you': 1st Peter 3:21" and will use this as part of whatever "through the Spirit" I have to say.

Keep the faith and be in JOY, with love and blessings, in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,

Response #7:  

Always good to hear from you. The ending of Jonah is, for me, a wonderful statement and explanation of God's complete control over human history. I have recently written quite a lot about this subject in working on part 4B of Basics: Soteriology (please see the link).

The vine which the Lord causes to grow is something Jonah can relate to. It is small, vulnerable, and something which gives him pleasure. It takes his mind off of his sullen reaction to events which do not go as he had clearly hoped they would. Jonah felt about Assyria the way the Poles must feel about Germany and or Russia. He knew this country would be the cause of much misery for his own people, and would have been very pleased to have the Lord wipe it off the map. However, he was looking at things the way we human beings have a tendency to look at things without the benefit of the divine perspective. In my observation and experience, a very large percentage of the process of spiritual growth is overcoming just that short-coming. If we really did appreciate God's power, God's greatness, God's love and His perfect planning out of every single detail not only of our own lives but also of the entire process of human history to the 'nth degree, we would be much less likely to give into emotional reactions as we experience "life", and much more likely to trust Him that He is indeed, as we claim we understand, "working out everything together for good for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28).

We human beings have a tendency to look at situations and assume the worst, and to look at groups and generalize. Jonah should have understood that nothing was going to happen to anyone in Israel or Judah except according to the will of God, and that even if he had been able to prevail upon the Lord to destroy the capital of Assyria, God could easily raise up another scourge to punish the disobedience of His special people, should they require it. He also should have realized that while he saw "Assyria", the Lord saw each and every individual heart of each and every person in Nineveh – God is even concerned about the animals (and doesn't that speak volumes about the comprehensive nature of the plan of God)! The Lord knew full well that many of the generation to whom Jonah was sent would repent and turn to the Lord for salvation when they received the proper message. Clearly, this was a unique thing in history, but God brought it about not only for their benefit but also for ours. This incident shows that no single human being is under-appreciated or forgotten by God no matter how obscure their historical circumstances may seem to us, that God puts everyone in just the right time and place for their best chance to saved and to respond to Him, and that even if the situation seems impossible, nothing is impossible for Him.

One of the main objections unbelievers always seem to level against a hearing of the gospel, people, that is, who have actually chosen themselves not to want to have anything to do with Jesus Christ, is the claim that "many people at many times never had an opportunity to hear the gospel". Setting aside the obvious fact that our collective knowledge of ancient history is incredibly minuscule even touching secular things (and that is true even for professional ancient historians), and the equally pertinent observation that the people making this objection to us have now heard (and so are personally without any excuse for rejecting Jesus), the incident of Jonah and Nineveh shows that God has always been at work in all places and all times wherever and whenever there has been the slightest inclination on the part of anyone to turn to Him and be saved. The salvation of what was apparently most of the population of blood-thirsty and lascivious pagan Nineveh would seem so incredible as to be completely unbelievable – except for the fact that it is recorded by scripture (and I note by way of aside that even today there are many Christians in that area of Iraq-Syria-Turkey who claim "Assyrian" as their ancestry – one of them taught my Sunday school as a child). What we do not know about what is happening now and has happened in history is overwhelmingly vast – but there is nothing that God does not know, nothing He did not know before He created the world in Jesus Christ, and nothing He did not take into account in creating and placing every single human being in their particular surroundings, including making provision for every individual person, drawing all to Him who would in any way be willing to be drawn, for Christ died for all.

The provision and taking away of Jonah's vine was a wonderful way to educate Jonah about all this, because it made him responsive to a message from the Lord which otherwise in his bitterness and resentment he would might have been forced to listen to, but may not actually have heard. When God talks to us, He does so in a way that is so much more than mere words; through the Spirit, He causes us to understand (if we listen and believe, that is). And in Jonah's case – and we have all had the "Jonah experience" at one time or another – God also gave him a circumstantial "attention getter and perspective-maker" so that he would be better able to accept the truth he needed to accept and believe (as well as to hear and understand). By pointing out to Jonah that he could become so personally attached to a plant so as to become angry 'even unto death', the Lord made it easier for him to understand that as the Creator of these people in Nineveh, the Lord certainly had a desire for their salvation, each and every one. Instead of seeing things from his personal and national perspective, Jonah should have rejoiced that the Lord had found a way to bring so many to repentance so as to be saved. For if we have some compassion on small things in our own little orbit, will not God have perfect compassion on everyone whom He has created in love for His own glory, everyone, that is, willing to respond to Him?

In every loss we experience, great or small, God is teaching us many lessons: the insubstantial nature of the world, the need to trust in Him and not in things, His love and compassion for us which is greater than anything else in this world in the comfort He provides for those who respond to His comfort instead of reacting and blaming Him. But He is also teaching us something about Himself. He is teaching us a little bit of what He is like. We only feel loss and compassion because we are made in His image, and however inconsistent and imperfect our feelings and emotions may be on this score, we know that His compassion is limitless and perfect. And since He has manifested His love in a perfect way, doing absolutely the most to deliver everyone from the true tragedy of loss of eternal life by having His own dear Son be judged and put to death for all our sins that we might be saved, ought we not to try and adopt His perspective of love in loving our neighbors as ourselves? Jesus wants everyone saved; that should be what we want too. What right do we have to exclude whole nations, whole groups, and individuals with whom we have 'issues' from the love that God wants to shed upon them and will – if only they are willing? We are concerned with our plants and our pets (and that is fine as these verses show), but, like Jonah, we ought not to be slow about drawing the parallel that God is thus concerned for everyone He has created by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ, and we ought to make every effort to view every other human being through that same "lens" of the immensity of the love of God.

The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
Psalm 145:9 NIV

Best wishes on that sermon! Feel free to write me back about this.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for your uplifting words and website connections as I prepare for a "sermon dialogue" on Jonah.

Are there connections I might make between Jonah and Revelation?

Keep the faith and be in JOY, with Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,

Response #8: 

You are most welcome – very glad to be of some service.

As to your question, the best one I can think of is the parallel between Jonah's attempt to escape from God's will by the ridiculous expedient of running away (as if we could ever out-distance God!), and the equally misguided approach taken by many of our brothers and sisters in Christ today of imagining that they will not have to go through the Tribulation.

As you know, I have much on the site refuting the erroneous false doctrine of the pre-Tribulation "rapture" (best entry links: "No Rapture" and "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory."). The "head in the sand" attitude this false teaching engenders about coming events in my view poses one of the gravest dangers currently faced by the Church: being completely unprepared spiritually for the end times as a result of fanciful wishful thinking. We cannot avoid what God wills for us. Just as Jonah would have been better off accepting a difficult assignment he ended up having to undertake anyway (at the cost of much unnecessary suffering), so all contemporary Christians should face up to the reality of the coming Tribulation and prepare for what they may well have to endure instead of pretending "it can't happen to me".

Yours in the great mercy of our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Dear Bob,

I thank you so very much for the love in all of your scholarly research that is reaching so many people. Here’s to outline of the "Sermon Dialogue" that I’ll be co-preaching on Sunday in an email that I sent to my co-sermon colleague:

Subject: "JONAH SERMON DIALOGUE"

I thank you very much for the joy of working with you preparing a "Jonah Sermon Dialogue."

In continuation of our meeting on Sunday let's think of a real-time conversation flow in four parts, concluding with part five where we "decide" to preach a sermon together.

In the Order of Worship the Scripture Lesson can be

· Jonah 1:1-5; and

· Matthew 12:32-41.

Choir director will need to know our hymn selection by Thursday to print the bulletin. I'll follow your lead regarding the choice of songs.

This is simply a sketch of ideas to be ignored as the Holy Spirit guides us.

I. Sermon?

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. Genesis 1:2-3

· Request to preach a sermon?

· Bible basics?

o Creation?

o Image of God?

o Son of God?

o Salvation?

· Conversation about sermons and the birthing of a sermon?

· Recent reading of Jonah?

· What about Jonah?

II. Jonah?

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me." - Jonah 1:1-2

· Who was Jonah?

· What happened to Jonah? – The Whale – "Big Fish"

· What is a prophet?

· Four books of Jonah

· Nineveh?

III. Jonah and Jesus?

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." - Matt. 12:40

· Parousia – Second Coming of Christ?

· What is Salvation?

· Free Will, Faith, and The Will of God – Thy Will Be Done!

· Plan of God for Individual Salvation

IV. The Coming Tribulation and Today's Jonah Moments?

Blessed [is] he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time [is] at hand. – Rev 1:3

· Tribulation? - The Coming Tribulation?

· Great Apostasy?

· Dearth of Bible Reading and Teaching?

· Judgement, Restoration and Replacement?

· Jonah Moments?

V. Conclusion – Decision to Preach a Sermon?

But whey they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to say will be given you in that very hour and moment. – Matthew 10:19

Bob, I'm learning a lot as I prepare for this venture.

Keep the faith and be in JOY, with Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,

Response #9:  

This looks great! I have only one comment. In my experience, especially dealing with student presentations, I find that it is a common thing among the best and the brightest to "over-prepare", not in the sense of knowing their topic too well (impossible), but in the sense of having far to much material to be able to get to it all in the time available. Paul preached "until midnight" at Troy (Acts 20:7), but 1) the early Christians had better attention spans than most of our brethren do today, and 2) we don't want anyone falling out of the window (Acts 20:9).

Looks to me like a series – and I'm all for that!

Thanks as ever for your kind words.

And it is so true that preparation to teach something is the best way to learn something.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Bob Luginbill,

I would like to say that I found your comments on your page to be uplifting and edifying. I certainly sense a truth in you.

I was doing a personal study on the spiritual truths that we can find in the carnal rituals of Passover. While searching for facts on "bitter herbs", I stumbled across your page titled "Foot-washing, Bitter Herbs, Baptism, and Borrowed Faith." I read all of the questions and answers on the page and found that you have a true understanding that anyone who has experienced the teachings of the Spirit can relate to. I notice something about the third Q&A that I would like to comment on, and like all things in my experience with God, I feel that He brought me to your page to find what I was looking for.

Question #3, which you have titled "borrowed faith", was a very odd question. It is not the question itself that is odd, but the tone and the lack of background that makes it odd.

The question was as follows:

Question #3: "I think that the only reason I believe that Jesus is God's Son is because that is what I was taught. I have never had any special experience with Christ. I don't think I have ever even had a special feeling (though I probably tried to force such a feeling) or a "peace" about Christ being my Lord. I have been greatly blessed, and I believe that all good things come from God, but surely these blessings are not an indication of the presence of faith. May I ask why you believe that Jesus is the Son of God... the only way to God? It seems that one has to make his faith his own. I may have lived my life so far on "borrowed faith"."

I suppose that the person asking the question was sincere; however, I am not sure what the person was really asking. The questioner did not state that he/she has been exposed to the fact that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. I didn't get from the brief question whether the questioner has accepted that there is a need for redemption, and, as it relates to us, it must be a heavenly sacrifice. I was left to speculate that the questioner is the same type of Christian that I was for 38 years of my life, which is a believer in a God that I conjured in my own imagination. Some bits and pieces came from my formal religion (Church) that I attended throughout my life, but I did not know Christ at all. I did not know why He had to suffer on the cross, and did not understand that faith is a real living substance.

I can simply suppose that the questioner has no clue about redemption, however, what troubles me about the question is that he/she did not ask "what can "I" do to identify Christ as the source of my faith", or "what can "I" do to understand the importance of Christ in the faith that I already have in God". The person did not ask you why he/she does not have a relationship with Christ, and what he/she could do to gain that understanding. The questioner asked why YOU believe that Christ is the Son of God and why YOU believe that we must believe in Him. And what I found equally confusing is that you did not explain the need for a Messiah, but how to nurture your faith that you already have.

The thing that troubles me about the question is that it is an accusatory question. Consider these examples:

"Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?" - Genesis 1

5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? - John 8

Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn't’t we?" - Mark 12

May I ask why you believe that Jesus is the Son of God... the only way to God? It seems that one has to make his faith his own. Question #3

I’m not sure if you realize it or not, but the questioner never established the level of understanding that he/she has. You answered as if the person had been given all of the facts, but was struggling with it. The response was as if the person understands the reason for Christ, but does not have the connection with Christ that he should have. That was never established. What was apparent to me was that the questioner was not asking you in a very humble way. Either way, you answered the question with absolute truth, but without the carnal understanding that is needed to understand Christ. I am in no way rebuking the way that you answered the questioner, I found great joy in your answer. I am realizing, however, that the "bitter herbs" that we must consume with the sacrifice, may be the bitterness of the truth that gives us the understanding of our Messiah. I can have faith in Christ, as I did for 38 years, believing that He came to earth to die for my sins, without ever understanding why He HAD to come. This is a bitter teaching. It is bitter for most people to truly accept that we are not worthy of redemption. It is bitter to hear that God defined the carnal sacrifices and put the Israelites through so many carnal, hard trials. This, all, for our learning sake.

I am wondering if you already knew that the person had a fundamental understanding of redemption and the need for a Messiah, or that you were limiting your answer to the feel good truth of the Word (milk).

I truly found your response to be uplifting for me and any reader who has even a basic understanding of Christ, however, I was wondering if you feel that the questioner was edified by your Words.

I truly sense the Holy Spirit in your responses, and thank you for spreading the Word.

Response #10: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your kind words, and for you interest in this ministry. To answer one of your last questions first, I did not (and do not) know this particular correspondent personally.

Answering Bible questions anonymously over the internet is a bit of a different process than I had supposed so many years ago when the idea first occurred to me (actually, before there ever was an internet when personal computers were in their infancy). I had (naively) assumed that over time I would be able to amass a stock of "set responses" to "frequently asked questions", and that such an approach might suffice as a worthwhile ministry. In fact, of course, Ichthys has developed into a multi-faceted, multi-tiered ministry. I do provide plenty of links in cases where I feel these will be helpful to readers and questioners, but these are to detailed studies as well as to related questions. Moreover, while it is true that sometimes I do get questions which are simple, straightforward, and "frequently asked", much more often than not each individual's unique concerns prompt an equally unique individual response. Not that the truth is different – truth is truth. But it turns out that there are many different ways to communicate truth (something I should have realized from my Greek and Latin teaching), and many different needs out there in the Body of Christ (as well as many different misapprehensions). When I respond to a question such as the one you ask about, or such as yours, my job as I see it is to answer not only the technical question but also the underlying need – as best I can.

Naturally, my ability to discern these things is imperfect. Sometimes I find myself second-guessing myself on the occasional response. Blessedly, the beauty of email and the internet is that turn-around time is short and the capacity for communication virtually unlimited. If I "miss the mark" in any given case, generally speaking there are enough readily available and related links given where a person can have similar points clarified, and I am always happy to provide clarification when the answer is (or is felt to be) unclear or otherwise unsatisfactory. This is an art, not a science, and I have never been much of an artist (as my Greek and Latin students who chuckle at my rudimentary "stick-man" drawings on the chalk board can attest). Blessedly as well, however, God is not uninvolved in any conversation where "two or three are gathered together" and where the truth is genuinely being sought. Finally, without the Spirit to cut through the inconsistencies and insufficiencies of human language and human perceptual limitations, knowing the truth would be impossible – but as it is the Spirit makes the truth of any legitimate presentation clear to all who are willing to hear it (please see the link: Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth).

I read over the exchange you are asking about and I do admit that it might be lacking in terms of a "starting from zero" relating of the gospel to someone who was not saved. However, that was not my reading of the situation at the time and I would at this point stand by that judgment. Answers to believers are of necessity going to be different from answers to unbelievers. As to some of the issues you mention, 4B of the Basics series: Soteriology (see the link), is a study which has a lot to say about faith and "how to be saved". There is also much about redemption and the nature of Christ's work on the cross in dying for our sins in part 4A of the same series: Christology (please see that link too if interested in my development of these doctrines).

I appreciate that your understanding of faith, of Christ's sacrifice, of redemption, and no doubt of many other doctrines as well, has grown over the years. That is commendable and such growth in the truth is also a necessary part of our fulfilling of our purpose here on earth (inasmuch as all test-passing requires the underpinning of faith in the truth and every personal ministry is to a very large degree a function of our level of spiritual growth). The respondent in the email in question seemed to me to need some reassurance as to his/her status as a believer and some encouragement and guidance as to how to begin to move forward in the Christian life (and that is what I tried to provide).

Just how much "information" is necessary to be saved in the first place, however, is quite a different question. Salvation is a matter of bending our will to the Will of God in God's prescribed way: acceptance through faith of God's Son and of Jesus' work on the cross. That can be done with a very little information or with quite a lot. When it comes to entering into the family of God through Jesus Christ, "The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" (Rom.10:8 KJV).

That, at any rate, is the reason why I did "not explain the need for a Messiah, but how to nurture your faith that you already have"; i.e., since I was communicating (in my view) with a believer who already had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but who did need his/her faith nourished.

As to "why I believe what I believe", that is really a very interesting question but one to which I am not sure there is a good response. Why do unbelievers refuse to accept Jesus Christ or even come to reject Him outright in this life? Why, on the other hand, do a few of us, a relatively small number in terms of the entire human race from beginning to end, accept the Savior on God the Father's terms? No one, after all, wants to go to hell, and everyone, as I argue in BB 4B referenced above (see the link), comes to the point in their life of recognizing God's existence, their own moral insufficiency, and the universal mortality that ensures that we shall all stand before Him to give an account. Salvation is most definitely not a matter of information (let alone of rhetoric). Atheism, universalism, salvation by works, relative goodness and all other such lies are invented (and reinvented) accepted and believed after the fact of rejecting the truth (whether the gospel in particular or the general truths about God every human being comes to know through natural revelation). That is to say, these lies are part and parcel of the hardening of the heart that allows unbelievers to reject God and His Messiah and live comfortably with that decision thereafter.

Why would they do such a thing? Because they choose to. In the same way, believers are believers because we choose to embrace the truth instead of rejecting it. Coming to faith and continuing therein may have been and often continues to be a difficult, painful and "messy" process which these simple words do not convey, but that is the essence of it. Based on "logic" or even self-interest, everyone ought to be only too glad to grab a freely given Substitute for their sins and trade condemnation for the water of eternal life drunk "at not cost" to us. In fact, maintaining one's own personal sovereignty to the point of being unwilling to bow to God even in this completely non-meritorious way is too much for most human beings to accept. They would rather "reign in hell than serve in heaven", I suppose, even when the stakes are so high. That is their choice. Praise be to God that He has given you and me – and all mankind – the choice of avoiding condemnation and receiving resurrection and eternal life in its place through accepting the Sacrifice He has lovingly made for us in His own dear Son our Lord (and that we have received Him through faith)!

In praise of the grace and mercy of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #11: 

Bob,

I hope I made myself clear that criticism was not my objective. I pray to God often to give me the courage and ability to do His work that you obviously do. I feel that I fall short of the gift that He gave me, a few years ago, by not openly teaching daily. Shame on me if I make a person feel they fall short while working with one individual, while they are actively helping to save so many.

From my perspective, I was looking to accomplish two things by writing to you.

1. Share a revelation that God was giving to me through your page. Whether agreeable or not, I believe that God led me to the answer I was looking for on bitter herbs. It was not the interpretation I was looking to share, but the way that God brings us to our truth is what I was looking to share. I stand amazed that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, bring me to truth, but never directly. He will lead me in a direction, and will make me find it through meditation. The truth just pops-up. Of course that truth is my truth. Not that there are many truths, there is but one truth, but my interpretations help me to grow in my faith. I believe, that is why the Word is given to us in parables. Learning must come from the heart, not just registering truths and filing them away. Through searching, and the use of our hearts, we come to understanding of His truth. It is our job to seek, and the Holy Spirit allows us to see and hear His truth.

2. My question at the end of my letter was truly a question. I was looking to see whether you felt the questioner will grow from the response, even though the response did not address the question directly. His/her question seemed to me, to be a fundamental one. The way that I read it would make me think that the person needed to read Hebrews over and over again. I am not a very good teacher, and most of my apprehension when it comes to sharing His Word is that I am not sure whether it is milk or meat that brings non-believers to faith. I am much more comfortable speaking with you, or my sister who as Paul would say, "have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." When it comes to someone who either has no desire for faith, or faith that is not based on Jesus Christ, I am never sure how to approach them. I can relate to these people that want to maintain a faith that is skin deep and without true understanding because I was one of them. As I said in my letter, I spent 38 years saying that I was a Christian. I would even say that Christ died so that "the gates of heaven were opened". Now I look back on my life and say that I squandered 38 years of it. The gift of understanding that He gave me a few years ago truly changed my life. This is something I struggle with when trying to expose others to His truth. The intended question at the end of my letter should have been asked differently. The question should have been. Whether you, as a person who obviously does His work with people at all levels of faith, feel that someone who claims to have faith yet denies a relationship with Christ, needs milk or meat? I noticed you gave the questioner milk, but that may have been what you knew the questioner needed at this point in their faith. I most definitely would have given meat, but I do not do the work that you do. What may have seemed like criticism was actually my desire to understand how to approach teaching.

As I said in my letter, I truly hear Him working through you. This was the first page that I ever commented on. It was the fact that I sensed Him in your words, and my confusion to your response, that drove me to write to you.

Thanks again for sharing His Word, and taking the time out to write to me.

God bless you

Response #11:  

I appreciate your words and your spirit very much. As I say, nobody is perfect, and our perceptions of our fellow believers and their spiritual status are always going to be, absent some special insight or gift thereof from the Spirit, imperfect as well. My essential approach is pretty simplistic. If a person is clearly not a believer, I try to adapt a gospel appeal to whatever they are grappling with. If a person is a believer on the right track, I try to answer the questions they ask as fully as possible and wean them away from any incorrect positions they may be espousing. If a person is a believer but someone is spiritual trouble for whatever reason, I try to give them straightforward guidance about turning away from the bad and turning toward the good, and I try to encourage them to do so (rather than trying to solve all problems in a single email). The latter, as you have discovered, is an involved process of diligently seeking the Lord through His truth. That is the fundamental purpose of Ichthys, and if you have benefitted in that way from the ministry to any extent, to that extent I greatly rejoice.

I certainly wasn't intending to come off like I felt you had taken some offense. It's an occupational hazard (and a personal failing) that I tend to get long-winded about these things. I suppose it's the pedagogue in me. No offense taken on this end – and I dearly hope none was given.

Thanks again for your emails and for all your kind words.

Keep fighting the good fight of faith for our dear Lord Jesus!

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Bob,

Not long winded at all. I spent some time on Ichthys, and will be sure to pass it on to as many as I can. Certainly, I intend on reading your material in the future. I see that you practice what you preach. The more questions I read on our page, the more I see how complex the situations are. Here I'm struggling with getting a few of our Lords Words to people, and some of these questioners are having deep struggles with faith. You are doing some great work, and pulling many out of the fire. I think God may not have sent me to your site to understand bitter herbs, but to gain some confidence to get His Word out. I think my issue is that I am too busy analyzing how I should get His Word out, rather than getting it out.

Thanks again, and I am very sure that your work will remain after it is tried.

1 Corinthians 3
5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Malachi 3
16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.
17 " They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts,
" On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him."
18 Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

Your Friend

Response #12:  

Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I appreciate them very much and shall endeavor to be worthy of them.

Ministry is always a complicated business, at least for those who take it seriously and try to get it right.

Hang in there and keep on running to the goal – the reward will make it all worthwhile.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

 

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