Question #1: Hi Bob, Are there any exceptions to Romans 8:28 as a born again believer. Do all things work for the good?
Response #1: Yes I do believe in Rom.8:28 applying to all who "love God" as the verse says. He does work everything out for our good. That is why we should thank God in all things, because whatever happens is the will of God for us (1Thes.5:18). However it is also very true that many times things will happen that are so awful or so unexpected or so demoralizing or so downright unbelievable that we will have a very hard time believing the truth of this passage. I am amazed that Job held up so well under his unique test and still could bless the Name of the Lord. I know I wouldn't be that strong – but we endeavor to get better at this day by day, don't we? There is also the fact that we human beings bring much trouble on ourselves that was never in God's plan for us, much of it via divine discipline for sins we have committed recently or even in the past (in the case of exceptional sinning which requires lengthy disciplining). But even here, God has the whole picture in mind, from the beginning to the end, and did before He made the world through Jesus Christ. There is not a single thing that happens that is a surprise to Him, nor could anything happen at all if He had not decreed it. We can take great comfort in this because it does indeed mean that whenever something is happening to us that we are sure is a disaster of the first order (and to human eyes it may well be nigh impossible to be seen as anything else), God even uses disasters to "work everything out for good", that is, for the true, divine, blessed first best good for our spiritual growth and production and for His glory (cf. Gen.5:20). By growing in Him, by being careful how we walk, by becoming mature and turning away from sin for the most part (no one is perfect, of course), we can and will change the dynamics of how this "working out" takes place, but it is still the case that we may have to endure a good deal of suffering, suffering for blessing, sharing the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and suffering that is a result of the times and circumstances of our lives (especially in the future Tribulation). But even making all of these trials "work for good" is a small problem for our God who exceeds the universe to an incalculable degree and who created it in the blink of an eye. He knows and has decreed everything, and though we may not be able to see it now, in every single case no matter how demoralizing it may seem at present, on that great day of days when we "know even as we are known", it will be clear to us that everything He did for us was truly for our good, and everything that happened to us had a key purpose and role in His plan which always has our good in mind in every way.
Please also see:
Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.
The Plan of God.
Faith: what is it?
Free-Will Faith in Salvation.
In the One who died to give us that eternal life we long for more than earthly life itself, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Hi Dr. Luginbill.
I'm writing because I've a question about a situation with my boss. She's a super great boss, and we're good friends. She is not a Christian, but she is very "spiritual" (her word, not mine). I've had lots of conversations with her about my faith and about the Bible and I feel like I have a lot of responsibility in her life to show her the gospel of Christ.
We were talking today about spiritual things and it came up that she would like to start reading the Bible and going to church with me more often, and I was overjoyed at that. I can really see the Lord working within her and I can feel Him operating within me to be an example for her. He has put words in my mouth while talking to her that I know haven't come out of my own thoughts. But there was one thing that caught me off guard and I don't know how to answer without offending her.
She spent the weekend with some of her family who are Christians and she was totally turned off by their forcefulness and their insistence that everyone who has not accepted Jesus' sacrifice on their behalf will go to hell. I guess that she thinks it is very old-fashioned and cruel for people to still believe that theirs is only one way to paradise and all other paths lead to destruction.
Since I do believe that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation, I told her so. I could tell that she was at least mildly surprised. But she said she appreciates my non-judgmental attitude.
So do you have any suggestions of how I should approach this situation? In our conversations, I always try to balance the love of God with the justice of God and our need for a savior. I'm not sure she understands our dire need for justification, perhaps because she misunderstands the love of God, taking Him to be the type of god that would sweep our dirt under the rug to make us clean instead of exacting his judgment.
And also, I have taken her a couple of times to the church service I go to on Sunday evenings. She has taken the Lord's Supper both times. Since it's been clear to me from our conversations that she has not truly accepted Christ, is it my duty to tell her that I don't think she's ready for communion? I think she grew up in a sort of church where everyone once they reach a certain age goes through the motions and becomes "communion-ready". I don't want to hurt her feelings and I don't want to discourage her from coming to church or talking freely with me.
Well, I'm sorry for the very long email. Please don't feel like you have to have a long response.
It sounds to me as if you are handling this delicate situation very well, being truthful but not pounding away beyond the well-placed word of truth (including your tolerance on communion; I think that is the least of the issues here for someone who might not yet be a believer or at least a person who is seriously committed to following the Lord).
The one thing I will share with you here is something about which you are no doubt well aware but which in situations like this there is a sort of "pastoral responsibility" to mention. That is, people don't change after they get into relationships, in the vast majority of cases. Also, people are often very willing to pretend they have changed on the front side, if the relationship is important enough to them.
Think of it this way. You've just been offered your dream job at a salary you never dared dream of and in exactly the location you'd pick if you could have your pick of the entire world. It has everything you ever wanted and more. There's just one problem: you have to "enjoy eating broccoli" because the company is dependent on that crop, but you detest it worse than anything else on the planet; you gag at the thought of it and have never actually been able to successfully ingest a single crown. Now the interviewing committee asks the fatal question: "Do you love broccoli as much as we do?" Under the circumstances, it is very, very tempting to say, "Yes indeed I do, I do!!!", even though nothing could be further from the truth. It is certainly understandable how a person in this position might feign a deep love of broccoli, hide as best as possible any disgust at the smell, and even, in extreme situations, pretend to eat it (excusing him/herself to go spit it out as soon as possible). But of course this person is probably not only fooling the committee but also him/herself, because if broccoli is really so important to them that they are making such a big deal of it in the interview, the problem is not going to go away. As the time lengthens and the dream job's warts and flaws appear, eventually and inevitably the truth about the person's hatred of broccoli will come to the surface, and then one of two things will have to happen: 1) either the company will have to put up with an employee who is really "not on the team" and probably for that reason a major thorn in their side; or 2) the employee will leave "those darned broccoli lovers" for pastures that are both less and more "green". In either case, it will have been an experience on both sides of wasted time, wasted effort, deceiving and being deceived, and untold damage all around. Of course it is possible that the person will really and truly come to love broccoli – but that almost never ever happens. In fact, it is generally the case that taking this job has made the possibility of ever coming to enjoy or even tolerate broccoli less rather than more likely. That is because on the one hand being forced to deal with it daily and lie about it daily produces a resentment that only hardens previous attitudes to an extreme degree, while on the other hand there is no virtually no chance that the person will now ever have a no pressure, chance encounter with some broccoli prepared in a different way that might just be appealing (or at least tolerable: can you say "cheese sauce"?). That is why I am always reluctant to ask people flat out how they feel about vegetables generally. Better to watch them eat and see what they pick out of the medley.
As to the issue of judgment, this has always been a sore point for many people who are not particularly committed to the Lord because deep down they are worried they might have an issue here. Lately, in the ether of our civilization, the growing atheist attacks on any sort of spiritual outlook have been focusing on this part of the truth. It is an easy target since as you say love and judgment are easily set out by the devil as contradictory (even though in fact you can't have one without the other: how can you be a loving parent and never discipline your kids at all?).
Thanks for all your good words, prayers, and interest.
I have a question on this verse:
1 Chron 4:10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed , and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
God wants to keep us from evil and wants His hand to be with us, He wants to bless us and wants to enlarge our coast. What other things do you think God would want us to ask for? and does the believer have any conditions to meet before they will receive these requests?
Indeed, God has a plan He desires to carry out for each one of us. That plan has common elements for all human beings: God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). Secondly, it seems clear to me from the parable of the talents that God wants every believer to win as great a reward as possible in this life, that we may all hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" when we stand before our Lord on that great day of days. For me, this reduces the issue of prayer to its essentials. We look at today and what is right around us, and even when we look to the future it is a quintessential truth of our limited human nature that even as Christians we have a tendency to be spiritually myopic and forget the "big picture". But of course our Lord is "working all things together for good" for those who love Him, and He always does the "little picture" things for us in the light of the "big picture" results He is aiming at for us. What I mean by that is that Jesus has our ultimate scorecard in mind at all times (actually of course did before He made the universe) rather than being overly concerned about the day to day things that bother us so much. That of course is why He made such a point of telling us "not to worry" – God takes care of the birds and the lilies; He certainly isn't about to forget about us, and if we have the daily essentials we need to soldier on. It is wrong-headed and unproductive to get caught up seeking out things we really can do without.
We are assured over and over again by scripture that our Lord hears and answers our prayers and so He does. We should be thankful, however, that He is kind and gracious enough not to answer every one of them immediately or literally. If He did, it would wreck our lives and His overarching purpose for us of maximizing our spiritual growth, spiritual production for Him, and reward in eternity. For which of us would not choose if we could to have all trouble, all pain, all disease, all want, all temptation, all negative things of every sort taken out of the way immediately? But if our Lord did this immediately, where would the testing be? And we know from scripture that without testing, we can't grow (1Pet.1:3-9; cf. Rom.5:1-5); and that it is by successfully passing tests that we glorify Him through our witness to the world of men and angels (Heb.11). And which of us would not choose if we could to receive all manner of prosperity in every area of life, like Jabez or Job or Abraham or David or Solomon? But it is well worth asking how many of us, flush with material prosperity beyond our dreams, would not spend the rest of our days (or most of the rest of our days) enjoying that prosperity instead of serving the Lord? And while material prosperity may provide opportunities and capabilities, it also in most cases produces spiritual torpor and complacency (and very often spiritual degeneracy as well: Prov.30:7-9). Our Father is the vine-dresser and He knows precisely how to prune us to achieve maximum production (Jn.15). Instead of worrying about the details we see, we really ought to be focused on how best to please Him with the opportunities He has given us (1Cor.7:29-35). In so doing, we will never lack for the resources necessary to carry out our ministries.
Looked at in this way, prayer is really for us, not God. He knows what we are going to ask before we ask it, and He certainly knows what we need before we even feel the need. And, most blessedly of all, He knows what we don't need and what in fact would only harm us if we got it – and is gracious and good enough not to give us what will be bad for us. It is certainly true that avoiding sin and compromising circumstances removes obstacles to prayer (1Pet.3-7). And it is certainly true that the closer we get to the Lord and the more we grow spiritually, the more effective our prayers become (Jas.5:16-18). But much of this increased effectiveness is that as we grow in sanctification (defense against the negative) and spiritual growth (offense in the positive), what we "will" gets closer to what God WILLS for us. After all, isn't that what we pray every day, "Thy will be done."? We are never going to get to the point where our will and God's WILL match up 100%. Such was the case for our Lord Jesus, and of course His prayers were always answered 100% immediately and exactly in the way in which He prayed. So while I think many Christians look at the issue of prayer from the point of view of getting something out of God, in fact, the best prayer keeps in mind what God is trying to get out of us, and prioritizes what He puts a priority on, keeping in mind the big picture, keeping in mind that moment when we stand before Christ's judgment seat, keeping in mind that what we are really here for and what we really want to do in our heart of hearts is to be found pleasing to Jesus in all we think and say and do, producing a bountiful crop for Him in response to what He did in giving up His life for us.
Keep praying (see the link: the value of cumulative prayer)! And keep in mind why you are praying.
In the hopes of reaping that crop when we stand before, Him.
I have a question that has been on my mind for quite some time. Should a girl stay under her father until marriage (ideally) or is she allowed to go out on her own? What if she's 40 and never married? What if she's under another male in a ministry, just not her father or husband? What scripture is there to back up this claim either way?
What overt restrictions there are in scripture along these lines are largely to be found in the Mosaic Law, and should not be regarded as dispositive as far as contemporary behavior is concerned (since we are now under grace, not the Law). Clearly, all children who have not obtained their majority and are living with their parents are under their authority. Clearly too, we are required to respect our parents and honor them as long as they live. However, if we are independent, we are responsible to God for our own actions in all things. If we are not living under their roof, we can certainly honor our parents effectively and at the same time make our own major life-decisions, especially in this society. And it is a good thing we can too, since God holds us responsible for doing so. Since we do not live in a culture where marriages are arranged while we are still not of age (and marriages would probably go better if they were – another story for another day), not only are we not required to get married, but scripture is pretty clear that ideally, if we can do so and avoid falling into sin, it would be better to stay single, both to avoid tribulation and also to better serve the Lord (1Cor.7:1; 7:29-35). There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Christian dedicating his/her time and effort to the Lord and His service rather than to another person. However, of course, once we choose to get married, we cannot just simply abrogate that responsibility after the fact.
As to pastors, it is true that every member of a particular church should pay the pastor "double honor". But this respect and acceptance of authority does most certainly does not equate to abandonment of personal free will or common sense. We are most definitely responsible to the Lord for what church we go to. If we are in the wrong place, we are responsible to get out. Taking the attitude "my pastor right or wrong" is a recipe for a cult. So there is a balance that needs to be achieved here. On the one hand it is wrong for a person or a congregation to ride roughshod over a pastor in despite of his legitimate authority in teaching the Word, but on the other hand it is wrong for a "pastor" to exploit his congregation for personal gain (I put the word "pastor" in quotations here since anyone doing so is not really a pastor at all but a wolf in sheep's clothing), and wrong to try and take over their personal lives.
But this last issue should never come up. Anyone who is truly teaching the Word of God will be very reluctant to get into anyone else's personal business. When a "pastor" starts desiring to make your decisions for you, especially specific ones, it is a sure guarantee that he has strayed for the truth, and it is high to get out before the Kool-Aid is passed.
In the Great Shepherd of the sheep, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Can we know God's Will in our life? Someone made an example how it's foolish to assume such, like "I'm going to go marry my cousin because it's God's will." I've heard people say that they would be too scared to assume they knew God's will. I somewhat disagree because Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that the one who does the will of God will enter heaven, How do we know God's will? and how do we know that we are doing God's will?
It says in John 6:29, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent". There is no real distinction in this passage between the work which God wants us to do and His Will which desires that work. God wants all to be saved (1Tim.2:4); that is His "will". We can certainly extrapolate from this that God wants what is best for us in every case, and we also know that what is pleasing to Him is what is best for us. There is thus not a millimeter of daylight between God's will and our best interests as they are truly (and divinely) defined:
And we know that everything works together for good for those
who love God, for those who have been called according to His
If we truly "love God", and if everything we do reflects this perfectly, then everything we do dovetails perfectly with everything He is doing for us. That is the ideal. In practice of course we are imperfect. We are imperfect in our knowledge, in our faith, and in our application. But "doing what is well-pleasing to Him" is indeed the key to doing His will and, consequently, what is most beneficial to us in every way. In broad terms we know exactly what is "His will". We know He wants us to be saved, and, once saved, to follow His Son our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That means growing in the truth by hearing it and believing it, putting that truth into practice in all we think, say and do, making progress in our walk, and making progress in the preparation for and implementation of the particular ministries to the Body to which we have been severally called.
God gives us a good deal of leeway in how we approach more mundane and general matters. As Paul says, "all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable". We are soldiers who have been entrusted with a very important mission (spiritual growth, progress, and production). But our commanding officer has left in our hands precisely how we are to go about it. As we grow and proceed, things will become more and more clear to us in regard to our particular path, and as the Spirit makes things clear to us in general terms, it is our responsibility to respond both generally and specifically. For example, if we are called to a teaching ministry, it behooves us to go to seminary if possible, and to prepare in all appropriate ways for that experience ahead of time (that would certainly be "the will of God"). But as far as the more mundane specifics of our life are concerned, we are charged with growing spiritually, and our spiritual growth, the building up of our consciences, and the ever more clear testimony of the Spirit to our hearts as we grow will all combine to increase our "spiritual I.Q." so as to give us the guidance we need to figure out whether a particular action (or refraining from action) is truly "profitable" or not. We know not to sin, of course. And as we become more convinced about what it is that Jesus is calling us to do in this life, we begin to make decisions which are supportive of that specific mission we have been given. Indeed, the more "reward motivated" we become (and in the Christian life the motivation of eternal rewards is not only legitimate but extremely important), the more we find ourselves deferring present comfort and enjoyment for the sake of the "mission". You only have to take a look at a person like Paul to see what near perfect "mission-dedication" looks like. Paul came as close as anyone ever has (outside of our Lord Jesus whose approach was perfect of course) to subordinating his personal wants and desires to the "best possible" response to the Will of God, and as a result his eternal reward will be one of the greatest for all eternity.
So my bottom line here is that the way this question is framed usually indicates a gross misunderstanding of the Christian life generally. It is not as if there is only one possible outcome or that every decision hinges on some very specific communication of the will of God to us (in cases where a contemplated action or inaction is not sinful). We have free-will faith, and that is at its essence the ability (and opportunity) to respond to the Lord by doing what is well-pleasing to Him. This "first best will" is not a matter of passive decisions concerning the mundane and largely unimportant things of life – unimportant, that is, if divorced from our overall purpose. This "first best will" only even comes into play once we have begun to move forward spiritually, once we have decided to seek Him and follow Him, once we have begun to discover and believe His truth, putting it into practice in our lives not only defensively (by avoiding sin), but offensively (by growing, applying the truth to life, passing tests, and serving Jesus through our spiritual gifts). It is only in that light that this question even becomes important. That is because for the vast majority of Christians who are sitting on their hand and not growing, progressing and producing, asking "what is God's will?" is absolutely ridiculous: God's will is that they get up and get moving, start seeking the truth, believe and apply it, start passing tests and living the Word, start following Jesus forward, and begin to employ their gifts in the service of the growth of His Body the Church. Only then does this question become relevant, and, inevitably, when it does the person in question is already largely doing God's will, so that more mundane questions on this score begin to answer themselves. Once we begin to ask ourselves "Is this the best way to carry out my mission? Will this help or hinder my efforts to gain the maximum possible reward in eternity by what I do in this life?", then we are very close to seeing the will of God clearly in all things great and small.
In the One who will reward us for everything we have done for Him on that great day of days, our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Last night I was discussing prayer among other things with a friend, and he gave me some thoughts I had never heard before. It's been so pounded into our heads through the years about having daily devotional time. And I agree this is a very good and Biblical practice to have - like the priests offering daily sacrifices in the morning. But then, I can't think of anywhere I've ever read in the Bible where it's commanded to read the Bible. Maybe I'm wrong. But I can think of places where it's said to meditate on the Word, study the Word, let It not depart out of thy mouth, etc. However, when we read about Jesus and his habits, I don't think we ever hear of Him getting up early to read Scripture, nor do we ever really hear of Him reading It ever although I'm sure He was studied up better than anyone concerning Scripture! It seems though that Jesus' morning "devotions" was spent in prayer for the most part. I know in my own life, it's much easier to spend time reading the Bible than in prayer, and my morning devotions often have had much Bible reading and then a little prayer time tacked on the beginning or the end of it. Perhaps though, it should be the other way around with prayer being the main focus with the shorter amount of time spend reading the Word. It doesn't take much time to read enough to get a "nugget" to meditate on. I'm not by any means suggesting that we abandon Bible reading or study. I'm just wondering if maybe there's too much emphasis put on reading, and not enough on prayer and meditation when it comes to that put-aside daily time with God. To be honest, it's easy to read read read, but it takes a special diligence to stop, be quiet and meditate, and devote much time to fervent prayer.
My thoughts above still stand, but I just did a search in the Bible for the word "read" and it's in there a lot! Most of the time in the Old Testament, it's referring either to the king reading Scripture or someone reading it to him, or it's referring to the prophets reading the Scripture to the congregation. Then in the New Testament, Jesus asks the people a number of times something like "haven't you read....?" "didn't you read ...?" But there still isn't much mentioned of individuals reading, but maybe that's just because the Scripture was hard to come by back then. I don't know. Let me say again just to make it very clear, I'm not saying we should not read the Bible. I think I and all Christians would profit much from being in the Word a whole lot more than we are now. I think the best way would be as laid out for us in Deuteronomy:
6 And these words, which I command thee this day,
shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy
children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in
thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and
when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy
house, and on thy gates.
18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your
heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon
your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your
19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of
them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou
walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when
thou risest up.
20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of
thine house, and upon thy gates:
Do you know of anyone who has ever taken this so seriously that they actually post Scripture up on their door posts or gates? Does anyone here have a lot of Scripture posted up in their home? Maybe my desire for it to fit in with my decor theme is the wrong emphasis.
Many Orthodox Jews do indeed take Deut.6 et al. literally. If you go into an apartment building in a Jewish neighborhood you will almost certainly find little boxes nailed to the doorposts (mezuzoth – they contain small scrolls of scripture). But of course even if we wear scripture on our persons, that doesn't at all mean that it is penetrating into our hearts the way it should. I would rather read, be led to understand, meditate on, and inform my prayers with a single verse than to have a thousand tattooed on my body which I really didn't understand or believe.
One of my favorite Psalms is the first one, wherein we find "but in the Law of the Lord is his delight, and upon His Teaching (Torah) he meditates day and night". Notice how there is joy when meditating on the scripture in the biblical way, because that scripture has first been appropriated fully by faith – it has been correctly understood and believed, and this truth in the heart becomes a wonderful treasure chest of all sorts of encouragement, guidance, and consolation. The more we know about the Bible in every way, the more we know about Jesus, because He is the Word of God, and He is our hope, hope of life eternal, resurrection and everlasting reward.
Our Lord always quoted scripture, applying the perfect verse to the circumstance at hand. Without question, I would say, He not only had read the Bible, but He had it memorized (on our Lord's early life application in these matters, please see the link in BB 4A, "Jesus' Early Life and Preparation for Ministry"). And He had not only memorized it, but by the time of His three and a half year ministry preceding the cross He understood every bit of it perfectly. The distinction here, by the way, explains why memorizing the Bible is not the be all and end all of the Christian experience for the rest of us – we could have it memorized cover to cover and not understand or believe or be able to apply very much of it at all, especially if memorization becomes a mechanical chore and especially if it becomes a substitute for Bible teaching et al. In fact, we can meditate on the truth, not only in its raw form (i.e., scriptures we have memorized), but also in its distilled form (i.e., truth extracted from the Bible which we have made our own through belief). Really, it is difficult to separate the two for most of us since we need the constant reassurance of scripture that what we have believed is in the Bible, and since when we meditate or think about or attempt to apply scripture we are constantly having our understanding of it and our faith in it stretched.
All of these things have their part to play. Prayer is essential. Bible reading is essential. Listening to Bible teaching is essential. And setting our minds on "the things above" is essential. These are the basics of spiritual growth, and all true Christian application flows from these essentials. Together, these activities form the core discipline of spiritual growth through which the Spirit, combining with our faith in what we, read, hear, pray and think over, builds up our inner-person, edifying us into mature believers who are prepared for the testing that comes our way and for the ministries that make us useful to the Lord in the further building up of the Church He loves. We can all afford to do more of all of these things. It is a mistake to over-emphasize any one of the four to the detriment of the others. The only adjustment I would ever recommend is to put more emphasis upon whichever one of these four pillars we may come to see is being neglected – not to take away from one we may be concentrating on and doing very well with (and in my estimation getting good Bible teaching tends to be the most anemic of the four for most present day Christians in this country).
And it is not just a question of time put in. It is also a question of energy and discipline. There is meditation and there is day-dreaming. There is reading which communes with the Lord and there is page turning. There is solid connection with the Lord in prayer and there is rote repetition. There is concentration on and faith-response to good Bible teaching and there is just showing up and/or just going through the motions skeptically and lackadaisically. As with anything else in life, it is generally true that "we get out of it what we put into it", and this is true of the interest, discipline, obedience, faith, concentration, delight, and consistency we deploy – as well as being a matter of the hours we have logged.
Hope this is helpful.
In the One who is the Word, our dearest delight, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Do you feel that you yourself have the most correct stance concerning the things of the Bible? My friend and I have talked about this a lot. Of course not all Christians can be the most correct or the closest to what God intended, but there has to be someone or some group that's closer to right than all the rest. Of course we would all say we're the ones, (i.e., I'M the one!) right? However, although it seems to us that some Baptists try so hard to align themselves with the Bible, there are still weaknesses within these churches. So, do you think someone has the "corner on right" and all the rest can line up behind them? It would seem silly to think that someday when we get to Heaven there'll be someone who can honestly say "I was closest to the right"...but then someone will be closest to right, right? It is my thought though that the one who is closest to right will be someone who would surprise us all - someone very meek and humble and quiet and in the background. That's just a hunch though. What do you think? Thanks in advance!
This is always an interesting question. Indeed, in their apologetics, the Roman Catholic church uses the fact that there is so much variation among Protestants as to what is taught on doctrinal matters to assert that this is "proof" that only the Roman Catholic church has the truth! This is, of course, a ridiculous argument for a number of reasons: the volatility of Roman doctrine over time, and the fact that Bible is far down on the authority list of what you should believe (behind the pope, canon law, fathers of the church, etc.), to name but two of the most prominent.
We are supposed to love and seek the truth. But from one point of view we are all a bit different in our understanding of it. What are we to make of that? Contrary to the view of some, my understanding of the word "gospel" as used in scripture is that – while it is true that it does occasionally focus on the entrance into Christ by faith in Him, His Person and His work for us on the cross – it includes the totality of the message from God, that is, all the truth that is knowable by us this side of eternity. It seems to me – and in this I do believe that I have the Spirit and the scriptures on my side – that therefore it ought to be a goal of prime importance for every Christian to desire to know all of this truth, accept and believe it, apply it fully to their lives, and help others do the same. Indeed, for me this is shorthand for the proper Christian walk.
When I look at the church visible, I do not see this by and large, not from most individual Christians – and certainly not from most churches and denominations. In fact, the great disinterest in and sometimes it seems even outright hostility towards the genuine search for all the truth of the Bible is the main reason why this ministry is taking place "outside the gate" as it were.
Long story short, I do believe and know for a fact that it is possible to get more of the truth and to get closer to the truth. I also believe that for all who are so motivated God does indeed provide ways, resources, fellowships, acquaintances, teachers, books, whatever it takes, to accomplish this goal. The provision may not be immediate, or easy, or pretty, or perfect (from our way of thinking about it), but I am certain that God always honors pure hearts set on seeking Him.
Since none of us is perfect, and since we are easily distracted from a perfect walk, and since very few if any of us is really willing to commit everything necessary to get all the way there, even among that circle of Christians genuinely making an effort to draw closer to the Lord Jesus through His Word and also among those who are genuinely and legitimately attempting to learn, believe, and teach that Word there are bound to be differences. There are very few human enterprises that are "perfect", and yet we can still distinguish between those which are good, better, or best (and those which are bad, worse or worst). I think that with a little Christian common sense, a lot of prayer, and a consistent effort over time (which includes diligent personal Bible reading and Bible study), those who really want to get as close to "right" as possible, as you put it, will find that God is more than able and more than willing to meet them more than half-way.
On a personal note, I do want to be as "right" as possible. However, I am flesh and blood and certainly not impervious to mistakes. I try my best find out just what scripture says and teach "just what scripture says". That does not mean that everyone else will agree. Sometimes the differences between pastors and teachers who are genuinely attempting to get at all of God's truth are superficial, and even potentially valuable in God's plan for sorting out which "sheep" should gravitate to which "flock" (after all, we are all somewhat different and not every "teacher" is going to put things in a way that is understandable or acceptable for every "student"). But even so, even despite our best efforts, there are times when we "teachers" will get it wrong. Even Paul was not firmly convinced that his own applications of scripture to life were perfect in every way (1Cor.4:1-5) – although of course the epistles he wrote had the benefit of being inspired by the Spirit and so are perfect even though he was imperfect. But he kept his head down and persevered, leaving it to the Lord to sort out the wheat from the chaff. And that is the main point I should like to make here. To boil things down to their barest essentials, there are "good places" for a Christian to get spiritual food, and there are "bad places". The first step is to learn to separate the good from the bad. In this process, the believer has the help of the Holy Spirit, and, if that believer is also learning scripture, praying, and doing personal Bible study as well, in combination with the Spirit there will be more than ample basis over a reasonable time for that Christian to discern if they should move on to a "better place", and within the confines of a "good place" to learn to use discernment in those cases where they have reservations about what is being taught. Sometimes this is a question of the believer being unwilling to accept something true; sometimes it is a case of the Spirit alerting the believer to some problem with the teaching. But if the source is generally good, like a bad carrot in a great restaurant, we may want to overlook a small mistake – especially if this is otherwise the best food in town (please see the link: "The Fruit Test" in CT 2A).
Ideally, we are all pulling together in this struggle. Individually we are narrowing in on the truth, even if the route is not direct, even if it takes a long time, even if we have stops and starts, stumbles and false paths along the way. Persistence is important, and if we are and to the extent that we are doing this in concert with fellow believers of a like-mind, then that is all to the good. But we do have to face the fact that we live in the final era of the Church age, the age of Laodicea, that age characterized by a lukewarm approach to the Word of God (see the link: in CT 2A, "Laodicea"). And so it is very, very important never to allow our own enthusiasm to be dampened by the lack of enthusiasm of others for the truth or their acceptance of poor quality "food" out of laziness and reluctance to exert the effort necessary to get the "good". The truth and its acceptance through faith is the quintessential element in personal spiritual growth, the bedrock of every effective ministry, and the only thing that, in the end, will stand up to the fires of testing in this world.
In Him who is the only truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A friend of mine is worried about his salvation and needs some advice, and I don't know what to tell him. What advice would you give him? this is what he said:
"I believe that God been speaking to me through a book called "heaven" by Randy Alcorn. It gets me very excited about heaven. The problem now is that I'm so worried I'm going to miss it. I believe in the Lord as my redemption. I know that I can't go to heaven but for His sacrifice on the cross. But Bible passages that allude to sinners not being allowed into heaven. I repented from my sins, but there are still sins I struggle with (lust, cussing...others...) but these are things I do not want to do. I don't know how to stop. I pray constantly to stop, but I just keep on keeping on. Do you guys think this is an indicator of my soul being lost, or is it more like just being stuck with a sin nature at the moment? I Know that I know the Lord is LORD. I just want to make sure I'm saved. Despite my words of encouragement to others...I feel lost."
Thanks in advance!
This is another very "frequently asked question" which in and of itself should be sufficient to show that almost all Christians have this experience at some point in their walk with Jesus. We all have low spots. We all bump into particular temptations and life circumstances that we allow to get the better of us. And if we have a healthy fear of God, we all get very concerned about our failings. And it is well that we should do so, for our eternal relationship, rock solid from God's side, is yet dependent upon the continuation of our faith. As I often say in such cases, those who remain concerned and as a result are taking positive steps to turn away from sin (sanctification = defense) and positive steps to grow closer to the Lord (spiritual growth = offense) have nothing to fear. On the other hand, those who take a lackadaisical attitude about the issues of sin and spiritual growth and as a result are not worried much about them do have much to fear, because the deeper into apostasy a person gets, the more likely they are to fall away from faith entirely, and when a person stops believing in Jesus (usually out of a build up of sin to the point where they are unwilling and unable to "look Him in the face" any longer), that person is no longer a believer (believers believe; unbelievers don't believe; and belief is more than mental understanding, it includes the will and the effort to actually follow Christ).
As I say, this is a very common concern, so before I forget let me give you a few links that should be helpful in this regard:
Assurance of Salvation
Addicted to Sin
The Victory of Faith
The True "Victorious Life"
Feeling Desperate and Alone
Walking with Jesus
Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit
Confession of Sin in 1st John 1:9
Extreme Personal Tribulation
In addition to all of these, the entire subject of sin in all its particulars (types, temptations, confession, apostasy, coping with, etc.) is covered in great detail in Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin (see the link).
One of the main things I would wish to get across here in addition to what may be found in these links, is that God is our Rock and He is never going to desert us:
And I am giving them eternal life, and they will not perish
forevermore, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
From your friend's comments, it is clear that Romans 8:16 still applies, and that he/she knows in his/her spirit through the indwelling Holy Spirit that he/she still is a child of God. In all things related to the truth of the Word of God, we must learn to operate upon what we know by faith. If we know for a fact in our hearts that something is true (because it is in scripture and we have believed it), then we must not ever allow our emotions to overrule this. We have to go with what we know, not what we feel – that is an elementary principle for spiritual growth, and failure to understand it or accept it has caused many believers to spin their wheels endlessly in a self-imposed earthly purgatory of no peace, no growth, and no production.
Therefore, whenever we "feel bad" emotionally, we need to give some thought to what it is that is really eating us. The more we know about the Bible, the more we are exposed to its truth and believe it, the higher our "spiritual I.Q.", so to speak, because the truth in our hearts, believed and retained and meditated upon, is the capital or the leverage the Spirit uses in interacting with us. If our "bad feelings" are coming from the Spirit convicting us of some wrong course of action, then we need to adjust our behavior accordingly – and then we can stop "feeling bad". If, however, our "bad feelings" are coming from our sin nature or the evil one attempting to manipulate us (often through guilt about past mistakes or embarrassments), then we need to do what Paul did and "forget what lies behind" (Phil.3:13). If we have repented of and have confessed our sins to the Lord, then we have definitely been forgiven and must accept that on faith (1Jn.1:9 et al.). That doesn't mean we have to "feel good" about the mistakes we have made, or that we should overlook them entirely (the best use of a mistake is a rock-solid commitment never to make it again) or even that our forgiveness means our punishment is at an end: David's lasted 14 years in the case of adultery and murder. But it does mean that we can now enjoy our restored fellowship with the Lord, confident about our eternal future and optimistic about our coming walk with Him in this life. David was forgiven when he repented and confessed (2Sam.12:13-14), and all indications are that, apart from the instances of exceptional discipline themselves, enjoyed his relationship with the Lord immensely throughout that time (even in the midst of the Absalom revolt, we see him trusting God in the midst of this self-caused trouble).
Scripture is very clear about the assurance we have in the Lord in spite our sin and failing. Scripture is also very clear about the need to abstain from sin and evil.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not [even]
make any plans for carrying out the lusts of the flesh.
My children, I am writing these things to you so that
you won't sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an
Advocate to [approach] the Father [on our behalf], Jesus Christ
1st John 2:1
Between the mercy of God and the judgment of God is the place where we live our Christian lives, but you can be assured that they will much happier and more productive if we make it a point to hew to the right path instead of wandering off of it. Wandering is pointless in any case since 1) it only causes pain and loss, and 2) we are going to have to get back on the right path afterwards anyway. Of course it is easier to say this than to do it. But the final point I would wish to make here is that beyond all argument we are in control of our own spirits, our own will – at least to the degree of determining to whom we will give our allegiance moment by moment, the Spirit or the flesh:
But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out
what the flesh lusts for. For what the flesh lusts for is
contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what
the flesh lusts for. Since these are diametrically opposed to
each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you
Since this is the case, there comes a point in every Christian life (and often more than once), when the believer has to decide whether or not they are going to get serious about picking up their cross and following Jesus Christ. It takes more than an emotional one time, one day commitment – it takes a true change of heart. And it cannot be done merely by resting on the defensive. That is to say, sanctification, the process by which we become more Christ-like in our walk by what we avoid doing, can only ever truly happen from the inside out. That means that a good Christian defense cannot be separated from a good Christian offense (and vice versa!). Unless a person is serious about prayer, Bible reading, personal Bible study, consistent partaking of substantive Bible teaching, learning, believing, and applying the same, spiritual growth and production in a personal ministry that accompanies spiritual growth can and will not occur (at least not to any important degree and certainly not anywhere near the person's potential). Since we are here to serve Jesus and not ourselves, and since these ministries that He has prepared for us since before time began are just waiting to be exploited and eternally rewarded, it does beg the question: "What on earth are we waiting for?" For on earth there is nothing but dust, rust, and lust – apart from growing in and serving our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the One in whom we have put our trust for eternal life, our Savior Lord Jesus Christ.
I have come a long way in the past few months in my effort to get back to God. Last night while being prayed for it down to worship. All I knew to do was say all the things I have heard the saints in the church say such as praise you Jesus, hallelujahs, thank you Jesus, we worship you, etc. But it didn't feel like it was from my heart. They told me emotion had nothing to do with it like when a gospel choir sings. There was no music to accompany me. So I went in search of an answer and found your site. It is hard to get a hold of Jesus the man and the awful sacrifice for me even though I am believer with all my heart and rightfully so as I am Apostolic and I have felt Him many times before. I will read it again and worship him with my all until He fills me with the Holy Ghost. Keep me in your prayers
I have said a prayer for you. And I have some good news for you. If you are indeed a believer in Jesus Christ, then you do have the Holy Spirit inside of you already, for the baptism of the Spirit is something everyone receives from God when they put their faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom.8:9). Getting back to God is something that truly does not depend upon how we feel but what we do. Turning away from and confessing our sins to God is only the beginning. Building a relationship with Jesus, a strong, vibrant and meaningful relationship, takes commitment to all the important things a Christian needs to do, first and foremost learning about Him and His Word through personal Bible reading, Bible study, prayer, and application of the truth we are learning to every aspect of our lives. The more we learn about Him, think about Him, pray to Him, and live for Him, the closer we get to Him. This is a life-long process that in every case of true spiritual growth, moreover, results in fruit for our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, in production from the ministries we are assigned according to the gifts we are given in keeping with the effects ordained by our heavenly Father (1Cor.12:4-6).
May God grant you all spiritual understanding and help you along the narrow road that leads to life eternal.