How are you? I have been praying for your deliverance and I hope it has already come. Things are getting worse here. I have a question. Will you please explain to me Deut.23:1-2:
1 No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD. 2 No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation.
Which assembly is this and why are these people not allowed to enter it ?
Keeping you in my prayers
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
I have been meaning to write and wish you and your family a happy and blessed new year. Please forgive the delay.
I am sad to hear that things continue to be challenging for you. I have been keeping you faithfully in prayer, and I know that others have as well. God has His reasons for all things. And while I wish I had some specific good news to report on this front, I do have the Lord's promises and I will attempt to be cheerful with them at all times in anticipation of His deliverance even as I anticipate yours as well.
As to your question, this refers to the assemble of Israel which was in some critical respects different from the present assembly which is the true Church. Israel represents a special phase of the Plan of God wherein an entire nation was to represent the Lord (so that all were assumed to be believers, even though that ideal was never achieved). Now, after the first Pentecost following Jesus' resurrection, all those from every nation who call upon His Name and genuinely do believe are members of Christ's assembly, the Church (the word "church" is the English translation for the Greek word ekklesia which means "assembly", and is the New Testament Greek version of the assembly of Israel about which you are asking; see the link). The other major difference is that in Israel much was symbolic whereas now everything is real. That is to say, physical blemishes represented sin; forbidden marriages represented spiritual infidelity. Today, we need not worry about the external symbols: we need to stay away from sin (and confess and master it when we fail), and make sure to stay faithful to Jesus Christ through spiritual growth and a walk with Him (rather than falling into spiritual dissolution which may lead to ever worse things). Just as the dietary code was symbolic of a people "holy to the Lord", so today Christians need to stay away from things which are actually detrimental to our spirituality (sin and evil and all such compromise) rather than worrying about what we eat or don't eat (the symbolism now no longer applies to us). So while it is certainly true that there are things in the Law which are still literally true (i.e., "don't commit murder" is not symbolic only), most of these continuing prohibitions et al. are also made clear from New Testament scripture. Therefore whenever we have a case of something seemingly odd and difficult to apply at present (as in these instances), it is usually a case of the above, namely, of the symbolic "perfect assembly" of a corporate people symbolically defined and regulated, versus the actual assembly of those who believe in Jesus Christ drawn from all the nations. After all, not everyone in ancient Israel was even a believer (far from it). Being cast out of the actual assembly of the true Church today is something that only would happen for a person who apostatizes and thus ceases to be "in Christ" (and therefore casts him/herself out). For the rest of us, nothing can snatch us out of His hand . . . or out of His Church/assembly.
I hope this gets to your question, but as always, my friend, do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
In hopes of your rapid deliverance in Jesus Christ,
I've been reading your site for a while now. I've been very blessed by it, and am glad I found it. You're the best Bible teacher I know of so I have a healthy respect of your opinion. I have a few questions for you. What is the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? I've looked up explanations online and none of the answers are satisfactory. The main issue being I truly don't see a difference between the two doctrines. All of the explanations amount to word games in my opinion. Like saying, the glass isn't half-empty it's really half-full. It just seems like common sense that you can't have one without the other.
Also, what if I can't find a church to attend? I've visited a few churches in my area and none of them believe what I believe. Should I consider attending a church even if we disagree on some issues? I have not been able to find a single church in my area that doesn't believe in perseverance of the saints. There's a Pentecostal church near my house that I have been visiting. The people are friendly and personable. It's not like at some churches where the people are cold and distant. The thing is they believe in speaking in tongues, and that you aren't as "spiritual" as you could be if you don't speak in tongues. Thoughts?
Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your kind words I will certainly try to be worthy of your trust.
Calvin wrote an immense and voluminous amount: extensive commentaries on the Bible, sermons, letters, theological treatises, and of course the work for which he is most renowned, his massive Institutes of the Christian Religion. I dare say that it would take many years to read everything Calvin wrote, and really mastering his viewpoints so as to really come as close as possible to what he believed on these subjects would no doubt be a life's work in and of itself. When we say "Calvinism", we generally mean "the doctrines and beliefs of John Calvin as he taught them and as they were picked up, understood, and disseminated by his immediate followers and passed down in turn to others"; when we say "hyper-Calvinism", we generally are referring to the overly zealous application (and often misapplication) of certain principles in this broad theology in a somewhat over-simplified manner. No one would describe him/herself as a "hyper-Calvinist", so the latter term is used by critics of some who have, in the opinion of the critics, misused, abused or otherwise misunderstood John's Calvin to some degree. Since everyone's thinking changes to some degree over time, describing what he "really thought and taught" would be difficult if not impossible past a certain point of specificity in any case.
All this is a long way of saying that these different terms only indicate that there are two ways (at least) of understanding Calvin and of applying the theology which has come to be associated with his name. One is a more flexible and the other a more rigid approach; the latter, "hyper-Calvinism", among its other characteristics, often stresses the principle of predestination to such an extreme that the countervailing principle of free will all but disappears. Let me say that while I am no expert on Calvin, it has always struck me from what I have read about him and read by him that this is to misunderstand him, both his meaning and his times. After all, John Calvin was a leading figure in the Reformation, and to fail to take that into account is to hamstring any serious attempt to understand what he was really saying. Calvin wrote and ministered at a time when to oppose the teachings and the authority of the Roman Catholic church was to take one's life in one's hands. Many reformers paid for their courage with their lives. More to the point of the question you ask, it is impossible to understand Calvin without taking into account the critical fact that almost everything he wrote was either directed against Rome or written with the false teachings of Rome in the forefront of his thinking. Today, when we believers discuss theology or teach the Bible, Catholicism usually doesn't even come into the question, but that was not the case for Calvin nor could it have been. He was locked in a life and death struggle with this false church and its universal (and universally incorrect) doctrines.
The upshot of all this is that to understand Calvin's emphasis on predestination versus free will, one also has to understand that the Roman church was teaching that our works are what is important with God's working barely coming into the balance at all. A person "got to heaven" by works of which the church approved, works of "supererogation", paying dispensations to the pope, and all other manner of falderal that left God out of the mix. Against that backdrop, it was critical to show, through looking to the Church fathers as well as to the Bible, that this was an incorrect position, and the most powerful argument against the idea that a person had to work his/her way into heaven apart from God was the demonstration that God has already planned everything. Personally, I think Calvin would have bristled at the notion that there was no real free will (the effect of many a "hyper-Calvinistic" expression of these issues). After all, he worked day and night for the kingdom of God with incredible effort and energy, and against great opposition and in great danger at times. Not exactly a fatalistic approach to things.
The truth behind this particular issue is that there is no contradiction: we do have free will and yet everything we do is foreordained based upon God's foreknowledge of what we would choose in this life. I discuss these issues at some length in Bible Basics part 4B: Soteriology.
As to your other question, "where can I find a good church?" is perhaps the number one request I receive (see FAQ #3 "Can you recommend a church?"). The truth of the matter is that there are very few churches in this country at present (or indeed in the world) where the teaching of the Word of God is any sort of a priority. After all, it is not just a question of finding a place where the doctrinal basis for what they teach is spot on or close enough that a Christian can in spiritual safety go and partake of the teaching; it is also a question of whether there is any teaching at all being done which is worthy of the name. If there is not, well, what is "believed" is almost beside the point. All denominations, for example, have their creeds and statements of doctrine (and most individual churches do as well). But if the average member of the congregation couldn't even pass a multiple-choice quiz on those "beliefs" because they are never actually taught then such postures are merely academic. There are a few places out there and a few men who are doing it the right way, but as I usually say at such times I have known a goodly number of men who have committed themselves to the course of being Bible teachers (as opposed to merely traditional pastors), and most are not now in the ministry. And not for lack of trying. The fact is that there are in truth very few believers like yourself who really want to learn about the Bible and who understand the need for a sound and structured approach in order to do so effectively. So we have a demand problem as well as a supply problem, and this explains more than anything else why this particular ministry, Ichthys, is on the internet and not in a "brick and mortar" church.
Christians have come to think of "church" as primarily a social club, with whatever is beyond that usually consisting in the inspirational talks the pastor gives Sunday to Sunday. Whether these are 10 minutes or 90 minutes long (or somewhere in-between) makes little difference inasmuch as they usually contain no actual teaching (see the link: "Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing"). I do understand the desire for a "right church", believe me, and I both wish you success in finding one and also am happy to help in way I may. But what the Lord wants is our spiritual growth and our mutual support as members of the Body of Christ, encouraging one another, helping and ministering to one another as the Spirit has gifted us and empowers us and as we grow up in Christ. This could be done (theoretically) in the environment of what has come to be known as the "local church", but does not have to be (especially since today's "churches" are nothing like what the apostles envisioned). The main thing the believer who really has committed him/herself to spiritual growth in order to please Jesus and earn a good eternal reward needs to keep in mind in such a search, therefore, is the need to avoid getting drawn into an organization where their growth will be stymied instead of aided:
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17 NIV
Thanks again for your encouraging words. Do feel free to write back about any of the above.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your very detailed response. I think I understand what you're saying about the differences of Calvinism vs hyper-Calvinism. It still just seems strange to me that Calvinism would be so popular when clearly you can lose your salvation. I have a Calvinist friend that listens to all types of Calvinist pastors. I've listened to some of them and they sound really good. They are solid on most biblical issues, but this one. You don't think that's strange? I was reading some Charles Spurgeon sermons online, and they are extremely impressive. He was obviously very intelligent, and knew the Word like the back of his hand. He was a hard-line Calvinist, though. He was particularly intolerant of Arminianism. Do you think it would be harmful to read his sermons? Part of me thinks that either he was very dull on this particular issue, or he knew all along that Calvinism is not the Gospel. I've already said he seems to have been smart. I'm leaning towards the second possibility. I'm probably being dramatic, but I think OSAS/Calvinism came straight from the devil. Of course it would be too obvious to just come out and say you can't lose your salvation no matter what you do. However, it would be extremely clever to dress it up in a 5-pt TULIP doctrine that sounds biblical. I have come to the honest conclusion that the other 4-pts. are fluff. It's easy to get caught up in arguing over the U. I know I did at first. It's so bold and out there. It's an obvious red herring when you think about it ,though. You can believe the other 4 pts. without any significant consequences. In fact, you might possibly benefit from them. They do put God in His proper sovereign place. The thing about that last point is it has likely sent more than a few people to hell who were "secure" in their salvation.
I have a question for you, though. Are we born saved? Our names are written in the Book of Life, and are blotted out when we reject the Son. This makes me think we all have salvation, until we lose it. That's almost the exact opposite of Calvinism. I'm really starting to wonder about that.
Ok, I have just one more completely unrelated question. Who was the man in Luke casting out demons in the name of Jesus? I though only the apostles appointed by Jesus could do that?
And thank you,
I appreciate your point of view. No doubt it would be difficult to find any church or ministry or collection of writings which was 100% pure. If we did find such a source, since we are not nearly 100% pure we would probably find fault with it! When it comes to groups, writings, ministries which are more like 50/50, it is always a judgment call as to whether or not to partake. The answer will always be an individual one and will also have a great deal to do with the level of spiritual maturity and sophistication of the individual in question and also what the purpose is. For someone who is training for the ministry or working on his/her apologetic skills, et al., ranging far afield and examining all manner of sources is probably a good thing. In my view, however, for the average Christian whose objective is personal spiritual growth in order to please Jesus Christ, help others, and earn the maximum eternal reward in so doing, efficiency is also important.
An important principle apropos of this point is that only what is both true and believed to be true can be of any benefit in the quest to grow and progress. For that reason, giving too much attention to sources which are either known to be lacking or about which one has suspended judgment is always problematic. That is because if I hear something new and I don't believe it, it does me no good, even if it is true; or if I do believe it, it does me no good if it is not true (and may do me some harm as well). So while no source is perfect, the best thing a believer who wants to advance can do is to find a place where he/she has confidence of the quality and truthfulness of what is being taught, and stick with that teaching as much as possible. That is not to say that one's judgment should ever be suspended, but the whole idea is learn and believe and live the principles of scripture, and that can only happen if there is 1) teaching and learning of the actual truth; 2) believing what is taught and is true; 3) living that truth in confidence of its truth. For more on this please see the link: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth".
The book of life is generally misunderstood (often based on a mistranslation of Rev.17:8). I have written about this several places and will give you the links below, but in essence the truth is that every human being's name was placed in the book of life "from all eternity", because Christ died for every sin of every human being who would ever live. "Blotting out" of the name only happens when 1) a person irrevocably rejects Christ in this life, or 2) dies without accepting Him. In either case the name is removed and will not be present "in the book" at the last judgment of unbelievers:
Things to come: the book of life
"I will surely not erase your name" (in CT 2A)
The Book of Life: Revelation 13:8 (in CT 4)
Tithing and the Book of Life
As to the unnamed man casting out demons, I certainly agree with you. We are not actually told whether or not the demons really "came out". The Greek text here does not demand that they did, merely that the man was engaged in exorcism and was intoning our Lord's Name. Jesus Himself attests to the fact that exorcism, whether effective or not, was something common enough in His day (e.g., Lk.11:19), and we know that the Jewish community in Asia minor was doing this in the next generation as well (Acts 19:14). The difference is that our Lord and those who were part of His ministry were actually able to do so. I see no evidence that anyone outside of our Lord and His apostles was ever able to drive out demons, even though many have arrogated that ability to themselves then and now.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I just wanted to write to let you know I think I have found a good church. I'll have to attend a few more times to know for sure. It's solidly Baptist (almost Calvinist) so I don't agree with all of the doctrines. They have all of the traditional views as well as a pre-trib stance. It seems to be biblically sound in other areas, though. The people seem nice enough as well. What do you think?
Also, I have another unrelated question. How long should it take me to get through a Bible study? The Bible studies on your website are pretty long and detailed. I'm not sure how to go about reading them so that I retain the information. Any tips on how to do proper bible study would be greatly appreciated.
Hello again ,
We've talked about the "finding a church problem" (and you have my links on that). I certainly hope this place will be a blessing to you. I do understand the need for Christian fellowship, and the great advantage of "face to face" teaching of the Bible (where such teaching is both occurring, substantive, and orthodox). The main problem with denominational churches is that they not only tend to be tradition-bound, but also to focus on the distinctive features of their traditions (as opposed to attempting to teach all the doctrines and truths of the Bible in a manner conducive to spiritual growth). I will say that I think your continued accessing of Bible study with which you agree (whether at this ministry or from some other source) is very important, under the circumstances.
To that point, I do appreciate your question. Some people seem to think that just reading something is good enough. And it is hoped that even skimming through these materials might be of some spiritual benefit. But, as is often the case with anything important, a certain amount of time and effort are necessary to master these materials too. It was certainly necessary to research and write them. Personally, I try to read them over too in a systematic fashion (though time constraints and personal imperfections have kept me from doing as much of this as I should). The idea is to learn and to believe. Both are necessary in order for the truth that is in scripture generally and in any teaching which explicates it specifically to be of value to the individual believer. In practical terms, that means repetition is essential for all but the most gifted human beings. As a Greek and Latin teacher by secular profession, I can certainly tell you that even motivated, bright and hard-working young students almost never "get" a concept the first time out. That is why all good teaching involves repetition (and why I try in these weekly posting to keep approaching necessary doctrines from all manner of points of view). This is a long way of saying that reading carefully and re-reading is not a bad idea, at least until you feel conversant with a given study/subject/topic. Finally, one of the best ways to learn something is to be in a situation of having to teach it. Teaching Sunday school or a women's group or even just organizing the material for hypothetical teaching would be an excellent (if perhaps somewhat onerous) way to have these things sink in deep. And who knows? Perhaps that would be just the right training for whatever ministry the Lord has for you down the road.
Best wishes for you in your new church and in yours study of the Word of God.
In Jesus Christ our Lord,
Will you have a look at this piece please, and tell me what you think?
DISCIPLESHIP TRAINING IN THE FAITH
Question: Is it necessary for a 'Christian' or someone 'Born-Again' or a 'Believer in Christ' to be a DISCIPLE?
Answer: In a word .YES!
Explanation: As a Disciple of Jesus Christ, living life according to scriptural principles is necessary so the believer will grow spiritually and endure till the end and thus complete the journey to salvation. Notice in the parable of the prodigal son: Jesus, tells this story to tax collectors and other outcasts. The son has returned home from his sinful binge and in Luke 15:24, the boy's father says, "For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found." And so the feasting began. According to Jesus, running away from home to live a life of sin makes you lost and dead. If this son had not come to his senses (Luke 15:17), he would have remained lost and dead in his sins and trespasses. Likewise, believers or 'disciples' should do their best - that they may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct. This is good and it pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. (1 Timothy 2:2-4) 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ; Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need. Disciple (Christianity) defined from Wikipedia: (emphasis added)
The term 'disciple' is derived from the New Testament Greek word, 'mathetes', which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin word, 'discipulus', meaning 'a learner'.An 'apostle' on the other hand, means a 'messenger, he that is sent'. Apostles send the very teachings or messages to other peoples (nations) that disciples (students) are taught to by their teacher. Disciple is also used in English to generally mean 'follower' or 'pupil'.Someone follows another person or another way or life and who submits himself to that discipline (teaching) of that leader or way or life. Many people are deceived by the Devil. Today, we live in a world that embraces the idea of a term,'easy believism'. People make a profession of faith in Christ, but then there isn't any real commitment in their decision. In their lives there is no significant change or 'transformation' as the Bible calls for. Romans 12:2 ; Do not be conformed to the standards of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. This then, is a fundamental shift towards the ethics of Christ Jesus in every way and a complete devotion to God. This leads one to 'imitate' Christ. Apostle Paul writes: 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 - 11:1 ; Live in such a way as to cause no trouble either to Jews or Gentiles or to the church of God. Just do as I do; I try to please everyone in all that I do, not thinking of my own good, but of the good of all, so that they might be saved. Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. A preacher may tell an unsaved person to, "Confess with their mouths, and believe in their hearts, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, came as a man, died for the sins of the world, was buried, raised to life three days later and then ascended to the Father and now intercedes for us at His Right Hand in heaven. Hey, this is all true and yes, this is the first step to believing and following Christ. This is The Gospel of Christ which means: The 'Good News'. Now here's the problem. What do the multitudes do with this life saving information that the Devil would love you to toss out the window and forget forever? Remember the parable of the sower. (Matt 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8) Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the sower. (Matt 13:18-23, Mark 4:13-20, Luke 8:11-15) This preacher hasn't taught beyond the initial act of faith. A lot of people think or assume, "I've heard it, I've accepted it, I'm all ready for heaven.", but they remain in the flesh and are 'friends with the world'. James 4:4 ; Unfaithful people! Don't you know that to be the world's friend means to be God's enemy? Whoever wants to be the world's friend makes himself God's enemy. James is speaking towards professing Christians, outwardly associated with the church, but who hold a deep affection and intimate longings for the things of an evil world system, thereby giving evidence that they are not redeemed. For it is written: 1 John 2:15-17 ; Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and pride in possessions (pride of life in other texts) - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. The epistles continuously speak of a disciple like way or style of living and being. Even in the gospels, Christ began His ministry by calling out the first 'disciples'. (Matt 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11) They left their boats and nets and followed Him. In Acts 6:7, the Word of God spread and many more were saved. These were all called 'disciples'. Disciples are slaves to righteousness: Romans 6:19 ; At one time you surrendered yourselves entirely as slaves to impurity and wickedness for wicked purposes. In the same way you must now surrender yourselves entirely as slaves of righteousness for holy purposes. Disciples have God's wisdom: 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 ; Whoever has the Spirit, however, is able to judge the value of everything, but no one is able to judge him. As it is written, "Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give him advice?" (Isaiah 40:13)We, however, have the mind of Christ. Disciples are servants of God - work done after salvation has been attained is very important: 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 ; And the quality of each person's work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone's work; the fire will test it and show its real quality. If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward. But if anyone's work is burnt up, then he will lose it; but he himself will be saved, as if he had escaped through the fire. Disciples use their bodies for God's glory: You are God's temple and God's Holy Spirit lives in you. (1 Cor 3:16)Anything I do may be permissible, but anything I do may not be profitable. I can do anything but I won't let anything make me its slave. (1 Cor 6:12) Your bodies are parts of the body of Christ. (1 Cor 6:15) Also, Apostle Paul writes: 1 Corinthians 7:17 ; Each one should go on living according to the Lord's gift to him, and as he was when God called him. This is the rule I teach in all the churches. Romans 12:1 ; So then, my brothers, because of God's mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Disciples aren't influenced by pagan lifestyles: 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ; Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? How can Christ and the Devil agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? How can God's temple come to terms with pagan idols? For we are the temple of the living God! As God himself has said, "I will make my home with my people and live among them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people."And so the Lord says, "You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you. I will be your Father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Disciples walk in the Spirit: Galatians 5:16-26 ; What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature. For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do. If the Spirit leads you, then you are not subject to the Law. What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another. Disciples pass from death to life: Ephesians 2:1-3 ; In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger. Ephesians 4:17-19 ; In the Lord's name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint. Disciples live in the light: Ephesians 5:8-11 ; You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord's people, you are in the light. So you must live like people who belong to the light, for it is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light. Paul says to live IS Christ: Philippians 1:20-26 ; My deep desire and hope is that I shall never fail in my duty, but that at all times, and especially right now, I shall be full of courage, so that with my whole being I shall bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me, it is Christ. Death then, will bring more .But if by continuing to live I can do more worthwhile work, then I am not sure which I would choose. I am pulled in two directions. I want very much to leave this life and be with Christ, which is a far greater thing; but for your sake it is much more important that I remain alive. I am sure of this, and so I know that I will stay. I will stay on with you all, to add to your progress and joy in the faith, so that when I am with you again, you will have even more reason to be proud of me in your life in union with Christ Jesus. Disciples shine as lights in the world: Philippians 2:12-13 ; Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Paul mentions in Philippians 3:12 about running towards the goal, striving to win what Christ Jesus has already won for him to himself, always looking ahead, running towards the prize, which is God's call through Christ to the life above. If we are spiritually mature (only disciples can be), we will have this attitude to win the prize and without this attitude, God will make this clear to anyone. (Phil 3:12-15)Colossians 2:6-7 ; Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4 is entitled, 'A Life That Pleases God.'Once again, it strongly emphasizes the importance of how we disciples should live our lives (1 Thes 4:1-4) and warns us not to live as the heathen do. (1 Thes 4:5-7) 1 Thessalonians 4:8 ; So then, whoever rejects this teaching is not rejecting man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. What this verse appears to say is, 'rejecting the Holy Spirit.' Matthew 12:30-31 ; Jesus says, "Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering. For this reason I tell you: people can be forgiven any sin and any evil thing they say; but whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 10:16 ; Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." Disciples are ready for the Lord's coming: 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 ; So then, we should not be sleeping like the others; we should be awake and sober. It is at night when people sleep; it is at night when they get drunk. But we belong to the day, and we should be sober. We must wear faith and love as a breastplate, and our hope of salvation as a helmet. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 ; Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages. Put all things to the test: keep what is good and avoid every kind of evil. We have been chosen for salvation (2 Thes 13-17) and disciples have an obligation to work, i.e.: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ; While we were with you, we used to tell you, "Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat." In all likelihood, Paul is no doubt speaking from a physical point of view. Now try and look at that verse from a spiritual point of view. If you are lazy and don't study the scriptures, eating or understanding them (having the mind of Christ 1 Cor 2:16) will not take place. 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 ; But you, brothers, must not become tired of doing good. It may be that someone there will not obey the message we send you in this letter. If so, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will be ashamed. But do not treat him as an enemy; instead, warn him as a brother. 1 Timothy 1:19 ; and keep your faith and a clear conscience. Some men have not listened to their conscience and have made a ruin of their faith. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 ; But keep away from those godless legends, which are not worth telling. Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. 1 Timothy 4:14-16 ; Do not neglect the spiritual gift that is in you, which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all. Watch yourself and watch your teaching. Keep on doing these things, because if you do, you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 2 Timothy 2:19 ; But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: "The Lord knows those who are his" and "Whoever says that he belongs to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing." 2 Timothy 3:15 ; and you remember that ever since you were a child , you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.(Remember above about spiritually not working and consequently spiritually not eating / understanding) Titus 3:14 ; Our people must learn to spend their time doing good, in order to provide for real needs; they should not live useless lives. The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who were facing much opposition and persecution. In this, they were tempted to cast aside any identification with Christ. But the writer urges his readers to continue faithful to the end, always keeping the Lord Jesus in focus. This applies to disciples as well. Hebrews 3:12 ; My fellow believers, be careful that no one among you has a heart so evil and unbelieving that he will turn away from the living God. Hebrews 3:14-15 ; For we are all partners with Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning. This is what the scripture says:"If you hear God's voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God." Hebrews 4:3 ; We who believe, then, do receive that rest which God promised. For it is written:"I was angry and made a solemn promise: 'They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest!' "He said this even though his work had been finished from the time he created the world. Disciples have faith by actions: James 2:14 ; My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Faith alone with no actions is dead faith. (James 2:17)Profession in Jesus Christ and no real commitment to that choice could be considered 'dead belief.' This is why Jesus speaks about "The Narrow Gate" (Matt 7:13-14), "The Narrow Door." (Luke 13:24) This is why Jesus speaks about "I Never Knew You." (Matt 7:21-23) and (Luke 13:25-27) Remember what the parable of the prodigal son emphasized (the son was dead and lost while away sinning). The last two verses in the Book of James tells it all: James 5:19-20 ; My brothers, if one of you wanders away from the truth and another one brings him back again, remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from his wrong way will save that sinner's soul from death and bring about forgiveness of many sins. "A Living Hope" in 1 Peter 1:3-12 is followed by "A Call To Holy Living" in 1 Peter 1:13-25.Heavenly treasure is kept safe for us in heaven where it is incorruptible and won't fade away. However, the Bible clearly teaches that our salvation, that is ready to be revealed to us at the end of time, is only for true disciples who endure till the end. Sure there will be failures and some back sliding but it would appear that there has to be a fairly significant amount of change in the believer's life and definite perseverance, endurance and even some sadness or discomfort in the process. 1 Peter 1:6-7 ; Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. This faith, Peter goes on to say, is tested by fire and is worth more than gold or silver. (Remember that faith without actions is dead) Will Jesus find faith on earth when he comes? (Luke 18:8) Faith as big as a mustard seed moves mountains! (Matt 17:20) Disciples are slaves to God: 1 Peter 2:11 ; I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul. 1 Peter 2:15 ; For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. Disciples have changed lives: 1 Peter 4:2 ; From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God's will and not by human desires. 1 Peter 4:12-13 ; My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed. Disciples have courage before God: 1 John 3:19-23 ; This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God's presence. If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that He knows everything. And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God's presence. We receive from Him whatever we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him. What He commands is that we believe in His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. 1 John 4:16-18 ; And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in union with God and God lives in union with him. Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgement Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ's. There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 5:1-5 ; Whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the Messiah is a child of God; and whoever loves a father loves his child also. This is how we know that we love God's children: it is by loving God and obeying His commands. For our love for God means that we obey His commands. And His commands are not too hard for us, because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 1 John 5:18-21 ; We know that no child of God keeps on sinning, for the Son of God keeps him safe , and the Evil One cannot harm him. We know that we belong to God even though the whole world in under the rule of the Evil One. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we know the true God. We live in union with the true God - in union with His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and this is eternal life. My children, keep yourselves safe from false gods! 2 John 1:9 ; Anyone who does not stay with the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. Whoever does stay with the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 3 John 1:11 ; My dear friend, do not imitate what is bad, but imitate what is good. Whoever does good belongs to God; whoever does what is bad has not seen God. Conclusion: To live in union with Jesus Christ is to get saved and keep working towards the goal until the end. It is true, for by God's grace that we are saved through faith and not by the result of our own efforts, but God's gift to us, lest any man can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).The commitment is dead without effort on the believer's part to do some works with their gift and go through some testing to demonstrate the validity of their faith. We cannot achieve works for our salvation but we must present works from our salvation. How else will one grow? You can't be born again and remain an infant indefinitely. We should rather grow up becoming spiritual adults and live with Christ infinitely!
Thanks for this. There is a lot of good stuff here. A couple of observations. First, when and if I do get to posting email responses and offerings of this sort, there is usually quite a lag time sometimes as much as two years or more (it depends upon topicality, among other things). So if you are looking for a venue for e-publishing, I would have no problem with you placing this somewhere else (not to say it won't end up at Ichthys unless you request that it not be posted, that is).
Secondly, while, as I say, there is some really good material here, this is not exactly the way I would put things. Hosting a Bible study site like Ichthys, I receive all manner of emails from all ends of the spectrum, and as a result I have a better idea than most just what issues are troubling contemporary Christians and tripping them up. While it is very true that a large part of the problem we are facing in our lackadaisical era of Laodicea is a cavalier attitude towards sin (which is really impossible to divorce from a lackadaisical attitude towards the truth of scripture), it is also true that sloppy teaching on the other side of the spectrum has a tendency to plunge marginal believers who hear it into paroxysms of self-doubt, and thus has the potential of swamping their faith (to get a feel for this, please see the link to some of these which I have already posted: "Have I lost my salvation?").
It is very easy to get people's attention with teaching that evokes guilt, worry and fear otherwise Baptist churches would be out of business pretty quickly. And indeed there are plenty of things which do have the potential of making us feel guilt, worry and fear. But in my view, when it comes to salvation in particular, great care needs to be taken to make and keep the issue crystal clear before and after the fact. So I am always very careful not to give unwarranted confidence to those who are in danger, nor to produce unwarranted fear in those who are not in any immediate danger of losing their salvation (let alone lead them to think they have lost it when they haven't). There is no absolute eternal security, so to that extent none of us is safe before we "cross the finish line"; but on the other side of things we are indeed absolutely safe in Jesus Christ as long as we maintain our faith in Him. How we behave certainly does enter into things, but in a very clear and unambiguous way: whatever we do to degrade our faith compromises our security; whatever we do to build up our faith heightens our security because we are saved through faith by the grace of God. If we are moving forward spiritually, we are extremely unlikely to lose faith; if we are retrogressing spiritually, the danger of losing it is much more likely. Sin is problematic for all believers; the enhanced danger for marginal or retrogressing believers is that giving themselves over to a life of sin weakens the conscience, hardens the heart, and can put faith to death (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). As James puts it:
Everyone is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., spiritual death, the death of faith).
These matters are usually not a question of absolutes but of relative progressions along a scale. There is only one absolute: saved or lost. But for those who are believers in Christ, there will be a wide range of rewards in eternity based upon how well we answered the call you put forth so persuasively in this letter (please see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"). An entire quadrant of the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by believers who never even made it to the first level of higher rewards, the crown of righteousness (and I suspect from my own reading of scripture that this will be the most densely populated quarter of the city as well). It may be fortunate (from the point of view of such marginal believers) or unfortunate (from the point of view of those of us who are striving to motivate them to do better), but the reality is that the dividing line between being there in the eternal city or not is indeed faith or lack thereof (1Jn.5:4). While I can imagine little that is more spiritually dangerous than going nowhere in the faith after salvation, if such a person does at least persevere with faith intact to the end, that person will be worshiping with us in the New Jerusalem.
Given that during the swiftly approaching Great Tribulation fully one third of actual believers are destined to fall away in the Great Apostasy, this danger is on the point of being multiplied 100-fold too! But while I am tempted to put things in starker terms than scripture allows, I have to "tell it like it is" (1Cor.4:6). My own approach to this "problem" has been two-fold: 1) to express the danger with taking too complacently the truth of security through faith by pointing out how apostasy works and by sounding the warning of the coming Tribulation; 2) to attempt to motivate my fellow believers positively, urging them to strive to please the Lord through responding to the legitimate and necessary reward motivation that scripture encourages us to employ as the true biblical complement to our faith:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
I am sure that I am imperfect on this score, but I have always disliked "sermons" which manipulate people's emotions without ever giving them precise biblical solutions to the problems they harp on at the same time, leaving listeners feeling upset and yet not knowing the exact biblical way to handle how they have been made to feel. In my view, the opposite approach is the way to go, namely, tell people the absolute truth in the most specific possible way and leave it to the Spirit and their consciences to make the proper application. That is one reason why I have always tried to make a point of stating things as directly as scripture will allow me state them, and of staying away from leaving impressions which may not be scriptural (depending upon how the person in question reacts to highly charged and insufficiently specific sermonizing) but which are sure to provoke emotional reactions. Christians need the truth, whatever the truth is on any given subject, and they need that truth put into the starkest relief possible. What they do with it is between them and the Lord even if I personally may not happy with what they do.
I offer all this because I think you will see what I mean. So I'm not saying that any of this necessarily applies to your missile, but you might consider organizing these ideas in a "point by point" outline. That discipline would naturally skew towards more details and would demand more of them too, leaving the persuasive portions for summing up once your audience has gotten the facts down. E.g.:
1) The Word Disciple
2) Biblical Definition of a Disciple of Christ
3) Biblical Principles of Discipleship
4) Results of Discipleship
5) The Distinction between Biblical Discipleship and modern-day "discipling"
6) The True Objective of Discipleship: spiritual growth, progress, and production for our dear Lord Jesus.
Yours in the Lord Jesus who is our Teacher, our Leader, our Master, our Savior, and the One whom we are blessed to be able to serve in some small way on this earth,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I am still reading... plus, now I have started a discipleship study at my church and have to read up on the lesson for next meeting.
But, I wanted to get back to you because what I am reading is amazing to me and it is proving a point for me...that the Second Advent is when we are all 'snatched up' (all believers that is, dead and then alive) to be with our Wonderful Lord and Savior. And because it is when the trumpet sounds...that means it is at the end of the Tribulations. Do I have that correct? Or am I still far off!
Thank you so much again for writing to me! I am praying that I never leave the Lord again in my life time! I am so far behind in my knowledge of the Word because I have strayed too much times for too long!
Always good to hear from you. Yes, you have it right. The return of our Lord to rule the world, the second advent or parousia in Greek (see the link), is the time we all long for, the time, as I like to say, "when the bells will ring and the angels will sing and all the towers will fall" (Is.30:25; Rev.19:1-6). That is the time when the trumpet will sound and we will who remain alive having survived the Tribulation will be "caught up together in clouds to meet the Lord in the air" as He returns and as we are resurrected while yet alive to begin our time of reigning with Him in the Millennium (1Thes.4:16-17; Rev.3:21). This is what we have set our hope on: our Lord Jesus' return and our transformation when He does so that we may be with Him forever. That is the blessed hope we confidently await.
[W]hile we wait for the blessed hope the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:13 NIV
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Philippians 3:20-21 NIV
Don't be too hard on yourself either. We all have regrets when we look back. But looking back is very counter-productive. If we have repented of all of our past sins, we ought to look back to yesterday only in gratitude that the blood of Christ has washed them all away, making the most of today to grow in Jesus, pass the tests that come, seeking to serve Him, so that our eternal tomorrow may be one of maximum reward which glorifies Him. You are doing what you should do now, and that is the important thing (see the links: "The Lord's Prayer" and "Application of the Lord's Prayer"). Keep pushing for the finish line.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
I hope that your discipleship program proves beneficial. Jesus told us to "make disciples" by 1) giving the gospel (which results in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being born again) and 2) teaching the scriptures (that is the true essence of Matt.28:19-20). So all true "church" ought to be "discipling", that is, in-depth, concentrated teaching of the Word of God and all the truth contained in scripture. Of course one does not find that in most churches today. And what many people mean by "discipling" is being "mentored" by some other Christian really, being "checked up on" by another person who is theoretically more "spiritually mature". In truth, we are accountable to the Lord, not to some other member of the congregation, and we all need a certain amount of privacy in our Christian applications in order to grow straight and true (that is an essential part of the "priesthood of the believer"; see the link). Here's hoping that in your church "discipling" is just another name for small group Bible study. Please see the links on this:
The true meaning of being a disciple.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
The true priorities of discipleship.
More on discipling
Feel free to write me back any time.
In the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word of God.
I hope you are having a nice day! I just want to thank you again for all the time and effort that you have put in to have the Tribulation study available to us. I will continue reading and studying. It is wondering to me that I am making the time to do this! God has me in the place that He wants me...I do believe.
And about the discipleship studies. I think that it will be a bible study more than anything but the good part about it...is that it is providing another way and another day for me to get together with other Christians to learn more of the Word of God. I want to be able to feel confident when I talk to someone about the Lord. I feel that I am beyond being able to say just 'believe in Jesus and you'll be saved'...there is more to it and I want to be able to explain things better.
And if I'm here during the Tribulations then I will have to know scripture and know it without having the bible to fall back on. So, I want to learn. It has just occurred to me that this is the only reason we are here in this world!
I started going back to church only recently after being out of church for many years ... I am so thankful that God has gently pushed me back to a good church.
Thanks again for emailing and I hope you won't mind if we write to you...if a question comes up that we really can't stand it without having your input.
In His Grip,
You are very welcome. I love your statement: "So, I want to learn. It has just occurred to me that this is the only reason we are here in this world! ". Amen! I couldn't have said it any better.
You and yours are by all means welcome to write me any time.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
If it's ok with you, I could use some advice on a situation I'm going through. The thing is, this one isn't really about faith so much, I don't think, as it is about friends. Remember before, how I mentioned a couple of friends were helping me with my faith, as well? Well, one was helping me with more than that: he helped me organize my schedules, helped me keep track of my diet and exercises, and pretty much got started because of him. I got passed the 'I plan to' phase and actually started to do it. Since then, we've had weekly meetings to make sure I've 'been good' basically. Now, he's not harsh or unforgiving or anything by any means. He's a very good friend who really is just trying to help, so this may not even be a problem at all.
Lately, I've been feeling stressed, pressured. I mean, after all, no one is perfect and I don't always stick to my diet as well as I should (my family are on a similar diet, but are a lot more lax about what they eat), and usually end up eating just whatever is made for dinner that night. I am better some weeks, not so well in others, and I just feel like I'm letting him down. I'm not actually hindered from losing weight: my stomach is still shrinking. Is this just a whole bunch of pressure I put on myself for no reason? Sometimes, it feels more like I'm reporting in to a boss than a friend, and I don't mean that harshly or anything: it's all me. The only times we ever talk or meet anymore is during these meetings.. is that what t could be? We're back to the 'being held accountable' subject, in a way, only with diets and exercise.
I certainly don't want to find fault with your friend inasmuch as he seems to be trying to help. However, in my experience and observation this sort of accountability to another human being does not work as far as the Christian life is concerned. Certainly, we are accountable to our superiors on the job or in the military (etc.), and we are accountable to our parents until we become adults and leave home. But we are not accountable to other Christians; rather we are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ for what we do and/or fail to do in our Christian walk. Cults thrive on this personal accountability thing. In my view, it's bad enough if the person doing the shadowing is a good person with a biblical standard. But as no one is completely "good" except God, and as no one is so completely tuned into biblical truth so as to have a completely pure biblical standard, and as no one can judge every situation in a perfect way or have any idea what is really going on in our heads and our hearts, the result of these sorts of arrangements is usually only a process of whitewashing until the "object" (or "disciple") gives the appearance of living/acting/speaking in a way that the "subject" (or "teacher") thinks he/she ought to. The more intrusive these arrangements are, the worse they are. One thing which in my opinion is absolutely irrefutable is that these arrangements are debilitating to spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is all about the decisions we make for Jesus Christ, but if we are living not for Him but out of fear of the disapproval of some other human being, then we have sub-leased our free will to somebody else, so that even the good decisions we make are not really our own. And, as I say, this process always results in mere "eye service"; that is, our behavior only changes from the outside-in so as to give the proper appearance (at least in the view of this "spiritual superior" by whom we run all of our decisions). But all genuine spiritual growth comes from the inside-out as we grow in the truth of the Word of God and begin more and more to hand over our free will not to another imperfect human being but to the Spirit of God. I am aware that some people have had success with Weight-watchers and Al-Anon etc., and for extreme problems and in cases where the person just cannot do it him/herself. So I'm reluctant to throw the baby out with the bath-water (especially for non-Christians and in addiction situations). But I do know that for genuine Christians who are really growing up the correct way through hearing, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit more effectively day by day, using the approval / disapproval of others as a crutch will always be, at the very least, a hindrance from getting past a certain basic level of growth. Just like when we learned to walk as children we had a certain amount of trial and error until we figured out how to stay up on our own two feet, so in the spiritual life we may occasional trip and fall and then have to walk before we can run, but we'll never get anywhere with someone else holding us up especially if, as is often the case, they are pointing us in the wrong direction too.
Here a few links on this:
The true meaning of being a disciple.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
The true priorities of discipleship.
More on discipling
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
First I wanted to thank you that you have been keeping my family in your prayers. We have definitely felt them! God is good and gracious!
Thank you so much for your response on gambling. It was very helpful! I wanted to give you a little more depth now that I know (better) about God has said (and not said) about gambling.
I am discipling a young lady, one day a week. She is the one who brought up the topic of gambling in one of our meetings ... that caused me to email you with the question. She said that one of her friends believes that God is going to allow her to win the Lottery and buy a house in order to use it for God's work. I believe the friend was wanting to use this house for God's service (to house the less fortunate). In fact, when she recently went to buy a Lottery ticket with this vision in her heart ... she noticed that the number on her ticket was her birthday and another person's birthday. (I forget the other person's significance). This seemed to "fan the fire" of the vision. And as was sharing this story, she too was excited about the vision. Anyway, as she was sharing her friend's vision I was feeling very uncomfortable inside. I didn't want to sound judgmental, so I kept my mouth shut. At our next meeting (this is before I wrote you). I shared with her that I didn't think there was too much in the Bible that talked "against" gambling, but that I had a conviction "against" gambling. I also asked my husband about his thoughts on gambling (in front of her) and he said that the only scripture he could think of that may pertain to gambling was the one scripture that talks about "working hard for your money" (Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)
Anyway, I was hoping to get your input on this particular girl's vision. She seems to be wanting to win the lottery with a "good heart/intention", but I can't help but to have a bad feeling about it all. It seems like her motive is pure, but her "means" to obtain the motive do not line up with God's word. She is wanting to do good for Jesus, but seems to be going about it in the wrong way.
I feel I could offend very easy if I were try to say too much more. I don't want to offend, but yet want to "direct/advise/warn" the young lady I am discipling about gambling, in light of her friend's generous loving heart.
Would love to hear what your thoughts are on how I should talk to her about gambling.
Thank you Robert!
For the cause that counts,
You are most welcome. I'm happy to hear that you and your family are doing well.
As to gambling, I want to say first that your instinct to reserve judgment in disputable matters of personal application is right on the mark. In fact, this demonstrates very clear what is wrong with "discipling" or at least what many groups and churches seem to mean by it. It is absolutely essential for spiritual growth that all Christians make their own decisions in response to God's truth. Nothing contributes more rapidly to spiritual decline and nothing is so useful to cults, cult-like organizations, and cult-mimicking individuals than the tendency of some to hand over their decision-making process to others, or the demand placed upon Christians who are being "discipled" to defer to the will of others in regard to those groups/churches/individuals.
We are responsible to God for what we do, say and think; if we hand over our free will to others, we are not for that reason relieved of the responsibility for the decisions we make, even when and if it is a case of others telling us what to do (wrongly). And even in cases if someone is actually telling us to do rightly, we are still not growing in Christ (because we are not making our own decisions in faith), and in fact we are weakening our faith in the truth and in the Lord. For instead of acting in faith and conscience, we are only doing X/Y/Z or refraining from A/B/C because we are looking to get the approval of so-and-so and to avoid his/her disapproval.
The word "disciple" means "learner", and in scripture disciples are those who are pledged to learn and follow Jesus Christ, not other Christians (no matter how mature or well-meaning): other Christians ought to be role-models we look to, but not dictators who direct our every move. The only way to become a biblical disciple is to become a "learner" of God's truth, to believe that truth and follow it. So to the extent that we are teaching others legitimate information in a legitimate way, that is certainly a good thing. However, to the extent that we are opining about things not in scripture or weighing in on the life-decisions of others about which we can by definition not have all the facts, that is a disastrous course for ourselves and for others: for others, because since we are not them and don't know their true motives we are not going to give them perfect advice even if we might otherwise make the right decision for ourselves in a similar situation; for them, because we risk merely playing into their rationalizations or our own legalism if we insist on doing so. The result is that we are going to be held responsible for their errors in many cases, even as we do those being "discipled" absolutely no good in any case. Christians need to learn to walk straight before the Lord for truth and conscience' sake, not to be "eye-servants" in areas of legalism as judged by other necessarily fallible believers. Please see the links:
The true meaning of being a disciple.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
The true priorities of discipleship.
More on discipling
As to the lottery, I think this case you report gives a perfect illustration of the sort of rationalization believers are subject to when they feel money pressures for any reason (or out of greed, for that matter). Years ago I had a couple of friends who used to joke about this sort of activity saying they were just "trying to give God an opportunity to bless me". They meant this facetiously, of course, but it puts the issue nicely. Do we really think that God needs us to play the lottery in order to land a big pile of money in our laps, if that really is His will? Does the One who created the entire universe in the blink of an eye really need help in doing anything? Is anything impossible for God? Or, to take it from the other point of view, as serious Christians who believe in God's perfect plan and perfect superintendence of every aspect of the lives of those who belong to Him, do we really imagine that if we don't play the lottery, that God won't bless us? He was going to bless us, but we didn't buy a ticket, so He couldn't or wouldn't bless us because we didn't gamble? Clearly, God does not expect His children to be inactive when it comes to legitimate things. If we want to eat, we need to work. But that is the life process and calculus He has laid before all humanity since the expulsion from Eden. Playing the lottery is not working (in many ways it is the antithesis). In fact, given the discussion above, playing the lottery would seem to me to be a vote of no confidence in God's ability to provide for us absent some "help" from us. As I said before, I am not even saying it is necessarily a sin for all people who do it under all circumstances (and even if it is there are clearly far worse sins), but I do have trouble justifying it as a godly act.
Jesus did tell Peter to cast a line and pull out a fish wherein he would (and did) find a gold coin sufficient to pay the temple tax for them both. So I am certainly not suggesting that if the Lord verbally tells someone to play the lottery that they shouldn't do it. But I would find it very difficult to believe that such had happened, even if a fellow Christian told me it did not because I lack faith in the Lord; rather precisely because I do believe Him and His Word beyond what my eyes see and ears hear and feelings feel, and I because I do not see something like this being likely given what scripture has to say.
We are all responsible for what we do, and to the judgment seat of Christ we all will "carry our own loads" (Gal.6:5; cf. 2Cor.5:10); better, in my view, to hew to the path of faith and sufficiency than to strive in worldly ways for worldly means as if the end would somehow justify them.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
1st Timothy 6:8 KJV
On visions et al., here are some links which may be helpful:
Third party reports I
Third party reports II
Third party reports III
Third party reports IV
Dreams, Visions, and the Interpretation of Prophecy
Links on gambling:
Gambling and our walk with Jesus
Christian perspective on "luck" and games of "chance"
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
I hope this finds you well and in good spirits! As I mentioned in my last email, I moved to Tucson, but my plans have not evolved as I thought they would. I found the load for the academic program too heavy at my age, and felt physically challenged to continue. I am desperately seeking for Christian brothers and sisters here, and a church, and have not been able to find any. Could you please see if, among your various readers and followers, there are any here? I would be very grateful. I am under heavy attack, and find myself in a desperate state of abandonment and loneliness here, without any Christian community nor support.
Thank you again,
It's always good to hear from you, but I am sorry to hear of your situation there in Tucson. I am sorry to tell you that I don't have any contacts in Tucson. Some readers/users may come from there, but the internet being what it is, I rarely know the venue of anyone who writes to me unless they happen to share the information. This ministry is very much on the internet precisely on account of the problem you are bumping into, namely, the dearth of Bible-teaching churches.
I certainly know what it is like to be "under attack". I have found that these are the "make or break" times for those who are determined to move forward in the Lord and earn a good reward. I have never been so close to the Lord as when things were (are) terribly desperate and He becomes my Hope. My advice is to commit yourself to Bible reading, Bible study, prayer, and an aggressive walk with Jesus as never before. I know from experience that pushing through the storm is the only way to survive it and that by taking this approach you can actually thrive in it, spiritually speaking. After all, for those of us who are committed to serving Jesus in a leadership role, that is a very lonely proposition. We can't afford to look to others for our spiritual grounding or our spiritual safety inasmuch as they will be looking to us. We have to learn to hold onto Jesus' hand and trust that He will not let us sink, no matter how high the waves are rising, how angry the sea, how dark and fearful the storm. In the end, these are the times that not only test our mettle they also make us spiritually.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1st Peter 5:7-10
You are not alone, my friend. Jesus Christ is right there with you, and He will see you through this dark patch. Only, keep on holding tight to Him.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
I will ask a few of my pastor contacts if they know of any likely places you might try, and will let you know if I hear of anything promising.
In Jesus Christ who is our reason for living and in whom alone we are truly fulfilled.
Thank you so very much for answering my concerns. Like I said, they are not actually my concerns, but the concerns of many others who seem to make a mountain out of a molehill on this subject. I agree with what you have to say about all this, and it does make me feel a bit sad that some people have to make it a bigger issue than what it really is which only seems to cause friction and big arguments etc. The people who tend to go on and on and on about this seem to have a tendency to either love the writing of Finney or Pelagius I've noticed. I simply love the teachings of the bible as you do.
The other day I was continuing to read your writing about "Satan's World System" and in here you wrote that the devil's domain has to aggressively keep believers discredited or neutralized. I completely relate to that. It saddens me when people can read perfectly logical and biblical information such as what you share on your site, and yet could seek to discredit it over really nothing at all.
I feel like the Lord gave me a type of "vision" the other day (not a real vision of course, just a picture in my mind that helps me sort my thoughts out and then I draw it out on a piece of paper). The vision was that most everyone I know has fallen away to some strange and/or bizarre doctrine (universalism, love of signs and wonders, love of dead churches that share no solid biblical truths, belief that hell is a myth, belief that Jesus is the Father too, love of arguing minor theological issues more than loving the Lord, Hebrew roots movement, hyper-Calvinism, strange water baptism obsessions, obsessions with "delivering themselves from demons", nitpicking in a 'holier than thou' way if a lady happens to not wear a head covering or if she wears a little makeup and so many other odd doctrines galore.) The Lord seemed to show me that right now I was grounded solidly on the "Rock" and on a nice little mountain, but that even though I'm solidly grounded, that people are still continuing to throw "rocks" at me (throwing strange teachings at me) which could eventually cause an "avalanche" as has happened to countless others who wound up falling off the solid Rock and wound up deep in the ditch, or stuck in a 'rut' (of endlessly debating theology etc), or on the ground level being blown about by every wind of endless doctrines etc. The Lord seemed to show me that I already am aware of a great percent of the odd teachings out there and need to depart from hearing anymore so I don't slip and fall, but instead to get off my little rock/mountain, and start to climb a more encouraging solid Rock/mountain. I think this means that I should continue to learn from your ministry which is fully biblically based and trustworthy. I'm not trying to flatter or anything, but am being very honest in saying that I've really never seen a ministry that has more solid and wise teachings. Praise God for your deep and fervent love for the Lord and that He's blessed you with great wisdom to help His sheep! I know God keeps you near the 'peak' and am so glad that you continue to teach humbly, graciously, and kindly to others. I am only nearer the 'base' of this new 'mountain' of learning, but am very thankful to have found it and to grow more and more.
I hope I am not wasting your time by sharing my thoughts. I just have so few people I can relate to anymore who honestly make sense to me. I do thank you very much for listening and for taking the time to respond so graciously as you always do.
Keep shining so bright for our wondrous Lord who is our deepest love and dearest Friend,
Thank you so much,
We do seem to be very much on the same page for all of these issues. I really appreciate the way you put these things, and hope to be able to do a weekly posting soon on this subject of the contemporary scatter-shot, "itching ears" approach to seeking the truth that afflicts us here late in the era of Laodicea. A big part of the problem, in my view, is that there are so very few churches/ministries which are even engaged at all in the process of getting to and teaching all of the doctrines and truths of the Word of God. That has certainly been a major factor in opening up the door for all manner of internet "hobby-horses", scams and general confusion. We have a supply problem; and we also have a demand problem (which is in part responsible for the former). That is the essence of the lukewarmness of Laodicea that was predicted for these final days, i.e., very little genuine thirst for and love of the truth.
I so appreciate your enthusiasm and honesty, though I must confess to falling far short of your estimate. The important thing for all of us who have bought salve for our eyes so that we do now see clearly is to continue along the path the Lord has marked out, plodding forward day by day in our search to find the truth, live by it, and share it. For as Paul tells Timothy, " in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1Tim.4:16 NKJV).
Yours in Him who is the truth and whom we are here to serve, our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
My sister & I started studying your online series last year & made much progress before I had to leave the country. When I returned we resumed to an extent but life seemed to take a big chunk of time for other things, & we were unable to study at the level we had previously. We both look forward to continuing the study. I am again out of the country with plans to extend the time through so perhaps will plan to do the study long-distance. We enjoyed the time together, talking about your ideas & growing in knowledge. Thank you for making the material available for us all. God has a special eye on you.
Years ago I saw a film, Meetings With Remarkable Men, based on the same titled book by Armenian mystic George Gurdjieff. In the opening scene, village folk from towns near and far are gathered in a spacious valley surrounded by majestic mountains. A group of large, burly lumberjacks become the focus as everyone waits in anticipated excitement. As the drums roll each of the men rises to the podium to exhale his most melodic vibration. Then one, as if in a trance, releases a sound that vibrates the steep walls of the mountains, echoing back a reflection that causes exhilaration throughout the entire community.
This small film made an impression on me. As Christians, do we hope for entry into Heaven based on an individual capacity to pass the test, to create the sound that vibrates throughout the universe? Or do we hope that grace & mercy will be bestowed upon us for our silence when we are summoned home?
Are we here to develop tones within ourselves that have a distinct impact on the world around us? Are we solely responsible for causing this inner catharsis? Is Free Will all we are given to achieve this miraculous end? Or do we receive divine help from above? How does this work?
I hope to hear from you.
I wish you peace in God's grace.
Good to hear from you personally.
I am not familiar with this film or the book you mention. It certainly is true that life tends to intrude into spiritual matters. That is certainly a biblical principle. Jesus tells us in the parable of the Sower that the seed which fell among the weeds was choked and did not receive the light necessary to grow and produce a crop. My interpretation of this is as the status most believers find themselves in, especially now late in the day in the final Church era of Laodicea (see the link). In the New Jerusalem I greatly suspect that the most populated area will be the one of those who held fast their faith in this life but did very little with it. Growing "above the weeds" takes commitment and effort, and is always opposed by the evil one. "Life" looms large for us here in the world, but in actuality the "handshake" between our firm foundation of faith unto salvation and our eternal life with Jesus Christ as His Bride is solid and direct. This tiny sliver of "time" would be by comparison completely irrelevant if it weren't for the fact that it is now, here in time, where we are exercising the most precious resource we have: our free will to choose. Those few who choose for Jesus are saved; the others are not. And those few of the saved who devote and dedicate themselves to growing up spiritually through hearing, learning, and believing the truth, through applying that truth to their lives and passing the tests that come to build faith, and through helping others do the same by means of the gifts and ministries our Lord assigns will reap a great reward; those who do not give themselves over to any degree to this process although it is the very reason we are still here after being saved will not be rewarded, but will be overjoyed to be in eternity nonetheless (though it is certainly spiritually dangerous to be in this group here and now because faith neglected is faith at risk).
Many people draw inspiration from many sources, and artistic representations of spiritual truth are important for many of our brothers and sisters. Personally, I prefer the Bible (although I cannot claim to be immune from all artistic influence!). It is always better to have the truth directly than indirectly through metaphor and analogy. In is in respect to the latter that I would wish to respond to your specific questions. Rather than trying to filter my understanding of things through these works with which I am not conversant, I would only say, in addition to what I have already said above, that all who maintain their faith in Jesus Christ firm until the end are saved. Those who do not are not. We are here for a purpose, and that purpose is all about God's truth: believing it, living it, ministering it. Those who embrace that purpose will be rewarded at Christ's judgment seat (see the link); those who do not will not be, but they themselves will be saved, assuming they have at least preserved their faith (i.e., the difference between the seed among the weeds which is choked and unproductive and the seed landed on the rock which dies off completely).
God is certainly at our right hand to help us in this process and His Holy Spirit is in us to guide and encourage us every step of the way (e.g., Rom.8:9). But we do have to keep making the sometimes tough decisions to move forward in order to gain the crowns our Lord promises for all those who fight the fight His way.
There is much to say about all of these issues. In addition to the links above, please see the following links (and please do feel free to write me back any time):
Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth
The Necessity for Spiritual Growth
Principles of Spiritual Growth
Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
I am graciously thankful to receive your email in response to my question about how our faith is tested. I have often pondered the parable of the Sower and the seeds. How we nourish that which we have been given determines what we are upon Christ's return. I do not want to be a seed that has been choked by weeds or dried up on the rock. I pray for greater spiritual strength.
The impression I had was that there is a real & specific achievement we must meet if we are to abide in Heaven. I do use analogies a lot. I often think that my inability to tolerate bright lights may be a drawback at Christ's return. If I do not have the ability to view His radiance, will this deny me His presence? It seems a practical concern. My sister believes all these things will not matter, as God will fix all of our weaknesses, but I am not certain whether we are expected to do the fixing before we arrive? As when tossed into a deep river, we either sink or swim, is it so with entry into God's realm? Will we be judged by our faith that the water will not consume us? Will God's grace give us wings if we fall short in our ability?
I think I understand your response to say that all the analogies, metaphors, & interpretations are only glitter; the true gold lies in the relationship between me & Christ. Do you think the level of spiritual maturity for each person is expressed in their practice of daily worship? I seem to promise myself that I will spend more time in Bible study, but at the end of each day, I cannot say I have kept that promise. There are many demands & as I try to fit everything in, I fall short. Perhaps my priorities need to be adjusted.
My family here overseas is very active & I think the high-energy environment leads me to feel that I too must be 'always on'. In praying for God to help me know His Will so that I may live according to it, part of me believes God wants me to be here as a witness. As I try to do this, I realize how weak is my ability to express His Word. I know the answer lies in being able to live as an example, but I do not feel that I know enough. There doesn't seem to be any short-cuts to being filled with God's Will. It's a process; meanwhile, my family grows. I am trying to find a balance between the energy I give to God & the energy I give to my family. I know the more I give to God, the more true value I am able to give to my family. I must continue to make effort as knowing is not always controlling.
Perhaps the more I come to understand the Bible, the less I will feel the need to understand life in terms of metaphors, analogies, etc. I will know it does not need to be dressed up, dancing til midnight, etc. It needs only to be read, believed & followed. My sister seems to have a balanced practice for living in this way. She trusts & obeys. Perhaps I will be more comfortable following the more direct route, as you say. I continue to pray for guidance.
I have always been reluctant to read the Bible on my own. It is a very complex book, so I've prayed to find a source that would help me to understand what I was reading. Your online study came to her & me at a time when we were both equally ready & consequently, we seemed able to understand many of the complexities. We also attributed this understanding to the divine gift of the Holy Spirit as we prayed for guidance & felt the presence during our study time. I look forward to continued study as it helps me to feel closer to God. Thank you again for making this ministry available to the hungry & thirsty.
I am reading the references, Peter 13 & 16 & Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth. Thank you!
"Tis a gift to be simple."
Last year when we started your Coming Tribulation series, I thought the last couple of titles had not been completed. Have you since completed this part of the study?
May Christ be with us in this moment & always.
Good to hear from you again,
Yes, the Coming Tribulation series is (recently) complete seven parts (really nine, since 2 and 3 have an A and a B).
I think you express yourself quite well! And I am thrilled to hear of your wonderful approach to these things and your desire to be a good witness for Jesus Christ. Every one of us has been given a spiritual gift or gifts at salvation, but not all gifts are the same and we are all individual members of the Body with different talents, resources and life circumstances. If we are willing to grow, the Lord will provide the means; if we are willing to walk with Him, the Lord will provide the testing; and if we are willing to serve Him, the Lord will provide the specific ministry He has always had in mind for us personally, having taken absolutely everything into account. This ministry will not necessarily be obvious to us when we start the process. Witnessing the Word to others is a responsibility all Christians share but a particular ministry some individual believers are given. I am very big on making it clear that the traditional "full time" ministries of the traditional churches do not by any means define, limit, exhaust or comprise all of the actual ministries that Jesus has in mind for those willing to do them. As we grow, the truth in our hearts and the ministry of the Spirit will lead us to where we are best fit to serve our Lord and in what capacity.
Yes, it is a challenge to do what we ought to do in order to grow, and it is a challenge to be consistent in the application of the Lord's Word to our lives, but stepping up to both challenges is necessary to grow to the point of being available to Jesus Christ for a mature and effective ministry (which will have its own challenges). Family is an important reality in all of our lives as work usually is as well. There are not many Christians who are "lone agents" and "independently wealthy"; the result is that engaging in the process of spiritual growth and doing so effectively is always a sacrifice because the other things we need to be doing still need to be done. God helping us we will find a way to be consistent in this balancing act so as to be all we should be to our families and to our bosses without neglecting our Lord Jesus Christ and what He would have us to do.
I am very encouraged by your thoughtful email. I suppose the only other thing I feel the need to say here involves the issue of salvation. Salvation is complex from one point of view (that is, what it cost the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ to provide it); but from a practical and individual point of view it is really very simple. The issue you are grappling with is really not one of "am I saved?", but rather "what, as one who wants to please my Lord, should I be doing?" This is an important distinction to make. Many are born but few are born again; many are called but few are chosen; many are saved . . . but very few, especially in this day and age, come anywhere near to fulfilling their spiritual potential as the Lord would have them to do. The victory which overcomes the world is faith, and as long as a believer continues with faith in Jesus Christ, that person will inherit the kingdom, even if said Christian never achieves anything in a spiritual sense. The distinction will be in the rewards earned for eternity in this case rather than being a question of whether or not the person is saved. It is dangerous to be a "do nothing" Christian where spiritual growth is concerned because faith itself can and does die (the Great Apostasy during the Tribulation will be the most dramatic case of this; see the link), but works are not necessary for salvation true faith always produces some legitimate works, however small (when "work" is rightly defined as anything we think, say or do for the Lord, including negotiating testing; cf. Jas2:23-25). The sequence is important, because to the extent that a group teaches the necessity of works to be saved, they have not only got it entirely backwards but are actually leading those they teach away from salvation rather than towards it. For we are "saved by grace through faith" and it that is the "gift of God" which comes "not of yourselves, lest anyone should boast" (Eph.2:8-9).
The most comprehensive place to find what I have written on the above is at the following link:
Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology: the Biblical Study of Salvation
You are fighting the good fight! Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ.
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your email. I received much assurance from your statement: "capacity increases, self-discipline hardens, and opportunity beckons". As our capacities increase we become more firm in the commitment to follow Christ's example. This is the self-discipline part, correct? As we grow spiritually, self-discipline becomes a choice of how we live each & every moment. And as life affords more situations in which commitment may grow, challenges turn into opportunities. Life becomes an exciting adventure when we are confirmed by such love. I am not discounting the suffering that we may know as we fight for Christ. As we become spiritually stronger, we are able to endure more & more.
Thank you for explaining to me about your email reception. I apologize for not responding to your email sooner.
May the peace of Christ's love be with you.
Good to hear from you again. Yes, I think you have it exactly right and no need to apologize for anything. I get snowed-under with work and various "life issues" all the time (as I would imagine most of us do!).
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I get what you're saying, and I will read what you've sent to me to help myself understand it more, and thank you for the links. I was merely asking how.... well, as I said, growing up in public schools, evolution has been so ingrained into what I grew up on that it seems to be my 'default' thought process when trying to read the Bible. I was just going to ask if, eventually, that 'default' will shift the more and more I read the Bible?
I know I kinda touched on this in my last email, but I had recently read Matthew 5-6, today actually, and could use some assistance in understanding them. Before I start, I would like to ask real quick about something: I have the 'New Living Translation' of the Bible, and wanted to ask if this was a good version or not?
Anyway, Matthew Chapter 5 has some pretty extreme passages in it, and I realize I partly brought it up in the last email, but could use some help in understanding the literalness of the chapter. Such as being brought before the court, or cursing someone (as far as I'm aware, I haven't done so, but I may have as a child and not remember? What exactly does 'cursing' entail?). Also 'if you lust after a woman, you have committed adultery with her in your heart'. Another one is the teaching of vows, and I am kinda worried about this one. God forgives all sins (except not believing), so this does include fallen-through vows of the past, right?
Oh, and there was a part in Chapter 6 about how God will not forgive you if you don't forgive others, and while this is not a problem with me, it is with someone I care about and I wish I could do something to help.
The truth changes us all provided we expose ourselves to it, let it into our hearts, believe it, and commit ourselves to acting upon it. Accessing good Bible teaching and reading the Bible on a daily basis always have very positive effects in reshaping a Christian's thinking in a godly way as scripture itself testifies:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking (i.e., through obedience to the word of God; cf. v.1), 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].
(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance (Greek: ἐπίγνωσις, epignosis) to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
On the above, please see the link: "Our New Orientation as Reborn Believers" in BB 4B.
On the question of versions, I am not an NLT user, and I know that many conservatives are very "down" on this version as taking far too many liberties and straying far to far away from anything approaching a "literal" translation. The few times I have used it I have found it to be a helpful interpretive version. That is to say, it prints what the passage means (in the estimation of the translator) and not necessarily what it says. That is fine for those who already know the Bible very well and so will not be surprised in places where the translator is wrong in his/her interpretation (which happens frequently). As a main version to get to know the Bible, therefore, I could not recommend it for that reason, but also because since it does not make use of standard terms for the Greek and Hebrew it will be very difficult for a new reader to get the "lay of the land" so to speak, and to get a good feel for where certain common themes occur in scripture and what is really "in there". If using the NLT, I would recommend using another more traditional translation at the same time. I think a couple of days of reading the same chapter in one and then the other version will make the points above very clearly. I also want to re-emphasize the need for systematic Bible study, by which I mean first and foremost accessing a Bible teaching ministry you know and trust. If not Ichthys, then some other orthodox and substantive ministry capable of feeding you (i.e., teaching as opposed to sermons and hymns). The Bible is essential, but the truths of the Bible are deep and broad and not necessarily easy to put together for anyone coming it to it seriously for the first time all by one's self. The Church is a Body of many parts which supports itself (or should), and Bible teaching is one of the main functions the Church provides for itself (or should). Not even someone with the gift of pastor-teacher can expect to "do it all" and feed themselves on their own without help until a certain level of maturity, experience and preparation is reached (in my case this was only after seminary around the time I began the antecedents of this ministry).
On Matthew chapter five and other places in the gospels where our Lord invokes standards of behavior to which none of us measure up if we are being honest with ourselves about it it is important to remember that this is a large part of His point. His audience was composed of many self-righteous persons who assumed that they were righteous by keeping the Law. That would be laughable if it were not for the disastrous eternal consequences of such a false view. By making it clear that on the issue of adultery, for example, even entertaining the thought of it is sinful, our Lord demonstrates that there is no possibility of salvation by "being good". Instead, we all need the cleansing of the blood of Christ, the forgiveness that comes from faith in Him because the only way to receive God's righteousness is through faith, not works. Clearly, as Christians who care about what our Lord wants us to do we all should be striving might and main day by day to eschew sin and instead to pursue spiritual growth, progress in the Christian walk, and production for our Lord, that is, sanctification and spiritual growth. As in many things in true Christianity, the middle road is the right road: on the one hand we have to admit that we are not and will never be perfect; on the other hand we have to accept that we are called to be perfect and will be disciplined for our imperfections. Only by accepting both propositions, by continuing to advance, by confession when we fail, and by moving on rather than looking back, can we hope to achieve in this life what our Lord has left us here after salvation to achieve. I would put all past failures, including failures in something like a vow, into the same category. We cannot change our past failures; we can be confident that the Lord will discipline us for them in just the right way (so that we don't have to worry about punishing ourselves); all we can do is to make a commitment to ourselves to avoid making the same mistake again and push on with what we know for certain Jesus wants us to be doing with our lives. I cannot emphasize enough that sitting down and trying to be perfect is not only impossible but fails to do what Jesus calls us to do. We need to get up and get moving, picking ourselves up off the ground when we fail and fall (confession and true repentance), striving to be godly in all things, but not allowing ourselves to be distracted from the primary task of spiritual growth by our lack of perfection and mistakes to the point that we stop doing what we ought to be doing in advancing for Him.
As far as other people are concerned, it is never going to be easy in the case of those whom we love. On the one hand we cannot really know what is truly going on in their hearts; on the other hand we cannot affect what is transpiring there directly. All we can do is pray, live and give a good example, lead in word and deed, and trust the Lord that He will do the rest. A good policy is to be strict with oneself and in the case of others we care about to appeal to the mercy of God and trust that He will not allow our concerns to go unanswered. Nothing is impossible for Him.
In Jesus Christ the Righteous who has purged away all of our sins with His blood,
You wrote: 'Thus, Christian maturity and continued spiritual progress may or may not be accompanied by affluence (although the passage above refers to the "affluence" of being part of Christ's Church)' with reference to: Mark 10:29-30. Does that mean that affluence is a part of the church? What is the relationship between this passage and the passages that talk about persecutions of these who follow Christ?
By this I mean that, when our Lord says at Mark 10:30 that those who follow will not fail "to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life" (NIV), He is not saying we will have, for example, 100 homes. He is saying that we will all be one Body, and that the Body will help itself, each part the other part, so that each part has access to the whole. Of course, it is true that we as a Church often fall short of this ideal in many ways, but on the other hand none of us who have walked very far with the Lord can fail to have experienced just this sort of blessing of having many brothers and sisters in Him who benefit us in all manner of wonderful ways. The persecutions part here makes it clear that we are also being opposed by the evil one as long as we are in the world so that in spite of the mutual support of the body, there will be suffering sharing in His sufferings as long as we are in the world.
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
By saying 'For you have died', does Paul mean dying to the world?
Yes. Our present life is over positionally speaking. We are already citizens of heaven and are already looking forward to the next life to our inheritance in that city whose "architect and builder is God". We are dead to the world and so we should live. Not an easy lift, but something Christians can come to with spiritual growth and maturity.
Question and answer regarding John 17:19. Your wrote: He is sinless, so His sanctification is rather the ceremonial preparation of the sacrifice: our Lord was readying Himself mentally and spiritually for the most difficult thing anyone has ever done by untold orders of magnitude in dying for the sins of the world. I thought that the sanctification was the sacrifice on the cross itself rather than the preparation for it, so when you say that it is the mental and spiritual preparation for the cross, then how would sanctification apply to apostles when our Lord says:
For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
Our role in the Plan of God is of course in every way inferior to the ROLE of the One upon whom and upon whose sacrifice everything depends. But as scripture draws parallels we are right and obligated to do so as well. Jesus prepared in a sanctified way for the main "job" He had to accomplish: dying for the sins of the world. Our "jobs" are all different in many respects but have common features: maintaining faith, growing spiritually, advancing in our walk with Christ, helping others do the same through the proper functioning of our various gifts. Sanctification and spiritual growth are flip-sides of the same coin. Jesus was perfect and walked through the world perfectly. In our case the "setting apart" or sanctification involves behavioral adjustments that make us usable for the Lord. This is impossible without spiritual growth and it is impossible that true spiritual growth will not result in such sanctification (even if the two are not always perfectly in balance at all times, they are inextricably linked). Truth (as our Lord says in this quote) is the means of our separation from the world, from its thought patterns, its priorities, its sinfulness, because only by way of learning and believing and applying the truth are we transformed in our inner person so as to see things differently and act accordingly. So our task, while of course fundamentally different from that our Lord in so many ways, is nevertheless deliberately parallel: we have a job to do too, and sanctification is both a prerequisite and a continuing requirement for it.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NIV
Does our Lord here refer to the disciples panicking and abandoning Him when His suffering started, or is that a summary comment referring to all the things previously said in the chapter?
I take this wonderful verse to be a maxim for all believers at all times. Regardless of how bad things may get, we can have peace in Jesus Christ through concentrating on the things He has told us, that is, the Word of truth. So while the verse is addressed to the disciples and does have special application to them in terms of the preceding discourse, I am certain that the principle applies to us all: when the Word of God becomes our true reality, even the most difficult circumstances cannot quench the inner-peace of confidence in our Lord that the power of knowing and believing His Word always brings to the extent that we keep responding to it and concentrating on it.
Hebrews 11:26: [Moses] considered the reproach [suffered on behalf] of Christ greater riches than the treasure vaults of Egypt. For he was looking to his reward.
What is meant by '[Moses] considered the reproach [suffered on behalf] of Christ'? Did Moses know he was suffering on behalf of Christ?
According to these verses, yes he did. Moses probably had a clearer picture of the meaning behind the sacrifices of the Law than anyone before or since. Like David, he "saw" the Lord with his mind's eye, and knew what it would take for us to be saved. Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit the story of the sacrifice Isaac and all of the other parts of the Torah which teach about Jesus' coming. We are so blessed to have seen Him "in the flesh", but the example of Moses shows just how far someone can go in the Lord and for the Lord if they are but willing to do so.
Could you please clarify Matthew 19:29:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My names sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
I) According to the footnote, some early manuscripts include wife alongside the children - is that the case and should it be a part of the scripture?
II) How would you say leaving children should be understood, as they need to be sustained and cared for by parents?
Yes, "wife" is in the original and should be included (no doubt the long list accounts for leaving the word out; also it is typical in this typical list which occurs throughout Greek literature in a variety of contexts to put "wife" at the end, so that may have been anticipated and may have led to the omission). As to children, I am sure that our Lord's words do not indicate that we can abdicate our responsibilities (in any respect), but we also cannot use our temporal responsibilities as an excuse to avoid our spiritual ones as these latter are of far more importance. Hence, those who put the spiritual above the temporal come in for blessing of an eternal nature.
We came across your site last night, while looking for deeper information about angels and demons and how they affect us followers of Christ.
We are so amazed with your level of knowledge and understanding of the spiritual things. Christ has definitely given you a gift of knowledge, writing and understanding!
We were having a discussion about the evil world system that has captured the minds of so many, esp in these end times and my husband found the clarifications he was looking for on your site. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for helping us work through our deep discussion with more clarity and thank you for serving our wonderful King Jesus Christ, by providing such detailed and relevant information for His Body. Your knowledge, insight and faithfulness are humbling to say the least!
We look forward to spending eternity with our beautiful Savior and His sons and daughters like you!
Thank you so much for this very uplifting email! It is greatly appreciated. It is always with immense pleasure that I hear of these studies helping my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ come closer to Him through His Word of truth.
I too think much on the New Jerusalem and all of the wonders to come when the Church will be One in every experiential way just as we are in fact one.
Please do feel free to write with any questions you may have about these materials or how to navigate the (somewhat complex) site.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Just wanted to say thanks for your prayers, made it through the wedding and actually held up pretty well physically.
Otherwise, looking forward to fall, especially the cooler weather and the occasional football game. Also looking forward to doing some more reading on your website. Just wondering, do you have to pay for a site like that or is it free? I know you can set up your own blog or webpage for free, just not sure about how much space you are allowed.
You are very welcome. I am happy to hear that your health is improving and that things went better than expected at the wedding. I continue to keep you and your family in prayer.
Hope you enjoy the website. It's not a free one, but the real challenge is the time not the money. It gives me a great deal of pleasure in any case!
Do have a great fall,
Yours in Jesus,