Question #1: What if I am believing with all my heart and mind but sometimes have a tiny bit of doubt in my faith in God? Will I be saved? What do you call those people who believe in God whole-heartily but sometimes are not convinced that Jesus rose from the dead and come to save us from our sins? Is such a believer or an unbeliever? How can you describe the attitude of that person to God?
Response #1: As to your first question, I would just remind you of what Jesus said, that it takes only a very small amount of faith to be saved, small as a grain of mustard seed, one of the tiniest seeds there are. That is not much faith. So I do not think it is matter of complete and perfect faith to be saved. No one starts that way in their Christian life. We all have to start small before we can grow tall. And like the mustard seed, we all are watered with the water of the Word of God, and we all should receive that water gladly, take it in and grow. For our spiritual growth is in many way the growth of our faith. Faith that is alive produces good works, spiritual victories, and a growing hope and love as well. Eventually, doubt, the opposite of faith, grows smaller as faith grows larger. This doesn't happen overnight, but, like the growing plant, one goes away for some time and comes back and is amazed at how large the plant has become, even though you could not actually see it growing. So do not worry. Devote yourself to the Word of God, to learn it, believe it, and put it into practice day by day, and not only will your faith grow stronger, it will produce in you all the works your Father has ordained and your Lord desires.
As to your question about those who believe in God but do not accept Jesus' work and Jesus resurrection, scripture is very clear that our Lord is the only way to salvation (Jn.14:6a). No one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ (Jn.14:6b). There is no other Name, no other authority which can grant eternal life (Acts 4:12). If we do not honor the Son, we dishonor the One who sent Him (Jn.5:23). No one but God truly knows the heart of another person, and I share your concern on this issue. I know a number of people whom I hope and pray are truly believers, and I always try to make the truth about the issue of salvation through Jesus Christ alone very clear to them. Really, all we can do is to witness to the truth and leave the rest to God. As believers in the truth, we have to stand by the truth no matter what. Sometimes God uses our persistence in and loyalty to the truth to encourage those who have resisted Jesus, to help them to come to Him at last. But whether they do or whether they do not, we have to remain loyal to Him and faithful to all that He teaches us in His Word.
In doing these things, we shall never be disappointed. Please also have a look at the following links:
Faith: What is it?
Free-will faith and the Will of God.
Soteriology: The Biblical Study of Salvation (BB 4B)
Apostasy and the Sin Unto Death (in BB 3B)
The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I
The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II
Yours in Him who is the life, the truth, and the only way of salvation, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Is there a difference in the light mentioned in Genesis 1:3 and the "lights" of Genesis 1:14?
The way I understand these two verses is that in the initial re-creation of light in Genesis 1:3, God re-infused light into the universe He had darkened in judgment at Satan's fall. This initial light was not localized, merely separated from the darkness that had entirely dominated before. The concentration of light into the heavenly bodies is what follows in verse 14. The sun and the moon are "lights" but not "light" itself. These words share the same root in Hebrew, but the sun and moon are me`oroth not `or itself. That is they are, etymologically, "places-of-light" rather than pure "light" (the me- prefix in Hebrew generally has this locative meaning). So I understand the generalized light that came back into the universe at the Lord's command in v.3 to be now concentrated in the sun and moon (reflection) and stars, with the regularization of the pattern of light and darkness important for the function of human life (and teaching important spiritual lessons as well). In the eternal state, there will be no darkness at all (Rev.21-22), just as there was now darkness before Satan's fall. But we now live in a time when the contrast between light and darkness is a clear and evident tangible metaphor that everyone experiences, demonstrating the inseparable gulf between God's truth and the devil's lies, between following God's way that leads to the light of eternal life and Satan's way that leads only the darkness of eternal death.
You can find out more about this at the following links:
The Seven Days of Re-creation
Creation and Re-creation
Yours in Him who is our Light, Jesus Christ the Word of God, to whom we diligently look from this dark place until that bright Morning Star rises for us once and for all.
I am eagerly awaiting your next major posting. In the meantime, I have much spiritual growth to pursue at the urgings of the Holy Spirit and your studies. After reading many of your studies, reflection and prayer I realized that I was living in a low-laying land that was sinking or I was barely hanging from a craggy cliff. (Either one of these being a most precarious position.) I had decided that continuing to read and learn God's Word as a priority was not that important anymore. Attending to my daily world activities in my fleshly roles in some improving manner had outstripped my passion for God and His will for me. That is just upside down, inside out, backwards! Accepting lie #1 and lie #2 comes to mind from your study of the Word. And I wonder why my faith is so porous? I have stored it in a closet infested with moths. Our Lord has been most gracious to me to have not allowed the moths to consume the whole of my faith. I believe that if I repent and return to God's will that He can knit together a fine and glorious coat of faith that I can wear in service to Him. Many Christians, myself included, are concerned about whether they personally will be confronted with the Tribulation times. In reading and learning from your series I was convicted that it was base to think in such a way. (Even in the worldly way "good parents" care about what lies ahead for their own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren - that they be equipped to deal effectively.) But the most truthful way to think is in terms of any of God's children that will strive in those days. I wept when I realized that I was concerned for myself and had some thought to my own children, grandchildren, great-children, little care for the Church or even unbelievers. Today is truly the time of preparation not just for self but in the blessed, assured hope that our spiritual walk now brings blessings that will abound then for any that find themselves in the specific Tribulation or a personal one for that matter. My spirit was pricked to understand that today I can, in a true walk with God, assist in spiritual help arranged by our Masterful Lord in any and all days to come for whomever the Lord wills. This is all very serious and heart pounding to realize. I now set my face to seek the will of God as a priority, in faith that our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect in all ways even unto salvation for all who believe. These are not simply passing days, they are our Lord's days lived through us. There is a firm foundation instead of sinking ground and a secure High Holy place instead of the craggy cliff, if one chooses for the wisdom and truth of Jesus Christ daily.
I appreciate your humble and eager attitude. In my observation, attitude is the number one thing. One can learn, one can grow, one can study, one can make changes in life-style, one can develop the personal ministry Christ has called that person to - anything and everything is possible as long as the willingness is there. Add a good measure of self-discipline and consistency and most of the major ways in which we limit God by our own negativity are removed right from the start. So what I am saying is that with your willingness to put Jesus Christ first in all things you are in an excellent position to accomplish what He has put before you to do with your life. We have all wasted time and opportunities. What is important is to make the most of today and however many other "todays" our Lord has seen fit to grant us (Phil.3:13b).
I draw encouragement from your determination and clear dedication to Jesus Christ.
Could you please tell me what Psalm 119:75 means?
I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75 NIV
From the tone and tenor of the context (i.e., the yodh strophe, vers.73-80), it is clear that the psalmist is in pain, trouble and difficulty. In verse 78, it seems that part of his trouble is abuse at the hands of the "arrogant" (who may or may not be taking advantage of his weakened state). The psalmist also appeals to God's mercy and God's promises, which is, along with the verse you ask about, some indication that he may be admitting culpability for his situation. But whether the "oppression" he is suffering is 1) totally deserved, 2) partially for discipline and partially for growth, or 3) completely a case of suffering for Christ (ala Job, etc.), it is clear that the psalmist is committing himself completely to God, recognizing that God is in complete control of everything that happens (i.e., we can never be made subject to any sort of suffering without God's approval), and further recognizing that God is right and righteous in everything He places upon us or allows us to endure, whether for discipline, or testing, or growth, or His own glorification (or any combination of the above). In his conversation with the Lord, the psalmist comforts himself (and us) by bringing the mercy, the goodness, the all-knowing and fore-knowing loving character of our Lord to our minds, and we take encouragement in the fact that He is in complete control, and that He will not do anything "to" us or "for" us that is not completely in line with His loving, merciful nature, or anything that is not absolutely in line with His faithfulness and truthfulness (and ultimately for our good in every way). Incidentally, I find it particularly telling and instructive that the psalmist uses his respect for and attention to the Word of God as the indication that he is of and for God and therefore worthy of the deliverance for which he prays (vers.78-80; cf. vers.73-75).
In Jesus Christ,
I'm afraid I have become involved with a contemporary, seeker-sensitive church. I believe that our church is being deprived of serious bible study. Do you have any guidance on the type of questions I can pose to our prospective pastor to discern if he considers discipleship or "feeding the sheep"?
In my experience, anyone who is genuinely committed to serious investigation of the scripture and has the teaching of his congregation and their spiritual growth as his number one priority will inevitably take some sort of systematic approach. That is to say, such a pastor will want to teach entire books of the Bible, or large topics that take multiple lessons, often doing a combination of the two (e.g., going verse by verse through 2nd Corinthians in two installments during two weekday nights, and covering Soteriology during two sessions on Sunday mornings - just examples). When one takes such an approach, it always takes longer than one expected, because covering a whole book or a whole theological area leads to deeper study and greater discovery. That is true of all subjects in my observation, even secular ones (and why I never have enough time in my Greek classes to get done what I would like to do). On the other hand, a "scatter-shot" approach is always going to be superficial. A once or twice a week 20-40 minute message on some isolated verse or individual point, no matter how important or true, is never going to provide a congregation with a consistent and comprehensive understanding of the truths of scripture, even if they have perfect attendance and perfect concentration. Believe me, I understand why things are the way they are. To grow, it has been the practice to showcase the Sunday sermon (and that goes back to antiquity - though not, significantly, to the apostles). If the pastor is a showman, a good speaker, motivational, and inspirational, people will be encouraged, will come more frequently, will tell their friends, and the church will grow in numbers. But will they grow spiritually? Churches often try to make up the teaching deficit with 1) Sunday school classes taught by members of the congregation, and 2) encouraging personal and individual efforts (which are admittedly important, but no substitute for professional teaching). This is a little like having a frequent flyer at the controls of the aircraft and a random passenger navigating while the pilot hands out peanuts and tells jokes to keep the rest of the passengers happy.
Anyway, I know that there are some men out there who have the right idea about how to approach this most critical of all ministerial responsibilities in the scripturally correct way. They are, however, few and far between. Also, if the crew I have kept in touch with since seminary is any indication, their efforts to do things the right way have generally not been appreciated. But, to return to the specifics of your question, if it were me, I would ask what a prospective pastor's plan was for leading the congregation forward in spiritual growth, and, specifically, what his plans were for teaching, both the books/subjects he wanted to cover first, and the manner in which he meant to approach them (times and frequency of lessons, methodology of teaching, what he expected of the congregation in the way of commitment, etc.).
I hope this is of some help. I admire your honest and diligent efforts in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hello, I have read in places that in rewriting the New Testament they have changed the name of Jesus and that it really is a form of the name for Zeus. I am seeking truth in this and would appreciate knowing what you think about how the translation of the word was handled as there seems to be much debate on this subject.
Thanks for your e-mail. This is a new one on me. I can tell you that there is absolutely no connection between the name of the top god in the Greek pantheon, "Zeus", and the anglicized name of our Lord, "Jesus". I have an extensive e-mail reply posted to the website explaining the origin of the name Jesus and its spelling in English and Greek based upon the Hebrew (see: "The name 'Jesus'"). The gist of that reply is that Jesus is originally a Hebrew name identical with that of Joshua (both names are also spelled identically in the Greek NT). The three consonants or "triliteral root" of the name Jesus are: Y - SH - ', with Y = Jahweh, and SH-' = "saves". The name "Zeus", on the other hand, is based on an Indo-European root (sometimes represented in the scholarship as DEIW) meaning "to shine" or "sky" - i.e., the root relates to the sky and thus to the "sky god". The genitive of Zeus in Greek, incidentally, is DIOS (compare Latin DEUS; Jupiter is also from the same root). So, linguistically speaking, there is not a shred of commonality between this name and Jesus' name since they are at their roots composed of completely divergent consonants (not to mention the fact that they come from entirely different language families).
Yours in Him who is the true God who saves us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.