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Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation VII

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Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

I was studying Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus tonight and noticed that Jesus' explanation also supports the dichotomy of man.

Jesus says that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Two parts of the human:
1) flesh
2) spirit

Praying for you!

In Jesus

Response #1: 

Good observation (link)!

Thanks for the prayers.

Keeping you and your family in mine daily too.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Dr. Luginbill,

It’s been some time since we last talked and I hope you are doing well in the midst of our current times. I have been recently been trying to further work out my understanding of soteriology and have some questions for you if you don’t mind. I encountered a group of individuals who have some interesting views on the subject, and with which I have some issues. They can be very persuasive, and to tell the truth, I’m a bit distraught as to how to handle some of their claims. Here is a direct quote from one of them:

“Salvation is not the immediate reward of a place in heaven that one can keep or lose. It's an initial deliverance from sin, to do good not evil and includes forgiveness of past sin. The reward of eternal salvation comes after our last breath, after we are judged. That reward is conditional on whether our faith worked through love resulting in obedience.
Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Initial salvation is just that. Initial, not eternal. There are numerous scriptures that illustrate this.
(2Ti 2:10 KJV) Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Why don't the elect already have salvation? Because they are not eternally saved, only initially saved [from sin].
(Rom 6:22 KJV) But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Why is everlasting life given at the end of a life of being free from sin? Because the believer is only initially saved [from sin], not eternally saved.
(Rom 13:11 KJV) And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
If they were already eternally saved, why would their salvation be nearer than when they first believed? Because they are only initially saved [from sin], not eternally saved.
(Jas 1:21 KJV) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Why aren't the souls of these believers already eternally saved? Because they are only initially saved [from sin].
(1Pe 1:9 KJV) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Why does the salvation of the souls of Peter's audience (faithful believers) happen at the end of their faith and not at the beginning? Because they are only initially saved [from sin], not eternally saved.”

My main issue here is the idea that believers are not guaranteed an eternity in heaven upon putting their faith in Christ. I don’t mean to create a straw man here, but it sounds to me like this person is suggesting that our obedience is actually what guarantees our eternal safety. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this quote was John 6:47, “the one who believes HAS eternal life.” Not to mention many other examples from the Gospels, etc.

Additionally, this same group of people says that “faith” doesn’t mean “entrusting yourself to Christ”, it means “obedience”. So to them, faith is always obedience in the sense of being an active performance on the part of the person. Their rationale is that supposedly “faith” in Greek is derived from the word for “obedience”. So the whole thing ends up being a “faith is actually works but also not the kind of works that can’t save you” game that gets very confusing.

I’m the first one to admit that the process and interaction between justification, sanctification and salvation is difficult to understand, especially in light of the huge amount of information in the Bible. However, the things these people present do not sit well with me.

How would you respond to the things that these people are saying?


Response #2: 

After salvation, we are still in the world. And after salvation, we are charged with the task of spiritual growth, progress and production – that is the basis of eternal rewards. Also, in the case of some, faith dies out under pressure, so part of the reason we are left here is to test the faith that is in us to see if it is genuine or merely short-lived (Lk.8:13; see the link).

So, for example, while yet here in the world we still have a sin nature. For that reason while we are indeed "sanctified" positionally we are however not sinless. We are "sanctified" in Christ – that is our position in God's eyes, but we are not yet fully sanctified and unable to sin as will be the case in resurrection. So the Bible talks of what in theology is called positional, experiential, and ultimate sanctification:
1) we are holy in our status because we belong to Jesus;
2) so we are called "to be perfecting our holiness" (2Cor.7:1) as we grow in Him; and
3) when we are resurrected, there will no longer be any disconnect between position and experience.

The same is true of salvation.
1) We are saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved; meaning that we have eternal life positionally now, but obviously we are not experiencing that eternal life yet and won't until the resurrection; so
2) we are "working out our salvation" (Phil.2:12), trying to do what the Lord told us to do in denying ourselves, picking up our crosses and following Him (going backward instead leads in some cases to apostasy); and
3) in resurrection we will have our salvation "experientially", because then "when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" through the eyes of the resurrection body experiencing our eternal life (1Jn.3:2).

This is a very well-known theological distinction, so either the people you are talking to don't know much about the Bible – or they are just being argumentative in support of some questionable position. It does sound from the other things you say here that they may have a Roman Catholic type "salvation by works" view – and if they believe that instead of trusting in Christ, then they are not saved in the first place (Eph.2:8-9).

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 4:1-5 NKJV

Here is a good link for this: "Saved, being saved, will be saved" in BB 4B: Soteriology.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hi Bob, and thank you for the reply.

I am actually not a Christian, although I come from a Christian environment, but I still retain certain beliefs held in the Christian religion: a belief in the Creator, in a spiritual world, that humans are spiritual creatures, in magic, curses, spells, witchcraft, life after death. I am not a miracle worker, but I do believe in miracles and I think that if miracles can only come from the Creator and some people really perform do miracles then those people must be of the Creator and I think to follow and learn from them. (What do they have that I don't, I wonder?) I think to seek the source of healing first and foremost, the Creator, but I think that maybe the Creator calls upon us to seek out individuals sent by our Maker to help us, including miracles such as healing. Like why did people go to the "Saviour" and his disciples, or the prophets (like Elijah and the widow's dead boy) to have some of their desires (like miraculous healings) granted, why didn't they just pray to the Creator to have sickness healed or a demons cast out and such? (Or the disciples for that matter: Matthew 17:19 (King James Bible (KJV)) "Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?") I do respect your opinion and beliefs, but if you are not a miracle ministry, that is okay, I respect that and will keep looking elsewhere.

May your own prayers be answered.

Be well,

Response #3: 

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, then what you really need is eternal life through faith in Him, His perfect person (He is the God-man) and His perfect work on the cross (He died for your sins). See the link.

"For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"
Luke 9:25 ESV

There were many who listened to our Lord, who were fed and otherwise benefitted from the things done by our Lord, and even those who were healed by our Lord . . . who are in hell today – because they refused to believe in Him.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

As it says in the Psalms (Ps.49:7-11), no one can live forever and there is no ransom large enough to keep a person from his/her appointment with death, so even if a person prospers so greatly as to have "lands named for himself", in the end it is meaningless because all go to the same place – except for believers.

But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.
Psalm 49:15 NIV

So whatever your needs and troubles, while I cannot offer you relief through any miraculous intervention at my personal disposal (no human being can at present do that, in fact), I can tell you that God offers you – free of charge since Jesus paid the horrific bill – life eternal, resurrection, deliverance from death and darkness and the grave forevermore. And the alternative is not even to be considered.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17 NIV

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.
2nd Corinthians 5:20 NKJV

In Jesus Christ the Lord, the One and only Savior and way to life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #4:  

What I ask of you Bob, then, is just keep me in your prayers, that I will find that path that leads to salvation, and settle it in my heart with the Creator that I will be at "right" with our Maker. Searching for answers and help by finding miracle workers is just one route, NOT the only, that I'm taking in seeking a relationship with our Creator, not a quick fix, but looking for that which will be with my for the rest of my life and afterwards. One part of my search is seek and obtaining what the Bible, and what some religious people claim to have that others don't, is "Godly" love (I confess that I have things like hate, unforgiveness and ungratefulness in my heart), I want to know if there's a greater love that I've never experienced or felt. (How can I love my neighbor as myself when I hate myself and others?). I seek soundness of mind, peace, joy, etc. If the Creator does intervene in human affairs and does offer us a direct, personal relationship with It, then you can prayer that someday I'll eventually "square" with our Creator.

May it be well with you in your journey,

Response #4: 

There is only one sacrifice for sin: the blood of Jesus Christ (that is, His death for you on the cross).

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6 NKJV

It doesn't matter who you are or what wonderful things you have done or how much love you have in your heart. Accepting the Gift of Jesus Christ, who He is – the God-man – and what He has done – His work of salvation on the cross in dying for our sins – is the "one way" to life eternal. Everything else is a false path.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

As to "soundness of mind, peace, joy, etc.", God does provide these and many other blessings in abundance – to those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, that is, to all believers.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

It is only through the truth that anyone can be saved. And Jesus Christ IS the truth – the way and the life eternal (Jn.14:6). There is no other truth and there is no other way to be saved.

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Acts 4:12 NKJV

I am praying for you, but as to "some day", no one has a guarantee of tomorrow (cf. Lk.12:20). We have the days that God has given us and no more. If we refuse to accept the Gift of life, Jesus Christ, before this life runs out, then there is no life eternal on the other side.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!"
Acts 16:31

Written in the love of Jesus Christ my Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Hi Dr.

I pray you are well including your family and ministry. How is school coming along for the close of this semester?

Quick question. A believer here is Pentecostal denomination but he believes in Oneness theology.

Can you give me a breakdown or more explanation of this? This has something to do with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit not 3 persons (i.e. Trinity) but only one God in three manifestation. To me it doesn't sound biblical but I need help understanding.


Thank you very much and God bless you

Response #5: 

As to the heretical unitarian and anti-Trinity view, it's been around since the beginning, just with different names, and there are all sorts of "flavors" of this view as well. If you've still got Walker or Latourette you can look and see what they say about, e.g., "Modalism", which is another manifestation of this view. The bottom line is that the Trinity is the truth and that only the traditional expression of that view avoids the multifarious heresies that may be committed or fallen into otherwise: God is one essence, three persons. So that God IS "one" – meaning an absolute unity of purpose and essence in a way that mankind, even though "one" in the sense that we are all part of humanity, could never even fathom being – and yet the Father and the Son and the Spirit are all three distinct and individual personages. The Trinity triangle is a good illustration of this (in BB 1Theo link) where it is demonstrated that while all three are God and that God is all three, nevertheless the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father (etc.).

So I wouldn't worry about the ins and outs of this false theory or just what twists and turns it takes regarding its misrepresentation of the truth. Let all that is false try to explain itself in regard to the truth . . . and be found wanting by comparison.

(4) John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, (6) and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:4-6 NKJV

The Father and the Spirit and the Son are clearly distinct here. The only way they could be understood as not being separate persons operating as such (albeit with the complete unity of purpose and harmony that only God possesses) is to reject the clear presentation of scripture. That is the case throughout the Bible.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear bob,

I am 62 and grew up in church. I did not have genuine faith as an unsaved man (as in Hebrews 6:4-6 and the parable of the sower with the rocky ground). Can these be changed? I am really frightened and scared. I don't have much money to call long distance. If I give you my number would you call me?

Response #6: 

Apologies, but I don't do telephone counseling.

As to your concerns, here is what I read in scripture:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV

So if you believe in Jesus Christ, if you have faith in Him as your Savior, believing in His perfect person, the God-man, who died for all of our sins on the cross, then you are a believer . . . and all believers are saved.

It's the rare believer who was saved early in life who does not have a "prodigal son" story to tell. But the Lord deals with us where we are. If we come back to Him, we have no worries about our eternal future. Only those who turn away from Him to the point of completely losing faith are lost – because, as in the passage above, only believers, those who maintain their faith, are saved.

You clearly are a believer – otherwise you wouldn't care about this issue in the first place!

I get these sorts of questions and concerns all the time, and it would be helpful for you, I think, to read some of the Q and A's posted at Ichthys. Here's a brief sample:

Salvation Lost and Found

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Robert, I went to church I think until I was about 13 and in time have gotten away from everything. l have no flesh fighting against the spirit. I trust in Jesus. I am frightened and scared. I am 62 now I'm afraid all the time. Robert, I have accepted Jesus. Why is it that I don't have the Holy Spirit? I don't sense the present of God in my life. I am so frightened. I can't call long ways. Can you call me please? I am in Canada Nova Scotia

Response #7: 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you do have the Holy Spirit.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9 NIV

Please understand: the ministry of the Spirit is not the same thing as being emotional. We human beings are very emotional creatures, but the power of the Spirit to us is manifested mainly in His making clear to us the truth we have learned and are exposing ourselves to. The Christian life is all about the truth.

Doubt and fear are the devil's ace trumps and he loves to confuse and disturb those who are not as solid in the truth as they should be by causing them to fear for their salvation and fear death (Heb.2:15).

If you wish to be at peace, peace is built on faith and that faith is built up in turn by learning and believing the truth.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Faith/trust and the truth/the Word are meant to go hand in hand. Not enough truth, not enough truth believed, not enough faith in the truth, and believers are easily "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming" (Eph.4:14).

So the R/x for your situation is the same as the one for all other believers: read your Bible and access a good teaching ministry regularly (Ichthys, for example; I also recommend Bible Academy and BibleDocs).

If a person is suffering from horrible malnutrition and goes to the doctor and says, "Doc, what's wrong with me?", don't be surprised if he responds, "You need to EAT!".

As mentioned, with apologies, I do not do telephone counseling. But I will pray for you.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Professor

Interesting times keep on in the USA. I hope you are on the health improve. Fire still going here to keep us warm, even though today the sparkies fixed our electric hot water booster - again ( the previous one only lasted about 8 months). Some questions:

1. How historically accurate are the footnotes in NIV 1984? Mine is 1985, though the general editor is Kenneth Barker. I want to use the footnotes of Revelation 3:14 and v18 (attached photo), to compare what is described there to the Laodicea we live in today, in my ‘first’ lesson this weekend. How do you pronounce the word ‘Laodicea’?

2. I am also using a string of passages going from: BB 7. c. The Canon of Scripture 1st Cor.13:8-10 NKJV [23] which leads to BB 5, Pneumatology, section II. B. 3d. 1c, (c) Temporary Gifts 1st Cor. 13:8-10 (again, though with your pertaining to gifts [inserts]). Love never falls [into inactivity] Also including 2 Peter 1:18-19

I want to equate love to the Word (Jesus and the Bible), rather than some abstract, or demonstrated “love” that some interpret from these same scriptures to mean will ‘do away’ with all else - including those cited in scripture such as knowledge (or “mere knowledge” as some refer to it). The last interpretation, I suspect will be a useful tactic for antichrist to promote, then enforce, his version of “love”.

Thank you for your gracious Ministry to the glory of God the Father and His Beloved Son.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior.

Your student

Response #8: 

This footnote in the NIV-SB does represent the standard consensus about Laodicea. There are other things sometimes said about the place based on such research as may be done about ancient subjects. You could cite the source: "According to K. Barker" . . . ; the notes in the SB are generally good where it comes to historical matters (as with all such things they have to be taken on a case by case basis). Here is a link to Ramsay's famous book on the subject of the seven churches (the part on Laodicea is only about seven pages long). For my take, of course, see the link in CT 2A.

On "love", it's important to note that agape is somewhat different from philia, even though they are synonyms. Historically, agape is more like "tolerance" or "being accustomed" to something, "familiarity" and even "kindliness" rather than a personal predilection sort of love such as philia is. They do overlap, but agape love is all about the subject and the subject's attitude to the object. In other words, agape is a choice. It only exists independently in the case of God who "IS" love.

We love God, and the object says it all; He has the merit. We love our brethren – in spite of who they are – because we love God and He has told us to love them. We are choosing to love God (in response to what He has done for us) and our brethren (because the One we love tells us to do so). We are not walking around in some amorphous cloud of ill-defined emotion. Without a proper object (God or those who belong to Him) and/or without the proper motive on the part of the subject (choosing to honor/love/make one's top priority what is genuinely worthy of love) directed towards that proper object, we may demonstrate sentimentality, we have shows of emotion, we may have desire or lust, but we do not have the agape love of the Bible.

So in short I commend your approach and your correct assessment of the deficiency of the use and the frequency of the abuse of this word/concept in Christendom and its outliers. We love the Word of God because it is worthy (object) and because we are moved to CHOOSE to esteem it (proper motive/choice on the part of the subject).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Professor

Thank you for the additional reference to Laodicea. I have now read the sections in Ramsay’s famous book that you sent me. As you know lesson 1 will be “Read Your Bible” - Why RYB - looking at it from the era we find ourselves in - Laodicea. I tend to diverge so this lesson may even go for several more. Indeed, the many examples of why we need to be reading, are probably each one a complete lesson in themselves.

Back on the tractor in my break. Rain forecast for tomorrow and my last opportunity to finalise and print out the lesson materials before Saturday (we have the lesson this day/night as one of the group works Sundays). __ cancelled Bible study group this last Tuesday so I was able to do a bit more reading. Got a call that the new generic reading glasses were in, so it has been timely, not half the squinting now, or headaches.

Thank you for your generous help.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior.

Your student

Response #9: 

I'll be "at it" on Saturday too as usual!

Glad to hear that you're getting some needful glasses! There are SOME basic tools we can't really do without after all.

In addition to "Read Your Bible", Basics 7, Bibliology is now also available.

Looking forward to your report.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hello brother Bob,

(Forgive me for the length) I recently stumbled on your website, and have been finding your writings to be so insightful and are restoring hope for me. I, like many others, am afraid that somehow I’ve either gone too far and have hardened too much as to have lost my salvation or I am discovering through a really long, arduous process of failures that I’ve never been saved. Just to give you a background, I am a 29 year old man and come from a single parent home (mother) and I was raised in the Church from my youth and experienced everything a kid would. Despite not remembering I apparently accepted the Lord along with other kids and eventually joined classes in doctrine. After finishing this class I was eventually screened by leadership about what I had learned and if I believed and wanted to be baptized. I don’t personally remember this and am not sure If I ever truly understood the Gospel. I certainly don’t remember being greatly convicted of sin, nor having a deep personal conviction regarding the things of God at that age. I suppose I just wanted to be obedient to my mother and the church and do what was expected. I went on to get baptized sometime in my early teens no earlier than 10. Despite this, I cannot recall a change of life: growing in grace, wisdom, righteousness, and care for the things of God. I never evangelized to my family or friends, nor did seek for Christian friendship or leadership. I was addicted to video games and struggled with ___ (from childhood after being exposed early). I was willing to date unbelievers even though it would never work. Despite all of this, I never considered believing in something other than Christ. Never considered walking away from church. I cannot recall ever being approached by a peer or a friend challenging the validity of my faith. Eventually, I stumbled on some apologetics videos and really got into those. They kind of got me really interested in the things of God for the first time. So I would look up all these different arguments for God’s existence, Why Christianity is true, evidence, etc. It was all very exciting and I enjoyed sharing this info with others when the discussions arose. I was more excited for Sunday school and other gatherings where we could talk about these things and share. I was becoming more involved in this way. Some had noticed these things and eventually I’d be called to preach for a youth service. I put together a message on being lost and found and used Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness as the focus to send the message. Don’t really remember focusing on repentance and faith in Christ in the message tho. All of this was exciting and I really felt like I was a part of the church and I was doing God’s work. I continued to study apologetics and began to regularly read scripture and pray everyday. Meanwhile, I still was addicted to video games, was still struggling with ___, still didn’t have mentors, still didn’t have real accountability, still didn’t have meaningful Christian friendship, still didn’t necessarily feel convicted to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. The only thing I saw that was off was the sexual sin. Every time it would happen afterwards I’d feel bad and would pray for forgiveness. Time went on and I started taking things a bit more seriously and I became more well versed in understanding the Gospel despite my life not quite looking like the Gospel embodied. My knowledge seemed to be increasing and To some degree I was expressing my faith in defending the Gospel and sharing it in posts on social media (admittedly, I feel I caused more arguments and possessed an air of Phariseeism). I say this because looking back I felt I made things more about me than about Christ and the lost I was addressing. Being trained in arguments, reasons, evidence, etc. it was like it was all about winning the argument against the “nay-sayers”. Despite this, there were times where I really felt compelled to help people would they come sincerely seeking help and I never thought not to point them to what I knew about the Gospel. Regardless, I can say I was a very defensive Christian still (never on the attack, never going out my way to evangelize, participate, seek to do God’s will, etc.) It was always by convenient chance, someone approaching me, when I wanted. Fast forward a bit and I meet a girl in church to whom I find myself attracted to. We started talking, dating, then getting more serious and others began to notice and voice their support for us. When we were getting close to coming together something would not allow me to go further. I could not commit to her despite at least thinking that I wanted to. Up to this point I was always seeking to get closer to her, spend time, go out on dates, have fun over hobbies and shared interest, have deep convos about the things of God, talk what we wanted for marriage and the future, etc. This eventually led to trouble and we felt convicted about it. We got counseled on it and after we both agreed to take a few steps back. We continued and I still couldn’t commit to her. One day I just made up my mind to go forward and asked her to be my gf and she was excited and I thought it would be good. I immediately felt unsure I made the right choice and regretted it no long after and admitted this and pulled it back. This back and forth went on for a long time and I hurt her a lot, but I also really was trying to figure this all out never having had a serious and Christian relationship. I though I was just nervous or had some issues. This led me to look up Biblical courting videos (Notice I still wasn’t really looking for local leadership, counsel, etc. from my congregation until any time I really messed up). I stumbled upon videos talking about the Gospel and having to be a genuine Christian etc. before considering marriage. I started being convicted by these videos and was just beginning to see my sin as a problem. Regardless, I continued to keep going on ahead just trying to be better, but I was realizing that I needed to take this Christian life more seriously and deal with this sin, get more involved in church, and work towards committing to this girl. It was evident over the years that she was my focus. At this time, after a series of failing leads on what I wanted to major in, I Had transferred to a Christian college thinking that maybe my calling was ministry only to change my mind and transfer out to a state college and going for graphic design. Seemed like I was focused on church life, girlfriend, school, and videogames/having a good time. Where was Christ in all of this? I thought He was right there with me. My life was like Christianish with a focus on me and trying to tag Jesus along. I also was greatly struggling here and there with feelings of doubts regarding my faith and this was complicating everything, but it had not yet destabilized the way I was walking. I was still getting opportunities to preach and was still studying and trying to be involved in the church. By 2019 I had gotten together and separated with my gf numerous times and many of those time separated on valentines or around the day because I would get so nervous and feel compelled to show love when I didn’t feel it. This made me always panic and question everything and doubt our relationship. Finally, she was having enough and so was her sister and they decided we should be indefinitely separated and not have contact. This broke me (I had even said that if she wasn’t the one I didn’t know who would be or what I’d make of the last 5 years we spent). Did I just waste her time and was I just deceived all the way through? This would make me into a horrible person. I had more fuel to doubt my faith. At this point I thought God was trying to wake me up to the fact that I had all these idols in my life and that I needed to repent. And so I ended up selling all my games, I really made it of a priority to stop the ___ and letting go of the relationship and just getting back to the center of the Gospel message Christ in order to know Him. I thought He wanted me to let go of everything and finally just trust in Him and focus on Him. And so I resolved for that to be the case and that began what were probably my strongest years spiritually by experience. I was waking up differently feeling incredible. I was seeking to study scripture and spend time with the Lord every morning and felt like I was learning more than I had been before and actually able to take His word seriously and open up to it personally. I was seeking more opportunity to live daily with Him in mind a share the Gospel through my life. I felt more compelled to go out and evangelize so much that I arranged to go out and pass out tracts and preach on Halloween despite never doing this before. At this time, I had taken on the role of a teacher in church and enjoyed putting classes together and seeking to get the children to really understand the Gospel. I saw a lot of myself in the youth boys with their interest in games and thought it a good idea to set up a day where we can come together to play games but also fellowship. I was seeking to get closer to some of my Christian brothers and have real fellowship and accountability amongst each other. I even brought them into the youth boys game nights and they taught and found it edifying and a blessing too. Don’t get me wrong I was still in pain missing this girl and really hoping for God to bring her back into my life as things got better, but overall I felt I really was experiencing a changed life for God. That in no Could this just be just more of me and my own efforts at righteousness from the flesh and not of God, simply using God for my own selfish reasons, or more deception. Everything I was involved in was taking its toll and I found myself falling into old habits. The games we played on our retreats had hooked me back in, stress got me also compromising, And overall I was not being as diligent in the things of the Lord as I had set out. I confessed my slip up with the brother I was getting closer to but the struggle persisted and ended up __ after asking God for forgiveness the first time. This impacted me deeply. I barely finished my semester up resulting in my first non A grade in 2 years. And when January 2020 came around I felt deeply convicted to examine myself after a conversation with a leader explaining that I felt I had to step down from all ministry and really deal with my increasing doubt. I experienced a deep sense of dread on many mornings that I had not experienced in years that I would occasionally in the past. I eventually fell again. And this was after I had done something really strange in my own eyes looking back making this drawing of Christ on the cross and all these different sins I had committed being written around Him and underneath I wrote a vow down about ___ and that the blood of Christ covering it and that I wouldn’t do it again. I felt horrible when I failed and all the more when I started thinking this drawing/vow wasn’t biblical at all and maybe even something that greatly offended God upon later consideration. I later deleted it along with my journal entries that I was writing about my struggles with sin. At this time, was no longer involved in anything in my congregation and wasn’t sure If I made the right choice, but I just felt I couldn’t serve in good conscience. I resolved to get to the bottom of things and truly examine my ways to see if I was in the faith. In what seems like the first time ever I really went to the word and decided I don’t need anyone to falsely reassure me I want to go straight to God’s word and find out if I really am in Christ. I read 1 John and began to really apply it to my life and assess and consider everything I had been through and I could not be assured. I felt the word was condemning me. I started reading Timothy, peter, James, Jude, Hebrews and felt that all the descriptions regarding the unbelievers, deceivers, false teachers, etc. were all pointing to me. The finishing blow sort of speak was when I read John 1 that the Love of God is not in you if you don’t love your brothers. How can you love God who you don’t see if you don’t love them? At that time I kept feeling randomly irritated when a certain sister would ask for multiple prayer requests every week for absolutely no reason. Almost like I was thinking stop asking for so many prayers. And immediately I was just be taken aback and wondering what was I thinking? This woman has the love to be concerned enough about her trials, family, and friends to exercise her faith and ask for prayers every week on their behalf. More than most others. Things like this along with many other failures to be focused on serving others and fellowship were really bothering me. With everything that had been going on up to this One service by the end I had this sudden thought, “I do not truly love anyone here”. I felt so lost in this moment and just walked out failing to greet and ask about everyone as I normally would. I woke up in a dreadful condition. I went to school and was lost in my head. I actually could not function to do any work and simply stopped doing my work and could not focus in class. I thought this would just pass as I never experienced this extent before. But it didn’t. Everyday the whole week I could not do any of my work or focus on anything at all and I felt lost at home and at my services. I kept asking for forgiveness from God, crying tears to Him, calling out to Him, seeking for genuine repentance. I could not find repentance and I was starting to panic. I started looking up Scripture on repentance, was reading books, watching videos, and any resource on the matter. What I didn’t do is go to leadership or my pastors right away. I thought that I could just go to God myself. I let my mother and step father know and they began to start interceding for me. I scheduled an appointment with a Christian counselor thinking it might help, and it she didn’t help at all. She wasn’t really a specialist on these matters (she didn’t even know what reprobate meant). I just kept praying, reading, seeking everyday nonstop. My parents were truly worried about me. I would pray and then start to cry while looking at scripture and meditating on them and would feel as though God had responded then later I wouldn’t feel good and would conclude I was working up feelings rather than truly repenting. This happened many times. I started to think I was condemned. I then had a series of very discomforting dreams and what seem like supernatural experiences when I went to sleep. I felt myself twitch while half asleep and breath in deeply through my mouth randomly. I felt sleep paralysis at times and had these dreams that were ___. I’d wake up in shock because of how often it was happening despite praying To the Lord for protection. Some of the dreams were showing me lose Christ, being condemned, etc. one day I woke up and for the first time in my life I experienced suicidal and violent thoughts against others. And I was starting to wonder If I took the mark, If I was possessed, or even If I was the antichrist. After this, I was just totally afraid. I missed service for two days in a row and missed a Eucharist service because I was afraid that taking it unworthily would result in something really bad. Brothers were texting me and I did not reply because I felt like I couldn’t. I was just paralyzed. This is when things started to spiral. I would not reply to any messages and when the next service came I was so afraid to go and also face everyone. I didn’t know what I would say and I thought I was condemned. My mother had to convince me to come to service and that all would be well. I went and felt like I no longer deserved to be there. I was so lost at what was happening. I knew I had struggles but I did not see this coming. I just kept saving face and saying I was ok when people would say hello, but I wasn’t, and felt compelled to not say anything. Covid came in on the very day that I thought I would be able to save face any more. I thought, “what are you up to God”? Thus began months of trying to repent and believe and return to functioning normally (felt wrong to eat, enjoy anything, relax, go outside, meet with friends, join zoom services with brothers). Friends and family were starting to realize something was wrong with me, many checked in to talk, talked to pastors, many prayed over me and I welcomed it all because I just wanted to be free. All of this was to no avail. I reached out to people online to no avail. At the end of the day everything was saying that you are either damned or you need to make a choice to believe by faith and there’s no one and nothing that can get you out of this. I stopped doing college work and almost dropped out, but instead to incompletes which I have been trying to finish. My whole summer was spent going between feeling absolutely hopeless thinking that something horrible was going to happen to me. Like I was being handed over to the Satan, that I had been given to a reprobate mind, or that I could not be renewed unto repentance. I just couldn’t see how all this could happen and I could be saved, or anything but damned. I just went into hiding. The psychological stress and anxiety of what was happening plus what was going to become of my soul caused me to just start shutting down as a way to protect me from losing my mind. It was becoming harder and harder to keep praying, keep reading, to keep crying (It was becoming harder to physically shed), and as the days went on to weeks and months I was just numb. Everyday I was just doing nothing in paralysis and indecision not knowing what to do. I felt like my life was stripped from me and I couldn’t stop it. But I kept praying even tho my prayers were so weak, I kept asking for mercy and for God to show me what to do, to grant me genuine repentance, to rid me of guilt and shame, to bless me with real faith and to keep me from giving into emotions and feelings. After all this I was being exposed for who I really was I felt. I was just broken. And I realized I needed to start eating normal and moving more because my body and mind were really feeling it. So despite feeling it was sin to even eat and exercise I started to do so. Physiologically everything felt off so that I was not only suffering spiritually and mentally, but also physically (my head Is always feeling heavy and I get headaches often, eyes are heavy and feel strained always, body hurts, Stomach is off) and this was feeding into the narrative. I was being absolutely punished. This brings me to now. I want to literally get up and forget everything and truly trust in Jesus Christ for my salvation. I have no desire to go into the world or to denounce Christ (even though I sometimes I feel like I have done just that through my actions). I’ve felt like I've just been in a continuous state of unrepentance and sin for months even though I’ve been doing everything to come back. I realized I've been working and I just want to rest in faith in Christ maybe for the first time ever. But every time I step forward with that it feels like I’m working somehow or trying to prove something, I feel insincere, my words and actions feel weightless, and I’m dealing with emotional numbness, feelings of apathy, and a lack of genuine enthusiasm. When I pray I struggle to address The Father as my Father, I struggle to interact with my brothers and sisters, and to just move on. I’ve thought that I’ve had to get baptized again (properly; for the first time) after now truly understanding the need for and declaring actual faith and commitment to die with Jesus Christ and be washed, but I could never shake the fact that I may just be trying to do another work to reassure. But in my mind I thought it would be a active step towards repentance, Obedience, and thus belief. But I’m really not sure how to proceed. I just want to believe this is a simple as believing that it doesn't matter what I am feeling or not feeling or what happened yesterday, I’m simply going to have faith in Jesus Christ alone and believe that what He says is true and live accordingly. My fear is that I will move on thinking I have faith and I’m just going into deeper deception of flesh works and ultimately deceiving and hurting my friends, family, brothers and sisters and losing myself more. That’s why I’m struggling to move back into the lives of all those around me too. While it all may seem impossible to me I know nothing is too hard for God. And I just can’t leave Jesus Christ. Whether I am wrought with unbelief, hardness, faithlessness I don’t see any hope in the world, nor do I have any desire to turn to the world and away from Christ as satisfying to me (I think this is why I feel bad when I feel at all settled or enjoying anything remotely while seeking for Him). It’s why I’ve been stuck. I’m afraid to move forward in life without Him at the risk of slowly fading into carelessness and apostasy. I’m looking to bring to Him my unbelief believing He could even save me from that like that man who pleaded help for his unbelief. I just don’t want to take his grace for granted any longer and remain where I am. I feel I’ve already lost much sense of urgency and sorrow at least from an emotional level. Though in conscience I remain awake to my need and understanding that I’m living wrong and that I have set my sets on Jesus Christ as my only hope. I do not see myself not fighting to get right with God for the rest of my life. I also do not believe that hypothetical that there is someone who wants Christ and can never get Him and are just damned. You either live to love Him or to eventually hate Him and become a open outright lover of the world. If that is correct (and you can correct me if not). That is a scary humbling thought to me. How can I overcome these roadblocks? Can I be sure that I’m not just completely hardened and truly incapable of genuine faith in Christ? That I am not lying to myself and am just looking to save myself or my image in some way or another? I know it’s a lot but I wanted to give you a good idea of where I am? I really appreciate your work. Thank you in advance. May God Bless you.

Response #10: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

The devil is very good at torturing believers with guilt, especially those who do not have sufficient truth to combat him and his attacks.

I read this in your epistle: "I just want to believe this is a simple as believing that it doesn't matter what I am feeling or not feeling or what happened yesterday, I’m simply going to have faith in Jesus Christ alone and believe that what He says is true and live accordingly".

There are two important points here that the Spirit has made clear to you, but you do have to embrace them and reject anything that seeks to supplant them: 1) "feeling" has nothing to do with it; the emotions are not who we are; we are who we choose to be, through faith; 2) faith is our free will, the image of God we have been given; we have a right to believe the truth – and once it IS believed, to stick with it.

This life is all about the truth. It would take far too long to dissect all of the mis-impressions you have about the truth as contained in your long email – from years of "church" wherein you obviously learned very little of the truth but were fed much that was not true – a far too common occurrence in our era of Laodicea. Suffice it to say first that you ARE a believer in Jesus Christ (no unbeliever would ever care about all this as you do or afflict him/herself as you are doing):

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Second, God has forgiven your sins every time you confessed them to Him:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NIV

Remember: Jesus Christ has already paid the entire, terrible price for all of your sins . . . and mine and the entire world's.

It is very simple. What you need is 1) to stop focusing so much on yourself and focus instead on Jesus Christ; 2) this can only be done through spiritual growth, that is, committing yourself to serious Bible study under a ministry that teaches the truth in sufficient depth for you to grow (in addition to Ichthys, I also recommend Bible Academy); 3) when you hear the truth, when you are taught the truth, when the Spirit makes it clear to you that something is the truth, it is your responsibility to BELIEVE that truth, to retain it, and to apply it to your life.

Spiritual growth is the only R/x for your "condition" – just as is the case for every believer on this planet. Many Christians are content to bump along in spiritual immaturity in this life, but for some, like yourself, only following Jesus diligently will provide peace and joy. To get there requires self-discipline and commitment, not only in submitting to the teaching but also in committing to believing it . . . and very importantly giving yourself over to the guidance of the Spirit in spite of what your "feelings" such as guilt may tell you. The devil speaks to the emotions, the emotions lie to us; if something is from the Holy Spirit, there is peace and confidence that this is so. Fear is of the devil (Heb.2:15). We do have reverence for the Lord indeed: Godly "fear" is good (Ps.19:9); but panic, anxiety and terror have nothing to do with the Lord Jesus Christ – except for unbelievers (who have in many cases completely buried such feelings).

You are most welcome at Ichthys. I usually recommend the Peter series as a starter, but I think you would also benefit from reading many of the email exchanges on the site related to this issue – you're not the first Christian who has had similar concerns to cross my path (far from it!). Here are just a few links (which will lead to others):

Sin, Faith and Suffering

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation II

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation V

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Salvation Questions II

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Salvation Questions

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation IV

In Jesus Christ our Savior, the One who has died for all of our sins,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:  

Thank you for the quick reply and sorry again for the really long email. I could have probably done without about 80% of it. I just got carried away in the details, which is probably somewhat revelatory as to how caught up I've been over what has happened. But I did find your reply encouraging and I am thankful for that.

I have a few follow up points that I just want to go more in depth with.

I want to be sure that my current condition, as I am perceiving it, does not compromise my capacity to sincerely believe and truthfully have faith in Christ as I believe I have this day. It is the only concern that causes me to question my own claim to truly believe, and I believe that if I can be settled about it I can truly move on even though it may require a lot of intentional effort and determination on my part. I also want to be sure that this effort is not of works, as I’ve also had a hard time distinguishing the line between working of works and working of faith in my own walk. Admittedly, to some degree, even as I ask these questions, I feel as though I am only intellectually exercising points of faith in the first place. Would I have to even consider such questions If I had genuine faith? I also would like to know if I should consider being baptized again (or technically for the first time properly?). And finally, how do I make good decisions in my circumstance i.e. after having lost all momentum amounting to almost a year of lost time and dealing with all the above? I feel like there is so much I need to work on and don't know where to start and how to find balance. (pulled this from one of your writings that resonated with my situation: “All this involves choices, and choices produce momentum; i.e., if we are in a positive pattern overall, positive decisions will be easier on a case by case basis; but if we are not, then doing the right thing in any individual situation will be that much harder”.)

Some background for the first question

The condition: I recently vocally acknowledged as many of my sins as I could while praying a confession to the Lord regarding those sins and asking for forgiveness. I also confessed my belief In Jesus Christ for my salvation and my determination to follow Him. Although, this of course wouldn’t be the first time doing so. I tried not to be minded on expectations of experiences and or feelings and just on what God’s word says. Now, I still am in this state where I don’t FEEL or have EXPERIENCED anything that would give me an indication that I am now in good standing with God. Fine. I have His word for that, which is sufficient IF my repentance is genuine. But. I also don’t FEEL or can’t recognize the joy, peace, or enthusiasm that reasonably would follow a true belief and faith that I’m free, forgiven, saved, and complete in Christ, no? Or is it wrong to assume that we would experience or feel those things right away, regardless of where we are coming from? If the latter is the case, is action of turning to Christ the only standard of indication of genuine repentance? I’ve also got to say that in terms of what I’ve been experiencing in feelings as of now, it’s either nothing or not good. And it’s just perplexing and like a weight over me given the prospect that I truly believe, am saved, and am moving forward. As a disclaimer, I admit that I’ve always had trouble navigating, regulating, and understanding feelings and emotions in the context of relationships all of my life. Relationships are a weak area in my life to this day. And as I explained in my last email I suffered addictive streaks all my life (videogames, __ in tandem) and really became led by them in my decision making. I really want to experience and believe I should be experiencing peace and rest, joy, excitement, enthusiasm in and for Christ, and able to look forward to all the possibilities with God, but I don’t want to get stuck and regress if I’m not quite experiencing those things.

Thanks again Brother Bill, God bless you

Response #11: 

So here is how it works. When we are saved, God gives us a "new start for the heart" and indeed we experience joy and peace in Him right away. But that is not a long lasting or permanent state UNLESS we move forward spiritually (you can find all the details on this at the link: BB 4B: Soteriology). Peace is something we have IF we are "stayed on Him" through faith – trusting in Him (cf. Is.26:3). But how can we trust Him if we know little about Him or don't make any effort to see and walk with Him with the eyes of faith illuminated by the truth of the Word? The more we learn about the Lord, the more confidence and faith in His care for us we develop; this in turn builds peace, joy and hope (Rom.5:1-5; Jas.1:2-4). All these virtuous things build on each other in an ever intensifying "virtuous cycle" as we grow spiritually through believing the teachings of the truth of the Word of truth. But if instead we do not advance, if instead we allow ourselves to slide backward, then instead of peace and joy and hope, we do find ourselves beset with anxiety and doubt and dis-ease in a "vicious circle" of spiritual decline. Also, even if we understand that sinning is a problem, and even if only for the purpose of avoiding divine discipline we try to stay away from serious sin, we will find that difficult because you cannot "defeat something with nothing", or to put it another way, defense never wins, only offense can win in the end – and in spiritual terms offense is spiritual growth.

As we bump along in this world NOT growing, we pack scar-tissue on our hearts which makes everything spiritual harder and less fulfilling. Sometimes, Christians do apostatize, that is, abandon Christ entirely; sometimes they do give themselves over to such gross conduct that the Lord takes them out of this life via the "sin unto death" (see the link for a discussion of both of these eventualities). More often, however, Christians in this lukewarm era of Laodicea do what you are doing / have done, namely, they bump along not growing and looking for short term fixes instead, going from one minor crisis to another, never feeling good about their relationship with the Lord and never getting around to actually doing what is necessary to fix it. And even more common is not caring much about spiritual things at all and being content to merely occasionally "nod to God" by continuing to keep going to some church where there is no spiritual growth going on and where all manner of non-biblical practices are occurring (such as water-baptism when the only baptism for the Church is that of the Spirit: e.g., Matt.3:11; Acts 1:4-5; 1:8; Eph.4:5).

At least you are looking for answers; that is good. But the solution is as I told you, namely, to commit to a serious course of spiritual growth. That is the biblical solution:

(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 belief in and full-knowledge of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity of the fullness of 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.
Ephesians 4:11-16

So my advice is to throw overboard all of these subjective considerations that are plaguing you along with all these internal autopsies and stop worrying about yourself and start focusing on Jesus Christ and His truth. That is what is needed to grow, through the truth as taught by a good, doctrinal Bible ministry. As mentioned, along with Ichthys, I also recommend Bible Academy at the link.

I have prayed for you and if you decide to get cracking with what is needful I will continue to do so. But this really does have to come from you. You are clearly not happy with the status quo. Your "problem" is the same one that most Laodicean Christians of our time have, namely, a lack of truth in the heart. You, at least, are not content to let things stay as they are and that is definitely in your favor. But this desire will only end up a positive thing if you do what is necessary to fix things, namely, grow up spiritually through hearing, learning, believing, and applying the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus Christ who is the very truth.

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Alright brother Rob. Let's get cracking! I've accepted that no matter what my circumstance is, I am either going to repent or perish trying. But what's for certain is I cannot just let go of Christ. My desire is to truly know Him, My God, as He is. Even though I've had thoughts for many reasons that I am either spiritually dead/apostate in denial or a deceived, self-righteous unbeliever never saved, ultimately, I just haven't resigned to it as the case and still have a hope that goes beyond my reason. That being said, I don't see any reason for me to not consider myself saved because I've acknowledged I'm a sinner who's certainly missed the mark and that if there is any solution it can't be in me, nor in anyone, or anything else except through Christ because of what the Bible says about Me and Him. And I am also resolved to change. Just a couple of clarifications:

You recommended your Peter series first and the Bible Academy. Where do you think I should start in the Bible academy? Also, do you have any counsel and advice on how to not fall into the trend of reading/studying of the word becoming stale, routine, and ineffective? I'm coming from a place of having heard/read so much of scripture more purposefully for at least 5+ years and all too often I just haven't learned, believed, and properly applied it consistently enough in my life. It becomes Christianese (void and powerless words). It's exciting to think that I could have time in the word where that is always the experience and am always being edified, renewed, and refined, knowing and speaking them in power and truth. Common stumbling blocks to avoid? Any best practices for effective daily consumption/meditation?

Secondly, this question is about The Holy Spirit, Faith, and one's own conscious efforts and responsibility. How can one discern if the Holy Spirit is speaking vs one's own thoughts? Or must one have faith that any thoughts or impulses that lead to anything Godly are of the Holy Spirit and anything otherwise is of the enemy/flesh? When one takes action how can one be sure that it is being done in faith rather than a performance of fleshly works? Are these just more things I shouldn't be bothered to consider?

Thank you for your prayers brother. I cannot thank you enough for your willingness to help and answer questions, though I know this is what you were called to do and the Lord has blessed you with this ministry. And seasoned with such grace. I thank God for you. May the Lord continue blessing you and this ministry. I would love to be able to reciprocate the love. I feel in debt to you, though I know this is simply service of love. If there's any petition I can pray for specifically let me know. I hope you are well. In the meantime, I will pray for you generally.

May God bless you abundantly for His Glory in return

Response #12: 

As quoted to you before . . .

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

Believers are saved. Unbelievers are not saved. You are a believer. You are saved. You don't have to seek to be saved . . . again – in fact it is somewhat blasphemous to doubt what the Lord has told you about that and what you know in your heart to be true.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

This is a promise. Don't doubt God's promises to you. You have repented and confessed. You don't have to be in some sort of constant state of repentance like in the RC church. In fact it's somewhat blasphemous to have such an attitude. God told you He forgives you. Believe Him – and don't doubt it.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

Like Paul tells us, we ALL have to let go of what is behind and focus instead on what lies ahead. This seems to me to be your biggest potential stumbling block. We all have failed. But the great believers do not let past failures color or undermine present spiritual growth, progress and production. We are here to MOVE FORWARD – not to look backward. If you keep fixated on looking backward you will never move forward.

On "becoming stale, routine, and ineffective", I can just about guarantee you that this will not happen if you are reading the materials at Ichthys and listening to the series on Bible Academy. If this has happened to you in the past it is because a) you were "DYI"-ing it (and we all need the benefit of a good Bible teacher); and/or b) going to the wrong place (where they were "Bible teachers" in name only). As to Ichthys, in addition to the Peter series, I would also recommend at a minimum that you read the weekly postings at Ichthys (at the link) every week. Going into the back postings (there are years worth of these) is also a good idea (link). Also, if you have time, the Basics series is very important (link); that's probably the best place to start with pastor Omo's materials as well (link).

As to "How can one discern if the Holy Spirit is speaking?", there is a great deal about the Spirit's guidance on the website (one entire section of Bible Basics, for one thing: BB 5: Pneumatology). The short answer to your question is that as you grow spiritually this will become ever more clear – so that spiritual growth is the answer to this question too. When you were first learning to drive you swerved all over the road, but now you can adjust your place in the lane without any seeming effort or discernible movement. Likewise in spiritual things you get better with experience at discerning the Spirit's subtle guidance to you – His "still, small voice" (1Ki.19:12).

In the meantime, anything you think the Spirit is telling you that comports with scripture is worthy of consideration with prayer; anything that does not comport with scripture is not the Spirit communicating to you (and if you are consumed with guilt about "it", more likely it's a case of the evil one's influence instead). The Spirit's communications, moreover, are always manifest through the truth, that is, reminding you of truth you know and have believed in your heart and helping you to apply that truth to your life. So if there is not much truth in there and it is conflicted and compromised by belief in things that are not true, it can be difficult to hear a clear message from the Spirit. In my experience, in such cases the Spirit reserves His guidance for big things – as in your case right now, He is leading you to get serious about spiritual growth (which is the basis of everything else).

Thanks for your prayers too, my friend! That is more than sufficient "recompense".

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Very well said my friend. I will take all of this to heart moving forward. I found a lot of hope in that promise tucked in that portion of Philippians in verse 15. He says if you are otherwise minded or in your translation “attitude off-center”, that God will reveal this (If we are progressing in spiritual growth as you have added). This speaks to me very much considering the way that I feel. It’s almost as though he is saying that it is ok to not necessarily be in tip top shape mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. but press on forward! And this all comes after his exhortation to forget what’s behind and look forward to what’s ahead. This is very encouraging. Thank you for all of the wisdom and counsel. Glory to God.

Response #13: 

Amen! It's not about how we feel – it's about whether or not we are doing what Jesus has called us to do, namely, deny ourselves (i.e., ignore how we feel), pick up our cross (i.e., stop wringing our hands over the past or even the present and resolve to get cracking) and follow Him (i.e., actually follow through on that good intention to get moving no matter what).

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me".
Matthew 16:24 NIV

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

I have just come across your work by accident (although maybe not by accident) and I am reading it voraciously.

We always have to use discernment when reading the work of others. I find your work to be one of the most accurate that I have read.

Your knowledge is very impressive. Praise God for you.

Response #14: 

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks for the kind words!

Please feel free to write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hi Bob and family,

Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed last Saturdays postings – not so much in a glad way but more of a realisation that what that gentleman from Africa was saying over and over and it made me think of my own struggles in my 76 years, struggles that are most probably not over yet as well. And I well know that some sins are, or seem much harder than others to overcome and I think that is the ultimate goal – we all want to be an overcommer. Remembering what you’ve told me before – “all believers are saved no matter what sins they commit in bad conduct, unbelievers are not, regardless of good conduct. And even though all believers are saved, not all believers are overcommers”.

How much we all know the seeds of doubt that Satan sows and is possibly one of his major weapons he uses against us and it seemed to me that doubt was/is possibly his biggest problem – always doubting and of course, allowing doubt to continue and grow without taking the necessary steps to overcome it and stop it, it can lead to a breakdown of faith.

Satan is not our friend and he will never stop trying to take as many of us with him to his end – we just need to keep our armour on at all times. And sometimes from previous battles our armour can become damaged from those battles and as soon as we notice the armour is compromised we must repair it as soon as we notice it. I once mentioned an analogy that you liked and that was thinking about Nehemiah, when the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and they were in danger of being attacked, he encouraged them to rebuild the wall and they all held a sword in one hand and worked with the other. How often do we have to rebuild our own wall?

I know that what I’ve said in this short email is small indeed but if it’s possible, if you can forward it to him, he can know that he isn’t alone in these struggles.

As always dear Bob, with brotherly love in Jesus,

Response #15: 

Thanks for this encouraging email, my friend! I haven't heard from our RSA friend in a while, but I will forward your email on to him. There were actually several people in these emails with similar refrains (that's not always obvious from reading these as they post), so I'll send this to (at least) the other similar one as well.

Grateful for you and your persistence in coming through the struggle – and as you say, it's never fully over until it's fully over. To "doubt" I would add "guilt" and also "fear" – all horrible mind-sets which should tell us experienced warriors that something is "not right" whenever we are experiencing them.

As to your quote, while I don't necessarily entirely disagree with it, it doesn't sound like something I wrote. "Overcoming" is gaining the victory and believers do that through faith, trusting the Lord and in His truth, walking in that truth by faith, and helping others do likewise.

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1st John 5:4b

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Dear Teacher-

In reading the most recent email postings on Ichthys, it both saddened and angered me to consider the games the evil one plays with us to keep us focused on things that are, at best, meaningless. For these brothers/sisters who have written to you, I could wish to take away that pain I know all too well by somehow imparting the fundamental solace I have finally found, but I also know all too well that they must endure the struggle themselves to find it. Our Heavenly Father - Who did not even spare His Beloved Son Jesus, Who endured more than we can comprehend for our sake - has always known the struggles we would face, and His Holy Spirit will help us through them all if we but trust Him.

As for me: There was enough *something* in my childhood for me not to remember a time before taking it as a given that “Jesus Loves Me.” As I came into adulthood, I began to seek that Jesus, but missed the mark in various ways (covering a broad spectrum of churches to confusion) before throwing my arms up in exasperation and moving on - but unable to completely cast aside that child’s “Jesus Loves Me.” It wasn’t until I tuned everything out and began to just look and listen within myself that *something* happened - an early waking to a waning crescent moon that struck me as the brightest of lights. I followed the moon’s phases and dabbled in astrology; but I was following the physical moon in the physical sky, which wasn’t matching up to the astrology. So I continued to follow the physical moon and stumbled across so-called biblical astrology - a glancing blow, quickly set aside after it deposited me at the foot of the cross, looking to that Jesus I had sought before. But *something* was different. “Jesus Loves Me!”

That was about two years ago now. I could wax poetic about how I was formless and void, with the Spirit hovering over me, until God called forth the light of an uncommonly bright sliver of moon that morning and began to get my spirit in order to truly be brought to life. Really, I’m just grateful that Jesus was the One Who found me out in that dangerous wilderness, and that His was the Voice that resounded!

I’m grateful that the first thing I was led to do was to read the Bible every day - without getting overly attached and led astray by the website that encouraged me to do so. I’m grateful that I was then led to loving acceptance and enough spiritual food to strengthen me - without getting overly attached and led astray by the church where I found them. *Something* kept me coming back to the Word every day even as the evil one told me how unworthy I was, how sinful I was, how many opportunities I’d wasted in the past. *Something* kept me coming back to the Word every day even as the evil one reminded me that it was foolish to believe in such superstition, it was unreasonable to think there was only one Way to the Truth, it was unrealistic not to try to save the planet instead. *Something* kept me coming back to the Word every day even as the evil one pointed out how weak I was, how slow I was, how unchanged my life seemed to be. I’m grateful that Jesus used the emotional certainty that *something* was happening to see me through until I found a much better solace under the influence of the solid teaching at Ichthys. The evil one still tries to take me on guilt trips and lead me down the dark alleys of worldly thinking, but the Holy Spirit has been quietly using that daily return to the Word to build up my armor and stock up my weapons to use against the attacks. I’m so very grateful...

Sorry to ramble, but I was just so moved reading the emails this morning, I couldn’t contain myself! (Well, actually, I did contain myself somewhat - I could ramble on more about the past six months, but I have some thought for your time!)

In Our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In Whom is found true solace,

Your grateful student,

Response #16: 

I appreciate this, my friend! Whenever I post something like this, I'm always second guessing and wondering if it is really helpful for most readers. But then I am reminded – as you have reminded me – that most of us have similar if not identical stories of struggle – wrestling against God as Jacob did – before we were "pinned" and changed our attitude to not letting go of Him ever again (see the link).

I appreciate your testimony and the affirmation that God keeps at it with us and faithfully so until we finally come around – for all who were never willing to let go of Jesus Christ. I praise God that you are in that number of those who "wrestle on", my friend!

Feel free to "ramble" any time!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Dear Teacher-

Thank you for highlighting for me that rambling that can’t be contained may just be for the benefit of another! A nice little lesson on mutual edification, which brings a little bit from an old hymn to mind:

I love to tell the story
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest

I never get tired of repeating how that story was told in the specifics of my own life, never mind hearing how it was told in the lives of so many others - and yet all fundamentally the same story!

Interesting that you should bring up the account of Jacob wrestling with God, as the account of his life was particularly illuminating during my last reading of Genesis a few months ago, including the recognition that all of those old efforts to find Jesus had been done in my own way, anticipating positive results. It was when I stopped looking for Him and started simply looking that He was most unexpectedly found to be there (all along - or so it seems to me now)! I came across a translation which rendered the famous “Be still” of Psalm 46:11 as “Let go” instead. I will, of course, give way to your knowledge of Hebrew regarding its legitimacy as an alternative, but that “let go” struck me. It seems so simple now. I really did just have to “let go” of my own way of looking for Jesus in order to see and take hold of His hand (and the letting go continues under His guidance!).

In Our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Who will never let us go!

Your student,

Response #17: 

Thanks for the encouraging email!

"Let it go" is a good translation for הַרְפּוּ / harpu at Psalm 46:11, better than "be still" which sounds as if it's talking about not making noise when it's really talking about relaxing mentally and emotionally and trusting God.

"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
John 10:28 NKJV


Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Thanks Bob,

Your Gunga Din made me laugh. I've heard the name but didn't know the expression. I read the poem -- Boy it won't pass any "woke" muster anytime soon. How you ever are managing to survive in "deplatformville" during cancel culture as a career is beyond me. I think you may be more Gunga Din-ier after all!

Whenever I think of Piper I think "P is for Piper and also Pablum". Still scritching my head over "Christian Hedonism"?! Can we not just retitle Charismatics as "The Sensualists"? It seems more apt.

I need to pick your brains again. The next video I want to do is on Salvation, so it has to be completely right. I thought it better to concentrate on that alone as it is so important. It is so important though that I am a little daunted by my approach to it and yet I realise that we all need to be able to give an account to whoever ever asks about the hope we have in us.

Is it better to stick to the basics or to bring in Adam and Eve and the fall of man and then the sacrificial system or just stick to the fact that we are all sinners and so need a saviour (or should I give a complete biblical overview?)

If you could help me out with the odd bullet points that would help a great deal. I want to leave water baptism out of it and not mention it at all to prevent confusion. This way I can completely focus on the Spirit Baptism at point of faith.

Please let me know your thoughts.

I don't bother to look at other ministries any more. Other than yourself and Pastor Omo, I haven't found anyone else remotely interested in the truth and even less willing to teach it. I've realised (the hard way) that looking anywhere else is a huge waste of time and let's be honest, time is something we all could do with a little bit more of when it comes to bible study and ministry!

In Jesus our saviour,

Response #18: 

Thanks for this, my friend! I appreciate you.

On your question, since this is a video and aimed, I'm guessing, at unbelievers, less is probably more; that is, concentrating on the main points of salvation and not getting off into the weeds is better, because the Spirit will only illuminate basic, gospel truth to unbelievers.

BB 4B: Soteriology is all about that topic but pitched at believers who are already saved; what I have for those considering the issue is MUCH shorter at the link: "Salvation: God's Free Gift".

The main thing I would suggest is to focus on making the issue of salvation through faith in Christ crystal clear and avoiding even a hint of "other things" – which are very tempting to get into after all, especially when one knows so much as you clearly do. Try to focus on the cross and deliverance from condemnation through faith in the person and work of Christ and you'll be fine. Happy to have a look at your outline ahead of time.

Yours in Jesus Christ through whom alone we have salvation "by grace through faith".

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Dear Professor

Thank you for your answer on the Church age. Another one I was wondering about. Luke 14:26 does say hate wife and own life. That is as you write in your latest email posting. Q 39 (Struggling With Faith and Sin). I can not find any reference to hating husband. It has been suggested to me that this too is also implied, and I am sure that this is so concerning earthly husbands. I was wondering if husband is not mentioned because Jesus is our eternal husband - and we are definitely to love and put Him above all other considerations. This leaves no room for confusion anywhere in scripture as to whom we should take up our cross and follow.

If I am a bit off the mark on this, can you let me know.

Thank you. Keeping you and your Ministry in my prayers.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior.

Your student

Response #19: 

I think that your first impression is correct – it's implied. Cf. the companion passage in Matthew:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Matthew 10:34-39 NKJV

Nothing about husbands or wives here either, but it's clear that our Lord is talking about all earthly relationships – none must be allowed to be placed above our relationship with God, not even concern for our own lives – which is the main thing.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11 NIV

Thanks for your prayers, my friend! Keeping you and your family in mine day by day.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hi Bob,

Your ministry is such a blessing. Thank you for the faithful work you put into these studies. They have been a great benefit to me and the men that I minister to. Thank you so very much!

Response #20: 

You're most welcome, my friend!

I appreciate your good words.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Matthew 18: 15 - 17 has the outcome of the brother being banished to be like a heathen and a tax collector by the church for not showing repentance. (This may reflect more on a corporate level.) NO forgiveness towards 'your brother'? Now Peter comes (Matthew 18: 2) and applies a principle of forgiveness up to seven times. He is then corrected to forgive up to seventy times seven (18: 22)! Here it seems that repentance on behalf of the wrongdoer has no effect on being forgiven. Yet is not looked upon as being like a heathen or a tax collector. (This may reflect on a personal level.)

Why the different outcomes?

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Response #21: 

The last verse in this chapter (and in this passage) reads as follows:

"So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Matthew 18:35 NKJV

We are not to bear grudges is the main thing. Also, in the second example, the person who sins against us actually comes to us and asks for forgiveness (along the lines of the two men in the parable). But in the first instance, the brother refuses to be reconciled, even when others intervene. That's not saying that we shouldn't forgive in the first instance too – indeed we should. No grudges. But it is also the case that if there is abusive conduct, while we must forgive, we are not required to socialize with other Christians who are problematic in their behavior. Indeed, if their behavior is decidedly un-Christian, we are required to separate (as our Lord tells us here too).

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
1st Corinthians 5:11 NKJV

Forgiveness MUST be our policy (Matt.6:15; 11:26); not stupidity (Matt.7:6; 10:16).

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.



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